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A SNAPSHOT OF EARLY MACEDONIAN IMMIGRATION TO USA

By Dusan Sinadinoski

Records on early Macedonian immigration to the United States of America at the turn of
the 20th century are of paramount importance for establishing support of a Macedonian
ethnic identity. But they also serve another extremely useful purpose: reflecting away
attacks against the Macedonian ethnicity perpetrated by the Greek and Bulgarian states.
Knowing the vital impact that these records will have on the many current debates and
questions about the Macedonian identity, one can only wonder how it is possible that
such a wealth of information remains obscure and basically untapped. A simple snapshot
of it reveals startling discoveries which could shatter the opponents’ claim that the
Macedonian ethnic identity is a recent creation.

Based on the United States Immigration and Naturalization records, approximately


15,000 people who entered the United States of America between 1895 an 1925 identified
themselves as Macedonians -- even though the state of Macedonia did not exist at the
time. The existence of a separate and a distinct Macedonian ethnic identity is still being
feverishly denied by Greece and Bulgaria (two Balkan countries that are members of the
European Union, but still trenched in 19th century Balkan ethnocentrism), who claim that
the Macedonian state and Macedonians are not an outcome of a long and historically
proven process, but rather a recent act of creation by Stalin and Tito during World War II.
If this argument is true, then we are faced with a paradox: how is it possible for such a
relatively large number of people to declare themselves Macedonians before, as the
Greeks claim, the Macedonian existence was even created?

It is very difficult to determine the exact number of Macedonians who immigrated to


America for many varying reasons. The main reason is that Macedonia did not become
an independent country until 1991, after the break up of Yugoslavia. Throughout the
centuries, especially in modern times, Macedonia was either a part of the Turkish empire
as a whole or, after the Balkan wars, it was divided amongst Greece, Bulgaria, Albania
and Serbia (Yugoslavia after 1945). Thus, many Macedonians who immigrated from
these countries carried their passports and were identified as nationals from Greece,
Bulgaria or Serbia (Yugoslavia). The ability to determine the exact number of
Macedonian immigrants to America is further complicated by the fact that there was lack
of recorded and verifiable standardized data in the above mentioned countries for the
immigrants to carry with them for identification purposes. If any such records exist, it is
doubtful that those records would have shown entries such as date of birth, place of birth,
first and last name, current residence, ethnicity or nationality, gender, or occupation. It is
reasonable to assume, therefore, that many Macedonian immigrants may have listed the
name of their country of origin as their ethnic identity (whichever country happened to
occupy Macedonia during that specific historical period). It is also likely that
Macedonians, as well as other ethnic groups, may have not distinguished between the
concepts of nationality and ethnicity since both were relatively new to the indigenous
peoples of Macedonia. But many Macedonians , despite all odds in the wake of
unprecedented and relentless attempts at the suppression of their ethnic identity and
nationality, declared themselves as Macedonians upon arrival to America.
The data below (which was extracted from the United States Immigration and
Naturalization records, as copied from the National Archives and Records Administration
(MARA) microfilm), show the number of passengers that entered the various ports of the
United States of America and declared themselves Macedonians:

# of Passengers Port of Entry

13, 776 New York Passenger Lists, 1820 - 1957


338 Baltimore Passenger Lists, 1820 - 1948
256 Galveston Passenger Lists, 1896 - 1948
173 Boston Passenger Lists, 1820 - 1943
130 Atlantic Ports Passenger Lists, 1820 - 1873 and 1893 - 1959
46 Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1800 - 1945
8 Detroit Border Crossing and Passenger Crew Lists, 1905 - 1957
6 New Orleans Passenger Lists, 1820 - 1945
2 Border Crossings from Canada to US, 1895 - 1956
2 Seattle Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882 - 1957

It is astonishing to discover that 14,737 passengers declared themselves as Macedonians


during times when there was no official recognition of the Macedonian ethnic identity
and no Macedonian state in existence. These numbers in themselves are not significant in
comparison to the millions of immigrants of other nationalities who entered the United
Sates during those times. These numbers also pale in comparison to the approximately
600,000 Greek immigrants who came to the United States. However, what is significant
is that these immigrants chose freely and consciously to identify themselves as
Macedonians upon their arrival to America. There is no doubt that those people must
have not only felt different from the Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians and the Turks, but they
also had to have felt that they belonged to a unique ethnic group of their own -- which
they identified as Macedonian.

These Macedonians are clearly and unambiguously speaking to those who still object to
the Macedonian ethnic identity and who argue that the modern Macedonians are products
of Stalin’s and Tito’s hallucinations. Hence, the argument that the modern state of the
Republic of Macedonia and the Macedonian ethnic nationality was not historical but a
political “creation” cannot explain how these people suddenly and magically “became“
Macedonians upon their arrival to the United States.

Another very important set of data contained in the US Immigration and Naturalization
records regarding the early Macedonian immigration to America indicates that they listed
different countries as a country of origin as shown below:

Country of Origin Number of Passengers

Turkey 4,979
Greece 906

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Macedonia 4,194
Bulgaria 267
Albania 5
Serbia 188

Here it is clearly shown that the largest number of Macedonian immigrants, 4,979
Macedonians to be exact, listed Turkey as their country of origin. This is because prior to
the Balkan wars of 1913, all of Macedonia belonged to Turkey. But what really sticks out
here is that almost an equal number of Macedonians listed Macedonia as their country of
origin even though it had not become a state. Additionally, what pokes at the Greek and
Bulgarian ethnically chauvinistic eyes is how such small numbers of Macedonians
declare Greece and Bulgaria as their countries of origin. The reason for this, as we will
see later, is that immediately after the Balkan wars, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia did not
have their propaganda campaigns for converting the Macedonian population into their
own nationalities established within their newly “liberated” parts of Macedonia.

This was a period of massive migration from Macedonia to neighboring countries and to
America because of depressive economic conditions and political persecutions. Soon
afterwards, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia intensified their efforts of converting the
Macedonians to the point where they would send many of their own teachers and priests
to Macedonia so that there were more educators in Macedonia than in their counties
combined. As the data will show later, Greece, the “cradle” of democracy, would go even
further by making sure that there would never again be Macedonians to emigrate from
Greece to the United States of America.

However, not all immigrants who listed Macedonia as their country of origin declared
themselves as Macedonians. In addition to the 14,737 Macedonians, many other
immigrants from Macedonia identified themselves as follows:

Nationality Number of Passengers

Greek 13,199
Turkish 1,083
Bulgarian 3,594
Serbian 13
Albanian 331

It is shown here that the largest number of them identified themselves as Greeks.
Significant numbers also declared themselves as Bulgarian and Turks. The large number
of Greeks from Macedonia can be explained mostly by the fact that there were many
Greeks living in the agean part of Macedonia. Some Macedonians may have been already
converted to Greeks. However, what these numbers do not tell us is whether all of those
immigrants were Greeks, Turks or Bulgarians, or whether they simply chose whichever
way was most expedient to arrive at the shores of America. But to appropriately clarify
their true nationality, additional research of other relevant data is needed, such as birth
places, first and last names, the language which they spoke, customs which they

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practiced, and etc. For instance, the records show that some people declared themselves
Turkish even tough their names were clearly Christian and Slavic. However, it also fair to
assume that there were many immigrants from Macedonia of different nationalities since
Macedonia was truly a multi-ethnic country prior to its subdivision by Greece, Bulgaria
and Serbia..

The picture of the Macedonian immigrants from Macedonia and the neighboring
countries starts to look very different after World War I. As the Balkan countries started to
emerge from the devastation of WWI and began to take hold of their destinies, they also
started to inflame their nationalism by intensifying their efforts to crack down on the
Macedonian ethnic identity. Thus, as soon as Macedonia disappeared from the Balkan
map after WWI, so did the Macedonians. As we can see from the next table, the number
of Macedonians coming from Greece dropped sharply until they completely disappeared
from 1930s and on.

The table below of Macedonian immigrants to the United States of America coming from
Greece clearly demonstrates to us the fate of the Macedonians in Greece:

Immigration Period Number of Macedonians from Greece

1890 - 1910 205


1911 - 1930 694
1931 - 1950 16
1951 - 1970 0
1971 - 1990 0
1991 - Present 0

Since all of Macedonia was under the Ottoman Empire prior to 1910, it is highly likely
that the 205 Macedonians immigrants during this period must have come from Greece
proper, otherwise they would have stated either Turkey or Macedonia as their country of
origin. In addition, it can also be seen that the larger number of Macedonian immigrants
from Greece came during the period between 1911 - 1930. However, the majority of the
694 immigrants came prior to 1925. To be precise, 557 Macedonians came between 1911
and 1925. But here is what is really distressing about this table: what happened to the
Macedonians in Greece after 1930, when we know that at least half of the Macedonian
territory ended up with Greece? Is it possible that the part of Macedonia which ended up
in Greece had no Macedonians living there? Or is it quite possible that no Macedonian
ever again left Greece for the United States of America? No matter what question is
asked, it can be safely assumed that when it comes to ethnicity and the practice of
chauvinistic politics in Greece, it all becomes Greek magic!

Of course, much of the data contained in the Immigration and Naturalization archive is
raw data and it needs to be supported and evaluated in order for us to draw any
meaningful conclusion about the early Macedonian immigration to the United States.
But even this raw data highlights the unsustainable denials of the Macedonian ethnic
identity. Unless one somehow believes that this data was either manipulated, or the

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passengers were coerced to declare themselves as Macedonian (both of which would
make no sense), the presence of a unique Macedonian ethnic identity coming to United
States from Macedonia is undeniable. How far back the Macedonians date is the task of
historians, archeologists and other scientific researchers. But it is obvious that the
Macedonian people freely spoke at the doorstep of their new country that welcomed them
with the open arms.

People who are familiar with the history of the Balkan countries understand that there
was not much standardized population record-keeping; such as births, deaths, names of
inhabitants, and etc. Whatever records did exist were usually destroyed during the many
wars they fought against each other and together against foreign invaders. In addition, the
remaining data on the Macedonians were manipulated by Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia
through changing their last names, names of villages and cities, practice of customs, and
other defining characteristic of the Macedonia ethnicity. Therefore, in light of these
reasons, the US immigration records speak much louder when it comes to the true reality
of the Macedonian nationality. For instance, when we examine the first and last names of
the Macedonian immigrants, it is quite noticeable that they are typically Macedonian of
Christian and Slavic background, such as : Petre Boris, Anta Bozin, Mire Arsa, Stanko
Avram, Stojan Coteff, Milan Dime, Naum Foteff, Vidoja Sinadin, Ilija Mladen, etc. But
after World War I, the Macedonian last names somehow changed over night and acquired
typical Greek, Serbian, and Bulgarian endings of -os, -ich and -off. It is just another
Balkan twist of the Macedonian ethnic identity.

In conclusion, this snapshot of the early Macedonian immigration is not meant to be


proof for the existence of a separate and distinct Macedonian ethnic identity. The
centuries-old continuous existence of the Macedonian people on the same territory is a
fact requiring no proof. But this data does provide us with information supporting the
notion that the Greek claim that the Macedonian nation was invented by Stalin and Tito is
a ridiculous one. Therefore, the question which begs to be answered is how do we re-
name people who have already named themselves? The Macedonians who sought the
refuge under the torch of the welcoming lady spoke clearly and loudly that they are
Macedonians. This is just another testament against the Greek’s attempt at a derogatory
re-naming of the Macedonian people.

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