The Bloody Christmas (Bulgarian: Кървава Коледа, Kărvava Koleda; Macedonian: Крвава Коледа, Krvava Koleda) or the Bloody Bozhik (Bulgarian: Кървав Божик, Karvav Bozhik; Macedonian: Крвав Божиќ, Krvav Bozhiḱ) was a campaign in which several hundred people of Macedonian Bulgarian descent were killed as collaborationists by the Yugoslav communist authorities in the Socialist Republic of Macedonia from 7 to 9 January 1945. Thousands of others who retained their pro-Bulgarian sympathies and pro-Bulgarian views, suffered severe repression as a result.
After the end of the Second World War, Bulgarians in the so-called "new lands" in Vardar Macedonia, briefly annexed to Bulgaria during the war, were persecuted using charges of "great-Bulgarian chauvinism". This chapter of Macedonian history was a taboo subject for conversation until the late 1980s, and, as a result, decades of official silence created a reaction in the form of numerous data manipulations for nationalist and communist propaganda purposes. To wipe out the Bulgarophile sentiments of parts of the local population, the Yugoslav communists started a process of nation-building.
From the start of the new Socialist Republic of Macedonia, accusations surfaced that new authorities were involved in retribution against people who did not support the formation of the new ethnic Macedonian identity. The number of dead "traitors" and "collaborators" due to organized killings of Bulgarians during Bloody Christmas and afterwards is unclear, but some sources put the number of victims at 1,200. The idea was to weaken the Bulgarian intelligentsia in Macedonia, to eradicate Bulgarian self-consciousness of parts of the population, and to speed-up the process of Macedonisation. At the end of 1944, a law was passed for the protection of the Macedonian national honour, which legalized the persecution of people who openly expressed Bulgarian self-consciousness. Special courts have also been set up to protect Macedonia's national honour.
During the terror of January 1945, on the road between Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa, and on the hills of Galičica mountain near the village of Oteševo and other villages, more Bulgarians were executed. Most of the bodies were disposed of in Lake Prespa. Nearly all inhabited places in Vardar Macedonia provided victims for the campaign. In several cities in Vardar Macedonia which were set up people's courts, issuing death sentences over citizens charged of "great-Bulgarian chauvinism". In Skopje. in 1945 alone, 18 trials were held with 226 defendants, 22 of whom were sentenced to death. In Štip in the same period, seven Bulgarians were sentenced to death. Ten Bulgarians were sentenced to death in Prilep and in Veles. In Bitola, nine were sentenced to death.
According to Bulgarian sources, between 1945 and 1947 over 4,700 Bulgarians were massacred or went missing. As a result of the purge, up to 100,000 people were deported, displaced, imprisoned, persecuted or sent to concentration camps in Yugoslavia.[notes 1]
- Additionally, some 100,000 people were imprisoned in the post-1944 period for violations of the law for the "protection of Macedonian national honor," and some 1,260 Bulgarian sympathizers were allegedly killed. (Troebst, 1997: 248-50, 255-57; 1994: 116-22; Poulton, 2000: 118-19). For more see: Roudometof, Victor (2002) Collective Memory, National Identity, and Ethnic Conflict: Greece, Bulgaria, and the Macedonian Question. Westport: Connecticut: Praeger. p.104. ISBN 0-275-97648-3
- The most poignant example of Communist Party of Macedonia excess was Bloody Christmas: a series of pro-Bulgarian Macedonian purges that started in January 1945. For more see: James Horncastle, The Macedonian Slavs in the Greek Civil War, 1944–1949, Rowman & Littlefield, 2019, ISBN 1498585051, p. 107.
- Bechev, Dimitar (2009) Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Macedonia. Scarecrow Press. p.287. ISBN 0810855658
- Poulton, Hugh (2000) Who Are the Macedonians?. C. Hurst & Co. p.118. ISBN 1850655340
- Kostov, Chris (2010) Contested Ethnic Identity: The Case of Macedonian Immigrants in Toronto, 1900-1996. Peter Lang. p.84/ ISBN 3034301960
- Ramet, Sabrina P. (2005) Thinking About Yugoslavia: Scholarly Debates About the Yugoslav Breakup and the Wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. p.281. ISBN 0521616905
- Zahariadis, Mickolaos (2005) Essence of Political Manipulation: Emotion, Institutions, and Greek Foreign Policy. Peter Lang. p.85. ISBN 0820479039
- Djokić, Dejan (2003). Yugoslavism: Histories of a Failed Idea, 1918-1992, C. Hurst & Co. p. 122. ISBN 1-85065-663-0
- Phillips, John (2004) Macedonia: Warlords and Rebels in the Balkans. I.B. Tauris. p.40 ISBN 186064841X
- Michev, D. (1994) The Macedonian Question and the Bulgarian-Yugoslav Relations 1944-1949. (in Bulgarian) Sofia:St. Kliment Ohridski University Publishing House. pp.80-82
- (1992) Macedonianism and Macedonia's Resistance Against It Kosta Tsarnushanov. Sofia: (in Bulgarian) St. Kliment Ohridski University Publishing House. Chapters 25 and 26
- Angelov, Veselin (2003) Macedonian Bloody Christmas. Sofia: Galik Publishing House. pp.179-201. ISBN 9548008777
- Serafimov, Tsanko (2004) Encyclopedic Dictionary of Macedonia and Macedonian Affairs (in Bulgarian) Orbel. p.298.
- Gotsev, Dimitar (1998) The New National Liberation Struggle in Vardar Macedonia 1944-1991. Sofia:Macedonian Scientific Institute. p.3
- Rae, Heather (2002) State Identities and the Homogenisation of Peoples. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. p.227. ISBN 052179708X