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Krste Petkov Misirkov (Bulgarian: Кръсте (Кръстьо) Петков Мисирков; Macedonian: Крсте Петков Мисирков, pronounced [kr̩'stɛ pɛ'tkɔf mi'sirkɔf]; 18 November 1874 – 26 July 1926) was a philologist, journalist, historian and ethnographer from the region of Macedonia.
In the period between 1903 and 1905, he published a book and a scientific magazine in which he affirmed the existence of a Macedonian national identity separate from other Balkan nations, and attempted to codify a standard Macedonian language based on the central Western Macedonian dialects. A survey conducted in the Republic of Macedonia (now North Macedonia) found Misirkov to be "the most significant Macedonian of the 20th century". For his efforts to codify a standard Macedonian language, he is often considered "the founder of the modern Macedonian literary language".
In 1905 he began publishing predominantly articles, written from a Bulgarian nationalist perspective in the IMARO-affiliated press. In his diary written during the Balkan Wars, he advocated pro-Bulgarian views. During the First World War, he became a member of the local parliament in Bessarabia as a representative of the Bulgarian minority there. Misirkov reverted to Macedonian nationalism for a period in 1919. During the 1920s his views changed again, and he encouraged the Macedonian Slavs to adopt a Bulgarian national identity. Misirkov died in 1926 and was buried in the Sofia Central Cemetery with the financial support from the Ministry of Education, as an honoured Bulgarian educator.
Because Misirkov expressed conflicting views about the national identity of the Macedonian Slavs at different points in his life, his national affiliation and legacy remains a matter of dispute between Bulgaria and North Macedonia. While Misirkov's work and personality remain highly controversial and disputed, there have been attempts among international scholars to reconcile the conflicting and self-contradictory statements made by Misirkov. According to historian Ivo Banac, Misirkov viewed both himself and the Slavs of Macedonia as Bulgarians, and espoused pan-Bulgarian patriotism in a larger Balkan context. However, in the context of the larger Bulgarian unit/nation, Misirkov sought both cultural and national differentiation from the other Bulgarians and called both himself and the Slavs of Macedonia, Macedonians.
Krste Petkov Misirkov was born on 18 November 1874 in the village of Postol in the Salonica Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire (present-day Greece). He started his elementary education in the local Greek school, where he was studying until the sixth grade elementary school, but the bad financial situation of his family could not support his further education at that point and he left the school. At that period, the Serbian government began to promote efforts to espouse a pro-Serbian Macedonian nationalism and to recruit young people in order to "Serbianize" them. After some period, Misirkov applied and was granted a scholarship by a Serbian association, "The Society of St. Sava".
For a period, Misirkov studied in Serbia, and soon after he realized that the promotion of pro-Serbian ideas and propaganda was the main goal of the education provided by the Society of St. Sava. The politics practiced by the association forced Misirkov and the other Macedonian students to participate in a students protest and revolt against the Society of St. Sava. As a result, Misirkov and other companions moved from Belgrade to Sofia. He then faced a similar situation in Bulgaria, this time being confronted with pro-Bulgarian propaganda. Misirkov again went to Serbia to continue his education, but without any success as he was rejected by the Society of St. Sava, most likely for his part in the protests conducted against it. Since he was willing to get higher education, he was forced, by a chain of events, to enroll in a theological school for teachers. Similar to the Society of St. Sava, this school as well had its own propagandistic goals which resulted in another revolt of the students. As a result of it, the school had ended its programs and the students were sent throughout Serbia. Misirkov was sent to Šabac, where he finished his fourth course of secondary education, but this time in the local gymnasium, which happened to be his last course. In both Serbia and Bulgaria, Misirkov and his friend were treated as Serbs or Bulgarians in order to be accepted in the educational system. After the gymnasium, even though he graduated, Misirkov enrolled in another secondary school for teachers in Belgrade, where he graduated in 1895. During this time, particularly in 1893, Misirkov founded an association of students called "Vardar".
His qualifications obtained in Belgrade were not recognized in Russia. Misirkov had to study from the very beginning in the Seminary at Poltava. In 1897, he was able to enter the Saint Petersburg Imperial University. Here he entered at first in the Bulgarian Students Association. Misirkov wrote about that part of his life in the article "School and socialism" "– In 1897 I went to Petrograd University and for five years was among the Bulgarian studentship as Bulgarian and member of the Bulgarian Student Society." Misirkov carried out here his first scholarly lecture on the ethnography and history of the Balkan Peninsula before the members of the Russian Imperial Geographical Society.
On November 15, 1900, Misirkov, who was a third year student in the Faculty of History and Philosophy at the time, along with other students in Russia created a students circle in Saint Petersburg. The main objective of the circle was political autonomy of the populations of Macedonia and Thrace, declared by IMRO, and implemented and guaranteed by the Great Powers. In a letter sent to the President of the Supreme Macedonian-Adrianople Committee on 28 November of the same year, the founders of the circle stated that, "there's no Bulgarian who is not interested in the situation and fate of that part of our homeland, which continue to groan under the yoke of the tyrant." At that time, Misirkov considered the Slavic peoples of Macedonia and Thrace as Bulgarian.
Later Misirkov abandoned the university and left for Ottoman Macedonia.
Facing financial obstacles to continue his postgraduate education, he accepted the proposal of the Bulgarian Exarchate to be appointed teacher in one of the high schools in Bitola. There he befriended the Russian consul in Bitola. He began to plan opening of local schools and publishing textbooks in Macedonian, but the Ilinden Uprising in 1903 and the assassination of the Russian Consul changed his plans and he soon returned to Russia. In Russia, Misirkov published different articles about the Ilinden Uprising and the justifications and causes as to why the Consul was assassinated. Soon afterwards, he wrote the brochure, "The Macedonian Matters" and published it in Sofia. This book, was written in the Central Macedonian dialect, and Misirkov attacked in his writings, the Bulgarian Exarchate, the Ilinden Uprising and the Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) as Bulgarian creations. As result, he was persecuted by IMRO, and it is believed that its members destroyed a sizable amount of copies of his book. Furthermore, he recounts that Dame Gruev, Gotse Delchev, Boris Sarafov and other IMRO members were persecuted by Bulgarian and Ottoman governmental officials as they were considered by the officials as anti-Bulgarian separatists and/or Macedonian nationalists and as a result, had to flee from the region.
In 1905, he left Saint Petersburg for Berdiansk in Southern Russia. There, he resumed publication of the journal "Vardar" and was given a post as assistant master in a grammar school. In many of his next articles after 1905, Misirkov espoused pro-Bulgarian views and even categorically renounced the point of his book "The Macedonian Matters", although this behavior might have been caused by many threats made towards him warning him to stop fighting for Macedonian separatism from Bulgaria. On 18 April 1907, Misirkov began to cooperate with the Sofia magazine "Macedonian-Adrianople Review", edited by Nikola Naumov, which was de facto organ of the IMRO. On 24 April 1909, in Odessa, Misirkov printed his work about the South Slavic epic legends on Krali Marko. On 1 October 1909, he printed the article, "The foundations of a Serbian-Bulgarian rapprochement" in the magazine, "Bulgarian Collection", edited by Bulgarian diplomats and officials in St. Petersburg. During this period, a Slavic Festival was held in Sofia in 1910 with Misirkov invited to attend as its guest of honor. In 1910–1911, he translated the book of the Bulgarian geographer Prof. Atanas Ishirkov, "Bulgaria" from Bulgarian to Russian.
When the First Balkan War had begun, Misirkov went to Macedonia as a Russian war correspondent. In Macedonia, he could follow the military operations of the Bulgarian Army. Misirkov published some articles in the Russian press demanding that the Ottomans should be driven out of Macedonia. In 1913 after the outbreak of the Second Balkan War, Misirkov went back to Russia, where he worked as a teacher in the Bulgarian language schools in Odessa. Some period of time later, he was appointed teacher of the Bulgarian language school in Chișinău. While working as a teacher in Chișinău, Misirkov sent а letter to the Bulgarian academic Aleksandar Teodorov-Balan with a request to be assigned as a professor at Sofia University. That request clearly indicates his self-identification at that time "– As a Bulgarian, I would willingly return to Bulgaria, if there is a need of a scientific research of the fate of the Bulgarian lands, especially Macedonia..." A shorter letter with similar content was sent to another professor at Sofia University – Vasil Zlatarski with the request to be assigned as a chosen at the newly established department for history of Macedonia and the other western Bulgarian lands.
At that point, Misirkov made contacts with the Macedonian Scientific and Literary Society, which started publishing the journal, "Makedonski glas" ("The Voice of Macedonia") in Russian. Misirkov was publishing in this magazine for some period under the pseudonym "K. Pelski". The journal mostly wrote about happenings in the Macedonian community in Russia as well as issues surrounding the Macedonian people as a whole. In the "Voice of Macedonia", Misirkov defended and wrote about Macedonian ideals which, according to him, were in contrast with Bulgarian ideals and the general Bulgarian populace.
After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Bessarabia became a democratic republic, and he was elected a member of the local parliament Sfatul Țării as a representative of the Bulgarian minority. At the same time, Misirkov worked as a secretary in the Bulgarian educational commission in Bessarabia. In March 1918, unification between Bessarabia and Romania was declared. On 21 May 1918, Misirkov openеd a Bulgarian language course in Bolhrad. Misirkov proceeded to take a clandestine trip to Bulgaria in order to procure textbooks for the students, but after his return in November, he was arrested by the Kingdom of Romania authorities, still at war with Bulgaria and was extradited to Bulgaria.
After being expelled by the Romanian authorities, Misirkov returned to Sofia at the end of 1918, where he spent one year as a head of the Historical Department of the National Museum of Ethnography. He proceeded to work as a teacher and director of the high schools in Karlovo and Koprivshtitsa. During this period (but before 1923), the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) marked Misirkov as harmful to its cause and supposedly considering his assassination, but reconsidered after he met with a representative of the organization. He also resumed his journalistic activity and published many articles on the Macedonian Question in the Bulgarian press. Misirkov died in 1926 and was buried in the graveyards in Sofia with the financial support of 5000 levs from the Ministry of Education, as an honoured educator.