In a joint statement, organizations of Macedonians in Bulgaria outline the numerous violations of their human rights, their ability to self-identify as Macedonians and to politically organize. One issue they raise is the lack of a designated option to declare Macedonian identity at the census.
The census was conducted in conditions of deeply ingrained fear, after hundreds of past arrests and thousands of deportations during Communism, which is being kept alive over the past decades with the freely allowed hate speech aimed at Macedonians, the violence against individual activists, the ban on holding gatherings and the refusal to allow Macedonian parties and organizations to formally establish, say the groups that include OMO Ilinden – Pirin, OMO Ilinden, the Association of repressed Macedonians in Bulgaria, the Macedonian club for ethnic tolerance and others.
The groups point to the fact that the campaign against Macedonians in Bulgaria is reaching new heights, with the growing dispute between the two countries.
In this light, the census was conducted mostly at home, with the census takers not asking the citizens about their nationality, language or religion. The forms were later filled by the census taker, without consulting the citizens. This indicates that the results were copied over from the previous census, the organizations say.
Only about 5,000 Bulgarian citizens declared that they are ethnic Macedonians in the 2001 census – down from over 250,000 in 1946. Bulgaria, on the other hand, insists that the census in Macedonia, held at about the same time this early autumn, reflects the fact that it issued over 100,000 dual citizenships to Macedonian citizens – even though most claimants are primarily interested in using the Bulgarian passport to reach the European labour market.