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Salvation Abroad: Macedonian Migration to North America and the Making of Modern Macedonia, 1870-1970
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This dissertation explores the establishment of Macedonian diaspora communities in North America, and the concurrent development of Macedonian national identity, between 1870 and 1970. Taking a transnational approach to cultural history, it ultimately finds a reciprocal relationship between Macedonian migration and identity by focusing on key nationalist leaders and organizations, as well as the crucial points of transformation in the evolution of Macedonian national identity. By blurring the boundary between Canada and the United States - as did many migrants from Macedonia who saw the two countries as "Upper" and "Lower" America - this study emphasizes migration rather than settlement in order to unveil nationalism's religious, cultural and political components. The dissertation, therefore, is grounded not in the cement of a single national narrative, but in the cultural products that result from passages - physical, spiritual, and social - among nations. As the nineteenth century ended, a climate of deprivation and violence compelled tens of thousands of men from the Macedonian region to depart their troubled corner of the Balkans and find economic salvation abroad. Like their fellow villagers, most of the migrants considered themselves to be geographically Macedonian but culturally Bulgarian. Almost none identified with a nationality in the modern sense. This study argues, however, that more than simply fulfilling an economic mission abroad, the migrant men, and later their families, capitalized on the freedoms North America offered to forge a broader "salvation" that fundamentally changed their national and ethnic worldview. Put another way, migration catalyzed a process in which the migrants became, simply, "Macedonians." Far from leaving behind the political and cultural battles of their homeland, the migrant communities formed political, cultural, and religious organizations that sought to influence the policies of both their host and home countries. But defining the new Macedonian nation proved a contentious issue. As the migrant communities cleaved into left- and right-leaning factions during the middle and latter years of the twentieth century, the nature of Macedonian identity, which, I argue, was intimately connected to notions of Macedonian cultural history, became a fiercely contested subject, and remains so today.