By Alexander Matkovski

Gjurchin Kokaleski was one of the first leaders of the Macedonian national revival which affected society, religion and culture in this region. He lived during the second half of the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth century in a district inhabited by the Miyaks. During his lifetime the Miyak clan system was in decline and being replaced by individual family groupings whose senior members were considered to be the owners of all the family property. The women were mostly excluded from production and the children inherited through their father's line. So the contemporary family appeared in Mala Reka and gradually replaced the clan as the basic unit of economic and social organization. The clans did not disappear entirely but remained in a degenerate form throughout the nineteenth century.
As the clans declined so the clan chiefs lost their importance: respect was no longer accorded to character or experience but was won by wealth expressed, in Mala Reka, in terms of sheep.
The owners of the big sheep herds, the kaya, were accorded ever greater authority in their villages or clans (in as far as the latter had not died out) and they gradually rose to be the village or clan chiefs. So the richest man in the village became its representative and a power in the locality though he was not officially recognized by the Turks except in extraordinary cases. As these local chiefs gained in importance the people became more and more convinced that Turkish government was superfluous. It is for this reason that these new village chiefs were of such importance. They differed from the old clan chiefs in that they depended on the support of the whole village or district without discrimination on clan or family lines.
As these chiefs won their authority through their wealth they made no effort to hide it. On the contrary, they emphasized it: they rode fine horses, dressed well in elaborate costume of the Miyaks, were accompanied by many servants and resembled minor princes. The cult of wealth supported the cult of the owners of wealth. They were respected by the Albanians, Macedonians and even the Turks. Using this respect the chiefs were able to protect their people from the Turks and Albanians and so were transformed gradually into the heads of a system of popular defense and were in the pastoral life of the livestock merchants. This autobiography has not yet been properly investigated by historians and economists. The document is an important source for the student of Macedonian and its written forms as well as for the historian. This aspect has been treated by Dr. Aleksandar Belich in The Galichnik Dialect but it now seems to us that some corrections need to be made to several of his conclusions. An important point is that Kokaleski probably developed his own original forms and variations for some of the letters or, more accurately, phonetic symbols, the forefront of the popular struggle against the Turks, Albanians and the cultural influence of the Greek Patriarchate. On the whole they used legal means in their struggle (though some more courageous chiefs turned to armed insurrection). There were many such chiefs in Mala Reka.
Among all these chiefs both in terms of wealth and the extent of his services to his people Gjurchin Kokaleski was outstanding. He was leader not only of his own village Lazaropole but of the whole region. Most important for us he wrote his autobiography. Kok
aleski's autobiography is the first known autobiography in Macedonian national history. It is written in Macedonian in Kokaleski's native dialect. We find that the author was extremely knowledgeable about livestock and trade. This autobiography differs from those written by the poet Prlichev and Bishop Natanail in that it was not written by an intellectual nor was it an attempt at a work of art, nor was it intended as a memorial to the author and his clan for future generations. It was written for practical reasons as a textbook for Kokaleski's sons and grandsons as he was himself a practical and enterprising man, a typical member of the merchant bourgeoisie.
Kokaleski's autobiography concerns the early period of the Macedonian popular revival: the period when Kiril Peychinovik and Yoakim Krchovski were publishing their own books in vernacular Macedonian though they were intended for use by the church; a period when a part of the Macedonian intelligentsia considered Greek to be the language of educated people. As Kokaleski's book was not of a religious nature it is also the first secular book in the history of Macedonian culture.
Kokaleski, in keeping with his position as a member of the merchant bourgeoisie, knew Turkish, Greek and Albanian though never used these languages in every day life except for business. We only know of one document written by him which includes a language other than Macedonian and even in this he uses only two lines of Turkish written in the Church-Slavonic script. We can assume from this fact that though he knew Turkish he did not know the Arabic script.
Kokaleski's autobiography is an important economic and political document for Macedonian history as it gives much economic and historical data concerning the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. It includes invaluable material on the situation in Macedonia over a period of 48 years from 1775 to 1824. It is particularly rich in information about livestock, summer and winter pastures and the herdsmen's migrations. We learn about the pastoral life of the livestock merchants.
This autobiography has not yet been properly investigated by historians and economists.
The document is an important source for the student of Macedonian and its written forms as well as for the historian. This aspect has been treated by Dr. Aleksandar Belich in The Galichnik Dialect but it now seems to us that some corrections need to be made to several of his conclusions. An important point is that Kokaleski probably developed his own original forms and variations for some of the letters or, more accurately, phonemic symbols.
We consider these forms to be Kolaleski's own as he used them in 1823 at the time when Vuk Karadzhich began his work on the reform of
the orthography and he can hardly have been under the influence of these reforms so early particularly living in such a remote dis- trict of western Macedonia. We also find that Kokaleskie's forms differ substantially from those used by Karadzhich. We should remember that in Church-Slavonic script ќ and ѓ were not differentiatiated (e.g. in Peychinovik's work) and even if Kokaleski took the ħ form from some church manuscript and added ђ independently it was an important step forward. We can also base our assumption that Kokaleski was not influenced by Karadzhich's reforms on the fact that he does not use the љ and њ, forms used by Karadzhich.
The autobiography appeared as a natural consequence of the economic and cultural reevival in Macedania but, not being published, it had no influence on subsequent literature. We can also find no traces in the contents which would indicate the influence of previous religious literature so it is a completely unique work. However, the form taken by the autobiography does reflect some ecclesiastical literature.
In 1822 Kokaleski had over 1,000 sheep, 25 horses and the huge sum of 25,000 grosh.
From 1823 Kokaleski remained more often in Lazaropole and sent his sons to look after the sheep. He only visited his pastures occasionally and left more and more of the work to his sons introducing them in this way to the pastoral life and leaving himself free for his social works. The Constantinople Patriarchate tried to gain influence in Miyak regions but failed in face of the popular resistance led by energetic merchant herdsmen and local monks. Kokaleski was such a leader and considered the greatest crime to be to lose one's national identity particularly in favour of Greek or Turkish influences. So he decided to build a great church in his village. In pursuit of this aim he went to Mount Athos in 1807 and visited Zographou to talk with the monk Anatolia who was of like mind and ask his advice on how to extract permission for the building from the Turks. He failed to get permission and shelved his plan until better times. After the Peace of Edrine conditions for the Orthodox Church improved but for church buildings permission was still necessary. Finding it difficult to be granted an audience with the sultan Kokaleski decided in 1832 to begin building without the necessary documents. This was possible in such a remote mountain village where the Turks rarely appeared. The building began on 15th April, 1832, and the new church arose around the old wooden structure, which could hold no more than 20 people, which had served as a church up till then. The wooden church was demolished in 1841. Kokaleski succeeded in making the undertaking legal in 1838 when he was granted an audience with the sultan.
The organization of the church building remained throughout in Kokaleski's and the priest Martin Dimkovski's hands. It was built with the aid of voluntary contributions of money, ecclesiastical objects or labour.
Kokaleski wanted to name the church St. Ilia in memory of his father whose name was Ilia, but the villagers insisted his own name be used and the church consecrated on St. Ilia's day to keep the memory of his father alive. It was duly named St. Gjorgjia and consecrated on St. Ilia's day, 1841. The celebrations attracted visitors from all the Miyak villages bringing gifts for the church: this was a true Miyak holiday as the church was the first in the region.
Before th
e completion of the church Kokaleski decided that it must be decorated with icons and frescoes in the Slavonic manner so he sent one of the local inhabitants to find an icon painter in the Thessalonica region. None wanted to come to this remote village so the price asked by the painter Mihael (Greek or Vlach?) and his 23 year old pupil Dimitria Dicho was high. When this group approached Lazaropole rifle shots were fired to tell the people that the icon painter was coming. They were welcomed heartily. The paintings in the church were started in 1837 but Mihael did not behave well and was obliged to leave Lazaropole after quarreling with most of the important men of the village. His pupil Dicho who came from the nearby village of Tresonche continued the work. It was his first independent work. To begin with he worked uncertainly on the frescoes started by Mihael. He completed his first paintings in 1841. Besides some inscriptions and scenes from the Old and New Testaments Dicho has also left us some realistic frescoes showing Kokaleskl and Martin the priest in the women's area of the church high on the right-hand wall. There were two frescoes depicting Kokaleski and one of Martin. One shows Kokaleski as a young man dressed in the costume of the Miyaks, the other during the years when he was a sick old man. This is certainly the only example in Macedonia of secular persons being painted in a church. During the Middle Ages governors, church dignitaries and various lords, wishing to leave a memorial to themselves, built churches and had their own portraits included in the frescoes. And why should the newly-rich herdsmen, lords, not do likewise? When the church was complete Kokaleski set about providing a bell. We have no information as to whether he traveled personally to Austria but it is more likely that he ordered the bell from the workshops of the Bota brothers through migrant workers -there were many Miyaks both in Austria and Serbia. The bell was cast in this foundry in 1856 and was probably carried by merchants or migrant workers back to Lazaropole in the same year. This was only the fourth bell in Macedonia and the first to be paid for and ordered by a local man. As the Turks did not permit church building bells, they were of necessity rare. Lazaropole was the second place in Macedonia to get a bell (after St. Yovan Bigorski).
For the first ten years the bell was hung from a large oak beam which can now be found in the church dome. After 1856 Kokaleski decided to build a bell tower but he was already nearing his death, a paralyzed old man. He left this job to his sons and four years after his death his eldest son Damyan fulfilled his father's wish.
Before the completion of the church Kokaleski and Martin, the priest, were already worrying how to provide the necessary ecclesiastical texts. They bought books from Russia through merchants and migrant workers who brought them via Thessalonica, Vidin and Serbia. This is very important as it shows they completely rejected books in Greek. From their inscriptions it seems that almost all the books in Lazaropole were bought by Kokaleski and Martin.
When the church was completed a primary school was founded in 1841 on the initiative of Kokaleski and Martin. This was the first Miyak village school.
In one book we find that the first teacher at the school signed himself: “Martin Dimkoski, the priest in the time of Lord Gjurchin Kokaleski”. It is no surprise that the first teacher was Martin, the priest. He was followed by his son Kosta in about 1850. From a document in the possession of Krste Yovanov, a former teacher from Lazaropole, it seems that the first school building adjoined the church and was built towards the end of 1840. The new school was built twenty years later (about 1860) and so Lazaropole had the finest church and the finest school in the whole region.
This same document mentioned above also tells us that classes were held in the mother tongue as the teachers, local people, knew no other language and the books used were written in Church-Slavonic.
Kokaleski also helped rebuild the monastery of the Immaculate Mother (Sv. Prechista) near Kichevo which had caught fire four times and been raided by Albanians. After the fourth fire, which had been started by robbers from the village of Drugovo, the monastery began to revive in 1848 but there were not the means with which to complete the restoration work so Simeon, the abbot, turned to the Miyaks for aid. The request was answered by Kokaleski, Sardzho Bradina from Tresonche and Todor Tomovski of Galichnik who, with the help of the people, saw the rebuilding completed. These leaders organized the villagers so that they carried stones from Tresonche to the monastery each time they went to market. The builders came from Lukovo as they had for the building of the church at Lazaropole. This monastery was important to the Miyaks because, next in importance to St. Yovan Bigorski, it was the focus for religious and educational activity in western Macedonia. The villagers of Lazaropole gave 500 grosh in 1850 for the construction of living quarters.
Kokaleski was given a place of honour in the church as a mark of gratitude for all his services. Even after his death popular demand was such that he was buried within the church by the altar and not in the cemetery. He died in 1863, seven years before Martin Dimkoski who buried him. Kokaleski's death brought many people from nearby villages to pay their last respects to this man. Official representatives of the Turkish authorities in Debar and beys from the region also came. His kinsmen travelled from Albania. The funeral was attended by the abbots of St. Yovan Bigorski and the monastery of the Immaculate Mother and it was led by Martin, the priest, who spoke of the fine deeds of Kokaleski and likened his life to the life of a national fighter.

("Macedonian Review")


Povratesko,s. Lazaropole

Macedonia Time Lapse - Sunset after Snowfall HD - Lazoropole - Kolevski Voislav - Vojce

Macedonia Time Lapse - Panorama of Lazoropole HD *** Kolevski Voislav - Vojce


Lazaropole Sokolica Лазарополе Соколица

Крсте Коловски - автор на фреските од Св. Димитрија

Св. Јован Бигорски

Св. Јован Бигорски



Македонско Друштво "ИЛИНДЕН"-Тирана

Македонско Друштво "ИЛИНДЕН"-Тирана

Да го спасиме сливното подрачје на Мала Река!

Да го спасиме сливното подрачје на Мала Река!
Да го спасиме сливното подрачје на Мала Река! ДАДЕТЕ ВАШ ПРИДОНЕС, ПОТПИШЕТЕ ЈА ПЕТИЦИЈАТА! Save Nacional Park Mavrovo!!! Make your contribution please SIGN THE PETITION!

Blog Post