Macedonian Ohioans

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Numerous Ohioans are descended from Macedonian ancestors. Today, Macedonian Ohioans continue to enhance Ohio's cultural and social landscape.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, millions of immigrants migrated to the United States of America, hoping to live the American Dream. Before the American Civil War, most immigrants arrived in the United States from Great Britain, Germany, and Ireland. By the 1880s, the home countries of immigrants began to change. Many of the new immigrants to arrive in the United States came from Eastern and Southern European countries, like Macedonia, Albania, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, and Czechoslovakia, rather than from Western European countries, like Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany.

In 1860, 328,249 immigrants lived in Ohio. These people accounted for fourteen percent of the state's population. By 1900, the number of immigrants in Ohio rose to 458,734, but the percentage of the population that was foreign-born declined to eleven percent. Most of these immigrants in 1900 came from Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland, yet a growing number of Eastern and Southern Europeans were also migrating to the state.

In 1914, fewer than two thousand Macedonian immigrants resided in Ohio. Thousands of other Balkans from neighboring countries to Macedonia had also arrived in Ohio by this time. Most Balkans settled along Lake Erie, especially in Cleveland, where they found low-paying jobs in factories or worked as day laborers, but the majority of Macedonians who came to Ohio settled in Akron, Cincinnati, Lorain, Canton, Massillon, and Columbus, Ohio. Most Macedonian immigrants came to the United States to improve their financial situation and to escape political turmoil in their native country. Most of these immigrants were illiterate and, thus, were forced to accept low-paying positions. More successful immigrants established businesses that supplied their fellow migrants with traditional Macedonian products. In 1940, Ohio's largest cities usually included a few hundred Macedonian residents, with these migrants tending to settle in their own communities, preferring to live among people who shared similar cultural beliefs and spoke the same language as they did.

Macedonian immigrants congregated together partly out of camaraderie but also out of fear. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many native-born Americans feared outsiders. Some of these people objected to the immigrants' religious and cultural beliefs, while others believed that the foreigners would corrupt the morals of United States citizens. These people also contended that the quality of life within the United States would decline, as there were not enough jobs to employ the millions of people migrating to America. Many native-born Americans hoped either to limit immigration or to force foreigners to convert to American customs and beliefs. The leaders of this movement were the Progressives of the late 1800s and the early 1900s. To accomplish their goals, the Progressives implemented numerous reforms, including settlement houses, which taught foreigners American practices. The Progressives also called for laws that would either limit or ban the cultural practices of recently arrived immigrants. It would take several generations before the immigrants became truly accepted by the vast majority of white Ohioans.

While many Macedonian immigrants arrived in the United States prior to World War I, another wave of Macedonian migrants eventually reached this country in the years immediately following World War II. World War II destroyed numerous homes and businesses in Macedonia, and many residents of this country sought a better life in the United States. Ohio's Macedonian residents actively assisted these new arrivals in beginning new lives. The new immigrants tended to settle in the already established Macedonian communities in the state.

Over the succeeding decades, Ohio's traditional Macedonian communities began to lose their cohesiveness. As other Ohioans became more tolerant of the Macedonians, many Macedonian communities began to disintegrate. Many Macedonians moved into other communities, while non Macedonians began to infiltrate the traditionally Macedonian neighborhoods. This does not mean that Ohio's Macedonian population has lost its ties to its traditional cultural beliefs. Macedonian Ohioans continue to participate in various social and cultural groups that serve to promote Macedonian beliefs and customs. Most of these organizations are centered on the Eastern Orthodox Church, the dominant religion among Ohio's Macedonians.

See Also

References

  1. Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.