@tobi34 Yes, they, like many other Bulgarians even further inside the mainland (f.e. I had recently given the example of Vasil Aprilov, from Gabrovo), had been under a strong Hellenization influence. I’m sure you know the Phanariotic regime was particularly strong in those times and these Hellenization tendencies were exactly the reason why St. Paisius of Hilendar wrote his Istoriya Slavyanobolgarskaya (admittedly, many modern Bulgarians think his “Oh, you stupid people! Why are you ashamed to call yourself Bulgarians?” was directed more against the Turkish threat rather than the Greeks; I also find it ironic when they say we owe the survival of our culture entirely to the church, given the church was the Phanariotes’ main weapon). Likewise, why the Bulgarian struggle for an independent church actually preceded the one for independent statehood. Actually, my personal opinion about Macedonism itself is that its first seed was a byproduct exactly of those same Hellenization processes. Of course, some influences could be traced even further back – f.e. the Serbian Alexandriada (i.e. the Slavic translation from the Late Middle Ages) also claimed Alexander the Great was a Slav (of course, medieval sources, especially in the Byzantine commonwealth, have quite particular tendencies toward antiquization, f.e. Malalas and Tsetses mention Achilles and his Myrmidons as Bulgarians (which is just as preposterous)).
Otherwise, it seems I actually agree with you (huh, there’s a first; maybe that agreement really is doing wonders). Although I’d note that while, of course, “national-Bulgarian in today’s sense of the word” would naturally not be fully the same as it was before, it also wasn’t quite too different either. Actually, Norman Davies in his “Europe: A history” argues that while nation-states indeed didn’t exist in the Middle Ages, it could be said about four countries in Europe (Bulgaria, Serbia, Denmark and Portugal) that they started developing a national identity already in those times (for Bulgaria and Serbia he attributes it mostly to the independent national churches, though of course the conflict of “otherness” with the Greek “archenemies” would also be a necessary requirement (though most people here tend to disregard how interwoven our cultures were and how much influences we still have from them even today)).