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Macedonia, Greece: FYROM

Edward Lucas shares his piece on Greece's problems with a neighboring country also known as FYROM.

63 comments

  • Anonymous Hellene

    Macedonia is a historical and geographic area that was home to the ancient Macedonians; the most prominent of whom Alexander the Great.

    Alexander’s empire propagated a period in history that is known as the Hellenistic (Greek) Age.

    The ancient Macedonians spoke Greek, worshipped the ancient Greek Gods, and participated in the Olympic Games (an event restricted to Greeks at the time).

    The overwhelming majority of the ancient territory of Macedonia, including important historical sites, are found in Northern Greece (in a geographic region bearing the same name).

    On the other hand, the population of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is 30% Albanaian; with significant minorities of Serbs, Bulgarians, Vlachs, and Gypsies.

    The dominant racial group of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is Slavic in origin which can be traced to the region from the 7th century AD and onwards. Alexander the Great and his countrymen where not part of the great Slavic races of Europe.

    Any recognition of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with the name would be an act of historical injustice.

    There are no ethnic Macedonians as a separate, distinct, and self-identifying cultural identity anywhere in the world. To this extent, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia should not be allowed to misappropriate a historical identity that is more closely related to the Ancient Greeks then any other people in the world.

    How can a predominately Slavophone (a dialect of Bulgarian) people with origins since the 7th century AD be staking a claim to a culture that predates its very existence in the area?

    The name and cultural aspect of Macedonia is an inalienable part of Greece’s history that must not be allowed to be usurped and misappropriated.

  • During the First and Second Balkan Wars (1912-1913) Macedonia’s neighbors fought with the Ottoman Turks using the Macedonian people as a ploy in an effort to grab land. As a consequence, under the Treaty of Bucharest, Macedonia was partitioned and Greece annexed the southern portion of Macedonia (what Macedonians call Aegean Macedonia). Before 1913 and throughout history Macedonia was never a territorial part of Greece.

    After 1913, Greece, which was still ruled by a Bavarian king, undertook a policy of forced assimilation to unify its many different ethnic groups. Let me highlight a few examples of Greek policy towards Macedonians:

    In 1925, the primary school textbook (the ABECEDAR) sponsored by the League of Nations and printed in Athens, was revoked by Greece in order to deny Macedonians an education in their native language.

    Greece changed the names of some 1500 Macedonian towns and villages, as well as the personal names of the population it acquired when it annexed Aegean Macedonia, in order to make them appear Greek.

    Do you recall the humiliation, torture and killings inflicted upon Macedonians who refused to assimilate or call themselves Greek?

    Greece declared there are no Macedonians, only Greeks and referred to those Macedonians who refused to assimilate as “Bulgarians.”

    Macedonia, the Macedonian language, and everything Macedonian was forbidden by the Greek dictator, Metaxas. Even our ancient churches and cemeteries were destroyed to cover up any historical evidence of the Macedonian people in the area.

    One could only hear whispers from the Macedonians who lived in Greece, and they were whispering when they spoke in Macedonian because they where afraid of the Greek police who constantly monitored them. If the police heard them express their Macedonian identity in word or song they would place them in jail, their businesses would be confiscated and they would be beaten, and worse.

    Everything was going on, and on, like this in Greece, until the Republic of Macedonia became independent from Yugoslavia. At that time, Greece started worrying about the Macedonian territory it annexed in 1913 and all the Macedonian properties it had confiscated over the years. It became concerned about the Macedonians who were forced to flee Greece because they declared their nationality as Macedonian and not Greek.

    My grandmother was born in Chegan (Agios Atanasios), in the Voden (Edessa) region. For centuries, all of her ancestors were born there. They were never Greeks. Like hundreds of thousands in the Kukush (Kilkis) area, the Lerin (Florina) area, the Kostur (Kastoria) area and the many other areas of Aegean Macedonia they spoke an older Macedonian language, which was the precursor of today’s standardized Macedonian.

    My grandparents’ ancestors transferred the history of Macedonia and the Macedonian people orally for centuries within the family, “od koleno na koleno” (from knee to knee) as we say. My grandfather was murdered in a jail cell by Greeks because he declared his Macedonian ethnic heritage and refused to say he was Greek.

    I feel very sad when I think about my grandmother and grandfather and the mistreatment they received under the Greeks only because they were Macedonian. I know that thousands of Macedonian families suffered a similar fate.

    Macedonians never stated that they were not Greek citizens, they just wanted to have the right to freely express and preserve their ethnic identity, language and culture. Greece never permitted this because it would undermine its revisionist claims on Macedonia.

    The terms “Macedonia” and “Macedonians” were suppressed in northern Greece until the late 1980s. When it finally became clear the Republic of Macedonia would separate from the Yugoslav Federation just about everything in Greece was instantly renamed “Macedonia.”

    Greece became anxious the Republic of Macedonia might make a (legitimate) claim to be re-joined with its ancestral southern portion, the Aegean part of Macedonia, now the heavily-colonized northern Greek province of Macedonia.

    At that moment Greece had a golden opportunity to take responsibility for the mistreatment of its Macedonian minority and get beyond the Macedonian issue. Instead, it whipped up nationalist frenzy, closed schools and businesses and initiated a huge, “spontaneous,” demonstration in Solun (Salonica) aimed at silencing any dissent.

    Nowadays, through its unofficial extensions like the Pan Macedonian group, it uses questionable political tactics abroad to promote revisionist histories and myths of Greek racial purity in Macedonia.

    I believe it is a fundamental right that people be allowed to freely express their ethnic identity. That Greece, via the Pan Macedonian Association, would try to impose a Greek identity upon its Macedonian minority reveals the extent to which racism is still rampant in Greece today.

  • vaso

    I live in Macedonia – Greece and in particular kilkis which you mentioned so who the hell do think you are saying that you are macedonian!!!!!!!!!before the ending of Yugoslavia non of you ever mentioned or new about the whole matter of you being so called macedonias.It ‘s like you all woke up one morning and remembered you wanted to be macedonias!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I am tiered of people trying to steel my identity because they don’t have one!!!!!!!!!!!!I am very sorry about your grandparents and i apologise for that but that doesn’t give the right to say that furom is macedonia because everyone knows it’s not about heritage but politics. Your claim is offensive

  • John Goodwyn

    It is amazing to read what “Makedonec” is saying. And it is even more amazing to here what so called “Macedonians” of FYROM believe about themselves. We in the west have completely rejected history and allowed a “country” like FYROM to portray themselves as victims. Having spent time in FYROM I must confess that this highly problematic, far from democratic country is continuing its communist propaganda about their ancestral home which would include parts of nowadays Greece. I am only sorry for the reaction of my own country the US which I believe is not misinformed in its actions but rather egoistically using the situation to benefit politacally against a former friend Greece.

    There is no justification for the rape of Greece at this moment by the US and FYROM, for the rape of history and for the rape of logic. The populations of all these countries have through history suffered tremendously but that has never allowed any one of these countries to steal the identity of somebody else, to re-write history, fake research (the scandalous DNA-articles by FYROM scholars) to gain support for a political cause.

    FYROM as a country lacks minimum stability yet it acts as a raptor due to the support of my country. The tide will turn and the tremendous economic investments primarily made by Greeks will suddenly be remembered again when this nationalistic euphoria of the FYROMians has settled. Remember, US is not your neighbour. Your neighbours are Greece, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Serbia. And your behaviour at this moment against all these four countries is by no means the behaviour of a neighbour.

    If any cultural support for the identity of the FYROMians can be found anywhere, it can be found in Greece. Cherish that! US support is contingent on republicans running the White House. That could change with Obama’s possible victory. Obama, contrary to the unfortunate George Bush, does not support the actions of FYROM. Contrary, he suuports Greece.

  • John Smith

    I have reviewed John (Yannis) Goodwyn’s comment with some minor ammendments:

    And it is even more amazing to hear what the so called “Greeks who call themselves Macedonians” of “who have emigrated to Macedonia from Asia Minor” believe about themselves.

    We in the west have completely “ignored” history and allowed people of an “aggressive country” like “Greece” to portray themselves as victims.

    Having spent time and lived in Greece & Macedonia I must confess that this is highly problematic. Greece is far from a democratic country and is continuing its propaganda about their ancestral home which would include parts of nowadays Macedonia.

    I am very happy for the reaction of the US – which I believe is fully aware of its actions and egoistically using the situation to “awaken” the its dear friend Greece.

    There is every justification to make Greece aware at this moment by the both US and Macedonia, which is backed up by history and logic.

    All of these countries have through history suffered tremendously but that has never allowed any one of these countries to steal the identity of somebody else, to re-write history, fake research (the scandalous DNA-articles by Greek scholars) to gain support for a political cause.

    Macedonia as a country is stable – one has to consider the latest Balkan Wars alone. It doesn’t act as a raptor due to the support of Yannis’s country. The tide will turn and the tremendous economic investments primarily made by Greeks will suddenly be remembered again when this nationalistic euphoria of the Greeks has settled.

    The Greeks are very smart when it comes to investment. They primarily invest where they know there is potential and the most important of all to them is to make a profit.

    Remember, US is not your neighbour. Your neighbours are Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania and Turkey. And your behaviour at this moment against all these four countries is by no means the behaviour of a neighbour.

    The cultural support for the identity of the Macedonians can be found anywhere except Greece. Be aware of that!

    US support is respected very much by the Macedonians. That could change with Obama’s possible victory.

    It would be sad if Obama, contrary to the fortunate George Bush, does not support the actions of Macedonia. Hopefully, he will not support Greece on this issue.

  • It is sad to see ancient history dragged into the debate about the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

    The fYROM is a small part of the geographical region of Macedonia. Its people and Slav Macedonians in general are a small part of the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the region of Macedonia.

    It is absurd that the part should claim the name of the whole for itself. Greece appears ready to accept a compromise such as “Republic of Upper Macedonia” or “Republic of Slav Macedonia” which would precisely define that this country is not Macedonia but a part thereof.

    Doubtlessly there are hotheads in both Greece and Macedonia, but the Greek government and major political parties appear to support a rational resolution to the naming dispute; unfortunately Slav Macedonians seem to insist on appropriating a name that is not exclusively (or even predominantly) theirs.

  • Damov

    Dienekes,

    I agree with you about using ancient history about the name of Republic of Macedonia. I also agree that Macedonia is part of the Macedonia’s total geographical region.

    However, I disagree with your other points.

    The Republic of Macedonia may be a small part of the region but to its people it is the ideal size for a country. Please note that there are many countries who are smaller in size which include: Slovenia, Israel, El Salvador, Fiji, Montenegro, Kuwait, Jamaica, Luxemborb etc. (to name just a few).

    The Macedonians are not a small part of its total population. The people living in it are all Macedonians with different ethnic/cultural backgrounds. The majority of them (around 65% to 70%) are Macedonian. The other minorities are given equal rights to identify themselves whatever they choose.

    That part has called itself the “Republic of Macedonia” since around WW2. It not as new as the Greeks claim. Therefore I don’t know why Dienekes believes it is absurd.

    At the same time Greeks referred to their region as “Northern Greece”. It was not changed until Greece noticed that the Yugoslav Federation will break up.

    Both countries are under pressure to come to an agreement. I believe Macedonia is under greater pressure as the majority don’t want a change to its name. To do so, it will just add more anger to its people.

  • >> The Republic of Macedonia may be a small part of the region but to its people it is the ideal size for a country.

    The argument was not about the small size of fYROM but rather for the fact that fYROM is a small part of the geographical region of Macedonia.

    >> The Macedonians are not a small part of its total population. The people living in it are all Macedonians with different ethnic/cultural backgrounds. The majority of them (around 65% to 70%) are Macedonian. The other minorities are given equal rights to identify themselves whatever they choose.

    Once again, the argument was not about how many ethnic “Macedonians” are in fYROM but rather how many there are in the geographical region of Macedonia.

  • Biljana

    would like to express my huge disappointment over the lack of real support for the country of macedonia. if you are going to honestly give your support you will inform the minister of foreign affairs of greece to stop trying to influence the international body of nato to change the name-yet again- or you will support fully the culmination of the Bucharest treaty and encourage the country of macedonia to reclaim the land it is entitled to reclaim in the northern part of greece. this is a country deserving the support of our country and we have failed it so many times. history will prove you to be correct in supporting a people who’s basement of strength is its strong faith. these are not the people creating instability in this region. Greece has been allowed to attack them for too long. after the treaty, which our country supported, Greece spent huge money on publishing houses in England and successfully changed history according to Greece. the average person in America believes the lies taught in our school materials from those English houses controlled by the Greeks. more recently there was the issue of Greece insisting they change the flag to look like something from China. don’t make the mistake of thinking you will suggest to both countries to add some compromise like “the democratic republic of Macedonia”and this will appease Greece. they will not stop here and the next time it will be something like they are not a significant enough country to become a member of NATO. we americans owe to this country for one terrible wrong done to them long ago. i hope you are a lion in your heart like the one missing on the flag of Macedonia.

  • YANNIS

    the times for lions and kings and wars is over.
    the days when americans dictated the borders of nations are even further over.
    If fYROM wants to reamin a sovereign country at the borders of Greece, then it should accept a name without the inclusion of Makedonia, which is the one of the northern district of Greece and has been so for thousands of years.
    any discussion is pointless and all arguments to the contrary are simply demonstrating the ignorence of the arguing party.
    Germany would never accept a neighbor country to be named Bavaria, the British were forced to use internationally the name United Kingdom, instead of Britain, which is a part at the north of France, the Albanians do not call their southEpirus, which is the name of the Greek district they have occupied and the Turks do not call their nort-east Thrace, which is the name of that Greek district they occupy since 1922.
    get a history book and learn that to “keep an open mind” does not mean to distort history.

    • Georgio

      Yianni,
      No offence.You are not well versed!
      Have a small read of Biblical history. Macedonia and Greece are seperate.

      Cheers

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