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Macedonia: Online Rebellion Against “Skopje 2014″ Plan

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Macedonia, Arts & Culture, Digital Activism, Economics & Business, Governance, Politics, Protest

After years of veiled announcements, media manipulation and bureaucratic dodging of requests for transparency, accountability and citizen participation, the local government of Centar Municipality [1] [MKD] finally came out with a plan – made in coordination with the central government [2] [MKD] – to litter the center of the Macedonian capital Skopje with a number of new monuments and buildings.

Below is the video presentation of the government project:

Viktor Arsovski of IT.com.mk, providing an overview of the reactions to the unveiling of the government's plan, reported [3] [MKD]:

Citizens use social networks, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube to comment, criticize, ridicule, and, to a smaller extent, praise the future look of Skopje in 2014. Makfax posted the video “Visualisation of the Skopje center in 2014″ yesterday, on February 4th. In just one day it attracted over 16,000 views and over 380 comments.

Right-wing blogger Alek Careca expressed [4] a view held by many of his ideological brethren:

Personally, I am impressed and fascinated. Skopje will have one of the most beautiful city centres.

However, Mr. Arsovski rightly notes that most of the reactions express disagreement for aesthetic reasons and/or due to the huge costs of the project, especially since the mayor of Centar Municipality has recently stated [5] [MKD] that “the worst of the economic crisis is over, we have enough money for monuments,” whose total cost is estimated to be at least 17 million euro.

Volan, a blogger with background in economics, could only note that this development is not a joke [6] [MKD], even though it looks like one. Nenad Jovanovic quoted his grandmother [7] [MKD], who used to say:

Son, never underestimate the power of stupidity and kitsch.

The portal Okno published a compilation of comments [8] [MKD], following up on earlier articles dealing with this and the related phenomena, whose authors spoke about the burden of living in such “interesting” times [9] [MKD] and ironically noted [10] [MKD] that in the future Macedonia would be able to compete with Easter Island [11]:

Inspired tourist guides will explain to visitors from world over that this extinct civilization, in the midst of transitions and world crises, spent its meager resources on building monuments and other stoned works in order to leave traces in time that would bear witness of its defiance to the damned neighbors and other foreign clergy-fascist fiends.

Faced with the absurd, tweets (#Skopje2014 [12]) and Facebook posts often use humor as an antidote.

For instance, Interpreter published a lucid poem titled “Two Thousand and Fourteen” [13] [MKD], while FlavrSavr compared the video to the Caesar IV game trailer [14] [MKD], saying that in this version…

…the difference is that journalists and other traitors [referring to smear tactics used by government supporters for all who express criticism] will have to play the role of gladiators.

Twitter users also spread the statement by Ramadan Ramadani [15] [MKD], a representative of the Muslim community, who demands inclusion of a mosque in the plan – or exclusion of the new church:

The main square of the capital of Macedonia belongs to all the citizens and is not a field for playing [FarmVille [16]].

A history buff used Wikipedia to compare the “vision” to make the grand national capital [17] through massive and costly rebuilding to similar failed ambitions from the past.

The author of the blog Psycha… the edge of logic proposed [18] [MKD] that the dome that the government plans to add to the Parliament building should be turned into a planetarium [19]. Macedonia has only one such facility, built in the early 1970s and not renovated since, which suffers from neglect [20] [MKD] due to lack of funds for maintenance.

Members of a grassroots group who got beaten up last spring [21] called for a spontaneous protest against the government's unresponsiveness [22] [MKD] to the citizens’ reactions. The protest is scheduled to take place this coming Saturday, at 2 PM, on the “unoccupied portion of the main square.”