Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Let me add a few things here:

This whole mess was created firstly by Greek nationalism. A Greek equivalent of a Yugoslav sort of rabid nationalism emerged in the early 90s, motivating people to the streets to demand that the republic of Macedonia be called something else - something which should not include the name Macedonia in it at all. At the time the RoM side was a relatively realist Tito-school lot, which just wanted to stay out of internal trouble (regarding the large and unrestful Albanian minority in their country).

Now this is a period of time in which discourse in Greece regarding national issues was frothing-in-the-mouth absurd. Admittedly this was not helped by the fact that there was a strong wingnut element in RoM politics that claimed that Alexander of Macedon was some sort of pre-slav and (more importantly) that the Greeks indigenous to Macedonia were also of Macedonian nationality but they just didn't know it. The only political force in Greece pushing for a Geographical determination of the name Macedonia was the left - and even they after various hems and haws...

Twice a resolution of the issue (the names Slavic Macedonia and Vardar Macedonia - from the Ottoman name of the area were rumored to be on the table) was close - and twice it was rejected by the Greek side: first the Mitsotakis government and then the Papandreou government, couldn't overcome the political cost in accepting the "unacceptable" inclusion of the term "Macedonia" in our neighbour's official name. They preferred letting the issue fester.

Fast forward 15 years. Not surprisingly the issue has reached a critical point since the RoM is about to be accepted into NATO (and apply for eu membership). The Greek government vetoes this accession and suggests that talks be reestablished to renew discussion on the "name issue". They indicate (and by now the hysteria has somewhat washed off) that they would be willing to accept a geographical determination of the RoM (suggesting Northern or Upper Macedonia).

This would have been a deal 15 years ago, but now the RoM has been recognized by over 100 countries around the world with its constitutional name, and the current government is nationalist (the previous decade's wingnuts) and unwilling to come to any compromise (a stance which is backed by a majority of citizens in the RoM)... Thus the standstill, and thus while the Greek stance now seems reasonable it has subverted its legitimacy by its prior irresponsibility. Still a majority of Greeks, trained into intransigence a decade earlier, declare in polls that they wouldn't accept a term with the name "Macedonia" in it. The only party that holds this position today is the far-right LAOS - and that's not good news.

A note: And finally there's the more recent history of WW2 when the Slavic citizens of the region first allied with the Nazis and then Tito's Yugoslavia in attempts to render Greek Macedonia away from the Greek state
That's not exactly true: while some Macedonian Slavs sided with the Nazis, a large part joined and supported EAM, the communist resistance, and stayed loyal to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) even after the occupation, during the civil war. KKE supported cultural and autonomy rights of the Slavic Macedonians within Greece and the locals had certainly connections with the Yugoslav resistance up North. Interestingly KKE was forced to fight with some of its own radical Macedonian Slav units that looked towards union with Yugoslavia (in 1944 I think) and place the local troops under close party control (even before Stalin's break with Yugoslavia I note). After the communists' defeat, their Macedonian Slav members settled North of the border and were the only ones exempt from the reconciliation amnesty and right of the return and reparations that the socialists issued in the early 80s.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Fri Mar 20th, 2009 at 01:02:07 PM EST
And why don't the Vardarians just accept Vardar as their official name? They have nothing whatsoever in common with Alexander's Macedonia. Why should Greece accept this imposter of a name, backed by a flag which belongs to the heritage of Alexander the Great... who had nothing whatsoever to do with the Vardarians?
by vladimir on Fri Mar 20th, 2009 at 03:12:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think the Greeks are that bizarre at all.
By Robert Marquand, The Christian Science Monitor, March 20, 2009 edition

2,300 years later, 'Alexander-mania' grips Macedonia


SKOPJE, Macedonia - As part of a stunning new homegrown ideology of history and identity based on Alexander the Great, this capital city's main square may soon boast a huge new statue of the ancient conqueror. Two years ago, the national airport was renamed after Alexander, infuriating Greece. In January, despite a recent Greek nixing of Macedonia's NATO bid over the airport name, the ruling nationalists here changed the name of its main roadway to Alexander of Macedon Highway. In Macedonia, it is becoming all Alexander the Great, all the time. Ahead of Sunday's presidential elections, the ruling party's Alexander ideology is seen as fantastic, even by Balkan standards.

In an intense media campaign, locals are told that ethnic Macedonians are the proud direct descendants of Alexander, and thus a people responsible for spawning the white race of planet Earth, from the Caucasus "to the seas off Japan," according to a public service spot on national TV.


For years, Greek demands were seen as cock-eyed and petty in diplomatic circles. Yet Macedonia has been losing sympathy as it roars out heritage claims on Alexander.


A poll last month showed that 97 percent of ethnic Macedonians favored staying out of the EU if it meant compromising on the name.


Indee, Macedonia's bold claim to be the taproot of Western civilization is daily media fare. Last summer, the government flew in members of Pakistan's Hunza tribe, considered lost descendants of Alexander, to tour the country. Startled and pleased Hunza were greeted at Alexander airport with flowers and treated like long lost cousins as they disported across the nation, cameras in tow.

Even "God" has gotten involved. A nine-minute TV ad starts with a petition from Macedonia to the heavens: "Our neighbors distributed thousands of books across the world, containing false history and portraying a wrong picture about Macedonia. ... Only you know our pain." The Almighty then responds: "From you, Macedonians, descendants of Macedon, I conceived the white race. All that stretches to the seas off Japan is conceived from your genes." Sinisa-Jakov Marusic, a columnist for Balkan Insight, cheekily observed, "So there you have it! What better proof than God himself?"


Alexander is considered one of the greatest military leaders of all time. Born in the Greek city of Pella in 356 BC, his conquests extended to most of his known world by the time of his death at age 32. He opened up Greek civilization from the Mediterranean to India, and is regarded as the first to link Europe, Asia, and Africa.

"Alexander was the captain general of all the Hellenes. He spoke Greek. He went to war on behalf of the Hellenes. No one in the ancient, medieval, or modern world has disputed this," says Michael Wood, a historian and British filmmaker who has produced a work on Alexander and has another in the making.

"The Macedonian state claim has no basis in history; it is a state-sponsored myth. I tell my Macedonian and Greek friends to ignore it," Mr. Wood adds.


by vladimir on Sat Mar 21st, 2009 at 03:09:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is a pretty amazing article. I've seen the gov't film run on television, and I wonder--despite the fact that the Greeks inflamed the issue a decade ago--if the political culture now north of the border is just too harrowing.
by Upstate NY on Sat Mar 21st, 2009 at 09:18:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's some more Alexander-related nuttiness for you.
by Gag Halfrunt on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 08:53:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're absolutely right about Greece screwing this issue up in the past. By 1995, Greece had signed the Interim Accord, and the issue laid low. The problem was 1992-1995.

When I talk about WW2 and the Civil War, I refer to all attempts o dismember Greek macedonia from the country, and that refers to the Bulgarian attempt (with some Macedonian help), and later the Yugoslavian attempt (with a lot of Macedonian help). As well, the KKE was totally conflicted when many Greek members saw that the Slavic influence was demanding secession from Greece. Few went along, but this was a huge wedge in the Communist movement. In fact, one wonders what would have happened if Greek Communists weren't from Yugoslavian Communists on the issue of Greek Macedonia. The whole history of the world might have changed were it not for that division, which the Royalists, the USA and the UK exploited.

by Upstate NY on Fri Mar 20th, 2009 at 03:33:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...if Greek Communists weren't divided from Slavic Communists...
by Upstate NY on Fri Mar 20th, 2009 at 03:41:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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