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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

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