Posts Tagged ‘Skopje’

FYROM’s Slavomacedonism, Part I: a Historical overview

Monday, October 20th, 2008

FYROM’s Slavomacedonism, Part I: a Historical


Athanassios Boudalis’s ZSpace Page


FYROM’s Slavomacedonism, Part I: a Historical overview

The Russian reemergence as a global power after years of absence following the end of the Cold War, has had many repercussions and has therefore provided the incentive for US foreign policy to accelerate certain processes and tie up loose ends. One of these has been the military encirclement of Russia (the discovery of the “new Europe” during the second Iraq war, the installation of the anti-ballistic shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, the NATO enlargement with former Soviet Republics and Warsaw-pact countries on the Russian borders, etc). Another has been the “Balkanization” of the Balkans, meaning their slicing into small, weak and quarrelling states subservient to the US, a policy also followed by the EU. This new reality is expected to greatly benefit the US-Turkish hegemony over this geopolitically vital region (many oil and natural gas pipelines already pass, or are planned to pass from there in the near future, circumventing Russian oil routes). This policy was inaugurated during Bill Clinton’s presidency, with the dismemberment of Yugoslavia after 1992, and continued with the NATO bombings of Serbia in 1999 and its own subsequent dismemberment. It has now culminated with the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo and its secession from Serbia.

Often these two policies coincide, e.g. as happens with the US goal of including into NATO the states formerly belonging to Yugoslavia. As part of this acceleration, George W. Bush has decided to recognize FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) with the contested (by Greece) name of “Republic of Macedonia”. And he chose to do this on November 4th 2004, only hours after his reelection. His aim was to stabilize FYROM’s inherently unstable government in view of a very controversial referendum just three days later (November 7th 2004). The stabilization of FYROM as a state is still an open question, due to its competing Slav and Albanian populations (violent fights had broken out on 2001); its Euro-Atlantic integration is considered as the remedy for all ills. This is why G. W. Bush pushed so hard to include it in the NATO enlargement during last April’s NATO summit.

The conflict with Greece stems from FYROM’s demand to be internationally recognized as the “Republic of Macedonia”, asserting that it is the state of the descendents of ancient Macedonians (the kingdom of Alexander the Great), implying claims to the Greek province of Macedonia in Northern Greece. I will be referring to this doctrine “Slavomacedonism“. I will not go into the historical veracity of these claims, as this would take too much space and time (very briefly, ancient Macedonia was a Greek kingdom, while modern “Macedonians” have a Slavic descent as FYROM’s first President Kiro Gligorof had admitted in 1992, when he said: “We are Slavs, we have no connection with Alexander the Great, we came to this area in the 6th century A.D.“). Besides, 25% of FYROM’s population are ethnic Albanians (2002 census), who do not ascribe to this “Macedonian” descent. Thus, I will rather analyze the roots of Slavomacedonism, the ensuing conflict and its implications on Greek security and sovereignty. And eventually on regional stability, should these claims be considered useful for regional destabilization.

Northern Greece (Province of Macedonia) and FYROM.

Brief historical overview

Macedonia in antiquity was a Greek kingdom, mostly known by the reign of King Phillip II and the legacy of his son, Alexander the Great. The whole debate of ancient Macedonians being ethnically, genetically, linguistically, and culturally related to the present Slavophone populations of the region has been created (as will be described) for particular geopolitical purposes. It is not worth spending time and space to debunk it here. Instead, I would rather proceed to describe the creation of Slavomacedonism.

Macedonia till the mid 19th century

Slavs started migrating into Central Europe and the Balkans (including the region of Macedonia) from the Ukraine, in the beginnings of 6th century AD. In medieval times, Slavs managed to create several state-like formations (Bulgaria, Moravia, Russia, Poland, Serbia and Croatia, in chronological order). However, many Slav populations did not do so. Instead, they were assimilated by neighboring states, as distinct linguistic communities, but without a distinct national identity. For example, when the “Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes” was formed in 1918, a referendum was held to determine the luck of the Austrian province of Carinthia, on the Northern border of the newly established Kingdom. Carinthia was populated by a 2/3 Slovene-speaking (Slavophone) majority and a 1/3 German-speaking minority. Despite that, however, 59.1% of Carinthians (22,025) opted to stay within Austria, while only 40.9% (15,279) opted to join the Slavic kingdom. Thus, most Slavophone Carinthians opted to remain within Austria, showing that their national identity diverged from their linguistic one.

In Macedonia things were similar. Kofos writes: “Until the middle of the 19th century, Macedonia was generally regarded  primarily as a Hellenic region and there was good reason for this. During four centuries of backward Ottoman rule, the national consciousness of the illiterate peasants, with the sole exception of the Greeks, had receded to a point near non-existence. Only the common Orthodox Christian heritage acted as a link between the Balkan peoples and set them apart from Mohammedan Turks. The Church was in the hands of the Greeks and the Greek language was a characteristic of a social and cultural superiority to such an extent that even the Bulgarian elite in order to raise itself from the masses had to learn it.” In a report of 1885, the Secretary-General of the Bulgarian Exarchate writes: “It is a sad fact but we must admit that the largest part of the Bulgarian population of Macedonia does not have a Bulgarian national consciousness… If Europe were to demand today that the Macedonian people decide on their fate and say to which nationality they belong, we are certain that the largest part of the Macedonian people and of Macedonia would slip away from our hands. If we exclude two or three regions of Northern Macedonia, the inhabitants of the other regions are ready to declare that they are Greeks… If the Great Powers were to intervene and demand a plebiscite to solve the Macedonian problem the Greeks would come out as winners.[1]

As Lunt puts it: “the majority of Slavs in Macedonia in the middle of the nineteenth century probably had no strong ethnic consciousness and were content with the label Christian, essentially meaning non-Muslim. The remaining minority included some, particularly in the south, who would accept the label Greek, others, particularly in the north, who allowed themselves to be called Serbian, then another–surely larger–group who as non-Greek and non-Serb would use the ethnonym Bulgar, and finally those who insisted they were non-Bulgarian as well and who, for lack of any better name, declared themselves to be Macedonians.[2]

During the Byzantine and subsequently the Ottoman empire, other peoples had joined the Greek population of Macedonia: Christian-orthodox populations like Albanians and Vlachs; Sephardic Jews; Roma; Muslim populations like Turks, and Islamized Pomaks and Islamized Albanians. And of course Slavs, that through time had been Christianized and some of which were later Islamized, like Bosnians. Travelers of the time (like the Turks Evlia Tselembi and Catzi Kalfa, the French Robert De Dreux and the English Ed Brown (1674) and John Covel (1667)) often speak of all these populations, but none speaks of “Macedonians” in an ethnological sense of the term.

A turning point in the Balkan affairs came after the Russian defeat in the Crimean war (1854-56). It was than that Russia reverted from its Pan-Orthodox doctrine (Catherine the Great had assisted the Greek struggle against the Ottoman rule) to Pan-Slavism, a “theory and movement intended to promote the political or cultural unity of all Slavs“.[3] This change in strategy required that many Slavophone Orthodox populations of Macedonia, that previously identified themselves as Greeks (like the Carinthian Slavs identified themselves as Austrians), should now revert to a different national identity. This coincided with the rise of the Bulgarian and Serbian nationalisms, and of their “Great Ideas”, i.e. the renaissance of the state of Hegemon Symeon (893-927) and Tsar Samuel (976-1014), for the Bulgarians and of the state of Stephan Doussan (1331-1355), for the Serbs. This new identity was to be the “Slavo-Macedonian” one. These two “Great Ideas” were to collide with the Greek “Great Idea” of unliberated Greek populations, which had fought against the Ottoman empire in the Greek Revolution (1821-1828). These were dreaming the renaissance of the Byzantine empire.

Bulgarian Slavomacedonism

Slavomacedonism was initially put to the service of the Bulgarian nationalist movement. In 1870 the Bulgarian bishoprics seceded from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, to form the Bulgarian Exarchate. This secession was validated by a firman (decree) of the Sultan on February 28th, 1870. The Exarchate thus included the areas today occupied by Bulgaria and FYROM, as well as parts of today’s Northern Greece, Serbia, Albania and Romania. In 1878 (February 21st), Russia obliged the Ottoman Empire to sign the Saint Stefan Treaty, with which the Ottoman empire recognized the independence of a Bulgarian state (Hegemony) that lay from Danube river to the Aegean Sea and from the Black Sea to Salonica (without Salonika, Chalkidiki, Kozani, Servia). This was unacceptable by the Greek populations, which had the Great Powers intervene and cancel this treaty with the Treaty of Berlin (July 1st, 1878). In 1893 the VMRO (Vnatresšna Makedonska Revolucionerna Organizacija, or IMRO, Inner Macedonian Revolutionary Organization) was founded as a Bulgarian autonomist organization. It proclaimed the creation of an independent multiethnic “Macedonian” state that might later be annexed to Bulgaria.

The Balkan Wars

Between 1904-1908, violent fights between Greeks and Bulgarians took place for the capture of the region of Macedonia. These stopped in 1908 when the Young Turks movement (a reformist, antimonarchic and antitheocratic Turkish group) took power and promised reforms. However, the Young Turks’ policies were even more resented by the Balkan populations. As a result the Balkan League was formed on 1912, after a series of treaties between Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia, with independence as its main request. This led to the Balkan Wars. During the First Balkan War (1912-13), Montenegro, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia formed an alliance and successfully fought the Ottoman Empire, freeing most of its Balkan territories. However, the division of these territories among them, and especially of the region of Macedonia, triggered the Second Balkan War (1913). This started when Bulgaria attacked Greece and Serbia to capture Macedonia and led to the quick defeat of Bulgaria and the loss of most of the regions it had freed from Ottoman rule.

First World War

The First World War started with an attack of Austro-Hungarians on Serbia in 1914. Serbia was not overrun until Germany, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire aligned with the Central Powers. Greece was initially neutral due to the internal division of the Germanophile King Constantine I and the Anglophile PM Eleftherios Venizelos. When, however, the Bulgarian army entered Greece in 1916, capturing newly-won Greek areas of Macedonia, Venizelos proceeded with various army officers to stage a coup (Movement of National Defense). He then set up a second government in Salonica which fought on the side of the Entente powers (Britain, France and Russia). In 1918 the Central Powers and Bulgaria were defeated. Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegvina, Slovenia and Montenegro formed the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Kraljevina Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca).

Interwar period

After an administrative redistribution (1922) of the newly found Kingdom, the former Serbian District of Skopjie was renamed to Oblast of Skopjie. After King Alexander’s January 6th Dictatorship (1929) the kingdom was renamed Kingdom of Yugoslavia (Yugo-slavia meaning South-Slavia). Following another administrative subdivision of the kingdom the same year, it was subdivided into nine provinces (banovinas), one of which was Vardarska Banovina with Skopjie as its capital; the denomination “Macedonia” still carried many negative connotations, associated with Bulgarian claims and was, therefore, avoided. The purpose of this administrative subdivision on geographical criteria, was the artificial intermixing of the various Slav ethnicities, on the premise that they were anyway all members of the same nation (recent developments proved that this was not exactly so).

In that same time period, the problem of mixed populations was “solved” by a series of forced relocations. Between 1922-26, 500-700 thousand Muslims were relocated to Eastern Thrace and Asia Minor. 150-200 thousand Bulgarians or Slavs abandoned Greece. Also, 2 million Greeks left Asia Minor, Eastern Thrace and the Black Sea, while over 300 thousand were forced to abandon territories under Serbian or Bulgarian rule. As a result, the populations of those countries were separated according to their nationalities for the first time. A 1926 census of the League of Nations reported that 77 thousand Slavophones remained in Greek Macedonia (the bulk of the historical region), with a Greek population of 1,341,000. Bulgaria, still under the influence of the treaty of Saint Stefan and the vision of a Great Bulgaria, never abandoned its territorial claims. It still coveted Greek Macedonia and Yugoslav Vardarska and insisted upon the issue of “Slavomacedonians”. The Bulgarian Communist Party never ceased to proclaim the creation of an autonomous Republic of Macedonia and Thrace.

Of paramount importance at that time was Comintern’s (Communist International) position on the Balkan issues. As early as the 1920’s, the goal of the expansion of Communism in the Balkans was clearly set and Bulgaria was considered as the ripest of the countries for this expansion to commence. This would allow the Soviet Union access to warm waters, a goal dating back to the Russian Tsars. The position upheld by Bulgaria and endorsed by the International meeting (March, 1924) of the Balkan Communist Federation (in which all Balkan Communist parties were represented) was that of an “independent and united Macedonia” consisting of Greek, Yugoslav and Bulgarian territories. According to it, Bulgaria had the most to gain, while Yugoslavia and Greece had the most to lose. The 5th International meeting of the Comintern (May, 1924) ratified this resolution. Bound by the Soviet-dominated Comintern requirements, the Greek Communist Party (KKE) delegates also acquiesced to this position. This was a disastrous choice, as it brought them against Greek public opinion, particularly in Macedonia, which was very sensitive about that matter. As a consequence, in 1928 KKE faced a crushing electoral defeat (1.41% of votes) and was left out of the parliament. This position held until December 1935, when during its 6th congress the KKE backpedaled to another position, of equality of all minorities, dropping the subject of an “independent and united Macedonia”.

The Second World War and Yugoslav Slavomacedonism

When the Second World War broke out, Bulgaria (allied to the axis forces) invaded and occupied a large portion of Greek Macedonia and the Yugoslav Vardarska. However, a portion of Slavophones in Yugoslav Vardarska enlisted in the newly-formed Yugoslav Partisans of Josip Broz Tito (member of the outlawed Communist Party of Yugoslavia at that time). Another portion enlisted in the communist Greek Liberation Army, ELAS (in Greek Macedonia), against the axis forces. Now, Tito found it useful to use the “Slavomacedonian” ideology himself to draw Slavophones of the region of Macedonia into his own camp against the Bulgarian fascist forces.

From the Bulgarian side, it was the nationalist VMRO that continued to profit from the use of the “Slavomacedonian” ideology.[4] After Germans invaded Greece, the leader of VMRO, Ivan Mihailoff helped organize the Slavophones of non-Greek identification. This was done with Mussolini’s help at first, and after mid-1943, with Himmler’s as well. Thus, the “Bulgarian Committee” was founded by Anton Kalchev, as an annex to the Bulgarian Ohrana (”Defence”) organization. After the Italian capitulation, several VMRO militia regiments were organized with Himmler’s permission, and armed by the Nazi to fight against the ELAS. The 4th SS division assisted the VMRO in these battles.

When, in 1943, the axis appeared to be losing the war, many Slavophone Nazi collaborators, Ohrana members and VMRO regiment volunteers fled to the opposite camp by joining the newly founded “Slavomacedonian National Liberation Front” (Slavjano ?akedonski Narodno Osloboditelen Front, SNOF). SNOF, was created by Yugoslav communists with the reluctant acquiescence of the KKE, in the hope that it would draw Slavophones away from the Bulgarian fascist propaganda. KKE was bound by Comintern to recognize the existence of a “Slavomacedonian” population. SNOF regiments fought with ELAS, until they were disbanded by ELAS itself (October 1944) due to SNOF’s overt secessionist propaganda, and driven off Greece.

The Cold War and the Greek Civil War

Bulgarians definitively left Greek territories in October 1944 and reduced (though not abandoned) their “Macedonian” claims. It was now Tito that made use of Slavomacedonism, making the Macedonian issue a Greek-Yugoslav one. In 1945 the largest part of Vardarska formed one of the federate states of Yugoslavia and was renamed to People’s Republic of Macedonia. It was the first time that an official entity bore the name “Macedonia” outside Greece. Until that time, the Greek Province of Macedonia was the only official entity to carry that name. Around that time the terms Vardar, Pirin and Aegean Macedonia were coined, to denote the Yugoslav, Bulgarian and Greek territories of “Macedonia”, respectively, implying that these territories should be united. This irridentism was Tito’s way of projecting expansionist claims over Greek Macedonia. This time also brought a qualitative differentiation of Slavomacedonism. Up till that time, Greek, Ottoman, Bulgarian, or other records, spoke about Greek, Bulgarian, Turkish, Armenian, Jewish, etc, populations of Macedonia. In that way, the term “Macedonian” was only used to describe the place of one’s residence. As of that time, however, the meaning of that term was transformed to denote a new ethnicity, that of “Macedonians”, whose ancestry dated back to the ancient Macedons. Thus, a new “nation” was born. The language of that “nation” was dubbed “Macedonian”, disregarding the fact that it was mainly Bulgarian, whereas all ancient coins and inscriptions excavated throughout Macedonia are in Greek.

At that time, SNOF was succeeded (April 23rd, 1945) by the NOF (National Liberation Front), a secessionist organization calling for the independence of the “Macedonian people”. Although KKE and its leader Nikos Zahariadis initially denounced NOF for adopting this line, at the end of 1945 they chose to “overlook” it, being in need of Yugoslav cooperation. The imminent Greek Civil war between Communists (Democratic Army of Greece) and the official Greek National Army, dictated that the KKE-NOF relations be “normalized”. Thus KKE again changed its position vis-a-vis Slavomacedonism (which now became more acceptable) and NOF (which it fought on the side of the Democratic Army during the Greek Civil war).

In 1947, under the Bled Agreement (or Tito-Dimitrov treaty, August 2nd, 1947) between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, Bulgaria agreed to recognize a Macedonian nation and language and to prepare the way for a unification of the “Vardar Macedonia” with the “Pirin Macedonia”. Tito envisioned a Balkan Federative Republic with him at the helm. This, among others, angered Stalin. The subsequent Tito-Stalin split in the summer of 1948 brought this agreement to an effective collapse, as Bulgaria withdrew from it under Soviet pressure, while denouncing all their bilateral accords and breaking diplomatic relations.

This rift between Tito and Stalin brought KKE between a rock and a hard place: it collaborated with the Yugoslav-influenced NOF, but received Soviet aid through Bulgaria. In trying to please both, it tepidly accepted Cominform’s decision to denounce Tito, without however overtly turning against Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, this caused the pro-Yugoslav wing of NOF to start organizing desertions of Slavophone fighters of the Democratic Army into Yugoslavia. Under these developments, and to counter these desertions, Zahariadis imposed yet a new line during the 5th Plenary Session of KKE in 1949: he called for “national reinstatement and self-determination of the Macedonian people”, while it was announced that the 2nd NOF conference would rally for “a united and independent Macedonia in a People’s Balkan Federation”. This decision brought him against not only Tito, whose Yugoslav-centered Slavomacedonism he questioned. It also brought him against Greece, whose territorial integrity was thus jeopardized.

At the same time, Tito’s defiance toward Stalin and the USSR, dictated that NATO offered a preferential treatment to Yugoslavia. Therefore, during the Cold War, Greece (albeit a NATO ally after 1954) had to “go along and get along” since the Macedonian issue was considered secondary. During the Cold War period and under Tito, the “Macedonian history” was rewritten in order to create a new “Macedonian” national identity. Slavomacedonism was officially introduced in schools and Universities and used to raise new generations. The “Macedonian language”, an idiom very close to, and intelligible with Bulgarian was codified at that time. And the links between Alexander the Great and modern Slavs started to be forged. This systematic work persisted throughout this period and raised new generations:

1983: Toronto Ethnic Heritage Festival. “Ethno-geographical” map of Macedonia

1983:  A group of “Macedonian” folk dancers.


1992: 7th and 8th grade FYROM schoolbooks (pp. 155 and 162, respectively) depicting the “geographic and ethnic” boundaries of Macedonia.

After the Cold War

This “Pandora’s box” reopened with the dissolution of the Yugoslav federation and the independence of its constituent states. The “Socialist Republic of Macedonia”, as was formerly named within Yugoslavia, dropped the “Socialist” and demanded recognition as “Republic of Macedonia” after seceding from the Yugoslav Federation (1991). Its Slavophone inhabitants, after decades of indoctrination, could not bear the blow of abandoning their glorious “links” with Alexander the Great, as that would deprive them of an equally glorious past. As acknowledged by Roudometof: “By 1983, only 10% of FYROM’s population had been born before 1923. This means that a considerable portion of FYROM’s current population has been socialized into the Macedonian national culture (as it evolved through the course of the post-1944 period) and has no personal experience of the Macedonian Question as it was expressed during the interwar period (1918-1941) or earlier“. [5]

After two years of dispute with Greece, the newly independent state was admitted in the UN under the provisional name of “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (April, 1993), pending settlement of the naming issue. This decision of the Greek government (of the conservative New Democracy party) was so controversial that it caused its collapse, when several of its deputies split from the party, thus toppling its slim majority. The government of PASOK, that took power after the next elections, imposed an embargo on FYROM as of February 1994. This lasted until September 1995, when under US pressure the embargo was lifted and the Interim Accord was signed. Under that accord the two countries pledged to continue negotiations, while FYROM was obliged to remove the Vergina’s sun from its flag (a symbol of the ancient Greek kings of Macedonia) and promised to revise its constitution so as to remove from it any expansionist allusions.[6] However, the use of the term “Macedonia” which Greece vehemently opposed and which FYROM refused to drop, led to an effective halt of the discussions. This changed in 2004 after the recognition of FYROM by the USA under its constitutional name, as we mentioned in the beginning.

This unresolved matter has not assisted the stability of FYROM, which is inherently unstable due to its ethnic composition. Its Albanian minority adheres to the vision of a “Great Albania” rather than to that of Slavomacedonism. Their language is Albanian and not the Slavic spoken by the Slav majority (very close to Bulgarian). In addition, they are Muslim, in contrast to the Christian Slav majority. The Albanian minority had repeatedly protested regarding its treatment by the government. In January 2001 the National Liberation Army (NLA), an Albanian paramilitary, started attacks against government forces, in a way similar to that of the KLA in Kosovo. The armed conflicts reached the brink of civil war, before the US and the EU intervened, by having the two sides sign the Ohrid Accord in August 2001.

Today, FYROM remains unstable, with the US acting as the guarantor of its territorial integrity. The centrifugal forces due to the Albanian minority are certainly far from quenched by the financial adversities of the country. With an official 35% unemployment rate (the grey market is estimated to more than 20% of the GDP) and about a third of its population below the poverty line, it is heavily dependent upon foreign investment for its economy to function. In 2007, Greek capitals invested in FYROM had reached 950 million Euro (US$1.42 billion), rendering Greece the largest foreign investor of the country. The 300 Greek businesses active in FYROM account for 20,000 jobs.

In the second part, we will review the recent developments in the Greece-FYROM conflict and their geopolitical context.



[1] D. Missev-Obreikov, 1885, “Report on the Present Situation of Bulgarism in Macedonia”, by the Secretary-General of the Bulgarian Exarchate. Cited by Evangelos Kofos in “Nationalism and Communism in Macedonia“, 1964, Institute of Balkan Studies, Thessaloniki, pp. 12-13. Taken from D. Vogazlis, “Macedonia: a Comparative Historical, Ethnological nd Legal Study“, 1962 Athens, unpublished.

[2] Horace G. Lunt, 1984 “Some Sociolinguistic Aspects of Macedonian and Bulgarian.” In Language and Literary Theory, edited by Benjamin A. Stolz, I. R. Titunik, and Lubomir Dolezel, 83-132. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

[3] The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Copyright 2008 Columbia University Press. The first Pan-Slav Congress, held at Prague in 1848 [...] was confined to the Slavs under Austrian rule and was anti-Russian. The humiliating defeat suffered by Russia in the Crimean War (1853-56) helped transform a vague, romantic Russian Slavophilism into a militant and nationalistic Russian Pan-Slavism. [...] Pan-Slav publicist [...] Rotislav Andreyevich Fadeyev [...] claimed that it was Russia’s mission to liberate the Slavs from Austrian and Ottoman domination by war and to form a Russian-dominated Slavic federation. [publicist Nikolai Yakovlevich] Danilevsky predicted a long conflict between Russia and the rest of Europe, to be followed by a federation of states including the Greeks, Magyars, and Romanians as well as the Slavs.

[4] VMRO is Mr Gruevski’s party currently governing FYROM. During the 30’s it was led by Ivan “Vancha” Mihailoff. Mihailoff was a close friend and collaborator of Ante Pavelic, the leader of the Croatian Nazi organization of Ustashe. In fact, it was Mihailoff that introduced Pavelic to Heinrich Himmler, leading to the Croatian-Nazi alliance during the war. For more information on Pavelic see here and for more of his photos see here.

[5] Victor Roudometof, Journal of Modern Greek Studies 1996, 14:2, 253-301.

[6] The following articles imply territorial claims and have been recently commented here.

Article 3. Par. 1: The territory of the Republic of Macedonia is indivisible and inviolable.
Par. 2: The existing borders of the Republic of Macedonia are inviolable.
Par. 3: The borders of the Republic of Macedonia can only be changed in accordance with the Constitution and on the principle of free will, as well in accordance with generally accepted international norms.

Par. 4: The Republic of Macedonia has no territorial pretensions towards any neighboring state.

Article 49. Par. 1: The Republic cares for the status and rights of those persons belonging to the Macedonian people in neighboring countries, as well as Macedonian expatriates, assists their cultural development and promotes links with them. In the exercise of this concern the Republic will not interfere in the sovereign rights of other states or in their internal affairs.

Article 68. Par. 1: The Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia:…
- makes decisions concerning any changes in the borders of the Republic;

In red, are the amendments to accomodate Greek concerns, which nevertheless, leave the core of the articles intact.

Dakin Douglas :The Greek Struggle in Macedonia , 1897-1913

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

Berkley historian Dakin Douglas (the Greek Struggle in Macedonia , 1897-1913) :

The 3 vilaetia (Thessaloniki , Monastiri , Skopje-Kossovo) of the Ottoman Western Rumelia they got named for the first time as geographical Macedonia in 1902.

Financial Times on FYROM & the Hunza visit

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

Financial Times on Macedonia and the Hunza visit


Alexander’s ‘descendants’ boost Macedonian identity
By Neil MacDonald

Published: July 18 2008 18:41 | Last updated: July 18 2008 18:41

On Saturday, an unusual delegation from the Himalayan foothills bids a quiet farewell to the Republic of Macedonia.

Prince Ghazanfar Ali Khan, his wife Princess Rani Atiqa and their entourage claim descent from Alexander the Great’s conquering army, which reached their Hunza tribal homeland in northern Pakistan 23 centuries ago.

The fair-skinned, blue-eyed Hunza people, whose own accounts trace their descent to Alexander’s march-weary troops, are renowned for their longevity and their high literacy rate.

Officials initially rolled out the red carpet for the septuagenarian prince and his entourage, who have toured cultural and historical sites since arriving at Skopje’s Alexander the Great airport on July 11. Nikola Gruevski, prime minister, met the delegation, while a Macedonian Orthodox archbishop blessed it.

Hunza folklore gave a shot in the arm to the ex-Yugoslav country of 2m – still embroiled, 18 years after independence, in a frustrating “name dispute” with Greece, whose northern province is also called Macedonia.

Greece has made sure Macedonia cannot join Nato without a compromise name change. The latest round of United Nations-led talks in New York produced no breakthrough.

Mr Gruevski, who won a landslide re-election victory in June, has raised the ante by this week demanding recognition for a Macedonian (Slav) ethnic minority in officially homogeneous Greece.

But Mr Gruevski’s critics have dismissed the Hunza visit as shallow populism and after ridicule in local newspapers, the youth and sport agency cancelled the princely couple’s planned appearance in Skopje’s main square last night.

The visit’s main organiser was Marina Dojcinovska, a Skopje-based travel journalist who made a film about the far-flung tribe of “Macedonians” in 2005.

“This is a very special occasion for all Macedonians,” Ms Dojcinovska said.

In fact, citizens proved divided about how literally to take their ancient origins. Their Macedonian language is closest to Bulgarian and other South Slavic tongues – pointing to roots in the tribal migrations about a millennium after Alexander.

Ana Petruseva, country director for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, said of the Hunza visit: “Everyone who’s a bit more educated is laughing at this.”

The Hunza of today, who are mostly Muslim, had not heard of modern Macedonia until 12 years ago, when an expatriate Macedonian linguistics professor drew their attention to it.

Ilija Casule, an associate professor at Australia’s Macquarie University, said he recognised common grammar and terms for body parts between the Hunza people’s Burushaski and Indo-European languages.

But there are plenty who question just how robust the links are. Most linguists classify Burushaski as an “isolate” unrelated to other languages. DNA research has also debunked claims of genetic links between Macedonians and the Hunza.

“Macedonia’s doing what other European countries did in the 19th century . . . elevating folk tales to official history,” said Sam Vaknin, an Israeli economic adviser in Skopje. “This belated adolescence has been exacerbated by Greek insecurities bordering on sadism.”

Greece plays the same game, funding cultural centres and schools for the Kalash, another set of Alexander claimants in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the 1930s, scientists in Nazi Germany also combed the Himalayas in search of lost Aryan cousins.

Athens accuses Josip Broz Tito, the Yugoslav communist leader after the second world war, of “inventing” Macedonian ethnicity in the hopes of grabbing a piece of the Aegean coast.

Yet Skopje’s popular identification with Alexander did not blossom until after the 1990s Yugoslav break-up, Macedonians argue.

Sensing threats on all sides, Macedonian patriots have become more stubborn on identity, calling themselves “Alexander’s descendants” even though the ancient conqueror personally had no known children.

Aleksandar Dimiskovski, a business consultant in Skopje, says: “The [Hunza] visit provides affirmation of our ties to the former Macedonia of Alexander the Great. Approval from these people confirms that the legacy of ancient Macedonia belongs to the Republic of Macedonia, not just to Greece.”

That is a view that remains very much in contention.

Bulgaria refuses to recognise a separate Macedonian language. Serbia’s church keeps Macedonians out of the worldwide Orthodox communion. And an ethnic Albanian minority of roughly 25 per cent challenges the young state’s internal stability.…077b07658.html

Travels in European Turkey in 1850

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

I’ll present JUST ONE BOOK written by Edmund Spencer who traveled to Macedonia and other parts of Ottoman Turkey in 1850. He clearly tells us that the population of Macedonia was Greek, Bulgarian, and Servian that the Osman’s fear would begin insurrections. Furthermore, well before the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate, Spencer clearly describes the people of Uskiub (Skopje ), Zagochori (in Epirus), and Bitoglia (Bitola/Monastiri)… he also explains that they attend the Greek church, in Bitola, but clearly states that the congregation of that church is mostly Bulgarian, with a few Greeks, and Zinzars.This boo0k was written in 1851 well before the Excharhate  schism of 1870.


Crvenkovski interview…… President of FYROM

Saturday, August 30th, 2008
Gruevski Poll Win Has Not Stabilised Macedonia

Branko Crvenkovski
16 June 2008
Fyromian President Branko Crvenkovski tells Ana Petruseva he will help rebuild the centre-left opposition and warns of the dangers of missing key deadlines for EU and NATO integration.
By Ana Petruseva in Skopje

Q: How do you view the election victory of VMRO-DPMNE?

A: People gave their support to [Prime Minister Nikola] Gruevski`s coalition not based on what they had achieved but on the perceptions and hopes they created. The key was a permanent, aggressive campaign by the government … the problem with unfulfilled expectations was dealt with by creating more new hopes of change. Of course, that process can’t last long.

The timing of the elections was chosen to catch the last train before the entire game became clear and the difference between the virtual and real became too visible. I hope the new government now devotes more time to substance than it does to creating a positive media image. No propaganda can endlessly sell a bad product.

Q: Will VMRO-DPMNE’s triumph stabilize matters, such as ethnic issues, the economy, EU-related reforms and foreign affairs issues like the name dispute and recognition of Kosovo?

A: The elections didn’t resolve the big issues. Instead, negative assessments about the regularity of the elections created new ones. The previous parliament’s majority was not so weak, nor the opposition so strong, that reasons for delay in the Euro-Atlantic integrations or the inability to resolve internal problems can be sought in that. The main characteristic of the previous government was to delay resolving all major issues. Now, those problems not only haven’t disappeared but have become even more difficult. Gruevski’s responsibility is now huge. He asked for and won an absolute majority. That means no more excuses, because no one else is to blame.

Q: Why did the Social Democrats, the party you founded, do so badly?

A: The last four years have been marked by a complete lack of continuity with the earlier period of the SDSM’s existence. They gave up a firmly built political identity and brand that the SDSM had represented for years without offering a new one. This confused many members and sympathizers. The opposition also spent a long passive period, based on an estimate that time works for the opposition by default. That was wrong; you need permanent work if you wish to win support in politics.

Finally, the inter-party divisions and confrontations that often took place in the public eye contributed to the state the party is in now. It is normal that a big party has different factions and positions but one of the criteria for successful leadership is that all those groups unite on basic policies and on the joint success of the party.

Q: Will you get involved in sorting out the turmoil?

A: The quick consolidation of the SDSM is necessary for democracy in Macedonia. Without a strong and healthy opposition there can be no responsible behaviour on the part of the parties in power. I’m ready to help in that process, taking into consideration my constitutional limitations as President. I devoted a big part of my life to building up the Social Democrats so can’t be indifferent to what’s happening. In a democracy it is common to lose elections but a party like SDSM cannot be humiliated. Its members and supporters cannot go around with their heads down. The pride of being an SDSM member must be restored.

Q: The elections on June 1 ended with one person dead and major irregularities. Whom do you hold responsible?

A: These were the worst organized elections in Macedonia. VMRO DPMNE disputed my own election as Macedonia’s President in 2004. I would like to remind you that compared to these ones, those polls were positively Scandinavian, winning the kind of international assessments that we can now only dream of.

If Gruevski and his people follow the same logic they would have to invent a much less dignifying term to call themselves than the one they use to address me – “Mister Crvenkovski”.

Responsibility also lies with the political parties and the state institutions, starting with the police who not only failed to act preventively and even allowed themselves to get involved in causing incidents. The damage to our image and international position has been tremendous.

Q: You warned that Macedonia was in danger of missing crucial deadlines if it went to elections. NATO said if the name dispute was resolved by July 9, the country could still join with Albania and Croatia, while the EU set eight benchmarks that had to be completed this summer if Macedonia was to start accession talks.

A: There is no time left now to beat the July 9 deadline. Nor is there any optimism [that the name dispute will be solved] before the finalization of the [November] European Commission annual report, which is prepared in September. Unfortunately, my fears about early elections have come true and we have lost a precious period that was exceptionally important for our European and Atlantic perspectives. We have also missed the opportunity to effectively use the United States to engage in the process in order to find a reasonable solution to the name row.

Q: After the fiasco of the NATO summit Bucharest and numerous declarations that the name talks would continue, we have not seen much progress. How far can Macedonia go to resolve the issue?

A: The issue cannot be solved merely by repeating that we want it solved. We must understand that in this new context Macedonia has to approach the talks very seriously. Our failure in Bucharest has had a great impact on all of us. The new reality is that Macedonia has to make concessions for a so-called double formula if we want to proceed with Euro-Atlantic integrations. But what kind of concessions, and how many concessions, can only be decided by the legitimate representatives of both sides.

Q: What red lines can Macedonia not afford to cross in these talks?

A: I have tried many times to set out some of the elements that we call out national and state interests… Feelings of ethnic and linguistic identity are two fundamental characteristics of a nation, so compromise on those two categories is simply impossible. Nobody has the mandate to negotiate over who we are and what language we speak.

Q: Has Gruevski’s poll win given him room to secure support for a potential compromise with Greece?

A: Before the elections Gruevski had the support to make a rational compromise on the name. The opposition, media and intellectuals all called for a more reasonable approach. I do not expect the election result will have a serious impact on this issue.

Q: But it seems as if the voters rewarded Gruevski for his firm stance on the name issue?

A: If we analyze his rhetoric and the points he made in the campaign, I don’t think it can be qualified as a “firm stance” but only as a way of avoiding defining a personal stance. What was the main point? That there will be a referendum. But neither he nor his party will say what they think about the question of the referendum. He wants to avoid any responsibility and shift responsibility onto the citizens. That is not a firm stance. A firm stand is when you declare something and stand behind it.

Q: So you think there will be a referendum but the government won’t say what it thinks about it?

A: First, a strong majority in parliament will not make him more reasonable or rational in the whole situation. Second, the referendum is something that he doesn’t want to think about, and he made that clear in his campaign. He doesn’t say he wants his proposals confirmed in a referendum. Instead, he says that whatever the proposals are, he will call a referendum and will not influence the people in their decision. That will be a rare situation, in which the government calls a referendum without having a position. That is avoiding responsibility.

If we talk about referendum as the most democratic form of expressing our opinion let’s also draw a comparison with far more democratic societies than ours… votes on referendums in many countries with long democratic traditions can sometimes lead to danger, let alone Macedonia which has so many emotive issues, such as its name, identity, complex ethnic structure with the 20 per cent Albanian population and 10 per cent of other communities such as Turks, Serbs and Roma… on top of which, the government has no stance.

Q: Should Macedonia continue with the current name talks, or try a new strategy?

A: It is in the interest of the Republic of Macedonia to continue the talks with Greece under UN auspices, but we have to adapt our strategy to the new situation. The political and regional strategic context in the Balkans is simply not the same as it was before. Kosovo declared independence, Albania and Croatia joined NATO, and Macedonia didn’t. These events have influenced the regional dynamics.

Q: What are the risks to Macedonia of delaying integration to the EU and NATO?

A: It is not the same if Macedonia enters NATO and EU now, or in five, 10 or 15 years. Many things may happen in the meantime. We already have a new reality in the Balkans… Kosovo is becoming an independent state and Albania is already in NATO. Some analysts say Albania could enter EU before Macedonia. This could open up crucial questions that we thought were closed such as the question of [ethnic] Albanian loyalty to the [Macedonian] state.

Q: You mean Greater Albania?

A: Ideas for “greater” states like greater Albania never die. It is an illusion to think so. The point is to marginalize them by having an organized and successful society and not to let them become key factors. The risk is not whether they will appear; they are already present. It is whether support for their cause will grow increase.

Developments in Kosovo are problematic. On the ground we have a “soft” partition, with Pristina unable to apply its sovereignty over the northern part where there is a Serbian population. If Kosovo is partitioned on ethnic lines, that may encourage such ways of thinking [about greater Albania]. If Kosovo is divided according to this principle, why should it be different in Macedonia, Montenegro or Southern Serbia? So this opens all the other questions. The Kosovars or some of them may think that if they are forced to lose part of their territory, they are entitled to seek compensation elsewhere.

Q: Recognition of Kosovo by Macedonia remains an open issue?

A: One of the first tasks of the new government should be determining its position on Kosovo. In doing so, it will have to consider Macedonia`s state interests as an EU candidate country and the positions of most members of NATO and EU.

Ana Petruseva is BIRN Macedonia country director. Balkan Insight is BIRN`s online publication.…1017/?tpid=149