Why Critics of Greece’s Macedonia Policy Keep Silent

Νοέ 12th, 2008 | | Κατηγορία: Τάκης Μίχας | Email This Post Email This Post | Print This Post Print This Post |

The Greek establishment still punishes people who deviate from the official line on Macedonia, as one former PASOK official discovered to his cost.

The legal prosecution and state-inspired harassment of people professing different views on “national issues” that took place during the early 1990s has left deep marks on Greek society.

Thus, today, even those few persons that have more critical views on the Macedonian issue, for example, prefer to keep them to themselves, fearing that such views will not improve their career prospects. As recent events show, their fears are not unjustified.

Grigoris Valianatos had been employed since 1985 with the leading left-wing opposition party PASOK as a political communications advisor. His job was to “package” the political message of the party and help disseminate it. He did not have any say in the contents of the message.

But when Valianatos was asked about his views on the “Skopje” issue and the Macedonian minority in Greece during a TV interview last Thursday, he replied that the country had every right to be called “Macedonia” and that a Macedonian minority existed in Greece.

“Everybody knew my views all these years and I never had the slightest problem. Indeed when I gave a speech at a PASOK meeting a few year ago and referred to the existence of a Turkish and a Macedonian minority the participants all applauded, including the party leader, George Papandreou.”

Although he made clear that those were his personal views and by no means the views of the party, this clarification did not help him. The next morning, PASOK issued a laconic statement informing the public that Valianatos’s contract had been terminated because he had expressed “personal opinions” that contradicted the party line.

“I was really shocked when I read the statement,” Valianatos told me when I met him in Athens. “Everybody knew my views all these years and I never had the slightest problem. Indeed when I gave a speech at a PASOK meeting a few year ago and referred to the existence of a Turkish and a Macedonian minority the participants all applauded, including the party leader, George Papandreou.”

The government in Skopje argues that there is indeed a Macedonian minority in Greece, which has been deprived of its basic human rights of cultural and national expression and education in its mother tongue.

Athens, on the other hand, says that the only true Macedonians are the Greek Macedonians. As Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis wrote in his letter to FYROM Prime Minister Guevski “there has never existed a Macedonian minority” in Greece.

Ever since the break-up of former Yugoslavia in 1991, Macedonia’s name and history has been the object of a dispute between Athens and Skopje.

After Greece strongly objected to Macedonia’s entry in to the United Nations under that name, the country was admitted in 1993 under the provisional term “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” FYROM, pending a solution to the dispute.

The Skopje government insisted it had no territorial claims on Greek territory, while Athens for its part pledged not to block Skopje’s accession to international organizations, as long as it remained under the provisional name.

The so-called “name” row gained in momentum this April after Athens blocked Skopje’s application to join NATO, insisting Macedonia had to change its name first.

Valianatos, meanwhile, is also the author of various books, which until recently appeared on the personal website of Papandreou. After the incident, they disappeared from the PASOK leader’s website

Valianatos, meanwhile, is also the author of various books, which until recently appeared on the personal website of Papandreou. After the incident, they disappeared from the PASOK leader’s website.

Valianatos insists his former role in PASOK had been purely technocratic. “My role was not political. I would offer all sorts of ideas concerning how to make PASOK’s message more effective but I had absolutely no influence in shaping the message,” he said. “That is why I find the decision to terminate my contract incomprehensible. It is like dismissing your dentist because he happens to be a Maoist!”

Papandreou recently attended in Brussels a meeting of the Socialist International, the organization of which he is the current president. What is ironic is that most European socialists would agree with Valianatos on the issue of a Macedonian minority.

Alas, Greece is not like the rest of Europe, and what is considered self-evident in a European context is still too often considered a dangerous heresy in the Balkans.

Takis Michas

42 σχόλια
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  1. Dear Michas,

    I am personally against extreme nationalism and in favor of liberal and rational arguments. Thus, I appreciate voices which go against taboo concepts and the occasionally extreme nationalism that often plagues the Greek political scene.

    However, your articles often appear to be too one sided and ultimately unfair that I don’t think they help reach a rational resolution to this issue. And if your articles appeared only in the Greek press, one could argue that they are extreme to make a point, especially a point often buried and suppressed. However, your articles are generally written in english and published in overseas newspapers.

    I am not of the view that we should stay completely silent about the issues and problems of our own country out of national pride. But I am not sure that an article such as this is helping either the foreign readers understand better either Greek or Balkan politics, or help towards reaching a resolution to this issue.

    Taking the issues one by one, Mr Michas accuses Greece (or Greek politicians) for 2 things:
    1. For not allowing people to express themselves without fear of retribution; and
    2. For not accepting the “obvious” fact that FYROM should be called plain Macedonia and the citizens of FYROM should be called plain Macedonians.

    While both allegations have elements of truth (Mr Michas is clearly not paranoid or a madman), they are misleading or incorrect, at least according to my humble opinion. Taking them one by one:

    1. It is very very common that members of a party (or people employed by a party in such prominent role as marketing/message consultants) have to abide by the basic tenants of that party. This is true in every democracy in the world. To the extent that PASOK has an agreed policy on the Macedonia issue and Mr Valianatos has decided to consciously and publicly go against it, it is not strange that he was dismissed from his position.

    I live abroad and I can guarantee you that the same happens all the time. To give you only one example, if a political advisor of Obama came out during the campaign (and probably beyond the campaign) and expressed a view about (say) Iran which is completely at odds with that of President Obama, don’t you think that this advisor would have been dismissed within split seconds?

    The only thing you may argue is why the Macedonia issue is deemed to be such a basic policy of PASOK. Indeed, if Mr Valianatos had disagreed with aspects of PASOK’s policy in relation to (say) railroads, he may have kept his position with only mild reproach. Thus, I would agree with you on this, at least to some extent. It is true that the issue of Macedonia is perhaps more prominent in Greece that it should, although given the recent behavior of the FYROM government, this is increasingly justified.

    2. While it is obvious that people have the right of self-determination, it is not obvious that FYROM should be called plain Macedonia and its citizens be called Macedonians. Also the issue of the Macedonian minority in Greece is very sensitive for good and objective reasons. My personal view of the situation is as follows:

    A. Name of FYROM & FYROM citizens:
    I strongly believe that citizens have the right of self determination. So if they consider themselves to be a separate nationality (as opposed to Serbs or Bulgarians), this has to be accepted. Many Greeks argue that this is a newly founded or artificial ethnicity that did not exist 100 (or less) years ago. While this may be largely accurate, this does not in any way stop these people decide whether they form a separate nation or not. I think this is obvious.

    What is far from obvious is that these people can decide to call themselves Macedonian, which is a name historically identified with Greece and indeed, there are many Greek citizens which consider themselves Macedonian. This is further exacerbated when FYROM try to distort history and portray themselves as the sole heirs of the Macedonian ancient history. Doing so is an obvious attack to Greece and, regardless of Greece’s response, hugely divergent national narratives and histories are bound to cause trouble at some point in the future. This is ultimately why efforts are being made by liberals to reword the histories of Balkan nations to be more objective and less aggressive to each other.

    The obvious solution would be to add a suffix: Whether it is New Macedonia or North Macedonia, we can debate. It is not ideal for the FYROMians perhaps since for whatever reason they want to call themselves pure Macedonian. It is not ideal for Greece either since in practice the name will often be abbreviated and remembered as Macedonia. However, it is the most clear and fair solution, making clear that there are Greek Macedonians as there are Slav or North Macedonians. Moreover, it allows both states to keep face, which ultimately is important if this is to be accepted and the two nations can forget it and move ahead.

    Some people take a black and white view of “let them call themselves as they wish. Such a position is understandable: it avoids the need to think and argue and I am not surprised that many foreigners have taken this position. It should not be a surprise to anyone that Bush-like black and white views are both unfair and unworkable. What is also ironic is that the proponents of such a view (which includes, I would assume, Mr Michas), keep accusing Greece for extreme nationalism (sometimes justified) while stay quiet about the frenzy of nationalism (if not worse) displayed by FYROM. ” Also, many supporters of FYROM are pointing, out of context, to some international examples such as the region of Bretagne in France. However, doing so is completely out of context: a more interesting example would have been if Germany had named its border region with France as Loraine (the contested French border region) and then indirectly supported ultra-nationalists asking for a United Loraine including the French region. Somehow, I don’t think that France would have reacted better than Greece in such a case…

    It has to be admitted that Greece initially took a rather maximalistic position that any use of “Macedonia” is unacceptable. In retrospect most people agree that it was both an unworkable position and an unfair one for the FYROMians (by the way, anything which is manifestly unfair, or perceived to be so, is ultimately unworkable). Thus Greece should take part of the blame for the current stalemate. Indeed, Greece is partly responsible for fueling the nationalists in FYROM who are now being so intransient and unreasonable.

    But whatever is the historic fault for Greece taking an initially intransient position, this cannot be a justification for not recognizing that the present Greek government (and largely the Greek political system) has quietly gravitated to a very reasonable position, namely accept the Macedonian name with a suffix, while the FYROM government, not only is refusing to even discuss this but are doing their best to create lasting hatred and distrust between the 2 nations by renaming their airports, putting statues, teaching blatantly inaccurate and hyper-nationalistic history books at school, giving implicit support to territorial claims to Greece and opening the ultimate can of warms in Balkan relations: the issue of immigrants in the early part of the 20th century.

    As described above, FYROM has to accept that they are not the sole heir to the ancient Macedonians. If they want to argue that, they, as one of the present inhabitants of the wider area of Macedonia, have genetic and cultural links to the ancient Macedonians and the ancient Greeks for that matter, this is obviously both acceptable and historically accurate.

    Clearly to the extent that any Greek Citizen considers himself or herself to be part of the “North Macedonian” nation, he or she should be allowed to say so. Whether such people constitute a “minority” is a different matter on which I don’t have a clear view. From what I understand, an officially recognized minority has a number of rights such as state-schools in their language etc etc. I am not sure that the number of such Greek Citizens with a North Macedonian ethnicity is large enough to justify this. Clearly no one would expect the British Government to open polish speaking state schools because there are some polish immigrants in London. Most objective studies don’t consider people with such a self-determination being more than 10,000 or so, out of a total Greek Macedonian population of over 2 million.

    Also, the FYROMian government’s cries are not helping the North Macedonian people in Greece. They are arguing that their number is hundreds of thousands, which is manifestedly untrue and use that to support irredentist claims on Greek Macedonia. While deplorable from a human rights perspective, I have a degree of understanding towards the Greek government which is being cautious in embracing the existence of such a minority.

    This is a very complex and sensitive issue. It is well known that in the start of the 20th century (let alone before that), the Balkans, including the Macedonia region, was occupied by a mixture of people including Greeks, Jews, Turks, Serbs, Bulgarians and people who later on took on the self-determination of Macedonian, plus many combinations of the above. The population exchanges that happened were extremely painful for the people involved and indeed some of the biggest victims were the Greeks of Asia Minor. While sad and perhaps avoidable, such exchanges happened and trying to reverse them now, is impossible and extremely dangerous to try. I don’t think I have to explain this further.

    The FYROMian government, in their frenzy to attack Greece, has raised recently the issue of the expulsion or departure of thousands of Slav-speaking Greek Citizens from Greece, primarily after the end of the Second World War and the Greek Civil War. By the way, Albania is occasionally raising the issue with some Albanians who had cooperated with the Nazi’s and left Ipirus after the end of WW2. Greece could potentially do the same (although they haven’t) about the populous and prosperous Greek community in Monastir in FYROM which was similarly expelled or forcefully assimilated.

    Personally I don’t think that this is a clear cut situation. For example, clearly Greece is supporting the claims of Greek Cypriots to get back their property from Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus although the invasion happened 35 years ago. The expulsion of some of these slav speaking Greeks happened 60 years ago (and under different circumstances). Where do we draw the line? I will not try to answer this here. My gut feeling is that it is better to keep this can of warms closed and the international community should push FYROM to stop stirring dangerous passions.

    Apologies for boring everybody with this long commentary. If anyone reached this long, should email me and I’ll email him a present! However, shorter articles often end up simply shouting positions without justifications so they degenerate in tit-for-tat messages without genuine efforts to understand the other side and reach a common understanding. I do hope that a future article by Mr Michas will portray a more accurate and constractive view of the issue and, while not absolving Greece for its past potentially extreme positions, it accepts that the current Greek position is the only way forward and that if the FYROM government doesn’t moderate its stance, we are really sowing the seeds of major trouble in the region.

  2. Η ζημιά που γινεται από το μένος του Κ Μίχα για κάποιο φιλελευθερο κίνημα στην ελλάδα ειναι τρομακτική. Το υφος του πολυ ευκολα ερμηνεύεται σαν άρωστα ανθελληνικό (αν και αυτο ειναι μια μεγάλη κουβεντα) και αρχιζουν να στηνονται και οι πρωτοι συνηρμοί για τον φιλελευθερισμό στην ελλάδα. Υπάρχει και η προιστορία με τους δημητράδες, και δεν θέλει και πολύ.

    Για όσους δεν έχουν αναπτυξει αντισώματα στον γραφικό λόγο του Κ Μίχα για “εθνικά” θέματα, μια πρωτη εκθεση ειναι μάλλον υπερδόση.

  3. I agree with the long comment of Alkis. The name “North Macedonia” is a reasonable compromise for both. However, I wouldn’t refer to the ethnicity as “North Macedonian”. Most of the citizens of North Macedonia are Slav Macedonians, while a considerable number are ethnic Albanians. It is because of them that the even more appropriate name “Republic of Slavic Macedonia”, which clearly distinguishes it from Greek Macedonia, is not realistic.

  4. Kostas, I agree with you about calling themselves Slavic Macedonians may be more accurate, even if it diverges from the name of the entity. However, if for whatever reason they prefer to call themselves North Macedonians (to match the name of their country) I dont think we should mind.

  5. Let’s just look at something. If Macedonians are “Slav Macedonians” then what are Norwegians? Shouldn’t they be Southern Scandinavians? So now there are no Italians, Spanish, they are some adjective-Latins (e.g., Appeninian Latins, Pyrineyan Latins? How do we call the Serbs, Polish, and many other Slavic Nations?

    Many nationalities have picked up their name from the region where they have inhabited. This is the same case with Macedonians in the Republic of Macedonia. Do they live in the territory of Macedonia? yes, then their right so self determination is justified. They are not trying to steal any history trust me.

    Let the historians and DNA analysis figure out which nationality is closest to Ancient Macedonia.

    i think that in this issue, the lack of communication and understanding between the two nations is the biggest problem. The common Greek has never had the oportunity to hear a Macedonian version of the history, but was always served the state sponsored one.

    Similarly for the Macedonians, they have not heard the thoughts of the regular Greek folks and their opinion on this topic.

    Sadly, this issue is creating more hatred in the region, like there isn’t enough.

  6. Mr Aleksandar Makedonski,

    the citizens of FYROM are ethnic Slavs and Albanians. The Slavic Macedonians are probably the last of the Balkans peoples to build a national identity and are still in the process of creating an ethnic mythology (based on a glorious past). Modern Greeks did the same quite some time ago.

    If Slavic Macedonians want to be distinct from other Slavs this is absolutely legitimate (even though Bulgarians don’t quite agree with this). After all, all slavic nations derive from common ancestors, and their languages are related but, for example, Serbs, Croats, Bulgarians, Czechs, Poles and Russians have distinct identities. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it is inappropriate for the citizens of FYROM to monopolize the macedonian identity, claim that they are the only Macedonians, and imply that Greek Macedonia is an occupied territory.

    Likewise, Greeks should accept that Macedonia is not only Greek, but a wider geographical entity that includes Greek Macedonia and Northern Macedonia. If both parties agree on these simple facts, a solution to the “name” problem can be reached and a basis for mutual understanding can be formed.

    While Greece’s earlier maximalist positions were counterproductive, today it is mostly the short-sighted policy and nationalistic rhetoric of the government in Skopjie that impedes progress and maintains the stalemate.

  7. A brief rejoinder to Alkis

    There are two issue involved here

    a)Whether the way the public debate on the issue of Macedonia-and generally the “national issues” – is shaped in Greece conforms to the standards of a western pluralistic society

    b)The substance of the Macedonian issue.

    As far as b is concerned I have of course like every citizen my opinions on the matter.But this not what I am primarily concerned about. My main concern as a journalist is the first issue. And here , having worked for over 25 years in the Greek media I can say that what goes on does not fulfill even the elementary prerequisites of a free pluralistic society. Let me give some examples:

    a)Whereas in the Greek media you will find innumerable reference to an non existing “country of Skopje” or to a non existing “Skopjens” you will not find even a single reference to the neighboring country by its constitutional name-as indeed is the practice in nearly all foreign media. Now if we accept that FYROM is the name denoting the neighboring country , then why is the term “:Skopje” promoted in the Greek media and official discourse while the term “Rep.of Macedonia” is totally repressed? If we accept for the sake of the argument that both terms refer to non-existing entities why is the first encouraged whiule the second totally banned ? The situation has reached such an absurdity that Greek journalists are forced when interviewing a foreigner who uses the “M” word to either render it as “Skopjans” or put it in quotation marks-thereby totally distorting what the interviwee has said.

    b) All reporting concerning the neighboring country is heavily editorialized thereby violating some of the most basic
    rules of objective reporting. Thus for example we hear about “nees proklitikes diloseis..” “stin aniparkti meionotiha anaferthike ..”

    c)In all TV talks shows the aim is never to explore the contrasting positions of the issue but to cement a preexisting nationalist consensus. Thus on discussing for example the name issue you would have say 5 people defending the “nationally correct view” and one (the “token Negro”) expressing dissent. Obviously this set up does not promote an edifying discussion.

    d)On the “national issues” the general trend of the media is to reproduce the government view.. No Greek medium encourages its journalists to try to do investigative work contradicting the official view on the issue of say the minority(or indeed any other “national issue”).There are certainly some very brave and knowledgable colleagues of mine who dare question the official view but they do it on their own accord and without any help or encouragement from the news organization for which they work for-far from it!

    e)It is indeed the case that if an advisor of a political party expressed views dissenting for the official views of the party, he would perhaps face some problem. But in Greece there are two sets of criteria applied to this issue depending on whether the views expressed are “nationally coreect “ or not. Mr.Valliantos was fired for not having dissented in a “nationalist acceptable way”.On the other hand the press advisor of the Minister of Defence is publishing books where he calls for the arrest and imprisonment of “cosmopolitans” and “traitors” and actually encourages indirectly physical attacks against non nationalists journalists and intellectuals .Yet no one seems to be bothered by this.

    And let me conclude this rejoinder with a conspiratorial note. All the instances of suppressing pluralism are not the spontaneous results of the “temperamental “ or “immature” nature of the Greeks. They are the result of careful manipulations by the state. All public discourse in Greece on the “national issues” is carefully monitored and controlled by the Greek Foreign Ministry and the Greek Intelligence Service(actually the two are indistinguishable)..They control what can be said and what level of “dissent” is tolerable and what is not.

  8. Takis does a useful service to write in English. It is helpful to remind the world that honest, reasonably rational debate takes place in Greece. Even diplomats (who ought to know better) tend to take the view that two crazy Balkan populations are engaged in a senseless war of words. After all, parts of this history have been fabricated so recently that some of the fabricators are still alive. (Note: Greece’s non-Slav Macedonians did not discover until quite recently that they had a “Macedonian” regional identity the politicians would pay them for. In the decades before and after 1912, a more urgent issue for the post-Ottoman population of Northern Greece was how to establish their Greekness, including in the eyes of their fellow Greeks).

    The Macedonian name issue is domestic politics of a particularly unappealing kind. To protect themselves from the potential loss of niche voters to a harder-line rival, politicians of all Greek parties have seriously damaged the ability of Greece to portray itself to its neighbors and allies as a rational actor on the world stage. A sane, moderate, honorable party leader like George Papandreou was forced to sacrifice Vallianatos, someone he liked and respected, in order to preserve his party’s ability to accuse Karamanlis of treason for any deal that might be reached with the Republic of Macedonia. Therefore international agreement will never be reached on the name issue, except possibly in some magic interlude when no national election is perceived as possible in either country in the next 18 months.

    For all practical purposes, the name Macedonia is a fait accompli. Greek banks and businesses are heavily invested with the northern neighbors, despite the lack of agreement. The coming economic downturn, which may hit the Balkans hard, puts this investment at grave risk. Using the name issue to further undermine political stability in Skopje practically guarantees that Greece will ultimately lose most of its investment. Trading billions of euros for empty symbolism is a policy choice that reflects poorly on Greece’s political leadership. Sometimes it takes a true patriot (Vallianatos or Michas) to say the obvious.

  9. It is very important that this discussion is taking place. I’m grateful to all participants. At this point, I have only four comments, based in part on my two stays in the country to the north.

    1. Sovereignty. The name issue is at one level a matter of national sovereignty. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 brought to Europe and then to much of the world the principle that interstate relations require respect for national sovereignty. And sovereignty has to include the right of inhabitants of a state to choose their name, without being dictated to by others.

    I may have missed it, but in all the debate over the name “Macedonia” I have seen no examples of parallel cases or precedents for forced change of state name. Without these, the position taken by successive Greek governments is simply astonishing to non-Greek commentators. From a Westphalian point of view, it’s an intrusion on the sovereignty of a neighbor state.

    2. Racial formation. Much of the historical discussion ignores the truth that racial and ethnic groups come into existence by a process of self-identification. Jonathan Hall’s 2004 book, Hellenicity, argues that precisely this happened in the 8th – 5th centuries BC, as groups in Thessaly and around Olympia self-defined as “Hellenes,” excluding the Helots and Perioikoi. Now we see the population in the country to the north, inhabiting part of a region called “Macedonia” on maps for quite a while, asserting their own identity; and we see independent linguists like Victor Friedman (U. of Chicago) confirming the distinctiveness of their language.

    The closest parallel of recent ethnogenesis I can think of right now is the Palestinians. And as historians have asserted in both cases, the assertion of identity is in part a response to pressure from outside.

    Nationalist forces have tried to deny that Palestinians and “Macedonians” constitute distinct groups, without convincing many. This fact — the recent emergence of identity — is far more meaningful than tiresome (and misleading) references to Herodotus and Demosthenes.

    3. The embargo. In 1994-95, a Greek embargo embargo that ran for 20 months cut off two-thirds of the new state’s oil and substantial amounts of food and other supplies, and severely damaged the economy. One of Takis Michas’ great contributions has been to show the various informal embargos that preceded this event.

    Despite the use of words like “frenzy” and “attack” to characterize the state to the north, this embargo was the closest thing to an act of war either side has committed. People to the north remember it keenly: it has helped to confirm their sense of national identity and statehood.

    4. Irredentism. This is a fearsome word, connoting barbarian hordes sweeping down from the north. It does not match up with the facts on the ground. The Macedonian defense budget is around 1/50 of Greece’s. The country is tiny and impoverished. “irredentism” is as unlikely as a Greek effort to reclaim I Poli.

    My sense after two visits, substantial correspondence, and some reading, is that changing the name of the state to the north is an increasingly remote possibility. I’m not alone: a Greek deputy Foreign Minister stated in 1993 that “the name issue has been lost. . . . There is no need to discuss it any further,” and a Greek diplomat was recalled in 2007 for saying “that “Greece has to face the new reality, as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been recognized under its constitutional name by more than half of the members of the United Nations,…” It could still happen: entry to NATO and the EU is very tempting. But overall, Greek behavior has made a name change less, not more, likely.

    Dan Tompkins

  10. Dear Mr Kisling

    i am not aware of any marginalization of Turkey which does not recognize the legal status of the Democracy of Cyprus. What would be the american action against Turkey given that Turkey will veto a Cypriot application for NATO? Would that veto be an action against NATO enlargement?

  11. Way to go Mr Michas, I couldn’t agree more.

    Having grown up in a macedonian-speeking village of Northern Greece, I know all too well that a sizeble macedonian minority does indeed exist. What’s ironic though are the double standards of the greek political agenda. As for the greek macedonians, they too were non-existent when I was tought history in my school, pre-1991. In fact, Macedonia was a taboo-word. It’s a shame that we have to waste so much effort in an already resolved issue (name). Of course the Macedonians can call themselves whatever they like. Centuries after Alexander the Great, everyone is a descendant of anyone. Yet, the Greeks insist of monopolising history according to their perseived special ethnotic status, based on their own manufactured convenient dogmas. I say to the “ordinary” greeks, let’s get real and focus on the realy important issues and not pass judgement on what other nations do, when ourselves indeed have done the same.

    PS: I’m an ethnic greek, for the record. Self-proclaimed member of a rational, so called “anthelinic” minority

  12. “In the decades before and after 1912, a more urgent issue for the post-Ottoman population of Northern Greece was how to establish their Greekness, including in the eyes of their fellow Greeks”

    Its more complicated than this. The macedonian ideological heritage of Alexander the Great and the relevant myths have contributed significantly to the construction of the modern greek identity.

    Therefore to say that one established his “greekness” but not his “macedonian regionalism” is really absurd for someone who has deep knowledge of the whole issue.

  13. The ideological heritage of Alexander is complex.

    The complexity begins a century and a half earlier, when Alexander I of Macedon successfully plays on both the Greek and the Persian side during the invasion, marrying his sister off to a Persian for instance but claiming “Greekness” when that suits his case (claiming also descent from Argos — for himself, not for his countrymen). Macedonia at this time is an ambiguous border state, negotiating Balkan uncertainties skillfully, aligned with Greeks when it helps the cause.

    Alexander the Great is a harder topic. But part of his legacy is suppression of democracy, a proud part of the Greek tradition. Greek cities, M.I. Finley says, had taken “the astonishing and unprecedented step
    of incorporating … all the free men of the community.” Alexander and his successors ended this by
    bringing “absolutist, bureaucratic regimes.”

    And these absolute bureaucracies succeeded in areas unaccustomed to “freedom”: the Near East, Egypt. In Greece, the conquerers lacked “the essential ingredient, a conquered barbarian population.” Cities accustomed to freedom resisted. It took the Romans, Finley says, to “achieve in Greece what the Antigonids could never manage.”

    That “astonishing and unprecedented step” of extending the franchise is one of the proudest elements of the Greek legacy. But the Macedonians tried to bring it to an end.

  14. Funny thing is that Greeks struggle with the Slavomacedonians in the ideological field of 19th century “national symbolism” while similtaneously they strive to prove their readiness to participate in post-national institutions such as the EU.

  15. Mr Mihas,
    thanks for the extensive and thoughtfull reply. I actually agree with many of your statements and conclusions. A few comments perhaps:

    1. I continue to think that in any other developed country, Mr Valianatos would be fired for expressing such views. For good or for bad, the FYROM issue is a national issue for Greece. Do you think that if an advisor to the British prime minister thought that the Faukland islands should really go back to Argentina and expressed these views publically, he would not get fired? There are many many other examples I could mention. The Greek internal dialog about Macedonia may indeed be problematic but the firing of Mr Valianatos is clearly the wrong example.

    2. I agree that the Greek political establishment (whatever that means) is indeed hypersensitive towards national issues and quick to accuse as “traitors” people who take a different view. I personally think that this is primarily because Greece is in a more unstable neighbourhood than some of the European countries. Only a brief observation shows that the sensitivity of countries on national security issues largely depends on the threats they face and the degree of real or perceived insecurity they have. One can see the response of the US after sept 11th. And unfortunately, Greece has many reasons for such insecurity, many justified.

    Still, this is an explanation, not an excuse. And, as has been the case with the US, this can often be counterproductive, causing further problems for the country.

    3. Moreover, one has to understand that a diplomatic dispute is a bit like a game of chicken (the most obvious example being the standoff between Kennedy and Kruchoff on the Cuban crisis). Thus, statements implying a softer or weaker position can be undermining the negotiating position of one side. The trick here is to manage to play hard diplomatic poker without steering passions at home which then cannot be controlled. The New Democracy govt in the early 90’s failed miserably, as they fueled/supported the demonstrations etc which then made a compromise impossible. The current govt, within the circumstances, is doing a good job to keep the tone low by getting out of their way to stress how we should try to be friends with the FYROMians. Clearly this is not the case with the current FYROMian government. One would expects that an article on the issue should at the very least mention this fact.

    4. Things have been improving dramatically in Greece and a good example is the Cyrpiot issue where on the issue of the referendum a few years ago, there was free and passionate debate, within and between the parties, and, although the Greek govt did not have the political courage to push enough about the UN Plan, it did come out in favour of it, together with a considerable portion of the greek political world. Also on the FYROM issue, the Greek government managed to (inevitably perhaps) to change its position pretty radically to what I think is a very reasonable position.

    5. In your reply you mentioned that there are 2 issues, the second one being the substance of the Macedonian issue. I would be curious to find out what is your view on this (if you want to share it with us).

    6. I do not agree with the position of Mr Kiesling that the issue of Macedonia is a non-issue. It is of course a non-issue for foreign disinterested parties who see the Balkans maters as a peripheral concern and a distraction but for Greece which is unfortunately located here it is important.

    An interesting question is what would have happened if Greece had completely accepted without argument the name of Macedonia for our neighbours. It is possible that this would have led to a very amicable relationship with no animocity. It is also possible that FYROM would have interpreted this as weakness. It is worth bearing in mind that the Macedonian national identity was explicitly constructed or at least promoted by Tito to get access to the Aegean so I am not sure that an amicable Greek position would have solved everything. Still, we will never know.

    The more interesting question is what to do now. I do think that the current Greek position makes sense since it allows both parties to compromise without losing face, it is historically accurate, it is fair (according to me at least!) and, to the extent it is embraced by the FYROM govt, it can be used as a basis for amicable relations. A completely one sided solution is bound to fail.

  16. Two brief comments:

    1) Dear “Alkis”, the vallianatos issue is different than what you perceive. Mr. G. papandreou himself, some years ago, was speaking in favor of self determination in Greece, hence of the right of the concerned citizens to declare themselves “Macedonians”. What happened meanwhille, to make hom chamge his view?

    2) Although Takis Michas is essentially correct by saying that the term “Rep.of Macedonia” is totally repressed in the Greek medioa, there are some exceptions. One of them is the statement of 50 citizens (newspaper EPOHI, 12/03/2006) that they will call our northern neighbor country with its constitutional name.

  17. Two brief comments:

    1) Dear “Alkis”, the vallianatos issue is different than what you perceive. Mr. G. papandreou himself, some years ago, was speaking in favor of self determination in Greece, hence of the right of the concerned citizens to declare themselves “Macedonians”. What happened meanwhille, to make hom chamge his view?

    2) Although Takis Michas is essentially correct by saying that the term “Rep.of Macedonia” is totally repressed in the Greek medioa, there are some exceptions. One of them is the statement of 50 citizens (newspaper EPOHI, 12/03/2006) that they will call our northern neighbor country with its constitutional name

  18. A second rejoinder to Alkis

    Let me first stress that my views on the issue are of little importance. History in Greece , Turkey and similar countries is not made by intellectuals , historians , journalists or even politicians but by the “deep State”.

    As far as the minority question is concerned ,my views do not diverge substantially from those of the major historians, anthropologists and historians that have dealt with various aspects of the issue(Hobsbaum,Danforth,Dakin,Karakasidou,MacNeill,Mazower,
    Kostopoulos,a.o)My conclusions:

    a)After the dissolution of the Ottoman empire there existed a large Slavophone population in Northern Greece. A part of this population in due course developed an identity distinct from the Serbs and the Bulgarians. The term “Macedonian” was used by some of them to denote this identity. It was also used by Greeks to refer to these Slavophone populations . How widespread this use was and what exactly did this term connote remain a question. However it is simply not the case that the “Macedonian” identity was an “artificial” creation of Tito-although of course the formation of the Republic consolidated the process of nation building..

    b)A part of this population was over the years forced to leave Greek Macedonia (population exchanges during the interwar period or expulsion after the Civil War).Another part of it was hellenized. Some adopted the Greek identity willingly, because they wished to identify with the dominant Greek culture. In many(most?) cases however force was used. They were forcibly prevented from using their language (or idiom if you will), from celebrating their historic memories and from using the traditional names for the cities and villages where they lived. ”Force” here means practices including torture ,beatings and exclusion from the labor market. The repression of the use of the local idiom or language continued as late as 1990.During that year I interviewed the Bishop of Florina Sevastianos who proudly told me that the area had the largest number of kindergardens. When I asked him the reason for this he said ”Because we do not want the children in the area to stay with their mothers and learn the idiom”!(so much for encouraging linguistic diversity!).

    Thus to conclude on the issue of the minority:There is no doubt that “something” existed in the past and in that sense Karamanlis’ statement to the effect “that there never existed a Macedonian minority” is simply untrue. As to the present Greece has many unemployed sociologists and many social research centers who spent their time doing nothing. Why not undertake a serious sociological and anthropological study study to throw some light on this problem? Why respond to anybody raising the issue with Soviet-era threats and denunciations?

    Finally there is of course also the issue of the diaspora. Here my attitude is no different from my position in relation to the question of the Palestinian, Bosnian or Serb refugees. In principle they have the right of return without giving up their ethnic identity or change their names and to the extent of course that they will be loyal citizens of the Greek state.

    My views on the name question:

    As I have repeatedly written the dispute is not about a name .It is about two different and unfortunately incompatible ways or reading history.We are confronted with two contrasting historical narratives-this is what makes the problem so complex and irreducible to a some simplistic solution like agreeing on a name. Even if our neighbors accepted say the name “Penguinia” Greece would still object to the existence of a “penguinian”languge and nation-to the extent of course that this would also imply that (Greek) Macedonia was not exclusively Greek but included also a “penguinia” component.

    Having said all this and looking at the history of the dispute from the early 90ies until today I find it very hard to subscribe to the dominant in Greece (but nowhere else )view that the failure reflects simply Skopje’s intransigence.

    It was Greece that rejected in two very crucial instances the proposals put forward by the international arbitrators. Thus in the early 90ies Mitsotakis rejected the Pineiro proposal of Nova Macedonia which according to Pineiro Gligorof was willing to accept. More recently it was Greece that rejected the Nimitz proposal of “Macedonia-Skopje”. Moreover it was Greece that was conspiring together with Milosevic to invade the neighboring country and according to very reliable sources- which I will make public when the time comes- Mitsotakis had accepted Milosevic’s proposal to invade Macedonia and it was only the refusal of the Minister of Defense to carry out Mitostakis order for “the troops to get ready” that prevented this from happening.(can you imagine how Greece would have reacted if it was found out for example that Gligorof was conspiring with Ozal to invade Greece and split the country between themselves?) Finally it was Greece that imposed an economic empargo with disastrous consequences for the area-especially with regards to the growth of local mafias that enriched themselves by bursting the embargo.

  19. Greeks discussing greek foreign affairs in english… The late Dimitris Psathas would have been more than satisfied.

  20. the discussion does not touch upon the real issue which is not the name in itself.

    It is the fact that the name can – and many people believe it will – be used as a vehicle for those who have broader geopolitical interests to pursue in the region.

    I live in Thessaloniki – I am merely saying that to indicate that I have an interest in the practicalities involved, I work here, I own property here, friends and family live here – and I am not at all convinced that name does not pose a threat.

    Let alone that the whole rhetoric being used gives me the impression that the author approaches the issue in a sentimental dogmatic manner that is not related to the topic at all. It alleniates people in Greece like me who also call themselves macedonians and that does not serve the purpose of the debate it is supposedly set out to create.

  21. Mr Michas,

    Your point of view is correct. Public opinion is manipulated on the “Macedonian issue” and historical truth is largely suppressed in Greece, at least in the official sources. I also agree that slavophones should have a right to protect their language and enjoy a status of other linguistic minorities in Europe (for example hellenophone communities in Southern Italy).

    However, you could also acknowledge that the major political parties in Greece have shifted from the maximalistic policies of the 90s and have accepted a compromise on the name dispute. True, Greece is now begging to achieve what it rejected 15 years ago, but nevertheless, it has moved one step forward. On the other hand, there are no signs of a reasonable approach from the neighbors. The tone is set by a nationalistic government that uses rhetoric of the 19th century. It is an equivalent of the LAOS party being in power in Greece. A concession to their monopoly of macedonian identity and covered up irredentism would probably demonstrate weakness and trigger further intransigency.

    In my opinion, the issue you raised about public discussion in Greece regarding the dispute with FYROM is valid and the politicians would better serve the interests of the country by preparing their voters for a fair compromise. This should be based on acceptance of the fact that Macedonia is a large geographic entity that in the past centuries has been inhabited by multiple ethnic groups. Following the Balkan wars, the largest part of it was annexed to Greece and today the vast majority of its population is ethnic Greek. Even though most of the ancestors of the current Greek inhabitants populated the region following the forced exchange imposed by the Lausanne Treaty, Greeks living today in Greek Macedonia have every right to define themselves as Greek Macedonians. But Macedonia is not only Greece; hence, non-Greeks living in Northern Macedonia, should also have the right to be defined as Northern or Slavic or Albanian Macedonians. And all sides should recognize the fait accompli of the Balkan wars and accept the inviolability of the border.

    But inviolability should not imply tightening, but opening of the border to strengthen economic ties. After all, there are more serious subjects for Greek foreign policy that await a settlement.

  22. Quoting a semi-google translated (thus paraphrased) recent web-only article of my favorite author, Nikos Dimou, in response to Kostas’ and Costas V’s posts:

    ( http://www.ndimou.gr/newsarticle_gr.asp?news_id=307 )

    “… If FYROM demanded for itself the use of the name “Greece” indignation would be appropriate, since that is our very own ethnotic identification. But that is not the case with the name “Macedonia” : 60 years ago, it was declared from our northern neighbours as their official ethnotic definition, without formal reactions on the Greek side. Since then, three generations of FYROMians have been raised under this name.

    Those ethnic greeks that claim “We are Macedonians” can sure use the term as a geographic definition, like those from Athens can be called “Athenians” – but in both cases their ethnotic definition is by default “Greeks”.

    A major mistake is to confuse a name of a region (Macedonia, Crete, Hydra) with a national name. Our national name is “Greece” – whether we live in the region of Macedonia or, say, the island of Lefkada. Our northern neighbors selected the name of the wider geographic region of Macedonia as their ethnotic name, thus NOT depriving us of anything, since that name was NOT used by us back then in an ethnotic context.

    Furthermore, it is well established that aprox. 85% of the current inhabitants of the greek region of Macedonia do not actually originate from there: They are descendants of refugees from Asia Minor and the Black Sea Pontus Region, a result of the 1922 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. As for Thessaloniki itself, in 1912 only 11% of its inhabitants were Greeks – and that was more or less the case for the rest of Macedonian region.

    The whole confusion on the Macedonian Issue is mostly based on two major misunderstandings: a) the myth of historical continuity (there is no scientific evidence of a DNA heritage after 2.000 years of infinite population movement, mix and match) and b) the myth of the existence of nations which is very recent and in particular in Macedonia only began to play a role after the end of the 19th century. Until then any discrimination was based strickly on terms of religion and language. The mixing was widepsread, to the extend that there actually were ethnic-Greek slavophon guerrilla-fighters on the Macedonian issue (Makedonomahi)

    Contrary to popular belief, there was never a “Macedonian nation”. At the time of the ancient Macedonians the term “nation” was not yet invented. By the time of it’s invention (after 1800) ancient Macedonians had long seized to exist…”

  23. Dimou’ s article does not entertain my concerns which stem from the following:

    a) the name is ambiguous and can be used as a vehicle for future instability
    b) should Greece accept such a name – an this by the way is the reason why ultimately Greece will refuse to settle – it will internally alleniate the majority of the Greek people living in the north and undermine national unity. This is stupid, why should Greece do it?

    Historical truth – although I believe there are more and better arguments with the Greek side – is not the issue here.
    Neither is the issue to have an academic debate where liberal, radical or nationalistic points of view will be applied.

    This is not a theoretical exercise on a piece of paper. This is a real problem with practical consequences.

    As long as we are not able to convince Greeks and especially Greeks in Macedonia that the name does not pose a threat, they have every right to disagree. Their is a lot at stake for them and their families now and in the future. And as long as they disagree there can be no viable solution.

    The arguments on the table are not at all convincing. How can we be convinced when borders are still changing in the Balkans and energy networks are being re-designed? How can we be convinced that the other side means well when we look at the rhetoric being used or at their inexplicable persistence not to acknowledge the fact that they cannot monopolise the name? How can we be convinced that their is no threat when allies like the US choose to maintain the position they are maintaining on the issue?

    The mistake that Michas and others are making is that they approach the issue as an exercise on which they apply their own personal axioms and theorems. Its not.

  24. CostasV,

    Look where our aggressive policies have brought us: 16 years lost, now negotiating for what was a given clause on the Pineiro Pact. Let us learn from the mistakes of the past. Nationalistic and xenophobic views expresed from the Church, the far right and the Communists are not the solution for a modern EU state. Our northern neighbors can be our friends as well as our foes. Macedonia is what everyone calls them and that will not change, whatever the final deal is. And that’s because those people were called like that way back. After all, a stable Macedonian state is in Greece’s best interest, believe it or not. Let’s drop the complexic behaviors that make us the EU village idiots. The world does not rotate around Greece they are not conspiring all the time against us. Only truth will take us forward and some times the truth is hard to shallow.

  25. Cyverius,

    Issues are not solved based on individual beliefs and lifestyles.

    This issue in particular should be resolved based on what (the majority of the) people in both countries want, what is at stake for them (how much they win or lose with and without a solution) and how much they are willing to compromise. There is a cost-benefit trade off. Always.

    Again, instead of addressing the issue as a theoretical exercise on which we apply our personal dogmas, poltical beliefs, inferiority complex or fears (axioms and theorems) lets try to convince the people. No solution will fly otherwise. A lot of damage has been done already by using an aggressive rhetoric against people who have a stake in this and every right to be sceptical.

    The solutions at the moment wont fly. I dont see any tangible benefit for greek people – especially macedonians in the north – with the solutions on the table. On the contrary. They have a lot to lose in my opinion.

  26. Demou makes a racist comment by evoking the notion of DNA on the issue of nationality. So much for his tolerance and antiracism.
    Even if is is true that nobody descends from ancient macedonias why should the Skopjians monopolize the name, under what historic or dna rights?
    And another issue, what have we lost so far by not allowing Skopje to use that name? The wrath of the United States? Does Turkey suffer by not recognizing a sovereign nation such as Cyprus? In any case we as Greece will do whatever we want as far as the costs do not outweigh the benefits, we dont care if we have the right on our side it is just our national interest. The pity is how a country with access to the most priviledged international organizations, economicaly and militarily superior could not cope so easily with this “problem”. This will be taught to next generation diplomats as a paradox of diplomatic history.
    My view is: Slavomacedonia take it or leave it and of course under security assurances, audits of their educational system if it promotes aggression against usetc.

  27. Furthermore by Demou using DNA as a proof of nationality he clearly denies the Hellenicity of Greek Jews who origin from Spain

  28. Hold your horses Sardanapale,

    you better read Dimou’s original article and not be so judgemental. Views like yours will take us 16 years more to resolve a non-issue like the Macedonian. I predict a new Cyprus-like deadlock, as long as this nationalist-know-it-all pathos doesn’t recede. As for the only thing in stake, our dignity, has been lost years ago with our ever-changing policies. Laughing stocks, as always. Priests and Co, here we go (again)!

  29. And for the record, since I was the one to translete Dimou’s original article, there is no mention of DNA in it, it was paraphrased like this in the wider context. So let’s not jump into conclutions.

    Dimou is a respected liberal fighter, with well-known and crystallized opinions that have been proved dead-on right through the years. There aren’t many greek jurnalists-writers who can claim the same.

  30. I dont care my friend if we have a deadlock with Skoje. You mention it is a non issue, so as long we are comfortable with that we will never solve it. And again i dont care of we are right there is no right and wrong in diplomacy, just the relative power between countries. All i am saying is that we did not use our leverage to solve the issue. In the end if we dont recognize this state, the end of the world will not come, it is their choice to be isolated.
    Are they a great trading partner? They didnt say no to our money so far.
    Mr Demou said

    The whole confusion on the Macedonian Issue is mostly based on two major misunderstandings: a) the myth of historical continuity (there is no scientific evidence of a DNA heritage after 2.000 years of infinite population movement, mix and match) a

    So he uses a DNA argument and to me this is racist

  31. δεν νομίζω οτι τα θεματα εξωτερικής πολιτικής λύνονται με δημόσιο διάλογο. κυριως γιατι δεν υφισταται η υπερκρατικη δομη που μπορει να οδηγησει 2 ή περισσοτερους λαους σε καποιας μορφης αντιπροσώπευση οπου οι διαφορες αυτες θα συζητηθουν και θα παρθουν οι οποιες αποφασεις. οι συμφωνιες γινονται παντα σε διπλωματικό επιπεδο και αντανακλουν τις ισορροπιες ισχυος της εποχης. γι αυτο και ειναι ματαιο να τσακωνομαστε στο διαδικτυο για το ποιος εχει δικιο οπως ανωφελα ηταν και τα συλλαλητηρια του1990. μπορουμε παντως να αναζητουμε την αληθεια. οι ιστορικες μου γνωσεις δεν ειναι τετοιες που να μου επιτρεπουν την αναληψη καποιας θεσης στο αντικειμενο.
    αυτο το σχολιο εχει μια αλλη πολιτικη σκοπιμοτητα. στην χωρα μου (Ελλάδα) υπαρχει μια υπερκομματικη αντιληψη για το πολιτικο κόστος. και τα 2 κομματα εξουσιας, αλλα σε μικροτερο βαθμο και τα υπολοιπα πιστευουν οτι υπαρχουν πραγματα που γινονται και δεν λεγονται, κυριως για να μην δυσαρεστηθουν οι ψηφοφοροι. επισης αναπτυσεται ενας διαφημιστικος πολιτικος λογος με στρογγυλεμμενες ακρες και λαικιστικο περιεχομενο. οποτεδηποτε αυτη η επικοινωνιακη επικαλυψη απομακρυνεται τα πολιτικα κομματα σπευδουν να την αποκαταστησουν. θα ημουν ευτυχης αν παρα την αδικη για τον Βαλλιανατο-εργαζομενο αποπομπη του τα πολιτικα κομματα επαυαν να χρησιμοποιουν επαγγελματιες απο τον χωρο της διαφημησης για την κατακτηση της εξουσιας και αρκουνταν στις πραγματικες τους θεσεις.

    I do not think that foreign policy issues can be solved with debate. mainly because there is no super-structure that can represent 2 or more people, where these differences will be discussed and decisions wiil be taken. Agreements are always achieved at the diplomatic level and reflect the current power balance . so it is pointless to quarrel in the net about who is right and who is wrong similar to the patriotic demonstrations at 1990. we can, however, seek the truth. my history knowledge is not enough to express any opinion at the subject.
    This comment has another political purpose. in my country (Greece) there is a shared by everyone perception of the political cost. both political parties that contest for the government, and to a lesser extent every other, believe that there are things done and not said, especially if when told they will alienate the voters. there is also a political marketing that tries not to offend anyone and instead offers arguements of populist content. whenever this marketing overlay is removed it is quickly restored. although I sympathise mr Vallianatos for his job-loss I would be happy if political parties ceased to use professionals for advertising and instead rely only on their actual program to get elected.

  32. Sardanapale, read Dimou’s original article in Greek and hold the strong language, time will only prove that you are on the wrong side. There is no leverage applicable to this nations’ name, get over it. We cannot change that, we can only waste our time (in which of course we are very good at) beating around the bush. 16 years on, same ol’ same ol’…. shamefull nationalism. What a pitty.


  33. I have three comments. I wrote a four-comment post earlier and deleted it because I decided it was too contentious. In part, I want to urge thinking about the long range.

    The long range includes: threats, investments, water.

    Threats: there is a lot of talk about “threats” from the north, and “irredentism.” FLy to Skopje and you’ll see that the one (!) carousel at the airport can barely handle the small number of suitcases on it. You’ll learn that the budget for military is tiny, 1/50 of Greece’s. This is not a threatening country, and most of the talk of “threats” seems mainly aimed at internal political goal in Greece. Noone else believes it, as far as I can see.

    And the state to the north has experienced threats of its own. Not just the official embargo (1994-5) but the various informal ones. And the prohibition on native license plates, harassment at the border, insults at NATO drills. Check it out, and you’ll see that the Republic has some reason to feel threatened itself.

    Investments: we need and do not have an analysis of the nature of these investments. One question that struck me as I noticed the investments driving from Ohrid to Bitola to Sofia: what percentage of them is in natural resource extraction (marble, coal, etc.)? Recall Tachis Michas’ discussion of the mines in Kosovo. There is a great danger that the “investments” may simply be funding extraction industries that may depart when the mineral is exhausted. Compare copper in Cyprus. We need a study of this.

    Water: this operates on many levels. Note that southern Europe is (in many areas) water-poor. Southern Spain, for instance. Cyprus. Next note that water works on many levels: drinking, irrigation, hydro-electric power. All are at risk in Greece. There is already the danger of diverting part of the Achelous River to feed thirsty cotton crops in Thessaly. There’s also the immensely polluted Axios (Vardar) River. Go to Veles and you’ll see a city that has suffered from lead in the water and in the air. I cannot believe that Greece would not benefit from massive cooperation to clean up this waterway, but I cannot believe, either, that the behavior of the Greek government gives any incentive to such an effort. (A Brady Kiesling column last year got me interested in this topic.)

    What will happen with water in 15 years. Will Greece itself — not just Cyprus — run short? Will Ohrid grow in importance for Greece? All these things are worth planning for, and they may be compromised by pugnacity over… well, over what? Oh, the name.

    So I’ll add a fourth item. The desire of the republic to the north to choose its own name does _not_ reflect “monopolization” of a name. That would only be the case if Greek Macedonia became a nation, and it has not. The Republic is not dictating anything to Greece, is not demanding a change in name for the province, and noone is harmed if people choose to use the name in which their region has been included for a few hundred years (check the maps).

  34. I still dont get it. We will never recognise them period. How would that hurt us?

  35. Dan,

    the argument that Skopje are militarily weak at the moment is not convincing.
    They may become strong in the future. Or they may receive the support of strong allies.

    There are several such examples in the region.

    Furthermore, the desire of the republic to choose the name Macedonia for its country, language and ethnic determination is an aggressive move. There is no state called Macedonia, true, but there is a Greek province with the same name and Greek people associated with the name, history, etc.

    It is not an innocent move, not convincing to position it as such.

    I do not see any tangible benefit whatsoever for Greece to recognise them with that name. On the contrary.

  36. Our American friends seem to forget their own diplomatic history. It was their own Secretary of State, Ed.Stettinius, who in 1944 proclaimed that talks about a “macedonian” nation are used as a challenge over Greece’s sovereignity, and indeed it was during the Greek Civil War (1946-1949).
    At the time, Greece was useful to keep the communists out of reach of the Aegean so that there would be no break to the south-eastern flank of what would soon become the NATO alliance.
    After 1989 there was no such need, Greece was partly expendable in the face of the need to lay western feet on the Balkans following the retreat of the Russians from the region.
    So, when were you right, really, in 1944 or now?

    The whole issue is a farce if actual history is to be visited at all. Bulgarian-speaking (‘slavophones’ is a misnomer) populations lived mainly on the northern parts of the geographical region of Macedonia, then part of the Ottoman empire, at the eve of the 19th century. It was the explicit policy of the Bulgarian state to promote a “macedonian” identity among them, as a better way of claiming their independence from the Ottoman Empire than through actual military action. Thus their goal, the annexation of Macedonia (the entire region) to Bulgaria could be more easily accomplished. Some hints to this:

    Some of them joined the greek cause, the rest the bulgarian one, during the intense battles of the “macedonian struggle” (1904-1908). A certain part of the latter preferred the “macedonian” characterisation better, which however was already a matter of controversy between all inhabitants of Macedonia, Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians etc.

    This policy of promoting a unique “macedonian identity” was later also adopted by the Soviet Union (Russia being a long-time patron of Bulgaria) and became official policy of the CommIntern, in 1924, that a “macedonian state” should be established which should include all parts of Macedonia (the greek one too).
    This is 12 years after the victorious Balkan Wars in which all balkan christian countries had allied to fence the Turks off Europe. The only problem being that Bulgaria didn’t seem to get, then, what they obviously had wanted in terms of land acquisition. Greece beat them in the second Balkan war that was to follow immediately after the first against the Turks.
    Bulgaria (a nazi-ally) lost again in the second World War, so what was left of the bulgarophones in Greece (those who hadn’t self-identified as Greeks, the Bulgarophiles that is) and Yugoslavia attached to the “macedonian identity” even more.
    After WWII, the “macedonian identity” was solidified inside Tito’s Yugoslavia so that his bulgarian-speaking citizens would alienate themselves completely from Bulgaria (not with much success apparently, as the example of former prime minister of FYROM, Ljubčo Georgievski, becoming a Bulgarian citizen in 2006, demonstrates).
    Something like the current talks of a “cypriot nation”, i.e. that there aren’t really any greeks and turks in Cyprus, just “christian and muslim Cypriots”.

    Let’s forget the irony of you defending a Russian and then communist ploy in the region against Greece, who has been your ally in both world wars and throughout the cold war. After all you did defend Tito’s and Stalin’s artificial internal borders, during the civil wars in Yugoslavia in the ’90s and during the crisis in Georgia, accordingly. No surprise here.
    What you’re presently expecting from Macedonian Greeks, however, is to accept and legitimize this 19th century doctrine of a “macedonian” identity who seems to include only those speaking the bulgarian dialect now presently spoken in FYROM. What is to become of the right to self-determination to them, greek macedonians?
    Are they macedonians or greeks? Or both? Are they greeks living in “Macedonia”? Which “Macedonia”?
    What if they also want to be called macedonians, without the propaganda of our northern neighbor labelling them as “compatriots”, part of the so-called “macedonian” nation, as they currently do? How can this work if a STATE called “Macedonia” exists north of the border?

    By this logic, I could easily call myself “ethnically European”. I live in a part of Europe, ergo I am one. I could join a critical mass (you decide which is that) of fellow “ethnic Europeans” and form a state called Europe whose language would be “European”.
    There is currently no such state, so today’s European Union (an international organisation) should have no objection to our collective right to self-determination. I could also manufacture some false history of a “european nation” through the ages which would actually be the history of my own region and my compatriots and only, or even better claim some of the other “europeans” ‘ history as our own.
    I can do that since my right to self-determination seemingly transcends any connection to reality and historical truth. After all if our region is strategically important enough, we could easily invoke a superpower to back us.

  37. I would like to congratulate Mr. Michas for all the articles he has written on the Macedonian issue during the past two decades. This issue could have been solved more than 15 years ago by politicians and diplomats educated in history and realism. Apparently there was a lack of this species. There is a good excuse: the book of Leften Stavrianos (The Balkans since 1453, the standard worldwide academic text on the Balkan history) was out of print during the 90’s. Also, it takes some guts to stand up to screamings of self-declared patriots. Apparently the Greek Government officials had no guts. The “politiko kostos” was too heavy. The national interests came second. A society where meritocracy is not in its dictionary, always
    ends up with incompetent leaders. The cycle is completed by a 3rd rate education system which produces the voters of the leaders.

  38. Recently, there has been a lot of propaganda regarding these issues. Anyhow, somebody has to make a living, to earn some money.

  39. I think Greece, has to rename itself to Europe. Europe is a Greek word by the way. Nice idea. We are ethnic Balkans & ethnic Europeans.

  40. @ alkis
    It is very very common that members of a party (or people employed by a party in such prominent role as marketing/message consultants) have to abide by the basic tenants of that party.

    TENETS, κύριε Αλκη μου, TENETS!

  41. O κ. Μίχας τιμά την πατρίδα και είμαι ευγνώμων γι’ αυτό.