Wednesday, May 02, 2007

'Aegean Macedonia' - an irredentist term

'Aegean Macedonia' is a Slav Macedonian irredentist term used to refer to the region of Macedonia in Greece, in the context of a 'United Macedonia'. The origins of the term seem to be rooted in the 1940s but its modern usage is widely considered ambiguous and irredentist. The term has occasionally appeared on maps circulated in the former Yugolsav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which envisioned Greek Macedonia (referred to as "Aegean Macedonia") as part of a "Greater Macedonia", and is regarded as a challenge of of the legitimacy of Greek sovereignity over the area.[1]

The origin of the geographical terminology is arguable. A similar term was used in 1944 to describe a unit fighting in the Second World War called the "First Aegean Macedonian Brigade" [2], although there is no evidence that this is the first usage of the term "Aegean Macedonia".

During the Greek Civil War, in 1947 the Greek Ministry of Press and Information published a book, I Enandion tis Ellados Epivoulis ("Designs on Greece"), namely of documents and speeches on the ongoing Macedonian issue, many translations from Yugoslav officials. It reports Josip Broz Tito using the term 'Aegean Macedonia' on the 11th October, 1945 in the build up to the Greek Civil War; the original document is archived in ‘GFM A/24581/G2/1945’. For Athens in 1947, the “new term, Aegean Macedonia”, (also “Pirin Macedonia”), was introduced by Yugoslavs. Contextually, this observation indicates this was part of the Yugoslav offensive against Greece, laying claim to Greek Macedonia, but Athens does not seem to take issue with the term itself . The 1945 date concurs with Bulgarian sources.

Tito's war time representative to Macedonia, General Tempo (Svetozar Vukmanovic), is credited with promoting the usage of the new regional names of the Macedonian region for irredentist purposes. Indeed, Tsola Dragoiocheva, in her Memoirs, 'Pobadata', Sofia 1979, writes that, "Under pressure from Tempo, the Yugoslav Macedonian Headquarters issued a Manifesto in October 1943, for the slogan about a 'united Macedonia', which began to crop up in Communist Party of Yugoslavia documents. Hitherto, the Yugolsav party leadership only had designs on Vardar Macedonia." Tempo himself wrote [3] that, "The slogan about a united Macedonia first appeared in the Manifesto of the Headquarters of the National Liberation Army of Macedonia, at the beginning of October 1943. There had been no mention of it earlier in any document either in Yugoslavia or in Macedonia". Tempo also attacked the Greek Communist Party (KKE) because it, "only recognises the Macedonian people of Aegean Macedonia a right to equality in the framework of the Greek State" [4]. The ideological context was always 'anti bourgeois-democratic parties' and in line with communist ideology.

In 1946, the Belgrade newspaper Borba, (August 26, 1946) published an article under the title "Aegean Macedonia", it was also published in Skopje’s Nova Makedonija with a map of Yugoslav territorial claims against Greece. A month later, on September 22, the Premier of the People's Republic of Macedonia, Dimitar Vlahov [speech in Nova Makedonija, on September 26, 1946] announced, "We openly declare that Greece has no rights whatsoever over Aegean Macedonia...". Vlahov then went on to publish, "The Problems of Aegean Macedonia", Belgrade, June 1947.

By 1950, the term 'Aegean Macedonians' had been officially adopted by the Slav Macedonian political separatists in Skopje [5][6] who began publishing their own organ, ‘The Voice of the Aegeans’; it is later found amongst militant diaspora communities. [7].

The Slav Macedonians in Greece seemed relieved to be acknowledged as Slavomacedonians. A native of the region, former exile and local historian, Pavlos Koufis, says in Laografika Florinas kai Kastorias (Folklore of Florina and Kastoria) [8], that,

“[During its Panhellenic Meeting in September 1942, the KKE mentioned that it recognises the equality of the ethnic minorities in Greece] the KKE recognised that the Slavophone population was ethnic minority of Slavomacedonians]. This was a term, which the inhabitants of the region accepted with relief. [Because] Slavomacedonians = Slavs+Macedoninas. The first section of the term determined their origin and classified them in the great family of the Slav peoples.”

The name "Aegean Macedonia" is considered by the Greeks as ambiguous and offensive. On one hand it contains a reference to a geographical area they consider historically Greek (the Aegean), but, as expressed above, there is also the experience that it is used by irredentist organizations in FYROM and beyond who support a United Macedonia, contrary to the desires of the people living in the area.

Writing in 1953, Lazar Mojsov seems surprised that the Greeks find the term "Aegean Macedonia" insulting, and uses it frequently, noting that "...Politis (former Greek minister of external affairs) didn't miss the opportunity to attack even the very term "Aegean Macedonia", stating that it was "coined by the communist propagandists" [9].

The term is currently used by some scholars, mostly contextualised, along with the sister terms Vardar Macedonia (describing the part of Macedonia in which the FYROM inhabits) and Pirin Macedonia (describing the part of Macedonia in which the Blagoevgrad province of Bulgaria inhabits). The term is used more frequently by Slav Macedonians and can have irredentist connotations, in relation to the concept of United Macedonia.

  1. "The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World", Loring M. Danforth, p. 37
  2. Autonomist Movements of the Slavophones in 1944, Spyridon Sfetas, Balkan Studies, 36/2 (1995), 297-317.
  3. Struggle for the Balkans,London: Merlin 1980
  4. How and why the people's Liberation struggle of Greece met with defeat (O narodnou revolucijiu u Grckoj), Manchester: Merlin Press, 1985, original 1949
  5. International Organization, Vol. 1, No. 3, (Sep., 1947), pp.494-508. Appointed under the Security Council resolution of December 19, 1946, the "Commission of Investigation Concerning Greek Frontier Incidents" on May 27, 1947 submitted a report, to the Security Council.The general conclusion of the UN Commission as about Macedonia issue, was that Yugoslav and Bulgarian Governments themselves revived and promoted a separatist movement among the Slav minorities in Macedonia.In making this finding, the Commission pointed out that some 20,000 Greek citizens had fled to Yugoslavia and some 5,000 to Bulgaria — most of them Slavs — and that the treatment of this group by Greek officials had "provided fertile breeding ground for separatist movements." In Yugoslavia, Macedonian separatism was the special goal of an organization called the NOF (National Labor Front) which had its headquarters in Skopje and Monastirion(Bitola).
  6. These separatists were born in Greece and in 1949 fled to Tito’s Communist ‘Socialist Republic of Macedonia’ and who years before (during Greece’s occupation by the Axis in 1941-1944) had openly expressed pro-Bulgarian sentiments and affiliations and enthusiastically collaborated with the Bulgarian allies of the Nazis, and the infamous Bulgarian Ohrana Police Battalions –operating in Both Macedonia and Thrace. Those very people (especially in Western Macedonia) in the aftermath of the Axis (including Bulgarian) defeat in 1944 and in order to avoid the dire consequences of their treason and collaboration decided, literally overnight, to make a drastic and highly opportunistic change of their political affiliations and national consciousness.
  7. Some of this material is quoted from, E. Kofos, Nationalism and Communism in Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Institute of Balkan Studies, 1964
  8. 'Laografika Florinas kai Kastorias', Athens, 1996, probably published by the author
  9. Лазо Мојсов, Околу прашањето на македонското национално малцинство во Грција, ИНИ, Скопје, 1954)


  1. Read

  2. Being a Slav, Polish, I cannot understand your conflict, as it is TODAY. We in Poland have a similary divided region Silesia. It is widely accepted fact that there are Polish speaking Silesians (now a majority), there are German Silesians, now a minority in Poland, majority of them have been displaced to Germany after 1945, - (as a minority they are now privileged by constitution in the Parliament elections), and there are Czech Silesians in Czech Republic. They are not the same nation, but nobody questions their right to call them Silesians.
    Why it cannot be so with Macedonians? Why both sides refuses the other side to call themselves so? Is it not obvious that there are Greek Macedonians and Slavic Macedonians, having their sovereign state on the north and being a minority in Greece within the Greek Republic?
    I like very much a Macedonian folk, very similar to the Bulgarian, as the language is, and I like a Greek folk, rather different, or Turkish folk... It is obvious that Alexander the Great spoke a Greek dialect and could not be a Slav, but we are living TODAY and why the Slavic Macedonians cannot use his symbols? Modern Greece is far away from his times too, and is shaped rather by the heritage of Orthodox Church (like Slavic Macedonians), so the Cross is their symbol (national flag), not an Alexander's Sun - Stanislaw Gadomski

  3. Mr Gadomski I will try to present the parametres with arguments that show the core of this conflict.

    --To many foreign observers the emergence of the "name issue", at a time when wars were ravaging in former Yugoslavia, appeared as a nuisance or, at best, a typical Balkan paradox. In subsequent years, however, ineffective efforts by UN mediators and fruitless bilateral negotiations revealed that beneath the surface of the state name issue thorny problems thrived: territorial claims, identity clashes, conflicting historical/cultural interpretations, painful wounds inflicted by the Greek Civil War on both sides.

    In 1995, the signing of the Athens-Skopje Interim Accord offered hopes for building good neighbourly relations, which would assist in resolving the issue of the name. Nevertheless, ten years later, despite proposals by successive Greek governments to find a compromise solution, no progress was recorded as the other side responded with evasively tactics. Skopje aimed to gain time in order to silently bypass the UN procedure to negotiate with individual countries the recognition of its constitutional name, "Republic of Macedonia"

    --The attitudes of Greece and FYROM are radically different and this is something that the international community should take into account. Most people in both states do not want to back down on the name issue. But while Greece’s political leaders have pushed for a reasonable and fair compromise, FYROM’s newly elected premier has veered in a blatantly nationalist direction. Instead of exploiting the presence in Greece of two mature political leaders, namely Costas Karamanlis and George Papandreou, Gruevski has pushed bilateral ties to the limit.

    How ?

    Take a look of this picture

    Please can you imagine Chancellor Merker to make a similar action with a map that includes Polish territories what would be your reaction?

    --The official Greek position in no way can be viewed today as a "maximal" one. With considerable political cost, political elites in the country have overrun public feelings about the use of the Macedonian name by the neighbouring country. The Greek government as well as all major parties favour a compound geographical name for their neighbour country, provided its state name clearly defines Macedonian regions within its own jurisdiction. The current constitutional name, "Macedonia", is, however, identical with the name of the wider geographic region "Macedonia". Of this region, roughly 52 per cent is Greek territory, 9 per cent Bulgarian and 1,5 per cent Albanian. UN negotiator Matthew Nimetz has apparently realized that such a tautology of the names for two different geographical regions could become a harbinger for expansionist claims. His latest proposal, "North Macedonia", although it might tentatively provide a way out of the current impasse, certainly is not a perfect one, as it might convey the impression of a divided country.

    --The historical dogma, taking shape in FYROM, backtracks the origins of this modern Slavmacedonians—the Makedonci— a full millennium to include the ancient Macedonians (5th century BC). This revisionist historical dogma, is not limited to encroaching upon the identity of a Hellenic people of the classical times.

    It aims at expanding the boundaries of the historical “taktovina” (fatherland) of the “Makedonci” to include wide regions of Greece and Bulgaria. It is well known, that for decades the classrooms and school textbooks of history in FYROM have been adorned with maps portraying Macedonia’s “geographic and ethnic”, i.e. Slavic boundaries extending all the way to Mount Olympus and Chalkidiki, in Greek Macedonia as well as to the Pirin district of Bulgaria. Please take a look again in the mentioned picture.

  4. FYROM Slavmacedonians(leadership and people) need to understand that international recognition by no means necessarily endows a state with legitimacy, especially when the recognition has been granted in such an impetuous manner in the midst of a crisis and if legitimacy is held to have any connection with a common history and a sense of common destiny as characteristics of the state's population, without which no state can survive.

    Greece has called upon FYROM's leadership to act responsibly and show political courage and meet Greece half way. It will be a responsible move on the part of an aspiring candidate, a move that will win them a European future, a future of stability, peace and economic prosperity, based on the principles upon which NATO and the European Union are founded.

  5. Sorry Akeritas, I cannot agree with you, I do not like the name FYROM. Would you like Greece to be called FPOOE (Former Province of Ottoman Empire)? The link to the picture you have mentioned, has on the commemoration table the date ? - 1903, so it refers to some historical events, is it presented as the map of actual Gruevski's demand do revise the frontiers? I stressed twice the word TODAY. Chancellor Merker takes part in meetings of the German exiles, having their maps too, but since many years all German governments recognize the present frontiers with Poland, and more, they have helped us to access the EU, I do not think that the Greek government shows similar attitude towards Slavic Macedonia. The historic maps of Poland are sad too, there was a period of 123 years of absence of Poland on the maps and the foreign occupation was not less cruel, (especially during second World War) as compared to the Turkish one - in the past your common oppressor of Greeks and Slavs. You do not avoid the maps of Alexander's Empire, but it does not mean that you are demanding it's restoration? Please believe, that I do admire the ancient Greek fundamentals of European civilization, its heritage is precious for the Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok (being not Europe, but with the same cultural roots in the ancient Greece). And not only Europe, all Western World, USA including; see their White House with the Greek columns.

  6. Mr Gadomski the name FYROM is a temporary name as UN said. The stance of the UN and of the EU show that the insistence of Greece that the choosing of a state's name can comprise a form of aggression is not without grounds. Consequentially, the theoretical probability that the choice of a name by a state be considered as hostile propaganda against a neighbouring state, given that that name conceals territorial claims, has been recongised.

    Like it is known in the international affairs, every state is free to choose the name it wishes. The exercise of the state's right to choose its name, as with any right in general, must not, however, impede the rights of other states or be accomplished for a purpose other than that for which the right was established for and be to the detriment of another state. The prohibition of the abusive exercise of a right is a general principle of justice, which is repeatedly reiterated in international jurisdiction practice and is superior among the rules which govern the exercise of rights of those subject to international justice.

    In regards to the specific issue, international practice shows clearly and undoubtedly that the right of states to choose names or symbols may be limited when, owing to these names or symbols, international peace and security is placed in danger. In any case, it is known that the threat against peace is not necessarily linked to the use of violence, but can even be manifested with acts which in the first place clash with international law.

    The use of the Macedonian name as a state appellation in no way confers the right to appropriate everything and anything derived from or pertained to the entire region of Macedonia. This needs to be legally clarified and remain binding erga omnes. The state name needs specifically to refer to and describe the present region of FYROM. It should apply erga omnes in multilateral and bilateral international relations and transactions and should be observed by all organizations, states, and other non-governmental international organizations, including the government and the agencies of FYROM. Greek and FYROM parties should accept the name used by the inhabitants of FYROM for their region of geographical Macedonia, i.e. Vardar Macedonia, or preferably Vardar Makedonija.

    Are you agreeing at least on this thought?

  7. Dear Akritas, I like the name Vardar Makedonija, but I think that the inhabitants of this region should chose their name, not me (or you). You may and you should discute or contradict their, Slav Macedonian view of the history, as opposed to Greek Macedonians, that is fair, as far as it is based on the true facts. I am not on their side (majority of them ?) during internal/international Greek war during 40', but I'm only trying to defend their right to their own name, nothing more. (I was horrified however seeing the clashes in Greece, almost a year ago under the symbols of communist past. Would it be possible to see it in Slav Macedonia or Bulgaria? But it is another topic).

  8. First of all read all u have written and to tell u the truth akritas u are telling us that we have hostile propaganda xD yeah like that might happen,so in some way that is the only thing u have to say about our name not changing to Macedonia its a shame really to think that we can take ur territory as u left no more than 10% of the macedonian population in aegean macednoia,well u must be proud if u can say that but for the name and the flag to think that the cross is our symbol-yes it is god is my helper but soo its urs too!!-mr gadomski,and for the flag every country should choose its own flag if u didnt want to take the star of vergina why didnt u took it...and yeah it would be blue and yellow cool i guess but u havent so there u go we changed the flag now the name is a problem,if u think about it u didnt had that problem while we were in Yugoslavia so that let me think is that u were scared of us then but now u can beat us so u make up things like we can get hostile or for the maps of our historical books i have seen them in turkish books too so really u have problem with our books but u havent with the sad is that in every way u are trying to deny for the name id really liked to be slavic Macedonia cause this current name sucks as may u agree as for the vardar macedonia no good,i dont even like vardar xD im a Pelister fan threw and threw and to think im coming to ur country like twice a week and im studying with greek students its sad really what u are making of us but thats ur opinion thx for reading both if u


Commentators have the exclusive responsibility of their writings, the material that they mention, as well as and the opinions that they express.