Friday, July 31, 2009

New answer to Washington Post article and Mr. Whitlock erroneous points

Dear Mr. Whitlock,
Thursday, July 30, 2009

I am sorry to see that your article “Another Rift Between Greece, Macedonia” published online on The Washington Post’s website on July 28, 2009 is completely off mark, biased, and reflects a generally unprofessional attitude on your part. This is not what international reporting is supposed to be like, in my opinion. The article’s tone smacks of political lobbying and not of investigative journalism. You have taken a very sensitive political, and historical topic and have trivialized it in such a way that paints Greece as a spoiled bully who needs to be “corrected” by the United States and the rest of the West. You conjure up romantic images of “Indiana Jones” and “Santa Claus” which are endearing to the average American reader (who by the way knows very little about European history and politics) and as a result you portray Skopje as the underdog who should be winning the hearts and minds of the West because it is being threatened by Greece. I respectfully would like to inform you that this is propaganda and not unbiased journalism.

I would like to analyze many of your erroneous points and back up my arguments with references and facts:

1) Your point:

“The Greek government refuses to recognize its neighbor's constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia, which it sees as a thinly veiled bid to lay claim to three of its northern districts, a region known as Greek Macedonia. After Macedonia declared independence in 1991, Greece prevented it from joining the United Nations and imposed an economic blockade that nearly strangled the fledgling country.”

This is correct however you seem not to know why Greece did this. Skopje’s original constitution mentioned its right to intervene on behalf of its people to protect “Macedonians” living in the general area of Macedonia. In the constitution, this land-locked country mentioned it has the right to a navy. This idea has continued to this day:
May I also remind you that the new country’s first state flag showcased the star of Vergina, an ancient Greek emblem and the Ancient Macedonian royal family emblem?
Considering the recent historical conflict Greece had with Yugoslavia and Josip Tito’s plan to annex Greek Macedonia after World War 2, this was seen as continued irredentism by Skopje. There have been multiple examples of official maps published in this new country (especially after 1991) showing a fictitious “United Macedonia”. The US State Department recognized the threat to Greece by Skopje and Yugoslavia back in 1944 and warned all of its missions abroad to be aware of such irredentism against its Greek ally in the war against fascism and then communism [1]. Why has this piece of information evaded you?

The United States tried to invade Cuba (another poor and defenseless country), and has imposed a decades long crippling economic blockade on it when it was found out that Havana courted the USSR militarily and politically. If it is OK for the United States to never forget Cuba’s irredentism, why do you not think it is OK for Greece to react to Skopje’s irredentism? Why did many Americans rightfully react to a 2008 advertising campaign by Absolut Vodka showing California as part of Mexico? I want to make this point clear: This ADVERTISING campaign angered Americans. Greece is dealing with Skopje’s GOVERNMENTAL campaigns [2, 3].

2) Your point:

“Greece also vetoed Macedonia's bid to join NATO last year and is blocking its admission to the European Union until it changes its name to the Republic of Skopje, the Slavic Republic of Macedonia or something similar.”

Contrary to popular belief, Greece never had to use its veto against Skopje in Bucharest in 2008. In a closed room meeting of NATO members the night before the official announcement, the Greek government was able to convince member states like France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Luxemburg, Iceland, Belgium, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Netherlands that Skopje had not met the criteria for NATO membership because it had not fulfilled its obligations under the Interim Accord of 1995. As a result of this non-unanimity, a non-invitation was given to Skopje unless it resolves its dispute with Greece.
More importantly, Greece has never tabled the suggestions: “the Slavic Republic of Macedonia”, or the “Republic of Skopje”. Please research your facts before taking anything you are told at face value. Greece did suggest “Slavomacedonia” as a name but this was rejected by Skopje based on the ground that its large Albanian minority would reject it. Understandably so but if this new country is trying to find a name and identity for its people, should it not be a neutral name that encompasses all of its inhabitants without irredentism against its neighbours? In my opinion, The Central Balkan Republic is the most neutral name but I am not part of the negotiation process.

3) Your point:
“Macedonian officials said they cannot understand why Greece sees their country's name as a threat or thinks they have a secret plan to annex northern Greece.”
I don’t know where to start with references here. However, I will offer some:
The above posts show how deeply engrained into Skopje’s society is the hatred against Greece. Moreover, they are just a few examples over the last 5 years. There are numerous others spanning decades.

4) Your point:
"It's laughable," said Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, noting that the Macedonian military consists of 8,000 troops and a fleet of eight helicopters. "In America, you have a good phrase to describe a confusing situation. You say, 'It's all Greek to me.' Sometimes we say it's all Greek to us as well." “
Funny indeed…the issue has nothing to do with the current state of affairs in the Balkans. One needs to look at the coming horizon and be able to avoid any potential conflicts: Skopje has courted Ankara openly both for military and political cooperation [4].
It should not be news to anyone that despite being NATO allies, Greece and Turkey have historical antagonism in the region, and are really not the best of allies to put this lightly. Turkey has served as a destabilizing power for the South East Mediterranean for many years: it invaded Cyprus in 1974, its warplanes violate Greek sovereign airspace daily, and it is a major source of transit for illegal immigrants from the East into Europe. Currently, the European Union has asked Turkey to cooperate by not allowing illegal immigration to occur at such alarming rates into Greece. When Skopje courts Ankara, Greece will react. Similarly, Washington reacted with even less restraint when Havana courted Moscow.
For your information, Antonio Milososki (Skopje’s Foreign Minister) has officially propagated the propagandistic and false idea that there existed no Macedonia in Greece before 1988 [5, 6].
If such an official man of Skopje can publicly state such claims without shame, how can anything he says be taken seriously and believed? As an investigative journalist, these questions should be coming from you and not from your readers.

5) Your point:
“The Athens government says there is no question that he [Alexander the Great] was Greek.”

This is an unfortunate statement and reflects your lack of knowledge on the subject. You could not be further from the truth. Yes, the Greek government states this but it is because of history (and Alexander himself). It is not a government inspired propaganda campaign; the whole nation and the whole world know who the ancient Macedonians were. Was Abraham Lincoln American because the White House says so? If you feel that this question is absurd, then you should automatically realize how absurd your statement about Alexander is. I would like to respectfully refer you to the letter of protest written to US President Barack Obama by over 300 classic scholars of worldwide repute against Skopje’s historical revisionism. You may find the link here:

6) Your point:
“Under a truce brokered in 1995 by former U.S. secretary of state Cyrus Vance, Macedonia was allowed to join the United Nations on the Greek condition that it refer to itself in multinational institutions as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM. It was also required to change its flag and rewrite its constitution to include a promise never to violate Greek territory or interfere in Greece's internal affairs.”
You have not asked the question: “Why did the United Nations require of FYROM to do this?” A famous cliché states that where there is smoke there usually is fire. Think about it: Why indeed? If Greece was simply being a silly bully, why would this still be true of the United Nations, NATO, and European Union conditions? The 1995 Accord also required of Skopje to stop its irredentist activities against Athens. It is obvious that this has not happened.

7) Your point:
“Leaders in Macedonia, a poor, landlocked country about the size of New Hampshire, warned they may have trouble holding the nation together if Greece does not relent soon. Internal unrest, they said, could easily spread to other fragile nations in the Balkans, such as neighboring Kosovo, where 1,500 U.S. troops serve as part of a peacekeeping force.
"The problem is threatening the fabric of our society," Gjorge Ivanov, the president of Macedonia, said in an interview. "The pressure that Greece is making is destabilizing the whole region." “
The issue of the stability in the Balkans has nothing to do with Athens and everything to do with Skopje’s irredentism. In a famous diatribe, Skopje contributes to its own instability:
Skopje has many internal problems: upwards of 35% unemployment, and a large Albanian minority (25 – 30% of the population) that is growing very impatient with Skopje’s irredentism and the megalomania of the ruling nationalist VMRO party. In 2001, the country nearly broke apart after Albanians revolted against governmental and societal oppression. This is the crux of the instability in the region and not Greece’s objection to the name issue. However, the ultranationalist government in Skopje is trying to scapegoat Greece for its internal problems. This coupled with irredentist claims of a “United Macedonia” by official and unofficial sources, claims of racial purity and continuity, an official ban on researching its citizens’ roots in the Penal Code articles 178 and 179, and its disregard of its neighbours have contributed to instability in that country and reminds one of another regime that flourished in Europe around 1938-1945 [7, 8, 9, 10]. I suppose if God Himself spoke to the people of FYROM on national TV, then all is correct with the government’s course [10].

8) Your point:
“Historically, territory inhabited by ethnic Macedonians has belonged to other nations: Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia. Those countries have been reluctant to recognize ethnic Macedonians as a separate people, to recognize their Slavic language as a distinct tongue or even to recognize the Macedonian Orthodox Church.”
From what reliable sources have you seen or heard that Greece rejects their national consciousness as a separate people, who have a separate language? Despite the world’s awareness of Skopje’s artificial nation building campaign [11], Greece does not reject the country’s right to self determination. Greece rejects the term “Macedonian” for their identity and language simply because there are 3 million Macedonians in Greece who have been using this regional qualifier as self-identification for over 3000 years. They are Greek and in the regional sense they are Macedonians. Similarly, Texans are Americans, and Bavarians are Germans aren’t they?
The self-proclaimed “Macedonian Orthodox Church” is not recognized by any Christian denomination (Orthodox and Catholic) anywhere in the world. An oxymoronic cold war creation, this schismatic Christian sect broke off its previous affiliation, as part of a conscious nation building campaign in 1967 and has since asked for recognition by its fellow Christians. It supports irredentist claims and thus has been rejected by other Christians since [10, 12]. Close attention should be paid to its support of the false theory that the Rosetta Stone shows the “Ancient Macedonian” language [12].

9) Your point:
“In an interview, he accused Greece of "practicing ethnic cleansing and genocide on the Macedonian nation" for the past 100 years. "They're denying our nationality and culture and church and history and our borders," he said. “
This is probably the most unfortunate paragraph in your article. You can now rest assured that outside ultranationalist websites and circles, the Washington Post has brought this ugly lie to the eyes if many readers by quoting an ultranationalist propagandist. History has recorded that Greece fought with Bulgaria in the Second Balkan War when Bulgaria tried to annex “Greater Macedonia” to “Greater Bulgaria”. The Carnegie Commission Report of 1914 attests to this [13 14]. History has also recorded that Greece fought against Yugoslavia when Belgrade (through Skopje) tried to annex “Greater Macedonia” to the Yugoslav nation after World War 2. Where may I ask is it recorded that Greece committed genocide on a “Macedonian nation”? Based on historical fact the question then as to who is denying borders in the area does not require a journalistic degree to answer.

10) Your point:
“It is not just Macedonia's national identity that is at stake. The Greek government does not recognize ethnic minorities within its own borders, including Macedonian-speaking residents of northern Greece.”
Mr. Whitlock, Greece has not denied that a small bilingual community exists in Greek Macedonia. They speak Greek and a local Bulgarian-based dialect (a throw back from the time Greek Macedonia was under Ottoman Turkish rule) with many Greek, and Turkish words, which is completely removed from the language codified in Skopje under communist influence in 1944 [11]. The vast majority of this Greek community though rejects any claim that they are not Greek. Self-determination is defined as the free choice of a person's own acts and desires without external compulsion. This is the real reason why Greeks object to what Macedonism is attempting to accomplish in Greek Macedonia. Macedonism is acting as a pounding external agitator driven by a State-sponsored ethnocentric nationalist creed with 21st century irredentist visions. The Greek people see a spade and call the spade. Let me make this clear: There is no pervasive support coming from Slavophone bilingual Greeks for self-determination as "Macedonians" with the connotation of the word that Skopje wants to give. Nor is there an overt expression of yearning by the local inhabitants to learn the Slavonic language of FYROM (in its standard form) – contrary to what Skopje and its Diaspora activists would like the international community to believe. "Macedonian" is not a language that we want to call our dialects, which we have been calling "Bulgarian (Voulgarika)" In you article, you quote Mr. Pavlos Voskopoulos, the representative of the self proclaimed “Macedonian Political Party of Greece” or Vinozhito (Ouranio Tokso/Rainbow Party). It is worth mentioning here that Vinozhito received a total of 4524 votes in all of Greece during last month's European Parliamentary elections. Only 2594 votes came from Greek Macedonia itself. That Vinozhito is free to hold associations, and promote their agenda throughout Greece is evident. However, their website is run by ultranationalist Macedonist circles from overseas (the people behind who repeatedly engage in malicious expressions of rampant hatred and racist slurs while demonstrating virulent hostility against the modern Greek state. There are more people who believe in UFOs in Greece. The Hunters’ Party received more votes. However, you make no mention of this anywhere. 11) Your point:
“Pasko Kuzman, the government's director of cultural heritage, is a driving force behind Macedonia's surge of interest in the past. With flowing white hair, three heavy-duty watches strapped to his thick wrists and a National Geographic fanny pack, he has been described as a cross between Indiana Jones and Santa Claus.
In an interview in his office, sitting next to a wall-size copy of a 13th-century icon of Alexander, Kuzman insisted that Greece had stolen the conqueror's legacy from Macedonia, not the other way around.
"The Greeks are sorry that they are called Greece and not Macedonia," he said. "What else can I tell you?" “
This is the same Pasko Kuzman who on FYROM’s national television admitted that if they can’t prove that they are the descendants of the ancient Macedonians, they would lose the political game with Greece [15].
Mr. Whitlock, there are so many biased and erroneous statements in your article that one fails to comprehend how a journalist who writes for an esteemed newspaper could write something like this. I am very sorry to inform you that either you have been duped by Skopje’s propaganda, or you have deliberately written a propaganda piece. A little more professionalism on your part would have avoided this unfortunate circumstance. History and human morality demand this of journalists. You are writing for The Washington Post.

Christos Karatzios MD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
McGill University Health Centre



Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Is there a Rift between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of "Macedonia" on Alexander? (answer to Washington Post)

by Miltiades Elias Bolaris

On a Washington Post article, ("Another Rift Between Greece, Macedonia, Both Lay Claim to Alexander the Great", July 28, 2009) Craig Whitlock is intend on sending us scrambling back to our History books. Should we be talking about Alexandros o Megas /ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ o ΜΕΓΑΣ or Aleksandar Veliki / Александар Велики? Was he Greek or was he Slavic? I will let the reader do their own reading and research. Any encyclopaedia, in any language, anywhere in the world, except for the ones published in the former Yugoslav republic will be fine.

Mr. Whitlock is correctly pointing out that Alexander's "cult of personality is just starting to grip this tiny Balkan country", speaking of FYROM, informing us that among other childish actions that the government in Skopje is doing to annoy the Greeks is the erection of "a 72-foot-tall marble colossus of Alexander astride his favorite warhorse, Bucephalus, which will dominate the skyline of the capital, Skopje". Our information is that it is actually a bronze statue, not marble, but the rest is correct: Greeks are understandably annoyed by the ethno-religious cult that has hijacked the political debate of their neighbor. Why did I say "childish"? Because only little children do things to annoy others...not governments, not nations. Someone who getting "annoyed" will become hardened and less willing to give in. This is something that FYROM's "diplomats in training" have yet to grasp. When they try to "annoy" the Greek government, what they essentially end up achieving is is aggravate the Greek electorate, especially the Greek Macedonian (of Historic Macedonia, in Nothern Greece, not FYROM) into demanding a tougher stance from Athens against the "Skopianoi". The article is correctly pointing out that "this glorification of Alexander and other ancient heroes" is derided by critics in Skopje as "antiquization." I have also heard the term Bukefalism (Bucephalism), a more sarcastic term by rightfully embarrassed intellectuals in FYROM.

The issue, as presented in Mr. Whitlock's article, is stated as follows: Does a country have the right to be call itself what it wants? A second issue, but more important is this issue's "potential to destabilize a region still trying to recover from the Balkan wars of the 1990s".

Let us start with the name issue itself. If the reader goes to any encyclopaedia, he or she will quickly find out who Alexander was, who the Macedonians were and what language the ancient Macedonians spoke. For the reader who would want to read further on this, then another article would be more appropriate: "The alleged differences between the Macedonians and the other ancient Greeks", (

The name Macedonia itself is Greek, meaning the "high lands", and Makednoi/Μακεδνοί or Makedones/Μακεδόνες are the highlanders. "Hesiod first mentioned 'Makedon', the eponym of the people and the country, as a son of Zeus, a grandson of Deukalion, and so a first cousin of Aeolus, Dorus, and Xuthus; in other words he considered the 'Makedones' to be an outlying branch of the Greek-speaking tribes, with a distinctive dialect of their own, 'Macedonian', is what we read in the "Oxford Classical Dictionary", 3rd ed. (1996), pp.904,905.

There are about a half a million marble inscriptions that have been found in Macedonia, all written in Greek, with the occasional Latin one, after the Roman conquest, but then still in the small minority. None has been found in any other language.

Finally, we have the strongest indication on the ethnicity of the Ancient Macedonians, in their Greek language: This is precisely the language that Alexander and his victorious Macedonians spread throughout the Asian lands they took over, including the dominion of Egypt in Africa. The Slavs whose descendants now claim exclusivity over the use of the name Macedonia, appeared in the Balkan peninsula more than a thousand years AFTER Alexander. Hence the irritation of the Greeks when others try to claim their ancient history. When someone claims your history, what they also claim is your land. If someone claims the title to your house, he is not simply claiming a piece of paper to hang on a wall as a souvenir: he is actually claiming your house, land, walls and roof.

Craig Whitlock seems to be siding with "Macedonian officials" who "said they cannot understand why Greece sees their country's name as a threat or thinks they have a secret plan to annex northern Greece. "It's laughable," said Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, noting that the Macedonian military consists of 8,000 troops and a fleet of eight helicopters.

I would beg to differ with Mr. Whitlock's seeming naivete, for I cannot imagine that he has not read the 20th century history of the land that is Macedonia, before he wrote what he wrote. I am very certain that he knows that two Balkan wars have been fought over the control of Macedonia, the land. Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, and later Yugoslavia, along with numerous other players, including Austrians, Germans, Italians and Albanians fought in two world wars in their attempt to become masters of Macedonia. Yugoslavia and Greece almost came to a clash right after WWII, when Tito made a thinly veiled attempt to carve parts of Macedonia from Greece and incorporate them into Yugoslavia, but actively joining one side in the Greek civil war of the 1940's. His reasons were far from ideological, it was purely a land grab. You may read some of the background in another, related article: "A brief overview of the Macedonian name issue" (

As for Anton Milososki, FYROM's foreign minister, he may try to appear laughing at the suggestion of the threat his country is posing to Greece, but his boss's trips to Ankara and the rousing welcome the Turkish Political-Military establishment prepared for Nikola Gruevski there, did not go unnoticed in Athens. As for FYROM's eight helicopters, lined up against Greece's formidable air force, we know that Greece is not arming itself against FYROM, it is an attack from Turkey that it is always prepared to confront. In such a confrontation, FYROM can easily become the straw that will break the camel's back. Alternatively, we need to remember that only a few years ago, the Kosovar Albanians "defeated" the all powerful Serbian army, without firing a winning shot: others, Americans and Western Europeans, even Turks did the fighting for them. In history, you cannot pretend to play naive. You can always expect the worse case scenario. When Bulgaria entered the second Balkan war, all it had against it was the Greek and the Serbian armies, and the Bulgarian army was larger than the other two combined. It expected a quick victory in two weeks' time, long enough for the Great powers to intervene. Things did not go as planned, the Greeks and Serbs started winning, and then hell broke loose: Turks and Romanians joined the war against Bulgaria, and Bulgaria from formidable attacker ended up the defender, fighting for its existence. Moral of the story: If someone has land claims on your home, you do not simply shrug your shoulders and walk away. You confront the issue, until there is a resolution.

The former Yugoslav republic, under the 1995 agreement agreed to change its flag (which hitherto had used a Greek Macedonian Symbol). It also agreed "to rewrite its constitution to include a promise never to violate Greek territory or interfere in Greece's internal affairs". This basically means that the original constitution had made explicit references to a United Makedonija/Обединета Македонија/Obedineta Makedonija, the old Bulgarian and later Yugoslav slogan which was a war cry for land grab of historic Macedonia, from Northern Greece. Obviously they had to change it. They felt humiliated in the process, that is probably true. On the other hand, any little boy that senselessly tries to bully a stronger classmate in school and ends up getting slapped around, feels rightfully humiliated. The 30 year old amateur diplomats who have been running the little country's foreign policy for the last eighteen years are good at creating peaks of crises with bravado and hullabaloo, only to smash their heads on the wall, bringing unnecessary disappointment to their own people. This is precisely what they did in last year's NATO conference in Romania, when, with G.W.Bush's full support they tried to slip into NATO, bypassing the name issue, with champagne bottles ready to pop. When disaster struck, they did not know what to do and they were crying in front of the TV cameras, talking of a national catastrophe.

Mr. Whitlock's tells his readers that "Leaders in Macedonia, a poor, landlocked country about the size of New Hampshire, warned they may have trouble holding the nation together if Greece does not relent soon. Internal unrest, they said, could easily spread to other fragile nations in the Balkans...". let us take this argument and consider its opposite side: Greeks have been warning FYROM's politicians that may have trouble holding their nation together if the governing clique in Skopje does not relent soon and stop playing with Balkan fire.

Why is this line of arguments more correct? For several reasons. First of all, it was not Greece that started this whole mess, it was the Ultra-nationalist hotheads in Skopje. they are the ones who started and they are the ones who can instantly stop it. They adopted for themselves the name Macedonian, as if this name was existing in vacuum as a "freeware". Not so, since a province of Macedonia exists since 1913 in Greece.

While the name Macedonia was Greek in antiquity, by the early 20th century a multiple of people were considered geographically "Macedonians", for being inhabitants of Macedonia, in the same way people who lived in Bosnia Herzegovina were all Bosnians Herzegovinans but others were catholic, others Orthodox yet others Muslim. Macedonia was even more complex: people of a multiple linguistic, ethnic and religious affiliations made up its multiethnic mix. Everyone was a Macedonian, BUT NONE was an ethnic "Macedonian". This had to wait until 1943, when the Communist Party of Yugoslavia established a Communist Party of "Makedonija" and became determined to turn its Serbian, Bulgarian and other (Slavic and not only) inhabitants into full-bloodied "Makedonci".

Since the 2.6 million Greeks of Macedonia have a cultural Macedonian identity, they cannot forgo their own identity just because half as many Slavs north of their land decided to usurp the name Macedonian and try to make it an "ethnic" name. This needs to be understood. I will repeat it. When there is a shared name, a shared geographic identity, you cannot have one of them claim that THEY are the ones, the REAL ones, the TRUE ones and that the others now have to change into something else. Nothing aggravated a Macedonian Greek more than someone telling him " are you a Greek or a Macedonian?".

To a Greek this sounds like..."are you an American or a Californian?". If Baja California at some point in its future decides to become an independent state, cutting itself off from Mexico and calls itself California, will this give the Bajan Californians the right to be called the "ethnic" Californians subsequently refusing persons from San Francisco or Los Angeles their right to have a "Californian" identity?

Now, let's see again how it sounds: "Oh, you are from Los Angeles?...So, are you an American or a Californian? Do you speak Californian (which is of course perfectly Spanish, just the Mexican dialect of Baja California Spanish, now renamed "Californian") or you speak American"? It will not sound too convincing to many Californians, will it? Well, this is precisely what the Greeks have to deal with, for the last eighteen years. The Bulgarian and Serbian speaking Slavic population decides to change the name of their land and call it Makedonija. Then they decide to rename their Bulgarian dialect "Makedonski" and now they demand that the Greeks of Macedonia forgo their cultural and geographic identity as Macedonians. This is not going to happen, no matter how much the governments in Athens decide to "cooperate" and give in to seem cooperative.

But, "The problem is threatening the fabric of our society," Gjorge Ivanov, the president of Macedonia, said in an interview. "The pressure that Greece is making is destabilizing the whole region." is that so? And who told you to base your ethnic identity on a BIG LIE? If you have been lying to your own people for two generations about their true identity, is this now OUR problem? the Greeks of Macedonia can counter. And who is destabilizing "the whole region"? Who has been screaming about "United Makedonija!", who is polluting the internet with screams of "Solun" (the capital of Greek Macedonia, the one million strong city of Thessaloniki) "is the capital of United Makedonija!", who is being 19th century style irredentist?

Who is refusing to see reality in the eyes and tries to dig up ancient Greek Kings and adopt them as their own, refuting the true Slavic identity of their own people? Who is publishing State-sanctioned History books (the latest one came out a month ago), declaring that the Makedonci are not a Slavic nation! Is it the Greeks? The Serbs, The Bulgarians? No, it is people like this very same President Mr. Ivanov, and his boss, Nikola Gruevski.

Lincoln said it very eloquently that you cannot lie to ALL the people ALL the time. The BIG LIE will eventually catch up with you, at some point or another! It surely caught about with more than a hundred thousand Skopjan citizens to date who, fed up with the 35% unemployment, and unable to cash Alexander the Great's 72ft tall bronze statue for food stamps, have opted to go to the Bulgarian embassy in Skopje and declare themselves "ethnic Bulgarians". How many of them in reality feel Bulgarian is difficult to say, and at the end of the day it will not make any difference. For sure, every single one of them greatly appreciates the brand new red EU passport that allows them to find a job anywhere in Europe! The Slavs leave, the Albanians stay...the future Kosovo-style crises is beginning to brew...and whose fault it this?

This, Mr. Ivanov should be told, is the dynamite under the foundations of your multi-ethnic country: while you are busy creating and defending THE BIG LIE, you seem to have forgotten the big lessons of the collapse of Yugoslavia: "It's the Economy, Stupid!" Once people start going hungry, no lies will stand in front of their children's future and their family's survival!

In the same article we see mention of the Albanian minority and some of its concerns, which led in 1991 to an armed uprising. I would dare suggest that maybe the anti-Albanian riots in Monastir/Bitola and extreme pseudo-Makedonism is what led the Albanians to feel as second rate citizens in a "Macedonian state". Maybe I am wrong, but I will need to see some strong proof, because arguments like that "the assumption that Macedonia would join NATO" was going to act as a "guarantee of internal stability", sounds to me like empty talk. "It would give us medicine for our hot heads," said Menduh Tachi, leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Albanians." we read in the article. That is a remote possibility, I suppose, but we need to distinguish between what the leader of a political Party says, and what his constituents in the street say. The Albanian in the street needs a job, he needs a police that is not engaged in ethnic brutality and he needs a future, for him, for his family. People do not simply get to the guns and start a revolt unless they feel desperate that their future is taken from them. What does NATO have to do with the INTERNAL stability of FYROM and the Albanian issue? An argument can be convincingly be made for the EXTERNAL stability, but not the internal

In Mr. Whitlock's article we are told that "Macedonians say the name of the country is crucial to developing their still wobbly national identity." This is interesting. Greeks do not have a "wobbly" national identity, Serbs or Albanians do not either. They know who they are. Is it maybe because the so called "Macedonian" have been given a fake identity, for the last sixty-odd years, a make-believe identity that has not stuck well with them? And why is it so important to sweep all the half baked inventions of Yugolavia's Titoism under a NATO woven rug of convenience, and have the neighbors deal with the INEVITABLY ugly aftermath, whenever (not if...) that comes? No...while FYROM's Titoist rebaptized nomenclatura may be just jolly and fine with the perpetuation of pseudo-Makedonism's BIG LIE; a BIG LIE from which they can keep their stranglehold on this poor country and its resources, and the future EU funds, ready for VMRO corruption and plunder, the people of the area deserve a better future than that: THEY DEMAND A FINAL RESOLUTION OF THIS BAD JOKE OF AN ISSUE!

Craig Whitlock informs us that "Ethnic Albanians say they would revolt if the Slavic Republic of Macedonia was the new name because they are not Slavs". I honestly wonder, whom is he trying to convince? Where is the logic in his argument? First of all Greeks never said they want a Slavic Republic of "Macedonia", they suggested Slavomacedonia, which includes the word Macedonia in a "syn-thetic" name. If the "Makedonci" claim to be "ethnic Macedonians", and they want to call their name "Macedonia", their supposed name, then where do the Albanians fit into this? By the "Ethnic Macedonian" formula, the Albanians are NOT considered Macedonians, so, then, if it is called Slavomacedonia, what difference will it make to the Albanians? Call it Japanese Macedonia, Chinese Macedonia if you like, it still does not make any difference to the Albanians. If anything, the so called "Albanian" argument against Slavomacedonia, inevitably leads to a PURELY GEOGRAPHIC, purely non-ethnic, neutral name, that excludes nobody! Yes or no? If we try to be logical, we need to start making sense after some point, and not simply regurgitate arguments thrown arround by others with greater interests and bigger knifes to grind.

Towards the end we are given the argument of a hard liner Slavmacedonian big hat, a certain "Todor Petrov, president of the World Macedonian Congress" obviously some ultra-nationalist emigre', who "said the country should stop kowtowing to Greece and just call itself the Republic of Macedonia, regardless of how badly it wants to join NATO or the European Union." Perfect...and why should this gentleman give a hoot about whether "his" country joins the European Union and sees untold amounts of investment flow in that will create jobs for his "co-patriots"? Simply because, technically, I assume, he is not even THEIR compatriot. he does not live their misery and poverty. He is probably sitting in his office somewhere in Toronto, Sydney or Indianapolis, and he makes a comfortable living away from them. All he cares about is HIS identity as an emigre, which is light years away from the identity of the person on the ground in FYROM, the average unemployed SlavoMacedonian man who sells his family's "Makedonskata" identity for a EU passport that says EUROPEAN UNION outside in golden letter over red.

Then, and here the article becomes suspect of being more like a paid lobbyists stroke of genius rather than genuine journalism, we are quoted the same gentleman, Todor Petrov who "In an interview, he accused Greece of "practicing ethnic cleansing and genocide on the Macedonian nation" for the past 100 years. "They're denying our nationality and culture and church and history and our borders," he said." Really, now? I have seen photographs of Jews in crematoria and piles of corpses in Nazi concentration camps. I have seen pictures of beheaded Armenians, men women and children, in Turkey, during WWI, but I have still to see a photo of Greek Genocide against the "Macedonian" "nation".

Journalism, I would expect, demands fairness and balance. How can the rumblings of an ultra-nationalist emigre be given space to defame the Greeks through an imaginary BIG LIE, (which by the way is a very recent invention, they have come up witht hsi "genocide theory" post 2000) without allowing the reader the chance to hear so much as even a question mark on this? But lest I forget, did anyone notice what this Titoist nationalist just say at the end of his sentence? Let us revisit his uttering:

"They're denying our nationality and culture and church and history and our borders," he said." Your borders? Which borders? The United Macedonia borders? Where do your borders start and where do they end? Is the so called "Aegean Macedonia" (they will never be caught alive saying Greek Macedonia, so they invented the misnomer :"Aegean Macedonia") part of the borders you feel the Greeks are denying you?

Then the juicy fruits start coming one by one: "It is not just Macedonia's national identity that is at stake. The Greek government does not recognize ethnic minorities within its own borders, including Macedonian-speaking residents of northern Greece."

We are even offered the distinguished opinion of a very important gentleman: "Pavle Voskopoulos, a Greek citizen who leads the Rainbow Party, a group of ethnic Macedonians in northern Greece, said the country subscribes to a myth of a "pure" Greek people who are directly descended from Alexander and others from his era. "This is all about modern Greek identity," he said. "If there is a Macedonia as an independent state, this is a great threat against Greek policy and Greek ideology."

I grew up in Greece and went through most of my formative years there and that included even the years under the ludicrous colonels' Junta. I do not recall anyone teaching me about a "pure" Greek nation, yet I see our friends from Skopje repeatedly accusing Greeks of this very same myth. Greeks since antiquity know that it is not blood lines that make a nation, but common living, commonality in culture and common interests. though it sounds like a puzzle to others from outside, Americans do constitute a nation, and so do Australians and Canadians. There are subgroups that is for sure, but there is unity in diversity. Greek are the same.

Ancient Greeks were a dynamic mix of local Pelasgians, and other local tribes, Indo-European speaking Greeks, who arrived in Greece around 2000 BC, and as time went by they mixed with slaves, and others who came as a result of Alexander's expeditions in Asia, and later with Romans, Thracians, etc. Greek culture has been evolving the last 4000 years and it is the language that more than anything (religion too, to a smaller of greater degree, depending on the historic frame) that makes their nation. Who ever talked about racial purity? Only Dog breeders and Nazis are thinking in these terms. As for Pavlos Voskopoulos, the leader of the Party of the Ethnic Macedonians of Greece, I will ask the readers permission to copy here what I recently wrote in another recent article on this issue, about the political Party Mr Voskopoulos leads:

"When Ouranio Toxo/Ουράνιο Τόξο - Vinozhito (Raibow) a political Party representing the "ethnic Macedonians" slated candidates under the banners of the European Free Alliance (Eyropaiki Eleytheri Symmachia – Ouranio Toxo) for the in June 2009 Europarliament, the total votes tally they were able to receive in the districts of Macedonia were two thousand five hundred ninety four votes (2594), out of a population of 2.5 million Greek Macedonians

( ).

This is hardly making a case for allowing one third of Greece, Macedonia, to be split and given as a land grant to the FYROM ultra-nationalists in Skopje.

By comparison, the Komma Ellinon Kynigon (Fysi - Kynigi - Psarema - Paradosi)/Party of Greek Hunters (Nature -Hunting - Fishing - Tradition), the quintessential joke of a party in Greece, in the very same districts (Districts of Drama, Kavala, A' Thessalonikis, B' Thessalonikis, Serres, Chalkidiki, Kilkis, Pella, Imathia, Pieria, Florina, Kozani, Kastoria and Grevena) received 5900 votes, twice as many as Eyropaiki Eleytheri Symmachia – Ouranio Toxo / Vinozhito.

( ).

We are given here the opinion of the leader of a Party that was able to gather less than one vote per thousand people in Greek Macedonia supporting their cause, although they had tv time, and freedom to say whatever they wanted, yet they managed to gather half the votes of the hunter's party! What minority are we talking about then? the best statistics may be talking of some fifty thousand bilingual people who speak Slavic ALSO, besides Greek. And that is true especially of the older generations, but that again makes no difference: it is identity that counts, not language not blood, not anything else. Several, though not all, Muslim Slavs in Greece (Pomaks) consider themselves to be Turkish though they speak no word in Turkish. And Many Jews worldwide think of themselves as Jews though they speak no Hebrew. These are instances where one part of the identity, the religious one, overcomes language and other aspects of culture. I have met not a few Americans who are Greek Orthodox in religion and Greek in culture and identity, though they speak no word in Greek, and they revel in their double identity as both Americans and Greeks. It is self identity that counts. It is who and what you want to be. A huge part of identity, sometimes even primary, is of course language, but not the only one. A bilingual person can always chose the identity he prefers. Many families in pre-war Macedonia were split in half when one brother would decide to "became" a Bulgarian ("ethnic Macedonians" had not been invented yet) and another to "became" a Greek. A bilingual of Macedonia who speaks both Greek and Slavic, but considers himself to be a Greek and derogatorily calls the people across the frontiers "Yugoslavs", cannot be counted as one of Mr. Voskopoulos's voters or "ethnic minority" supporters. A Cuban-American in Miami, is typically a fully bilingual Spanish and English speaking, and while he has a strong Spanich/Cuban identity is also at the same time very much an American.

The Washington Post article continues by informing us that FYROM "has renamed its national stadium for King Philip II, Alexander's father, and organized dozens of archaeological digs." It is not what you dig out that matters to Greeks, but the language found written in the artifacts, and the culture that created these artifacts. Claiming for example prehistoric stone-age artifacts as "proof" of an age-long continuum of (Slavo)"Macedonian" culture is as ludicrous as naming Greek funerary, religious and political Greek inscriptions "ancient-Macedonian" epigraphy. The Zenith of "Fyromian-antiquization" kitsch is displayed in the governing Palace in Skopje, where a series of priceless ancient Greek statues have been arranged with total disregard to their care, on the sidewalk, as proof of "ancient Macedonian" art. Similarly, a huge Greek inscription which mentions the Makedonarchs (leaders of Macedonia) has been hauled from the Archaeological site and taken to decorate the entry to Mr. Gruevski's Gubernatorial building.

"Officials", we are reminded, "also like to needle Greeks that the philosopher Aristotle, who tutored the teenage Alexander, was from the kingdom of Macedonia, not Athens". This is a true statement: Athens was not Greece, Athens was IN Greece. Macedonia was in Greece too. The fact that someone was from Macedonia, like Aristotle, does not make him any less a Greek than someone from Athens as someone from Sparta or Hellenistic Egypt or Syracuse in southern Italy. the fact that Eratosthenes was from Egypt does not make him an Arab, since Arabs came into Egypt seven Hundred years after him. He was Greek. The fact that Archimedes was from Syracuse, does not make him a Roman, he was a Greek who was in fact killed by a Roman during the capture of his country, his city state by the Romans. And after all, Aristotle is not known for simply being Alexander's tutor...he is the man that established the scientific method and one of the two pillars, along with Plato, of ancient Greek Philosophy. And there is no question as to what language he wrote in. If he was a "Slavo-Makedonski" Macedonian, why did he not write in Slavic? The Romans were brutes and uneducated in the beginning yet when they started writing they wrote in their own language, Latin. Where is that elusive language of the Macedonians, the ancient conquerors of the known world, the language of Alexander, Philip II and Aristotle, if it was not the Greek they left us in their incriptions?

The fact that there are plenty of pseudo-scientists in FYROM, like the Archaeologist "Pasko Kuzman, the government's director of cultural heritage" who prostitute their allegiance to science for the sake of pseudo-scientific political ends, is not surprising. Hitler found doctors who killed their fellow humans in order to execute SS-ordered human "experiments". I would never call Pasko Kuzman an SS officer, far from it (though I have no problem describing some of his political bosses in VMRO as such). No, his description "as a cross between Indiana Jones and Santa Claus" goes along way to create a good picture of him, but I would definitely add a bit of Goebbels into the mix: it is the BIG LIE "thing"...with which he has been raised, in Tito's Yugoslavia and from which, like a second skin, he cannot get out of.

Someone could easily claim that Greeks are too emotionally involved to be credible, when speaking of ancient Macedonia. I can say that this might be correct with some. On the other hand, the facts are facts and nobody can escape from them, not even FYROM government's own "director of cultural heritage". Then, who would be the best to expose the falacy and fakeness of pseudoMacedonist theories? None other than the ex prime minister of the country, i suppoze, Ljupco Georgievski, who abandoned Pseudomakedonism and went to maika Bulgaria and got a Bulgarian passport, remembering that his grandparents were all Bulgarian, after all. This is how the ex-Prime Minister countered Pasko Kuzman's nebulous theories, logically and point to point:

But in Craig Whitlock's interview, the professor had other things to say:

"The Greeks are sorry that they are called Greece and not Macedonia," he said. "What else can I tell you?"

Don't say anything professor...polla eipas/πολλά είπας and, as Aristotle, that timeless Macedonian philosopher said: "ouk en to pollo to eu"/"ούκ εν τώ πολλώ τό εύ"!...I do not need to translate what he said, you are eis Makedon/είς Μακεδών/a Macedonian, as you claim; I am sure you can read Aristotle in the original...

Then, after you finish Aristotle, please go and read what 350 Classics professors world wide are saying, on the Macedonia issue, in their Open Letter to President Obama:

What was Pasko Kuzman's reply to that letter?

It is right here, on national tv:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Errata in Craig Witlock’s Article: Another Rift between Greece, Macedonia

Craig Witlock’s articles in the Washington Post, Another Rift Between Greece, Macedonia Both Lay Claim to Alexander the Great, of July 28th is hardly an objective piece of reporting.

I find it highly questionable, for instance, that Mr. Witlock refers to no less than 6 pro-FYROM sources in the article (Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki; President Gjorge Ivanov, opposition leader Menduh Tachi; Todor Petrov, president of the World Macedonian Congress; Pavle Voskopoulos, leader of the pro-“Macedonian” Rainbow Party; and Mr. Pasko Kuzman, the FYROM’s Director of Cultural Heritage), versus only only pro-Greek source: Deputy Foreign Minister Yannis Valinakis. This is hardly an objective or balanced composition of sources, and I wonder at the validity of the Washington Post’s editorial policy that allowed this.

Beyond this, there are a number of salient facts which are omitted, while other crucial misrepresentations—not to say, propaganda—are accepted as fact:

1. In contrast to the avowed peaceful intentions expressed by the FYROM side, a number of maps, textbook content and speeches in FYROM have made reference to a “Greater Macedonia.” This refers to a Slavic-speaking “Macedonian” political entity which includes parts of the Greek province of Macedonia, including the city of Thessaloniki, as well as parts of Bulgaria. While these had their origin in Tito’s Yugoslavia, and were in part a Soviet attempt to destabilise Greece during the Greek Civil War, their continuation in FYROM on a number of instances since 1991 are regrettable.

2. The argument that Greece is destabilising the region by refusing FYROM entry into NATO is disingenuous, and incorrect. The conflict between the Slavic majority and the Albanian minority in FYROM is an internal matter, and stems from the government’s treatment of the Albanian minority in the recent past. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Greece, or NATO. The article neglects to mention that Greece supported the NATO peacekeeping force in FYROM, and that it has made its general support for FYROM’s entry—subject to a mutual resolution of the name issue—a matter of public record. The article also fails to note that Greece has publicly supported the candidacies of Bulgaria, Romania and other Balkan countries to both NATO and the European Union.

3. Historically speaking, Alexander the Great and his father, Philip II of Macedon, spoke a dialect of Doric Greek. There are over 6,000 inscriptions, epigraphs, coins and other artefacts in museums all over the world as well as the archaeological sites of Pella or Vergina which attest to this. The citizens of FYROM speak an entirely different language, which could be termed “Slavic”. There is absolutely no historical continuity between the Hellenic/Hellenistic culture and influence of the ancient Kingdom of Macedon, and the current state of FYROM.

4. Whether or not the government of Greece recognises the existence of ethnic minorities within its borders is besides the point. In fact, minorities are recognised in Greece, as national policies regarding the Roma or ethnic-Turkish minorities indicate. But this has literally nothing to do with the attempt to create a “Macedonian” cultural identity based on Alexander the Great that is currently taking place in FYROM, or the naturally opposing reaction of that country’s ethnic Albanian minority.

The policy of Greece is to negotiate with FYROM until a mutually-acceptable, exclusive name is found: This has been the Greek position for over 15 years now, and has been clearly and repeatedly expressed by successive governments. Greece joined NATO in 1951, and the EU in 1981, and has made major contributions to both organisations. I see no reason why both Greek policy and history should be challenged or indeed misrepresented in an article which is so biased and one-sided, unless of course the Washington Post has decided to change its long-standing journalistic and editorial policy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Andreas Willi on Macedonia

Andreas Willi has written a rebuttal of sorts (pdf) to the letter of the Macedonia Evidence Initiative. It is an extremely interesting piece of doublethink, and as such, it is useful to address in some detail.

Willi (henceforth W.) writes:
The internet documentation which is referred to in the letter may be right when it sees nothing but “a personal grudge” behind Demosthenes’ calling Philip II a “barbarian,” but to cite Herodotus 5.22 as conclusive evidence that Alexander the Great was “thoroughly and indisputably Greek” is seriously misleading, since Herodotus’ statement “I happen to know that [the forefathers of Alexander] are Greek” is triggered precisely by the existence of a dispute over the matter, long before the age of Demosthenes.

Indeed, there was a dispute over the matter, but the key point is that the dispute was resolved in favor of the Macedonian claims of Hellenicity. So, if the Hellanodikai of ancient Olympia accepted the Macedonian king as a Hellene, what reason does W. have to doubt them? Indeed, this acceptance occurred a century and a half at least before the ascent of Macedonians as a great power, so there is no reason to think that the judges' acceptance was the result of pressure.
Thus, we know that Alexander affirmed his Hellenicity --by choosing to compete at the Olympic games-- and this affirmation (and that of his successors who also competed) were affirmed by the other Greeks. We have both a proclamation and an acceptance of his Hellenicity.

W. writes:
As for (b), the question “Why was Greek the lingua franca all over Alexander’s empire if he was a ‘Macedonian’?” cannot be adequately answered with the words “[Because] Alexander the Great was Greek,” given that we have numerous examples of ancient empires in which the lingua franca was not the language of the ruler.
The unnamed examples of "ancient empires" notwithstanding, it is the case that Empires usually spread their own language. The Romans much esteemed Greek as a language of learning, but they spread Latin, not Greek to most of their Empire. Centuries later, the Europeans, who much esteemed Latin, spread Spanish or English to their empires.

Languages are spread by people, and Empires spread the languages of their peoples. What wondrous miracle would result in myriads of Macedonians settling throughout Asia not to leaving a single trace of their non-Hellenic presence? Did the Macedonians decide to abandon their language at precisely the time of their own triumph? A simpler explanation is that they did not.

But, here comes the doublethink, as W. writes of the ancient Paionians:
What is at the core of the letter is a mistaken and unhealthy notion of historical identity. “While it is true that the Paionians were subdued by Philip II, father of Alexander, in 358 B.C. they were not Macedonians and did not live in Macedonia”—but is that really so? How many Paionians did we ask about it, and at what point in history?
Thus, W. questions the letter's statement that the Paionians were not Macedonians. None of the ancient sources ever confuse the two people, or assert that the Paionians were Macedonians. But, let us grant, for the sake of argument, that at some point in their history, the Paionians felt like Macedonians.

But, if feelings sufficed, then how can W. deny the feelings of the Macedonian kings to be Hellenes? If Paionians may be Macedonians since they may have considered themselves to be such, how can W. simultaneously cast doubt to the claims of the Macedonian kings to be Hellenes, when they certainly did consider themselves to be such.

W. continues:
The comparison with Egypt is awkward, for at least after the incorporation of “Paionia” under Antigonos Gonatas (249 BCE) a territorially continuous political unity had come into being which survived as such in the Roman provincial administration. That the case of Egypt is rather different in this respect need hardly be stressed.
Suppose that Paionians did start feeling like Macedonians during Roman times. Certainly, in Strabo's time, who lived after the Roman conquest, the Paionians continue to be reckoned as a different people, while Macedonia is reckoned as part of Hellas. But, let's suppose that indeed a "Macedonian identity" formed.

But, then, in Byzantine times, the Macedonian theme, consisted of a completely different region, in Thrace. So, whatever, "Macedonian" identity may have formed, it was no lasting thing, having disappeared by medieval times, and transferred to Thrace. Thus, the argument that FYROM Slavs can be seen as inheritors of a distinctive "Macedonian" identity from antiquity collapses. Their only relationship to Macedonia is that they happen to live in what was the Ottoman province of Macedonia.

W. writes:
Moreover, to use an ancient but immediately relevant analogy, are we really to think that Thucydides got it all wrong when he wrote that, decades before the conquest of Paionia, the term “Macedonia” also applied to lands not inhabited by “ethnic” Macedonians (Thuc. 2.99)?
But, Thucydides statement actually opposes W's argument:
Assembling in Doberus, they prepared for descending from the heights upon Lower Macedonia, where the dominions of Perdiccas lay; [2] for the Lyncestae, Elimiots, and other tribes more inland, though Macedonians by blood and allies and, dependents of their kindred, still have their own separate governments. [3] The country on the sea coast, now called Macedonia, was first acquired by Alexander, the father of Perdiccas, and his ancestors, originally Temenids from Argos. This was effected by the expulsion from Pieria of the Pierians, who afterwards inhabited Phagres and other places under Mount Pangaeus, beyond the Strymon (indeed the country between Pangaeus and the sea is still called the Pierian gulf) of the Bottiaeans, at present neighbors of the Chalcidians, from Bottia, [4] and by the acquisition in Paeonia of a narrow strip along the river Axius extending to Pella and the sea; the district of Mygdonia, between the Axius and the Strymon, being also added by the expulsion of the Edonians. [5] From Eordia also were driven the Eordians, most of whom perished, though a few of them still live round Physca, and the Almopians from Almopia. [6] These Macedonians also conquered places belonging to the other tribes, which are still theirs--Anthemus, Crestonia, Bisaltia, and much of Macedonia proper. The whole is now called Macedonia, and at the time of the invasion of Sitalces, Perdiccas, Alexander's son, was the reigning king.
It is clear from this passage that Macedonians e.g., the Lyncestae) existed outside the Macedonian state, while some people who lived within it were not reckoned as Macedonians. Macedonians and the "Kingdom of Macedonia" are not conterminous entities. Thucydides does not assert that the non-Macedonians within the Macedonian state become, by reason of their inclusion in this state, Macedonians.

Thus, there were non-Macedonians within the Kingdom of Macedonia, and none of the independent self-governing Macedonians listed by Thucydides lived in present-day FYROM.

W. writes:
But to call Cleopatra a “Macedonian” gives away what constitutes true identity in the eyes of the letter’s authors: to them, identity seems defined by ancestry and blood-lines, by the past more than the present. Are we then to conclude that, for example, John F. Kennedy—or George W. Bush or Barack Obama, for that matter—were never real Americans? And if John F. Kennedy’s ancestors spoke Irish at one point, is it preposterous for all English-speaking Americans to use him today in their construction of a national identity because of that?
On what basis was Cleopatra not a Macedonian? She was a Macedonian by blood, and indeed by a fairly inbred pedigree full of Macedonians. But, suppose we discount, for the sake of argument, the importance of ancestry. Why, still, was Cleopatra not a Macedonian?

According to W. the conquered Paionians became Macedonians on account of them being conquered, but Cleopatra, the descendant of the conquerors of Egypt became a non-Macedonian, and, presumably, an Egyptian.

In W's strange world of doublethink, it appears that conquerors become the conquered (Cleopatra becomes an Egyptian), and the conquered become the conquerors (Paionians become Macedonians).

W. continues the JFK analogy:
By coming to America John F. Kennedy’s ancestors chose to become Americans (with Irish roots); but why could the Slavs coming to Macedonia then not become Macedonians (with Slavic roots)?
The analogy is false, for several reasons. First of all, JFK's ancestors came to the US as peaceful immigrants while the Slavs came to Macedonia as enemies of the local inhabitants. One needs to read the Miracula Sancti Demetrii to see what the local Macedonians thought of Slavs during the time of their arrival.

But, for the sake of argument, let's accept that the Slavs after several centuries, and because they live in part of Ottoman Macedonia, have some reason to consider themselves some kind of Macedonian. If this was all they did, no Greek would mind; after all, Greeks speak of Turkocretans, or Turkocypriots, or Slavomacedonians.

No, the real issue is that the Slavs of FYROM want to usurp the rights to the use of Macedonians exclusively for Slavs. Consider the official FYROM state policy about the existence of a "Macedonian" minority in Greece, which is -supposedly- oppressed by Greeks.

Going back to the Irish immigrants example, imagine if Irish immigrants not only started calling themselves Americans, but also started speaking about an American minority (by which they meant Americans of Irish origin) oppressed by "Anglos." That is, they tried to dispossess the original bearers of the name and take it as their property. Yet, this is precisely what FYROM Slavs are attempting to do.

W. writes:
No matter what its ethnic mix was—and what serious scholar would nowadays want to argue that the only “good” states are ethnically “pure” states, in which everyone must speak the same language?—the tendentiously-labeled “pseudo-greater Macedonia,” far from being a recent invention, did exist as a real recent invention, did exist as a real identitarian concept well before the 20th century. And in a sense its roots can be traced back to the conquests of Philip II, Alexander the Great and their successors in “Paionia”; for if those conquests had never taken place, the history of the region would have looked different and the territory of “Paionia” might not have shared the fate and fortune of “Aegean” Macedonia for long stretches of its history. Thus, unless one subscribes to a dangerous “blood-and-soil ideology,” there is no reason why the modern Slavic Macedonians should not be allowed to continue to call their country “Macedonia” and to pride themselves in Alexander the Great just as much as the modern Hellenic Greeks do. What does it matter if Alexander “was Greek, not Slavic,” as long as no one claims the opposite?
This is a truly peculiar argument. Alexander's conquests influenced the history of much of the known world, so, should they all be called Macedonians on account of being conquered by the actual Macedonians?

Also, what can one make of the statement about sharing the "fate and fortune"? Was a Macedonian Greek in any case closer to a Skopje Slav because they both happened to live in a territory that Ottoman Sultans claimed to be Macedonia? Was he not closer --Ottoman borders notwithstanding-- to a Thessalian or Thracian Greek? If we abandon the "blood-and-soil ideology", should we replace it with a "borders-and-history ideology", whereby an annexation of Paionia 23 centuries ago has forever marked the territory as Macedonia?

FYROM Slavs may, of course, feel pride that the ancient Paionians were conquered by Philip and Alexander a thousand years before their linguistic ancestors came to Macedonia. I don't feel particular pride that Greece was conquered by the Romans or the Ottomans or the Nazis, but there's no accounting for taste.

One cannot fail to notice, however, how thoroughly un-Macedonian this attitude is. Philip and Alexander loved Greek culture, and proudly proclaimed their Greekness, while these modern "Macedonians" despise Greeks, and proudly proclaim their non-Greekness. I submit this as exhibit A in the case that they are not, indeed, Macedonians at all.



I want to add a remark as regards Pr Willi article and Dienekes comments. Andrew Rossos is not a Greek Macedonian as false has written from Pr Willi but a known Slav Macedonian Professor that lives and teach in Canada. His articles and his latest book is a hymn of propaganda and unbalanced critique. This show that Andreas Willi is missiformed as regards the Macedonian Issue.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Name Game....The future of EU expansion? It all depends on what the meaning of the word "Macedonia" is.


The European Union is a club with a long line out the door. Just ask Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, or Turkey. But for one Balkan country, the biggest problem is showing the right ID at the velvet rope. Seven former communist countries were able to enter both NATO and the EU by the end of the Bush years. But last year the Greek government blocked the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from joining NATO, citing bad neighborly relations, and is determined to torpedo its EU bid as well. The reason? It's all in a name.

FYROM, perhaps due to the unwieldiness of its acronym, has tried to enter as just "Macedonia," the name of the ancient empire of Alexander the Great. But Greece also has a northern province called "Macedonia" and worries that Skopje has expansionist ambitions.

The United States supports the eastward expansion of NATO in an effort to shrink the Russian sphere of influence and -- the name issue notwithstanding -- FYROM would seem to be a perfect candidate for membership. The Obama administration can help the United Nations solve the dispute by abandoning the Bush administration policy of stubbornly backing the "Macedonians" and talk its fledgling friend into a compromise that will push it over the Balkan hump.

But doing so won't be easy. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia understandably doesn't like to be known by its cumbersome post-Titoist tag. "Don't You FYROM Me!" is a favorite bumper sticker on the streets of Skopje. In the 1990s, foreign observers doubted the viability of this landlocked country with an explosive cultural makeup and powerful neighbors. Ethnic Albanians, Turks, Roma, Serbians, Bulgarians, and Greeks are all packed together in a state the size of Vermont. It's not surprising that such a fragile country would want to cling its oldest and most respectable heritage.

The largest minority in FYROM are Albanians, who desperately want to become members of the EU and NATO. Besides the obvious economic benefits, membership would ultimately allow these Albanians closer ties with their coethnics in the western Balkans. They are growing impatient with the recent surge in "Alexandermania" backed by the Slav majority that promotes an exclusively "Macedonian" identity for the country. Last month, the government unveiled plans to erect an $8 million, 72-foot statue of Alexander the Great atop his horse, Bucephalus, in the capital square. Never mind that the historical Alexander's actual capital was located inside modern Greece.

More troubling are the maps in "Macedonian" textbooks that show their ancestral homeland stretching far into present-day Greece (as well as Bulgaria and Albania) and describe Thessaloniki, the capital of the northern province of Greece, as occupied territory. These are irredentist claims that justifiably worry the Greeks.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Alexander the Great: how Slavic was he?

27 January 2009

The real question is not whether Alexandre trhe Great was Greek or not. He has. The real question is whether the Slavic invaders to the Balkans during the 7th century AD, more than one thousand years after Alexandre, can claim today any other nationality than Slavic and have the right to hold any other passport than Bulgarian. And the answer is simply NO.

by Prof. Paul Cartledge, Cambridge University

Nation-state building in its most urgent form was a particularly prominent 19th-century phenomenon. Small proto-states then were seeking to get out from under the stifling embrace of the big empires of the day - whether British, Turkish, French or Russian. But that process of political emancipation was not confined by any means to the 19th century; indeed, it continues, in places very strongly or even violently, to this day. And new nation-states that choose to base their essential identity on ethnicity, in order to determine who ‘the people’ are, tend to need heroes. Not least, they feel the need for founding-father type heroes from the past who can be seamlessly re-appropriated (and of course made over) as the nation’s living ancestors.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - or just plain ‘Macedonia’, as it is known officially to its inhabitants and, more surprisingly, to George Bush’s United States of America - is exactly one such emergent ethnic nation-state of today in search of retrospective founding-father ancestors. Unfortunately, one of its ‘ancestors’ of choice, Alexander the Great, is already very well spoken for - in fact, most vigorously claimed and appropriated - by the neighbouring state of Greece. Though Greece began the process of independent nation-state building as early as the 1820s, it did not achieve its present geopolitical configuration until the 1940s, well within the living memory of its oldest generations. Hence it too is still not a little sensitive about its founding-father ancestors; and though it has a far huger pool to choose from than does FYROM, it too chooses to make a song and dance about Alexander as a true-blue Hellene, because the area of northern Greece centred on Greek Macedonia with its capital at Thessaloniki is the most ethnically diverse and the most ethnically contested in all the present-day Greek state. Therein lie the source, and the cause of its intensity, of the conflict between Greece and FYROM over the question of Alexander’s true ethnicity - a fundamentally historical question, but one that has become twisted out of all recognition by politics: just how Greek or Hellenic was he, really?

It’s very difficult today to classify precisely the language of the ancient Macedonians, because so few examples of it have been preserved. But two things about it are reasonably certain, or at least agreed among the experts. It was basically a dialect of Greek, but so interlarded with words of non-Greek, mainly Thracian origin that not just because of accent but also because of vocabulary it could be incomprehensible to speakers of ’standard’ Greek dialects. For example, Alexander himself when under the stress of huge emotion is recorded as speaking ‘in Macedonian’. The issue of difference of customs is also complex, but two features may be salient. Unlike Greeks elsewhere, both in mainland Greece and in the diaspora, the Macedonians had not developed a civilisation based on cities (poleis), and correspondingly they had not developed a strong political notion of citizenship. To try to convey an idea of this difference, scholars speak - however misleadingly - of Macedonian tribalism, even feudalism. That traditional way of doing politics was not significantly altered until only a couple of generations before Alexander the Great, in the late 5th century BCE.

Apart from the lack of citification, what would have astonished all other Greeks - except the Spartans perhaps - was the practice of royal polygamy. King Philip II, Alexander the Great’s father, amassed a collection of seven wives in all, only two of whom were Macedonian Greeks. Alexander’s own mother Olympias was a Greek Greek, as it were, a royal princess from Epirus. Elsewhere, monogamy was not just required for all Greeks - but also regarded as a defining feature of Greek as opposed to barbarian culture.

These linguistic and cultural differences could be exploited politically, then as now. Demosthenes of Athens complained you used not even to be able to buy a decent slave from Macedonia (implying it was a barbarian territory) whereas now Macedonia under Philip II lorded it over the rest of mainland Greece including Athens as if its subjects were barbarian slaves themselves. At the battle of Issus in Asia Minor in 333, Alexander’s difficulties in fighting the forces of the Persian king Darius III were compounded by the fact that many Greeks had enlisted as mercenaries on the side of Darius precisely because they hated Macedonians so.

My point in reminding readers of these ancient contentions over the ethnicity and meaning of ‘Macedonian’ is to emphasise how far the disputes were manufactured and exploited for political reasons, rather than based on scientific historical knowledge and understanding of the facts (such as they are and were). The same seems to me true today. On October the 28th 2007 the United Macedonian Diaspora organised a protest outside Parliament House in Canberra against FYROM’s assertion that Alexander was a (non-Greek) Macedonian. It is vital, I believe, that the Greek-Australian community’s response is measured, well articulated and clear. It is my view that neo-nationalist perspectives on ancient history do little to generate cohesion or cross-cultural harmony - particularly in immigrant nations such as Australia. I am also of the view that it is somewhat irrelevant whether Alexander was Greek or Macedonian according to any modern, retrospective, reappropriating notion of those terms. What matters is that he was a hugely significant leader, imbued with Hellenic values, but blessed also with a global and no less importantly multicultural perspective on the world.

I say ‘Greek or Hellenic’, because in English the very term ‘Greek’ is itself the result of ethnocentrism, a very ancient ethnocentrism admittedly, since it goes back to the ancient Romans, the Americans of their day. The Graikoi were indeed Greek - or Hellenic, as the Greeks themselves would have put it. They lived in Thessaly, the region immediately adjoining Greek Macedonia on the south. But they were small fry, bit-part players in the major ancient dramas. The ancient Greeks as a whole, who called themselves collectively ‘Hellenes’, would no more have considered calling themselves all ‘Graikoi’ than all Australians would today consider calling themselves Darwinites. Perhaps that’s another, historically conditioned reason why Greeks today or people of Greek descent, when speaking Greek insist so strongly that Macedonia is, was and always has been Greek, I mean Hellenic.

Yet, thereby hangs another irony, and another ancient one. Because even in ancient times there was a debate in Greece over the ethnicity of the Macedonians, that is over whether they were - or all of them were, and had always been - Greek (Hellenic Greek). This debate surfaces in Herodotus, at a critical moment in his account of the Graeco-Persian Wars. Ancient Macedonia, including a part of what is today FYROM, was then a subject province of the Persian empire, that empire’s European toehold or bridgehead. That was embarrassing enough for patriotic Greeks - but perhaps their consciences could be salved by saying that the Macedonians weren’t ‘really’ Hellenes? Herodotus was on the case, though only in retrospect of course. His enquiries led him to confirm the report he was given by the Macedonians themselves - that they were indeed Greek.

However - and it is a big ‘however’ - honesty compelled Herodotus to add that, when the Macedonian king of the day, another Alexander (Alexander the First), had applied to compete in the all-Greek and only-Greek Olympic Games, his fellow- competitors had objected that he was a ‘barbarian’ (non-Greek). But the judges of the Games, who were known as Hellenodikai or ‘Judges of the Hellenes’, had decided in his favour - on grounds of descent, as follows. The royal family to which Alexander belonged called themselves Argeadai, descendants of Argeas, and their family tradition held that Argeas, the ultimate founding father of their family line, took his name from Argos in the Peloponnese - indeed that he had originally emigrated from Argos to Macedonia to found the line. The Olympic Judges accepted that tradition as true. But - and again, it is a big ‘but’ - they did not then go on to declare that henceforth all Macedonians were entitled, as Hellenes, to compete in the Olympics. Entitlement was extended only to the royal Aegead family, not to all other Macedonians as well ….

Why so? Put it another way, why was there such dispute and discord, even among ancient Greeks, over the Hellenic identity and authenticity of the Macedonians? Even though, it has to be added, this dispute and discord flew in the face of very ancient Hellenic mythic genealogy, according to which Makedon, the eponymous forefather of all Macedonians, occupied an exalted position high up in the family-tree agreed on by all Hellenes. There were I think two main reasons. First, language, and second, customs - remembering that Herodotus, when he placed a definition of Greekness in the mouths of the Athenians, singled out precisely those two factors as crucially definitional.

Paul Cartledge is a Professor of Greek History at Cambridge University, and a fellow of Clare College. A world expert on Athens and Sparta in the Classical Age he has been described as a Laconophile. He was chief historical consultant for the BBC TV series The Greeks and the Channel 4 series The Spartans, presented by Bettany Hughes.
He has published The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others (2nd ed, 2002), the product of research into Greek self-definition; Kosmos: essays in Order, Conflict and Community in Classical Athens (coauthor Millet, Paul.) (2002) Cambridge University Press; The Spartans: An Epic History (2nd ed, 2003); Alexander the Great: The Hunt for a New Past (2004) Helots and Their Masters in Laconia and Messenia: Histories, Ideologies, Structures (2004) Center for Hellenic Studies.; Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World (2006). The Overlook Press.


Friday, July 03, 2009

Was Alexander the Great a Slav?

613x This is a row I really don't get. Over the last few years FYROM (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) has been investing heavily in Alexander the Great. FYROM's main airport is now called "Alexander the Great Airport" (better than "John Lennon" or "Bob Hope" airports, you might think). A vast statue of Alexander (eight storeys high, apparently) is planned for the centre of Skopje. And the word on the street is that Alexander was a Slav.

This seems to me to be at best rather touching. It's nice to think that there is still enough symbolic life in this drunken juvenile thug that someone wants him for their nation. At worst, it is faintly silly. The antecedents of Alexander are a bit murky, but in truth there isn't a cat in hell's chance that he was a Slav. I can see also that it could be a bit annoying to some Greeks who might want to try to claim Alexander for themselves (this is a better claim than the Slavic one, but not exactly cast iron).

But what on earth has persuaded over 300 classical scholars (several of whom are good friends of mine) to sign a letter to President Obama (copy to Mrs Clinton et al.) asking him to intervene personally to clear up this FYROM historical travesty.

I hope Obama has got some more important wrongs to right. But supposing that he has had a minute to look at this missive, I trust that he won't be won over by the outraged arguments.


The territory of FYROM, they point out, is more strictly that of ancient Paionia, not Macedonia (fair enough, but so what -- we dont stop Northern Ireland calling itself part of Great Britain, even though it wasn't part of ancient Britannia). The other arguments in the letter are decidedly dodgier, and not the kid of thing that the learned signatories would (I hope) give high marks to in an undergraduate essay.

There is the usual stuff about how Alexander's ancestors must have been Greek as they competed in the Olympic Games (in fact there was originally some dispute at the time about whether they were, or were not, Greek enough to qualify). But the worst argument is the claim that 'the Macedonians traced their ancestry to Argos", and so were bona fide, not FYROM-style, Greeks. Well of course the Macedonians said that. It was a convenient and self-serving MYTH, no truer than the Athenians' claim that they were born from the soil of Athens.

By putting their names to this rubbish, I cant help feeling that my friends are stooping to exactly the kind of nationalsm that they are trying to oppose. If you really wanted to undermine the Macedonian claims, wouldn't it be better (and academically more credible) simply to laugh at them and just refuse to take them seriously?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A reader(iconoclast) answer to FYROM President claims

The Spiegel Online article is frought with misinformation and out right lies. Unfortunately, it seems that the reporter Renate Flottau does is not well versed with the subject that she is attempting to tackle, leading to Ivanov making false statements that she allows him to get away with without challenging him in anyway.

Ivanov is a blatent lier.

He says:

"Does anybody really believe that we would attack Greece and demand a union with "Macedonians" who have been living in Greece since 1913"
Greece has not stated that they see the instability manifest itself in the absurd notion that Ivanov is putting forward, but rather the propaganda that eminates from Skopje is creating instability, right now. This is not some sort of dream we are living. There are no "Macedonian" people living in Greece since 1913, these people are bi-lingual citizens of Greece. They chose to remain in Greece during population exchange that occured after the 1912-13 Balkan War, and thus asserting their choice to be Greek citizens. What Ivanov is asserting is his twisted propaganda, once again.

Ivanov says:

"These maps of the ethnic "Macedonians" from the 19th century, when all "Macedonians" lived together in one state."
What a load of absolute garbage. These people that Ivanov refers to "Macedonians" were Slavs who lived in the region of Macedonia that was a part of the Ottoman Empire, there was no such state of "Macedonia" that he is attempting to manufacture. Such a state, in the sense of a nation did not exist, but only in his delusional mind and in the delusional mind of the Slavs of the newly created nation state of the FYROM. In the geographical region of Macedonia, there was a "La Salade Macedeoineis" of ethnicities, Turks, Albainians, Bulgars, Serbs, Roma and Greeks. These Slavs of the FYROM had at that time an ethnic conscience of being Bulgar. So this rubbish Ivanov is espousing is just that rubbish.

He says:

"Many "Macedonians" who were forced to flee Greece, had to leave behind everything they had"
Yes, Mr. Ivanov but these individuals also were considered traitors of the Greek state. They were not forced to flee, they fled due to their prior traitorous actions against the Greek state that led them to flee on their own volition. If they had stayed they would have been charged as enemy combatants and traitors, and at that time, would have been put up against a firing squad and shot. So they fled to save their own skin!

Ivanov says:

"They were brought by the emigrants. As opponents of the communists, they were expelled and they returned after the communist regime fell."
These people fled on their own violition because they chose to fight with the communists and against the Greek state, not the rubbish that Ivanov tries to put forward, that they were "opponents of the communists." What a joke this guy is! These people, who were Greek citizens were traitors to the Greek state.

Ivanov says:

"Our constitution, because of pressure from Greece, prohibits us from doing that. But as a member of the EU, Greece must accept that European principles must be adhered to across Europe -- also when it comes to its minorities."
Which minorities is he refering to? He is attempting to create something that does not exist. There are bi-lingual Greek citizens that live in Greece, no one is denying this. Rather, Ivanov is with his acolytes attempting, to create a dynamic which results in social instability. This is what his failed propaganda is attempting to do. These people are simply delusional.

Ivanov says:

"It wasn't Macedonia, but rather Greece that evoked antiquity in order to prove its authenticity."
No, Mr. Ivanov it has been your nations state sponsored propaganda that has been attempting to establish a direct link to the Greek speaking Ancient Macedonians, who by themselves, considered themselves Greek. Your state sponsored psuedo-history is attempting to assert that the Ancient Macedonians were your ancestors. The Greek people are fully in their right to protest and protect and cherrish their history. One need only open their eyes to your actions, rather than to your words to see the reality. You Mr. Ivanov are a propagandist and a delusional lier.

Ivanov says:

"We fulfilled every reform, our people planned for the future, foreign investments were announced. Worst of all is the fact that up to today not a single NATO official has found it necessary to discuss it with us or to offer the prospect of a solution. My God, we have been treated unfairly."
No Mr. Ivanov, you have been treated fairly. You have not fulfilled every reform. The NATO was fully within its right to deny your nation an invitation to join the NATO. You were denied admittance for very legitimate reasons put forward by one of its members, Greece, in which the NATO thoughtfully considered, and agreed with Greece's position.

Maybe Mr. Ivanov, rather than acting like an immature child that spits its dummy when it doesn't get what it wants, which exactly what you have recently demonstrated by erecting all manner of ancient Greek statues, renaming your streets, buldings and anything else you could think of to names of ancient Greeks, you might want to be somewhat introspective, grow up, act mature, and take actions that demonstrates that you deserve to enter the NATO. Right now, the NATO itself doesn't think you are ready. It's really quite simple Mr. Ivanov, really, truly.

Ivanov says:

"If a train is standing on the tracks, the tracks will determine the direction. "
Yes, Mr. Ivanov your analogy is poignant, the one significant point in your analogy you seem to have taken for granted, is that the train is stopping at your station. This is not a given, which you do not appear to have understood. Mr. Ivanov, you can catch a cold standing at a train platform for too long, waiting for a train that never stops.

Ivanov says:

"The new general secretary of NATO will also be more creative -- NATO could even review its own decision again and could accept us as part of the alliance despite Greece's veto."
I don't think so Mr. Ivanov. This is what the current general secretary of the NATO said:

" QUESTION: Skopje New Information Agency. Secretary General, I must ask you, Skopje, as you know, has done a lot with the reforms to join NATO. We have our peace troops in Afghanistan and for the next year we’re going to enlarge the Skopjan soldiers. Don’t you think that in your mandate, you didn’t give us enough support to become a member of NATO, together with Albania and Croatia?

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER: No, I don’t think so because I think I’ve done everything which was in my power to bring that about and I’m telling you no news if I say that the decision at the Bucharest Summit a year ago was crystal clear, that the solution has to be found for the name issue. And I hope that there will be some more flexibility in Skopje than I’ve seen up until now.

Let me answer you openly, frankly and directly. I would like to see your nation in NATO. I’ve never made any, I’ve never concealed my own ambition and I’ve been to Skopje many times. But it also means quite honestly that I have to see flexibility and I think more than I have seen up until now. So the answer to your question is no, I do not agree if you say, Secretary General, have you done enough? I think I have done enough. My successor will also invest. I have invested in the relationship with Skopje. So will my successor.

So that is my answer to your question."

Mr Ivaonv says:

"I am an optimist. US President Barack Obama just clearly stated that Macedonia must become a member of NATO."
Yes, Mr. Ivanov the POTUS Obama may have said this, but you must understand that this is not without you taking the required steps, unless you want to see your good selves once again leaving empty handed.

Ivanov says:

"It takes two to tango."
It seems Mr. Ivanov you have been reading my previous post, where I said "It takes two to tango, Greece is on the dance floor, but her partner has stood her up!"

by iconoclast


In this link you can read FYROM President Gjorgje Ivanov interview