Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pan-Macedonian to nationalist UMD

The Panmacedonian Federation of Australia deplores the thoroughly racist, historically inaccurate Advertisement appearing in “The Australian” newspaper on 23 May 2007 by various “Macedonian” community organisations. That advertisement seems calculated to incite racial hatred and raises the spectre of irredentism, attitudes that are completely un-Australian. Certainly the claims made in the advertisement are not shared by the majority of Australians whose origins stem from the geographic region of Macedonia, and it is ironic that this advertisement was published in the context of a visit to Australia by the Macedonian Prime Minister of Greece, Mr Kostas Karamanlis.

In the advertisement, it is claimed that Greece “seized Southern Macedonia.” The implication is of course that this territory rightfully belongs to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In subtly calling for a ‘revision’ of borders, the advertisement’s sponsors conveniently neglect to mention that the geographical region of Macedonia was awarded to Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania after the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 by the international community, on ethno-linguistic lines. At no stage was there any consideration of a “Macedonian” ethnic identity by any of these nations or the international communities, simply because that ‘identity’ did not exist at that time. In an age of consensus and peace, why are the so-called “peaceful Macedonians” advocating a revision of borders set in 1913?

Much ink is further spilled in attempting to convince the reader that the human rights of “Macedonians” are not protected in Greece. Nothing could be further from the truth. Greek local government officials have fostered a spirit of cross-border co-operation with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and cultural exchanges are common. Much aid is sent by Greece to FYROM. A political party known as Rainbow-Vinozhito, which openly claims that there are tens of thousands of ethnic “Macedonians” living in Greek territory is permitted freely to take part in the Greek electoral process, despite not being able to advance any evidence to back its claims.

The sponsors of the advertisement can advance no evidence for their claim that “Macedonians” are being denied the right to study their own language and promulgate their culture in Greece. Indeed, their claim that Greek citizens have their land confiscated for doing so is fallacious and defamatory, considering that there is no such mechanism allowed for in Greek law.

Perhaps the sponsors of the advertisement could explain why, in ‘democratic’ FYROM, the local primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Jovan, has been incarcerated, for refusing to adopt a ‘Macedonian’ identity?
Could they also explain why the Greek, Albanian, Vlach and Roma minorities in that country have no right to education, religious instruction in their mother tongue?
Could they explain why it is that so many members of ethnic minorities in that country have had their names forcibly changed so as to appear more ‘Macedonian?’
The FYROM government’s record on Human Rights is a sordid one, even to the extent where its persecution of its local Helsinki Committee for Human Rights President Mrs Mirjana Najcevska caused the intervention of several international organizations.

Finally, we ask why it is that the sponsors of the advertisement insist upon a culturally exclusivist and racist definition of the word Macedonian.
According to them, a Macedonian is a person who speaks the official language of FYROM and identifies himself as ascribing to an identity set out by its government.
According to them, the many Albanians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Roma, Serbs and Turks who reside in the wider geographical region and have done so for the same amount of time, do not have the right to identify with their homelands, or to call themselves Macedonian.
Adopting this logic would be akin to a non-native minority in this state denying others the right to call themselves Victorian.

The Panmacedonian Federation of Australia, being a federation of various Macedonian organizations, condemns the malicious and false allegations in the advertisement and commits itself to supporting the cohesive, peaceful and tolerant fabric of Australian society. Sadly this is not achieved by name-calling, calling for the revision of borders and denying other peoples’ right to self-identification. It applauds the Australian Government’s current position on the naming of FYROM as the only sensible and viable solution, until such time as the government of FYROM and the people who identify culturally with that republic, understand that they cannot use rcial criteria to deny others the right to identify themselves as Macedonians.

Yours faithfully,

Dimitris Minas


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)