Letter to the Editor
With great dismay I have read the story in your respected publication found at Response to “More Talks on Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Name Issue”.
Greece has been misusing its standing and membership in international bodies to illegally block the inclusion of Macedonia and thus slowing its political and economic progress, which will have long standing negative consequences for the stability of the volatile Balkan region. However Greece has chosen to ignore the consequences of its actions, and even completely economically embargoed Macedonia in 1994-1995 causing huge economic damage, for which it still has paid no reparations.
The paranoia in Greece has become so strong, that in the early 1990s it renamed the University of Thessaloniki to University of Macedonia, then renamed the Thessaloniki Airport “Micra” to “Macedonia Airport” (and has the audacity to object to the renaming of the Skopje Airport), then put Alexander the Great on the 100 drachma coins, the star of Vergina on all the city buses in Thessaloniki, and a big sign above the entrance to the central train station in Thessaloniki saying “Macedonia is Greek”. This all happened since 1990. Why the Greek government was not so proud of its ‘Macedonian’ heritage before is anyone’s guess, and the question begs to be asked how come the Greek Province of ‘Macedonia’ was called ‘Province of Northern Greece’ until it was renamed in 1988. The most ridiculous thing would probably be that Greece adopted the exact same flag (only with blue background) that it forced Republic of Macedonia to abandon in 1994, as the official flag of the province of Greek Macedonia. So far, the province of Macedonia is the only Greek province with its own separate flag.
One may wonder: why are the Greeks so afraid of their much smaller and poorer neighbor to the north? Is it because Republic of Macedonia might act on the alleged territorial aspirations towards northern Greece? Even the most misinformed military expert would have a good laugh at that comparing the 200,000 strong Greek army to the 8,000-men Macedonian one. Is it because of the identity of Alexander the Great and his compatriots 2,000 years ago? The greatest world historians still cannot agree on this, not to even mention that our modern concepts of nation and nationality not only were non existent 2,000 years ago, but would be completely foreign to the people of that era. Is it that by calling itself Macedonia, the republic somehow ‘appropriates’ the name of a wider geographic region exclusively for itself? But we have plenty of similar cases, not only in the world, but right in the midst of Europe, like the Republic of Moldova, and the Province of Moldova in Romania, the country of Luxembourg, and the province of Luxembourg in Belgium, and yet this has not been a great concern to these countries. These three reasons are touted by Greek nationalists as the main points for their opposition to the name of the Republic of Macedonia, but they do not ring true even after a superficial examination. Then what is the real reason for the Greek paranoia towards anything (non-Greek) Macedonian?
One doesn’t need to venture far into ancient history or scholarly books and discourses to discover the reason. It is enough to look at the Human Rights Watch (HRW – http://www.hrw.org/) publications about Greece, especially the works titled “Denying Ethnic Identity: The Macedonians of Greece” and “Free Speech on Trial: Government Stifles Dissent on Macedonia” both of which can be found at HRW’s publications page at http://hrw.org/doc/?t=europe_pub&c=greece . Ever since Greece received the southern portion of Macedonia in 1913 as war spoils after the Balkan Wars, it has waged a consistent policy of forced assimilation, molestation, and exile of the ethnic Macedonians in Greek Macedonia, sometimes masked as ‘population exchanges’, but most of the time just plain ethnic harassment, bordering on ethnic cleansing. After the 1949 Greek Civil War, even more ethnic Macedonians were exiled because they were fighting on the wrong side of the conflict. In 1982, a discriminatory reconciliation law was passed in Greece, which allowed the return only of communist fighters who were Greeks ‘by origin’, and effectively disallowed the return of ethnic Macedonians to Greece and reinstatement of their properties, confiscated by the Greek government in 1949.
It is this that the Hellenic Republic sees as the greatest danger from recognition of the Republic of Macedonia. It is the fact that Greece is the only European country that does not recognize any ethnic minorities within its borders, but claims that everybody is Greek, thus depriving the hundreds of thousands ethnic Macedonians (and other minorities) of education in their own language, preserving their national culture, customs and language under the threat of beatings, imprisonment, and other harassments by Greek officials. Numerous recent cases have been documented in detail by the organization of the ethnic Macedonians in Greece at their website http://florina.org/ including their own very thorny way to legal existence, after beatings, false trials and property destructions, which at the end, required a judgment from the European Court of Justice against the Greek government to allow the organization to exist.
Republic of Macedonia is recognized by its constitutional name by 120 countries so far, and the number is constantly growing. This is a clear signal to all nationalists, inside and outside of governments that it is not for the politicians to decide whose history is more right, and what happened 2000 years ago, but that they should concentrate on the present, and protect the basic human rights of self-determination and pursuit of happiness of all people living today.