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In the Name of Macedonia

 

Protest New Republic's Use of 'Macedonia'

By SANDRA EVANS Washington Post Staff Writer

Protest the use of the name Macedonia by one of the new republics that have broken away from Yugoslavia.

Macedonia was the home of Alexander the Great and Aristotle, said protesters, who warned that using the name for the republic, would destabilize the region and raise concerns about the new country's designs on Greek territory.

The name Macedonia had been used for part of Yugoslavia since the mid - 1940s, indicated expansionist designs on Greek Macedonia.

"It's like Cuba changing its name to Florida and then saying Florida is ours" said George Katsiaubis 32, a bank vice president who came from New York for the rally.

Protesters demanded that President Bush refuse to recognize the republic if it continues to call itself Macedonia. 

The Bush administration has recognized all of the breakaway republics except Macedonia, withholding support while it considers Greek concerns.


The New York Times

22.04.92

by Marlise Simons special to The New York Times

.......and as important here, the name evokes the painful history of northern Greece, a land that has been constantly fought over, the last time barely 40 years ago. The Greeks say they have no designs on the territory to the north, but they fear that Yugoslav Macedonia has designs on Greece.

«A True Balkan Puzzle»

The issue has come to a boil here in recent weeks because of growing signs that both the European Community and the United States are eager to find a way of recognizing the new state, whose capital is Skopje, to help stabilize the volatile situation in the republic.

"This is a true Balkan puzzle", a Western diplomat said. «Skopje says this part of Yugoslavia will destabilize if it's not recognized quickly. Athens says that recognizing a new Macedonia will destabilize all of the southern Balkans>.

Bowing to intense Greek pressure, the Community and Washington have postponed a decision until May, but they have urged Athens to find a compromise with the Skopje Government, though talks in January broke down. They have also proposed other names for the new republic like New Macedonia and Slavo-Macedonia.

But no name that includes the word «Macedonia» is acceptable to Greece, the Government and most of the opposition have solemnly reiterated in recent days. And if Western European governments decide to ignore Greece's protestations, many Greeks say in Athens should close the country's northern border in retaliation and paralyze an important international transit route (...)

In recent weeks, Greek officials have been busily reasserting their claims over the name, although they make no claims on the Yugoslav territory. They have rebaptized several warships and northern airports. Salonika's airport is now called Macedonia and Kavala's was renamed Alexander the Great. Fresh archeological finds have been unveiled to link the area's history to Greece. This month, two museums in Athens put on Macedonia exhibits.

Many citizens have joined what seems to be a wholesale reaffirmation of identity. The Macedonian star, the emblem of the ancient empire, appears in stickers on shop windows and streetlamps. Men wear the star in their lapels, and women have them on brooches and earrings. A few weeks ago, the Government issued new 100 -drachma coins that carry the Macedonian star and the image of Alexander.

«Greeks often are not good patriots; they emigrate; they send their money a-broad», said Andreas Ekonomides, a lawyer. «But they are very sensitive about their heritage and their history».

Thus, what to outsiders might appear to be merely a dispute over semantics has taken on the dimensions of a battle for Greek cultural heritage against the heirs to a Yugoslav Communist Government that long harbored territorial ambitions over Macedonia.

Government officials here said that ever since Tito created a Yugoslav Macedonia radical groups in the territory had spoken openly of the need to «liberate» the rest of their region to form a «Greater Macedonia». The officials say such talk goes on with ominous insistence. The Skopje Government says that it has no territorial designs but that it does not want to change the republic's name.

The six-month-old dispute has had the unusual effect of uniting this often quarrelsome and divided nation in an intense wave of nationalism. But this has also enormously complicated the Greek Government's efforts to find a solution. «We have reached a nationalistic delirium», a senior official said.

Foreign diplomats in Athens said that the Government itself had helped stir up the highly charged mood, and that it now had little room for maneuver. Apparently seeking to widen his freedom of movement, Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis dismissed his hard-line Foreign Minister, Antonis Samaras, on Monday. Mr. Samaras had insisted on closing the border.

When asked what they fear from their small and impoverished neighbor, Greeks recall that competing claims over «Macedonia» - both name and land - have often led to war.

In Athens and Salonika, the northern capital, Greeks say they believe that the Skopje Government is not looking to start offensive actions now. But they fear that militant groups might start trouble in the future under a Macedonian banner. Radicals reportedly include former Greek Communists who fled to Skopje and never got over their defeat in the civil war.


The Washington Times

LITTLE MACEDONIA'S BIG IDENTITY CRISIS

by B.J. Cutler

A tiny part of former Yugoslavia has declared itself an independent nation in a desperate (and possibly futile) move to prevent its seizure by covetous neighbors.

The United States and the 12-member European Community want to recognize the new country, hoping to give it international protection and to foster stability in the uneasy Balkans.

But they cannot exchange diplomats with it because of its name: Macedonia. Greece, a member of the EC and a U.S. ally refuses to allow the name to be used by a non Greek territory.

Athens, heatedly backed by a majority of its citizens, insists that Macedonia has been part of Greek history for 3.500 years and the home of some of its greatest sons: Alexander the Great; his father, Philip of Macedon; and Alexander's teacher, Aristotle.

Greece also suspects that by calling itself Macedonia, the bit of ex-Yugoslavia is making an implied claim to Greece's northernmost province, also named Macedonia.

At first glance, it seems ridiculous for Greece, with 10 million people, a modern army and the safety of membership in NATO, to fear dirt-poor Macedonia, which has a population 2.3 million and no armed forces.

But that southernmost piece of collapsed Yugoslavia has a remarkable record of touching off warfare. In recent history it has been ruled by Serbian overlords, Ottoman Turks, Bulgarian allies of Nazi Germany and expansionist communists.

The territory has been claimed by Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia, which fought two nasty Balkan wars over it early in this century. Some of those claims still lurk beneath the surface.

Greeks painfully recall that Marshall Tito, Yugoslavia's communist dictator, created the «Republic of Macedonia» in 1945 as part of a greater ambition: To reconstitute Alexander's Macedonia, under Tito's rule by annexing parts of Greece and Bulgaria.

Tito especially had his eye on Salonika. Greece's second largest city, which would have given his dream Yugoslav empire a port on the Aegean Sea.

In pursuit of a «Greater Macedonia», Ti-to gave Greek communists bases in his country from which they directed the vicious Greek civil war of 1946-49. The Greek government won, with help from President Truman but at a terrible price: more than 100.000 dead, 685.000 homeless, vast devastation.

American and European diplomats are irritated with Greece's obstruction of their desire to recognize Macedonia. They did not, however, live through the horrors of the civil war and should be more sensitive to the concerns of those who did.

Fortunately, Greece has no claims to the territory of Macedonia and is willing to have trade ties and neighborly relations - if the entity will just change its name. So far, the authorities in Scopje, the capital, reject Greece's demand. They are short-sighted, for Serbia and not Athens should be their main worry.

Between the two world wars, Belgrade ruled Macedonia as <<Southern Serbia>>. Today's Serbia, under hardliner communist Slobodan Milocevic, has emerged as the bully of the Balkans. After it finishes, dismembering the old Yugoslav Republics of Croatia and Bosnia, it may move on Macedonia, whose independence it opposed.

When and if that happens, the ethnic Albanians, Gypsies, Slavs and Turks who called themselves Macedonians will need all the friends they can get. It would be tragic if, because of a name, they found themselves isolated and helpless.


The New York Times

«MACEDONIA» FOR GREECE

by Leslie H. Geib

ATHENS 12.06.92

What's in a name? Ghosts or real historical demons. Perhaps war or peace. Nothing and everything.

The name in question is Macedonia, birthplace of Alexander the Great and Aristotle. Some 1.9 million souls who used to constitute a republic within Yugoslavia now insist they must have that name for their newly independent state. Greece with its own province of Macedonia, says it will recognize the new state, with its capital of Skopje - but only if «Macedonia» appears nowhere in its name.

Athens deserves US support.

From the Balkan wars of 1913 to the Greek civil war of 1946 to 1949, when Greek and Macedonian Communists tried to unite the two Macedonias into Yugoslavia, tens of thousands have died over this obscure pinch of land. And over this issue today, Greece is united as it has rarely been throughout what Greeks here call their 2.500 years of democracy.

This history and situation would be quite unremarkable save for one very curious occurrence: Most West European nations and the U.S. are not supporting Greece in the matter. That fence-sitting is curious even mysterious, because the West has every incentive to back reform-minded Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis -

whose two-seat majority in Parliament surely will collapse unless he can bring the Macedonian issue to a successful conclusion.

The question of Western neutrality and even quiet opposition saturates newspapers, television and daily conversation in this low-slung, white city on the Aegean.

The conservative Mr. Mitsotakis is the most pro-American Greek leader in a very long time. He consummated a controversial naval base agreement with the U.S. He recognized Israel and got tough on terrorism. Surprisingly, he delivered Greek help for the war against Iraq. He has the full weight of the powerful Greek-American lobby behind him, a lobby with close ties to President Bush. Not least, the alternatives to Mr. Mitsotakis are the notoriously anti-American Socialists.

The 12-nation European Community, of which Greece is a member, also has strong reasons for helping Mr. Mitsotakis out. Greece has become the poorest E.C. nation, a basket case constantly in need of E.C. economic aid. And though E.C. leaders feel that this gentle Prime Minister has not gone far or fast enough in making reforms, they greatly prefer him to Andreas Papandreou, his old and bitter Socialist rival.

Mr. Mitsotakis does not have a good explanation for his plight either. «Perhaps Greece didn't provide enough historical in formation soon enough to the West» before their positions were staked Out, he said iii an interview in his office, sitting behind his desk flanked by the Greek and E.C. flags with tables adorned by proud pictures of his extensive family.

He recalled that months ago he offered compromise names like Slav-Macedonia, only to be rebuffed by Skopje and Greek politicians and ignored by the West. Pressed for further explanations, he responded: I would prefer not to explain».

In the Balkans, answers are always elusive. Perhaps the West does not like the friendly relationship between Mr. Mitsotakis and President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia. Though the Greek fully supports E.C. sanctions against Serbia. Perhaps the West fears the two will divide Yugo-Macedonia between them. Though it is now known that Mr. Mitsotakis rejected just such a Milosevic offer. Perhaps the West thinks of Skopje as a democracy. Though it is run by a bunch of Communists who still look to Serbia. Perhaps the West reckons that independence for Skopje can work only if it has the name Macedonia. Though these «Macedonians» are mostly Slavs, and though Macedonia is largely a geographical expression and not a tribal reality. Perhaps Britain and Turkey are secretly conspiring against Greece, as many Greeks darkly suggest.

Or maybe the explanation for Western neutrality is tragically simple - Greece no longer counts. Once at the center of Western civilization, it now seems a backwater.

But such a judgment would be shortsighted. Greece is the one true democracy in the Balkans. And it is led by a man trying to rid the Greek economy of bureaucratic Socialism and who is also working with Turkey toward a solution of the long-festering Cyprus problem. These are not prospects to throw away over a name. Let the West tell Skopje to be «Skopje», and let <<Macedonia>> be Greek.


The Christian Science

Monitor

RECOGNIZING «MACEDONIA» DEFIES HISTORY

by C.M. Woodhouse*

28.10.92

Commentators on international politics do not like being taken by surprise, so they tend to foresee the worst. Few thought Yugoslavia would stay together, in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet empire. But few if any foresaw the horrifying brutality and scale of the consequences in Croatia and Bosnia. The experts do not want to be caught napping again, so they are already identifying the scene of the next catastrophe. We are now being warned that the most likely candidate is the ex-Yugoslav republic which Tito called Makedonija. The people being blamed for a prospective catastrophe are the Greeks.

The Greek government is regularly accused in the western press of being tiresome, difficult and obstructive over the recognition of this small, land-locked territory on its northern borders, which has declared itself independent of Yugoslavia.

The de facto government of the ex-Yugoslav republic, with its capital at Skopje, sought international recognition as the Republic of Macedonia. After a cursory discussion in the Council of Ministers of the European Community, eleven members were initially persuaded to agree, but Greece dissented. From the first, the Greeks made it clear that their objection was not to recognition but only to the name of Macedonia.

Some weeks later, at a meeting of heads of government, the Greek Prime Minister explained the grounds of their objection. The other members accepted his arguments, and agreed that the new state could be recognized, but only under a different name. Given that the decision was finally unanimous and was reached by a process of reasoned argument, what was tiresome, difficult or obstructive about the Greeks conduct?

What was the Greek case? Simply. it was that the former Yugoslav republic of Makedonija was nothing but an invention of Tito's as a bridgehead for the penetration and annexation of Greece's northern province, which is the real Macedonia with its capital at Salonika. Tito's Makedonija did not even exist as a name on any map fifty years ago. But after 1945 Tito began 0-penly talking of a Greater Macedonia which would include not only his minute, artificial province but also the major Greek province which he called Aegean Macedonia. He pursued this policy not only by state-controlled propaganda but also by semi-clandestine warfare.

During the Greek civil war of 1946-49, the Communist - led Democratic Army was supported from Tito's territory by military supplies, training and recruits, and by safe harbours north of the Greek frontier which the Greek National Army was debarred from crossing. By the end of the civil war half of the man-power of the Democratic Army were Slavs recruited from Tito's Makedonija or from the Slavo-Macedonian minority in Greece. The rebel government set up by the Greek Communists contained two Slavo-Macedomans.

There is no doubt that if Tito had had his way, Greater Macedonia would have been established with its capital at Salonika, the great port on the Mediterranean that Stalin also desired. The republic of Makedonija would have sunk back to the status of a minor province, and its nominal capital of Skopje would have remained an insignificant country town. Skopje as a capital city would have been absurd, for when Macedonia was last geographically united, under the Ottoman Empire, Skopje was not even in Macedonia; it was the capital of the neighbouring Turkish vilayet of Kossovo.

If one consults a reliable map of southeast Europe before the Balkan Wars (the Harmsworth Atlas of 4910), the boundaries of Macedonia in the Ottoman Empire are clear. Those boundaries were breached by two Balkan Wars and re-constituted on the lines that the original anti-Turkish alliance (Greece, Montenegro, Serbia and Bulgaria) had reached by force of arms. No final settlement of the frontiers could go unchallengeable on ethnic grounds; not for nothing did the French adopt the word «macedoine) for fruit salad.

But the frontiers have not been substantially changed since 1913, despite several efforts. The outcome is unmistakable on the map of south-east Europe; Only a very small segment of historic Macedonia now lies within the borders of Tito's Makedonija, and an even smaller one in Bulgaria.

The Greeks' objection to the misuse of the name of Macedonia is therefore well-founded. It is all very well for the experts to claim that the petty new state presents no threat to anybody. That could be as fatally optimistic as the expectation that the disintegration of Yugoslavia could be peacefully managed.

The optimists should not forget that both Serbia and Bulgaria have had historic claims on Greek Macedonia, however ill-based. It was from Belgrade and Sofia that the last assault on Greek sovereignty was launched. Are the present incumbents of power in Belgrade and Sofia more trustworthy? They too have potential claims against the ex-Yugoslav republic. whereas the Greeks have none apart from the usurpation of the name.

If would be naive to suppose that in accepting the Greeks' argument the EC was yielding to a tiresome, difficult and obstructive partner. It was simply exercising prudence and common sense. If a catastrophe is coming in the ex-Yugoslav republic, it will come anyway, not because its wish to choose a provocative name is frustrated.

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