Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
It's 90% posturing and 10% substance. There was a nationalist frenzy in the 1990s (government induced but also some sort post-cold war national panic) regarding the fact that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia wanted to be known as Republic of Macedonia - this led to a very widespread (and toxic) nationalist discourse that has made it very costly politically for any Greek government to accept even a compound name for RoM (i.e. Northern Macedonia, Upper Macedonia, New Macedonia).

However, there are some marginal real issues here, minor ones that could be settled with some goodwill, such as irredentism in the RoM (a political minority but firmly entrenched in school curricula and public discourse there) and product names (all things exported as "Macedonian" from Greece, or public institutions would be forced to change their name if there is no other arrangement).

Both of these issues could be settled by no more that a month's sincere discussions, and some sort of arbitration from the EU - but positions are entrenched now and both countries will have a hard time bargaining... So the whole thing degenerates into discussing the "nationality" of Alexander the Great instead...

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 07:38:34 AM EST
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Thanks for the clarification.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 07:43:15 AM EST
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When Oliver Stone's Alexander came out, there were endless arguments about Alexander's nationality and Macedonian heritage on the Internet Movie Database disussion boards. These arguments in turn degenerated into online fistfights between Greek and FYROM nationalists -- a Greek would post an inpenetrably dense chunk from a 'historical' essay lifted from a propaganda website (with a name like macedoniafacts.com or macedoniatruth.org), followed by an FYR-Macedonian doing likewise (also from websites with names like macedoniafacts.com or macedoniatruth.org), repeated ad nauseum.

The people posting these screeds actually thought that they could change peoples' opinions this way, when for outsiders it was a perfect hall of mirrors of fanatical nationalism and mythologised history, each side asserting that their people had lived in Macedonia in unbroken historical continuity for thousands of years while the other lot were recent interlopers, with everything the same on both sides except for the names...

by Gag Halfrunt on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 08:48:58 AM EST
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Believe it or not, it gets much worse than mythologized history. So much of the problem is recent.

You have Greeks in the Macedonia region who are themselves refugees from either the Ottoman Empire or the Soviet Union. They moved en masse to the region while at the same time Pomaks and Bulgars and Slav speaking Greeks were moved out (for many reasons, losses from Balkan Wars, siding with the Nazis, or also aiding the Communists for the Greek civil war). Karaskidou's book Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood does a pretty good job of showing the ethnic mix over the last century in this area. Outside of Greece, Albanians and Macedonians are aggrieved for land losses. Meanwhile, inside of Greece, you have Greeks aggrieved for their own land losses elsewhere. Plus, ww2 and the civil war were not only "cause" for expulsion of other ethnic groups, but a good number of Greeks as well (such as my uncle, a 12 year old drafted into the ranks of the guerillas, he lived in the Eastern Bloc up until the early 1990s). This is why Greek sentiment is so adamant about the Greek part of Macedonia. It's a rather recent addition to Greece, and it was gained through much bloodshed in Balkan Wars, WW2 (against Germany, Bulgaria, Albania, Italy, 1 million Greeks died), and the Civil War.

In Macedonia, meanwhile, you have a national crisis right now because former Macedonian Presidents have become Bulgarian citizens and moved to Bulgaria, as have a great many young people, which further fuels Bulgarian arguments that Macedonians are simply Bulgarians converted to a national mythology by Tito. Ultimately, I think all this mixing speaks to our tenuous identities and the bankruptcy of romantic nationalism. Let them call themselves whatever they wish, whoever they think they are, but maybe to avoid future bloodshed a distinction could be made between Greek Macedonia and whatever. New Macedonia as the US recently proposed?

by Upstate NY on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 09:49:46 AM EST
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