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The Greek-Macedonian dispute – time to return to the drawing board?

March 24, 2010

This is a long but interesting piece by Spyros A. Sofos, a Senior Research Fellow in International Politics at the Helen Bamber Centre for the Study of Rights, Conflict and Mass Violence of Kingston University, London. For those who have an interest in this aspect of politics in the Balkans I thought you might find it interesting. This is of course all about the Byzantine-Ottoman legacy and of relevance to those of us with an interest in Byzantium.

Facilitating a compromise between the respective parties to the name issue requires a better understanding of the multi-layered character of the dispute, the historically conditioned perspectives of the parties, and the main actors and their perceived interests.

By Spyros Sofos

After almost two decades since Macedonia declared its independence, one of the major obstacles to Macedonian aspirations of integration into Europe remains the notorious ‘name dispute’ between Macedonia and Greece. The most frequently rehearsed rendition of this stresses that Greece is concerned about the use of the name ‘Macedonia’ constituting an act of usurpation of its history and a misnomer for irredentist plans to bring about a Greater Macedonia at its expense. On the other hand, Macedonians argue that this is the name in which the majority of the young republic recognize themselves, their language, their land and their ancestors (although how deep they probe in the past remains an issue of contestation). Macedonian governments have repeatedly assured Greece that they have no irredentist designs, and have moved promptly to change the first contested flag of the republic and amend articles of the first constitution that referred to a duty of care for the Macedonian minorities in the region and the Diaspora (though not its preamble that links the current polity to the ideals of the short-lived Krushevo Republic).

The article continues here. Remember I am not responsible for the content of external sites and the views expressed may, or may not, agree with my own!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. James permalink
    May 21, 2010 7:26 pm

    Nice blog. Roman history is very interesting. Its unfortunate the eastern side never gets told as on a practical level it influenced Europe today probably as much as ancient Rome did (vis-a-vis Christianity).

    As for the name dispute, Mr. Sofos makes some valid points about the multi-ethnic Christian nature of the Byzantine state. I found it fascinating that although he appears to be Greek he didn’t knee-jerk avoid calling his northern neighbors “Macedonians”. That said, his attempt to put the two historical claims on par seems more based on his political leanings than reality.

    While the Byzantine state may not have been “Greek” ™ the same can be said for the multi-ethnic Christian Holy Roman empire that was not technically German. However, within the borders of what is today Germany (and some adjoining areas) there were clearly greater German ethno-linguistic tendencies (as opposed to other parts of the multi-ethnic empire were other languages and cultural themes were more prevalent). In fact when the Papacy transferred authority between the two Romes over a thousand years ago it wrote… “Decretalium, Romanourm imperium in persona magnifici Caroli a Grecis transtuli in Germanos”… which translated means “transferred Roman imperial authority from the Greeks to the Germans, in the name of His Greatness, Charles”. Even in places like the Alexiad the Greek focus of the Byzantine state is mentioned (as do several other Byzantine emperors and philosophers like Gemetus Pletho)

    While clearly it was not only pure Greeks from antiquity, demographically speaking I think its probable that Greek-speakers in places like the Thema of Hellas and Morea that preserved ancient Greek works for centuries and considered ancient Greeks their ancestors had a far better case for the Greek legacy than the Slavic Bulgarian empire to the north that constantly feuded with the Byzantine state. (Today’s “ethnic Macedonians” are a splinter group of ethnic Bulgarians that renamed themselves in the late 19th and early 20th century)

    Collective identity is somewhat a myth in itself since genes and culture don’t have passports.

    That said, of all the people in the modern world that claim an ancient past, on a practical day-to-day level modern Greeks are amongst those that most resemble people that resided within their territories in the ancient past (culturally, linguistically and possibly even biologically given how tiny the region they were concentrated and how large ancient Greek populations were at one point) .

    While groups like Egyptians, Jews, Chinese, Koreans, etc… may use the same names and share a few token traditions or beliefs in common, the larger reality is people that lived in the developed world share far more in common culturally and ideologically with ancient Greeks than they do any other ancient group (including those that they claim as their “real” roots). . We are all Greeks to a degree.

    As an unabashed Hellenophile, I don’t mind that the Slavs claim to be proud “Macedonians” . What irks me though (and why I don’t support them) is aside from their rampant historical revisionism is they speak a Slavic dialect instead of Greek.. This is akin to someone moving to America from Mexico and claiming to be a proud “American”… then not bothering to learn how to speak English.

  2. proverbs6to10 permalink*
    May 23, 2010 8:14 am

    James – thanks for the comment. Really interesting. I love the Balkans but generally have no view on their politics as it is too complex and sensitive for me.

  3. James permalink
    May 26, 2010 10:50 pm

    There is a fascinating read on Macedonia to be found here. (which includes an impressive list of mostly 3rd party professors from reputable universities)
    http://macedonia-evidence.org/documentation.html

    What’s interesting about the name dispute is that there seems to be a major difference of opinion between what many accredited history scholars are claiming and what some politicians and media outlets are claiming. (with my vote going to accredited scholars rather than populist opinions du jour). Greeks haven’t helped their public image with the mess they’ve made of their finances though.

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