Karl Deutsch´s definition of a nation holds a great deal of truth, especially while dealing with one of the most troublesome regions of Europe; the Balkans. One of the challenges which the Balkans face at present is repairing the damage done to the region’s reputation by recent eruptions of irredentism and nationalism. The ongoing dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has generated a great deal of political and academic debate on both sides.
The issue doesn´t seem close to being resolved, however, so long as one side, Greece, has genuinely shown its willingness for the realisation of a mutually fair solution. Greece has already made significant compromise in that, while Greece´s initial stance in the 1990s that “Macedonia” could not form any part of a name solution, it has since accepted the inclusion of the term “Macedonia” as part of the neighbouring state’s name, so long as that name includes a geographical/ semantic qualification such as “New” or “North”. In stark contrast, FYROM has remained inflexible with its hard-line nationalistic stance, refusing to any compromise and undermining the ongoing UN-sponsored discussions to settle the issue. All this unwillingness and deliberate undermining of the process from FYROM´s side contributes to the deterioration of the good relations between two neighbouring countries. It constitutes a serious threat to the region´s future stability and adversly affects the economical development of FYROM, which will eventually lead to a permanent isolation. Increasingly disturbing is the level of fanaticism and nationalism among the Slavic element of this newly-emerged state.
The modern state of FYROM asserted its identity and legitimacy with an official policy of attempting to appropriate parts of Greek history, mainly the history of ancient Macedonia. Examining the rationale behind this “justification” used by the state-sponsored propaganda, it is remarkable how paper-thin their arguments often are. FYROM propagandists have shown to be adept at convincing themselves of the rationality of even their most irrational claims. Goebbels said that “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it people will eventually come to believe it.”. That quote couldn´t be more accurate in the case of Greece´s newest northern neighbour.
Unfortunately, this kind of spurious adoption of stolen identity from their Greek Macedonian neighbours is reaching currently epidemic proportions. Curiously, the Slavic element of FYROM are so strongly indoctrinated with historical revisionism that they deny their South Slavic heritage and insist they are the direct descendants of an ancient Greek tribe: the Macedonians. Unfortunately their leadership is unable to face the current poor economic condition of the country. Instead the government attempts to direction attention away from these serious problems with an aggressive nationalism which teaches the country’s children from a young age that their neighbours are currently occupying parts of “their lands” and the superiority of the “Macedonian race”. Internal progressive voices in FYROM advocating compromise with Greece and a more modern approach to their national history are automatically branded as traitors.
It is essential for the Slavic element of modern FYROM to acknowledge that opportunist politicians advocating this hardline nationalism are undermining, not only any possibility to join EU and NATO, but also the future of their country´s existence. As soon as these nationalist policies are abandoned by the political elite, Greece will have no reason to object to the country’s NATO and EU accession and this will constitute a significant step forward in the region’s stabilization.
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