In many ways, it is ironic that Mr Atanas Botev, a citizen of the state that is governed at Skopje and an anthropoid harbouring pretensions of being an artist, (Atanas of course is the original of its corrupted Greek derivative ´Athanasios,´ which in various south Slavonic signifies immortality,) chose to deface the Greek flag by replacing its cross with a swastika recently, an act that was widely publicized by the Greek media and which has inflamed Greek passions during the most crucial NATO membership talks. Apparently, this flag, and Botev´s portrayal of Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis as a Nazi officer had been temporarily erected upon Skopjan billboards, in anticipation of Greece´s veto of FYROM´s NATO accession bid, by way of advertisement for an art exhibition.
Indeed, it is most ironic that Botev chose to deface the symbol of the cross, given that it was the Greek missionaries Cyril and Methodius who, during the early years of the Byzantine Empire, took the time out to learn the Slavonic dialects of the Balkans and introduced Christianity to the erstwhile pagan Slavonic peoples of the region. In doing so, they also introduced as an ancillary to their spiritual enlightenment, the rudimentary form of the alphabet which is still used by the majority of Slavonic peoples to this day and also, a good dollop of Byzantine civilisation, which still forms the basis of Balkan culture to this day and of each states´ national identity. A field trip to the surviving Byzantine and Ottoman-era churches of the regions of Achrida (modern day Ohrid) and Monastiri (modern day Bitola) are most instructive in this regard. One of the first things that the visitor will notice is the predomination of Greek inscriptions in the frescoes of these churches. Given that Hellenism and Christianity are inextricably linked in the popular consciousness of the region, Botev´s defacement of the cross is a powerful manifestation of the identity hysteria and schizophrenia currently afflicting his compatriots. In their quest to disassociate themselves from and denigrate their neighbours, they are in actual fact, impugning the substructure of their own culture, as they come to realize that its foundations are Hellenic – something which according to them, should be hated. Consequently, they entrap themselves in a vicious cycle of self-loathing and fantasy.
Ironic too is the choice of the swastika as the design with which to deface the cross. For during the Second World War, the majority of the Slavonic inhabitants of the region sallied out to meet and welcome the Bulgarian army and is Nazi allies as liberators. It is estimated that up to 40% of the soldiers comprising the Bulgarian occupation battalions of the region during the war, were drawn from the enthusiastic local population. Thus again, Botev´s self-loathing and schizophrenia of identity assumes a telling parable. At a time, not so long ago, when there was no nonsense about ethnic identity or naming disputes, the people of this region identified themselves as Bulgarians and as such, actively assisted the armed forces of their compatriots in carrying out Nazi kreigpolitik. Botev´s defacement of the cross by transforming it into a Nazi hakenkeuz, is thus nothing more than another manifestation of self-loathing and guilt, as well as a vain and rather childish attempt to transfer guilt and an unacceptable past upon modern-day perceived enemies, in the hope that its descendants no longer have to face it. It is in short, an evasion of responsibility.
The swastika itself, is a defacement of the Christian cross. In its name, countless atrocities were committed on millions of innocent and defenceless people. Thus, the conversion of a symbol of peace and love into a symbol of hatred and evil is a particularly offensive and insensitive one, considering that the Bulgarian army was allied to the Nazis who perpetrated the greatest genocide ever in the history of humanity: the Holocaust.
Fittingly, the Jewish community of Greece has this to say about Botev´s artistic efforts: “The defacing of the national symbol and the attempt to depict the Greek prime minister to a Nazi officer constitute unacceptable actions and an insult to the Greek people as a whole including members of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki… These actions become more heinous because Greece was among the first countries in Europe to clash with the tide fascism and the first to defeat Axis Forces on the battlefield in WWII, [referring to the Albanian front (1940-1941], where Jewish and Christian Greeks fought side by side. Furthermore, the use – for the sake of creating impressions –of symbols that are directly linked with the period of the worst crimes committed against humanity is an insult to the memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust and those who survived the horror of the Nazi concentration camps. Our Community welcomes the stance adopted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a descendant of the Mallah family from Thessaloniki, who backed Greece’s positions on the self-evident Greekness of Macedonia.”
At any rate, it could be argued that Greek genius and comedian Tzimis Panousis´ replacement of the cross on the Geek flag with the hammer and sickle could be just as offensive, given that this symbol too, could be taken to allude to the millions that have perished through the persecution, purging and wars that have taken place in the name of Marxism since the installation of the first communistic government in Russia in 1917 and Botev´s feeble attempts to gain attention should be relegated where they belong, the dustbin of history.
If the Greek people are to be offended by anything, it should be the smug and self-righteous assurances by various NATO powers, that the non-resolution of the naming dispute between Greece and the No-name Republic does not give Greece the right to veto its accession to NATO. A not very ample amount of street-logic could be easily employed in order to argue the point successfully. Quite simply, NATO is a club and Greece is a member of it. Each member of the club is allowed a certain amount of face control. This is known as a veto. Just as a bouncer is entitled to exclude non-members from entering a club on members night because he doesn´t like their face, taste in footwear or the ultra-violet aura surrounding their person, so too can members of NATO, exclude others from entering their club.
Another argument that does not cut the lutenica, is the one proffered by the same scoffing Western diplomats, namely that it is paranoid and stupid for Greece to argue that the No-Name State´s insistence upon calling itself Macedonia, is a prelude to it formulating irredentist claims upon Greek territory. Casting aside for the moment, incidences such as the printing of the unreleased Skopjan banknote depicting Thessalonican Ottoman landmarks and the removal from the No-name States´ first constitution of references to that State coming to the assistance of ´minorities´ in other countries, we can agree that the No-Name State can no more successfully invade another country than it can manage to keep its own struggling, multi-ethnic polity in any state of coherency. This however does not mean that this NATO candidate state is averse to petty and coarse displays of retro-nationalism. Indeed, it would be paranoid and stupid to think otherwise.
What all of this does show, is that the No-Name State is unable to carry on civil bi-lateral relations with NATO members that don´t buy its unique brand of re-constituted nationalism. How can such an unreliable and politically immature State be entrusted with such weighty tasks as the oppression of Iraq or the continued production of Opium in Orozgan? Perhaps the incident a few years ago, where the No Name State rounded up a few hapless Pakistani illegal immigrants and killed them, proudly announcing to the world that it had thwarted an Islamic terrorist cell and had kicked a goal in the ´War against Terror,´ is instructive.
Greece is right to veto the No-Name State, both in NATO and in the EU. It is an infantile conglomeration of groups struggling to deal with their own identity and ethnic minorities and grossly unable to indulge in meaningful relationships with other countries. The inclusion of such an archaic polity, in preference to better developed and cohesive states such as the Ukraine or Georgia, in NATO is of next to no value. And if that was not a clinching argument – then this is: Rumours have it that in preparation for the No-Name States´ accession to NATO, national artist Atanas Botev has been commissioned to re-design the NATO logo (being derived from the symbols of the ancient No-Namian kings), by replacing the four compass points with suitably engorged phalluses. Каде е тоалетот?
by DEAN KALIMNIOU
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