When a rose is a raven: Macedonia and FYROM – a modest proposal

July 21, 2010
Macedonia since the days when Macedonians could be said to exist has been inhabited by Greeks. Indeed the ancient Macedonians were instrumental through their campaigns in ushering the Hellenistic age and shaping a universal kind of Hellenism that has endured to the present time.

Daniel Hannan wrote recently in the Telegraph mentioning an obscure anecdote from a blog belonging to one named Ivo Petovski. Mr Petovski, the owner of a Bulgarian name turned non-Bulgarian by the addition of the suffix “-ski”, is apparently a man also claiming to be a Macedonian. By “Macedonian” he refers to Yugoslavs such as himself not to the Macedonians of Greece. Mr Hannan jokingly imitates him by referring to Greece as Fopog, a name Mr Petovski alleges was suggested by a British statesman on a visit to FYROM. Everyone is allowed to have an opinion. One should think Ivo Petovski´s opinion stated in a blog would stand only to ridicule against the views of 364 academics of the highest repute who have spoken their minds on this issue.

The 364 academics note in their letter to US President Barack Obama that “On November 4, 2004, two days after the re-election of President George W. Bush, his administration unilaterally recognized the “Republic of Macedonia.” This action not only abrogated geographic and historic fact, but it also has unleashed a dangerous epidemic of historical revisionism, of which the most obvious symptom is the misappropriation by the government in Skopje of the most famous of Macedonians, Alexander the Great. We believe that this silliness has gone too far, and that the U.S.A. has no business in supporting the subversion of history.”


International organisations that include not only the United Nations, where formal agreements exist, but also NATO, the European Union, the World Bank, IAAF, FIFA, FIBA, the Olympic Committee and Eurovision, refer to FYROM as FYROM pending a name for the country. They are obviously not forced for the shake of diplomatic niceties to call “Macedonians” a group of mainly Yugoslavs and Albanians, as if their actual ethnicities were unnameable in bilateral diplomatic relations. In 1995 the FYROM government signed an agreement known as the New York Agreement under the auspices of the United Nations to adopt a name that would not offend Greece, which obviously means it signed that it would adopt a name that would not be Macedonia, and that it would refrain from provocative actions such as naming highways and airports after Alexander the Great and the like. One has to ask what happens to a country when it disregards an Agreement under which it was accepted as a member of the United Nations?

Insulting Greece in blogs and antagonising Greece with propaganda statues and maps of a Greater FYROM in schoolbooks goes nowhere near in the direction of finding a name for the country, which is what FYROM has undertaken to do. The Greeks, whether those of Macedonia or not, cannot give up their ethnic identity, customs, language, history and culture because someone else wishes to be called a Macedonian. Self-determination is a right that belongs to all, not just to the government of a new country looking for a fashionable name for their new ethnicity.

Since the Greeks will not budge, and are not going to budge, one must wonder whether some other European nation can offer a helpful suggestion. Perhaps a neutral observer like Mr Hannan or someone else can think of a potential solution other than renaming the Slavic-speaking Yugoslavs as Greeks (Macedonians) and the Greek-speaking Greeks as Turks (Ottomans) and so on. Since at least one British journalist appears to have a helpful attitude in this direction, perhaps he can convince his fellow countrymen to come to the aid of the inhabitants of FYROM. If some Macedonians, that is Greeks for that is what the Macedonians were in the opinion of 364 academics, might have ventured in the direction of the central Balkans at certain times in history, it is equally true that Slavs ventured in the direction of the British Isles. For example, we have Polish fighters based in the UK during WWII. The Yugoslav royalty also sought refuge there. Even as far back as Roman times, a unit of Sarmatian cavalry, or at least armed in the Sarmatian fashion, was part of the Roman army and may have fought in Great Britain. There is even a myth that the Scots are descendants of the Skythians. Having pondered what happened to the ancient Greeks, one may equally ponder what happened to the ancients of all kinds. What happened to the ancient Britons for example? Alas! Many writers have lamented how the Roman, Viking, Anglosaxon and Norman invasions all but wiped out the ancient Britons. The ancient British language barely survives today in some rural corners in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Cornwall. The modern British therefore, having as they do, little affinity with the former inhabitants of the British Isles, can offer freely a glorious name such as England as a solution to the quest for a name for the country referred to by all international organisations as FYROM.

So “England”, as it is not in any case currently the name of an independent country, is available and it would seem suitable. For after all are the British really British? And if they want the name British for themselves, then they should not also demand to keep possession of the name English – this is how the FYROM argument has gone so far. One cannot wish to be called both Macedonian and Greek. One cannot be called both English and British – people make up your mind! One of these two names should be available for others to use. After all, it is the right of self-determination of a new people to choose a name they like, especially if it can be construed to be “available”. So if a British journalist has a like mind, the time for that proposal is ripe. So many journalists, especially those from FYROM but also others, consider this dispute silly. Let´s come to the discussion with an open mind. If objections to calling Yugoslavia Macedonia are silly, what would be the objections of calling Yugoslavia England or some other glorious country? Indeed England is a truly glorious name, even as glorious as that of Macedonia. It has been associated with King Arthur and Queen Boadicea, not to say Queen Elizabeth, Henry VIII, the founder of the Church of England, and eventually of an empire that stretched around the globe even further than the ancient Macedonian empire. The citizens of FYROM will become instantly English gentlemen. Once the propagandists are convinced, it will not be long before the airports are renamed as William Shakespeare airport of Skopje and King Richard the Lionheart motorway and so on. New maps may be printed and new pictures drawn in schoolbooks, showing a new United England with a capital in Skopje.

You may say the geographical leap from Yugoslavia to the United Kingdom is too great compared to the leap from Yugoslavia to the historical Greek region of Macedonia but what is the trouble of a geographical leap compared to such leaps of imagination?


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