Interview of Nicholas Hammond about Macedonia

NGL Hammond


Nicholas Hammond, one of the world’s best authorities in Macedonian history, stated the following in an interview with the magazine “Macedonian Echo” in February, 1993:

(Q): Who were the Macedonians ?

(A): The name of the ancient Macedonians is derived from Macedon, who was the grandchild of Deukalion, the father of all Greeks. This we may infer from Hesiod’s genealogy. It may be proven that Macedonians spoke Greek since Macedon, the ancestor of Macedonians, was a brother of Magnes, the ancestor of Thessalians, who spoke Greek.

(Q): Isn’t it true that Demosthenes called them “barbarians” ?

(A): The speeches of Demosthenes, that deal with Philip as the enemy, should not be interpreted as an indication of the barbarian origins of Macedonians, but as an expression of conflict between two different political systems: the democratic system of the city-state (e.g.Athens) versus the monarchy (Kingdom of Macedonia).

Personally, I believe that it is the common language, which gives one the opportunity to share a common civilization. Thus the language is the main factor that forms a national identity.

(Q): What was the geographic location of the Macedonian Kingdom ?

(A): It should be emphasized that Macedonia occupied only the area of Pieria, as is characteristically mentioned by Hesiod and Thucydides. It had to wait until Philip II ascended to the throne and expanded his kingdom by occupying, among others, the Thracians and the PAEONIANS. The Paeonians were allowed to keep their customs, which was a sign of liberal policy of Philip after each conquest. From Homer we learn that the Paeonians had their own language and that they fought on the side of the Trojans. THEY LIVED IN THE AREA AROUND SKOPJE, and this is the reason I suggested to Patrick Leigh Fermor to suggest in his article in the Independent the name of “PAEONIA” AS THE MOST SUITABLE FOR SKOPJE.

(Q): Given your experience as a liaison officer in German occupied Macedonia, do you believe that there may be a Macedonian nation ?

(A): NO. Macedonia was under Ottoman occupation until the beginning of the 20th century. With the decline of the Ottoman empire, the Great Powers began to seek spheres of influence in the Balkans. The result was the emergence, during the latter part of the 19th century, of the Macedonian revolutionary movements. The Serbian IMRO, the Bulgarian VMRO and the Greek “Ethniki Etairia” were formed with the support of certain Great Powers with the goal of organizing revolutionary units in the area. After the Balkan wars, the Macedonia (the geographical region) was divided between Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria. The movement for the creation of a Slav-controlled Greater Macedonia continued until 1934, when the Yugoslav government declared IMRO illegal, as a good will gesture to Greece. Therefore, given the struggle of the three ethnic groups (Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians) for the control of Macedonia AND THE ABSENCE OF ANY LOCAL NATIONAL MOVEMENT, we can talk of Macedonia only as a GEOGRAPHICAL ENTITY AND NOT as A NATION.

(Q): Tell us of your experience in Northern Greece during the German occupation.

(A): I fell with the parachute into Greece in 1943. Our goal was to cooperate as liaison officers with the Greek resistance against the Germans. Tito’s plan was to found a Greater Macedonia, that would include Greek Macedonia and South Yugoslavia; in practice it would be under Russian control. In January 1944, Tito formed a government and declared a federal Yugoslavia that would be composed of six different republics, the southernmost of which would be called Macedonia. It is here that the name Macedonia appears at the forefront of a plan of a Greater Macedonia against Greece. The same year,Tito’s guerillas invaded Greece three or four times and attempted to enlist men from slavophone villages in the area of Florina. Based on my knowledge, they were unsuccessful.

(Q): Could you please explain, who are these slavophones you refer to ?

(A): They are people who have been living in the area for centuries, perhaps from the time of the Slavic invasions of the 7th century. Nevertheless, they have been integrated with the population and consider themselves Greek.


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