Support is growing for the Macedonia Evidence letter to US President Barack Obama

April 30, 2010
The number of scholars who are supporting the Macedonia Evidence letter to US President Barack Obama grew in April to 364. The letter, initially supported by 200 scholars of Graeco-Roman antiquity, appeared online about a year ago at . The letter requested the new US president to reverse a decision by his predecessor George W. Bush to recognize in 2004 FYROM in bilateral relations as “Republic of Macedonia” .

Among the letter´s current 364 signatories are luminaries in the field of classics including

Stephen Neale, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Linguistics, John H. Kornblith Family Chair in the Philosophy of Science and Values, City University of New York (USA)

David Gordon Mitten, James Loeb Professor of Classical Art and Archaeology, Harvard University (USA)

Robert A. Kaster, Professor of Classics and Kennedy Foundation Professor of Latin, Princeton University (USA)

Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Prof. Dr., President of the German Archaeological Institute Berlin (Germany)

Dr. Florian Knauss, associate director, Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek Muenchen (Germany)

Karol Myśliwiec, Professor Dr., Director of the Research Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw (Poland)

Francois de Callatay, Professor of Monetary and Financial history of the Greek world, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris/Sorbonne) and Professor of Financial history of the Greco-Roman world, Universite libre de Bruxelles (France and Brussels)

John M. Fossey FRSC, FSA, Emeritus Professor of Art History (and Archaeology), McGill University, Montreal, and Curator of Archaeology, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Canada)

Christof Schuler, director, Commission for Ancient History and Epigraphy of the German Archaeological Institute, Munich (Germany)

Prof Stephen G. Miller, Professor of Classical Archaeology Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley (USA).

The classical scholars protest that this decision by George W. Bush became a catalyst for other bilateral recognitions of the country as “Republic of Macedonia”. It was a move the Skopje authorities had cultivated after the populist right-wing VMRO party came into power. Paradoxically, the ruling VMRO party in Skopje had been until relatively recently considered a terrorist organization by the USA. According to the US National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (

“The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Macedonia for the Macedonians (VMRO-MNM), is a racist/nationalist political party and terrorist group operating in [FYR] Macedonia. The name Vnatresno-Makedonska Revolucionerna Organizacija (VMRO) was first used in the late 19th century by [Slav] Macedonian rebels opposed to Ottoman rule. The group remained active after the First World War, seeking to undo the partition of Macedonia ordered by the Treaty of Versailles. After being successfully suppressed by the USSR during the Cold War, [FYR] Macedonian nationalism has experienced a resurgence in the years since the Iron Curtain fell, as the Balkans has again become a hotspot of ethnic tension. In [FYR] Macedonia today, the VMRO name is attached to many different political parties, including the ruling party, the Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), and the leading mainstream opposition party, the VMRO-VMRO. However, the name is also used by the extremist VMRO-MNM, which believes that a greater Macedonia should be established, incorporating “ethnic Macedonians” from Greece, Bulgaria, and elsewhere.”

Until 1999, the US State Department listed VMRO in its list of terrorist organizations. The US recognition of the country as “Republic of Macedonia” in 2004 was surprising in this context. It came ostensibly as a token of support in creating a multicultural society ( This justification seems to have been taken by the Skopje authorities as a green light for the endorsement of an irredentist policy. The FYROM government has been introducing maps of greater FYROM in its schoolbooks ever since. This policy has been presented in previous articles, for example Historical revisionism in the school books of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) ( and Revisionism in the schoolbooks of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) ( Although U.S. and European officials have also emphasized the need to resolve the longstanding dispute between FYROM and Greece over the name Macedonia with reference to the New York Accord of 1995, FYROM has not looked back. The Skopje government has made no proposal whatsoever for an official name of the country. For FYROM there were no mixed signals. The US recognition signaled one thing only: an endorsement of VMRO nationalism: Macedonia for the Yugoslavs. The academic world, in their Letter to President Barack Obama, insightfully stressed that the US decision in 2004 “not only abrogated geographic and historic fact, but it also has unleashed a dangerous epidemic of historical revisionism”. The scholars protested that “We believe that this silliness has gone too far, and that the U.S.A. has no business in supporting the subversion of history.”

These protests had indeed echoes in the US Congress where two Resolutions have been passed condemning at least in words the violations of provisions of the United Nations-brokered Interim Agreement between FYROM and Greece regarding `hostile activities or propaganda’. 110th Congress Senate Resolution 300 in 2007 urged the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM): (1) to observe its obligations under Article 7 of the 1995 United Nations-brokered Interim Accord, which directs the parties to `promptly take effective measures to prohibit hostile activities or propaganda by state-controlled agencies and to discourage acts by private entities likely to incite violence, hatred or hostility’ and review the contents of textbooks, maps, and teaching aids to ensure that such tools are stating accurate information; and (2) to work with Greece within the framework of the United Nations process to achieve longstanding United States and United Nations policy goals by reaching a mutually-acceptable official name for FYROM. The Resolution had been tabled by three Senators that included Mr Barack Obama. Another US Congress resolution (111th CONGRESS, 1st Session, S. RES. 169) from May 21, 2009 (3 days after the letter of the Macedonia Evidence group) makes much the same points with the same justifications.

The ultranationalist rhetoric and the subversion of history remind one of past historical mistakes and it is indeed surprising that the EU and the USA appear willing to sit on the fence in an effort to appease the Skopje government so as to safeguard stability in FYROM, as recent news from Brussels have it. A joint release by the missions of the EU, NATO, OSCE and the U.S in Skopje on Tuesday (April 27th, 2010) affirms their support for the full implementation of the Ochrid Peace Accord that ended the 2001 conflict in the country, adding: “We have taken note with concern of recent statements by political leaders and other individuals that point in the opposite direction: talk of separatism, conflict, and abandonment of the Ohrid Framework Agreement”. The propping up of the VMRO government policy in Skopje unfortunately has a knock-on effect in its continued irredentism. The rewriting of history and the inventions of past grandeur and of present ethnic injustice are the very cause of the social unrest and the real threat to regional stability, as the US Senate resolutions have noted.

One cannot condemn while at the same time praise in equal measure a government set upon a task to reinvent history and recreate geography. In a commentary in the Skopje Lajm, Kim Mehmeti injected last year a dose of sanity: “It has to be said openly that invented history is a mirror in which emerges clearly the truth that a people that lacks the will and ability to change the possible — the present and the future — and that wastes time trying to achieve the impossible — to change its past — is a people that is unhappy with who it is and what it is.”

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