Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Some Macedonian truths

Below are a couple of comments I made in the Washington Times regarding the Macedonia name dispute. The first comment is aimed at the contents of a Letter the newspaper published from Skopje’s US ambassador Zoran Jolevski, which claims that the name dispute is 2,000 years old and that Greece is being unreasonable in its demand that the Skopjans modify their country’s name.

The second comment is a response to a Skopjan commenter who parrots the usual trash you read on Skopjan websites about the Macedonians not being Greeks because if Alexander the Great and the Macedonians were Greek how is it possible that the Macedonians attacked Greek cities and killed other Greeks. Another frequent argument the Skopjans deploy to ‘disprove’ the Greekness of the Macedonians is that the Macedonians only began to speak Greek after Koine became the lingua franca in the Eastern Mediterranean and before that they spoke their own non-Hellenic language.

Also, this article by Athanasios Boudalis FYROM's Slavomacedonism, Part I: a Historical Overview is very good and worth reading.

The video above is from the excellent Cyprus Action Network of America as part of its campaign for Hellenic human rights in Skopje.

Finally, a Bulgarian news agency, Focus Information, reported yesterday that in an interview with the Albanian news agency, INA, Daniel Serwer, director of the Balkans Initiative at the United States Institute of Peace, said the following: ‘I would blame Athens [for the name dispute]. Skopje had shown big flexibility. Athens hasn’t shown anything. Greek nationalists gain from the prolonging of the argument. In my opinion the problem is solved and most of the countries in the world will call “Macedonia” – “Macedonia”. The time when Greece has to withdraw with pride from this significant issue had come.’

Now, if someone wants an idea of the kind of Americans and US NGO’s involved in promoting the Skopjans and threatening Greek national interests, it is worth looking at the website of the United States Institute of Peace – which is sponsored by Congress – and at the profile on the site of Daniel Serwer.

Here are the two comments I left regarding the Skopjan ambassador’s Letter to the Washington Times:

1. To the Skopjan ambassador: The name dispute does not stretch back 2000 years; it stretches back 60 years and the creation by Tito of an utterly bogus 'Slav-Macedonian national identity' with the intention of expanding communist Yugolav rule to the Aegean at the expense of Greece.

And if Ambassador Jolevski finds the name dispute so vexing, then why not do the honourable thing and abandon Skopje's ridiculous assertions and aspirations and call your country by the name it was known as before communist machinations, i.e. Vardaska.

Macedonia is and has always been Greek. Macedonians are and have always been Greek. Once the Skopjans accept basic facts and release themselves from the communist versions of history and communist notions of identity imposed on them when they were part of Yugoslavia, then a settlement of the name dispute becomes easy.

2. To Skopjan commenter: If you are going to claim the heritage of Alexander the Great and ancient Macedonia, you should at least go to the trouble of finding out some facts.

If you knew anything about history, you would know the Greek city states were constantly at war with each other and that one of the pivotal wars in Western history, the Peloponnesian War – described in one of the pivotal texts of Western civilisation, Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War – is all about Greeks fighting Greeks. Vicious conflict among Greeks is precisely why some Greeks craved strong leadership able to bring about Greek unity.

This desire for a hegemon paved the way for Macedonia – a remote region significantly insulated from the political convulsions that had affected and weakened the traditionally important Greek states – Athens, Sparta, Thebes, Corinth, Argos – to assume the role of unifying Greeks; not forgetting, of course, that many Greeks, proud of the liberties and used to running their own affairs, rejected Macedonian leadership and Philip and Alexander dealt with this resistance ruthlessly. In fact, Alexander reserved his greatest acts of ruthlessness for those Greek mercenaries who fought for the Persians, so outraged was he that fellow Greeks should be obstructing his Pan-Hellenic crusade in the East.

As for the Greek language, you should know that the Greek language in the Classical period was made up of a number of dialects – e.g. Doric, Attic, Aeolic, Macedonian.

Macedonian Greek was closely connected to Doric Greek, before Attic Greek made inroads as northern and southern Greece came into closer contact, particularly after the rise of the Athenian empire.

As for Koine – which is based largely on the Attic dialect – it was the dominant language in the Eastern Mediterranean AFTER Alexander's conquests, not BEFORE. Koine flourished during the Hellenistic (note Hellenistic, not Skopjan) and Roman periods.

Indeed, how is it that all these post-Alexander Hellenistic societies created by Macedonian rulers and Macedonian colonists were dominated by the Greek language, by Greek culture and religion and shaped entirely by the Greek way of life if the Macedonians themselves were not Greek? Where is the evidence that these Macedonian kingdoms were anything other than Greek? No intelligent person could possibly take Skopjan versions of Macedonian history seriously. They are beyond absurd. They fly in the face of the entire received wisdom and history of Western civilisation.

The Greeks were and are the only genuine Macedonians. The descendants of the Skopjans did not arrive in the Balkans until 900 years after Alexander, in the 6th century AD, and Skopjan history and language is bound up with that of the Bulgarian nation; the Bulgarians, as every one knows, being a Turkic tribe gradually Slavicised. This is where the Skopjans must search for their roots and history, not in Macedonia. Macedonia has nothing to do with you.


Hermes said...

Well said. And we all know who the American state and NGOs support.

By the way I tried to take Mary Beard from The Times to task about her post "Sailing to Byzantium" about her reference to Macedonia but not surprisingly it was not uploaded.

john akritas said...

I don't normally read Mary Beard – I don't like her attitude or scholarship. Actually, I don't get why someone who presumably had a choice to study the Greeks or the Romans decided to study the Romans. The Romans lack originality and their culture is superficial. Your comment is on her piece now – she moderates – and I've added my own comment too.