Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Tuesday, December 14, 2010


U.S. Army Retired Reserve
One of the last unresolved issues from the breakup of former Yugoslavia is the Macedonian name dispute between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM. The Macedonian name has a complex background of 4,000 years of history, culture, and geographic region. These three elements comprise a single Macedonian identity, unless a differentiation or redefinition is made to accommodate Greece and FYROM. Hopefully, a name compromise between the two sides will be reached through current mediation, but the United States and the West need to examine Tito's political and historical contribution to the Macedonian problem. We have alienated an historic ally, Greece, in the southern Balkans and jeopardized the stability of that region. In the worst case scenario, what happened in Bosnia could happen in former Yugoslav Macedonia. In such a case, Greek support in the southern Balkans may prove vital in preserving FYROM and the region's stability.

Essentially, the Tito legacy was a combination of Communist and nationalist disinformation that created its own version of Macedonian history in which FYROM seeks international recognition. Since 1944, when Tito created the Socialist Republic of Macedonia as a new republic in the Yugoslav Federation, a revisionist history of Macedonian studies has been developed promoting the concept of a non-Greek Macedonian nation that encompasses all aspects of Macedonian civilization. The Tito revisionist campaign was nothing new: it was part of the Marxist-Leninist ideology of disinformation that Lenin introduced as a method of political warfare. Tito merely pursued this strategy as a Communist and nationalist against Greece during the Greek Civil War in 19441949. Now, the Tito legacy is the main obstacle in resolving the Macedonian name dispute.

The cornerstone of FYROM's Communist disinformation program was that the ancient Macedonians were not Greek, but were a separate race from which FYROM claimed historical continuity. The logical conclusion to this thesis led FYROM to present itself to the world community as the legitimate heir to the ancient Macedonian kingdom and its territory, and to Alexander the Great's legacy. The history being taught in Macedonian schools is that the Greek and Bulgarian Macedonian regions were occupied ancestral lands that belonged to FYROM. From its creation, it became FYROM's historical mission to "liberate" these regions into a Greater Macedonia. FYROM maps and stamps appeared depicting a "unified" Macedonia with the Greek port city of Thessaloniki as its capital. As long as FYROM stayed in the Yugoslav Federation, this newly-created Macedonian issue remained dormant. But when it sought UN recognition with the name Macedonia, the potential legalization of FYROM's disinformation history suddenly aroused not only the Greek state, but struck at the identity of citizens of the worldwide Hellenistic community.

Who then were the ancient Macedonians, and what is the real Macedonian record? History (from Herodotus to the leading Macedonian historian, Nicholas G. L. Hammond of Cambridge University) has identified the ancient Macedonians as Dorian-Makednoi Greeks who spoke with an Aeolic dialect, which was common to the Greek-speaking tribes of the present eastern mainland Greek region. The Macedonians worshipped the same gods as the southern Greeks. They participated in the Olympic games, which was an exclusive Greek privilege. However, unlike the southern Greeks with their city-state system of government (excluding Sparta with its dual kingship), the Macedonians had established a constitutional monarchy, which was a remarkable forerunner of the constitutional monarchies that evolved in our own Western state system. And as in the Western monarchies, the Macedonians preserved their institutions and customs in freedom. As northern Greeks, the Macedonians also interacted with other border ethnic peoples, and in some cases, these peoples lived within Macedonia's geographic region under Macedonian sovereignty. Macedonia eventually united the ancient Greek city-states as one Greek nation, and under Alexander the Great (356-323B.C.) conquered and Hellenized the ancient world.

In a 1994 press interview given at the municipal city hall in Thessaloniki, Greece (as reported by the Greek daily Proini, 22 April 1994), Professor Hammond told reporters that the people of FYROM have no connection historically or ancestrally with the ancient Greek Macedonians. He also explained that during the reigns of Phillip II and Alexander the Great the present FYROM region (or former southern Yugoslavia) was inhabited by the Paeones, another people who lived under Macedonian rule. Professor Hammond then stated that a more historic and accurate name for the FYROM region was Paeonia. He also made it clear that the present FYROM state was Tito's creation. It is of historic importance to note that it was Professor Hammond who first identified the Vergina region in northern Greece as being the ancient Aegeae, the early capital of ancient Macedonia and the location of the Royal Macedonian Tombs. Acting on Professor Hammond's suggestion, the late archeologist Manolis Andronicos excavated the Vergina site. The subsequent discovery of the tomb of Phillip II among the other tombs of the royal Macedonian dynasty in Vergina in 1977 (with Greek inscriptions and art treasures) revealed Macedonian Hellenism to the modem world.

This discovery changed the historical perspective of ancient Macedonia to that of a more sophisticated Hellenic civilization than originally thought, leading in the classic designs of palace and tomb construction, paintings, mosaics, architecture, and armor production. Fundamentally, therefore, the archeological discoveries of Vergina also confirmed what was known of the Macedonian Greeks who inhabited the Macedonian area for 2,000 years before the appearance of the first Slavs. Although the Bulgar Slavs appeared in the Macedonian region around the sixth century A.D., the native Greek inhabitants still retained their cultural Hellenism.

Historically and politically, the major milestone for ancient Macedonia was the Roman conquest of that region in 146 B.C. Thereafter, Macedonia ceased to exist as an ethnic Greek kingdom and became a Roman province that in 2,000 years experienced several foreign invasions and two major empires (Byzantine and Ottoman). But the region never constituted a nation. However, while various ethnic peoples inhabited historic Macedonia, the two primary cultures that dominated the region were Greek and Slavic.

Following the break-up of Ottoman rule during the Balkan wars of 1912-1913, the ancient Macedonian region was divided between Greece (51 percent), Serbia (38 percent), and Bulgaria (11 percent). These three national territories were not entirely homogeneous, although Greece and Bulgaria, through a subsequent population exchange, added to the ethnic homogeneity of their respective Macedonian regions. There was also a significant Albanian and Bulgarian population in Serbian Macedonia, a factor that would later influence Tito's policy for that region in the formation of the Second Yugoslavia.

From the beginning of this Macedonian debate, the Western governments ignored a crucial point in this volatile issue: There exist not one, but two Macedonian identities--Greek and Slav--with different histories. Considering former Communist Yugoslavia's propaganda campaign, the difference between these two histories is like night and day. The result is confusion and a distortion of the Macedonian record, which brings us to the crux of the Macedonian issue. The Macedonian problem was not so much a historical dispute (although that is a major factor now), but a political one of competing nationalisms and bitter wars between Greeks and Slavs and Slavs against Slavs over a strategic piece of territory with an outlet to the Aegean Sea. In Tito's Yugoslavia, a revisionist history promoted a Macedonian nation as a strategy toward a political end: for a greater Macedonian nationalism encompassing the Bulgarian and Greek Macedonian territory to the Aegean. But that was one aspect of Tito's strategy in creating FYROM.
Basically, Tito carved out a new republic from south Serbia in 1944 and called it Macedonia for three reasons: to counter Bulgaria's strong ethnic claims on the Bulgarian population of the region; to use FYROM and the Macedonian name as a foundation to grab Greece's Macedonian territory for a Greater Yugoslav Macedonia; and to reduce the size of the Serbian Republic and break the Serbian Loyalist guerrilla movement as an act of revenge against the Serbs who fought the Communist partisans in World War II. The people of FYROM are ethnic Bulgarian Slavs with an Albanian minority and a small percentage of Serbs and other groups. It should be noted that the Bulgarian government did recognize FYROM as a state, but not as a Macedonian nation, because Bulgaria considers the people of FYROM and its language (a borrowed Bulgarian dialect) as ethnic Bulgarian. Ethnically, therefore, the inhabitants of FYROM can be called Slav-Macedonians or geographically, Vardar-Macedonians. To retain their ethnic identity, Albanians could be referred to as Albanian or Illyrian Macedonians.

Politically and diplomatically, the international community never clearly understood FYROM's complicated ethnic and geographic background, or the historical disinformation of the Macedonian record emanating from post-World War II Communist Yugoslavia. The only exceptions were the foreign policy offices in some of the Western governments, which saw in FYROM's history and nationalism a convenient diplomatic tool. There were a few voices in academia that spoke out against FYROM's revisionist history, but they were ignored. In some cases, they were contradicted within academia by emigre FYROM historians, who were developing their own Macedonian studies supporting FYROM's version of Macedonian history.

Thus, a great majority of diplomats, political leaders, members of the press, and even cold war analysts failed to understand that a new version of Macedonian history had been developed since FYROM's creation in 1944, and two different Macedonian histories, cultures, and nationalisms exist. There is the conventional Greek history of Herodotus up to the present historical research and archeological evidence of Nicholas G. L. Hammond and Manolis Andronicos, opposed to FYROM's Slavic-oriented Macedonian history (of a non-Hellenic ancient Macedonian race). What has emerged is a historical and political collision between Greece's Macedonian Hellenism and FYROM's Slavic-Macedonian culture in which FYROM seeks sole possession of the Macedonian name as a single Macedonian nationality.

In their effort to resolve this stalemate, statesmen of the international community did not comprehend that the Macedonian name, with its complex history of politics and nationalism, had to be divided along ethnic lines, as between Greek and Slav-Macedonians. This issue is pivotal and needs to be understood: There is no single Macedonian nationality, but two Macedonian cultures (Greek and Slav), whose people inhabit the ancient geographic Macedonian region. If we are going to talk in terms of nationality, then we would have to define both a Greek and Slavic Macedonian nationality (except Albanians).

In 1994, facing mounting violence between the Greek and Slav communities in Australia, the Australian government made a differentiation between ethnic Greek and FYROM nationals, and conditioned the opening of a FYROM consulate in Australia on its not using "a contentious flag" such as the Greek Macedonian Star of Vergina. Australia's Macedonian policy was a temporary measure, pending a final settlement. Yet the Australians, whether they understood it or not, were correctly dividing the Greek and Slav cultures of the Macedonian name.

Washington, however, refused to make this crucial Australian differentiation and pursued a single Macedonia policy: using the Macedonian name and its 4,000-year history as a diplomatic and political expedient to keep FYROM with its mixed population of Albanians, Serbs, and Bulgarians from falling apart. But the real issue for FYROM's minorities, especially its large Albanian minority, was not how FYROM was recognized in the UN, but securing minority guarantees, jobs, and government representation within FYROM. The Macedonian name became academic, except to FYROM's Slav nationalists, who sought to displace Greece's Macedonian Hellenism.

As it turned out, it was a combination of FYROM's global propaganda claim to a single ethnic Macedonian identity and Washington's flawed single Macedonia policy that aroused the Greeks to block FYROM's official recognition with the name Macedonia. The trouble started when Greek opposition led to a Western misconception that Greece did not want FYROM to exist, which was not the case at all. In fact, the opposite was true: Greece did not want FYROM disintegrating into a Greater Albania and Bulgaria in the Greek northern border, along with the massive refugee problem that would follow. Actually, the present Greek dilemma with FYROM is how to preserve the state without its greater Macedonia nationalism (including a monopoly of the Macedonian name), while preserving Greece's Macedonian civilization. Initially, the Greeks sought a name change for FYROM. Currently, they are inclined toward adding a qualifier to the Macedonian name that would differentiate between Greece's Macedonian Hellenism and FYROM's identity. Greece also wants to ensure that FYROM's nationalism stops at the Greco-FYROM border, which means stronger international guarantees of that border, which has been a highway for invaders for centuries.

It should be noted that from the period of Byzantine Greece in the sixth century A.D. to the present, northern Greece experienced several Slavic invasions. Except for the Ottoman centuries of imposed peace, the most bitter wars were fought between Greeks and Slavs over the Macedonian area and the Greek mainland.

During World War II, Bulgaria occupied Greece's eastern Macedonian region, while Tito made three attempts to annex Greek Macedonia to Yugoslavia. The first attempt was in 1943, when Tito vigorously pursued a Greater Balkan Headquarters Plan to put Greece's Macedonian region under Yugoslavian partisan operational control with the eventual aim of annexing the Greek-Macedonian region to Yugoslavia. The second attempt was during the German evacuation of Greece in 1944, when Tito laid plans for armed intervention in Greek-Macedonia, ostensibly to support the Greek Communists' control of northern Greece. Its real objective, though, was to annex the Greek-Macedonian region to the newly created Yugoslav-Macedonian Republic. The third attempt was Tito's long-term support of the Greek Communists during the Greek Civil War in 1944-1949, where, in exchange for aiding a Communist victory, a Communist Greece would cede Macedonian territory to Yugoslavia. This was a critical period. Yugoslavia was an armed state with 300,000 men in four infantry divisions and one armored division in south Serbia near the Greek frontier. With Greek Communist guerrillas using Yugoslavia as a sanctuary, any Greek hot pursuit of Communists into Yugoslavia was the pretext Tito wanted to invade northern Greece.

Tito's military goal of a greater Yugoslav Macedonia was defeated when the Greek Communists lost the civil war. Some political analysts have argued that with the end of the civil war and the passing of Tito, the old Greco-Slav feud ended, but the feud was not only alive, it was far stronger than ever. What was not understood at the end of the civil war, or even now, was that Tito's Communist disinformation program continued through FYROM, developing over the decades a nationalism and a revisionist history that embodied the fourteen-century Slavic goal of a Greater Macedonia to the Aegean. In fact, with the dissolution of former Yugoslavia, FYROM's nationalism became even more dangerous.

The breakup of Yugoslavia eliminated it as a military threat to Greece, which had thawed after the Greek Civil War, but now in an ironic twist, FYROM threatened itself with dissolution. There are four political factors in FYROM's nationalism that could prove deadly to its own survival and could mean real trouble for the southern Balkans and perhaps, even the Aegean Sea.

FYROM's Greater Macedonia nationalists have rejected any compromise with Greece on a first name qualifier before the Macedonian name (such as Slav or Vardar Macedonia), along with the Greek offer of economic and political support. With the walls of its house falling down, FYROM's nationalists are prepared to face self-annihilation. But they are gambling on Western support, as long as they achieve a monopoly of the Macedonian name and do not compromise their nationalism for a Greater Macedonia or their version of the 4,000-year Macedonian record.

Externally, "the recovery of lost lands" is the kind of nationalism that causes wars and would certainly entangle FYROM with any hostile power or regional Balkan alliance against Greece. Because FYROM considers Greece's Macedonian region as occupied ancestral land, its growing natural alliance with Turkey has mutual interests and advantages: FYROM could destabilize Greece and "liberate its lost Macedonian territory," and Turkey could "recover islands in the Aegean," which Turkish nationalists maintain were lost to Greece. Thus, it is possible that a Greco-Turkish confrontation in FYROM or elsewhere in the Balkans could spark a Greco-Turkish conflict in the Aegean Sea.

Internally, FYROM's nationalists have no flexibility on minority rights under their repressive civil rights policy, which radicalized its Albanian, Serbian, and Bulgarian minorities. For a small, landlocked country, this nationalist policy amounts to national suicide--with ethnic Albanian, Serbian, and Bulgarian minorities breaking away to link their regions with their adjacent national countries. FYROM could then become a battleground between its neighboring states for control of this strategic region between the Albanian coast on the Adriatic and the Bulgarian coast on the Black Sea. Externally and internally, FYROM's self-destructive nationalism not only endangers its own survival, but threatens to turn the southern Balkans into another Bosnia.

In the background of fourteen centuries of Greco-Slav hostility over control of the Macedonian region, the Greek reaction to protect its own Macedonian civilization and geographic area was predictable. But the West never understood it as part of an ancient conflict between Greeks and those Slavs who created their own version of Macedonian consciousness and whose nationalism sought to displace Greece's Macedonian Hellenism. We have a clear picture of the Macedonian problem when we recognize this long, bitter contest of Greek against Slav over the Macedonian name, its region, and its history. What is lacking is a clear Western perception of Tito's legacy and the political fundamentals on which FYROM was established.
Unlike Australia's two-ethnic Macedonian policy, Western identification of FYROM as the only Macedonia has created a bitterness in Greece against the West that has cost it vital Greek cooperation and support. FYROM's main trade runs through Greece, which the West should have used as the main logistical artery to sustain FYROM. Since FYROM's declared independence, the main U.S. priority should have been to gain Greek support, which the Greeks were willing to give. But the United States and the West never understood the Greek sense of humiliation and betrayal that was caused by the West's attempted sell-out of Greece's Macedonian history and culture to FYROM. It was this silent Western denial of a Greek Macedonian civilization and the West's policy of using the Macedonian name to officially recognize FYROM as a single Macedonia that shocked the Greeks.

The outcry from Greece was "We've had enough!" To the Greeks, it was a revival of the age-old Macedonian conflict with the Slavs, now fought diplomatically in the Western and UN corridors of power instead of on the battlefield. The Slav-Macedonians, having failed since the sixth century to conquer the ancient geographic Macedonian region by force, now sought to claim it through Western and UN recognition as the only Macedonia. For Greece, a single Macedonian representation in the UN amounted to a de facto recognition of FYROM's revised version of the Macedonian record and the greater Macedonian claims taught in its schools as official history--in effect, disenfranchising Greece of its entire Macedonian history and civilization.
Thus, the Greek embargo against FYROM would never have occurred if the Western governments had made a legal, political, and diplomatic differentiation between Greece's Macedonian history and culture and that of FYROM. By ignoring the depth of the Greek outrage over the potential extinction of Greece's Macedonian history begun under Tito, the United States and the West created the worst of both ends it was trying to avoid: an embittered Greece and an unstable FYROM.

Recent negotiations between Greece and FYROM have resulted in lifting the Greek embargo against FYROM, while FYROM has eliminated certain expansive clauses from its constitution. But the heart of the Macedonian problem is the name.
In light of the Tito disinformation legacy of the Macedonian record and the bitter Greek reaction that has created an anti-American climate in Greece, Washington's policy makers need to make an objective and realistic reevaluation of the Macedonian record, especially the complex history, politics, and meaning behind the Macedonian name.

It was a mistake to ignore the Greek humiliation over the discrediting of its 4,000-year Macedonian history and culture, especially when the United States and the West had so much to benefit from Greek cooperation in the southern Balkans. Consequently, applying a single Macedonian identity and name to FYROM, which occupies only 38 percent of the ancient Macedonian territory, with no historic or ancestral relationship to the ancient Hellenic Macedonians, was not only historically inaccurate and politically inequitable, but proved counterproductive, considering the outraged Greek reaction that provoked the Greek embargo against FYROM. As a result, the United States and the West need to recognize that the people who presently call themselves Macedonians are not a single Macedonian entity (nor do they have any connection to Alexander the Great or his Hellenistic legacy) but in reality represent the Slav-Macedonians of the old southern Serbian region, which Tito created as a Yugoslavian Republic in 1944.

It is also critical to understand that the current Greco-FYROM dispute over the Macedonian name is a diplomatic continuation of the Greco-Slav conflict over Macedonia's history and region that has been contested for fourteen centuries. The West should define the three basic elements of what Macedonia really is--history, culture, and an ancient geographic region--and formulate a two-ethnic Macedonia policy, based on two Macedonian identities (along the Australian lines), Greek and Slav/Vardar Macedonia. This differentiation has the correct ethnic and geographic identifiers before the name Macedonia for FYROM and would preclude a single ownership of the Macedonian name, which was the main Greek objection.
If the present Greco-FYROM stalemate continues, then Greece might legally redefine its name as Greece-Macedonia in the UN (reflecting a Greek-Macedonian nationality instead of the current Greek nationality), while FYROM would still negotiate a first name qualifier before the name Macedonia. The common denominator in both cases--U.S. policy and UN recognition--is that they would be applying a two-Macedonia policy between Greece and FYROM, whose histories and cultures would be defined and protected by international law.

The basic error in U.S. policy on the southern Balkans is that it alienated the one ally, which geopolitically is the key to FYROM's survival and the region's stability. The United States and the West should have worked with Greece from the beginning as an active partner in promoting the stability of the southern Balkans.
However, to promote a FYROM-Turkish axis on the Greek northern border is to inflame an existing "flash-point" for conflict in the southern Balkans and the Aegean, between Greece and Turkey. On the other hand, the geopolitical option of working with Greece is still there and should be used to develop a Greco-FYROM Balkan defense relationship. Once the United States and the West, under UN auspices, recognize Greece's Macedonian civilization, the Greeks, who have a vital interest in maintaining a stable southern Balkan region, will make it their business to preserve FYROM as a buffer state on their northern border. Presently, this is the most equitable and viable policy objective the United States and the West can pursue in the southern Balkans.

Chris C. Parkas is foreign area officer for Greece/Macedonia, the Aegean, and Cyprus in the U.S. Army Retired Reserve.

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