Essays Speaking of Words

Macedonia, Macedonia


Yesterday, while exchanging emails with a person who I am profiling for an article, we discovered a mutual passion for music.  In addition to being a talented illustrator and publisher of Independent comics, Panagiotis is host to a radio show on FM 105.5, based in Thessaloniki, and focused on the Rock Metal genre.

When I tried to reach the station via the web, I realized I had to download a music player to listen to it, and was disappointed, since it was not practical for me to do so at this time.

Then while comparing our musical preferences, I asked Panagiotis what alternatives—if any—I had for listening to the station, besides purchasing a music player, and he said, “Basically we are a normal FM radio, but our antenna is big enough to cover most of Macedonia. For the rest of the world, it is not Fm 105.5, but just”

Macedonia, Macedonia

This reference to Macedonia immediately raised my antenna.
Which Macedonia? I thought.

Let me explain.

For some years now, there has been this bickering between neighbors over what name belongs to whom and why, and it appears that the aggressor in this rift is winning the battle.

There was a time when someone said, “Macedonia,” people understood this to be a territory in Greece.

Nowadays, however, there is massive confusion when one utters the name Macedonia—at least outside of Greece.  There are plenty of references to Macedonia as a historical territory associated with mainland Greece.  However, Greece’s neighbor to the north, has been in the throes of an identity conflict for the past 100 years, and now claims the name belongs to them and that region.

About That Conflict

A quick look at Wikipedia attempts to illustrate and document the history of this crises.

Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (circa 1918)
(The Conference of Ambassadors in Paris gave international recognition to the union on July 13, 1922, according to the source cited in Wikipedia.)

Kingdom of Yugoslavia (circa 1929)

The Invasion by the Axis powers (Who were they, anyway?) in 1941 obliterated the Kingdom of Yugoslavia altogether, and the title was “abolished” in 1943 and 1945.

My sympathies to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.  Looks like it weathered some tough blows in the early 20th century.

Democratic Federal Yugoslavia (circa 1943)

Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia (circa 1946)

Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) (circa 1963)

This apparently was the largest Yugoslav state and included other Republics and Autonomous Provinces, one of which happened to be SR Macedonia, so I suspect it is since then, that Slavic territories have been nurturing the idea that the name, Macedonia, belongs to them.

Further conflict rattled the region and its identity once again crumbled in 1991, and led to the formation of the…

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) (circa 1992)

This provided some stability and thrust FRY into the next millennium.  However, the region was once again beset by turmoil and the name, Yugoslavia, was abolished altogether—well, almost.

The regional conflicts continued for another decade and divisions and wars ravaged the land, further shifting its eroding base of stability and identity and alliances, and for example, produced…

State Union of Serbia and Montenegro (circa 2003)

What Happened Next

Not really sure.  It’s a bit fuzzy.  But in the intervening years, and during the last decade of the 20th century, the region north of Greece became known as the…

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) (circa early 1990s?)
Even though they really wanted to call themselves…
Republic of Macedonia

But this met with protests from Greece, which felt—and feels—its cultural identity pillaged and threatened by the behavior of its ambivalent neighbor to the north, to claim what has been part of its geographical identity and history as theirs.

How far will they go?

Good question.
And one you hear asked often.

“Soon they will be claiming Alexander the Great as one of their own,” is a thought frequently expressed.

Perhaps FYROM is attempting to borrow from ancient history a past that is not truly its own.  Perhaps this past offers the prestige it sorely needs to establish its own and separate and unique identity as a region of Slavic—not Greek—culture and history. Somewhat bizarre, to say the least.  To reach back to Antiquity and borrow the names assigned by invaders of other cultures of other lands.

Hard to say.

Check any geography textbooks, however—especially those published in the States—and you will see that publishers of educational texts hopped on the bandwagon some time ago, modified their textbooks, and now designate Macedonia as that region north of Greece.

And, as I have said before, Greece is not only coveted for its appeal as a holiday and cultural stop, but also attracts those who like to invade other nations—just as Greece did, thousands of years ago, stretch its empire to remote regions of the world—so today it suffers the same fate from others—and thus is especially sensitive about cultural intrusions.


So when someone mentions Macedonia today, it is fraught—at least for some—with confusion and conflict.  I am assuming Panagiotis means when he says Macedonia that part of Greece north of Athens.  I assume this because there are few Greeks who would today use that word to designate any region outside of Greece, however much that designation may have the blessing and support of international bodies and figures.

And so the writing of history continues to be a tricky business…

But let us never forget that marvel of automobile engineering—

The beloved YUGO!

Nor the proper historical context of its conception.

Things That Never Made It Into Print

By Things That Never Made It Into Print

Keep it simple ... Radical ... Writer, Artist, Dancer, Musician, Chicago Betty

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