Friday, December 30, 2011

The Name Issue

I recently had a conversation with some one about Macedonia’s future. I will not reveal the identity of this person, because I want to recreate this conversation as truly as possible. Thus I have waited to post this until after a while since I had the conversation. Since this first conversation, I have had numerous other small talks relating to this topic.

The Macedonian Name Issue.

In case you don’t happen to know this, or I haven’t posted on it before, the Name Issue is between Macedonia and Greece. When MK declared independence in 1991, GR objected because they believe that the name “Macedonia” is solely a region in Greece. Greece claims that the Ancient Macedonians have a direct lineage to the current Greeks. Since 1991, the Greeks have consistently caused problems with the Republic of Macedonia and the world. They held back recognition of Macedonia for a few years by the EU (even though they were the only Yugoslav republic to break away with no violence). Then Greece imposed an embargo on Macedonia, helping to cripple their economic beginnings as an independent country. Then in 2008, Greece stopped Macedonia from joining NATO due to the name issue, directly against an international agreement they signed in 1993. Macedonia’s pathway to the EU has been blocked due to Greece’s dispute with the name.

This is not to say that Macedonia is blameless- they try to grab the Ancient Macedonian heroes just as much as Greece does. Including an ostentatious statue of a “Warrior On A Horse” (AKA Aleksandr) in the center of Skopje. According to some sources, the textbooks are also pretty nationalistic claiming that Macedonia fits the borders of Ancient Macedonia) parts in Greece, Republic of MK, and Bulgaria). Macedonia has also renamed a lot of different things around the country to ancient names or people.

When I was completing my thesis research, I had such a Huge Problem finding any reliable unbiased source. Either things were written from the Greek point of view or the Macedonian nationalist point of view. I was very curious to see what individual Macedonians would say when I could ask them about “it”. I was curious if what I had read would match up with what others tell me. Both on the Greece side and the Macedonian side.

Some thing that confounds this issue is that more than 20% of Macedonia’s population is non-ethnic Macedonian. Some are Albanian, Roma, Turkish, and a few others. Would their opinions differ than the ethnic Macedonians?

Most of the Macedonians who I have talked to don’t understand how they can change their name, their identity, their heritage. [Could you (if you are American) imagine having some other country tell you that you are no longer American even though you and your family has been calling your self that since the early 1800s?] “If we are not Macedonian, who are we?” “If my father told me that I am Macedonian, and his father told him that he is Macedonian, what else are we supposed to be?” “Why does Greece have the right to tell us to change our name?”

Some[ethnic Macedonian], on the other hand. could care less- they just want a good paying job and the ability to travel at times. They either don’t strongly identify with Macedonian, and they would be ok with a geographic qualifier. Since they can call themselves whatever they want, it doesn’t matter what others call them.

Then there are the ethnic Albanians who I have talked to. They more often than not do not feel Any connection with their state of Macedonia. “I am not Macedonian. They do not do anything to help me.”

Then someone asked me a simple question: “What will happen if we change the name?”

It made me think. What will change? If it is satisfactory to Greece, then they will drop their arguments to let Macedonia join the EU and NATO. There is nothing but a positive in those actions (well, that can now be debated, but let’s assume that is the end goal and it is a good one).

What will happen if in 10-20 years, they change their names back, it will do nothing but help Macedonia’s situation. (So the people I have talked to suggested).

Almost everyone in the world, except for Greece, calls them Macedonian, refers to their country as The Republic Of Macedonia, and their language as Macedonian. Their money is already known as MKD (Macedonian Denars) in the currency market, and Greece can’t change that. If only Greece has a problem with the name, but they have the ability to abuse their political power over a weaker state, why not change the name as the ultimate f* You to them? (they suggest). Some have suggested that changing their legal name will not change anything relevant to the Macedonian lifestyle, but rather make it better.

While I personally believe that every state has the right to determine their own name (if some state wanted to call itself Narnia, I don’t believe that we have the right to argue with it), I do also believe that pelting the mama bear with rocks is not a good idea either. Either way, what I think does not matter, but rather what the people of Macedonia think. And then if their government will actually respond to their ideas and thoughts.

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