Friday, April 16, 2010

Greek by Name

The satire "Greek by name" from December 12, 2007, is characterized as successfully funny and even humorous, sadly however reality is seldom a "comedy". If for the Greeks the "name" issue REPRESENTS "Support for the State Philosophy" which is overly excessive, then for the Macedonians it represents a risk of "losing their country and ethnic existence". Macedonians have been using this name for at least 1,500 years or since many tribes settled the Balkans and mixed with the indigenous people. Greeks on the other hand have gained Macedonian territory, specifically their northern province which for the longest time they called "Northern Greece" only 95 years ago when they took possession of 51% of Macedonia in 1913. Only in 1989 did Greece change the name of its northern province to "Macedonia" under the motto "Attack is the best defence". It is absurd that Macedonians are even talking to the Greeks knowing that they have little chance of making progress in these unfair negotiations. Thanks to Greece's threat of veto and its irresponsible use of it as well as its position in NATO and the EU it has all the help it needs from the European Community to hold Macedonia back as long as it wants. Greece very cunningly and abruptly rejected Macedonia's name in 1992 in Lisbon before anyone had a chance to "examine the facts". This rejection also came with misinformation and confusion leading the unaware European ministers to come to the wrong conclusion. Greece lead the European Community into believing that the name "Macedonia" was of no importance to the Republic of Macedonia because allegedly this was a name created by Tito when Yugoslavia became a state of republics in 1944. Thus Greece's strong objection to the name was laid on a foundation of lies. The EU states, without consulting historical data and without examining the facts, were quick to take Athens's side. A similar scenario was repeated in 1993 when Macedonia applied for membership into the United Nations. It seems that justice is not important these days and the sacred Greek might is always placed ahead of Macedonia's right. If we examine past approaches to the name issue taken by our American "mediator" of the UN, we will find that the whole process is biased in Greece's favour. Actions taken during briefings in Skopje in 1994 and 1995 at best can be described as "desperate". With the exception of naming the Skopje Airport "Alexander the Great", every gesture Macedonia made in Greece's view should be positive but from what experience has shown Greece has been relentless and has, without thinking twice, used all ammunition delivered to its hands against Macedonia.
Macedonia on the other hand has a great heritage which modern Europe considers to be the cradle of western culture. Ironically even though it is well known that Alexander the Great was Macedonian, no one complained when Greece named its airport "Alexander the Great" in late 1989. What justification did the Greeks have? That Alexander the Great spread "Hellenism" to the world during his expeditions? If that were true, and no one can deny that modern Europe in its entirety has profited immensely from Hellenism, then why is there not a single European nation (besides Greece) Greek today? Why is there not a single nation outside of Europe, where Alexander ventured, Greek today? When Slav tribes were settling the Balkans in the 6th and 7th centuries AD the ancient Greeks had already abandoned Greece and others settled in their place. For well known reasons the Greeks left Greece at the end of the 4th century but the descendents of the ancient Macedonians remained all while Macedonia was a Roman province. Thus the descendents of the ancient Macedonians lived in Macedonia as the descendents of the ancient Thracians lived in Thrace and as the descendents of the Ancient Epirians lived in Epirus. In time these people assimilated with the Slav tribes who in turn adopted those lands as their home and left their genetic markers in the modern populations. So today we have Slav and ancient Macedonian genetic markers in the blood of the modern Macedonians the same as we have Thracian genetic markers in the blood of the modern Bulgarians and modern Turks living in Eastern Thrace. The same can be said about the modern Greeks and Albanians who carry in their blood the genetic markers from the ancient Epirians. Even though it is well known that the Turko-Tatar Bulgars settled the Eastern Balkans 150 years after the Slav tribes and took the Slavic language from them, does not prevent the modern Bulgarians from asserting that today's Macedonians allegedly speak "Bulgarian". Further forward in time, during the 9th century according to George Shtatmiller author of the book "History of South-Easter Europe" the Greeks, drawn by the Slav settlements of Greece, returned to their former fatherland and assimilated the Slavs and Albanians settling that region. So how can the Greeks then claim to be related to the ancient Macedonians? Contrary to any Greek assertions, Greeks in reality never settled Macedonian territories, not in ancient nor any other time until the 20th century. Macedonians on the other hand have conquered and have occupied Greek lands. The ancient Macedonians, through the League of Corinth, held hegemony over the Greeks for over 120 years during which time they also occupied Athens for a short period. Thus prior to the 20th century Macedonia was never Greek, not during Roman times when both Macedonia and Greece were Roman colonies, not during the Middle Ages, not during Ottoman times and certainly not until after the 1912, 1913 Balkan Wars when Greece, for the first time, by virtue of conquest, was awarded Macedonian lands including Solun and parts of Thrace. And this Greece did not do alone but with help from its neighbours Serbia, Bulgaria and Montenegro and with the blessings of the Great Powers. Thanks to the Great Powers, Russia in particular, for their support of the four Balkan monarchies which united and declared war on the Ottomans without themselves being swallowed up by Austro-Hungary or Romania.
Let us also remind the world that the Thracians and Epirians disappeared after 1913 only as a result of brutal hellenization at the hands of the Greek state, brutal Bulgarization at the hands of the Bulgarians and Islamization due to Ottoman influence. The Macedonians occupied by Serbia to some extent survived Serbian attempts at assimilation and began to regain their Macedonian consciousness under the cover of Yugoslavia.
It is sad to say that Macedonia's annexation in 1913 happened with the blessing of International right which now reminds it of the shame it committed. It is not fear of the Macedonian hammer that Greece is afraid but of the fear of facing its own shame in public.
As protectors of the European heritage which has flourished for centuries, European Union parliamentarians should be ashamed of forcing Macedonia, a state which in the past has done so much for Europe, to accept a farcical name like "FYROM". This again proves that Europe values business and money far above justice, truth, etiquette and morality.
If this small country has learned anything, it has learned how unfair Europe can be. The 2001 Ohrid Agreement was forced upon it by Brussels bureaucrats without even examining the facts or consulting history. Europe has shown no care for the dangers under the sword of Damacles it has created for this young state. With this kind of attitude how does Europe expect to hold a united existence?
The only option Macedonia is left with to protect its rights is to present its case to the international community.


Hans Lothar Schteppan is a former German Ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia and author of the book "Macedonian Knot"

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