Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Making do with Macedonia



Forum: Making do with Macedonia

December 3, 2006

The Nov. 23 article, "Cordial ties [of Greece] with U.S. seen as fraying," (A11) said one reason for the fraying is the issue of the name "Macedonia." This is a mistake made too frequently, intentionally or from ignorance of the issues, by journalists and diplomats alike. The name Macedonia correctly refers to a northern province of Greece and its use by the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) usurps Greek history and, according to the Greek government, implies territorial claims.

It is important to note that in 1944, Yugoslav dictator Josef Broz Tito established a new republic within Yugoslavia by changing the name of a southern region of Serbia that had been known as Vardashka since 1913, to Macedonia, giving rise to the myth that Macedonia and even Alexander the Great were something other than Greek. The region was populated primarily by Bulgarians and Serbs.

However, ethnic Albanians today are rapidly constituting a larger part of the population and may soon attempt to add the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to their Greater Albania, just as Kosovo is being wrested from Serbia.

Even in death, Tito's chaos reaches from beyond the grave, continuing his efforts to drive a wedge between two friends, the Greeks and the Serbs, the Greeks being the most outspoken critics against NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia.

On Nov. 22, former UNPROFOR Commander Canadian Maj. Gen. Lewis MacKenzie wrote that a few months after the negotiated end to the bombing, his branding as an opponent to NATO's intervention got him invited to a debate in the U.S. with Gen. Wesley Clark, the NATO commander in charge of the campaign, regarding the wisdom of NATO's actions.

Gen. MacKenzie states: "Following the debate, Gen. Clark shared a story that still resonates today regarding our mission in Afghanistan. He recalled that, midway through the bombing campaign, he was exchanging small talk with Greece's ambassador to NATO. Gen. Clark opined to the ambassador, 'This must be quite difficult for you, as I understand there is a good deal of controversy in your country regarding our bombing of Serbia.' Without hesitation, the ambassador replied, 'No, Gen. Clark, there is no controversy. We are all against the bombing.' He could have gone on to say (unnecessary, considering his audience): 'But we are a member of NATO and that means you can rely on us even if we don't agree with the mission.' "

In an address to the international academic community, former Greek Minister Nikolaos Martis said the Macedonian question is more than a mere squabble over a name. "It is a well-designed scheme for annexing the northern Greek provinces of Macedonia and Thrace. It started during the interwar period, by the decisions of the Comintern and the Balkan communist parties seeking to establish a united [Macedonian and Thracian] state."

Because of legitimate Greek concerns about claims against its territory, the international community did not recognize the new nation under the name, Macedonia. Instead, it's official name is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM. Mr. Martis is also the author of "Falsification of Macedonian History."

A small item in The Washington Times of April 25, 2002, reported that Lawrence Butler introduced himself as the new U.S. ambassador to Macedonia, not as the U.S. ambassador to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. By referring to FYROM as "Macedonia," a U.S. ambassador at best committed a diplomatic faux pas or, more seriously, sent signals to Greece that we intend to be a party to wresting away that which belongs to them. This undiplomatic action by the U.S. government can only foment further distrust between America and our traditional ally, Greece. The Washington Times article went on to report that the name FYROM was "foisted" on it to satisfy "Greek sensitivities."

Several years ago, I attended an exhibition of Alexander the Great in Tampa, Fla. The exhibit featured historical documents, archeological discoveries and history books connecting Alexander to his historical Greek roots. It is not unusual, however, for other cultures to claim Alexander for their own. Even the Muslims claim Alexander, as there were several paintings depicting Alexander the Great greeting Muhammad, the insinuation being that Alexander the Great embraced Islam. Of course it would be 1,000 years after Alexander before Muhammad came on the scene.

History books tell us Alexander the Great spoke Greek, not a Slavic language. Today, there is an attempt to change what our history books taught us. Alexander the Great spread Hellenic culture, language, art and customs, not Slavic culture, language, art and customs. Even the coins used during the time of Alexander the Great, and his father, Phillip of Macedon, were of Greek coinage.

The northern region of Greece is the only area to rightfully hold the Greek name "Macedonia." So what is the solution? Slavic "Macedonia" should revert back to its original name of Vardashka without malice and end the controversy.

Camp Hill, Pa.

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