Macedonian – Greek Conflict
The Macedonian-Greek conflict is a very complex issue. Lots of books have been written about Macedonia, but many of them simply serve to justify the aspirations, propaganda, and the partition of Macedonia of 1913, by the neighboring countries such as Greece. These sources are, therefore, biased. The Greek pages about Macedonia, rely strictly on their very own Greek propaganda sources, which naturally makes them biased. In order to find the real truth about Macedonia, one has to rely on the independent and neutral sources when looking into history. This page is such case, which browses historical independent and neutral facts, to show the truth about Macedonia against the century-old Greek propaganda.
Table of Contents
Macedonia seceded from Yugoslavia and became a sovereign state by a popular referendum held in September 1991 when the majority of voters chose independence. Greece immediately demanded from the international community not to recognize Macedonia.
Greece alleges that:
- The Macedonians should not be recognized as Macedonians because the Macedonians have been of Greek nationality since 2000 BC.
- Those Macedonians whose language belongs to the Slavic family of languages, must not call themselves Macedonians because 4000 years ago, the Macedonians spoke Greek and still speak nothing but Greek.
- Macedonia has no right to call itself by this name because Macedonia has always been and still is a region of Greece.
The people of Macedonia affirm that:
- The ancient Macedonians were a distinct European people, conscious and proud of their nationality, their customs, their language, and their name. The same applies to the modern Macedonians today.
- The ancient Macedonians regarded the ancient Greeks as neighbors, not as kinsmen. The Greeks treated the Macedonians as foreigners (“barbarians”) whose native language was Macedonian, not Greek.
- Macedonia was never a region of Greece. On the contrary, ancient Greece was subjected to Macedonia. In 1913, modern Greece and her Balkan allies partitioned Macedonia. If today a portion of Macedonia belongs to Greece, it is by virtue of an illegal partition of the whole and occupation of a part of Macedonia.
These assertions will be shown to be true in the eyes of history proving the absurdity of Greek allegations against the people of Macedonia.
ANCIENT MACEDONIA AND GREECE
In the course of the second pre-Christian millennium, the ancient Greeks descended in several migratory waves as goatherds and shepherds from the interior of the Balkans to Greece. Some passed through the Morava-Vardar Valley and across the plain of Thessaly on their way south, while others went south through Epirus. More recent scholars point to Asia Minor as the original Greek homeland. There is no evidence that prehistoric Macedonia was ever occupied by ancient Greeks. Archaeological finds from Macedonia are meager and sporadic. The scholars believe that ancient Macedonia lay beyond the cultural and ethnic borders of the Bronze Age Mycenaean Greek Civilization (1400 – 1100 BC).
Ancient Macedonia was home to many tribes and nations. The ancient Macedonians claimed kinship with the Illirians, Tracians, and Phrygians, but not with the Greeks. In fact, the Brygians of Macedonia are believed to be the European branch of people, who in Asia Minor were known as Phrygians.
Greek migrants came to Macedonia, Trace, and Illiria after they exhausted the possibilities of settlement in Asia Minor, Italy, France, Spain and Scythia (Ukraine and Russia). However, they did not consider Macedonia especially attractive for permanent settlement. Neither did the Macedonians welcome them as openheartedly as did the Italians and Scythians. By the middle of the fourth century BC, the Greek settlers were expelled from Macedonia and their cities, including Aristotle’s native Stragira, razed to the ground by the Macedonian king Philip II (360-336). Aristotle died in exile in Greece.
The ancient Macedonians regarded the Greeks as potentially dangerous neighbors, never as kinsmen. The Greeks stereotyped the Macedonians as “barbarians” and treated them in the same bigoted manner in which they treated all non-Greeks. Herodotus, the Father of History, relates how the Macedonian king Alexander I (498-454 BC), a Philhellene (that is “a friend of the Greeks” and logically a non-Greek), wanted to take a part in the Olympic games. The Greek athletes protested, saying they would not run with a barbarian. Historian Thucydidis also considered the Macedonians as barbarians. Demosthenes, the great Athenian statesman and orator, spoke of Philip II:
“… not only no Greek, nor related to the Greeks, but not even a barbarian from any place that can be named with honors, but a pestilent knave from Macedonia, whence it was never yet possible to buy a decent slave.”
Third Philippic, 31
The Macedonian “barbarian” defeated Greece at the battle of Chaeronea in August 338 BC and appointed himself “Commander of the Greeks”. This battle had established Macedonian hegemony over Greece and this date is commonly taken as the end of Greek history and the beginning of the Macedonian era. Greece did not regain its independence until 1827 AD.
In 335 BC, Philip’s son Alexander campaigned toward the Danube, to secure Macedonia’s northern frontier. On rumors of his death, a revolt broke out in Greece with the support of leading Athenians. Alexander marched south covering 240 miles in two weeks. When the revolt continued he sacked Thebes, killing 6,000 people and enslaving the survivors. Only the temples and the house of the poet Pindar were spared.
The Ancient Macedonian Language
During the reign of Alexander the Great, Philip’s son, the Macedonians spoke their own native language. Though Alexander spoke also Greek, loved Homer, and respected his tutor Aristotle, there is much evidence that he hated the Greeks of his day. He thoroughly destroyed Thebes. His Asian empire is correctly called Macedonian, not Greek for he won it with an army of 35,000 Macedonians and only 7,600 Greeks. The Greeks have even distinguished themselves on the side of the Persians. For instance, at the battle of Issus, there were 30,000 Greeks on the side of the Persians to fight Alexander. The question of the use of the ancient Macedonian language was raised by Alexander himself during the trial of Philotas, one of his generals accused of treason. This is what Alexander has said to Philotas:
“The Macedonians are about to pass judgement upon you; I wish to know weather you will use their native tongue in addressing them.” Philotas replied: “Besides the Macedonians there are many present who, I think, will more easily understand what I shell say if I use the same language which you have employed.” Than said the king: “Do you not see how Philotas loathes even the language of his fatherland? For he alone disdains to learn it. But let him by all means speak in whatever way he desires, provided that you remember that he holds out customs in as much abhorrence as our language.”
The trial of Philotas took place in Asia before a multiethnic public, which has accepted Greek as their common language. Alexander spoke Macedonian with his conationals, but used Greek in addressing West Asians.
Like Illirian and Tracian, ancient Macedonian was not recorded in writing. However, on the bases of about a hundred glosses, Macedonian words noted and explained by Greek writers, some place names from Macedonia, and a few names of individuals, most scholars believe that ancient Macedonian was a separate Indo-European language. Evidence from phonology indicates that the ancient Macedonian language was distinct from ancient Greek and closer to the Tracian and Illirian languages.
The Roman Occupation
Both Macedonia and Greece were annexed by the Romans to their empire after the battle of Pydna in 168 BC. Under the Romans, the Greeks continued to prosper in the Levant, Asia Minor, and Egypt, less so in Greece, and not at all in Macedonia. Latin was the official language in Roman Macedonia from 168 BC until the demise of Roman rule at the end of the sixth century AD.
SLAV SETTLEMENTS IN MACEDONIA AND GREECE
In the sixth century, the Slavs overpopulated Macedonia and mixed with its original inhabitants. The Slavs also penetrated into Greece and settled in Thessaly, Peloponnesus, and the Aegean islands. Since the coming of the Slavs, the native Macedonian language has been the dominant speech of the land. It was first systemized in the middle of the ninth century by SS Cyril and Methodius, the apostles of the Slavs from Salonika. The Macedonian language has functioned as the principal literary, liturgical, and colloquial language of Macedonia ever since. This period of the Macedonian history set the foundations for the development of the modern Macedonian nation. Macedonia resisted the settlement attacks by the Armenian and Syrian dynasties, who held power in New Rome (Byzantium), and by the nomadic Bulgarians. From 1014 to 1204, Macedonia was part of the multi-cultural Byzantine Empire. In the next two centuries, the Macedonians fought foreign invaders, adventurers, and bandits who failed to dominate their land. In the fifteenth century, the Ottoman Turks succeeded in conquering all of Macedonia, Greece, and the rest of the Balkans, and enforced their 500-year old rule.
MACEDONIA IN THE XIX CENTURY
Greek, Serbian, and Bulgarian Independence
In 1827, the European powers intervened on behalf of Greek rebels and forced the Turks to grant them independence. The same powers, established the first modern Greek state, chose Prince Otto of Bavaria to be the “King of the Hellenes”, and sent him to Athens. Serbia freed herself also from the Turkish rule, while Russia declared war on Turkey to help Bulgaria gain its independence.
San Stefano and Berlin Conferences
The war between Russia and Turkey ended on March 3, 1878, with the peace settlement of San Stefano. The Turks had to agree to the formation of the new Bulgarian state, to also include all of Macedonia but the city of Salonika. Russia was hoping that greater Bulgaria with Macedonia would give her the strategic exit on the Aegean Sea, but she encountered fierce resistance from Austria-Hungary and England that saw their interests on the Balkans endangered. On July 13, 1878 with the Berlin Conference, they forced Russia to give up her dream and the San Stefano agreement was revised. Macedonia was returned to the Ottoman Empire. From this moment, Macedonia became a battleground where the interests not only of the Balkan states, but also of the Great Powers, collide.
The Macedonian and Greek Orthodox Churches
The Ohrid Archiepiscopy was founded as a separate church in 995 to care for the religious needs of the Orthodox Macedonians. However, under the influence of the Greek Orthodox church, the sultan abolished the Macedonian church in 1767. The Greek Orthodox church was now able to enforce its religious teachings in Greek as the only Orthodox church to exist in the Balkans. Greece hoped to spread her influence and propaganda through the newly opened Greek schools, with a goal to Hellenize the population of Macedonia. But as their influence grew bigger, so did the resistance of the Macedonians. On March 7, 1851, the residents of Enidje-Vardar (today in Greece) signed a petition, for replacement of the teachings in Greek with Macedonian. In 1859, in Kukush was formed the resistance movement against the Hellenization that quickly spread to Voden, Kostur, Lerin, and the rest of southern Macedonia.
Balkan and Neutral Statistics on the Population of Macedonia
Adding to the Greek influence, the Bulgarians opened their schools in Macedonia in 1871, and the Serbs followed shortly after. This is the beginning of the so-called “Macedonian Question”. The new independent Balkan states used those schools to propagate how the Macedonians do not exist, and how Macedonia was populated only by Greeks, Bulgarians, and Serbs. Ethnographers, historians, and writers begun writing books in favor of this or that propaganda. Many of them did not even visit Macedonia, while those who did already had a written scenario. Their presence there was only a simple formality. Table 1 gives an excellent proof of those Balkan speculations surrounding Macedonia:
|balkan views||Greek C. Nikolaides 1899||Bulgarian Kenchov 1900||Serbian Gopchevich 1886|
|Turks and others|
Table 1. Greek, Bulgarian, and Serbian Statistics of Macedonia’s population
It is more than obvious that all the views coming from the Macedonia’s neighbors are biased. They all claim their people in Macedonia to justify their well-planned aspirations. It is important to note that both the Bulgarian and Serbian views agree that the Greeks in Macedonia represent only a small minority of 10%. The Greek ethnographer Nikolaides, on the other hand, claims three times bigger number than his colleagues in Belgrade and Sofia. However, the most important about Nikolaides is that he recognizes the Macedonian Slavs as a separate nation, and not the Bulgarians nor the Serbs, to be part of population of Macedonia at all. And although he tries hard to lower the numbers of those Macedonian Slavs, he still comes up with a convincing proof of their existence.
This is the time when many European slavists, ethnographers, and historians, are also attracted to visit Macedonia and conduct their own investigations. Therefore, to find the real unbiased population numbers in Macedonia, we have to rely on neutral and independent statistics:
|neutral views||German Dr. K. Ostreich 1905||Austrian K. Gersin 1903||English Andrew Rousos|
|Turks and others|
Table 2. Independent and Neutral European Statistics of Macedonia’s Population
To summarize, the number of Greeks in Macedonia according to the neutral authors, aligns with the numbers given by the Serb and Bulgarian authors. This is a proof that the Greeks before the partition of Macedonia, were indeed only a small minority of about 10% from the total population. This fact certainly does not give them the copyright of the name Macedonia. Dr. Ostreich, Gersin, and Roussos, are only a few of the many neutral authors to prove the groundless speculations of the Balkan counties. They proved that Macedonia belongs to a separate nation, the Macedonian Slavs. This proves that the Bulgarians and the Serbs have than simply substituted the numbers of the Macedonians for theirs. Another Austrian, Karl Hron proved why that is unjustified:
“According to my own studies on the Serb-Bulgarian conflict I came to the conclusion that the Macedonians looking at their history and language are a separate nation, which means they are not Serbs nor Bulgarians, but the descendants of those Slavs who populated the Balkan peninsula long before the Serb and Bulgarian invasions, and who later did not mix with any of those other two nations…” and: “… the Macedonian language according to its own laws in the development of the voices, and its own grammatical rules, forms one separate language”.
There were even Greek and Bulgarian writers to support what Karl Hron has written. One such example is the Bulgarian slavist and ethnographer P. Draganov, who in his studies of 1887-1894 and 1903, proved the existence of the Macedonians and the Macedonian language as a distinct language. Here is what Henry Brailsford had said about the Macedonians in “Macedonia: its Races and their Future”.
“Are the Macedonians Serbs or Bulgars? The question is constantly asked and dogmatically answered in Belgrade and Sofia. But the lesson of history is obviously that there is no answer at all. They are not Serbs, for their blood can hardly be purely Slavonic… On the other hand, they can hardly be Bulgarians… They are very probably very much what they were before either a Bulgarian or a Serbian Empire existed – a Slav people derived from various stocks, who invaded the peninsula at different periods.”
The Macedonians will first start an organized resistance in the XIX century, to free their land from the 500 year old Turkish yoke. The uprisings in Kresna and Razlog (1878 – 1879), although unsuccessful, gained sympathies of many intellectuals in Europe. Among them was W. E. Gladstone who wrote:
“… Next to the Ottoman government nothing can be more deplorable and blameworthy than jealousies between Greek and Slav and plans by the states already existing for appropriating other territory. Why not Macedonia for the Macedonians as well as Bulgaria for the Bulgarians and Serbia for the Serbians.”
Gladstone was three times elected Prime Minister of England (1868 -1874; 1880 – 1885 and 1893 – 1894) which shows his credibility. He supported the Macedonian nation in its quest for freedom. Perhaps Macedonia would have gained its independence had this man been once again elected Prime Minister during the big Ilinden Uprising on August 2, 1903. Left without any support, the uprising was crushed by the Turks, followed by the massacre on the innocent Macedonian population.
THE PARTITION OF MACEDONIA AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
On October 8, 1912, the First Balkan War begun. Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece attacked the European positions of the Ottoman Empire. More than 100,000 Macedonians also took active part and contributed in driving the Turks out of Macedonia. Turkey capitulated soon, but Macedonia did not free itself. The victorious Balkan kingdoms convened in Bucharest in August 1913 to divide the spoils. The partition of Macedonia is best illustrated with the following maps:
Greece was awarded Aegean Macedonia and renamed it to “Northern Greece”; Bulgaria annexed Pirin Macedonia and abolished the Macedonian name, and Serbia took over Vardar Macedonia and renamed it to “Southern Serbia”. The same year, N. Pasich of Serbia and E. Venizelos of Greece agreed on the newly formed Greek-Serbian (later Yugoslavian) border, so that there would be “only Serbs to the North and only Greeks to the South”, and no “Macedonians” on either side. Thus, the politics to assimilate the Macedonians of Aegean Macedonia had already begun.
The Greek Atrocities in Aegean Macedonia
- On June 21, 22, and 23, 1913, the Greek army completely burned to the ground the city of Kukush (today Kilkis), known for its resistance against Hellenism in the XIX century.
- Between June 29 and 25, 39 villages in the Kukush area were also burned down.
- On June 23 and 24, the city of Serres (today Serrai) was set on fire where 4000 houses perished. In the Serres gymnasium the Greeks murdered about 200 people.
- During these days the larger portion of Strumica was also destroyed by the Greek army.
- Between June 23 and 30, many villages in the Drama and Serres districts were burned down.
- From June 27 to July 6 all Macedonian quarts of Salonika were set on fire.
The Carnegie Commission composed of members from USA, Germany, Russia, France, Austria, and England, witnessed the Greek atrocities when visited Aegean Macedonia. Their final conclusion was that the Greek army has burned to the ground 170 Macedonian and Turkish villages, with over 17,000 houses.
Since 1913, official Greece has been trying to banish native Macedonian names of villages, towns, cities, rivers, and lakes in Aegean Macedonia. For example, the little stream which issues from Mount Olympus and flows into the Aegean Sea is labeled Mavroneri (“black water”) on the maps made by Greek cartographers after 1913. However, the same river appears as Crna Reka, a native Macedonian name meaning “black river” on the maps made before 1913. Kukush has been dropped for Kilkis and Serres for Serai, together with at least 300 other places all over Macedonia.
Forced Change of the Ethnic Structure of Aegean Macedonia
The presence of the Macedonians in Aegean Macedonia could not allow Greece to claim that land to be Greek and only Greek. Since it was proven that they resisted the Hellenization, Greece decided to drive them out of Macedonia. Greece made agreements with Bulgaria (signed 10/27/19), and Turkey (1/30/23 in Lausanne), for exchange of population. This provided for the Macedonians of Aegean to leave for Bulgaria, while the Greeks in Bulgaria and Turkey settled in the Aegean part of Macedonia. These measures changed the ethnic character of the Aegean. According to the “Great Greek Encyclopedia”, there were 1,221,849 newcomers against 80,000 “slavophones”. The “Ethnic Map of Greek Macedonia Showing the Ratio Between Various Ethnic Elements in 1912 and 1926,” claims there were 119,000 “bulgarisants” in 1912, and 77,000 in 1926. The Greek ethnic map of Aegean Macedonia was submitted to the League of the nations by the Greek government. The League of the Nations had not visited Aegean Macedonia and did not participate at all in conducting this statistics. Greece here refers to the Macedonians as “bulgarisants”, which means “those who pretend to be Bulgarians” and obviously non-Bulgarians. However, Greece uses many other names in falsificating the identity of the Macedonians. Slavophones, Slav Macedonians, Makedoslavs, Slav Greeks, and Bulgarisants, are only some of the names that prove Greece’s unpreparess in this mean falsification of the Macedonian people and language. There are also other Greek sources that contradict the previous numbers of the Macedonians in Greece. The Athenian newspaper, “Message d’ Aten” wrote on February 15, 1913, that the number of “Bulgar-echarhists” was 199,590 contradicting with those 119,000 of the “Ethnic Map of Greek Macedonia”.
When the Bulgarian and Serbian views are added, the confusion gets only bigger. According to the Bulgarian Rumenov, in 1928 there were total of 206,435 “Bulgarians”, while the Serb Bora Milojevich claimed 250,000 “Slavs” in Aegean Macedonia. The speculations with the real number of Macedonians is obvious again. Their true number remains disputable in the Balkan documents, same as it was the case before the partition of 1912. Unfortunately, the Greek government would not allow anybody, including neutral observers to conduct statistical studies. Forced to leave, the Macedonians emigrated in large numbers to Australia, Canada, and the USA. As a result, there are about 300,000 Macedonians that presently live in Australia. In the city of Toronto, Canada, there are about 100,000. The present Macedonian colonies in these counties are represented mostly by the descendants of those Aegean Macedonians who settled there in the 1920’s.
Recognition of the Macedonian Language by Greece
After World War I and under the international law, Greece signed the agreement to provide education in the languages of the minorities that remained in its borders. As a result, Sakerlarou Press in Athens printed a primer in the Macedonian language called “Abecedar” in 1924. It was intended for the Macedonian children in the soon to be opened new schools and it was a clear recognition of the existence of the Macedonians in Greece. The Greek government, however, later changed its position and the primer never reached the schools.
The Macedonian Language Forbidden in Greece
The Englishmen B. Hild who traveled through Aegean Macedonia in 1928 has recorded that the Greeks are chasing not only the alive Macedonians, to whom they sometimes refer to as “bulgarophones” and sometimes as “slavophones”, but also the graves of dead Macedonians, by destroying all non-Greek signs on the crosses. The use of the Macedonian language was forbidden and punishable when dictator Metaxis gained power in Greece. It is believed that between 1936 and 1940, some 5,250 Macedonians were persecuted for only speaking their native language. Here is an official order of the National Garde in Nered (Polipotamos):
“All residents from two to fifty years of age are forbidden to use any other language but Greek. I direct special attention to the youth. Anyone to break this law will be punished.”
But as the facts point out, the Macedonians were not wiped out from Aegean Macedonia in spite of the many assimilation attempts of the Greek government. One such fact is the ethnic map of Europe in The Times Atlas of World History, where the Macedonians presented as separate nationality cover the territory of complete Macedonia, including Aegean Macedonia in Greece.
Here is another map, part of a larger Balkan map and made by German scientists, slavists, and ethnographers, first published after World War I, which proves that the ethnic Macedonians are the majority in Aegean Macedonia while the Greeks consist only a small minority.
The Macedonians on this map (Mazedonier in German, and presented in green with stripes), populate the largest area of Aegean Macedonia, including the cities of Kostur (Kastoria), Lerin (Florina), Voden (Edessa), Ber (Veroia), and Salonika (Thessaloniki), the largest Macedonian city. This map is yet another clear proof that the Macedonians do exist as large minority in Greece. It is also very important to note, that southernmost river in Macedonia which many ethnographers consider to be Macedonia’s border with Greece, is labeled on this map with the native Macedonian name Wistritza (Bistrica). However, Greek maps that date after the partition of Macedonia, have changed this centuries-old Macedonian name with the Greek Aliakmon. Another examples on wiping off the native Macedonian names from this map, would also be the second largest city in Aegean Macedonia, Serres which Greece changed to Serrai later, the river Mesta which was changed to Nestos, or the lake Beschik which today appears as Volvi.
Today, the CIA Ethnic Map of Balkans and Macedonia is yet another proof that the ethnic Macedonians today represent a big national minority in northern Greece or Aegean Macedonia. According to this CIA source, the Macedonians live in all parts of Macedonia: Vardar (today Republic of Macedonia), Pirin Macedonia in Bulgaria, and Aegean Macedonia in Greece.
Belgrade’s “Politika” in its 6164 issue of June 24, 1925 gave three times greater numbers for the Macedonians in Greece than official Athens:
“The Greek government must not complain that we are pointing to the fact that the Macedonian population of West Macedonia – 250,000 – 300,000 – is the most unfortunate national and linguistic minority in the world, not only because their personal safety in endangered, but also because they have no church nor school in their own language, and they had them during the Turkish rule.”
Macedonians Oppressed in Greece
Following are several documents regarding the oppression of the Macedonians in Aegean Macedonia before the World War II. They appeared in “Rizospastis”, a newspaper published by the Greek Communist Party (KKE).
April 15, 1934
Serres (Serrai). The town square was covered with leaflets with revolutionary proclamations calling upon the soldiers to straggle for a solution to their problems and against the beastly reign of terror. Officers imprisoned the soldiers who read the leaflets… The most barbarous methods were used against us Macedonians, soldiers of the 6th Heavy Artillery Regiment. The majority of us are illiterate, we do not know Greek and therefore we frequently do not understand their orders. The officers tried to teach us to read and write, but their efforts were abandoned too soon and were performed so improperly than none of us learned anything.
June 6, 1934
Voden (Edessa). Here, in Voden, and in our whole district, in the heart of Macedonia, here where we Macedonians do not know any other language but our own Macedonian, various agents of the Greek capitalism fore us to speak Greek. Consequently, they threaten us constantly with expulsion to Bulgaria, they call us Komitajis, expropriate our fields which we have drenched with our sweet just to produce a piece of bread. In addition, they deprive us of the freedom which our fathers won after many years of struggle in which they gave their lives for the liberation of Macedonia. We live under the yoke of Greek capitalism, literally as slaves. In the elementary schools, the young children who speak their own language are beaten every day. Particularly here in Voden, the henchman and fascist Georgiadis beats the children if they speak their Macedonian tongue.
June 8, 1934
Lerin (Florina). It has been some time now that the whole bourgeois press launched a campaign against the Macedonian people. It represents a part of the fascist and military measures which the Government of Tsaldaris carries out in its orientation towards an increasingly brutal oppression of the people’s masses in Macedonia. The Chief of the Security Forces here, Karamaunas, whenever he meets us on the streets threatens us with the words: “You are Bulgarians and if by any chance I discover any sort of organized movement, I will beat you without mercy and than I will deport you.” We Macedonians should rise with greater courage and by means of increased activities should reject this campaign because it brings us an even more brutal oppression, starvation, misery, and war.
MACEDONIA AND GREECE AFTER WORLD WAR II
The end of World War II brought both joy and sadness to the Macedonian people. Joy because the Macedonians were finally recognized as a distinct people with their own nationality, language, and culture in Yugoslavia. The Republic of Macedonia was not anymore “Southern Serbia” but another integral part of federal Yugoslavia. The possible unification of all three parts of Macedonia have failed, however. Great Britain intervened and blocked that idea, afraid that the Macedonian unification will endanger her interests on the Balkan peninsula.
The Greek Civil War
During the Greek Civil War that followed World War II, the Macedonians of Aegean Macedonia fought on the side of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) who promised them their rights after the war. After two years of KKE’s success in the civil war, the United States decided to side up against them, afraid that Greece would become another communist country. With the military support that came from the United States and Great Britain, the communists lost the war, and the Macedonians once again did not get their human rights.
The Yugoslav – Greek Relations
Yugoslavia urged Greece many times to recognize the Macedonian minority in Aegean Macedonia. The Greek paper “Elefteros Tipos” wrote that in September of 1986 the Prime-Minister Papandreu in the talks with Yugoslav presidency member Stane Dolanc has agreed to recognize the Macedonian language as one of the official languages in Yugoslavia. As a result of those talks, on March 16, 1988, the Greek Prime-Minister Papandreu and the Foreign Affairs’ Karolos Papulias, even agreed to recognize the Macedonian language in Greece. However, the famous bankers affair “Koskotas” emerged, the PASOK government fell down, and the documents were not signed. Greece continued to refer to the Macedonians as “Slavophones” who speak an idiom.
THE MACEDONIAN – GREEK RELATIONS
Greece urged the world not to recognize Macedonia under that name because Macedonia’s Constitution “threatens the security and integrity of Greece”. What Greece is referring to is the Article 49 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia which states:
“The Republic of Macedonia cares for the statue and rights of those persons belonging to the Macedonian people in neighboring countries, as well as Macedonian ex-parties, assists their cultural development and promotes links with them.”
Athens sees Article 49 to be a direct threat for the security of Greece because Macedonia cares for the people in Greece who consider themselves Macedonians? How can a country of two million be a danger to Greece’s ten million? Furthermore, Greece has also similar article in her Constitution, as any other country in the world, to care for her minorities in the neighboring countries. Should Albania, Bulgaria, and Turkey, urge the world not to recognize Greece because of her Constitution to care for her minorities in these neighboring countries? What Greece is doing is simply against the international law. Greece demands that Macedonia change its Constitution because there are “no Macedonian people” in Greece. This will be proven to be a lie once again, after the independent and well respected Human Rights Watch / Helsinki, visited Aegean Macedonia in 1994.
Violation of the Human Rights of the Macedonians in Greece
The 80-page human rights violation report on Greece entitled “Denying Ethnic Identity – Macedonians of Greece” was published in May 1994. After visiting Aegean Macedonia, The Human Rights Watch/Helsinki concluded:
“Although ethnic Macedonians in northern Greece make up large minority with their own language and culture, their internationally recognized human rights and even their existence are vigorously denied by the Greek government. Free expression is restricted; several Macedonians have been persecuted and convicted for their peaceful expression of their views. Moreover, ethnic Macedonians are discriminated against by the government’s failure to permit the teaching of the Macedonian language. And ethnic Macedonians, particularly rights activists, are harassed by the government – followed and threatened by the security forces – and subjected to economic and social pressure resulting from this harassment. All of these actions have led to a marked climate of fear in which a large number of ethnic Macedonians are reluctant to assert their Macedonian identity or to express their views openly. Ultimately, the government is pursuing every avenue to deny the Macedonians of Greece their ethnic identity.”
The Helsinki Watch has, therefore, proven that there is nothing wrong with the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia. The Macedonians indeed exist in Greece as a large minority and, therefore, Macedonia has the full right to care for them. Helsinki Watch found the Greek government guilty for oppressing the Macedonian minority and demanded they be given their basic human rights to which they are entitled to. Another human rights organization, Amnesty International, also urged the Greek government to respect the human rights of the ethnic Macedonians. The European Union has also recognized the Macedonian language as one of the languages spoken within the EU borders. The Republic of Macedonia is not a member of the European Union, but Aegean Macedonia in Greece, is within those borders.
The Greek Embargo
Greece slapped a trade embargo on Macedonia because of the refusal of the Macedonian President Gligorov to rename the country, nation, and language, and change the constitution. The embargo had devastating impact on Macedonia’s economy. Macedonia was cut-off from the port of Salonika and became landlocked because of the UN embargo on Yugoslavia to the north, and the Greek embargo to the south. Greece said it will remove the embargo only if Macedonia satisfies her demands. This blackmail was not acceptable to the Republic of Macedonia which considered the embargo illegal. At the same time, Greece withdrew from the Greek – Macedonian talks, monitored by the UN as a mediator, and blocked any acceptance of Macedonia in the international institutions by using its power to veto new members.
The claims put forward by Greece that the ancient Macedonians were Greeks, that their native language was Greek, and that Macedonia was region of Greece, are all false. The historical truth is that Greece was inhabited by ancient Greeks, Macedonia by ancient Macedonians. Today, it is the modern Greeks and the modern Macedonians to occupy those lands. The presence of Greek settlements along the coast of Macedonia which Philip II destroyed anyway did not change Macedonia’s ethnic character. Likewise, a very much stronger and longer Greek presence in Egypt did not transform that African land into a region of Greece. It is a total absurdity to hear the Greeks of today to claim they are the Macedonians, the Greek Macedonians, the only and true Macedonians. How can they be “the only and true Macedonians”, when today’s Greek population of Aegean Macedonia immigrated there just 80 years ago joining that small Greek minority of 10%? How can they overlook the atrocities they committed on the people who than, as centuries before, proudly called themselves Macedonians? What about the statistics and maps made by neutral and independent ethnographers, slavists, and writers, to prove the existence of the Macedonian nation? And finally, what about the ethnic Macedonians whose discrimination by the official Greek government was witnessed by the independent Human Rights Watch / Helsinki and Amnesty International in 1994? The existence of the Macedonian nation and the ethnic Macedonian minority in Greece can not be questioned. There is, however, a great deal of irony surrounding the issue. In spite of the truth about Macedonia and the Macedonians, many Western countries have not yet recognized the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name but under the reference “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. This includes even the United States which after the recognition, has frizzed the sending of an ambassador to Skopje for more than a year. This “freeze” coincides with the visit of the most powerful representatives of the Greek-American lobby to President Clinton in the White House, behind closed doors, in the presence of Clinton’s adviser George Stefanopoulos, who himself, is a Greek-American.
How it is possible that the Western countries have chosen to follow “democratic” Greece where lies prevail over the truth? The European Court found the Greek embargo illegal and put Greece on trial, but did nothing to stop it while it was so harmful to the Macedonian economy. They never cared about the rights of the Macedonians in Greece while the Macedonians of the Aegean are still facing daily oppression and persecution. Finally, they still play that game for the Macedonia’s name, the way Greece wants them to. Yes, this is yet another proof that interests and money are stronger than the truth. Greece is a member of the European Union, NATO, an important ally that occupies a very strategic position. On the other hand, all other countries that do not belong to those organizations have recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name. Russia and China are among those countries. The question now is if the West is willing to risk losing Greece for the small landlocked Macedonia? It is clear at least that by standing silent on the issue, they are actually taking an active role in Greece’s mean politics, however…
On every atlas (like National Geographic), encyclopedia (like Britanika), newspaper (like New York Times), and TV media (like CNN), Macedonia is referred simply as Macedonia. Even the US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and Defense Secretary William Perry, speak of Macedonians and refer to Macedonia as Macedonia. Matthew Nimitz, the US mediator in the Greek – Macedonian talks has said that “the country has an Constitutional name – Republic of Macedonia” and that besides the opposing of Greece, Macedonia was admitted at UN under the reference “former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, but that is “only a reference and not name”. The truth about Macedonia slowly but surely is coming to the top, working towards a final end to the century-old shadow of Greek lies and propaganda.
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