M O D U L E   0.05  R E S E A R C H   F I N D I N G S  ::


Research on MACEDONIA  ::

Bitola / Macedonia

Who Are The Macedonians?

BECAUSE OF A LONG, ANCIENT, AND CONTESTED HISTORY, and perhaps in part because history is often written by the victors of wars, today Macedonia is frequently viewed by some people as belonging to or as a part of another nation.

Here are brief summaries regarding some countries or people who perceive or believe that Macedonians (either full or in part) belonging to their nation:

GREECE (Danny Leary + Farah Azizieh) Throughout time, Macedonia has been a hotbed of social and political turmoil. Many countries have owned this area at different times during the course of history. Even to this day, there are battles between Macedonia and other countries on who owns who, and which country is the rightful owner of the land and its surrounding territories. Greece is a prime example of a country that has an ongoing battle with the Republic of Macedonia . Although tensions have ceased as of late, it seems that even small things such as the naming of an airport can bring conflict between the two countries.

The Skopje airport in the Republic of Macedonia was to be renamed after Alexander the Macedonian whom Greece considers a legendary warrior who conquered the world carrying with him the Greek heritage. The Greeks viewed this move from the Macedonian government as interference on a part of history that belonged to them, a part that Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis referred to as "More than 2,000 years later history can be neither changed nor falsified". Although history does record Alexander as carrying the Greek civilization everywhere; history also records that he was Alexander the Macedonian born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia. However the cultural heritage of the ancient Macedonians that Alexander was part of has been disputed for quite some time ever since the independence of Macedonia from Yugoslavia.

There is a sharp division between the lines formed by Greece and Macedonia. On the northern part of Greece, a region of its own is called Macedonia, and even has its own capital city. Then beyond it lies the Republic of Macedonia. This has been another hot spot of debate. When the Ottoman Empire fell in 1913, the land of Macedonia was divided between many countries with Greece included. Many Nationalists in the Republic of Macedonia want to see all these territories restored. This caused much anger between Greece and the Republic, and even resulted in an embargo pushed onto the Republic by Greece in 1995. The embargo was soon dropped after the Republic agreed to renounce all land claims to neighboring states.

There have been countless other arguments between Greece and Macedonia, from flag use, to even the currency the republic wished to use. However at this moment in time Greece is still a very important ally for the new Republic. Greece is the most important investor in the country (57% of the total foreign investments) and trade between the two countries is on the rise.

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BULGARIA (Misun Koo +Josh Yohn) It seems that the question of ownership of Macedonia has been a political topic for quite some time. The debate seems to have started as early as the fall of the Ottoman Empire. More recent debates, between Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece, have been taking place since the end of the nineteenth century. All of these individual countries have given claim to Macedonia based on claims of similar ethnic, linguistic, religious, and other various reasons.

In terms of Bulgaria's response, they believed that Macedonia belonged to them and that any notion of them having their own identity seriously undermined their national unity. Bulgaria's current view has changed little, but they do now recognize, at least on a political scale, that Macedonia is its own republic. Even with the recognition of Macedonia by Bulgaria, the question of its legitimacy as an independent nation still lingers with many in Bulgaria.

One of the major factors of Bulgarian control over Macedonia, is that most of the population was Bulgarian. There was a smaller amount of residents that were Greek and Serbian, along with more minor nationalities. Also, Bulgaria feels very strongly about Macedonia due to the fact that many of the key leaders of Bulgaria's national awakening, along with those prominent in it's political, economic, and cultural playing fields, were born in Macedonia. Not only that fact, but they also never expressed themselves as anything other than native Bulgarians. Macedonia was also a part of the creation of the Bulgarian Exarchate, which took place in 1870, and the nation voted to join up.

It seems that at least on some scale, Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria, claim ownership of Macedonia in some form or fashion, while at the same time recognize them as an independent nation. The feelings of the inhabitants of these nations vary to some degree but can change quickly with the tide of current politics. In the end, Bulgaria holds a strong advantage in their case of ownership, due to various factors, but seems to be mixed on what it actually wants or is entitled to. It seems that the question of who owns Macedonia, be it any number of nations or that it is its own sovereign nation, will not be answered anytime soon.

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SERBIA > (Jeff Hake + Sheetal Donahue) Macedonia is a land of majestic mountains, picturesque lakes, and richly frescoed medieval churches. It has suffered from the misfortune of being poor in resources while holding a strategically vital region. All of the north-south and east-west communication routes of the Southern Balkans meet up in this area which makes it a prize to all since ancient times. In the fourth century BC, Philip II and Alexander III of Macedon made it a launch pad for universal empire. In medieval times the Byzantine, Bulgarian, and Serbian empires successively gained possession of the area, until the Turks in the fourteenth century. The legacy of Macedonia has been plagued by violence, underdevelopment, and political turmoil. The most important aspect of Macedonian reality vital to any understanding of the area is the fact that Macedonia is a region with a variety of nationalities. The struggle to carve nation-states out of this region is the core of the Macedonian Question. The heart of the matter is essentially the same today as it was a hundred years ago: Given the fact that the Ottoman Empire was ethnically diverse, what should be the boundaries of the successor states that replace it?

Macedonian nationalism did not have international acceptance or legitimacy until World War II, much later than other similar national movements in Eastern Europe. For a half century Macedonian nationalism existed illegally. It was not recognized by the theocratic Ottoman state or by the two established Orthodox churches in the empire. As a result of the Balkan wars of 1912-13, the region was liberated from Ottoman rule. Each of these three states consolidated their control over their respective parts of Macedonia, and throughout the inter-war years inaugurated and implemented policies intended to destroy any manifestations of Macedonian nationalism or patriotism. The fate of Macedonia was plagued by brute force, to the utter disregard of the rights and aspirations of its peoples.

By the international treaties which ended the Balkan wars the three Macedonian regions had become integral parts of the respective sovereign states of Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia/Yugoslavia. The Serbian (Yugoslav) part was initially called "Southern Serbia", but later, during the inter-war period, it was named Vardarska Banovina (Province of Vardar). Only after the Second World War, did the Yugoslav Communist Party, in re-organizing the Yugoslav state on a federal basis, assign the name of the "People's Republic of Macedonia" to the former "Vardarska Banovina" (in 1963 it was renamed "Socialist Republic of Macedonia"). These states chose to deny the existence of a separate Macedonian identity. They claimed Macedonia and the Macedonians as their own.

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ALBANIA > (Greg Skaggs) Macedonia's western geographical neighbor is Albania. Albanian's make up a quarter of the Macedonian population and is the second most spoken language. Some interesting comparisons between the two countries:

- Macedonian population is steadily growing, Albania's is declining.
- Macedonia is predominately Christian, Albania is 70% Muslim.

Though both countries are experiencing difficult economical times, Albania's population decline is fueled by many Albanian's seeking job opportunities in Macedonia.

It is this ever-growing population of Albanian's in western Macedonia that brings the greatest threat to peace in the region. Though a small faction, many Albanian emigrants are calling for a separation from Macedonia, creating a kind of 'Lesser Albania.' These two countries have been tied together through turmoil for thousands of years– before the days of Alexander the Great.

Do Albanian emigrants consider themselves Macedonians and wish to integrate into the culture of their new country? Not an easy question to answer.

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TURKEY > (Erika Miller) Kiro Gilgorov the President of Macedonia started his trip with a stop in Turkey while trying to revive the role of the country in this part of the peninsula. Many surrounding countries have to signed military cooperation accords to keep peace in the Balkan region.

Turkey is one of the countries that actually recognizes Macedonia's constitutional name. Which Greece strongly opposes. Greece wants to create a new group in the Balkan area with Bulgaria and Romania which surrounds Macedonia. However Macedonia as well as Bosnia and Albania have developed a relationship with Turkey. Also Macedonia is on of the only nations that constitutionally recognizes Turks as a section of its own population. Turkey and Macedonia have already signed all the required agreements for the development of economic relations as well as military cooperation.

Turkey is working diligently to improve the economic ties between the two countries. Trade in the 90's increased by nearly 60 percent. Also recently Turkey has tried to also include and aid Kosovo to improve the peace in the Balkans. They want to continue to build up this region and make it stronger in the world's view.

As the two Presidents of Macedonia and Turkey work together to begin this time of peace they have extended welcomes to one another by saying " The Turks that live in Macedonia act as bridges of friendship between the two countries." They want to further the cooperation in the fields of economics, culture and trade. Many of these countries are striving for peace and stability in this region.

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MACEDONIA (Ellen Gorsevski) A Few Macedonians and the Notion of a “Greater Macedonia” :: A tiny but sometimes vocal group of Macedonians, especially Macedonians in the wide diaspora located in industrialized nations such as the U.S., Australia, Canada, Sweden, Germany and France, argue (dream, wish?) that the current FYROM rump of the Republic of Macedonia that now exists should, in theory, really extend all the way down to what is now Greece on the map. Of course, to Greeks, to use a colloquialism: “Them’s fightin’ words!”

According to Thomas Keyes, author of two books: A SOJOURN IN ASIA (Non-Fiction) and A TALE OF UNG:

“The modern Macedonian view [among this tiny, vocal group] is that the ancient Macedonians, from whom they claim cultural and ethnic descent, were a people distinct from the Greeks. They further maintain that the Greeks, upon gaining independence from the Turks in the 1830's, began creating the mythos of their own direct lineage from Hellenistic Greece, introducing the Katharevousa, a failed attempt to restore a more classical kind of Greek and purging the country of any artifacts and writings clashing with Greek propaganda.

“Greeks argue that, since the modern Macedonian language is a Slavic language and since, according to their view, the Slavs arrived many centuries after Alexander's time, the modern Macedonians cannot be the descendants of the ancient Macedonains. This raises the question of how anyone knows that the language of Alexander was not the matrix from which the Slavic languages sprang. Ancient writers … hint at the existence of a separate Macedonian language in Alexander's time, and, apparently, not enough is known about it at present to show whether it was merely a variant of Greek or whether it was an entirely different language, which Macedonians suggest may have been a sort of proto-Slavic. Of course, in this area, we're in highly conjectural tangles.”

So whether or not Alexander the Great spoke some prototype of today’s Macedonian language is up to historians and anthropologists and linguists. But for that handful of armchair politicians in the Macedonian diaspora, and perhaps a sprinkling of folks in what is Macedonia today, the emotional and cultural attachment to what is now a goodly sized chunk of Greek territory—to the 3 fingers Halkidiki region on the Mediterranean ocean—remains strong.

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Response: TROY University, iC3, or the people represented take no claim on any view mentioned. This is simply a research project to see what others perceive about Macedonia in regards to identity. The Macedonians are a great people and are admired by this research team. We welcome any and all feedback in regards to these postings. If you have insight or a written response, it should be sent to jjohnson@troy.edu and to sdonahue@troy.edu and it may be posted.