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Will FYR Macedonia Change Its Name?

FYR Macedonia

The new left-wing government in FYROM has sent positive messages to Greece for solving the name issue, while Greece’s government seems also more flexible. The main concerns come from the reaction of the people from both sides.

The dispute over the name of FYR Macedonia counts almost 30 years now between Greece and its neighbor. The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, as its formal name according to United Nations, wants to keep only the name of Macedonia, causing frustration in Greece, whose north province is also called Macedonia. This issue might seem of little importance to an external observer, but this is not the case in the Balkans.

History of the Macedonian issue

The issue of the name of FYROM opened both political and historical issues, that counts back to the beginning of the 20th century and the Balkan wars that determined the fate and the borders of Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and the Ottoman Empire. Back then, Macedonia was a matter of territorial dispute between those countries, as there lived Bulgarian-speaking, Greek-speaking, Slavs, Turks, and Jews.

The end of the Balkan wars ended the dispute, until the 1940s, when Bulgaria occupied, in cooperation with Germany and Italy, parts of Greek Macedonia to abandon them again after the liberation. The Macedonian issue emerged again after the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the creation of FYROM. By naming the new country as Macedonia, the ghosts of the 1900s appeared again, as Greece believed that the new country would raise new territorial disputes. In historical terms, FYROM claimed to be a descendant of Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire, causing frustration to Greece, which also claimed Alexander’s heritage as its own.

The current situation

After a severe political crisis in FYR Macedonia, President Ivanov gave the mandate to the Social Democrat leader Zaev to form a government. Zaev is supported by the ethnic Albanian MPs raising concerns to the outgoing VMRO-DPMNE party, that more rights will be given to ethnic Albanians. The current government has criticized the former prime minister Gruevski, for nationalistic rhetoric and provocations against Greece and the name issue.

The new government is committed to the European orientation of the country and will try to make FYR Macedonia a NATO member. Though, the name issue is an obstacle for the country, as Greece blocks any effort for accession to both organizations as long as the name issue remains open.

The new government of FYR Macedonia took positive comments from the Greek side, for criticizing the previous government for spending millions to build kits statues of Alexander the Great in Skopje and called provocations the rename of several places with names from antiquity (Alexander, Philippe etc). Furthermore, according to the professor Mazis of the University of Athens, the ethnic Albanians that support Zaev give little attention to the name issue, giving more flexibility to the government.

From the Greek side, the coalition of the left-wing Syriza government and the right-wing ANEL gives a blurred image to the name issue. Syriza, as the party of the opposition in the past, has called FYROM as Macedonia several times. The name issue has caused a government crisis some months ago, when ANEL threatened to withdraw from the government because one of the Syriza ministers called FYROM, Macedonia. At the end of the day, though, ANEL reneged proving the opportunistic character of their threats. Macedonian issue remains difficult to solve from the Greek side, as the electorate is not willing to accept any name that will include Macedonia, leading previous governments to a deadlock.

Given the above, the Macedonian issue remains a difficult puzzle for both sides, but it is the first time that both countries have left-wing governments that can be more flexible on the name issue. Adding to this, external factors, as the EU and US will probably press both sides to compromise, using a strategy of carrot and stick. On the other hand, Russia might involve, as it did in the case of Montenegro’s accession to NATO, making things difficult.

13 Comments

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  • “The Macedonian issue emerged again after the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the creation of FYROM. ”

    You left out the part of the Greek civil war…when leftists not only committed treason but were outright murdering Greeks for ethnic Bulgarians (Skopians) promoting “United Macedonia” and communist tyranny.

    ” it is the first time that both countries have left-wing governments that can be more flexible on the name issue”

    There has been no flexibility in SDSM. All they have said is to allow Skopje into NATO under provisional name. This clearly is a ploy to gain even further recognition and later drop the provisional name. Without SDSM dealing with the issue of changed name and “ancient Macedonian” propaganda only a a fool would see this as “flexibility” on the part of Skopje. Hopefully the Greek left aren’t stupid enough to inch-by-inch commit treason again because if they recognize Skopje as “Macedonia” their will be another civil war..

    • I find the statement “there will be another civil war” fascinating. The are facing economic based slow motion genocide from the EU banking cartels, and you do not want to fight back. Yet you say you people want to start a civil war because another neighboring country wants to name itself differently? -Brian Ghilliotti

      • Pure garbage. I have seen you post on the Macedonia issue on many websites “Brian Ghilliotti”. You seem awfully interested in this issue. Surely you are not using a pseudonym to fool others into thinking you are some random objective observer.

        Masses of patronizing Greek haters like you lost the argument the second you started to unethically evade over the Slavs littel quick change into ‘ancient Macedonians” and now obvious abuse of the name to promote irredentism against Greece. Collusion with those threatening Greece is hardly “human rights”. Its an undeclared act of war.

        • I do not hate Greeks. I was also deployed to Kosovo and Macedonia. As an American, I cannot understand why people would get worked up to the point of threatening others because another neighboring country wants to change its name.

          No one in Mexico wants to start problems with an American because there is a state called “New Mexico” in the United States. Those who do have issues with Americans chose to have them for other reasons besides the fact that the word “Mexico” is part of a US State’s name.

          Meanwhile the European Union banking cartels are doing more destruction to your society than Macedonia could or would do. I am not afraid to claim my statements.

          Is this name crap just a distraction from this fact?

          Brian Ghilliotti

  • Offering a compromise qualifier name was a mistake. Even calling it “FYROM” was a mistake. As massive numbers of Skopjians that promote “United Macedonia” have shown, Skopians can’t be trusted anywhere near the name. The goal of Greece should turn to irradication of this country. The Greek left that tries to be “comrades’ with fanatics promoting irredentism against Greece is bordering on treason.

  • There must be some deeper underlying issue here. Are they really having all of this dispute over the name of a country, and statues of Alexander the Great?

    • @Richard,

      The former Yugoslavians abuse the name to promote irredentism exactly as Greeks warned would happen 25 years ago but were patronizingly ridiculed by our alleged NATO allies (most of whom today unethically evade to hide their mistake of ridiculously recognizing obvious Slavs as “ethnic” Macedonians.. akin to claiming them “ethnic ” Athenians).

    • Anyone that ridiculously claims recognition of new states is always some minor issue has no moral or intellectual credibility. (see Palestine, See Republic of China.. .neither of which are recognized by the USA) And anyone that whitewashes the former Yugoslavians now obvious irredentism against Greece has even less credibility.

  • The name dispute will never resolve itself. Greek history cannot be negotiated. Just the word macedonia in FYROM’S name is unethical. The word is Greek. The history is Greek. The entire map of ancient Macedonia falls within Greece. FYROM is not Macedonia. The likehood that composite names will be accepted by the deluded ultranationalist Slavic population of FYROM is zero. My prediction is they will come up with a composite name. It will go to a referendum and be knocked back. FYROM will be admitted to the EU, NATO, UP, IOC, FIFA ect under their current provisional name for fear of gravitating towards Russia. Nothing will be gained. The Antiquization program of FYROM during the last decade cannot be reversed . Even the left wing of FYROMIAN politics is now polluted and Antiquated. It’s an impossible to solve situation without the UN correcting the situation both historically and scientifically via academia.

    • the former region of Vardar Yugoslavia needs to be wiped off the map. Period. Not only that but we should look at retaliating on a national level against any foreign backer that pretends they don’t noticed their quick change into “ancient Macedonians” and irredentism. The Greek hating liars are all trying to hide their mistake of calling the obvious frauds “ethnic” Macedonians.

      My choice would be official removal of recognition of any state that officially recognizes it as Macedonia and build out from there. Unfortunately most Greeks today are unprincipled cowards. Big tough guys with tiny Skopje. When it comes time to standing up against powerful nations for the sake of an actual principle… tail between their legs. Leonidas would not have behaved like this.

  • Maybe they can compromise? FYROM can change its name to the Republic of New Macedonia so it can satisfy those who want to purge alll vestiges of its Yugoslav (and Slavic) past, while at the same time not sounding “too Greek”. Just like no one thinks the US wants to attack Mexico because one of its states has the name “Mexico” in it (New Mexico). Macedonia will probably end up in a civil war no matter what, as NATO will be unable to control the Albanian nationalist forces, and opposing reactionary forces, that it has unleashed. Go to the source of your problems, the EU banking cartels. Do not let them fool you into fighting each other because a bordering country wants to change its name. -Brian Ghilliotti

    • More patronizing garbage.Greece does not object to any of the thousands of place names around the world that use Greek synonyms. Obvious their is more to the issue than just a name dear-ski. – Mahatma Gandhi.

    • @Brian
      I understand what you are trying to say here but you have chosen a poor example. The US state of New Mexico was once part of Mexico proper, as was Texas, Nevada, Arizona and California. These were all Mexican territories annexed by the United States as part of their original wars of expansion and conquest (see the Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny). FYROM itself is not a name and was never meant to be used for any purposes outside of the UN – hence it is a temporary reference and the words within it were not capitalised to ensure they do not form a proper noun. Use of the reference as a acronym is actually contrary to the interim agreement.

      Macedonia (Republic of) should simply refer to itself as Northern Macedonia and the Greeks refer to their region as Southern Macedonia with neither claiming exclusive rights to the term Macedonia and Macedonian.

About the author

Vasilis Spyrakos Patronas

Vasilis Spyrakos Patronas

Vasilis Spyrakos Patronas is a political scientist and expert in European economy and politics. He is a Political Analyst at Greek think tank Synpraxis and is currently pursuing an MSc in Political Economy of Europe at London School of Economics and Political Science.

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