February 25, 2008

The Macedonian Issue

The issue of the naming dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is currently in the news, so this is a good time to address some facts pertaining to it.

The dispute centers around the issue of the use of the adjective "Macedonian". This adjective has a geographical sense, describing someone who is from the geographical region of Macedonia. However, for the inhabitants of FYROM, it also has an ethnic sense, since many (or most) Slavic-speaking inhabitants of FYROM consider themselves to be Macedonian in an ethnic sense. I will distinguish between these two uses as Geo-Macedonians and Slavo-Macedonians henceforth.

Three types of criteria are used with regard to ethnic identification: language, self-definition, descent.

Descent is the easier one to address: according to most reputable genetic studies, Geo-Macedonians tend to be more of indigenous Balkan origins. In short, Geo-Macedonians, whether they speak Greek, Vlach, Albanian, or Slavic, and whether they live in Greece or the FYROM are characterized by genetic characteristics attesting to a substantial amount of distinctive southern Balkan ancestry, having, in particular substantial frequencies of Y-haplogroups E and J.

Genetically-speaking Geo-Macedonians are Balkan Europeans, and are differentiated both from Northern-Balkan/Central/Eastern Europeans as well as from West Asians.

is also easy to address. Within Geo-Macedonia, several languages and dialects are spoken, including Greek, Slavic, Vlach, and Albanian. These languages were established at different times, with the oldest attested one being the Greek. A Slavic language spoken in the FYROM is named "Macedonian" by the Slavo-Macedonians.

Sometimes, it is asserted by scholars from FYROM that Ancient Macedonian was not a Greek dialect, but a separate Indo-European language. While these claims are not very serious, they are actually irrelevant to the modern issues at hand, since the "Macedonian" of the Slavo-Macedonians has no relationship to the ancient language: it is a Slavic idiom dating at most from the 6th c. AD.

Self-Identity is more complex. It is true that Slavic speakers from FYROM have a Macedonian ethnic identity, but Geo-Macedonians in Greece have a Greek ethnic identity. Thus, Greek Macedonians assert the name "Macedonian" in a geographical sense, i.e., "Greeks from the region of Macedonia", whereas Slavo-Macedonians assert it in an ethnic sense, i.e., "Members of the Macedonian ethnic group".

To summarize, we must make these points:
  • Slavo-Macedonians from FYROM assert a Macedonian ethnicity, as well as (in some cases) continuity with ancient Macedonia
  • Such continuity with ancient Macedonia can be based either on language, or on descent.
    • Linguistic continuity between Slavic Macedonian and the ancient Macedonian dialect/language does not exist.
    • Continuity of descent from the ancient Macedonians to the modern ones is not limited to the Slavic-speaking Slavo-Macedonians. Slav Macedonians have no monopoly on Macedonian "blood".
Thus, in what sense is the name Republic of Macedonia a reasonable choice for the FYROM?
  • It does not encompass the entirety of Macedonia (as a geographical region).
  • The Macedonian dialect/language of Slavic is not related to the ancient Macedonian language/dialect.
  • The people of FYROM have a Macedonian ethnic self-identity, but the Greeks of Macedonia have a Greek ethnic self-identity. One's "right" to the name of Macedonian infringes on the other's right to use it in a different sense; the name "Macedonian" is thus ambiguous.
There are only two reasonable choices for the name of the FYROM.

Republic of Upper Macedonia describes the state geographically, since FYROM includes the northern part of historical Macedonia, as well as other historically non-Macedonian regions.

Republic of Slav Macedonia describes the state linguistically, since FYROM includes the mainly Slav-speaking portion of historical Macedonia.

The name New Macedonia might also be considered, but does not really describe the identity of FYROM as clearly as the above two.

My personal preference would be for Upper Macedonia, a clear, unambiguous geographical description that has certain advantages over Slav Macedonia:
  • There are Slav speakers also in Bulgarian and Greek Macedonia.
  • FYROM includes also Albanian, Vlach, and Greek speakers who might not be as open to the name "Slav Macedonia".
This is the time for cool-headed reflection on the part of both Greeks and the Slavo-Macedonians:
  • The people of Greece are justified in wanting to deny exclusive rights to the Macedonian name to FYROM, because FYROM encompasses only part of Macedonia: geographically, the northern part; genetically, a subset of the Macedonian blood; linguistically, a Slavic dialect of the Macedonian region.
  • The people of FYROM are justified in wanting to have some rights to the name Macedonian: they inhabit parts of Macedonia, they speak a Macedonian dialect of the Slavic group, and they have come to think of themselves as a separate nation from other Balkan Slavs.
Acceptance of a single name for all uses such as Republic of Upper Macedonia is the reasonable thing to do.


christavica said...


This argumentation is as eloquent as it is arrogant. Your historical pontifications and personal preferences on this matter are utterly besides the point. The central question here is a political one, and a matter of human rights: Does a nation have the right to identify itself? BTW, this is a yes/no question, and there is only one right answer.

(If you dare to say "no", I would like to inform you that I invoke my right to rename your country, and also, I hereby overrule your mother's decision to name you Dienekes. You are now going to be named "Bob". If you don't like that, Bob, I'm sorry, but its not your decision. You don't define yourself, I do. I hope you don't mind. Please go change your driver's license and passport, ok? Thanks, Bob.)

'Upper Macedonia' is totally unacceptable, because the Macedonian people do not identify as "Upper Macedonians", nor as "Slavs", and in fact, they are not. Ethnic Macedonians originate in all regions of Macedonia, including the portion which became Greece for the first time in history as a result of the Treaty of Bucharest, 1913.

Macedonian people know exactly who they are, which is more than I can say for some Greeks. Macedonians are not obliged to ask the opinion of Greeks on this matter. I am sure you think you are a very reasonable person, and this preference of yours is a very reasonable suggestion. But telling a nation to rename itself is one of the most arrogant acts imaginable.

Thank you,

Dienekes said...

The central question here is a political one, and a matter of human rights: Does a nation have the right to identify itself? BTW, this is a yes/no question, and there is only one right answer.

This is not a yes/no question, since countries' right to name themselves is limited by competing interests to their chosen names.

A country cannot call itself Coca-Cola land, because that would infringe on Coca-Cola's copyrights. Nor can a country call itself China, because we already have one of those.

Nor can a country occupying the territory of Paeonia, a small slice of ancient Macedonia, and inhabited by Slavs co-opt the Greek name and history of Macedonia.

'Upper Macedonia' is totally unacceptable, because the Macedonian people do not identify as "Upper Macedonians", nor as "Slavs", and in fact, they are not

Indeed, I have changed my thoughts on the use of Upper Macedonia. Apparently that did not refer in ancient times to the part of Macedonia currently intersecting FYROM. Also, FYROM largely occupies Paeonia, and the use of any sort of "Macedonia" for them would not be a very good choice. But, they can probably have "Slav Macedonia" if they choose to; that's the most accurate one, although it might enrage their Albanian minority. Perhaps Paeonia or Vardarska are better candidate names.

Also, the inhabitants of FYROM _are+ Slavs, and their dialect is closest to Bulgarian, with regional variation and Serbian influences. It is certainly not Macedonian.

Macedonian people know exactly who they are

Yes, Macedonians know who they are and they are Greeks. As for _some_ of the the current Slav inhabitants of FYROM, they are apparently in deep confusion if they say things like "we are not Slavs".

But telling a nation to rename itself is one of the most arrogant acts imaginable.

You are free to name yourselves however you want, and we are free not to recognize you under a name we don't like. If someone decides he is Napoleon the Great, he's free to do so, but I'm not obliged to accept his fantasy.

Unknown said...

Replying to Chris above no Ottoman census mentions a separate Macedonian ethnicity, only Greeks And Bulgarians amongst the Christians.
Also Asoka the Emperor mentions " Now it is conquest by Dhamma that Beloved-of-the-Gods considers to be the best conquest. And it [conquest by Dhamma] has been won here, on the borders, even six hundred yojanas away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni. Rock Edict Nb13 (S. Dhammika)" Here is confirmation that the generals of Alexander were known as Ionians.
"In the Gandhari original Antiochos is referred to as "Amtiyoko nama Yona-raja" (lit. "The Greek king by the name of Antiokos"), beyond whom live the four other kings: "param ca tena Atiyokena cature 4 rajani Turamaye nama Amtikini nama Maka nama Alikasudaro nama" (lit. "And beyond Antiochus, four kings by the name of Ptolemy, the name of Antigonos, the name of Magas, the name Alexander"
Furthermore Greek communities lived in the northwest of the Mauryan empire, in the region of Pakistan, notably ancient Gandhara near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, and in southern Afghanistan in the region of Gedrosia, following the conquest and the colonization efforts of Alexander the Great around 323 BCE. These communities therefore seem to have been still significant during the reign of Ashoka. A notable mention references aspects of Greek society.

Furthermore "There is no country, except among the Greeks, where these two groups, Brahmans and ascetics, are not found, and there is no country where people are not devoted to one or another religion". Rock Edict Nb13 (S. Dhammika)
As we can see Alexander's General's were known as Yona (Ionians) and Greek was the language passed on to the conquered areas.
Furthermore Two edicts in Afghanistan have been found with Greek inscriptions, one of these being a bilingual edict in the Greek language and Aramaic. This edict, found in Kandahar, advocates the adoption of "Piety" (using the Greek term Eusebeia for Dharma) to the Greek community:
"Ten years (of reign) having been completed, King Piodasses (one of the titles of Ashoka: Piyadassi or Priyadarsi, "He who is the beloved of the Gods and who regards everyone amiably") made known (the doctrine of) Piety (Greek:εὐσέβεια, Eusebeia) to men; and from this moment he has made men more pious, and everything thrives throughout the whole world. And the king abstains from (killing)
living beings, and other men and those who (are) huntsmen and fishermen of the king have desisted from hunting. And if some (were) intemperate, they have ceased from their intemperance as was in their power; and obedient to their father and mother and to the elders, in opposition to the past also in the future, by so acting on every occasion, they will live better and more happily. (Trans. by G. P. Carratelli[3])

I bet you don't teach that in the schools of Fyrom only lies more lies and even more lies. Your so called scholars even lie about the Rosetta Stone stating that the Demotic inscribed in the stone is Your language and not Egyptian, whereas 100% of others scholars know it to be Egyptian Demotic!!!!!
So stealing and impersonating another culture that does not belong to you is the most arrogant act that Tito attempted in the history of humanity. In the last forty years enormous finds in Macedonia are all written in Greek and Gravestones are 95% Greek names. With hundreds being found which contain Greek stems and endings.
Indeed Greece is doing a justice to Macedonia and not allowing impostors impersonate them.

Unknown said...

How is it Christavica you say you don't identify as Slavs more lies and bigger lies and big fat lies indeed you write:
"We are Slavs who came to this area in the sixth century ... we are not descendants of the ancient Macedonians."
Quote from FYROM'S President Mr. Kiro Gligorov.
(from the Foreign Information Service Daily Report, Eastern Europe,
February 26, 1992, p. 35. )
"We are Macedonians but we are Slav Macedonians. That's who we are! We have no connection to Alexander the Greek and his Macedonia. The ancient Macedonians no longer exist, they had disappeared from history long time ago. Our ancestors came here in the 5th and 6th century (AD)."
Quote from FYROM'S President Mr. Kiro Gligorov.
(from the Toronto Star newspaper, March 15, 1992)
22 January 1999: FYROM'S Ambassador in Washington, Mrs. Ljubica Acevshka, gave a speech on the present situation in the Balkans. At the end of her speech answering questions Mrs. Acevshka said:
"We do not claim to be descendants of Alexander the Great." "Greece is FYROM'S second largest trading partner, and its number one investor. Instead of opting for war, we have chosen the mediation of the United Nations, with talks on the ambassadorial level under Mr. Vance and Mr. Nimitz." In reply to another question about the ethnic origin of the people of FYROM, Ambassador Achevska stated that "we are Slavs and we speak a Slav language."
Indeed you make up any old rubbish lies as you go along, we are Slavs, we are not Slavs, we don't speak Slav but you speak Bulgarian a Slavic language and use a Slavic alphabet. Your grandfathers were Bulgarians , fathers Serbians and Tito baptised you Macedonians, in thirty years you will call yourself Turks and claim all Turkish territories or maybe Russians or maybe Martians who knows with your people.