Friday, April 20, 2012

Macedonia vs FYROM - a subject you might want to avoid while in Greece

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."(Romeo and Juliet - Shakespeare)

My dearest Shakespeare, you couldn't be more wrong... There is a lot in a name.. like territorial aspirations for example.

The official name of  FYROM is "Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia" but some countries refer to it as Macedonia or Republic of Macedonia  thing that gets the Greeks very angry since they feel they have a right over their own name. The now days Macedonia is the name of the northern Greek territories.
A general advice would be that if you find yourself in northern Greece looking for the way to FYROM, you should never ask a Greek how to get to Macedonia. He's going to change color instantaneously and you'll have a very pissed Greek on your hands since you most likely ARE already in Macedonia.
From a historical point of view, the term "Macedonia" is of Greek origin. The Macedonians, meaning "the tall ones", were one of the many Greek tribes. 
The rise of the Macedonian empire started with Filip II ( 359-336 BC) and it was brought to greatness by Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), his son.  
The Slavs on the other hand, came to Europe in the VI-th century AD, so give or take a millennium after Macedonia knew it's peak of evolution. 

Everything went smooth, for another 1300 years but then, the Balkan wars (1912-1913) came and put an end to the Ottoman Empire in Europe. After the Treaty of Bucharest in 1913, Greece got 51,1% of geographical Macedonia, Bulgaria 10, 1% while the rest of 38,4% became part of the Kingdom of Serbia. 

In 1944 when Tito decided to create a federal state consisting of 6 republics, Yugoslavia, and named the southern province, previously known as Vardarska Banovina ("The district of the river")  "People's Republic of Macedonia". Their language, a Slavic one, started being known as the Macedonian language while the people living there started being known as Macedonians.

Tito's plan was to make his claims over the Greek and Bulgarian parts of Macedonia to appear just. That is why over the years that followed he infused  the new generations with the idea of a Great and Free Macedonia. In 1948 though, the clash with Moscow accrued and Tito's plans were never fulfilled.

A civil war and a dictatorship later, in the 80', the problem of the name starts getting very pressing for the Greeks who see their historical values and identity used outside of their borders. 
The situation gets even more tensed after the Yugoslavian states declare their independence and when the Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia adopts as flag, in 1993, the star of Vergina (the birth place of Alexander the Great and the capital of ancient Macedonian Empire). From here the situation got more and more tight, from trade sanctions to a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice.
In September 1995, a diplomatic solution was found to some of the most pressing problems on both sides. FYROM agreed to change its flag and refrain from using symbols "linked to Greece's national and historical heritage" while Greece agreed to give up its trade sanctions. This was indeed a pressure release for the whole situation but it did not manage to settle the one and most important problem that started it all, the name.

Greece's diplomatic strife continues to this day. In an article dated 12th of April 2012, the president Papoulias, said that "Greece remains fully committed to finding a just and viable solution to the name dispute.”

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