Greek journalist sued for writings on Bosnia

Via Marko Hoare’s blog, here’s an unhappy story about Greek journalist Takis Michas. A few years back, Michas wrote a book about the links between Greece and the Bosnian war — Greek support for Milosevic and Karadzic, Greek volunteers going to fight for the Serb side in Bosnia, and so forth.

Well, now he’s being sued by a Greek veteran of the Bosnian war. The lawsuit seems pretty dubious; the volunteer is claiming that he’s been libelled because Michas described the Greek volunteers as “paramilitaries” who took part in the Srebrenica massacre when (the volunteer says) they were in fact members in good standing of the Serb Bosnian army who just happened to be in Srebrenica around that time. The suit is being funded by something called the “Panhellenic Macedonian Front”, which is an umbrella group for a variety of extreme nationalists. A short interview with Michas, discussing the lawsuit, can be found here:

DANIEL TOLJAGA: Do you have any comments about the lawsuit and the press statements Mr. Vitalis has made?

TAKIS MICHAS: Yes. First of all Mr. Vitalis explicitly admits that Greeks (i.e. himself) took part in the planning and execution of the Serb “re-occupation” (as he calls it) of Srebrenica. As he says in his press statement “I was present with a group of senior Serb officers in all the operations for the re-occupation of Srebrenica by the Serbs”.

Secondly, Mr Vitalis admits that the recruitment of Greek volunteers for the war against the legitimate government of Bosnia took place with the implicit approval of the leading Greek politicians Andreas Papandreou and (to a lesser extent) Constantine Mitsotakis. As he puts it:

“The whole of Greece knows that the Greek volunteers had the broad support of Greek society as a whole as well as the support of politicians, mainly belonging to PASOK, because of the warm friendship between Andreas Papandreou and Radovan Karadzic. They also enjoyed the support of New Democracy, through the friendly diplomatic initiatives of Constantine Mitsotakis.”

This reinforces the point I have repeatedly made, namely that Greek support for the Serb war effort was not only moral, economic, diplomatic and political but also military.

This is something that’s not widely realized outside the region: Milosevic and Karadzic were incredibly popular in Greece in the 1990s. Support for the Serbs was universal at almost every level of government, while the Greek media consistently gave the Serb version of events and ignored competing narratives. To a great extent, this is still true; Greek discourse on the Balkan wars is completely dominated by pro-Serb narratives. Most Greeks think that (for instance) the Srebrenica massacre was either grossly overblown or completely faked, that Kosovo was a land where Milosevic had to take over to restore order and protect the Serbs from genocide by murderous Albanian terrorists, and that Bosnia was a struggle of Orthodox Christians defending themselves against aggression by Turks… er, Bosniaks.

Or, to put it another way:

DANIEL TOLJAGA: It is interesting that he publicly admitted being present himself “in all the military operations” related to the “re-occupation” of Srebrenica. Do you have any idea why Mr. Vitalis has not been investigated for possible war crimes?

TAKIS MICHAS: Because, as I have shown in my book, in Greece Serb actions during the war in Bosnia are not regarded as “crimes” but as “heroic deeds”. This applies to Srebrenica as well. No Greek government has made any statement at any time during the last 15 years explicitly condemning the killings at Srebrenica – this is a unique state of affairs for a European country.

And thus:

DANIEL TOLJAGA: Are you worried about the forthcoming trial?

TAKIS MICHAS: In any other European country this lawsuit would have been thrown out of court. But as I have said repeatedly Greece is not a normal European country. Given the spirit of extreme nationalism that permeates the country and the fact that Karadzic and Mladic are venerated as saints by the majority of the public and the political class, I have every reason to feel worried.

Michas thinks there’ll be an effort to put Srebrenica itself on trial — i.e., to give a forum to denialism of the massacre and, if possible, to get a ruling formally ratifying it (at least in Greece). That’s depressingly plausible.

57 thoughts on “Greek journalist sued for writings on Bosnia

  1. It is incredible to see journalists put on trial. Takis Michas only quoted what Greek mercenaries said. And yes, they were mercenaries who were paid big bucks for confirmed killings. In one radio interview, “Greek volunteer” said he had over 400 confirmed kills, which earned him “big bucks.”

  2. It’s bizzare how some features of contemporary Russian political discource (Byzantism, pro-Serbian attitude) overlap with the Greek one

  3. First, Michas is a guy who has made a name for himself by taking extreme and extremely stupid views(such as supporting the name “macedonia” for a minority of people with a very weak at best historically or landwise relation to the area.
    Just imagine Kossovo calling itself Tetovo, Sicily or Scotland. We are talking that level of stupidity.). Anyway this is a sure way of getting publicity. So what Mr. Mihas says(and what someone with a delusional anti-greek bias like Mr. Hoare repeats) is not to be taken seriously.

    Second, I have seen no evidence that the people who participated in the Bosnia war were anything except volunteers. Many of them left very good jobs behind, if we take their word.
    Foreign volunteers in civil wars is not new- you can google the spanish civil war for instance.

    Third, no one, even bosnia moslems have (although they could legally do so, but they’d have to prove it) brought any charges against
    such volunteers. Unlike foreign volunteers(Al Quaeda anyone) who fought on the moslem side.

    Fourth, other than Mr. Michas fantasies about political involvement, the fact is that Mitsotakis and Milosevic went to Pale to try (unsuccessfully) to convince Karadzic to accept a peace plan, much more favorable to the Bosnia Serbs than the one they ended up getting.
    As for the general public, I believe that having experienced first hand the”islamic values” they would not be very supportive of Mr. Izbegovic’s ideas of islamic law. And they could understand that Serbs could(and had) lived in harmony with Moslems and Croats in Bosnia under a truly multiethnic, multicultural state[BTW, I can understand Croats or Serbs having an ethnic identification, but what sort of ethnic identification is “moslem”?] . What was the reason for breaking up this state so they could be a minority? Do you think if New Jersey gets a Moslem majority and they vote to leave the US, that this will be ok with the rest of people there?

    Fifth, “any other European country”. Like the UK, where the PM’s wife defends people who have knowingly accepted property that is the product of armed robbery with (mass)murder, as is the Oram case in occupied Cyprus?[BTW I do not expect any comments on the recent DNA proof of excecution of greek cypriot POWs by the turkish invasion troops. Only Serbs are capable of evil deeds…]

  4. I must admit to being a rather knee-jerk Hellenophobe, and now I have one extra reason to roll my eyes at their (both the Greeks and the Cypriots) having ever gotten into the EU. Their self-important, obnoxious nationalism and petty conduct towards the Brussels, Macedonia, the Turks and the Albanians has long made me antipathetic towards all thinks Greek that aren’t at least 1,000 years old. Now I can add Milosophilia to the the list!

  5. Greeks nationalists??? Gimme a break! Compared to who? Turks, with their “insulting turkishness” laws and genocides upon genocides on their hands? Halluscinating “macedonians” who want to prove they hail from Alexander? Albanians?

  6. Chris, wow, that’s a big pile of stupid. Just a couple of points.

    — Bosnian Islam was about the mildest, most easy-going Islam ever. Bosnians were beer-drinking, bikini-wearing, mostly secular Muslims with high levels of education and low birthrates. The war put some big dents in their tolerance, but Sarajevo is still a secular European city where you can drink tuica in a cafe and admire the local girls going past in their miniskirts. The idea that Bosniaks were some sort of jihadis is a marker of profound, and usually willful, ignorance.

    — Serbs living in harmony: everyone lived in harmony until the center fell apart. Then everyone started with the ethnic cleansing. The Serbs drove over 40,000 Croats out of Vojvodina before the shooting even started, and let’s not even talk about Serb Krajina.

    — Volunteers: nobody said they weren’t volunteers. He said they were paramilitaries. It is possible to be both, you know.

    — Macedonia: the Greek position on Macedonia is one of the dumbest, most profoundly fucking idiotic things in modern European politics. Which is saying something. Michas’ willingess to stand up and say that no, the Emperor has no clothes whatsoever marks him as (1) honest, and (2) incredibly brave, since this is a profoundly unpopular position in a Greece where the nationalist discourse is not merely dominant but almost universal. In fact, it’s probably the reason behind this lawsuit; having a respectable journalist with a modest international reputation stand up and say this is unbearable, simply intolerable. /He must be punished!/

    It would be funny! except that they’re trying to ruin a good man’s life. So, not really.

    Doug M.

  7. Doug,
    -“Bosnian Islam was about the mildest, most easy-going Islam ever”
    agreed. Nobody said bosnian moslems were jihadis. Except for some reason Izbegovic rose to power and his ideas had, well nothing to do with mild islam.
    -“Serbs living in harmony: everyone lived in harmony until the center fell apart”
    again agreed(apart from football fan feuds between Belgrade and Zagreb). The problem was that people had no problem living in harmoony as you say in a big multiethnic country; just why should somebody born Yugoslav end up as a minority in a breakaway state whose majority elected(for other reasons) someone who was flirting with islamic law, or someone declaring that “thank God, my wife is neither serb, nor jewish”? Because of these concerns otherwise insignificant people like Sesselj, Arkan and Karadzic were able to play their part in a long and bloody fight.

    -“Volunteers.It is possible to be both, you know”.
    -agreed, and I did not say something different. I am just not buying that people would leave their jobs and families in Greece to go and fight for money for something they did not believe in. Other than that I think the whole thing is ridiculous-the difference between “paramilitary” and “integrated in an army of an unrecognized state” is moot at best. It makes Mihas a matryr for journalistic freedom, something he is definitely not.

    -“Macedonia: the Greek position on Macedonia is one of the dumbest, most profoundly fucking idiotic things in modern European politics.”
    wtf? Are you on Ergenekon’s payroll, plain ignorant or unable to think?
    Because I see no other reason to support
    the halluscinations of a government trying to
    revise history, and convince the rest of the world that if they build the tallest statues of Alexander and rename everything after him, they will be the true macedonians.No reason at all why a minority, both populationwise and landwise
    of people in the region, who called themselves Bulgarian until about 100 years ago, should refuse a qualifier and try to pretend they represent the entire region. Especially when the majority of the population in the region has much stronger historical ties to the region.
    One really has to be either completely gullible or a complete idiot to buy that crap.

    – “Which is saying something. Michas’ willingess to stand up and say that no”
    makes him the clown who sees black where everybody else sees white. But no less a compliment should be paid to they guy who sued him and gained him a “5 minute fame”.

    -“in a Greece where the nationalist discourse is not merely dominant but almost universal.”
    ??? Nationalism in Greece? Are you kidding?

    “In fact, it’s probably the reason behind this lawsuit; having a respectable journalist with a modest international reputation stand up and say this is unbearable, simply intolerable. /He must be punished!/”
    Respectable?? Anyway, so who is the mastermind behind this great plot to punish Mr. Mihas?

    Mr. Vitalis and the handful of bosnian volunteers?
    the “Panhellenic Macedonian Front” with the huge following of less than 1%?
    The government?

    And how would that ruin his life? At worst he will have to apologize for the “paramilitary” term and correct it in future versions of his best-selling book.

  8. — Izetbegovic was a mystic, not a jihadi. He took Islam more seriously than 98% of Bosniaks, but he still wasn’t any sort of theocrat — he was an old-fashioned YugoSocialist who wanted to instill socialism with “Islamic values”. Oh, and show the Serb peasants and Croat hillbillies their place, of course.

    — Macedonia: deserves a post of its own. Here’s the short version: Macedonia can call itself anything it wants to. It harms Greece in no way and advances no “claim to represent the entire region”.

    BTW, you do know that the population of Greek Macedonia is very different than it was 100 years ago? The Greeks expelled or traded away large Turkish and Slav minorities, the Germans killed off the large Jewish minority, and about half the current Greek population is descended from Greeks imported from Asia Minor after 1923.

    — Vitalis: go back and look at what he lawsuit is actually asking for.

    — Nationalism: you think Greece is not nationalistic? It’s probably the most nationalistic country in the EU. And it’s really stupid, mean-spirited ethno-religious nationalism, too. This is not exactly a secret, or hard to figure out.

    Doug M.

  9. -Izbegovic:
    “who wanted to instill socialism with “Islamic values”
    So, for people with memories of what “islamic values” are, what exactly is surprising about wanting no part of a country with these islamic values?

    -“Macedonia can call itself anything it wants to”
    Agreed, but only if you mean the real thing, not some ex-yugo republic that was based on
    Tito’s and Comintern’s plans to expand into Greece.

    “It harms Greece in no way and advances no claim to represent the entire region”.
    So, when you refer to anything Macedonian, you do refer to the greek province, which holds the vast majority of anything macedonian, both in land and in population. Because otherwise they should also have no problem if Kossovo calls itself Tetovo or Scotland or Sicily. We are talking about that level of insanity. Btw, similarly Greece is harming in no way “macedonia”, despite provocation after provocation(such as Gruevski discovering a “macedonian minority” in Greece, which has some 2,5 million macedonians, one of them being the PM and they did not authorize them to be their representative. Berlusconi cannot speak for italian-americans, even though they may be ethnically related, unlike the Gruevski case.

    “BTW, you do know that the population of Greek Macedonia is very different than it was 100 years ago?”
    Like most places, of course. Do you think California’s population is the same as it was 100 years ago?

    “The Greeks expelled or traded away large Turkish and Slav minorities”.
    turkish occupiers became a minority… Slav minorities(you mean people who participated in VMRO’s original campaign for a pure Bulgarian macedonia )…. Anyway, population exchanges(unlike genocides) were a much more civilized practice at the time.
    Population imported? I though they had to flee(the lucky ones)..
    Anyway, since when do others have a say in how a country naturalizes refugees, especially refugees of the same nationality?
    But the main thing changing demographics is intra-country mobility, just like everywhere else. If someone from Berlin goes to work in Frankfurt and this changes the demographics. So what was your point again? That only half the current greek population of Macedonia is from the region? That would beat the “californianness” of Californians hands down.

    “the Germans killed off the large Jewish minority”
    I suppose this was also Greece’s fault somehow

    –” Vitalis: go back and look at what he lawsuit is actually asking for.”

    Go back where?”the volunteer is claiming that he’s been libelled because Michas described the Greek volunteers as “paramilitaries” who took part in the Srebrenica massacre when (the volunteer says) they were in fact members in good standing of the Serb Bosnian army who just happened to be in Srebrenica around that time”
    You did not specify what the lawsuit is asking for.If he actually says they took part in the massacre, then the burden of proof is on Mihas and it is quite justified for Vitalis or anyone else to sue. Just because someone may have served in Iraq, does not make them responsible for Abu Graib.

    –” Nationalism: you think Greece is not nationalistic? It’s probably the most nationalistic country in the EU. And it’s really stupid, mean-spirited ethno-religious nationalism, too. This is not exactly a secret, or hard to figure out.”

    Based on what? Greece is perhaps the only country in the EU with border problems, both because of an large aggressive neighor who
    has written the book on ethnic cleansing, who
    already occupies half of an EU country(and the EU does not do much about that), and often engages in direct questioning of the borders.
    Yet there are no sizeable nationalistic parties, religion is hardly important to the average greek(much like the average jew who just accepts that religion just used to play a part in their history), there is no excessive military or militarization of the society. On the contrary society is quite open to foreigners, including refugees(compare to Italy anytime). Granted the country is run extremely inefficiently, but that is not the trademark of nationalism. But since this is not hard to figure out, I suppose you have a measurement of nationalism.

  10. Will the Macedonia name-thing discussion last long enough to get some popcorn? Because it’s one of my favourite perennials here.

    Other Doug is completely right: Macedonia can call itself anything it likes. Like Paris, Texas; Paris, Mississippi; Paris, Arkansas; Paris, Idaho; Paris, Illinois; Paris, Kentucky; Paris, Maine; Paris, Michigan; Paris, Missouri; Paris, New York; Paris, Tennessee; and several others in the US alone.

    I don’t think the French are particularly worried. Maybe they are collectively secure in their nationhood.

    The Turks, bless’em, are unworried about Troy, Nova Scotia (and the Scots seem unconcerned about the province); Troy, Alabama; Troy, Idaho; Troy, Illinois; Troy, New York; Troy, Ohio; and about half a dozen more.

    But this could be a fun discussion. Mmm, popcorn.

  11. Doug Not Muir:

    One problem with your examples: they do not border a larger area with the same name, historically, and there isn’t a feeling in Paris, Texas, that there is a Texan minority in Paris, France, which should be united under the rule of Paris, France.

    I do think Greek worries on this are a bit overblown at this point in time, but Greeks live in an area where people’s talk about “Big Bulgaria” and “Greater Serbia” got put into action. (And yes, I know, Greeks supported greater Serbia, for the most part, but that doesn’t mean they’d want to be on the receiving end of “United Macedonia.”) They should not be treated in the dismissive fashion they get from non-Greeks-especially since irrendtism towards chunks of Macedonian Greece is not an unpopular opinion in the Republic of Macedonia, and a good part of the reason why Greeks get so heated about this is because they are quite aware of the issues but the people dismissing them often aren’t.

  12. @Ann, I’ve lived in the region, and I’m aware of the issues.

    They’re still stupid. Macedonia has a population a fifth the size of Greece’s and an economy less than a tenth as big. It’s physically impossible for Macedonia to contemplate irredentism against Greece. It would be like Canada hoping to annex Michigan.

    Further: the Macedonians formally abandoned any claim to Greater Macedonia back in 1993. And four succeeding Macedonian governments have repeatedly stated that they have no territorial claims in Greek Macedonia.

    What else are they supposed to do? Eat a bug?

    Doug M.

  13. “On the contrary society is quite open to foreigners, including refugees”

    That’s the point where my Stupid Overload circuit kicked in.

    Type “Greece refugees” into Google and here are your first three hits:

    1) “Greece, flooded by refugees, under fire for asylum policies. The UN refugee agency last week harshly criticized Athens for poor treatment of asylum seekers…”

    2) “UN refugee agency censures Greece. PARIS — The United Nations refugee agency has advised European Union countries to stop sending asylum seekers to Greece until further notice, a step that amounts to a condemnation of Greece’s treatment of people fleeing conflict and persecution…”

    — Okay, those two are the same story. But the third one is this:

    3) “GREECE: Refugees Kept At Sea

    “By Apostolis Fotiadis

    “ATHENS, Sep 26 (IPS) – When the people of Patmos blocked a group of refugees landing on their island last Sunday, they raised questions about both refugees and about Greece that have not gone away.

    “The people of Patmos, an island of 2,984 that lies 220 km east of Athens, close to the border with Turkey, had decided two weeks earlier, with the support of local authorities, not to let any refugees ashore.

    “They acted on that decision when they gathered at the port, led by the mayor, against a group of 133 irregular migrants, mostly women and children from Iraq and Afghanistan…

    “‘More are arriving constantly with so many children. Patmos will not accept them, I have been speaking with the authorities and I do not know what is going to happen. There is no food left to give them, not even dry clothes. I do not know what to do. They spent the previous night in the community’s warehouse. I am afraid we will not manage another night.’

    […]

    “George Mastropetros, head of the Patmos municipal council, acknowledged to IPS in a telephone interview that their decision was a harsh measure that bypasses legal procedures.

    “‘But you have to understand that this is the last measure available left to us to protect the viability of our community which depends only on tourism.’

    — Yes, you wouldn’t want the refugee women and children ashore. It could /harm your tourism industry/.

    Greece is not as bad as Italy, true. But that’s not because Greece is good. It’s because Italy is really fucking horrible. Italy is not the bar you want to clear.

    As for “society is quite open to foreigners”… ah huh. If the foreigner’s a plump Greek-American coming back to do the homeland thing, sure. If the foreigner is an Albanian immigrant mopping the floors? Rather less so.

    (Quick question: since 2001, how many non-ethnic Greeks have been granted citizenship in Greece?)

    Doug M.

  14. I have a solution that should work like a charm.

    FYROM can use the word “Macedonia” at home as well as internationally. Since the Greeks don’t like the word, _they_ can call the country by some other name. For example, “Paionia” would be a good choice, since that’s what the region was called in Greek back in the classical times [1].

    Hey, it works here. The word “Estonia” was basically invented by Baltic German academics back in the 19th century, and has no historical justification whatsoever. The word “Aestii” by Tacitus, from which the new name of the country and the people was derived, probably referred originally to the ancestors of Latvians and Lithuanians. Not even the native Estonians called themselves “Estonians” until the mid-19th century, but now they do, and no one gives a damn.

    Of course, the next-door neighbours still don’t use the word “Estonia”. We call the land by the name “Viro”, and Latvians call it “Igaunija”.

    But if there’s no accord, I have some demands myself. For starters, the Republic of Karelia should only call itself by the acronym FASROK (Former Autonomous Soviet Republic of Karelia). Need I remind that there’s still a province known by the name “North Karelia” in Finland, and the use of the word “Karelia” by a Russian republic thus indicates a clear irredenta? Especially since the Karelian Soviet Republic was originally set up by Stalin with the express goal of using it as a springboard for the sovietization of the entire Finland. I hereby demand that the country that I live in starts to conduct its foreign policy in the similar defiant and proud fashion as Greece!

    Also, my opinion is that Russia should not call itself Russia, because the word “Rus” and its derivatives originally refers to the Swedish people.

    Cheers,

    J. J.

    [1] And, of course, back then it was part of the Kingdom of Macedonia.

  15. Pingback: Global Voices Online » The Balkans: “Greek Journalist Sued for Writings on Bosnia”

  16. …to say nothing of all the irredentist claims stemming from the existence of “Bretagne” and “Grande-Bretagne”…

  17. Doug(Not Muir):
    You forgot Athens, Georgia and Greece, NY. You don’t see greeks beeing upset about these two, do you? In fact Greece, NY was named to honor the greek struggle for independence, so how can anyone be upset about being honored? So if you want to find the stupid party in this, don’t look at Greece.

    And Jussi, the issue here is not how greece calls them. Greece does not need anyone’s permission to use any name they want, such as “Skopje”, “fake macedonia” or anything else. The issue is what is portrayed to the rest of the world. Indeed
    people like Doug(Muir) say “the Macedonians formally abandoned any claim to Greater Macedonia back in 1993” (right, and the 1974 Helsinki act said borders are inviolable, ask Kossovo and S.Ossetia). wtf? At the risk of repeating myself, the vast majority of the Macedonians abandoned any such claim back in 1974 with Helsinki. What is fucking insulting to them -and what Doug does not seem to want or be able to grasp- is to use the term to refer to ex-bulgarians/ex-yugoslavs and EXCLUDE the vast majority of Macedonians who are greek.
    Furthermore, leaving history aside[it is well-known that the “independent macedonia” thing was a VMRO and subsequently Comintern plot to grab the region for Bulgaria-just google what the VMRO founders had to say on the issue-. I note in passing that when Macedonia was handed over to Bulgaria by the nazis during WWII, it was not made independent, of course],
    the ex-yugo macedonia promotes insane historical revisions, such as how Alexander was non-greek and how they hail from Alexander, and proceed to brainwash their population with all that crap. This smacks of nazi tactics(trying to find an enemy to demonize in order to unite your population). I note that Greece is not the only one who is upset by these tactics:

    http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/main/news/21148/
    “EPC warns the authorities in Skopje that these heroes in the west are perceived as Greek and that Skopje’s attempt to bring then to the table as bargaining chips in the tug of war over Macedonia’s formal name, which Greece disputes, could backfire.”

    Furthermore, Gruevski shoots himself in the foot when he wants to raise an issue of “macedonian minority” in Greece. Because election results do not show any “macedonian as in Skopje” minority, because even if they did, they have their own representatives, thank you and because there are 2,5 million macedonians who feel very strongly macedonian and are insulted by any association with ex-yugo macedonia. So one more reason to find a sane name if one wishes to talk about a slav-macedonian minority in Greece.

    I also should add the only known international precedent: After WWI, the Allies denied Austria the name “German Republic of Austria”, although the only party that might have a say in this was Germany, not the Allies. Plus any argument of the type “why do you object when xyz does not in a similar situation ” is incredibly stupid: By the same token one should have critisized the UK for sending the fleet to the Falklands because in numerous other occasions invasions have occured with no counterreaction.

    Finally, ask the question in reverse: I explained what is insulting about using the name “Macedonian” to refer to slav-macedonian. Any reasonable explanation why a name like “North Macedonia” which would be true, accurate and solve the name row is unacceptable to slav macedonians?

    Second point, the refugees: It looks to me like the guy is very clear:

    “There is no food left to give them, not even dry clothes. I do not know what to do”
    A small island with a population of 3000 cannot accept a huge number of refugees. You cannot expect 3000 people to house and feed 10000 or more. They have their everyday work(yes, tourism may be part of that work) and cannot spend all their time 365x24x7 caring for the refugees. Obviously that was not the first wave of refugees and unless measures are taken it will not be the last. This is where people can help, not by critisizing, but by sharing the load and taking some of these refugees. And these refugees, or asylum seekers, are not sent to Greece by the EU: They arrive there via Turkey, which is not exactly doing much about it. So the UN thing looks completely stupid to me.

    “since 2001, how many non-ethnic Greeks have been granted citizenship in Greece”
    Since when is a country obliged to have quotas on how many people it gives citizenship to? It looks to me like being very careful with who one gives citizenship to is a very good idea. The UK might have averted the 2006 London bombings that way.

  18. “And Jussi, the issue here is not how greece calls them. Greece does not need anyone’s permission to use any name they want, such as “Skopje”, “fake macedonia” or anything else. The issue is what is portrayed to the rest of the world.”

    I get it. So, according to you, Greece doesn’t need anyone’s permission to use any name they want, but the rest of the World needs the Greek permission to use any other name.

    Hence, my solution: Greeks can use whatever name they want, whereas the rest of us, plus the FYROM-Macedonians themselves, can use whatever name we want. Fair play, no?

    “What is fucking insulting to them -and what Doug does not seem to want or be able to grasp- is to use the term to refer to ex-bulgarians/ex-yugoslavs and EXCLUDE the vast majority of Macedonians who are greek.”

    To use your own vocabulary – by the way, never start a swearing contest with a Finnish person: so fucking what? Again, the inhabitants of the Republic of Karelia, currently part of the Russian Federation, refer to themselves with the word “Karelian”, never mind their ethnic background. The inhabitants of the Finnish provinces of North and South Karelia, as well as the post-Second World War evacuees who live here and there around the country, refer to themselves with the same word “Karelian”.

    There’s absolutely no connection whatsoever with these two groups on the different sides of the border, and they don’t have a bug up their arse because of the _name_ issue.

    “[it is well-known that the “independent macedonia” thing was a VMRO and subsequently Comintern plot to grab the region for Bulgaria-just google what the VMRO founders had to say on the issue-.”

    … and it’s an equally well-known fact that the Soviet Republic of Karelia was created by Stalin as a springboard for the annexation of the Finnish Karelia, as well as the eventual annexation and sovietization of the entire Finland. Read a book. Same goddamn thing.

    Unless King Boris III and later Tito were drawing up plans of killing off 10% of the entire Greek population of Macedonia and deporting an equal number of people to Central Asia – which was what Stalin was planning with his “Karelian-Finnish” master plan – quit your bitching. The name issue has no bloody relevance.

    “The ex-yugo macedonia promotes insane historical revisions, such as how Alexander was non-greek…”

    Assuming that classical times should have some relevance, it’s pretty much a matter of record that Demosthenes and all those other Hellenic patriots of the time considered Alexander and his father to be “barbarians” and “non-Greeks”.

    As for “promoting insane historical revisions”, I can think of a few other Balkan countries that have done it. In fact, I can think of a few other very large European countries that have done it, including one very large nearby country.

    “Any reasonable explanation why a name like “North Macedonia” which would be true, accurate and solve the name row is unacceptable to slav macedonians?”

    Ask the Samoans. It’s not like your situation is somehow unique; it’s just your reaction which is unique – namely, in its stupidity.

    Cheers,

    J. J.

  19. On a related note, the Turkish television was showing Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” when I was in Istanbul back in May.

    Of course, it was with voice-over. The Gaugamela scene was kind of fun, with Colin Farrell on horseback shouting “YUNANISTAN!”

    Cheers,

    J. J.

  20. Jussi,
    first, the f-word was not directed as you. Nor was I the one who used it first(look at Doug’s comment on Italy)
    second,”So, according to you, Greece doesn’t need anyone’s permission to use any name they want, but the rest of the World needs the Greek permission to use any other name.” No, you don’t get it: The point is: Slav-Macedonia starts with a name that is offensive. Greece could start with an equally offensive name and try to work towards a compromise(or leave it at that-Greece does not really need relations with
    FYROM). Instead they try for a compromise solution(such as North Macedonia, which bothers you why exactly?) against the overwhelming majority of public opinion. As for the rest of the world, I doubt Greece dictates their foreign policy.

    Your example of Karelia approximates the situation before the collapse of Yugoslavia. Interestingly enough the americans(who were running Greece at the time -some may say less covertly than they do now) were the ones complaining about the name the hardest. But to the rest of the world, Karelia is, at worst, a region split between two countries(Finnland and Russian Federation) just like Macedonia was in Tito’s days. Again you are missing the point, because they can call themselves karelians, Macedonians or Martians, but the rest of the world just calles them Russian.
    And I already explained: What one country does is not binding for another one; just because the US can bomb a country because it thinks it has WMDs, does not justify every other country doing the same. What is binding is international law(and there is nothing there saying you need to be friendly with someone who does not want to be friendly towards you). Plus, if you want at a precedent, I already gave you the German Republic of Austria. Since when are Karelians the measuring stick or the model for everybody’s actions?

    Sorry, but you are reading too much of FYROM insanity. Demosthenes used to call barbarian anyone he did not like, including fellow Athenians. The one-line proof for Alexander is that even today jews celebrate Channukah, their victory over the greeks(NOT the macedonians), referring to Alexander’s successors. So much for that extremely idiotic theory.

    I agree that this is a unique situation in stupidity-but that is only on the FYROM side and those who subscribe to such an insanity. According to you any country can call itself anything it wants, however unrelated and the rest have to go along.

    As for the turkish note, what is supposed to mean? If you translate the whole movie, why would you expect the viewer to know how greeks refer to their country. Or are you amazed that the turkish translation does not support the insane theories by your friends?

  21. Having known some greeks and people who have lived in Greece, i can only affirm that Greece has developed an unprecedented level of nationalism which is -I completely agree with Doug here- the most backward kind of nationalism i have ever seen. The name of Macedonia being one relatively harmless and stupid example of it.

    The funny thing is that this kind of nationalism is not fostered in marginal extremist groups but is dominant in greek society and is largely reproduced in school textbooks (not to mention the greek media) since decades.

    The ‘treatment’ of immigrants/minorities in Greece is not widely known in the west but is in my opinion an important sign of the democratic immaturity and open xenophobia that still rules there. Besides the stories from some of my friends that have studied in Greece and occasional reports of immigrant children or foreign students being denied the flag holding tradition in greek schools because of their origin, i won’t easily forget the images of “operation besom” (my god, how racist is that name) in the early 90-ies for expelling albanian migrants as a mean of political pressure to the then Albanian president Berisha. The result of greek nationalistic attitudes is that at least in Albania the general mood has changed from very friendly and open directly after the fall of communism to very disapproving and sometimes hostile now.

    I knew that greeks have generally sympathized with the serbs even during the wars in the 90-ies but i didn’t know that sympathization can go so far as to deny a massacre so obvious and executed in broad daylight as that of Srebrenica. This actually only reinforces my point. I woudn’t be surprised if Michas gets into real trouble.

  22. “No, you don’t get it: The point is: Slav-Macedonia starts with a name that is offensive.”

    Jeezus. We get back to the question of why the hell it exactly should be offensive. And in this respect, you’re definitely unique.

    “But to the rest of the world, Karelia is, at worst, a region split between two countries(Finnland and Russian Federation) just like Macedonia was in Tito’s days.”

    And to the rest of the world, Macedonia is a region split between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece (and Bulgaria). So?

    The _name_ “Karelia” is used both by the Republic of Karelia, and also by the Finnish regions of Karelia on the western side of the border. And no one here is bitching “booo-hoo, they’re trying to use the name _exclusively_, and _monopolize_ it!”, which is what you seem to be doing.

    “Again you are missing the point, because they can call themselves karelians, Macedonians or Martians, but the rest of the world just calles them Russian.”

    Nope. There are actual, ethnic Karelians who speak a distinct Karelian language and who live in the Republic of Karelia, and who obviously call themselves “Karelians”, and who are called by that name also by everyone else, including the Russians. The Finnish Karelians, who speak a dialect of Finnish and who are Finnish, also traditionally call themselves “Karelians”, as a regional definition, and are likewise called by that name by everyone else.

    Just like, you know, there are those Slavic Macedonians, most of whom live in the Republic of Macedonia and call themselves “Macedonians”, and then there are the Greek Macedonians who also call themselves “Macedonians”.

    The situation is analogous. Yet for some odd reason, we haven’t needed UN mediators here.

    “Since when are Karelians the measuring stick or the model for everybody’s actions?”

    There’s also Samoa, you know.

    The fact is that Macedonia and Greece are the odd ones out here. Give it a bloody rest.

    “Sorry, but you are reading too much of FYROM insanity. Demosthenes used to call barbarian anyone he did not like, including fellow Athenians.”

    Hey, you were the one who brought up the classical period, as if it should have some relevance at the present. I’ll note the fact that the man stated specifically “Northern Barbarians”. By the way, would you be satisfied if FYROM decided to call itself “Republic of Barbaria”?

    Also, analyzing the Hellenic identity of the ancient Macedonians is not “insane revision”, but instead a perfectly legitimate topic. Obviously there’s no continuity between the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia and the present-day FYROM, but then again, the continuity between the present-day Greece and the ancient Hellas is not exactly direct, either.

    “The one-line proof for Alexander is that even today jews celebrate Channukah, their victory over the greeks(NOT the macedonians), referring to Alexander’s successors. So much for that extremely idiotic theory.”

    … and the first sentence of the First Book of the Maccabees describes Alexander the Great as a “Macedonian”, who “ruled in Greece”. You were saying? Not that this is particularly important, mind you.

    For an equally convoluted term, there’s also “Prussian”, which meant very different things back in the Medieval times and from the 18th century onward. I’m sort of surprised that no one in the Americas is seriously boycotting Columbia on the grounds that Columbus _never actually visited the territory of the country on his voyages_.

    I guess the rest of the World really is just a tad more sane than you people.

    “I agree that this is a unique situation in stupidity-but that is only on the FYROM side and those who subscribe to such an insanity. According to you any country can call itself anything it wants, however unrelated and the rest have to go along.”

    That’s pretty much how it works, you know. We have a country known as “Ghana” in Africa, and it’s nowhere even close to the territory where the ancient Kingdom of Ghana/Wagadu was located.

    And, as I already mentioned, Estonians didn’t start calling themselves Estonians until the mid-19th century.

    FYROM at least is located in the territory of the region that’s known as Macedonia, so it’s not particularly “unrelated”.

    “As for the turkish note, what is supposed to mean? If you translate the whole movie, why would you expect the viewer to know how greeks refer to their country. Or are you amazed that the turkish translation does not support the insane theories by your friends?”

    Hey, I have no friends. A bit paranoid, aren’t you? I find it pleasant that the Turks are still calling Greece by the name “Yunanistan”, even though the ancient Ionia is pretty much entirely located on the present-day Turkish territory.

    Cheers,

    J. J.

  23. “why the hell it exactly should be offensive”
    because a minority wants to appropriate the name of a majority and appear to the rest of the world to represent the whole. Why should the name be used to refer to a minority and effectively exclude the majority? It is certainly the right of the majority not to care, but it is not an obligation.

    “And to the rest of the world, Macedonia is a region split between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece (and Bulgaria).”
    If that is the case(as if the rest of the world knows or cares about the situation), what does anything “macedonian” refer to? All three parts?
    Or just one part? because some people use it to refer to one part and that is not even the larger part.

    “And no one here is bitching “booo-hoo, they’re trying to use the name _exclusively_, and _monopolize_ it!”,”
    I do not hear anyone bitching on the greek side. All the bitching I hear is on the other side “Ah, bad greeks they did horrible things to us, they stole our land, they vetoed us in NATO and so on”. What I see from the greek side is a “let’s find a sane compromise and settle this”

    “there are those Slavic Macedonians, most of whom live in the Republic of Macedonia and call themselves “Macedonians”, and then there are the Greek Macedonians who also call themselves “Macedonians”.”.
    So when Doug for instance refers to “macedonians” , why does he mean slav-macedonians and not the majority greek macedonians? (I know I should not be asking you this question, except that you seem to support this lunacy)

    “There’s also Samoa, you know.”
    Ok, I take it you agree that Karelia is just like the situation before the Yugoslavia breakup. Samoa, meaning American Samoa and plain Samoa? How is this related and even if you think it is, why should thatbe the measuring stick?

    “The fact is that Macedonia and Greece are the odd ones out here. Give it a bloody rest.”
    There you go . Why are Macedonia and Greece odd? Unless you mean FYROM?

    Ancient history: What I did bring up is the idiotic attempts by FYROM to revise it, possibly to use as a bargaining chip. I doubt the average greek is concerned with tracing his roots back to Alexander, Pericles or Leonidas, but at least the language if nothing else makes for a much stronger continuity case. And I believe the book you refer to refers to Yavan Ha’meleh(King of Greece). And yes, ancient greeks did identify with their origin, Sparta, Athens.
    But the obvious fact remains that jews fought the greeks, not the macedonians. So much for ancient history, which would be irrelevant, except for stupid attempts to revise it.

    Rest of the world: In your Ghana example, there is noone else to claim it. I still see no reason to encourage stupidity and no right for a new country to try and call itself Sicily, or Scotland. Language after all is to clarify, not to confuse(unless that is the goal). I believe the EU would be taking measures against such an event if say FYROM were to call itself Scotland(which you maintain would be fine) and started somehow exporting “Scottish Salmon” or something like that.

    And, the bulk of FYROM land was not part of Macedonia in ancient or medieval times.

    As for the turkish theme, your post made no sense. But why would “Greece ” be translated as “Ionia” in turkish?

  24. Pingback: Daily UK and Europe Highlights – 11 August 2009 | Froogalizer.com

  25. “As for the turkish theme, your post made no sense. But why would “Greece ” be translated as “Ionia” in turkish?”

    Because languages and names do not exist to make sense, but because, on the course of history, people have come to use them, generally without knowing anything about where words come from…

    A striking exemple is the family of names all derived from the old german word Walh (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walha), which used to mean “stranger” : in English we have the Welsh people, belgian Wallonia, Wallachia for Romania (and the numerous Vlachs from northern Greece)… In polish, Italy is called WÅ‚ochy, another offspring of this family, not to speak of the jewish surname Bloch.

    Really, if, for the sake of clarification vs. confusion, we were to suppress such curiosities in countries’ and peoples’ names all across Europe, Balkan included, just imagine how boring, how deadly boring that would be. Please.

  26. “So when Doug for instance refers to “macedonians”, why does he mean slav-macedonians and not the majority greek macedonians?”

    Hasn’t it occurred to you that he may use the term for both groups? The context clarifies which one he’s referring to. Same thing with the Karelian example that I’ve mentioned.

    But, I’ll let Doug speak for himself. Although I might mention that I remember another post where he used the term “Slav Macedonian” when he wanted to specifically distinguish between the Slavic and Albanian populations of FYROM. Needless to say, some disgruntled Macedonian immediately showed up and presented us with a similar floor show that you’re performing right now.

    “Samoa, meaning American Samoa and plain Samoa? How is this related and even if you think it is, why should that be the measuring stick?”

    Samoans have a tendency to get irritated when someone uses the old pre-1997 name “West Samoa”. Likewise, when the name was changed, it triggered immediate protests from American Samoa, claiming that the “exclusive use” of the word “Samoa” threatened to “undermine the identity” of American Samoa.

    Sounds familiar, no? Yet somehow, they’ve managed without any further spat.

    I’m not providing you with “measuring sticks”, I’m pointing out to you that the entire Greco-Macedonian quarrel is _sui generis_ in its stubbornness and stupidity. And as noted, FYROM has been quite ready to compromise in every issue that really matters.

    “I believe the EU would be taking measures against such an event if say FYROM were to call itself Scotland(which you maintain would be fine) and started somehow exporting “Scottish Salmon” or something like that.”

    … this is not an analogous situation. FYROM is actually a country that really exists on the historic region of Macedonia.

    Why is it so difficult to accept that as the name of a _region_, “Macedonia” is inevitably a multi-cultural concept, and both the Slavs as well as the Greeks, as historic inhabitants of the territory, have an equal right to claim it? There’s no rational reason whatsoever why the name cannot be shared both by the Greek province as well as by the neighbouring independent republic.

    Likewise, I see no reason why the local Slavic language cannot be called “Macedonian”; again, the Scottish Gaelic-speakers aren’t going nuts because there’s also a language called “Scots”, which is based on Anglo-Saxon.

    “And, the bulk of FYROM land was not part of Macedonia in ancient or medieval times.”

    Most of the region was known as “Paionia”, and it was an integral part of the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia. As for medieval times, who cares? The rulers changed once in every hundred years.

    “As for the turkish theme, your post made no sense. But why would “Greece” be translated as “Ionia” in turkish?”

    For the same reason that Finns use the word “Viro” for Estonia, and the Latvians use the word “Igaunija” for Estonia. It doesn’t take a professional linguist to figure out that the Turkish word “Yunanistan” is derived from the old “Ionia”. When the Central Asians spoke of Greeks, they spoke of “Ionians”; the Hebrew “Javan” belongs in the same category, and the pillar of Ashoka mentions the Indian embassies to the western “Yona-Kings”.

    So, again: it doesn’t matter. Regions change and adapt their names all the time, both by the local inhabitants as well as by the outsiders; it’s a normal historical phenomenon, and doesn’t necessarily have any logic. Get used to it.

    Cheers,

    J. J.

  27. Certainely a lively one, though it seems to have drifted off-topic. With regard to the original issue, I think Chris’s analysis is absolutely convincing: Journalists are not exempt from lawsuits, especially if they implicate people in acts they did not admit. What we do know is that Mr. Vitalis took part in the fighting. Mr. Mihas has provided no evidence that he was involved in any massacres, so until he does, Mr. Vitalis is quite justified in taking him to court. And the rest of the “conspiracy” theory was also well answered by Chris: who exactly is “they” pursuing Mr. Mihas?

    Other than that, much of what Mr. Mihas is saying makes no sense:” Greek support for the Serb war effort was not only moral, economic, diplomatic and political but also military”
    What exactly could he mean by “military”?
    That a handful of volunteers were organized by the government? Some big help. Or that military equipment was provided?(sure, incompatible with jugoslav arsenal NATO-standard weapons and ammo. Again great help)

    But the most interesting part of the interview in my view was
    “Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that as I have hinted in other articles I am now in possession of confidential diplomatic documents that show the Greek authorities for the first time admitting the presence of Greek paramilitaries in Bosnia. Possibly they think that by putting pressure on me now they will prevent me publishing these documents.”
    I can think of no country that would not launch an investigation about such allegations. “Confidential diplomatic documents” in the possesion of a journalist (and I also note the “now” -meaning he did not have them when he wrote the book-)? There is a big issue here and
    this admission alone would probably earn him and his possible sources a hefty jail term in most, if not all, countries. I think this issue is a much bigger news. The possibilities I see is that a) the documents are genuine and he somehow stole them, b) the documents are genuine and he got them by either bribing,
    fooling or extorting some officials and c) the documents are fake, in which case it does not really matter how he got them. Cases a) and b) make him a criminal, case c) makes him a fool.

    The “macedonia” thing was also interesting. Overall, I think Chris is right: First, because I see no point in discussing with anyone who adopts an outrageous and obviously idiotic position-at best this will result in a “compromise” where you have to give up something tangible in exchange for him giving up something that is pure fantasy(such as the ancient Macedonians were ‘Macedonian as in FYROM’ theory). Second, because right to friendly relations does not mean right to insult and right to self-determination does not mean right to halluscination. Again the examples with countries calling themselves Sicily or Scotland are nice reductions ad absurdum. Why allow this confusion when a simple disambiguation would solve the problem easily?

  28. “The possibilities I see is that a) the documents are genuine and he somehow stole them, b) the documents are genuine and he got them by either bribing, fooling or extorting some officials and c) the documents are fake, in which case it does not really matter how he got them. Cases a) and b) make him a criminal, case c) makes him a fool.”

    d) There was a leak.

    Ever heard of the Occam’s razor?

    Cheers,

    J. J.

  29. doesn’t leak fall under b) “fooled”? Because it should not be too hard to find out who leaked it them and the one who did also would have to face the music.

    Anyway,
    “Hasn’t it occurred to you that he may use the term for both groups”
    Can you find ONE example when he uses the term to refer to the more numerous and with a much stronger historical connection greek macedonians? Your example makes a distinction between the fYROM population -the vast majority of Macedonians are always left out, as if the term did not apply to them.

    Samoa is a case of the aftermath of the colonial era with American Samoa semi-absorbed by the US.
    ‘it triggered immediate protests from American Samoa, claiming that the “exclusive use” of the word “Samoa” threatened to “undermine the identity” of American Samoa.
    Sounds familiar, no? Yet somehow, they’ve managed without any further spat.’
    So the greek reaction is not the first one. I should say Greece and FYROM also manage -they have trade, diplomatic relations and so on. So life can go on as it has for the past 18 years. It’s not like there will be a war tomorrow.

    “Greco-Macedonian quarrel is _sui generis_ in its stubbornness and stupidity”
    Greco-Macedonian? Since when is Greece quarreling with its province? Do you see
    why this is misrepresenting the facts?

    “And as noted, FYROM”
    Ah, you meant the tiny part of Macedonia called FYROM all along. Why didn’t you say so?

    ” has been quite ready to compromise in every issue that really matters.”
    Like? Inventing these theories of hailing from Alexander? Speaking about “macedonian minority in Greece”?(which is 2,5 million strong and does not wish to be associated with FYROM)?
    Raising issues of “macedonian property” in Greece? Further infuriating greeks by the PM paying tribute to maps showing ALL of Macedonia?
    Or just making a mockery out of the interim agreement which mentioned a temporary solution while the parties work to solve the name dispute? Greece has moved from its initial position and accepts a compromise name, while FYROM has not moved an inch. I see one side trying and the other saying “you will do as we wish because the great G.W. Bush will force you to”. Well, it has not worked thus far.

    “… this is not an analogous situation. FYROM is actually a country that really exists on the historic region of Macedonia.
    …..
    “And, the bulk of FYROM land was not part of Macedonia in ancient or medieval times.”

    Most of the region was known as “Paionia”, and it was an integral part of the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia.


    Well, no. Only a small part of it is part of the historic region of Macedonia(unless you mean in Alexander’s time, when half the world all the way to India was a part of Macedonia). Look it up:
    http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/geography/ig/Maps-of-Ancient-Greece/Greece-500-479-B-C-.htm
    http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/geography/ig/Maps-of-Ancient-Greece/Peloponnesian-War.htm

    or
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paeonia_(kingdom)
    “Paionia or Paeonia was in ancient geography, the land of the Paeonians
    , the exact boundaries of which, like the early history of its inhabitants,
    are very obscure but they were in the region of Thrace. In the time of Classical Greece, Paionia
    originally including the whole Axios River valley and the surrounding areas, in what is now the
    northern part of the Greek region of Macedonia, most of the Republic of Macedonia, and a small
    part of western Bulgaria.[1] It was located immediately north of ancient Macedon (roughly
    corresponding to the modern Greek region of Macedonia) and south of Dardania (Europe)
    (roughly corresponding to modern-day Kosovo). In the east were other Thracians and in the west the Illyrians.
    In early times, the chief town and seat of the Paionian kings was Bylazora (now Veles in the Republic of Macedonia)
    They joined with the Illyrians in resisting the northward expansion of the Macedonian state….”
    Further, as far as I know every archaeological finding from ancient macedonia has been found in Greece, not in FYROM.

    “and both the Slavs as well as the Greeks, as historic inhabitants of the territory, have an equal right to claim it? There’s no rational reason whatsoever why the name cannot be shared both by the Greek province as well as by the neighbouring independent republic.”
    Although greeks may think they have more than equal right(been there much longer) as well as they have practically all of Macedonia except for very small regions, I would go along with the “equal”. So share the name, but disambiguate by something like “North Macedonia”. What the hell is wrong with that? It aknowledges the neighbor’s concerns, does not mistakenly try to potray them as the only Macedonians and settles a stupid row once and for all. At the same time Greece aknowledges that FYROM are Macedonians(of the North), so their macedonian identity is safe. Are South and North Koreans not Korean? Same way with the language.

    To further give you an example of how stupid the theory that a country can name itself as it pleases without any control, suppose that Greece splits and its province Macedonia also becomes an independent state. Are you saying that a) they will be entitled to the name as they wish or b) they would need FYROM’s approval, so that the smaller and with much less relation to the region gets to dictate the name of the larger, more populous and with a stronger historical connection part?

    “So, again: it doesn’t matter. Regions change and adapt their names all the time, both by the local inhabitants as well as by the outsiders; it’s a normal historical phenomenon, and doesn’t necessarily have any logic.”

    Apparently it matters to greece and fyrom. You yourself seemed opposed to the idea of a Scotland, but the argument you gave was a logical(although incorrect) one, i.e. that FYROM is not even close to Scotland. So you do accept logic and this is why I support a sane name like North Macedonia, which acounts for both parties concerns. Right now it is FYROM which does not seem agree to a sane solution, and coupled to all the rest of the actions I mention above makes it very clear that their position is stupid and they are to be blamed for making a mess, raising the temperatures and creating a bad atmosphere for no reason.

  30. eni,
    it is no secret that Albanians could definitely give, not receive lessons in nationalism from greeks. “Having known some greeks” is not enough to characterize a country. Also “people who have lived in Greece” probably did not end up there by force. As was pointed out before, Greece has practically 0% nationalist vote and what is unprecedented is the level of tolerance and opposition to measures that are commonplace in most of Europe. (mainly because of the military junta memories)
    Funny how you can tell about greek school textbooks, without ever having been there and without giving **Any** examples.

    Your mention about “The ‘treatment’ of immigrants/minorities in Greece” means you don;t understand what you are talking about: Minorities are citizens; they have all the rights and obligations of any citizens. Not sure what minorities you are talking about, but if they have a problem, then THEY should complain, not you. And guess what: Most don’t even care to get minority status, because nobody cares.
    Immigrants is another issue and again you are dead wrong. Greece has many immigrants from all over the world. If it were a xenophobic country, as you think, it would just seal the borders. Plus, immigrants would not go there, but would prefer the less xenophobic other european countries, right?
    The example of ” immigrant children or foreign students being denied the flag holding tradition in greek schools because of their origin” is rather unintelligent. First, because there is no such automatic human or otherwise right. Second, because the law, which is stupid anyway(why should only the best students get to hold the flag? Is somone who is not as bright by default less patriotic?) Last, because for almost all cases this stupid law is enforced and immigrant childern have in many cases held the flag. The important point is that holding the flag is an honor that someone should accept only if they feel this way. And, I might add, something that no other country I know grants non-citizens. And not holding the flag is not something that should leave a scar on anyone.

    ” expelling albanian migrants” might have been a mean of political pressure to the then Albanian president Berisha(who, if I recall had used an attack inside an Albanian military base by Albanian bandits as an excuse and arrested as the perpetrators some 60-year old members of the greek minority!); but are you questioning the right of any country to expell illegal immigrants?

    And you should really take a look at the mirror too: Albanians are not blameless for the image they portray. As the mafia actions did give italians a bad name for a long time, so have the actions of Albanian criminals plus gangs who behave as if they own the place. When people are harassed by such gangs, this feeds
    the very small truly nationalist groups, like “Golden Dawn”. Of course in reality this is the greek state’s fault for failing to crack down hard on criminals, no matter what their background. Nevertheless, this is no consolation for example when your kid is killed as a result of a bus hijack by an albanian illegal immigrant.

    And, what makes you think greeks condone or sympathize with war crimes in the yugo-wars? Who started the war is a different thing from how it was conducted. But I should add I do not exactly recall albanian outrage and sympathy for the victims of the turkish invasion of Cyprus, do you?

  31. Leaving aside the off-topic contributions from the Former Turkish Province of Greece (FTPOG), that’s a very interesting post – had no idea that Greek politics were quite so unpleasant.
    I’m not quite clear what the grounds for the lawsuit are: is it really libellous to describe someone as a paramilitary when they were actually a regular soldier? Inaccurate, yes, but damaging?
    I would also have thought that the group “Greeks who fought for the Serbs in Bosnia” was too big to libel collectively.

  32. “What we do know is that Mr. Vitalis took part in the fighting. Mr. Mihas has provided no evidence that he was involved in any massacres, so until he does, Mr. Vitalis is quite justified in taking him to court.”

    …except that Mihas never said that Vitalis, personally, was involved in any massacres.

    It’s sort of interesting how this case is turning out to be a dowsing rod for stupid.

    Doug M.

  33. The student thing: by law, the best student in a school district is entitled to carry the Greek flag in an annual parade.

    It’s happened several times in the last few years that the student has been an ethnic Albanian. (Ethnic Albanians make up almost 10% of high-school age residents of Greece.) These have sparked explosions of nationalist outrage; how dare a filthy Albanian carry our sacred flag!

    It’s happened a bunch of times. Usually ends with the kid backing down in the face of mass hatred. Watching people try to defend this — there’s no human right to carry the flag! Stupid people can be patriotic too! — is sort of awesome, in a depressing kind of way.

    Doug M.

  34. The student/flag thing:
    First what exactly don’t you understand about “why should only the best students get to hold the flag? Is somone who is not as bright by default less patriotic?”
    I am simply saying the law is stupid IMHO -let alone student parades. If you think the law is that great, please start pushing for it to be adopted worldwide.
    Second, can you name another country which hands its flag to parade to non-citizens? Why is it then “an explosion of nationalist outrage”? People have a right to disagree with the laws the government passes without asking them, or their implementation and to voice their views: It’s called democracy and it does not mean always doing what you approve of. Mind you, these things only happen in a minority of schools and the explanation may be quite different than that of ‘nationalist outrage’:
    In the best known case, a feeling of injustice because the ‘best’ student gradewise was a couple of years older than everybody else and had already had these courses in school before coming to Greece; in other cases pure self-interest(“get rid of a competitor so my kid can get the honors”). In other cases the “best student” had declared that “the flag means nothing to me”, in which case the logical thing to do is simply don;t carry it. In other cases the student would see it as a great honor for which he/she were very thankful. In yet other cases there was no opposition from the parents or local community and opposition would come from ultra-right wing organizations, which just want a cause to champion. They can express their opinion, but they do not get to impose their agenda and they were normally booed by the crowd. A lot depends on the specific situation and you are generalizing without any basis. I do not recall the phrase “filthy Albanian” ever used by anyone(except perhaps the ultra-right wing (“Golden Dawn”) people-you make it sound like this is the norm,
    when that party’s vote percentage needs to be looked through a magnifying glass to become visible and this is simply twisting the facts. The situation you describe is a very small minority of cases: In most cases there is simply no reaction. So next time, get your facts straight.

  35. “The situation you describe is a very small minority of cases: In most cases there is simply no reaction.”

    Really? So “in most cases” the Albanian kid gets to carry the flag?

    That’s interesting. Could you list some cases where that has happened? I’m sincerely curious.

    Doug M.

  36. “in most cases” the Albanian kid gets to carry the flag?
    Only if the Albanian kid has the best grades. It may also be a philipino kid, a greek kid(there are some, you know) or any other kid.

    “Could you list some cases where that has happened? I’m sincerely curious.”
    Can you read greek? I may be able to dig old newspapers. All the cases I mentioned are either from newspapers(e.g. the interview of a an Albanian girl saying what an honor she considered holding the flag and no one objected) or TV news(for example a bright and I believe handicapped philipino kid).
    I don’t think anyone keeps a statistic though
    -it’s just the cases where there is opposition that regularly make it to the news, like the much-publisized Tsenai case.

  37. My posts got apparently deleted twice. A system bug or part of encouraging lively discussions?

  38. Aris,

    I’m very careful to draw general conclusions from some Greeks i might have known or from some friends that have studied in Greece. But from meeting real people, hearing unrelated personal stories and digging on some of attitudes you can get a reasonably good idea if some of their positions stem from their socio-economic background, from their family history or are general maxims prevalent in their society. What i discovered was that the nationalistic attitudes of Greeks transcend social, cultural or economic backgounds. In fact i am strongly led to believe that they come from schools which is why they are so dominant. The worse thing is that most Greeks are not even aware of their extreme nationalism.

    As for Albania 🙂 it was not the topic. I was talking about Greece and its complete lack of democratic standards in respect to immigrants and minorities as a direct effect of extreme greek nationalism. And suing one of the few journalists casting some light on the greek involvement in the serb wars does not exactly help me think of Greece as the democratic and liberal heaven of the Balcans. So don’t jump to Albania. I would really like to talk with you about Albania’s religious and ethnic tolerance which is one of the (few) positive things in an otherwise poor and backward country. But Albania is not the issue here. Greece is.

    And the following statement extracted from your comment does exatly prove my point:
    “Across Greece, other reports have come in of non-Greek students being selected to bear the flag. Three of these happened with apparently no protest:”

    Especially interesting is “Three of these happened with apparently no protest:”. It is stated with an undertone of great and uncommon achievement. Which is ridiculous to be given as proof because it proves exactly the opposite, namely the level of brain-washing nationalism and xenophobia prevalent in greek society. That is what i’m trying to tell. Start to acknowledge it as an institutional and social problem. Then we can have a talk.

  39. eni, you still give no details other than in your expert opinion greeks are extremely nationalistic. Once again, in spite of my analysis your only point is that “we all know greeks are brain-washed nationalists and xenophobic”. None of the holes I pointed out in your accusations got an answer, so this is not exactly a discussion. So this way we really cannot have any meaningful talk.

    With regard to “And suing one of the few journalists casting some light on the greek involvement in the serb wars does not exactly help me think of Greece as the democratic and liberal heaven of the Balcans.”
    just to remind you in a democracy anyone can sue anyone else about pretty much anything perceived as illegal; there are alternatives like vendettas which you surely know very well, but they are practically extinct. Keep in mind it is not Greece who is suing. I think Chris thoroughly debunked this.

    As for the sentence “Three of these happened with apparently no protest:”, this was essentially out of 4, the 4th one being the infamous Tsenai case.
    So out of all schools in Greece, in 4 of them(or maybe 5-there is a borderline case mentioned too in that report) a non-citizen had the best grades and in 3 of them there was no issue.

    “complete lack of democratic standards in respect to immigrants and minorities”-again I am referring you to my earlier comment about the difference between the two. With regard to immigration, what people are beginning to realize is that there have to be limits, set by the country’s ability to house, feed, provide jobs for and absorb immigrants. No country has an infinite capacity and Greece is not even a big country. At the same time, whatever needs to be done should be done in a humane and dignified way; Plus, Albanians are not the only immigrants in Greece.The greek coast guard does not let the immigrant vessels sink; other countries do(and make money out of this). I do not recall you speaking out against them.

    So if you really want to talk, you need to be able to hear the other side too. Especially when they give proof to your giving just statement after statement.

  40. @ Chris,

    Bug, not feature. I just checked our spam trap, but didn’t see your comments.

    Is anyone else having this problem?

    Doug M.

  41. @ Aris,

    First, thank you for the cite. I didn’t know whether any non-Greek had ever carried the flag; now I do. So, thanks.

    Second, while it’s great that non-Greeks have sometimes carried the flag, that cite doesn’t paint a very rosy picture overall. It mentions three times that this happened, but also three times that the non-Greek child was prevented. I know of at least one other case that’s not mentioned here. So that’s 4-3. It would be interesting to get some idea what the actual ratio is, but it doesn’t seem like blocking the non-Greek kid is the weird, strange outlier.

    The rest of the article has some fairly strong language:

    “The situation as described above is a clear example of the need for strong anti-discrimination laws in Greece, such as provided in Directives 2000/43/EC and 2000/78/EC. The lack of focus, by both the media and politicians, indicates that so far there has been no conceptualisation within Greek society of resident aliens’ rights…

    “[In] practice, no racial discrimination case has appeared in the courts, other than Art. 192 prosecutions of ethnic minorities and their organisations, for the protection of “Christian Greeks”…

    “The record of Greece in prosecuting only ethnic minorities in the matter of public order (much of which has been overturned by the European Court of Human Rights) shows very clearly the need for three types of change in Greece. These are:

    “1) the passing of strong, carefully thought out, antidiscrimination legislation which can actually operate effectively in the Greek legal system

    “2) the establishment of a public body to enforce and promote such protection, as required by Art. 13, Dir. 2000/43/EC.

    “3) The initiation of a substantial public education campaign, covering all elements of society, about the need for non-discrimination and equality before the law. The presumption that Greeks always take priority seems to be built into Greek social values, and will not be dislodged easily.”

    And that’s a mostly friendly, pro-Greek article.

    Doug M.

  42. Doug,
    first you’re welcome.
    Second,”that cite doesn’t paint a very rosy picture overall”.
    I really don’t care if the article is frienldy or not, but whether its facts are correct and the conclusions follow logically from the facts.

    I like to separate facts from interpretation. The facts are that that both alternatives have occured. That source refers to just one year -certainly not enough cases to draw a meaningful statistic. I also doubt there would be only 7 or so cases a year, I expect that in many more than 7 schools the best student in the 3rd and 6th grades of highschool would be non-citizen. Just simple math. So I really doubt anyone keeps such statistics; maybe the extreme right or left for their own purposes.

    Interpretation though is a different matter.
    My own feeling is that the law is stupid and should be done with. I am also against highschool students parades(or parades in general, such as the overly expensive and contributing nothing military parades) and the only reason I might think of for having them in general is that it gives some people joy, parents and kids. But again this is not the issue. The issue with interpretation is that it makes some sometimes hidden assumptions.
    So again:
    1) Suppose there is opposition to a foreign kid bearing the flag. Is this unreasonable?
    I think if the kid wants to bear the flag and sees it as an honor, then we should also feel honored that a bright kid sees it this way. Many people in Greece share this feeling. But I also can understand the opposite feeling “you are only entitled to do so after you are a citizen and have placed your allegiances to the country and whatever the flag represents”. I do not see this as outrageous or nationalistic and no right or wrong in such a decision.
    2) Because this is the law(although at the risk of repeating myself a stupid one), it will be enforced if the people involved insist. The only question is: is it worth it? I think not-in the Tsenai incident the kid gained a lot of sympathy and support by not insisting, as witnessed by the support of his classmates mentioned in the article.

    3) I do not favor trying to enforce “mind-control” type policies.
    This just tends to aid the extremists(you know the polish plumber who took your job idea ). Issues have to be addressed here and you cannot leave yourself open to accusations of the state discriminating (e.g. via “affirmative action” type of policies) against citizens. Nor can the citizens have more obligations(such as a compulsury military service) and less rights
    than non-citizens. Ultimately though when the country is run well and there are jobs for everybody, crime rate is low and so on, everybody is happy and people forget such issues.
    My personal experience is that there is full equality before the law. When a wrong decision is reached, this is not based on origin, but simply on the incompetence, laziness or personal gain of the judges involved. This is a problem, but not that does not affect greek citizens equally

  43. “…except that Mihas never said that Vitalis, personally, was involved in any massacres”
    Jeez, logic is in short supply here: If a group of which you are a member is accused of something,does not it include you? Had Michas said “the volunteers except Vitalis did it”, then yes, Mr. Vitalis would have no case. As it is, he has a strong case unless Mr. Mihas can prove that Mr. Vitalis did take part in the massacre. It would be exactly like writing a book in the U.S. claiming “american G.I.s are murderers”. Any G.I. can then sue (and expect to win).

    But it looks like some people are against logic, e.g. the critique on Greece for its stance in the name dispute: Basically the argument boils down to defending the right of selected countries to be as illogical as they wish!

  44. “It would be exactly like writing a book in the U.S. claiming “american G.I.s are murderers”. Any G.I. can then sue (and expect to win).”

    That’s exactly wrong. Defamation is personal. A member of defamed group can’t recover damages “unless the defamatory statement can be reasonably understood to refer specifically to that individual.”

    General groups (such as lawyers, politicians, Albanians, university students or the staff of a particular coffee shop) cannot sue for defamation. The only exception is if the group is so small that a person could say she or he was readily identifiable. For example, if you said “the guys who write the Fistful are a bunch of pedophiles”, you’d probably be safe. But if you said “the Irish guys who write for the Fistful”, you’d be opening yourself to a lawsuit.

    The principle is the same in civil and common law, BTW. So I’d be surprised to find that Greek law was much different.

    Note that you could have discovered this in – literally — ten seconds with google.

    Doug M.

  45. Aris, i’m no expert nor do i claim to be one. I might be completely wrong. But unlike others here i have some personal experience with treatment standards of foreigners. Well not exactly immigrants, -mind you i would never want to be put in their skin in Greece- but foreign students in Germany and in Greece. This is what maybe makes my opinion somewhat valuable. Doug just gave you some numbers and general arguments. So i’ll give you some personal cases. I don’t have to convince you of anything. I just want you to maybe start questioning what you may rutinely hear from the greek media or what you might have learned in a greek school. I used to think foreign students from developing countries are socially discriminated in Germany. Then some friends that had studied in Greece came along for their phd theses. From the occasional talks with them i understood that compared to Greece Germany was heaven. So no, I’m not even talking about those poor immigrants who can hardly write their own name but of perfectly legal students and phd-s. They never dared forget their documents as they were checked (let’s not talk about the way) every time they were seen from a policemen, got insulted regularly from state officials during their visa extention issues, downright feared talking in the mother tongue, not to talk of the relationship to other students. Imagine now what treatment is reserved to normal immigrants from policement and state officials.

    Well let me explain to you that such open institutional discrimination in any somewhat civilised country is not possible.

    As for Michas it’s actually not the suing action that is concerning. It is much more that such otherwise dubious legal action has to be taken seriously because it is backed by the full weight of greek national rage. State involvement? Well nobody is so stupid anymore to be involved directly in such dubious claims. In Greece there are plenty of NGO-s for it. Wait, it actually reminds of somebody’s tactics (Berisha calling).

  46. Defamation: I’m no lawyer, but:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation#cite_note-7
    “In law, defamation–also called calumny, libel (for written words), slander (for spoken words), and vilification–is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image.
    ….
    Statements made as “facts” are frequently actionable defamation. Statements of opinion or pure opinion are not actionable. In order to win damages in a libel case, the plaintiff must first show that the statements were “statements of fact or mixed statements of opinion and fact” and second that these statements were false.(other conventions found say statements are presumed false unless proven true)

    Article 17 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states

    1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.
    2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

    A defamatory statement is presumed to be false unless the defendant can prove its truth. Furthermore, to collect compensatory damages, a public official or public figure must prove actual malice (knowing falsity or reckless disregard for the truth). A private individual must only prove negligence (not using due care) to collect compensatory damages. In order to collect punitive damages, all individuals must prove actual malice.”

    What you probably mean is something like:(http://www.personal-injury-info.net/libel-definition.htm):
    “Libel is not libel when it is about and un-definable group of people or organization. Saying all “CEO’s are crooks” is not libel, but specifically naming a person who is a CEO, most likely is. ”
    Well, the group Mr. Vitalis was part of was not that large, certainly hardly undefinable and since they were not acting individually, I would say he has a strong case. But that is what courts are for.

    Incidentally, if Mr. Mihas’s credibility is as low as people have said in this forum, then I expect him acquited on the grounds that no one takes him seriously:

    “No actual injury: If there is third-party communication, but the third-party hearing the defamatory statement does not believe the statement, or does not care, then there is no injury, and therefore, no recourse.”

  47. So this time you googled for twenty seconds… and got it wrong again.

    That’s sort of impressive. See earlier comment about dowsing rods.

    Doug M.

  48. You should try your theory by saying “judges are on the take”. See how far you get with this.

  49. Jussi, part I(since all of it will not go through):

    “Hasn’t it occurred to you that he may use the term for both groups”
    Can you find ONE example when he uses the term to refer to the more numerous and with a much stronger historical connection greek macedonians? Your example makes a distinction between the fYROM population -the vast majority of Macedonians are always left out, as if the term did not apply to them.

    Samoa is a case of the aftermath of the colonial era with American Samoa semi-absorbed by the US.
    ‘it triggered immediate protests from American Samoa, claiming that the “exclusive use” of the word “Samoa” threatened to “undermine the identity” of American Samoa.
    Sounds familiar, no? Yet somehow, they’ve managed without any further spat.’
    So the greek reaction is not the first one. I should say Greece and FYROM also manage -they have trade, diplomatic relations and so on. So life can go on as it has for the past 18 years. It’s not like there will be a war tomorrow.

    “Greco-Macedonian quarrel is _sui generis_ in its stubbornness and stupidity”
    Greco-Macedonian? Since when is Greece quarreling with its province? Do you see
    why this is misrepresenting the facts?

    “And as noted, FYROM”
    Ah, you meant the tiny part of Macedonia called FYROM all along. Why didn’t you say so?

    ” has been quite ready to compromise in every issue that really matters.”
    Like? Inventing these theories of hailing from Alexander? Speaking about “macedonian minority in Greece”?(which is 2,5 million strong and does not wish to be associated with FYROM)?
    Raising issues of “macedonian property” in Greece? Further infuriating greeks by the PM paying tribute to maps showing ALL of Macedonia?
    Or just making a mockery out of the interim agreement which mentioned a temporary solution while the parties work to solve the name dispute? Greece has moved from its initial position and accepts a compromise name, while FYROM has not moved an inch. I see one side trying and the other saying “you will do as we wish because the great G.W. Bush will force you to”. Well, it has not worked thus far.

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