Oh, yes, Macedonia

They had Parliamentary elections last week. Nobody much noticed, but,

1) The voting was conducted in good order and — according to international observers — was, for the most part, fair and without irregularities;

2) The opposition won a fairly clear victory; and,

3) The government promptly acknowledged the opposition victory, and is handing over power forthwith.

This is no small thing in Macedonia, an ethnically divided country with a long and miserable history of political violence. A bit more below the fold.

The new government will consist of the conservatives, VMRO-DPMN (don’t ask), and their Albanian allies. This seems to fit a pattern I commented on last year, in which successful Balkan governments, usually of the center-left, have been punished at the polls for not being successful enough.

You may recall that Macedonia is about 30% Albanian, and that this has caused some problems… most notably a short but vicious civil war in 2001-2. At that time, it seemed like no Parliamentary political solution could easily accomodate such a large minority; if part of a government, they’d dominate it, but if kept out, they’d revolt.

The Albanians, bless their little hearts, neatly solved the problem by splitting into two parties, which look set to alternate in power and opposition. The last government consisted of the Big Albanian Party (it’s called the BPI, did you really need to know that?) and the Socialists. This government will consist of the the Little Albanian Party in coalition with the conservatives.

Of course, this being the Balkans, nothing is entirely easy. The split between the two Albanian parties is no joke. To oversimplify, Big Party claims to be the sole legitimate representative of the Albanians. Little Party, of course, disagrees. The division is not artificial, and the two despise each other with real and passionate sincerity. On election night, both claimed the main square of Tetovo (the major Albanian city) for their victory celebration. Since members of both parties showed up armed, there was serious fear of violence. It didn’t happen, thank goodness, but Big Party has gone into a Homeric sulk and is muttering darkly about refusing to recognize the new government.

Also, while election day went off rather smoothly, the campaign was bumpy, with threats of violence and a great deal of ugly language thrown among the candidates. Particulary (sigh) on the Albanian side.

So there’s still room for improvement. But still: Macedonia has come a very long way in a very short time. Compare and contrast to, say, Albania’s election last year, where Fatos Nano clung to office for nearly two months before finally conceding defeat with as much ill grace as possible. By regional standards, they’re doing very well indeed.

Oh, and Macedonia is an EU candidate. One of just three, along with Croatia and Turkey. That still blows my mind. Macedonia says it wants to join in 2012, which would put it a couple of years behind Croatia but well ahead of any other possible entrant. I’ve always thought that was ridiculously optimistic, but who knows? Macedonia has been surprising us for a little while now.

60 thoughts on “Oh, yes, Macedonia

  1. I just returned from Macedonia. The divisions are not so much as ethnic as everyone vs. Isslam as far as I can tell. The first thing you see when you drive into Skopje is multiple mosques on the skyline displayed as either a warning or an attempt to blot out the few churches that still exist there. In the eastern part of skopje I stopped counting the mosques at about 30. Draw your own conclusions.

  2. You must have missed the hulking, massive Orthodox cathedral that dominates the center of town. Also the 15 meter tall illuminated cross on top of the mountain.

    Both groups have been making a pest of themselves with this stuff. The mosques are more striking because mosques /are/ more striking — those tall minarets are a lot more obvious than the rather squat little domes of traditional Orthodox churches. But, trust me, there are plenty of those too.

    And no, it’s not everybody vs. Islam. The local Turks, for instance, are traditionally allied to the Slavs, and contemptuous of the Albanians.

    Doug M.

  3. Well, Macedonia is a post-Yugoslav country and it is not comparable to any of the neigbouring countries. And that 2012 accession date is bit far off – I gather that we might accede in 2009 with Croatia AND Montenegro 🙂 Considering the fact that Macedonian GDP is almost 0,1% of EU GDP, and Montenegro is almost four times smaller, any talks about “EU enlargment capacity” are irrelevant. See you soon in EU.

    Until then check this:
    http://adventures.yahoo.com/macedonia

    It will help you to grasp the basic facts e.g. Christianity is here 12 centuries before Islam. And that there are no Slavs in Macedonia (and nowhere else in the world). As there are no Romans or Celts any more. For years, more than two million people in the world are self-declaring themselves as Macedonians.

  4. History, if one would bother to check remind us of the many wars and conflicts that have taken place in the Balkans. But if you are careful to notice, they are but pawns in a chest game played by the world powers. Today that is also the case. Staring form the early nineties with conflicts in Slovenia and Croatia, shortly followed by the shocking Bosnian conflict to later have the Kosovo and the follow on effect in Macedonia. The EU and US had a role to play in determining the winners and losers. For those of you who would like to think that the Balkans is a place which loves to war and cause trouble, 6 million people were wiped off the face of the earth in “civilized” central Europe and this was just 60 or so years ago. Please see the conflicts for what they really are and not as something for which the CNN and BBC manipulate with. Regarding the amount of mosques in Skopje, tell that to the many world reporters who considered the Macedonians the ones who were nationalistic and out to get the Albanians. Talk to the people, on both sides and draw your conclusion in to who is tolerant and who is out to dominate. Just some information about the mosques in central Skopje. They have been there ever since the Ottoman Empire ruled Macedonia and much of the Balkans. Most if not all have been turned in museums and galleries but unfortunately the Albanians are using them as a promotional tool to convince foreigners of their power within certain areas of Macedonia. But why have me tell you this when you can visit Macedonia for your self and discover that apart from the many problems which face it, Macedonia is a small but truly beautiful place with its deep history and many mountains, valleys and rivers, not to mention one of the oldest lakes in the World, lake Ohrid. Regarding any ethnic tensions with the 25% (As per 2004 Census) Albanian minority, the EU & US (same old Western powers)are more to blame than anyone else. They are the Puppeteers in what is sometimes know as the Balkans horror show.

  5. I don’t know what is driving the conflict just that it is normally religion. A few generalizations:

    1) Everyone I talked to thought that the americans did the wrong thing. I am not sure the EU did anything.

    2) people seemed to be better educated than the Greeks who are already in the EU. Wireless everywhere (try to find one in Athens). People speak English pretty well on average. If not English german.

    3) I was told by more than a few people that the violence broke out everwhere and quickly when it happened. Poverty and desparation being the kick off event. France next? Maybe Malmo? Keep giving out the free money to keep your animals happy Socialists.

  6. Oh no macedonia by a Former Macedonian

    My name is Goran, for some a slav for some slavomacedonian for myself a Macedonian.
    There are many churches in Macedonia, there are even more mosques, lately. But this is not a problem for the country, I never heard that in Macedonia somebody died by a cross or by cresscent. After the conflict 2001 the two major ethnicities are confronting only among them selves. since the conflict 2001 the incidents became intra-ethnic. when fighting political enenies the maceodnians are using dirty political language and suport from the corupted judiciary and administration while the albanians when fighting with their albanian oponents are used to more concrete tools. There are estimated 300,000 ilegal weapons in the country. No one wants to see the fight ongoing within the muslim religious comunity between the radical elements suported by Saudy Araby and the moderate pro american and proeuropean albanians. The country that want to become EU member earliest by 2010 is facing strong pressure from the islamic religiouse fanatics financialy and logisticaly suporetd by radical islamic groups in Albania, Kosovo even from EU members states. On the other hand macedonians are pretending to behave on civilised maner are stil building crosses and churches al over the country and talking about the albanian families with 10 children.
    at the end please do not try to understand what is going on here even for us native people is to complicated. Sometimes even confusing. The EU ambasador sugested after the elections that former rebels now DUI party should be in the government if Macedonia want stabylity. can the country be stabile if the parties are treatening to go again to take kalashikovs in the forests if has to stay in oposition four years. SoI think the optimistic prospect for EU membership is 2020 like the Economist published in March.

    Best regards from a biased macedonian living in the capital of the former Yugosav republic of Macedonia hehehehehe. Can you imagine, a former state, former people, a former person.Cofusing? Isnt it?

  7. I have worked in Macedonia for three years and some of the comments made her for mosques and churches are funny not to say fully ignorant! Macedonians, both Albanians and Slavs are quite secular, much more secular than Americans or the Protestant Dutch indeed AND the conflict in Macedonia had nothing to do with religion but since we have no clue of the Balkans – we’ve learned to divide them into Muslims and Christians – as we do everywhere else – where in reality the problems are of different nature. As to the first posting on this page by the ‘Amsterdam’ dude – all I can say is that Macedonia is much better off when it comes to inter-religious relations than Holland is or ever will be and that’s partley because of the way you look at the “churches and mosques”!

  8. I have worked in Macedonia for three years and some of the comments made her for mosques and churches are funny not to say fully ignorant! Macedonians, both Albanians and Slavs are quite secular, much more secular than Americans or the Protestant Dutch indeed AND the conflict in Macedonia had nothing to do with religion but since we have no clue of the Balkans – we’ve learned to divide them into Muslims and Christians – as we do everywhere else – where in reality the problems are of different nature. As to the first posting on this page by the ‘Amsterdam’ dude – all I can say is that Macedonia is much better off when it comes to inter-religious relations than Holland is or ever will be and that’s partley because of the way you look at the “churches and mosques”!

  9. Clearly those three years didn’t help much with your computer skills. I don’t pretend to know all that much about Macedonia other than I was shocked by the amount of “unassimilated” muslims and more mosques than I have ever seen before.

  10. Hellooooou, SLAV denomination is considered insulting… Please? Keep the discussion on track. Census self-declaration is the only valid way to name someone – it is Macedonian…

  11. I have no idea what you mean by “unassimilated” muslims! This must be some new Dutch racist invention similar to the Natzi expressions of “unassimilated” Jews of Europe! Your writing reflects your xenophobia – so so sad!

    P.S. Kupe, sorry didn’t relise Macedonians consider it an insult.

  12. I have no idea what you mean by “unassimilated” muslims! This must be some new Dutch racist invention similar to the Natzi expressions of “unassimilated” Jews of Europe! Your writing reflects your xenophobia – so so sad!

    P.S. Kupe, sorry didn’t relise Macedonians consider it an insult.

  13. In relation to the “Slav” racial epithet, the Macedonian Human Rights Movement International, (‘MHRMI’ is based in Toronto, Canada) says:

    “There is no ethnic group in Macedonia that refers to itself as “Slav”. The Macedonian population in the Republic of Macedonia is simply that, ethnic Macedonian. Any other term is insulting. In an effort to question the legitimacy of the Macedonian nation, and to deny the existence of its large Macedonian minority, Greece refers to Macedonians as “Slavs” and pressures the international community to do the same.”

    Arguably, MHRMI explains the underlying reasoning behind the race-based derogatory terms such as “SLAV” or “FYROM”, often intentionally and erroneously, used to describe the purposeful/historical mistreatment against the Macedonian nation.

    A simple analogy can be made with the racial slur such as “Nigger” or “Chink” which were, and still are, historically used by racists to describe African American and Asian people, respectively, living in the USA.

    Simply put, there is no room for race-based/national-origin discrimination, neither against ethnic-Macedonians, ethnic African-Americans, or any other ethnically stigmatized racial minority. It is time to stop discrimination based on national origin and race.

  14. Amsterdamsky, check your itenerary to make sure what country you really visited as your claims of counting 30 mosques in Skopje is nothing short from ridicilous. There are perhaps 3-4 mosques in Skopje, the most (a lot less than the hundreds in Amsterdam), the only difference is that the mosques in Skopje are built in the 1300’s by the Ottomans whereas the ones in Amsterdam, Utrecht etc are being built on daily basis. The Macedonians didn’t destroy the mosques just like the Turks didn’t destroy the Macedonian Orthodox churches some of them built over 16 centuries ago. It’s called mutual respect.
    For the 25% albanian population (not 30%) you may thank the representatives from EU and the US who inflated the census i.e. the number of albanian population by three and some say by four times. The reality is, there are perhaps 10% albanian population the most, with 5% not having any Macedonian documents.
    Lets wait for the new census!
    The population in Macedonia is not slav, they are Macedonians. Slav is a term used widely by uneducated people when they aren’t sure what to say. This would the same if I called the Dutch or the Swedish a Germanic tribe. Sure it would make things simple for me, but it would be insulting to the Dutch and the Swedish. But since I’m educated, I don’t do such mistakes, I know little bit better.
    I expect other people to do the same.
    Now for the EU.
    People in Macedonia refer to the EU as the “whore of Babylon” and with good reasons.
    I wish Macedonia never enters the EU, because that would be a fast way to get nowhere especially culturally, but …
    Look at the new members Bulgaria and Romania, just two days ago Bulgarians and Romas flood our open markets trying to sell something, beg for money. Yes, they come to Macedonia to earn money.
    Both countries have no infrastructure yet somehow they qualified for the EU?!?
    BBC did a piece on a Romanian city of 60.000 people with no plumbing system and their hospital beds from the 1940’s.
    To me this sounds like a perfect candidate for the EU, especially that their citizens earn on average $50 per month.
    But then again, it’s all polytics, always has been, always will be.

  15. To all out there,

    Lets not forget the simple rule or principal of History. which is?

    History always repeats itself.

    Once Macedonia was a big country (region)before 1912,1913 Budapest Treaty.
    One day in the future (maybe past our life time) Macedonia will be big again.

  16. To all out there,

    Lets not forget the simple rule or principal of History. which is?

    History always repeats itself.

    Once Macedonia was a big country (region)before 1912,1913 Budapest Treaty.
    One day in the future (maybe past our life time) Macedonia will be big again.

  17. I can’t see how calling Macedonians Slavs can be an insult. The Macedonian language belongs to the Slavic linguistic family.

    I am not Dutch but I would be very surprised if a Dutch person would be offended if you call him/her a member of a Germanic ethnicity – it is a fact!

    Now if you subscribe to the ridiculous fantasy that modern-day Macedonians are heirs of Alexander the Great, there is nothing more to discuss.

  18. Serbs, russians, ukrainians all belong to the slav linguistic group and people dont call them slavs. It is exactly that, a linguistic group not an ethnicity. So Macedonians should be called Macedonians not slavs.

    Macedonians today have more of a claim towards ancient Macedonia then the so called greeks of today who are nothing but christian turks.

  19. a slav is the follower of a religion…orthodox religion. The slavic alphabet was written by two macedonian monks. A Macedonian is a Macedonian of Slavic faith. Infact its called Pravoslaven…meaning the right faith- orthodox.
    so dont get yourselves confused

  20. Well, this got whack pretty quickly.

    Couple of points. One, it’s true, Macedonians of all stripes are pretty secular. The mosques and churches are ethnic symbols as much as religious ones.

    Two, “Slav” is indeed a bit rude. But “Slav Macedonian” is IMO not; it lets us distinguish between Slav Macedonians, Turkish Macedonians, Albanian Macedonians, etc. etc. Of course, Macedonian nationalists dislike it, because they hate the idea that an Albanian could be a “Macedonian” in any but the most technical legal sense.

    Three, the number of Albanians. The 1981 Yugoslav census showed 19.7% Albanians. By the census of 1991 that had risen to 23%. The special census of 1994 showed 24%. And Macedonia’s own census of 2002 showed 25.2%. So the current figure is almost certainly between 25% and 30%.

    10% is simply nonsensical, as anyone who has visited Macedonia will tell you.

    The average income in Romania is about $500/month, not $50/month. It’s not hard to look this up, people. I’ve lived in Romania. It has problems, but it’s not a poor country.

    As for Slavs being the followers of Orthodox religion, there are some Poles, Czechs, Croats, and Slovenes — I won’t even mention the Bosniaks — who might have something to say about that.

    Well.

    Does anyone want to discuss the election?

    Doug M.

  21. >> I can’t see how calling Macedonians, Slavs can be an insult.

    I’m hoping and insisting please freaking don’t as a reader of Macedonian background.
    I feel insulted. Greek and Albanian nationalism uses the term to deny the existence of the ethnic Macedonians it is a well established tool of State sponsored assimilation not to mention its obscure, irrelevant and not applied to other Slavic speaking peoples.

    >> If you subscribe to the ridiculous fantasy that modern-day Macedonians are heirs of Alexander the Great, there is nothing more to discuss.

    That’s your view off course and if you testify to the 6C AD Slavic invasion myth
    then it understandable why it a difficult concept to get your thought process around.

    Macedonian Diaspora Communities more so then Macedonians residing in the Republic not only regard themselves as the descendants of the ancient Macedonians but have every right to question their lineage beyond the outdated understanding of scholarly thought of the last few decades and that I’m very glad for.

    I can assure you the modern Greeks for example have no relation none to the Hellenes of antiquely even the modern Greek language it self was an adoption of Koine not classical Athenian Greek, hell the Greek Literacy language actually is manufactured and learned.

    >> “Slav” is indeed a bit rude. But “Slav Macedonian” is IMO not; it lets us distinguish between Slav Macedonians, Turkish Macedonians, Albanian Macedonians, etc. etc.

    I can say you have a poor almost second hand understanding of Macedonian affairs.
    Firstly are you confusing ethic belonging to modern State Natioanlsity

    Ethnic Macedonians who belong the Macedonians faith and speak the Macedonian language don’t need to distinguish ourselves it isn’t our dilemma so please don’t put a distinguish label on us.

    >> Of course, Macedonian nationalists dislike it, because they hate the idea that an Albanian could be a “Macedonian” in any but the most technical legal sense.

    Technical legal sense?????, boy is everything so immensely complex, will it isn’t from our perspective.

    For decades Macedonians have hoped, have wished have pressed for Albanians to integrate into Macedonian society and dare I say be Macedonians too.

  22. For decades Macedonians have hoped, have wished have pressed for Albanians to integrate into Macedonian society and dare I say be Macedonians too.

    Yeah, you want them to stop being Albanians. Just like the Greeks want the Macedonians in Greece to stop being Macedonian. (With some success. The Macedonian language in Greece has been steadily shrinking for 50 years now, and will probably disappear within another generation.)

    That’s the standard response of Balkan nationalists everywhere. “We don’t have a problem with Minority X. We just want them to stop being a minority. Failing that, we want them to be culturally submissive and politically silent.”

    — I’ve been to Skopje. One of the most interesting experiences was being told by Slav Macedonians how dangerous the Albanian part of town was. (Then going to the Albanian part and finding it was almost exactly like the rest.)

    The majority may “wish and hope for” the minority to integrate, but in fact very little is being done to make this happen. The two groups live in “two silences”. There’s grudging toleration and some interaction — much more than people like to admit, actually — but there’s very little intermarriage, and a lot of suspicion and dislike.

    On the other hand, nobody’s killing each other right now. So there’s that.

    Ethnic Macedonians who belong the Macedonians faith and speak the Macedonian language don’t need to distinguish ourselves

    Oh? There are several thousand Orthodox Albanians in Macedonia. And there are also more than 50,000 Protestants, mostly among the Slav Macedonians. How do they get “distinguished”?

    Doug M.

  23. Goodness, this thread reads like my e-mail inbox — except there it’s angry Slovenes insisting that they’re not Slavs, and that everyone who isn’t a hardcore patriot doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about. The only thing missing is someone insisting that Macedonia “saved” Europe from [insert menace here] and that the continent owes her an eternal debt of gratitude.

    Kudos to Doug for an interesting and level-headed post. Too bad the comments are anything but.

  24. Case closed. A person that does not respect other persons’ basic human rights (like choosing own name and such) does not deserve any, any, any respect. Any self-called historians that goes into historic disputes just to rectify calling you names is worthless, too.

    Bye bye for good
    P.S. Fellow Macedonians, don’t waste your time with this xenophobic higher creatures…

  25. Doug, I think you just walked into the minefield of unreality.

    The Macedonian language has pretty much all the features that distinguish Bulgarian from the other Slavic languages. Political considerations have shaped its history.

    Initially, the dialect of northern Macedonian was chosen as the official language. Then this was deemed too close to Serbian and the eastern Bitola dialect was favoured, which is so close to Bulgarian – lack of cases, post-positive definite article, use of tenses, etc – that no Bulgarian would say it was a separate language.

    Macedonia is inherently unstable – the Albanians can be accomodated, but given a free hand, they’d choose autonomy, then independence or union with Kosovo. Seems to me that it is reluctance to learn to live with this fact that is being used as the argument against partitioning Kosovo and creating a Serb part of it to which the 200,000 displaced non-Albanians of Kosovo can return safely. Argument goes that if you partition Kosovo, the Albanians will demand partition in Macedonia.

    Religion is not that relevant, but posters here are correct in saying that the Saudis are sticking their nose in and promoting a version of Islam that has no place in Europe. Albanian Islam is precisely the sort Europe needs – the drink wine at Christmas sort, the equivalent to tea-with-the-vicar Anglicanism.

  26. >> Yeah, you want them to stop being Albanians.

    Good grief another Albanian Victim mentality apologist and in doing so is daring
    to be a critic of Macedonia’s record on Minority tights by comparing the Republic to its ravenous neighbors you all officially deny the existence of National minorities within their territorial borders and official stand by the claim they are the same 19c Nation States unchanged through the chapters of time.

    Macedonain-Albanians today have a status in Macedonia not only unsurpassed
    but above any International barometry imaginable.

    >> That’s the standard response of Balkan nationalists everywhere.

    What inspired you to label me a Nationalist I take offence to that, Macedonians are anything like all Balkanites. Nirther did I openly deny the existence of minoritys in MAcedonai.

    >> Oh? There are several thousand Orthodox Albanians in Macedonia.

    Now Macedonian Muslims of which there are two distinct ethnic groups. Macedonian Government Census records makes no secret of the above fact with one little exception there are Macedonian speaking Muslims and ethnic Albanians whom belong the Orthodox faith.

    Why cant distinguishing and grouping be practiced in Albania and Greece, yes why not indeed.

    >> And there are also more than 50,000 Protestants

    Good grief what handbook did you grab that from. The Republic of Macedonia has had three Population census’s verified by an International list of foreign observers and NGO’s unlike any of its neighbors.

    >> mostly among the Slav Macedonians. How do they get “distinguished”?

    Again you insist to insult the honor of ethnic Macedonians, I’ll put this politely to you I can assure you I would rub the smag smile from your preferable if you said that before my face.

    Macedonian readers, move on lets no give this SOB any more notice then he deserves.

  27. Doug, I think you just walked into the minefield of unreality.

    I’ve been in the Balkans and Caucasus since 2001. Used to it.

    In the case of Macedonia, I swear that some of the resentment comes from not being allowed to blow their country up. Macedonia is currently richer than Serbia or Bosnia (which it certainly wasn’t back in the Yugoslav days), is at peace, showing decent economic growth, and has a good shot at being in the EU within the next decade. But all you hear is Slav Macedonian nationalists bitching about how the Albanians get special preferential coddled whining baby terrorist jihad minority treatment, and Albanians bitching about how they’d be better off as part of Greater Albania.

    I love the Balkans and I try to stay positive, but there are days.

    no Bulgarian would say it was a separate language.

    It’s not, but the Macedonians want it to be. Who am I to argue with them?

    Macedonia is inherently unstable – the Albanians can be accomodated, but given a free hand, they’d choose autonomy, then independence or union with Kosovo.

    Probably. The funny thing is, Greater Albania is pretty much dead in Albania and in Kosovo (for different reasons). But it’s still alive and well in Tetovo.

    Seems to me that it is reluctance to learn to live with this fact that is being used as the argument against partitioning Kosovo and creating a Serb part of it to which the 200,000 displaced non-Albanians of Kosovo can return safely.

    Eh. I’m not sure what the problem is with partitioning Kosovo.

    Well, no. I understand one part of the problem, and that is: the Albanians hate this idea, hate hate hate it. They want to keep the northern part of Kosovo, and never mind if it’s entirely non-Albanian. Albanian sentiment is strong enough on this point to make it almost impossible for any Kosovar politician to sign it away. It’s a bit like Ulster in 1920 (with the notable difference that Ulster had a lot of Catholics, while northern Kosovo has very few Albanians).

    What I don’t understand is why the international community is reluctant to partition Kosovo. Give that northern corner to the Serbs, independence to the rest. Other than “the Albanians will hate this”, why hesitate?

    Argument goes that if you partition Kosovo, the Albanians will demand partition in Macedonia.

    And independence for Montenegro will mean independence for Republika Srpska. Oh, wait.

    Doug M.

  28. Albanian Islam is precisely the sort Europe needs – the drink wine at Christmas sort, the equivalent to tea-with-the-vicar Anglicanism.

    Oh hell yes. Albanian Islam is about the mildest sort around. Beer-drinking, rakia-sipping, pork-eating, miniskirt-wearing, tolerant, and oh-so-easy going. Theologically it’s a very mellow form of Hanafi Sunni with an old Sufi influence that’s still faintly felt today.

    The problem here is, it gets conflated with Albanian nationalism, which is less nice.

    Bosnian Islam used to be much the same, but got seriously scarred by the war. Damn shame.

    Doug M.

  29. To all pseudo intellectuals trying to re-invent history of Macedonia ans Macedonians.
    We (Macedonians) have been waited a very long time to recover independance since Ottoman invasion (14th century) and we can’t just accept other nationals to tell us who we are and how must ‘they’ refer to us.
    National conciousness is one thing and any attempt to rewrite ‘our’ history and/or our national conscience is nothing more than negationism or a modern way of cultural apartheid any Macedonian wants to put and end to.
    I am Macedonian and nothing else.
    By the way, our southern neghbour reached independance in the early 19th Century and chosed then to be Ellada or Hellenic Republic and it’s nationals to be Greeks.

    You can’t be Greek and Macedonian at the same time, it’s a non-sense.

    This is only possible, if you’re a native Macedonian being assimilated since 1913 under fierce Greek Regime.

    Hence you’re Greek with Macedonian national conciousness and Greece must treat this part of it’s population as minority, once the European Convention of Protection of minorities will be signed…

  30. What I don’t understand is why the international community is reluctant to partition Kosovo. Give that northern corner to the Serbs, independence to the rest. Other than “the Albanians will hate this”, why hesitate?

    Because if you do this, not partitioning Bosnia becomes simply ridiculous.

  31. Daniel: I cannot understand where do you derive the right to direct someone how or what should they call themselves!!! Unless of course you are Greek! If the Macedonians call themselves Macedonians – is their right to do so. The Greeks have no more right to claim ancient Greek origins than the modern Macedonians do! Read Benedict Anderson or Anthony Smith to understand better the false idea of a nation and national identity!

    As to the Albanian version of Islam – I am not sure what to call it really. I agree with Doug. I don’t think Islam is the problem since most Albanians like to consider their national identity as a primary self-identifying notion. Again – I am afraid Albanian nationalism is far more firing than Islam or any other religious fundamentalism! Knowing that they are divided into three religious groups the Albanians elites made sure since the 19th cent. to always make any excessive religious behavior be condemned as ‘traitor’ ‘turk’ or simply not patriotic. In other words – deity with Albanians is stigmatized – which is unfortunate!

  32. Macedonian identity propaganda of the cut and paste variety is so virulent on the web that one almost hesitates to provoke the onslaught. To see it invoke Benedict Anderson is a new one on me though. Fitting enough, since Anderson’s relativism plays fast and loose with lots of historical facts about the growth of national feeling and traditions.

    The Greek position on the name of the Republic of Macedonia seems pompous and absurd. It is, as critics assert, a continuation of the process whereby an Ottoman colony populated mainly by Orthodox Christians asserted a cultural identity attractive to its 19th century Great Power supporters. But just because reality is subjectively organized doesn’t mean it can be organized any old way one chooses.

    At least the Greeks could point to a remarkable continuity in language (modern Greek is far closer to the Greek spoken 2500 years ago than modern English is to Chaucer’s 14th century English.). There’s also all those wonderful ruins dotting the countryside, and the preservation of the classical canon by the Byzantine church until the Ottoman conquest.

    Imagine the reaction of Mr Jones of Cardiff if Belgium were to split into two linguistically based political entities, and the new, Walloon-speaking, UN recognized country adopted the name Wales and you’ve got only part of the story. The next step is for the Walloon cultural authorities – now calling themselves Welshmen – to claim that Llewelyn ap Gruffydd was actually a Walloon and to teach this in their schools. Stop screaming, Mr Jones, nobody cares in America.

    The new lowland Welshmen would at least have some antiquity to their claim, since both ‘Welsh’ and ‘Walloon’, like ‘Vlach’, are more or less the same Germanic term referring to Romanised populations – whereas the term Macedonia, as applied to what was known as Paeonia in Alexander the III’s time, is most evocative of that bubbling cauldron of atrocities, the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913.

  33. Because if you do this, not partitioning Bosnia becomes simply ridiculous.

    Feh. Bosnia can’t be partitioned in any way that makes sense. Kosovo can.

    — Why does any conversation about one part of the former YU end up as a conversation about some other part of the former YU?

    And, does *anybody* want to talk about the elections?

    Doug M.

  34. Feh. Bosnia can’t be partitioned in any way that makes sense. Kosovo can.

    That won’t sell. The West established the principle of respecting the borders of the republics. Nobody likes deviating from that.

    Why does any conversation about one part of the former YU end up as a conversation about some other part of the former YU?

    Because they were part of one country only 15 years ago and almost all aspects of them are strongly influenced by that. We wouldn’t discuss Lebanon without discussing Israel and Syria, would we?
    Any negotiations between the EU or members states and Macedonia take into account the effects on the rest of the region and strongly so. Therefore ignoring that doesn’t make sense.

    And, does *anybody* want to talk about the elections?

    As you said, they followed a standard pattern and worked well. That simply isn’t interesting news. They have some implications for EU membership. But that depends on a lot of other stuff, like the next election and that afterwards. And on when the rest of the Balkan joins and even on developments within the current member states or even unrelated events, eg. a new oil shock. You can’t really say a lot with any degree of certainty. All you can say is that they had a chance to royally screw up and didn’t. But there’ll be further chances to do just that.

  35. That won’t sell. The West established the principle of respecting the borders of the republics.

    Eh. “The West” was ready to deviate from that once before, with the Z plan, which would have given a very high degree of autonomy (de facto independence, really) to the late Republika Srpska Krajina.

    The leaders of the RSK — not the sharpest tools in the box — rejected the plan. Whereupon Croatia rolled the dice with Operation Storm, crushed them like bugs, and ethnically cleansed almost all of Croatia’s Serbs.

    Still: had they accepted, the RSK would have been a lot like Kosovo today — nominally part of Croatia, but completely ignoring any instructions from Zagreb.

    And then, independent Kosovo hardly respects republic boundaries; Kosovo was never a republic.

    — As to my question, obviously it was rhetorical. But there’s a real point here. It is possible to discuss Kosovo or Macedonia without veering off into a conversation about Serbia or Bosnia. The comparison to Lebanon/Israel/Syria is not a very good one, because the international community has much less power in that region. Israel, for instance, is a largely autonomous actor. This is not true of any country in the former YU.

    Macedonia and Bosnia are to some degree artificial constructs, held together by the will of the international community. Kosovo will be propped up and reliant on aid for years. Serbia’s economy is still half-crippled and it desperately needs foreign assistance and investment. Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia are all eager to join the EU. So the international community has a great deal of power, if it chooses to exercise it.

    We /could/ partition Kosovo, and tell the Albanians — and the Bosnians Serbs — to eat it and smile. There’s not a lot they could do about it.

    We’re not, because… well, I’m not sure why not. Lack of imagination? Squeamishness?

    Anyway, looks like that’s about it for the Macedonian elections. (N.B., “talking about the elections” might include talking not only about the fact that they happened, but about who won, and why. But, eh, never mind. Maybe next time.)

    Doug M.

  36. ‹i›We /could/ partition Kosovo, and tell the Albanians — and the Bosnians Serbs — to eat it and smile. There’s not a lot they could do about it.
    We’re not, because… well, I’m not sure why not. Lack of imagination? Squeamishness?‹/i›

    Lack of Americans running the relevant institutions?

    Any thoughts on the quiet presence of NATO troops in Macedonia since the mid-1990s? Maybe that’s a reason the country has been quiet by local standards?

    Also, anything you wanted to say about the elections?

  37. It is possible to discuss Kosovo or Macedonia without veering off into a conversation about Serbia or Bosnia.

    But the EU’s own negotiators are not doing so. Why would we?

    We /could/ partition Kosovo, and tell the Albanians — and the Bosnians Serbs — to eat it and smile. There’s not a lot they could do about it.

    Sure, and probably it would be the best option for Kosovo and Serbia in the long run. But doing so would mean a pragmatic use of our full power. The West hardly ever does so. I guess 50 years in a situation where too much use of power might mean doomsday does shape you for a long time.

    but about who won, and why

    Is there any reason to think that it doesn’t boil down to wanting back prosperity and priviledges that once existed? The government didn’t deliver so the opposition gets a chance. People don’t judge by what could be reasonably achieved but by expectations.

  38. Well…as noted elsewhere, the elections were rather uneventful, which is not a bad thing.

    However, the few “events” that did happen, happened mostly in Albanian-majority areas, and especially between PDSH/DPA and BDI/DUI supporters. So are there any real policy differences between the two parties? Both seem quite willing to change their rhetoric once in power, and (as I understand it) the perception of right-wing and left-wing parties is mostly a result of being in coalition with VMRO/SDSM.

    Weird: With 25 % of the population, there seems to be no space for a third Albanian party (or citizens´ group, or breakaway wing), not even at the municipal level. I´ve never seen so many zeros in the “number of votes” column. The picture is much more diverse on the ethnic Macedonian side.

    Not related to this election, but to Macedonia: The reform of territorial organization after the Ohrid agreement has produced a lot of sensible results…and a couple of really strange ones. There are small Macedonian-majority municipalities which joined Albanian-majority ones, and some of similar or even smaller size that didn´t. Or didn´t have to, thanks to especially well-connected mayors?

    Not directly related to Macedonia (sorry): Why has no one in Serbia ever come up with the idea of replicating the Ohrid agreement? Sure, that would imply giving the Kosovo & Presevo Albanians a stake in Serbia, which seems to be even more unpopular than it ever was in Macedonia. If I understand correctly, DS and other liberals prefer partition, while DSS and everyone further right prefer…apartheid. And the Albanians themselves don´t want a stake in Serbia, period.

    But if Kostunica & Co. are so keen on keeping Kosovo within Serbia´s borders, why don´t they just once, in front of the UNSC or wherever, point to Macedonia, “look, over there it works.”

  39. John Montague said: “But just because reality is subjectively organized doesn’t mean it can be organized any old way one chooses.”

    Beautifully put, John. To pick up from what you’ve said, and push it in a slightly different direction, I would like to add that national myths, though sometimes arbitrary and inaccurate, are useful in statecraft. Some may be more convincing than others, but that is beside the point.

    The key for a peaceful neighborhood is a set of national myths that successfully bind each nation to the land it owns. For all its deficiencies, the Greek national myth indeed connects that people uniquely to the land it actually holds. The ancient Greeks lived there, the ruins are there, the place names are intact, etc. etc. Thus, with the help of this myth, the people are led to feel that they are geographically where they belong, where they’ve supposedly always been, and looking greedily beyond the borders is perceived (hopefully) as a futile exercise. The linguistic and other elements, though ultimately accidental to the fact of the possession of the land, merely lend the story in this case a level of credibility.

    By contrast, I am sure that there were enough elements in the Greek “ethno-mass” to have smithed a half-convincing neo-Byzantine national myth too. But such a project would only have led its citizens into a self-perception that would need to look longingly at the lands of Turkey (Istanbul etc.). Not much use there, so a neo-Hellenic story was the order of the day it seems.

    On the other hand, the Macedonian myth is fraught with problems. Everything that is bona fide “Macedonian” in a verifiably historical sense lies outside the Republic of Macedonia, and more exactly lies in Greece. The ruins, the places, the artifacts; there is nothing that suggests that what is today the Republic of Macedonia was ever Macedonian except in the most peripheral of senses (its more accurate designation being, as you point out, “Paeonia,” and, I add, around Skopje, “Dardania”).

    Thus the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia are inculcated into a national myth that becomes conceptually impalpable without an outlet in a pathology of perceived loss, which festers inherently into irredentism, even if that irredentism stays for a time at the level of trying simply to establish one’s moral claim to the territorial vision projected by the myth.

    Moreover, lacking the territorial mandate, one has to turn to what normally would have been secondary, largely accidental elements: the cultural-linguistic etc. But here, too, there is little material in the basically Slavic ethnic character of the Republic of Macedonia to make the whole story rhetorically convincing (ancient Macedonia a Slavic idiom? Errm, I don’t think so).

    So the only intellectual basis this project can resort to is precisely the one you touched on: a stridently post-modernist idea that “one can call oneself whatever one wants.” Fine, but at the end of the day is it really fruitful to go that way? For, what’s the real goal here, to bind you to what you have, or what you don’t have?

    The territory of the Republic of Macedonia is home to one of the places (Ohrid) where Slavic Letters first flourished. This matches well with what, for mine, appears to be the place’s most salient cultural element too, viz. its Slavic character. So surely a more cogent, unambiguous, and successful national story (“Slavija”[?]) can be put together from these elements.

  40. the few “events” that did happen, happened mostly in Albanian-majority areas… I´ve never seen so many zeros in the “number of votes” column. The picture is much more diverse on the ethnic Macedonian side.

    The Albanian population is politically a lot less mature than the ethnic Macedonian. (Not that this is saying much.) Politics is entirely about personalities and patron-client relations. Ideology, beyond crude nationalism, barely exists. Concepts like “politics is an art of compromise” don’t really exist, never mind “politics is a tool for general social betterment”. Politics is a zero-sum game, and it’s about money, power and face, more or less in that order.

    We see some of this in Albania. Oddly, less in Kosovo. While I wouldn’t point to Kosovo as a model of democratic process, in certain respects it’s the most politically developed of the three Albanian societies.

    Why has no one in Serbia ever come up with the idea of replicating the Ohrid agreement? Sure, that would imply giving the Kosovo & Presevo Albanians a stake in Serbia, which seems to be even more unpopular than it ever was in Macedonia.

    Well, in Kosovo, it’s just too late.

    More generally, Serbs dislike the idea of “autonomy”. There are historical reasons for this. Serbia spent 60 years as an “autonomous” province of the Ottoman Empire. So they’re hardwired to think that autonomy is shorthand for “on the way out the door”.

    If I understand correctly, DS and other liberals prefer partition, while DSS and everyone further right prefer…apartheid.

    Really, they don’t seem to know what they’d do with Kosovo if they had it. Apartheid is about right.

    why don´t they just once, in front of the UNSC or wherever, point to Macedonia, “look, over there it works.”

    For starters, because Serbs look down on Macedonians and would be very reluctant to take any lessons from them.

    Note that most Serbs’ eyes glaze over when you point out that Macedonia is richer than Serbia now. Bzt, does not compute. This is true of Serb liberals too. They’re just very used to thinking of the Macedonians as the dopey country cousins.

    Second, because it’s an article of faith among Serb nationalists — here meaning everyone to the right of Kostunica — that Macedonia *doesn’t* work. The Ohrid Agreement is seen as a humiliation, and modern Macedonia as a grotesque aberration that will, sooner or later, explode.

    Really, it’s about as likely as George Bush suddenly coming out for Canadian single payer health care. Or, to use a European example, a major French politician (other than Sarkozy) saying, what the hell, it would save a lot of money if all EU business was conducted in English. Not going to happen.

    Doug M.

  41. Les, mostly I agree with your analysis – although the 1922 disaster did have its roots in Kolettis’ government back in the 1840’s. The 1920’s Royalists, especially Metaxas, were well aware that Greece’s adventure in Anatolia was unrealistic colonialism and were left to conduct a campaign they didn’t believe in. So even Greeks can fall prey to the ‘prisoners of history’ syndrome that makes it so difficult for responsible authorities in the Balkans to disentangle popular images of the past from present political realities.

    When discussing why people are so frightened that partitioning Kosovo will lead to the break-up of Former Yugoslav Macedonia, it’s important to realize just how much of a disaster the latter proposition is thought to be. That territory is seen as a ‘Balkan Firewall’ as Misha Glenny put it in a 1995 article in [i]Foreign Affairs[/i], pointing out that

    [i]Macedonia is the only territory where the Balkan mountains can be traversed from north to south, from Belgrade to Thessaloníki, and west to east, from Durres to Istanbul.[/i]

    and describing its strategic importance as paramount in keeping potential antagonists at a distance from each other.

  42. Just got back from RS in Bosnia and they are all keeping a very close eye on Kosovo. As they see it, any move to give Kosovo independence must surely pave the way for them to break free of BiH. Whether we like it or not, events in one part of the former Yugoslavia continue to resonate elsewhere.

    Interestingly, the use of ethnic terminology is just as contentious there as it is in Macedonia. The Bosnian Serbs are pretty annoyed at the way in which the Bosnian Muslims have now adopted the term Bosniak to describe their community. The Serbs see this as an attempt to create a natural claim over the state, as the Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats will still use adjectives to describe their ethnicity. This seems to have an interesting parallel with the way in which many Macedonians are trying to rid themselves of the term Slav Macedonians in favour of Macedonian, knowing full well that the Albanians will continue to have to use an adjective, which in turn will set them aside as somehow less ‘authetic’ Macedonians. Naming is important!

    Finally, I agree with Doug, partition is the most obvious answer for Kosovo. And, like him, I am rather confised as to why it is rejected. It just makes the most sense. I am sure that the Albanians could be persuaded to accept it, if only because it would mean that they would not have to even try to include the Serbs in the machinery of their state. (Looking ahead, the failure to do this in a ‘unified’ Kosovo would surely be a sticking point for the country’s EU accession process under the Copenhagen criteria.) Anyway, as Kostunica pointed out on his recent trip to London, the international community, while rejecting the division of Kosovo, is nevertheless prepared to oversee the partition Serbia.

  43. Where do you idiots come from!!

    You guys must be brainwashed by thr anti-macedonian greek propaganda.
    We MACEDONIANS are not slavs!!! some slavs may have came to the area 1500years ago, but they spread all over the balkans, they consist only one of many tribes which mixed with the ancient macedonians. Every modern ethnicity bares its origins from a number of ancient tribes. Who are you to deny our macedonian background?

    We have been macedonians for centuries.. actually for 2800years!! GET IT THROUGH YOUR THICK HEADS THERE ARE NO SLAVS IN MACEDONIANS, THERE ARE ETHNIC MACEDONIANS WHO CONSTITUTE 65% OF THE POPULATION.

    You make it seem like there is no ethnic macedonian charachter in macedonia, this is precisely the propaganda which not only the greeks, but also the albanians and bulgarians use, because if they get the world to believe that an ethnic macedonian identity doesnt exist, then it would pave the way for the albanians and others to lay claims over macedonia!. Ethnic Macedonians exist not only in R.Macedonia but also in Greece, Albania and Bulgaria. Find me one “slav” in the macedonian census, i dare you!
    You racists should read
    http://www.historyofmacedonia.org

    How dare you call us nationalists just because we are ethnic macedonians! just because we refuse to rename ourselves to “slavmacedonians” the most offensive thing you could ever call an ethnic macedonian is a “slav”.

    Just to teach you imbasols some history, Yes HALF of the Republic of Macedonia was Paeonia, but it became part of Macedonia 2350years ago when PhillipII King of Macedonia occupied Skupi (Skopje) and incorporated it into the macedonian kingdom.
    Is 2350years not macedonian enough for you?? How long have your countries held the territories you currently hold?? How long has Holland existed??

  44. Napoleans once said, “Nothing is impossible”, hence prooved with the non violent Parliamentary elections in Macedonia. Great news!

  45. [b][i]Amsterdamsky wrote at July 11, 2006 09:48 AM:[/i][/b]
    [quote]I just returned from Macedonia.[/quote]
    Dear Amsterdamsky,
    When you come again to Skopje, I’d be very happy to be my very welcome guest. I should also be very happy to take walk together around Skopje and show me those thirty mosques. Should be nice to make photos for every mosque and of course, me and you captured smiled in front of each one.Then you can insert’em to this blog.

    [b][i]Amsterdamsky wrote at July 11, 2006 09:48 AM:[/i][/b]
    [quote]In the eastern part of skopje I stopped counting the mosques at about 30. Draw your own conclusions.[/quote]
    You made a geographical mistake. That’s not eastern part of Skopje, that’s northern part of Skopje. You probably confused yourself counting those 30 mosques. Just to remind you…
    Now Mr Amsterdamsjy,let’s make one fair deal.
    If you show me all those 30 mosques in the “eastern” part of skopje I’ll give you 30.000,00 euros in cash.But, if you don’t and show me more then 5 mosques (including 4 mosques built in the 1300’s by the Ottomans ) you’ll give me 4.000,00 euro. Of course in cash. No easier way to earn 30.000,00 euros.
    Are you agreed MR Amsterdamsky?

  46. @Doug, my experience is that Kosovo Albanians are mainly against giving up the north as a matter of nationalistic principle. As soon as you mention Presevo as compensation they don’t have objections anymore. Provided the Trepca mines stay Albanian of course…

    I think the objections against splitting come from different sides:
    – For Western politicians it would mean to admit that their “no border changes” policy for former Yugoslavia is not universally adaptable. It would be the beginning of the end of the Badinter gospel.
    – Many Serbs live south of the Ibar. Some solution has to be found for them anyway.
    – Several Balkan countries (Bosnia, Macedonia, Greece) are afraid that they will come under pressure to split too. So they are pressuring the West not to allow a split.

    But I do indeed believe that a split would be the best.

    As for the elections, I think that handling over power is something that people have to get used to. Every time you do it it becomes a little bit easier. And they know that resistance is futile: the West is watching too closely for any coup-happy politician to have much chance of success.

  47. Hi guys,
    How stupid do I feel.
    I tought that I’m Macedonian but from you’r exhibion of History. I realized that even my family tree that dates from 1542 year, is nonsense.
    You are all right, For your eyes I’ll tell you something. SLAV means vandal. When Vandalic tribes were passin from ROMA to ATHENS they passed the region called YUGOSLAVIA(it was a country too for 50 years.)
    So from there our south neighbours beeing literate and all, Started calling us and more then 400 milion People SLAVS.
    in Translation SLAV in old LATIN means VANDAL.
    For the rest heart taking souls from our surrounding countries here is something in my language.

    МНОГУ ГОЛЕМИ ИДИОТИ СТЕ, ПОСЕБНО ВИЕ ЈУЖНИ ПЛЕМИЊА КОИ СЕ ПРОДАВАТЕ ЗА СРЕБРЕНИЦИ. НО БИДЕТЕ СИГУРНИ ДЕКА АТИНА, ЌЕ ЈА ТРГНЕ НЕЈЗИНАТА НАМЕТКА И ЌЕ ГИ УКРАДЕ НАСМЕВКИТЕ ОД ВАШИТЕ ЛИЦА.
    КАДЕ ТОГАШ ЌЕ ВИ БИДЕ КРАЈОТ; КОГА КАКО ЧЕРГАРИ ЌЕ СЕ РАЗЛЕТАТЕ ПО МОРЕТО, ИТН…

    So what do you have to say, a neighbours?

  48. Hi everybody,
    I have some remarks, i dont really remember who said the things i try to oppose, but:
    – It is not correct that there are 5-10% of Albanians in Macedonia, as the official census results show
    – It is not correct that there are 3-4 mosques in Skopje, there are at least 20 in the old bazaar region. All of these mosques were built during the Ottoman reign.
    – It is not correct that the Ortodox Macedonians did not ruin any mosques, in contrary, the jewels of the Ottoman mosques were ruined (Burmali Camisi), and the Mosque where Panteon lies today in Ohrid.
    – It is not correct that the muslims did not ruin any Ortodox churches. The Leshok monastry was blown in the air in 2001.
    – It is not correct that there is an intra ethic conflict within the two ethnic blocks in Macedonia. There is an inter-interest-group conflict. The interest groups cooperate perfectly despite the ethnic origin, as it is everywhere in Europe and in the world.
    – And finally, it is a fact that Macedonia is better off, and improving on daily basis, but it is another fact that there are a lot of people that can not feed their families.
    It is such a pitty, because it is a beautiful country, with wonderful nature, and probably the most hispitable and hinest people in Europe!!!

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