FYROM Must Join Greece in Name Compromise: No Historical Basis for "Republic of Macedonia"

A 1939 Yugoslavia postage stamp, "Jugoslavija (i.e., land of the southern Slavs)," depicts the eight
provinces of the then Yugoslavian Federation: Dravska, the northwest region fed by the Drava, an important tributary of the Danube River; Hrvatska; Vrbaska; Drinska, the western region fed by the White Drin tributary emanating from the River Drin in Albania; Dunavska, the eastern region fed by the Danube River; Hcravska; Zetsca; and Vardarska, the southernmost region crossed by the Vardar River.

by Dr. Dean Lomis

The Yugoslavian Federation was established after World War I - originally as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians, known as "Kraljevina Srba, Hrvata I Slovenaka." If a "Macedonian" nation had existed, it would have been the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, Slovenians and Macedonians. No such nation existed, however. The Kingdom was dissolved in 1941 at the German invasion. Therefore, if World War II had not occurred, or if after the War the Communist Party had not ruled, there would not be a "Macedonia" issue today.

The border between Greece and Serbia was defined in 1913 on the basis of the advances of the armies of the two nations during the 1912-13 Balkan Wars. The border between Greece and Bulgaria was defined at the treaty of Bucharest, and the border with Albania by the treaty of London. Since then, the borders of the four nations had remained the same.


Be it as it may, the land of "Macedonia" was part and parcel of the ancient Greek system of city-states. The inhabitants of Macedonia identified themselves as Greeks; believed in the same gods; shared the same cultural and athletic activities; and spoke the same language: Greek. It is also of major significance that the ancient Greeks had placed the habitat of their gods on Mount Olympus in Macedonia. It would have been totally inconceivable for the Greeks to place the habitat of their gods in a non-Greek, "barbarian" territory.

Above the land of the ancient Greeks of Macedonia were the lands of the ancient Dardanians: Dardania. It was in Dardania that the Slavs descended into the Balkans, and from Dardania to the lower Balkans in Macedonia during the Sixth Century AD. For three centuries, the Slavs spoke their Slavic tongue - not language, which had no written or reading form. It was not until the Ninth Century that two Greek brothers Cyril and Methodios, both of whom were monks, illuminated them on Orthodox Christianity and grammatically taught the Slavs their own Slavic language. Cyril is credited with inventing the Cyrillic alphabet - a modified version of Greek to accommodate some of the particular non-Greek sounds - thereby providing them with a tool to learn to read and write in their own tongue. Accordingly, therefore, the Slavs can not, and do not, have any historical connection with Macedonia before the Sixth Century, nor any political bond prior to the Ninth Century.

Unless we accept the absurd notions of the late Turkish Prime Minister and President Turgut Ozal (who, in his book, "Turkey in Europe," asserts that Homer as well as Aristotle were Turks), the Macedonians, like all Greeks, had their own regional identification and leaders: Pericles the Attican, Epaminondas the Boeotian, Homer the Chian, Pyrrhos the Epirote, Leonidas the Lacaedemonian, Philip and Alexander the Macedonians, and so on, including in later times Domini(os) Theotokopoulos the Cretan, who signed his great art as "El Greco" The "Macedonia question" became an issue in late 1944, and a turbulent controversy after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990's. In 1944, with the predominance of the Communist Party in then-Yugoslavia, Marshall Tito, for reasons of geopolitical expediency for territorial expansion southward toward a warm water port in the Mediterranean, arbitrarily renamed the area officially until then "Vardarska" - as shown on the 1939 Yugoslav postage stamp - but also known as South Serbia to the "Socialist Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and its inhabitants, the "Macedonians."

Tito's action was a consequence of the 1921 Moscow resolve by the "Comintern (the Communist International)" and the Balkan communist parties to pursue autonomy for the Macedonia region in order to eventually include the most strategic territory into the Communist camp.

Tito's pronouncement of a "Macedonian nation" on December 26, 1944 was swiftly denounced by the United States. Then U.S. Secretary of State Edward Stettinius dispatched immediately "Circular Airgram (868.014)," determining America's foreign policy in opposition to Tito's reprehensible action:

"The Department has noted, with considerable apprehension, increasing propaganda rumors and semi-official statements in favor of an autonomous Macedonia, emanating principally from Bulgaria, but also from Yugoslavia partisan and other sources, with the implication that Greek territory would be included in the projected state. This Government considers talk of Macedonian 'nation,' Macedonian 'fatherland,' or Macedonian 'national consciousness' to be unjustified demagoguery, representing no ethnic or political reality, and sees in its present revival a possible cloak of aggressive action against Greece," to which the then-Soviet Union's arch-Communist, Joseph Stalin,boasted in 1946: "They do not have Macedonian consciousness, but they will."

But the statement by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger suffices to acknowledge, once more, what the Pontos-born, Roman-era historian and geographer Strabo wrote: "Macedonia, therefore, is Greece." In 1992, Dr. Kissinger declared in Paris, "I believe that Greece is right to object, and I agree with Athens. The reason is, I know history, which is not the case with most others, including most of the government and administration in Washington."


In the final analysis, therefore, U.S. recognition of a state with the pseudonym "Macedonia" would be tantamount to a Communist victory after the end of the Cold War - on an issue which our nation opposed during the Cold War. Upon the dissolution of Yugoslavia, following the fall of Communism in the early 1990's, the remnant leaders of Tito's "Socialist Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" dropped the "Socialist Yugoslav" for the obvious reasons and announced their breakaway state, "The Republic of Macedonia." Immediately, they announced that the portions of the Macedonian region within Greece, Bulgaria and Albania were under foreign "occupation," printing the famous "White Tower" of Thessaloniki in Greece on their monetary notes; named the city of Thessaloniki (which they call "Solun") as their nation's "capital" under Greek occupation; printed schoolbooks and started teaching their children that Macedonia outside their current borders is under foreign occupation; depicted the "Sun of Vergina," discovered during excavations of King Philip's tomb in the late 1970's, as the symbol for their "national" flag; and, among myriad other usurpations, pronounced Alexander the Great their historical ancestor.

Lack of national identity for the Slavs of FYROM (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) does not justify their desire to develop one by usurping someone else's. In addition, aside from the fact that they themselves are not Macedonians, the large Albanian and Bulgarian minorities also do not wish to be identified as such, for they know they are not. The Albanian minority comprises about one third of FYROM's population, and the Bulgarian minority about one fourth. Some 250,000 of the Bulgarian minority recently applied for Bulgarian passports, desiring to be identified as Bulgarians, since Bulgaria is on the road to membership in the European Union, which FYROM is not primarily due to its falsified name.

FYROM's total area of only 13,578 square miles (146 miles east-to-west and 93 miles north-to-south) comprises a strip which is a mere 20 miles wide north-to-south from the Greek border, just one fifth of the ancient Macedonia's total territory. FYROM's remaining four fifths is located outside the Macedonian region, including its capital, Skopia (Skopje).


Historical backgrounds and ethnic identities clearly indicate that FYROM in its entirety can not be accepted as "Macedonia." That its southern one fifth portion of 20 miles wide be called its "Macedonia Province," similarly to the one in Greece, would be proper and should not only be acceptable, but also a very fair compromise. The solution to the FYROM/Macedonia dilemma is for the portions of the seven southern counties (of the country's 28 total) which fall within the area of the Macedonia region (i.e., Resen, Bitola, Prilep, Kavadarci, Negotino, Gevgelija and Strumica) to comprise the nation's "Macedonia Province." The remaining areas can also have their own "province" identification, in existence today as in the past: "Planina" to the west, where the majority of the population is ethnic Albanian and borders with Albania; "Plackovica" to the east, where the majority of the population is ethnic Bulgarian and borders with Bulgaria; and "Jakupica," the central and northern portion, to include the nation's capital, Skopje, which is inhabited by Slavs, perhaps even almost entirely by Serbs. Thus, the "Macedonia Province" would contain mostly the so-called "Slavo-Macedonians."

The official name of the country, with its four provinces and 28 counties, can then be called by its true identity: "Vardarska," as applied officially before World War II, or "Dardania," if the inhabitants of the entity wish to identify themselves with some historical past. Certainly, they should be able to discover some Dardanian historical past in the four fifths of the land where the ancient Dardanians lived, rather than attempting to usurp Macedonia's Greek identity of more than five millennia.

Resolving the "name issue" with proper identification would also have many immediate and long-term benefits for the Balkan Peninsula; the Mediterranean region; the European Continent; and for the world at-large. For the Greeks, it would eliminate their current concern that FYROM is attempting to usurp a significant part of their Hellenic national identity, and that a "Vardarska" or a "Dardania" pursue its irredentist policies by seeking to expand its borders through absorbing the remainder of the Macedonian region, as they currently advocate and teach in their schools. The many and enormous global problems which the world is facing today, due to extremist teachings of the Koran by Islamic "fundamentalists" (a misnomer, for "fanatic extremists"), are serious enough to require understanding and cooperation to prevent future conflicts.

Continuing to teach the "Falsification of Macedonian History" - a most apropos book title by the former Governor of Macedonia in Greece, the Honorable Nikolaos Martis - would create a tumultuous "Balkan" problem in the decades to come, similar to the racial tensions faced by Europeans in general, and the French in particular, today.

Kosovo, with its twin ethno-religious problem of Albanian Moslem versus Serbian Christian animosity, and the unsettled Bosnian triangle of Croatian Christians versus Serbian Christians versus "Bosnian" Moslems, and also Croatian Catholic versus Serbian Orthodox, are dangerous enough, not to mention FYROM's own Albanian Moslem versus Slavic Christian differences. Solving the problem now would therefore ensure order and peace for Skopje's future.

For the people of present-day FYROM, a name consistent with their true identity - not someone else's - will, at least eventually, develop a genuine national consciousness, thereby giving some credibility to their then-idol Joseph Stalin's statement. Moreover, once it has its proper name, the country will have a true identity in the United Nations; enjoy the total support of Greece for membership to both NATO and the European Union; and have Greece's unlimited promotion for security of its borders, and of its territorial integrity, against any potential aggressors, or even internal turmoil it may not be able to contain itself. And, with proper name identification leading to good relations with its neighbors, especially under the protection of considerably more powerful Greece, its people will begin to develop a solid economic infrastructure away from the chrysalis of Communism, and prosper.

It is therefore of immense and utmost importance that the world's powers, especially the industrialized societies of Europe and America (not to mention their own national interests), instruct, convince and lead present-day FYROM to adhere to international law, by which it was "provisionally" admitted into the United Nations under the "temporary" name of FYROM, until a suitable name "in agreement with Greece" would be found. After more than a decade of intransigence, it is ultimately in FYROM's best national interests to compromise in line with the stipulations it accepted to become a provisional UN member.

Dr. Lomis is Director Emeritus at the University of Delaware's International Center.

[Editors' Note: This article originally published in the National Herald under a separate title]

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