Macedonia: FYROM: How a Lie was Imposed as a Supreme Reality

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Dec 1 18:49:34 UTC 2008

FYROM: How a Lie was Imposed as a Supreme RealityVasko Gligorijevic
November 30, 2008 The nominally "Macedonian" nation of FYROM emerged as a byproduct ofYugoslavia's dissolution in the 1990's and suffered a majortransformation of the internal relationships after the US-supporteduprising of its Albanian population in 2001 which led to a de factoconfederalization of the country. As of late 2008, it is led by thecharismatic ex-boxer Nikola Gruevski surrounded by a clique of youngpoliticians. Plagued by chronic unemployment standing at the rate of35%, with economy characterized by collapsing light industry based onprimitive technologies and decaying public infrastructure, thenationalistic government of VMRO-DPMNE failed to attract anysubstantial foreign investments. Most of its economic policies failedto raise the public standard based on average salary of barely 300USD. At the same time analysts predict that the consequences of theGlobal financial crisis are yet to strike FYROM, raising the issue offurther deterioration of the prospects for de!
 cent livelihood.
The main-although progressively marginalized ethnic group-in FYROM arethe "Macedonians", a nation postulated by the Communist internationalein 1934 and created by policies of Josip Broz, Communist's Yugoslaviastrongman after 1944. A basic historical review of their ethnicityreveals that prior to 1941, when the Bulgarian army, invading theremains of royalist Yugoslavia, was greeted euphorically by the localpopulation, this population considered itself Bulgarian and led acombined struggle of civil disobedience and guerrilla warfare againstBelgrade in order to achieve either annexation to Bulgaria or atransitional autonomous state with Bulgarian preeminence. Furtherexploration of the past reveals an ubiquitously attested in historicalsources Bulgarian character, an impression complemented with thepeculiar character of the local Slavic language which shares featureswith standard and dialectal forms of the Bulgarian language properwhich set it quite radically apart from all Slavi!
 c languages. Whilethis ethnic group to a various degrees assimilated in the last twocenturies a certain number of Serbs and Vlach/Aromanians (the latterhaving historically a Greek consciousness), this is almost irrelevantto its ethnological and linguistic qualities which are almostidentical as the Bulgarian vernacular.
The other large population in FYROM is the Albanian. Compromised fromdescendants of the Paleobalkan ethnic group of Dardanians which was toa certain extent influenced by Roman culture and Latin language andwhich took refuge in the mountains of present-day north Albania("Ghegnia") in late antiquity/early middle ages, the Albanians whichconverted to Islam under Ottoman rule spread to Kosovo and westernFYROM in 17th and 18th centuries. Today, in FYROM, they number near600. 000, with a compact presence in the towns of Tetovo, Gostivar andDebar and representing a significant population in Skoplje, Kumanovo,Kičevo and Struga. Cherishing an archaic formalized code of conductbased on family and clan loyalty, ethos of reciprocity and obligation,Albanians have been historically more successful than theBulgarians/"Macedonians" in preservation of means of privateentrepreneurship and achieving a more vertical socio-economicstratification coupled with elaborated social network designed to!
 minimize contact with the "Macedonian" non-Muslim population.
Among both the "Macedonians" and the Albanians, collectivist,anti-individualist attitude is deep-seated. Within the daily affairsof both ethnic groups there is a strong reverence for authority andhierarchy. The notion of "state", a concept held identical with theactual government, which has to be obeyed and respected and whichrepresent the supreme reality in which any individuality is lost isparticularity prominent among the "Macedonians" having its root intheir quite recent and long-lasting premodern feudal historical phase.It is no wonder that having realized that after the 2001 conflict andthe subsequent signing of the Ohrid Agreement they lost the privilegedstatus and that both factually and symbolically they cannot cherishthe FYROMian state as their own, the elite of the "Macedonians",realizing that any confrontation with the Albanian factor would be toodangerous, designed a national idea with the purpose of keeping thewider "Macedonian" public mobilized against non-iss!
 ues. This recentidea is composed of the recycled concept of "Macedonianautonomism"-Bulgarian idea that that any initiative of the Slavs ofGeographic Macedonia has to be labeled "Macedonian" in order to gainsympathies by deciding external political factors and the concept of"Ancient Macedonism", the idea that the Slavs of FYROM are directdescendants of Ancient Macedonians.
The idea of "Macedonian autonomism" needs no further explanation ofits perfidiousness and absurdity. Regardless of the trick character ofthe concept it still remains a doctrine of the Bulgarian nationalistoriginating from FYROM: The Bulgarians of Geographic Macedonia shouldclaim that although their singular ethnic identity is the Bulgarianone they are, nevertheless, the exclusive Macedonians. As late as1960's this doctrine was restated by the leader of VMRO Ivan Mihailoffwith the words "the name Macedonia should be preserved because it is athorn in the eyes of Greeks and Serbs".
The enormous success of the idea of "Ancient Macedonian continuity",which originated among the most primitive sections of FYRO Macedonianemigration in 1970's (in Sweden, Australia and Canada) needs carefulanalysis. Although the fallacy of the crude ethnogenetic theory whichclaims that the "Macedonians" of FYROM and elsewhere speak the tongueof Phillip II and Alexander the Great and that their customs, folkloreand other aspects of the culture are either intact or evolved form ofthe civilization of Ancient Macedon is quite easy refutable, this isnot the case in the current conditions under which the nationaldiscourse articulates itself in FYROM.

Briefly, Ancient Macedonians were a Greek entity with Greek ethnicname, using exclusively a Greek Doric dialect and later Koine Greekand practicing the same Olympian religion with the rest of the Greek.Ancient Macedonians participated at the Olympic Games, where onlyGreek were allowed to compete and had theaters on the soil of Macedon,an uniquely Greek concept. All names of Macedonians (with severalexceptions) are Greek as confirmed by their Greek etymology.Conclusive to 2008, no scholar outside FYROM has even remotely claimedthat the language and culture of Ancient Macedonians are an ancestraltype of the present-day FYRO Macedonians, which are descendants ofSlavs, an ethnic group originating from North-East Europe. Slavssettled the Balkans from 5th to 7th century and the FYRO Macedoniantribes were homogenized under the rule of the Turkic horsemen tribe ofBulgarians. These Slavs never called themselves "Macedonians", whileByzantine, Bulgarian, Serbian, Ottoman sources as wel!
 l as westerntravelers and others failed to furnish any reference to a "Macedonian"ethnic group prior to late 19th century.
The issue of the ethnic, cultural and linguistic nature of the AncientMacedonians deserves a wider and detailed expose, referenced andstructured according to the scientific method. However, in light ofthe present state of knowledge, based on the enormous archaeologicalwealth and a plethora of historic sources, modern historiographyuniversally accepts the conclusion that Ancient Macedonians wereGreeks. The key issue with regard to the "Macedonian" nationalism ishow the opposite and improbable conclusion could became a "valid" andall-pervading form of public discourse and the root of nationalself-identification.
The problems arouse with the way in which the totalitarian VMRO-DPMNEgovernment energized the masses among which the national confusionbrought by media exposure of contradictory data grew. Firstly, itreactivated the conflict with Greece by multitude of irredentistmoves. Secondly, within FYROM it carried massive policy ofintroduction of Ancient Macedonian symbols (names of institutions,statues) after the expected and natural Greek negative reaction. Thepopulation, feeling threatened, mistook the attitude of aggressive"Macedonization" sponsored by the government as "defiance" against ahostile state (the hostility of which was precisely provoked byFYROM's initial provocations). Capitalizing on the fact that the vastmajority of the general population does not have neither a capabilitynor a will for sustained scientific research regarding ethnology,history and linguistics, the government managed to capture attentionof the whole body of citizens. One can presume that the sheerauth!
 ority the organized government yields in a conformist societywhere libertarian principles of critical thinking and individualself-reliance regarding the process of opinion-forming are practicallyabsent is sufficient to impose an entirely absurd idea of identity. InFYROM it is unchallenged by organized bodies from which a betterknowledge of the true state of affairs might be expected, includinguniversities, institutes, museums etc. With the sole exception ofInternet, all electronic and printed media are participants ingovernment's monopoly over identity dogmas. Only few individual voicesof distaste and revolt against the lies have insofar voiced theirconcerns (Denko Maleski, Petar Hr. Ilievski) but they got a hostile,unsympathetic public response.
While the prospect of organized challenge of the pro-governmentalstances regarding the identity issues is something expected given theconventional political dynamics within pluralist societies, this isnot quite a case. Nikola Gruevski achieved dominance of his party bycalling premature elections in 2008 at the time of peak in theapproval rating of his first mandate caused by populist measures. Thatgave him an unprecedented might against which FYROM has noinstitutionalized mechanisms of control. Furthermore, in a state ofaffairs whereby the larger part of the Slavs have abandoned theirBulgarian and Serbian culture in belief that they represent a separateancient ethnicity in a category of its own, creators of the policy ofthe opposition (led by the leftist SDSM party) must carefully measuretheir words of opposition to the lavish Pseudomacedonian rhetorics,since they may be branded as "traitors" given the appropriatecircumstances. Consequently, in such occasion they would findt!
 hemselves ostracized from the ongoing debate.
This leads to the conclusion that the solution to the Pseudomacedonianhysteria which totally dominates public life in FYROM is not onlyconfined to the change in the internal situation which may come as aresult of economic collapse or a full-scale civil war, but also fromstrong pressure from outside which would enable FYROM to conformitself to reality and to rational way of conducting cultural policy.The reign of VMRO-DPMNE, characterized by collectivist, group-centeredpolicies, extensive role of the police in society, new legislaturesponsoring religious education, subsidizing biological procreationwith wealth redistribution, enforcing ethics of service to the "commongood", emphasizing the feral, folklorist and medieval aspects of localnational culture in opposition to modern as well as apolitical highculture, is the greatest political catastrophe FYROM faces in early21st century. A hope remains that the Slavs of FYROM will reject theartificial and overbearing attempts to ins!
 till a connection withchronologically and ethnically distant Greek kingdom as well as tomake history the most important aspect of their everyday lives. Onlythrough enduring action from within and from abroad the localstate-worshiping, centrally-planned tribal way of life may beliquidated and replaced with a political system based on freedom, achange which will forever put the era of Pseudomacedonism behind, as adoomed ideology based on lies.

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