The Greece-Macedonian issue: American-Greek relations at odds

Simona Gruevska-Madzoska simonagrum at
Wed Jun 4 10:33:26 UTC 2008

The Macedonian-Greek Conflict
The age long conflict between the Greeks and the Macedonians
The Macedonian-Greek conflict is a very complex issue. Lots of books have been written about Macedonia, but many of them simply serve to justify the aspirations, propaganda, and the partition of Macedonia of 1913, by the neighboring countries such as Greece. These sources are, therefore, biased. The Greek pages about Macedonia rely strictly on their very own Greek propaganda sources, which naturally makes them biased. In order to find the real truth about Macedonia, one has to rely on the independent and neutral sources when looking into history. This page is such case, which browses historical independent and neutral facts, to show the truth about Macedonia against the century-old Greek propaganda. 
Macedonia seceded from Yugoslavia and became a sovereign state by a popular referendum held in September 1991 when the majority of voters chose independence. Greece immediately demanded from the international community not to recognize the country under its name Macedonia. 
Greece alleges that: 
1.     The Macedonians should not be recognized as Macedonians because the Macedonians have been of Greek nationality since 2000 BC.
2.     Those Macedonians whose language belongs to the Slavic family of languages, must not call themselves Macedonians because 4000 years ago, the Macedonians spoke Greek and still speak nothing but Greek.
3.      Macedonia has no right to call itself by this name because Macedonia has always been and still is a region of Greece.
The people of Macedonia affirm that:
1.      The ancient Macedonians were a distinct European people, conscious and proud of their nationality, their customs, their language, and their name. The same applies to the modern Macedonians today.
2.      The ancient Macedonians regarded the ancient Greeks as neighbors, not as kinsmen. The Greeks treated the Macedonians as foreigners ("barbarians") whose native language was Macedonian, not Greek.
3.      Macedonia was never a region of Greece. On the contrary, ancient Greece was subjected to Macedonia. In 1913, modern Greece and her Balkan allies partitioned Macedonia. If today a portion of Macedonia belongs to Greece, it is by virtue of an illegal partition of the whole and occupation of a part of Macedonia.
These assertions will be shown to be true in the eyes of history proving the absurdity of Greek allegations against the people of Macedonia. 
In the course of the second pre-Christian millennium, the ancient Greeks descended in several migratory waves from the interior of the Balkans to Greece. Some passed across the plain of Thessaly on their way south, while others went south through Epirus. More recent scholars point to Asia Minor as the original Greek homeland. There is no evidence that the ancient Greeks ever settled prehistoric Macedonia. Archeological evidence shows that ancient Macedonia lay beyond the cultural and ethnic borders of the Bronze Age Mycenaean Greek Civilization, which ends at the border of northern Thessaly (1400 - 1100 BC). The prehistoric Macedonians show a remarkable continuation of existing material culture. 
Ancient Macedonia was home to many tribes. The ancient Macedonian tribes emerged from the Brygians or Phrygians. Some of the Brygians left Macedonia and migrated to Asia Minor where they changed their name to Phrygians and established a powerful Phrygian kingdom (Herodotus). When the Macedonian army under Alexander the Great will enter Phrygia centuries later, Philotas spoke of the connections between the Phrygians and the Macedonians, by calling the Macedonians "Phrygians" (Curtius). 
Greek migrants settled few coastal areas of Macedonia, Thrace, and Illyria after they exhausted the possibilities of settlement in Asia Minor, Italy, France, Spain and Scythia (Ukraine and Russia). However, they did not consider Macedonia especially attractive for permanent settlement. Neither did the Macedonians welcome them as open-heartedly as did the Italians and Scythians. By the middle of the fourth century BC, the Greek settlers were expelled from Macedonia and their cities, including Aristotle's native Stragira, razed to the ground by the Macedonian king Philip II (360-336). Aristotle died in exile in Greece.
The ancient Macedonians regarded the Greeks as potentially dangerous neighbors, never as kinsmen. The Greeks stereotyped the Macedonians as "barbarians" and treated them in the same bigoted manner in which they treated all non-Greeks. Herodotus, the Father of History, relates how the Macedonian king Alexander I(498-454 BC), a Philhellene (that is "a friend of the Greeks" and logically a non-Greek), wanted to take a part in the Olympic games. The Greek athletes protested, saying they would not run with a barbarian. Historian Thucydidis also calls the Macedonians barbarians, and so did Thracymachus who called Archelaus a barbarian who enslaved Greeks. Demosthenes, the great Athenian statesman and orator, spoke of Philip II as:
"... not only no Greek, nor related to the Greeks, but not even a barbarian from any place that can be named with honors, but a pestilent knave from Macedonia, whence it was never yet possible to buy a decent slave." [Third Philippic, 31] 
The Macedonian "barbarian" defeated Greece at the battle of Chaeronea in August 338 BC and appointed himself "Commander of the Greeks". This battle had established Macedonian hegemony over Greece and this date is commonly taken as the end of Greek history and the beginning of the Macedonian era. Greece did not regain its independence until 1827 AD. 
In 335 BC, Philip's son Alexander campaigned toward the Danube, to secure Macedonia's northern frontier. On rumors of his death, a revolt broke out in Greece with the support of leading Athenians. Alexander marched south covering 240 miles in two weeks. When the revolt continued he sacked Thebes, killing 6,000 people and enslaving the survivors. Only the temples and the house of the poet Pindar were spared. 
The Ancient Macedonian Language
The Macedonians spoke their own native language which was unrecognizable by the Greeks. The very label barbarian literally means a person who does not speak Greek. Though Alexander spoke also Greek, loved Homer, and respected his tutor Aristotle, there is much evidence that he hated the Greeks of his day, just like his father Philip II. Philip had razed to the ground the Greek cities on Macedonian territory (including all 32 Greek cities in Chalcidice) and enslaved their inhabitants. Alexander the Great thoroughly destroyed Thebes. His Asian empire has not once been described as "Greek", but is correctly called Macedonian for he won it with an army of 35,000 Macedonians and only 7,600 Greeks, and similar numbers of Thracians and Illyrians who were all forced to fight with their Macedonian overlords. The overwhelming number of Greeks however, 50,000 in total (Curtius), had however, distinguished themselves on the side of the Persians and fought fiercely
 till the end against the Macedonians. For instance, at the battle of Granicus there were 20,000 Greeks, out of which the Macedonians killed 18,000 and the 2,000 survivors were sent in chains to Macedonia (Arrian, Curtius). Arrian specifically speaks of the "old racial rivalry" between Macedonians and Greeks that characterized this battle. At the battle of Issus, there were 30,000 Greeks on the side of the Persians to fight Alexander, and their survivors also fought at Gaugamela along with the Albanians and the Persians, against the Macedonians. 
The question of the use of the ancient Macedonian language was raised by Alexander himself during the trial of Philotas, one of his generals accused of treason. This is what Alexander has said to Philotas: 
"The Macedonians are about to pass judgement upon you; I wish to know weather you will use their native tongue in addressing them." Philotas replied: "Besides the Macedonians there are many present who, I think, will more easily understand what I shell say if I use the same language which you have employed." Than said the king: "Do you not see how Philotas loathes even the language of his fatherland? For he alone disdains to learn it. But let him by all means speak in whatever way he desires, provided that you remember that he holds out customs in as much abhorrence as our language" (Curtius).
The trial of Philotas took place in Asia before a multiethnic public, which has understood Greek as it was then a common language, like English today. But Alexander spoke Macedonian with his Macedonians (the language he accuses Philotas of loathing) and used Greek in addressing the west Asians. Like Carthagenian, Illyrian, and Thracian, ancient Macedonian was not recorded in writing. However, on the bases of about a hundred glosses, Macedonian words noted and explained by Greek writers, some place names from Macedonia, and a few names of individuals, most scholars believe that ancient Macedonian was a separate Indo-European language. Evidence from phonology indicates that the ancient Macedonian language was distinct from ancient Greek. 
Both Macedonia and Greece were annexed by the Romans after the battle of Pydna in 168 BC. It is significant that the Greeks again fought against the Macedonians during the Macedonian Wars, on the side of the Romans. The Macedonians were asked to evacuate from the whole of Greece and withdrew to Macedonia by the Romans, and the Greek fought against the Macedonian army and its king Philip V until their final defeat (Polybius, Livy). After the end of the Macedonian kingdom, Latin was the official language in Roman Macedonia from 168 BC until the demise of Roman rule at the end of the sixth century AD.
In the sixth century, the Slavs penetrated Illyria, Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece. The Slavs settled lands as far as Peloponnesus and the Aegean islands, and some of the Slavic tribes in Greece remained unconquered for centuries. During the following centuries, the Slavs mixed with the original Macedonians, Greeks, Thracians, and Illyrians, and thus laid the foundations to the modern nations of the Balkans, and their modern languages. 
Today's modern Macedonian language has both ancient Macedonian and Slavic background. How much modern Macedonian is based upon ancient Macedonian is impossible to say since we do not have many ancient Macedonian words that have survived, except about 150 glosses. Yet, ancient Macedonian words are still present in modern Macedonian. Alexander's infantry peshatairoi literally means "armed walking men" in modern Macedonian (peshatari). Hammond says that the ancient Macedonians called their commander tchelniku, which again means in modern Macedonian "somebody who leads" (chelniku). The Macedonian prodromoi, were the openers in the battles of Alexander the Great. Today in modern Macedonian this means "somebody who penetrates" (prodir), etc. Many ancient Macedonian names are still present among today's Macedonians, and many ancient Macedonian customs have the ancients have described have survived as well among today's Macedonians. The memory of Philip II and
 Alexander the Great echoes in the Macedonian folklore.
The modern Macedonian language was systemized in the middle of the ninth century by SS Cyril and Methodius, the two Macedonian brothers from the largest Macedonian city of Salonica. This language has functioned as the principal literary, liturgical, and colloquial language of Macedonia ever since. This period of the Macedonian history set the foundations for the development of the modern Macedonian nation and in the centuries after the coming of the Slavs, the Macedonians continue to exist in Byzantine sources as nation. Macedonia resisted the settlement attacks by the Armenian and Syrian dynasties, who held power in New Rome (Byzantium), and by the nomadic Bulgarians. From 1014 to 1204, Macedonia was part of the multi-cultural Byzantine Empire. In the next two centuries, the Macedonians fought foreign invaders, adventurers, and bandits who failed to dominate their land, apart from the Serbs and the Bulgarians who briefly held it. In the fifteenth
 century, the Ottoman Turks succeeded in conquering all of Macedonia, Greece, and the rest of the Balkans, and enforced their 500-year old rule. 
Greek, Serbian, and Bulgarian Independence
In 1827, the European powers intervened on behalf of the Greek rebels and forced the Turks to grant them independence. The same powers, established the first modern Greek state, chose Prince Otto of Bavaria to be the "King of the Hellenes", and sent him to Athens. Serbia freed herself also from the Turkish rule, while Russia declared war on Turkey to help Bulgaria gain its independence. 
San Stefano and Berlin Conferences 
The war between Russia and Turkey ended on March 3, 1878, with the peace settlement of San Stefano. The Turks had to agree to the formation of the new Bulgarian state, to also include all of Macedonia but the city of Salonika. Russia was hoping that greater Bulgaria with Macedonia would give her the strategic exit on the Aegean Sea, but she encountered fierce resistance from Austria-Hungary and England that saw their interests on the Balkans endangered. On July 13, 1878 with the Berlin Conference, they forced Russia to give up her dream and the San Stefano agreement was revised. Macedonia was returned to the Ottoman Empire. From this moment, Macedonia became a battleground where the interests not only of the Balkan states, but also of the Great Powers, collide. 
The Macedonian and Greek Orthodox Churches 
The Ohrid Archiepiscopy was founded as a separate church in 995 to care for the religious needs of the Orthodox Macedonians. However, under the influence of the Greek Orthodox church, the Turkish sultan abolished the Macedonian church in 1767. The Greek Orthodox church was now able to enforce its religious teachings in Greek as the only Orthodox church to exist in the Balkans. Greece hoped to spread her influence and propaganda through the newly opened Greek schools, with a goal to Hellenize the population of Macedonia. But as their influence grew bigger, so did the resistance of the Macedonians. On March 7, 1851, the residents of Enidje-Vardar (today in Greece) signed a petition, for replacement of the teachings in Greek with Macedonian. In 1859, in Kukush was formed the resistance movement against the Hellenization that quickly spread to Voden (Edessa), Kostur (Kastoria), Lerin (Florina), and the rest of southern Macedonia. 
Balkan and Neutral Statistics on the Population of Macedonia 
Adding to the Greek influence, the Bulgarians opened their schools in Macedonia in 1871, and the Serbs followed shortly after. This is the beginning of the so-called "Macedonian Question". The new independent Balkan states used those schools to propagate how the Macedonians do not exist, and how Macedonia was populated only by Greeks, Bulgarians, and Serbs. Ethnographers, historians, and writers begun writing books in favor of this or that propaganda. Many of them did not even visit Macedonia, while those who did already had a written scenario. Their presence there was only a simple formality. The Turkish statistics made the picture more confusing as the Turks registered the people based on religion, not on ethnic background.  Table 1 gives an excellent proof of those Balkan speculations surrounding Macedonia: 

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