know right away that some readers will take exception to this
title. Why "Macedonia?"
they will say, when that name has not been officially recognized?
Why not call it Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM),
as the US and the UN have made it customary?
possible answer would be that Antiwar.com
is neither a global empire, nor a giant bureaucracy, and prefers
not to use acronyms and lengthy phraseology. Another, more
tactful point would be that "Macedonia" is the name
the people of that country prefer, and it is generally considered
appropriate to call people by the terms they prefer – unless
one is an Albanian from Kosovo, in which case calling them
makes one a "Serbo-aggressor" and a racist. But
one can deny that at the present time there is a state in
the south-central Balkans calling itself "Macedonia",
nestled between Yugoslavia in the north, Greece in the south,
Bulgaria in the east and Albania in the west. That last fact
was a topic of numerous jokes in the former Yugoslav federation,
which Macedonia was a member of until 1992.
neighbors are a mixed bunch. Serbs accept Macedonians as a
separate nation and people, most of all because their language
is different, though the capital of today’s independent Macedonia
used to be the capital of the medieval Serbian empire under
Tsar Stefan Dushan.
Yet language is precisely the criterion on which many Bulgarians
base their claim that Macedonians are not really a separate
people, but Bulgarians with a drawl. Albanians agree that
the people and the language are different from theirs – so
different, they recently launched
a drive to separate one third of the country’s territory
and join it to a "Greater Albania." Last, but not
least, come the Greeks – who do not dispute the existence
of the country, the ethnicity of the people, or their distinctive
language, as long as they do not use the name of "Macedonia"
or claim Alexander
the Great in any way.
this is the simple explanation.
ON THE BORDER
– for the sake of shorthand – is now facing a far more serious
crisis than a blockade and protests
by Greece. Albanians thrived in the relative well-being of
Socialist Yugoslavia, in a marked contrast with their kin
across the border. The effects of that prosperity were wealth
and a skyrocketing birthrate, turning western Macedonia into
an Albanian-majority region.
first serious warnings of possible trouble in Macedonia surfaced
in 1998, when Kosovo Albanians rose up against the Serbs,
and again after NATO took up arms for their cause and occupied
Kosovo in mid-1999. During the war, Macedonia became inundated
with refugees to a point in which Macedonians were close to
being outnumbered by Albanians.
Kosovo was systematically cleansed of non-Albanians – Turks,
Roma ("Gypsies") Slavic Muslims and most of all,
Serbs – by the triumphant KLA, Albanians in inner Serbia started
their own insurgency. It escalated in the fall of 2000, when
Slobodan Milosevic fell from power and Yugoslavia became more
pliable to NATO pressures. Protected by NATO’s insistence
on Yugoslav restraint, the Albanians have occupied the supposedly
"demilitarized" zone along the borders of occupied
in their attempts to take out the last Serb enclaves in Kosovo,
contained in the DMZ by the Yugoslav Army, and biding their
time in Montenegro, there was only one place left for the
Albanians intent on carving out a Balkans empire – the country
called (by some) Macedonia.
of this envisioned Albanian
state clearly include Kosovo and a large chunk of inner
Serbia, a strip of Montenegro, a part of Greece and about
half of Macedonia. They move down the path of least resistance,
attacking where they estimate they can succeed, and always
intent on repeating the experience of Kosovo and dragging
NATO into the fray on their side.
NAME GAME, IN PERSPECTIVE
survived the wars of Yugoslav secession physically unscathed.
It has a small military, untested in battle and armed mostly
with Bulgarian weapons. Even so, it is
more than a match for Albanian bandits which invaded its
border in late February – unless the Macedonian Albanians
rise up and support the bandits the way Kosovo Albanians joined
the KLA. NATO is already attempting to wash its hands of the
situation, so the government in Skopje should not expect any
help from that quarter, and possibly even hindrance. The only
natural allies it has right now would be the Serbs – though
NATO would likely not allow any military aid from that side
– and Greeks, who are next on the Albanian list. But Greeks
are unlikely to help a country whose name they don’t recognize.
a true classical historian, the name controversy is somewhat
moot. When Alexander the Great conquered most of the civilized
world in the 4th century BCE, he spread Greek language
and culture throughout his empire. But despite that, and the
fact that his tutor was Aristotle
himself, Alexander the Great was a "barbarian" –
the other hand, the ancient Macedonians, had merged with the
Greeks by the time of the Roman conquest in the 1st
century BCE. Today’s Macedonians are Slavs, whose ancestors
came to today’s Macedonia in the 9th century CE,
$ well after Rome had fallen. Obviously, they have nothing to
do with Alexander, either – except for inhabiting his ancient
Alexander the Great, a military genius who died before he
could consolidate his vast empire over 2300 years ago, is
the very root of the current dispute between Greece and the
"Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." According
to agency reports, Greece and Macedonia were just about to
reach an agreement over the issue, when a
new menace appeared from the West. If that menace is allowed
to have its way, neither Slavic Macedonians nor Greeks will
soon have much to argue about.