Here is the situation. Before nationalism reached the Balkans and before Philhellenism gripped Western Europe , the Balkans were occupied by the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires. The people who were under the Ottoman Empire were identified primarily by their religions which were predominantly Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc. Underneath its religion each group was also identified by its language and social class. Greece , before it became a country for the first time in 1829, was predominantly populated by people, the majority of whom identified themselves as Albanians (Shipari), Vlachs (Vlahi) and Macedonians (Makedontsi). Greek and Bulgar at the time were classes belonging to the merchant and peasant classes respectively.
When nationalism was first introduced in the Balkans by the Western Europeans, in order to make sense of things according to their own understanding, they classified all people who were Christian Orthodox as „Greek“, thus the term „Greek Orthodox“. Everyone who belonged to the Christian Orthodox religion, even the Russians, became known as „Greeks“. When Russia protested, the westerners decided to re-classify the people by using „class“ as an identity factor and to call the merchant class „Greek“ and the peasant class „Bulgar“. There was a point in time when westerners were calling the people in Macedonia , Greece , Serbia , Bulgaria , Romania and Albania , „Greeks“ and „Bulgars“.
Internally however, just before Greece became a country for the first time in 1829, the people in the southern Ottoman occupied part of the Balkans (where Greece is today) self-identified as Macedonians, Albanians, Vlachs, etc.
While a lot of these people were „re-engineered“ and were happy to fit the mold of the newly created Balkan states, many remained „die hard“ and refused to accept their new imposed identity. Call them „antiquated“ „stupid“ and „stubborn“ but these are the people who preferred to stay true to themselves with regards to who they were. Many of these people are Macedonians not because they want to be Macedonians but because that is what they are; a proud people with a long history and a worthwhile past, a past where their ancestors bled and slaved to build in order for them to inherit and pass on to their descendants.
Here then lies the problem; who exactly qualifies to be called „Greek“?
According to Greek claims, up until recently a person could not have been a Greek unless they were born a Greek. In fact the Greek government, in the early 1980’s, passed a law designed to repatriate all Greeks born in Greece who were exiled from Greece and who were considered to be Greeks by birth. But wait a minute, hasn’t Greece been boasting that since 1928 Greece has been populated by Greeks and only Greeks in accordance with its 1928 census where it claims the population living in Greece is 98% pure Greek and 2% Muslim Greek? So who did they intend to exclude when they passed the „Greek by birth“ repatriation law? If everyone in Greece is Greek then why have such a law? Everyone should have been allowed to return because, according to their own claims, everyone in Greece is Greek.
If people were born in Greece after 1928 they should all be Greek, right? Wrong! While Greece , on one hand, was saying „everyone in Greece is Greek“ it was exiling people born in Greece after 1928 because they were not Greek! A person is Greek or a person is not Greek, which is it? You can’t have both!
Perhaps there is a misunderstanding. When we call a person a „Greek“, are we thinking of the same thing as the Greek government when it is calling a person a „Greek“?
Greece , over the years has imported many people, and I mean many and all kinds of people. All of these people were not born in Greece and obviously many were not Greeks by any definition, unless of course you call Christian Turks, Armenians, Russians, etc., „Greeks“?
If a person can be a „Greek“ without being born in Greece, or without being born a Greek and if a person is not a „Greek“ even though he or she was born in Greece, as per the repatriation law, and in spite the 1928 statistics (98 % pure Greeks and 2% Muslim Greeks) then what exactly is a Greek?
Take me for example. I was born in Greece , speak the Greek language, was baptized in the Greek Church, have an official Greek name, was educated in Greek school and came to Canada with a Greek passport, so am I a Greek? Before assuming that I am, I decided to ask a Greek „expert“ on the subject. Surprisingly I found out that not only do I not qualify to be a „Greek“; but I don’t even come close!
Well, I was offended so I protested by claiming that I have as much right to be a Greek as my relatives who are in the same circumstances as I am with whom I share great grandparents and yet they can be Greek! How come? Well, surprisingly, according to this so called „expert“, my relatives „are“ Greeks but I am not and can never be!
So if I understand this correctly one does not need to be of Greek blood, to be born in Greece, speak the Greek language, be an Orthodox Christian, be educated in Greek school, have Greek great grandparents or any of the fundamental requirements of belonging to the „Greek identity“ to be a Greek! So what exactly does one have to be or not be to qualify to be a Greek? I asked the so-called „expert“? The only answer I got was that „I did not qualify to be a Greek and never will“! And that was his final word! So now I am totally confused!
There has to be „something“ that distinguishes „Greeks“ from „non-Greeks“ because obviously there are Greeks out there and according to the last count, there were more that 10 million. So what exactly makes them „Greeks“ and the rest of us „non-Greeks“? I had to find out!
Perhaps it was colour or race? No, that couldn’t have been it either because just recently I heard a story of a Philippine girl born in Greece who was finding out that the Greeks would not only not accept her as a Greek but were taking measures to exile her. In fact nowadays there is loud talk of Greeks wanting to expel all „illegal immigrants“ from their country, including their children who were born and grew up in Greece , the only place they can call home.
This whole thing stumped me. I needed to find out more but how? So I turned to my own „Greek“ relatives for answers.
„Not that I want to be a Greek,“ I said, „but given that we are related, what makes you ‚Greeks‘ and me a ’non-Greek‘?“
Outside of being called „stupid“ for being so „stupid“ to ask such a question, my relatives, among other things, said, „You can’t be a Greek because you don’t agree with the ideas of being Greek. Besides, you constantly criticize the Greeks so naturally they don’t want you!“
So I said, „What exactly do you mean by ‚ideas of being Greek‘?“
„If you want to be a Greek first you must keep your mouth shut about your identity and keep your stupid opinions about minorities, human rights and all that, to yourself. You must always speak Greek in public and maintain that you are a proud Greek with a Greek ancestry stretching back to the ancient Greeks! You must also do what you are told!“
„Ah, now I understand! It’s like being a member of an exclusive club with strict rules which anyone can join provided they rigidly follow those rules? “
„Yes but not exactly! You need to look like a Greek and preferably be of the Orthodox faith unless of course you are rich, but then you must keep that information to yourself. New immigrants coming to Greece from abroad need to prove they are Greeks before they can be accepted,“ I was told.
„And how do they do that?“ I asked.
„Well, they need to produce a document, perhaps a letter that says they are related to a Greek. Perhaps their grandmother from their mother’s side was Greek? And then have two people sign the document which verifies their claim to be true. They then present their paper to the Greek authorities. It’s that simple,“ I was told.
„So, why can’t I do that?“ I asked.
„Because in addition to the information received from the individual, they also do background checks. They have informants all over the world and before they do you the favour of turning you into a Greek, they first make sure you don’t work against them. And you work against them!“ I was told.
„So, let me see if I understand this correctly,“ I said. „To be a Greek all you need to do is be of the Christian Orthodox faith and basically look like one? Is that correct?“
„Yes, but you are forgetting the most important part about being a Greek and that is you must accept the idea that you are a Greek, born of Greeks and belonging to the Greek heritage with a long lineage stretching back the ancient Greeks,“ they told me again!
I was satisfied with the answers I received. I personally did not think it was „stupid“ of me to ask the questions. At least I now had a basic understanding of what it meant to be a Greek but still I had at least one more question. Why would anyone want to abandon their real identity in favour of becoming a Greek? Again I turned to the same people and they did not disappoint me.
„Well, for two reasons actually. First, for getting out of the mud and hellhole we were living in, you know the abuse, the exploitation, the lack of opportunity, etc. and second the possibilities and potential opened up to us as Greeks. Not only do we not have to worry about being abused, we now have choices in our lives. Our children can attend the best schools, we have access to good paying jobs, we can apply for government benefits and perks, we can even have ‚your‘ lands if we want them, all we have to do is ask. In fact the possibilities are limitless!“ I was told.
„So again, if I understand this correctly, there are double the benefits of being a Greek as opposed to being a Macedonian in Greece . So why in God’s name do people still want to be Macedonians?“ I asked.
„Perhaps because they are ’stupid‘ like you?“, I was told.
As the words „Perhaps because they are stupid like you?“ kept ringing in my head like a loud church bell, it occurred to me „how Greeks think“. Of course! Being „Greek“ is much more than just belonging to an „identity“, it is also a privilege of belonging to an elite class of people who enjoy many more benefits than you and I.
It also made me think of what my grandmother used to tell me about the Greeks when I was very young. Many years ago, when the subject of „Greeks“ came up, my grandmother use to say „they are worse than the Turks, they are ‚pirates‘, ‚thieves‘ and ‚liars‘. The Greeks my grandmother knew were merchants and traders who came to our village to buy and sell goods and make themselves rich from the blood and sweat of our people. Perhaps this is why the „Greeks“ appealed and still appeal to so many Western Europeans?
Personally I don’t care how Greeks make their living and why they need to be „Greeks“ to do what they must do, but ever since they illegally acquired Macedonian territories in 1912, 1913 with the assistance of the European Great powers, they have made the Macedonian peoples‘ lives a living hell, a practice that continues to this day!
What boils my potatoes is that „knowing exactly who and what they are, these fake Greeks have the audacity to interfere in Macedonian affairs with lies and deception“. Knowing very well that their identity is totally fabricated, they have the nerve to call the Macedonian identity „artificially created by Tito“. Knowing that they have pirated Macedonian lands and the Macedonian peoples‘ heritage they dare call the Macedonians thieves. Knowing that they illegally, by acts of war, invaded, occupied and partitioned Macedonia in 1912, 1913 with their partners the Serbians and Bulgarians, dare call Macedonia Greek.
How can Macedonia be Greek when the entire Greek identity is fake, artificially created in the 18th and 19th centuries by Western European Philhellenes, and did not exist before the 1800’s?
Like a criminal on the loose, Greece will do whatever it wants to gain advantage over others. But what makes me wonder is how can the world tolerate such behaviour, particularly Western Europe who gave birth to this monstrous entity?
Greece ’s list of victims does not end with the Macedonians, Turks and other minorities driven to insanity inside Greece . Greece has managed to manipulate everyone in the world, particularly its most valuable benefactors who have poured countless amounts of money into it to make its life possible. So the big question here is, are they „stupid“ like me or is there a greater „sinister“ plan behind all this?
By Risto Stefov, firstname.lastname@example.org (April 11, 2010)
Feedback from E. Damianopoulos
In one of your recent articles published on the „American Chronicle“ you presented a detailed narrative of how the EU powers in the last century were so overwhelmingly unjust in their dealings with Macedonia and the Macedonia Question.
Significantly, the take home point was, how could Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and even Albania with some great or even some minimal effort on their part were able to gain the support of the Great Powers and win their independence; whereas, the Macedonians with their 10 year long bloody revolt and insurgency (1903 -1912) could not obtain even a shred of support in their drive to autonomy and independence?
How could these same Powers then allow and accept Macedonia ’s partition when the Balkan powers carried out their military campaign on their own to drive the Ottomans out of the Balkans against clearly expressed Great Power interests in maintaining the status-quo?
The cheap, shoddy and callous disregard of the Macedonians as people as well as their delegations to the post-war Peace conferences boggles the mind; in particular, how was Venizelos able to get not only Macedonia (Aegean part) but also Thrace when all he did was to give carte blanche to France and England to open a second front in Macedonia ?
Worse still, how about the population exchanges with Bulgaria (circa 1926) when the same „Bulgarophone“ Macedonians who were claimed to be „Greeks“ by Greece before 1912 had now suddenly become „Bulgarians“ to be expelled; even after protesting to the Corfe Commission overseeing the exchange that they were „Macedonians“ and not „Greeks“ or „Bulgars?“
The rage inside me is no less than the rage expressed in your own write-up but I would try a veneer of neutrality and objectivity in order to have a more palatable narrative. And, after all this in the last century and even now with the name issue, the Danish statesman, at the point of being honored by the Republic of Macedonia, is telling the Macedonian people to compromise on their name if they want their country to have chance on becoming a member of the EU Community.
The solution to the „name issue“ which is Macedonia’s only obstacle to EU membership does not lie in compromise but in dismantling the widely accepted Greek position by the Macedonians providing critical evidence meeting two necessary requirements: (1) The ancient Macedonians were not Greek (despite wholesale adoption of Greek culture); and, (2) the modern Macedonians are not Slavs or descendants of a mixture of Slavs and native Macedonians.
The evidence on the first requirement is provided by Badian (1967), Borza (1990) and by Green (1991). On the second requirement, Florin Curta’s book (2001) „The Making of the Slavs“ presents detailed archeological evidence that the so called Slav Tribes from North of the Danube came south but did not stay in the Balkans; rather, they went back to their home bases north of the Danube river.
My book explicitly combines all this evidence to present the Macedonians as non-Slavs; but, unfortunately cannot be cited as it is not yet published.
Next, I raise the question on behalf of all Aegean Macedonians. Where are the Macedonian statesmen of the Republic of Macedonia who could use this type of material and analysis to deliver a devastating effect on the Greek claims regarding the name ‚Macedonia‘; especially, now that Greece with its loss of integrity and pack of lies on the real nature of the economic deficit have been shown to be false as well as when their first applied to enter the EU community?
Why are the Macedonians, on the other side of the border, so out of touch regarding these developments and do not seize this enormous opportune moment for a political offensive on the name issue?
Finally, the Danish EU official should have been sent home immediately after his call for „compromise“ on the name issue. Wasn’t the pre-requisite agreement on stable borders in exchange for recognition enough of a ransom when claims to Aegean and Pirin Macedonia had to be given up? Why wasn’t this enough; now we are being asked to compromise our identity as well? Enough!
PLEASE, NO COMPROMISE ON THE NAME!
Ernest N. Damianopoulos, Ph.D.