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Modern Greece and the Macedonian Heritage – Part 12 – Is there a Misunderstanding?

By Risto Stefov, rstefov@hotmail.com, March 22, 2009

No matter what I do these days there seems to be a misunderstanding between what I say in my articles and what is understood by most Greeks.

Once again I will repeat myself. For various reasons, which every Greek should understand, successive Greek governments and the majority of Greek people who elect those governments have been denying the Macedonians their ethnic identity. This has been going on since 1878 when it became obvious that Macedonian lands were available for the taking. One of the excuses Greek governments and many Greeks use to deny the Macedonians their identity is their empty claim that „Macedonians do not exist“. So then who were these people living on those lands which Greece acquired by war in 1912, 1913? Depending on which Greek you ask, you get a variety of answers which range from; they are „Slavs“, „Bulgarians“, „Serbians“, „Skopjans“, „Slavo-Skopjans“, etc., etc.; but NEVER Macedonians.

Greeks have been denying the Macedonians their ethnic identity for over a century not because there are no Macedonians but because they, the Greeks in 1912, 1913 usurped 51% of Macedonia’s lands and stole the Macedonian heritage and they don’t want to be exposed and identified as the lying and thieving culprits that they are. The excuse Greeks use to justify this, without an ounce of proof of course, is that „Macedonia is Greek“. And how is Macedonia Greek? They say because the Ancient Macedonians were Greek. Are we missing something here?

Even if the ancient Macedonians were related to the ancient people living south of Olympus, and they themselves say they were not, it is neither here nor there because the modern Greeks have nothing to do with either the so-called ancient Greeks or with the ancient Macedonians. In fact as I have shown numerous times the only people the Modern Greeks are related to are the Slav, Albanian and Vlach immigrants who descended upon the territory of modern Greece during the 11th to the 14th centuries. Again as I have shown in these articles, Modern Greece and the Modern Greeks are a 19th century creation, a fabrication of the Philhellene imagination. How many times must that be said to be understood?

Up until the late 1980’s the rules were that one had to be born a Greek to be a Greek. It was my understanding that a Greek could not be made, he or she had to be born Greek. In fact Greece, in 1982 by Ministerial Decree number 106841, announced the passage of Law no. 400/76, providing that; „Free to return to Greece are all Greeks by genus, who during the Greek Civil War of 1946-1949 and because of it have fled abroad as political refugees, in spite that the Greek citizenship has been taken away from them.“

Similarly Law no. 1540 was subsequently introduced making provision for the return of confiscated properties to political emigrants, read political refugees. The wording used in the legislation was again unjustly circumspect. It defines political emigrants for whom the law shall have application limited to those who are „Greeks by genus“.

The term ‘Greek by genus‘ is a term used by Greek authorities for all those who identify themselves as being ethnic Greek. Hence ethnic Macedonians who are also political refugees and have had their Greek citizenship rescinded and/or properties confiscated are excluded from enjoying the rights granted under these laws, therefore severely questioning the very standing of the laws based on grounds of equity and fairness. Moreover, the construction of the wording as relating to these laws is not benign, it has the clear intent to discriminate against all those who belong to the category of people classified as political refugees and who are not „Greeks by genus“. Given that ethnic Macedonians predominantly make up this category of people, it is indisputable that they have been the ones targeted by this exclusivist definition and the ones to have suffered the most.

What exactly then is „Greek by genus“? Does it means Greek by birth or Greek by blood born from Greek parents? Yes it does according to the way it has been applied in laws! How then can a Greek with Slavic, Albanian, or Vlach ancestry be a „Greek by genus“ and not someone who was born in Greece, is a Greek citizen but feels Macedonian?

My friends the „Greek jig is up“! „There is no such thing as a Greek“ because according to Greek law a Greek has to be born from a Greek. But how can a Greek be born from a Greek when „there is no such thing as a Greek“ in the first place?

But as I say this I get comments from Greeks like the following;

„Ethnicity is not based on genetic make-up. In no country is one required to take a genetic test before he is accepted as a citizen. Even Hitler did not require any such tests. For Risto Stefov, however, and some of his colleagues, the fact that Greeks cannot prove a genetic identity to someone (not defined thus impossible anyway) who was Greek, means Greeks are not Greeks. Therefore the Greek word Macedonia and the Greek administrative district of Macedonia (in Greece) with its Greek history are up for the taking. The only merit of such an extreme form of racism is that it does not openly ask for the extermination of Greeks as it mercifully makes Greeks non-existent by an act of free will. Nevertheless, through this invention, part of Greece, Greek property (in the administrative district of Macedonia) as well as Greek heritage and history may be appropriated just the same.
Unfortunately for Risto Stefov and his friends, ethnicity is not decided by a set of genes and besides we know nothing about how genetically homogeneous the original Greeks (whoever Stefov thinks these might have been) were. This racial, or even racist, attitude towards the definition of ethnicity, ignores thousands of years of linguistic and cultural continuity and the self-definition at all times of Greeks as Greeks. Stefov conveniently also ignores the geographic continuity, for Greeks never lived just around Athens and Sparta by their own accounts and the accounts of others.“ (Tymphaios, March 06, 2009)

So, what is Mr. Tymphaios telling us? Is he telling us that „anyone who feels like a Greek can be Greek“? What about someone who is and feels Macedonian can they be Macedonian? For over 100 years Greeks have been saying NO!

No matter how you slice it Mr. Tymphaios, this type of „Greek logic“ is very difficult to swallow.

All I want from you Greeks is to apply the same logic to the Macedonians as you apply to yourselves! If a Slav, Albanian and Vlach can be „a Greek“ because, if I understand Tymphaios correctly, he or she „feels like a Greek“ then why a Macedonian, born of Macedonians, who lived in Macedonia for many generations, cannot be a Macedonian? You can’t have it both ways!

Mr. Tymphaios goes on to say „The nationalistic principles of the nineteenth century, in which an ethnicity was genetically unchangeable through time, is a fossil of pre-scientific thinking. Thanks to Darwin and the scientific revolution he brought about, we know a little bit more now than people knew in the 19th century. Humans, like other species, are not static. The ancient Greeks had no special properties all of which disappeared with them when Demosthenes, or Alexander [for your information Mr. Tymphaios, Alexander was not Greek, he was Macedonian] or someone or other died. Linguistic, historic and cultural continuity is what determines the survival of an ethnicity not a unique ‘blood‘ or an exclusive set of genes. Like species, so human ‘ethnicities‘ evolve over time. Risto Stefov´s quest is a constant search for a genetic contamination from Albanians or some other ‘impure‘ ethnicity, so that like a creationist he may say: aha, Greeks as known today were never created by God, or Greeks of the ancient times have no connection to today’s Greeks because they did not call themselves Romioi, presumably did not mix with Albanians, etc. So therefore they were a different ‘race‘. He cuts a lonely figure in such a quest, because this kind of thinking is more and more recognized as belonging to those racist theories promoted by the fascistic states of mid-20th century. Stefov´s ethnic principle is like that of Creationism in the sense of lines that are not evolving but can only stay or disappear. Today this is a thought rarely entertained even by ordinary laymen.“

But what Tymphaios fails to understand, or is hypocritical about it, is that the exact same thing he speaks of and accuses me of doing is practiced by Greece today! Mr. Tymphaios, principles which apply to the Greeks as you stated above equally apply to the Macedonians! I can and have accused you of doing the same thing you are accusing me of, except that Greece and Greeks are the ones who deny the Macedonians their ethnic identity and not the other way around? All I am doing is pointing out what others, whose research you might appreciate, are saying about you. So again I will ask the question „why can’t a Macedonian, who calls him or herself Macedonian, born from Macedonians and feels like a Macedonian, according to Greeks, cannot be a Macedonian“? Mr. Tymphaios and the rest of you Greeks who deny the Macedonians their ethnic identity, I anxiously await your answer.

Frankly Mr. Tymphaios, I couldn’t care less what you Greeks call yourselves and who you think you are and who you think you have descended from. What I don’t like about you is your lack of fairness when it comes to treating those different from you and your disregard for the rights of the Macedonian people both inside Greece and in the Republic of Macedonia.

First, you, and by you I mean Greece and the Greeks, invaded, occupied and annexed our country Macedonia without our consent, which I call theft, then you tormented, killed, assimilated and evicted us from our homes in the name of Hellenism. You then changed our personal names, toponyms and hydronyms and made them Greek sounding so that you could show the world how Greek Macedonia is. You then banned our mother tongue and made us speak your alien Hellenic language which we detest. You openly practice racism by publicly denying Macedonians their most basic human rights and you dare call me a racist for defending myself? Where is the fairness in that?

Perhaps Mr. Tymphaios you should learn a bit more about the real Greece before you leap to accusing others for things your country and your countrymen practice every day.

And now I will leave you with this;

„It is, after all, through the same neo-Classical elite ideology that today rejects Bernal’s arguments out of hand that Greeks were taught to reject everything familiar in their vernacular culture as ‘foreign‘ to the Classical Hellenism invented by the eighteenth-century German scholars who had sired both the ‘autochthonous‘ theory of Greek ethno-genesis and, in the lineage of ‘Aryan‘ linguists, the so called racial science of the Nazis. This is also the ideology that today made it necessary to specify whether one means modern Greeks, as I have just done, because the West has made Classical antiquity the only acceptable touchstone of their cultural worth.

The example of modern Greece provides a useful key to historicizing those who Eric Wolf has ironically dubbed ‘the people without history‘ (Wolf 1982). For the modern Greeks – a people arguable plagued by an excess of history, but for a kind invented for them by more powerful others – face a real life dilemma…“ („Anthropology, Theoretical Practice in Culture and Society“ by Michael Herzfeld, page 67)

To be continued!