Macedonians, philhellenes and Greeks – Rebuttal
y Gandeto, August 03, 2009 (http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/112820)
Rebuttal: („The arrest, disappearance and possible murder of a critic of PM Nicola Gruevski in FYROM“, published on July 28. 2009 in the American Chronicle)
When the Western-philhellenes came to Greece to begin their project, they found this mass of befuddled individuals completely immersed in their struggle for survival and oblivious to the significance of their immediate surroundings. Out of them, they were supposed to create a link between the ancient Greeks and the envisioned new Hellene.
And so the long and arduous journey of transformation began in earnest.
What these western philhellenes forgot to tell these modern-day Greeks though, is not that they were not the direct inheritors of the ancient „glorious“ past, nor that they were not the direct descendents of the ancient Greeks. They did not forget to tell them that they were a precious gift to mankind; that they were the true successors, true heirs to the ancient great minds whose teachings greatly benefited mankind and influenced the very true democracies that sprouted throughout Europe; they did not neglect to tell these Romioi, who neither had a Greek consciousness nor felt any connections to the ancients, that the world at large is eternally grateful to them for keeping the flame of continuity with the ancients intact and burning.
No, no; all of these things, all of these beautiful attributes were repeatedly driven home until they became part and parcel of today’s Greeks‘ mental armor.
What these western philhellenes forgot to tell the Greeks though, was that Aristotle’s teachings no longer apply in today’s societal settings and that they should use the ancient „potion of greatness“-left to them for safe keeping-with moderation and with measurable care.
In haste to build and instill into this bewildered hodgepodge of leftover Balkanites-Slavs, Albanians, Gypsies and Vlachs-a new Greek identity, these idealistic westerners forgot to install a safety valve for the inflated Greek ego. The negative repercussions from this oversight have proven to be unmanageable, deleterious and quite pricy for Europe today.
As a result, today’s average Greek fellow thinks and acts as if he is the greatest gift to mankind. To him, the opinion of the other fellow does not matter; he has the truth grabbed by the tail and others should obediently follow his views.
He believes and-accordingly behaves-that his intellect is far superior to that of his neighbors and that he, by right of birth (inheritance in this case), should rule over the others. Legal, moral or ethical issues and potential obstacles of a greater or lesser significance that might impede this injected transformation, must be dealt with accordingly-ignore the critics and blindly push forward. The operative thought (stuck in overdrive) is „they ought to see it our way“- as if to say: It ought to be sufficient; I am descendent from the ancient Greeks.(1)
He has taken to heart Aristotle´s views on geopolitics or ´natural law´ that Greeks should rule over barbarians (non Greeks) who are slaves by nature. Plato´s and Isocrates´ views of all non-Hellenes as natural enemies that could be exterminated at will, only adds support to these, already, ill-perceived convictions.(2)
As a matter of fact he, Aristotle, advised Alexander the Great to be a hegemon (leader) to the Greeks and a despot to the barbarians. With the Greeks he should establish relationship as with a friend or a relative and to deal with the barbarians as with beasts or plants.(3)
Convinced, after all, that he is an entirely different breed now, this newly created Hellene would not accept criticism. Those who dared question his racial or religious pedigree, were promptly called anti-hellenes.(4) The fact that Greek history itself had to be revised and undergo drastic alterations did not affect our boy’s thinking.(5)
He maintained, and so believed, that he is the chosen one. New books with newly found documents, attesting to the unbroken historical continuity between ancient and modern Greece, were promptly published.(6)
If, during this reconstruction period, (a) chronological gaping holes in history were found to exist (which the philhellenic architects of the modern Greeks had no provisions for) or if unbridgeable social fault-lines had appeared on the political landscape and if the ethnic Arvano-Vlach-Slav-Turkish admixtures of tribal characters did not properly coalesced into envisioned cohesive model of this new type of Hellene, then, by all means, proper constructive measures were to be taken and promptly implemented. The Greek nation must be made racially pure-willy-nilly.
(b) If Alexander the Great in the early part of 19 century was viewed as conqueror of the Greeks, this view must now be abandoned and historical facts in support of this thinking must be found to bring it in line with the newly formed concept that Ancient Macedonians were, simply, another Greek tribe.(7) The fact, that ancient Greeks vehemently denied Greek-ness for the ancient Macedonians notwithstanding.
(c) If the ancient boundaries of Greece do not coincide with the modern-day Greece’s location and size, then the answer should be found in the „unredeemed“ Greek territories.(8)
Today, this newly created Greek citizen-armed with ready-made answers-claims that the Republic of Macedonia harbors irredentist desires on the Greek province also called Macedonia but conveniently forgets to take into consideration the fact that it is Greece who, since her creation in 1832, has enlarged her own territory by more than 50%.(9)
As a result of this Greek expansion-be it noted, with calamitous consequences to her neighbors-a new variety of ethnic Greek was created. He learned to speak Greek-„gave up his barbarian tongue and his rude customs“, was made aware of his „glorious progenitors“ and recently was told that he is a Macedonian too. He became the-facto, the biggest Hellene of them all. He fell in the role of playing the „missing link“ between the Ancient Macedonians and the Greeks. Since he became Macedonian, he now dares to deny the same opportunity to the ethnic Macedonians whom, at the time of his arrival, found them already living in Macedonia. (By the Greek king George I, Macedonia was properly referred to as the „occupied territories“).
To him they are people who speak „different idiom“. It is worth noticing that the usage of the word „language“ is avoided as to minimize its significance. He deliberately classifies it as a Bulgarian or Serbian dialect but refrains from calling it a Macedonian language. The fact that the people who speak this language call it Macedonian is totally lost on him. He claims that these people do not exist and therefore, their language does not exist. When pressed to elaborate further as to why, when this people do not exist, their language is forbidden? He reverts to his pamphlet-ready instructions and responds with this lame excuse: the number of people who use this „idiom“ is extremely small and all of them have Greek consciousness.
In summary, what he is saying is that since this group of ethnic Macedonians „have Greek consciousness“, then it is an acceptable decision to forbid the usage of their own, native tongue. The more advanced Greek individuals defend their stand with this rationale:
„The linguistic criteria are not only insufficient to denote ethnic nuances in the Balkans; they can also be misleading.“(10) In other words, language does not denote or equate with ethnicity.
Here, this Greek fellow-the keeper of the ancient flame-since it suits his purpose-uses the argument to cover his tracks, forgetting the fact that he cannot use the same excuse for two opposite arguments that run in opposite directions. In reality he borrows from Paul to pay Peter. And furthermore, yet, another Greek fellow claims just the opposite. Here is Mr. Boralis´ statement:
„Finally, we have the strongest indication on the ethnicity of the Ancient Macedonians, in their Greek language.“ (11)
He goes to great pains to convince the reader that Alexander the Great was Greek because the writings on the found artifacts were in the ancient Greek language. The fact that neither Philip nor Alexander the Great ever claimed to be Greek or to have Greek consciousness is simply immaterial to him. It does not matter if Alexander and his Macedonians looked down upon these Greeks with utter contempt and never identified themselves as Greeks. It is irrelevant to him that literature is replete with examples that testify of the opposite: that Alexander and his father Philip are never described, by the ancient chroniclers, or by any prominent Greek leader or layman for that matter, as being Greek.
As long as the language written on found artifacts was Greek, the ethnicity of the ancient Macedonians, according to this Greek fellow, is properly sealed and stored into the great Greek scheme of things. He adds:
„Greek culture has been evolving the last 4000 years and it is the language that more than anything (religion too, to a smaller of greater degree, depending on the historic frame) that makes their nation.“(12)
Fair enough. Let´s see if we understand each other here:
(a) Ethnicity is derived from the language people write or speak. (as per your claim – foot note 11 above) and
(b) Alexander the Great and his Macedonians must be Greek because all the inscriptions unearthed so far are in Greek language.
Now let´s take a look at your other statement regarding the number of ethnic Macedonians who voted for Ouranio Toxo – Vinozhito – Rainbow Party’s election of candidates for European Free Alliance in June 2009 election: You wrote:
„The total votes tally they were able to receive in the districts of Macedonia were two thousand five hundred ninety four votes (2594), out of a population of 2.5 million Greek Macedonians. What minority are we talking about then? The best statistics may be talking of some fifty thousand bilingual people who speak Slavic ALSO, besides Greek. And that is true especially of the older generations, but that again makes no difference: it is identity that counts, not language not blood, not anything else.“(13)
To sum it up: „it is identity that counts, not language not blood, not anything else.“
As you can see Mr. Boralis, your feet are not resting on a firm ground. In other words, you are walking on thin ice. That usually happens to people who, as you so loudly put it in your article, use lies and distortions. So, it is not the language people speak or write that identifies the person’s ethnicity? What about the inscriptions written in Greek that „proves“ Alexander’s Greek-ness? Which is it Mr. Boralis
Be that as it may, one should not be surprised to read statements of this nature being discolored with the shades of these types of convictions. Greece has spent enormous amount of effort and energy-and still does-to eradicate all other languages being spoken in Greece prior to 1832. By depriving their ethnic minorities of their languages, Greeks felt that they can achieve greater unity as a nation; after all, we know quite well from what residual immiscible components their „Greek purity“ as a nation was achieved.
Their ancient language was resurrected and made into a mandatory one for all citizens of the country to learn it, especially those newly transplanted Christians from Asia Minor into Macedonia who could not utter one word of Greek. Specifically, these transplanted migrants morphed-under the schemes of the Megaly idea-into true heirs to the ancient Macedonians; these are the Greeks who are now taught to believe that they are the descendents from the ancients. These are the same people who carry and display dual ethnicity -one Greek and another (for external use), Macedonian. Fact is that not too long ago „it was forbidden for Greeks in northern Greece to design themselves as Macedonian.“(14)
A passing thought: would Mr. Boralis be upset even if „50, 000 Greeks“ were being deprived of using their Greek language? Can we now safely dispense with your idea that ethnicity of the ancient Macedonians cannot be adjudicated through the written language found on the artifacts?
The other ramblings that Tito created our ethnicity is beyond the scope of reality. It belongs, like most of your invented history (which reminds me of Dolly Parton´s song „The coat of many colors my mama made for me“), in the realm of the imagined. Your virulent attack on Macedonia, its leadership and people („The arrest, disappearance and possible murder of a critic of PM Nicola Gruevski in FYROM“, published on July 28. 2009 in the American Chronicle), is nothing less than an expression of your deep-seated bigotry and hate for the ethnic Macedonians. Certainly, that is not an observation a neutral and unbiased person would make.
I am mystified (perhaps, I shouldn’t be), by your hypocritical myopic indulgence. Laden with racism and hate, your portrayal of Macedonia and its leadership bristles with heavy inaccuracies. Fact is, that today, the Republic of Macedonia is recognized under its constitutional name by more than 125 countries in the world among which include China, India, USA, Russia and Canada.(Your quotation marks on the name „Macedonia“ not withstanding).
Fact is also, that European observers are stationed in Macedonia and are carefully monitoring every step of action undertaken by her leadership and administration. The government of the Republic of Macedonia is, simply said, put under an electron microscope; its judicial, administrative and executive branches are under constant surveillance and scrutiny. Conventional wisdom compels the question: Don’t you think that these European observers would have reacted to such terror, brutality and inhumane treatment of its citizens if your allegations were true? Common logic dictates that next to a lie there is a greater lie. You, Mr. Boralis, have removed yourself from those who seek the truth.
I’ll leave you with this thought:
Instead promoting KKK ideology, you should turn around and embrace the Republic of Macedonia. She is the only true friend you have in the region. Think again and envision what it would be like for Greece if Macedonia becomes what you wished her to become; you will be surrounded by your worst nightmare. Cherish the fact that you have the ethnic Macedonians in Greece still peaceful and civilized. Extend to them what is only theirs to begin with; their human rights as citizens of Greece. After all, your house is not made of glass, is it?
Instead of disseminating worn-out propaganda lines and attempting to buy and collect new „converts“ to your failed political goals you should advise, since you claim to be in that business, your leaders in Athens to grasp the extended peaceful hand from the Republic of Macedonia, embrace the people of Macedonia as your neighbors and fellow Christians (after all, the two people from both countries share an enormous amount of „sameness“), prosper together in the new Europe and bury the hatchet of hatred once and for all.
It is our duty as a civilized people to promote peace and cooperation between nations instead of hatred and division; it is incumbent upon us to stifle the flames of war and work tirelessly towards building bridges instead of barriers, it is our duty to overcome our old prejudices and accept the other fellow as equal instead of pompously beating our chest and claiming that we are better than our neighbor; it is within our times to change the old, stupid mentality of grabbing more land for ourselves and making „our nation“ bigger than yours. We are, collectively speaking, too small for that and we are nothing but a pawn in a big chess game. It is time that the winds of war cease and never blow our countryside again. Pray, (borrowing a phrase from Tecumseh) as you claim to be a Christian, not to be stronger than me, but to be able to defeat the demons within you. Ancient history is neither yours nor mine; it belongs in antiquity.
Alexander as a historical icon belongs to all of us. Let it be. Let us be able to overcome nonessential obstacles that by their nature do not impede today’s progress; let us hope for wisdom in our leaders to see and recognize the anomalies inherited in retrograde thinking. Do away with the insidious and the unrelenting brainwashing of your Helleno-centrists. Republic of Macedonia is not a threat to Greece; she, in the near future, could be your biggest asset.
Recognize the ethnic Macedonians living in Greece; they are your citizens, treat them with equal dignity and again, instead of denying their existence, rise above your ingrained prejudices and right the past wrongs. Let them speak their mothers tongue and provide primary education in their Macedonian language. Let the children learn from their own grandparents their traditional songs and stories only grandparents can deliver. You will be stronger and bigger for it; diversity of populations is not an impediment to cultural greatness but an incentive to cultural wealth. It is only human to forgive and let us move forward from this day on. Stop the hate and look around yourselves; it is time „hermano“. We are not that different from each other.
Until next time…
1 Kitromilides, 1983:59.
2 Plato Rep. 47oc-47ia; Isocr. Paneg. 3, 184, Panath. 163; Arist. Pol. 1256b 25, Demost. Third Olynthiac 3.24.
3Alexander and the Greeks, pp. 89-90
4 Fallmerayer, 1830.
5 Politis 1993:36; Dimaras 1958.
7. See Dimaras (1985:338-339) and Dimakis (1991). The appropriation of the legacy of ancient Macedonia by the modern Greeks belongs historically to the second half of the nineteenth century. Politis (1993:40-42) cites fourteen examples from the Greek literature of the 1794-1841 period in which the ancient Macedonians are not considered to be part of the ancient Greek world. Prominent intellectuals like Ioannis Rizos Neroulos and Adamantios Koraes were among those who shared this viewpoint.
8 Roudometof Nationalism and Identity Politics in the Balkans: Greece and the Macedonian Question. Journal of Modern Greek Studies 14.2 (1996) 253 – 301( In the early years of the Kingdom of Greece (1832-1844), the boundaries of modern Greece were conceived as identical to those of ancient Greece).
9 Nicos Dimou „The Misfortune of Being Greek“, 1975.
10 „Recycling Propaganda: Remarks on NGO reports on Greece´s „Slav-Macedonian Minority“ American Chronicle from November 18, 2008,
11 Miltiades Elia Boralis Is there a rift between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of „Macedonia“ on Alexander? American Chronicle July 28, 2009
14 Nicos Dimou „The Apology of an Anti-Hellene“.
Other articles by Gandeto: http://www.americanchronicle.com/authors/view/3657