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The name alone was never an issue

As much as I want to get away from discussing the so-called „name dispute“ between Greece and Macedonia I am again drawn into it by „the Macedonian preoccupation“ with this Greek-invented issue.

First let me say that there is no „name dispute“ between Greece and Macedonia. The name „Macedonia“ belongs to the Macedonian people and there can be no question about that. The problem here is that Greece has „invented“ the so-called „name dispute“ to divert attention from some „other issues“ that it doesn’t want known, which I will talk about later.

Second, let me say that to this day I have not heard Macedonia complain about Greece using the name „Macedonia“. So where is the „name dispute“?

Greece claims that the name „Macedonia“ is exclusively Greek and no one except Greece has a right to use it. If that were true then why hasn’t Greece complained about other countries, the USA for example, using the name „Macedonia“ for several of its towns?

What Greece means is that „it doesn’t want the country Macedonia“ to use this name. But if anyone has any right to use this name then, for obvious reasons, it should be Macedonia the country!

Aside from the fact that the name Macedonia was NEVER Greek, not in prehistoric, not in ancient, not in medieval and not in modern times, then how does Greece justify the name „Macedonia“ being Greek? Well in this case Greece doesn’t have to justify anything; it only has to „declare“ because that is how Greece has been operating over the last two centuries, unchallenged!

You see Greece has been „allowed“ to get away with all sorts of things like declaring (not justifying or proving) that Greece is a homogeneous nation and all Greeks are descendents of the ancient Greeks. In this regard Greece has been „allowed“ to push the envelope to the limit, bordering on the „bizarre“, without ever been asked to explain itself or justify these claims. So if Greece can claim it is a homogeneous nation of pure Greeks, descendents of the ancient Greeks, without once being challenged, then why not „declare“ that the word „Macedonia“ is Greek and only Greek? Who is going to dispute that?

I am willing to let that go if Greece can answer why the name „Macedonia“ became „exclusively“ Greek only after it discovered that the Republic of Macedonia was about to declare its independence from the Yugoslav Federation in 1991? Why didn’t Greece voice concerns in 1945 when the Republic of Macedonia became a Republic in the Yugoslav Federation by using exactly that very same name. Why the concern now?

Was it by any chance that when the Republic of Macedonia declared its independence from the Yugoslav Federation, Greece was caught by surprise and didn’t know what else to do so it „invented“ the name issue?

Greece, for almost a century, has been struggling to smother the Macedonian identity living on its own soil since Greece illegally invaded, occupied and annexed Macedonian lands. Then all of a sudden an entire nation of Macedonians gained their independence just next door. Panic stricken, not knowing what to do, Greece invented a problem in hopes of putting the Macedonians on the defensive.

What if these Macedonians started to complain about how their compatriots in Greece were treated over the years? What if those who were wronged, exiled, had their citizenship taken away, had their lands and properties confiscated, families and relatives jailed, abused and murdered, what if they start complaining? We can’t have the world know about that! So, what to do? Why not then „invent“ a problem for the Macedonians to focus on; like they can’t have the name „Macedonia“ because that name is exclusively Greek?

If Greece suddenly assumed „the victim role“ and without being provoked declared, as it is used to falsely declaring, that „Big bad Macedonia“ wants to usurp their so-called „Greek name“ because this nation of bad people has „territorial aspirations“ towards its own non-existent northern province also called „Macedonia“, then perhaps it could get some attention. Perhaps if it screamed „rape and murder“ long and loud enough then someone might hear and come to its rescue.

Greece could only have done this in panic mode and without thinking because it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that (1) Greece acquired these territories that it calls its „northern province of Macedonia“, which by the way did not exist as a province, illegally and by war and conquest, and (2) that these Macedonian territories never at any time belonged to any Greeks. Macedonia never belonged to the so-called ancient Greeks and Macedonia never belonged to the artificially created Modern Greeks.

Greece has successfully created a „distraction“ for the Macedonian people, particularly for the Macedonian authorities, leading them to focus on non-issues like the so-called „name dispute“ instead of focusing on the real problems that the Macedonian people have with Greece, that Greece is desperately trying to avoid and to cover-up.

And what may these problems be?

Well for starters not having recognized the Macedonian minority living inside Greece! Greece does not want to recognize a Macedonian minority because Greece’s aim all along has been to „eradicate“ the Macedonian identity. Why would Greece want to recognize a people which, for more than a century, it has been bent on eradicating?

In its attempt to extinguish the Macedonian identity, Greece has illegally expropriated Macedonian lands and committed many atrocities against the Macedonian people. Greece, for example, has been exiling Greek citizens because they were Macedonians and for years has been expropriating their properties and lands without compensation.

So where does Greece stand with regard to the Macedonians?

One can’t trust what Greece says; one has to observe what Greece does and how it behaves around the Macedonian issue in order to understand what is going on! Who is better qualified to give you insight into Greece regarding the Macedonian questions than a Macedonian who, as a Macedonian, has lived and experienced Greece first hand?

There is no doubt in my mind that Greece’s aim is to eradicate the Macedonian existence once and for all. I base this fact on Greece’s historic treatment of the Macedonians. It is not that Macedonians don’t exist it is Greece’s adamant wish that Macedonians do not exist that gives away its attitude towards them and its long term aim to eradicate them.

Since it conceived the idea of „acquiring Macedonian lands“, Greece has been fanatical in its aim to deny the Macedonian existence. That fanatical attitude has not changed from the day it acquired Macedonian lands to this day. Today when Macedonians are recognized worldwide, Greece still aggressively maintains they don’t exist. This is why I have no doubt that Greece’s behaviour has nothing to do with the „name“ and everything to do with the Macedonian identity. If Greece succeeds in removing the name from the Macedonian people it will be its first step in removing the Macedonian identity.

Again I will reiterate that there is no doubt in my mind that Greece is out to permanently destroy the Macedonian identity not only inside Greece but everywhere, including inside the Republic of Macedonia.

And now to discuss the reason why I was drawn into this embroilment!

Every Macedonian by now should have realized that Greece doesn’t care about the name „Macedonia“. It never did since 1913 when it acquired Macedonian lands right up until 1991 when the Republic of Macedonia declared its independence. Also, if Macedonians have been paying attention they would have easily discovered Greece’s real aim, to eradicate everything that is Macedonian; the name, the language, the Macedonian ethnic identity, everything! Just as it had destroyed everything Macedonian inside Greece by denying the Macedonian existence, by changing peoples‘ names, by renaming place names, by erasing Macedonian writing, by destroying Macedonian monuments, Greece is now attempting to do the same outside of Greece. By banning the Macedonian language, by assimilating the Macedonian population into the Greek fold and by exiling, torturing and murdering the non conformists, Greece has amply proven its hatred for the Macedonian people both inside its own borders and outside.

Every Macedonian by now should know that Greece does not want our name. It is bent on destroying us to the last one! Greece could have had the name Macedonia since 1913 but those who experienced life in Greece know first hand about Greece’s hatred for that name and everything it represents. For almost a century Greece has desperately tried to bury that name in the darkness of hell. What would make anyone think now that „Greece is suddenly in love with that name?“

If it is clearly understood where Greece stands with regard to the Macedonian issue, it makes me wonder why there are so many Macedonians still preoccupied with the „name game“ when they know very well that (1) Greece is not after the name. The name is only a ploy, a ruse to distract them from focusing on real issues, and (2) why are they negotiating something they know (a) Greece does not want and (b) the Macedonians CANNOT give up? What is the point of „negotiating“ something we can’t possibly „sell“, „trade“, or „give away“?

Don’t we know how this appears to the outside world?

Negotiating our name? A name that has existed for over 3,000 years; a name passed on to us by countless generations? A name that is not ours to „negotiate“, bargain with, sell, or give away? What are we thinking? If we continue to think this way of ourselves, what do we expect others to think of us? Have we paused for a moment, taken a deep breath and seriously thought about this? The very idea of even thinking such a thought is insane! Wouldn’t you agree?

Why do I think the „name“ issue is a ruse to distract the Macedonian people from real issues?

Because the Macedonians, particularly those in charge, have been blinded and deafened by this „name dispute“ and forgotten the real issues like:

1. The name „Macedonia“ is autochthonous and belongs to the Region and to those who lived in that region the longest. Only they have the right to call themselves „ethnic Macedonians“; not the recent settlers, invaders and conquerors who acquired it by force of arms.

2. Macedonia belongs to the Macedonian people. It is the property of those who live on it, own lands on it and pay taxes. It is not the property of the overlords who from time to time occupy it by force. Greece invaded, occupied and annexed those lands in 1912, 1913 illegally just as the Ottomans did 500 years earlier. So if after 500 years the Ottomans were considered „occupiers“ then that is how the Greeks also should be considered.

3. On those Macedonian lands that Greece occupies today there live Macedonians who are neither acknowledged nor have any human rights. As I said earlier, their names were forcibly changed and their language banned. This is a „real“ issue that Macedonian authorities should be „negotiating“ with Greece. Forget I said „negotiating“; this is an issue that Macedonian authorities should be screaming about to the world!

4. There are 28,000 refugee children, now elderly men and women with families of their own, who were exiled by Greece in 1948 during the Greek Civil War and who are still not allowed to return to Greece because they are Macedonians. This is another „real“ issue about which Macedonian authorities should be screaming to the world!

5. Since Greece illegally acquired Macedonian territories it has been exiling Macedonians and illegally confiscating their properties without compensation. This is not only immoral, it is illegal. By international law, no one has the right to confiscate peoples‘ properties without compensation. This is yet another „real“ issue that Macedonian authorities should be PUBLICLY pursuing!

6. Since the 1920’s Greece has been „Hellenizing“ Macedonia by destroying what was real and Macedonian and replacing it with „artificial Greek“. The reason I call it „artificial“ is because prior to the Greek occupation, be it a person’s name or toponym, it never existed by that name. I have thousands of examples of this but I will demonstrate it with a single example, something that is near and dear to me, my own village where I was born! Up until the early 1920’s my village, with a long history and tradition, was called „Oshchima“. The Greeks renamed it „Trigonon“. Oshchima, along with its long history and traditions, died when it was renamed; when it was given an alien, meaningless foreign name, a name to remind the people of Oshchima that they were now captives of a foreign overlord who neither had the decency nor the humanity to allow us to be who we are!

My wish, and the wish of so many thousands of Macedonians who lived and still live in Greece, is to see our own Macedonian language and Macedonian names reinstated; be it personal names or place names. This is a human rights issue that concerns thousands of Macedonians, a „real“ issue that Macedonian authorities should be PUBLICLY pursuing!

7. The next time Greece claims „the name Macedonia is Greek“ Macedonian authorities should be challenging that claim by asking for proof. (1) To which „Greeks“ did that name and land belong? (2) How did these so-called „Greeks“ acquire that name and land? (3) When did these so-called „Greeks“ acquire the name and land? And (4) what do the artificial Modern Greeks have to do with it? If the Modern Greeks have the audacity to deny the existence of the Macedonian identity, surely Macedonians have not only the right to question the validity of these „Greek“ claims but also the right to challenge the Greeks about their own identity!

8. The real bargaining chip Macedonian authorities have over Greece is what Greece fears the most; losing Macedonia to the Macedonian people (or should I say „giving Macedonia back to the Macedonian people“)! Greece has a primordial physiological fear over this and it shows. In spite of the reassurances that the entire world gave Greece and despite the fact that the Macedonian national flag and constitution were amended by the Republic of Macedonia, Greece still fears the Republic of Macedonia having „territorial aspirations“ towards its so-called northern province also called „Macedonia“. This guilt and anxiety can truly be exploited. Greece is not afraid of Macedonia or of the Macedonian people over this. Greece is afraid that some Great Power, like the United States, might some day listen to the pleas of the Macedonian people and come to their rescue. I am sure more than any other country, the United States would love to see Greece parceled up into small pieces and Greece is well aware of this! Wasn’t it Kissinger who said „get rid of Greece if you want peace in the Balkans“? I am not suggesting here that Macedonian go to war over this, because this is the only way Greece would give up the Macedonian territory it occupies, but I am suggesting that it is something that Macedonians CAN „negotiate“ with Greece. For example Macedonia can keep this issue to itself, for now, if Greece abstains from vetoing its entry into International institutions, like the United Nations, under its constitutional name.

9. Speaking of entering the United Nations by its constitutional name, why „negotiate“ with Greece over a non-issue when Macedonian authorities could go directly to the United Nations and challenge the legality of their entry as Dr. Igor Janev has suggested over a thousand times? Why not withdraw from the UN and re-apply with the name „Republic of Macedonia“ and see what happens?

10. When the Macedonian authorities entered into „negotiation“ with Greece they legitimized the non-issue and made it into an issue. If something is mine then it is mine and only mine; not yours or ours! When I begin „negotiating“ over something that is clearly mine then I give the impression that it „is not really mine“ and give legitimacy to the other person’s claim. This is what Macedonian authorities have done with our name and this is how it is viewed from the outside world.

The „dignified“ way to end this is by admitting that „we did not know what we were getting into“ before we got into the „negotiating“ process with Greece and to bow out of it once and for all!

That which we inherited is not ours to squander because if we do we will be known as the generation of „greatest traitors“ in Macedonian history who „willingly“ sold out our inheritance; an inheritance for which our forefathers spilled blood to pass onto us and we did this willingly and voluntarily with our eyes and ears open!

We have many options open to us; let us not choose the ones which will destroy our future!
By Risto Stefov, January 31, 2010
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