The Archbishop on the problem of the naming of the FYROM
Αthens, November 17, 2004
Please allow me to bring to your attention a matter of the utmost importance not only for my country and for Hellenism all around the world but for the stability and pacification of the tormented region of Southeastern Europe: it is about the name of the state of Skopje. The problem of the naming of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia became topical again after the recent decision of the Administration of the United States of America to proceed to the recognition of this state under its constitutional name: “Republic of Macedonia”.
The use of the term “Macedonia” by Skopje is something more than a mere instance of cultural usurpation. This is so because, in our region, the boundaries between culture, on the one hand, and politics and expansionism, on the other, are not always absolutely clear. Besides, the cultural aspect of the so-called Macedonian Issue constantly caused passions to be rekindled, given that the suspicion of territorial claims, which resurface when conditions allow so, always lurks behind it.
The objections and perplexities both in my own and in all Greeks’ minds regarding the use of the name “Macedonia” by the state of Skopje, in whichever corner of the Earth Greeks may be, are historically justified by a sense of insecurity, itself explained in turn by the fact that a part of the Greek Macedonia was repeatedly seized by neighbours who attempted to appropriate the name in question both during the two World Wars and in the repeated interventions of the Great Powers at each time, which have left strong remnants of doubt and suspiciousness.
These suspicions and perplexities are intensified even further, if one takes into account that the history of Southeastern Europe has been tainted by the cultivation of insatiable irredentist ideals, which often led to conflicts and which were not confined to the aforementioned region, as is shown by the designation of it as “the gunpowder magazine of Europe”. Of course, hopes for the tormented region of the peninsula were revived after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, an event which was seen as the dawn of a new era, but sadly this world-shaking event was accompanied by social chaos, which fomented explosive situations. And as if all this were not enough, old ethnic rivalries and irredentist ambitions came to the foreground in a stormy way.
As regards FYROM, expansionism appears in two facets —Slav and Albanian— and this is why it is considered even more explosive than one tends to think. May I remind you that the population of this country is totally heterogeneous, as it is made up of a dominant Slav element, a significant ethnic Albanian minority and a medley of other ethnic groups. Albanians have an intense national consciousness and claim their descendance from ancient Illyrians. Within this framework, the Slav majority, instead of fostering a spirit of unity, which would embrace the entire panorama of the country, proceeded to the construction of a “Macedonian national consciousness”, which has alienated the constituent elements of that state even further. Persistence in the name “Macedonia” not as a geographical term but with a national significance aggravates the already acute feeling of alienation between the numerous racial groups within this country and spreads irredentist ideals, which keep tension in the wider region unabated.
This is why we as Greeks consider that the recognition of this neighbouring state of Greece under the national designation “Macedonia” not only would not render service to any Balkan state, since it heats up the thermometer of tension and suspiciousness in the area, but also appears to vindicate all those who try to build their history with stolen materials, all those who keep the sparks of disorder and of permanent instability flying in an area of crucial importance to Europe and at a time of incessant tensions.
With a deep sense and awareness of the necessity of establishing a climate of stability and peace in the wider area of Southeastern Europe, my country embraced FYROM from the first moment of its inception. Besides, Greece has fervently supported the preservation of the territorial integrity of that vulnerable state, and this is why it encouraged every kind of relation and contact with FYROM to such an extent that today, for instance, the economic partnership between the two countries is regarded by Skopje itself as one of the most important partnerships for its economic survival. However, these excellent relations are overshadowed by the unwillingness of the state and political Slavonian leadership of Skopje to contribute to finding a jointly acceptable name.
Even so, the objections and perplexities both of myself personally and of all Greeks as regards the naming “Macedonia” are not founded upon emotional exaggerations and uncritical phobias but upon realistic arguments. If the monopoly of the name “Macedonia” by Skopje were to be established, this would cause immense confusion both in Greece and in other countries at the expense of Greek Macedonians, who are more numerous than Slav Macedonians and who use the term in its geographical sense. Both Greek Macedonians and Hellenism as a whole, we firmly believe that the name “Macedonia” constitutes a principal element of our cultural heritage and an integral constituent part of our national personality. This belief is not arbitrary, given that consanguinity and identity of language between Macedonians and the rest of the Greeks are confirmed in a crystalline way in the extant works of many and most authoritative classical Greek and Roman authors, particularly in the invaluable testimonies of the father of History, Herodotus, while the impressive archaeological findings in Verghina and other areas of Greek Macedonia, such as Aiani, Dion, Sindos, have sealed the Greek origins of Macedonia in the most authentic manner.
Establishing the name “Macedonia” in the newly formed state of FYROM would not only annul any historical truth but would reinforce the process of “Macedonian-isation” of that part of former Yugoslavia which was known before the war as “Southern Serbia” or “Vadarska Banovina”; a process served by revisionist historians of Skopje, who carried out orders from centres outside Skopje for the furtherance of political goals. Collaborating with this arbitrary act would therefore send erroneous messages as to the quality and the kind of the world we are building for the generations to come.
I am convinced that the confinement of politics, and indeed of international politics, merely to the cold service of ephemeral and selfish interests, constitutes one of the main causes of instability and disorder in the world in the post-bipolar era we are going through. As an organic member of a historic people, whose priorities have never been ephemeral nor even selfish, and as an ecclesiastic servant of a religious tradition —Orthodoxy— the Word and the message of which are founded upon ecumenicity and duration through time, I would like to express hereby in the most intense manner the feelings of concern which fill me as regards the world we are shaping, a world with utter disdain for objectivity and for truth.
With wishes and honour,
N.B. Attached please find the same text written in Greek, the language of my Macedonian ancestors.