- By Bradley Pearson
The Balkans, a region that peace long forgot
The Balkan sub-continent has a long and complex history involving many contradictory historical claims from the every increasing number of new independent micro states. It seems the only common thing they can agree on is that at some point or another in the past they all arrived in there from the east before continuing and ever changing routine of dominating and ruling over one another.
The Greeks, forced to migrate under Ottoman rule from Anatonlia have in one form or another had a long historical presence in the peninsular for many thousands of years as sovereign cities such as the Athenians, Spartans etc. Yet the Macedonians, do not speak Greek, nor any dialect of it. The Macedonian language is most closely related to the Yugoslav language group. Whilst any serlf respecting Balkan will tell you that Alexander the Great was a Macedonian, the Greeks will argue that this refers to their northern province of Egejska-Makedonija also known as South-Macedonia.
The Ottomans ruled the Balkans from 1299 until well into the 1920s. There were multiple uprisings and various changing states of autonomy through out for several regions within the Ottoman Balkans. In the 1300s Emperor Stefano Dušan IV of the House of Stefan formed the Empire of the Serbs and Greeks, which was a Serb ruled region ruling over present day Serbia, Macedonia and Greece. As such the identities of the Balkan states are extremely intertwined with distinctions often heavily blurred.
Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the majority of the Balkans came under new rule in the form of Yugoslavia. Macedonia however was divided in a peace treaty between the Albanians, Yugoslavs, Bulgarians and Greeks. This newly found Balkan brotherhood did not last out the century ending in the 1991-2001 war that resulted in the world’s worst genocide since the Holocaust.
Although the boundaries and sovereignty of the newly formed nations that were born from the former Yugoslavia are still debated and unclear today the southern most republic, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, aka North-Macedonia, has had it’s borders and flag unanimously recognized by all but one nation ever since it’s independence in 1991.
Greece, has, since the independence of Macedonia tried to take legal action against the state in order to re-write the nation’s history, flag and name. Greece refuses to recognize any part of Macedonia that is not under it’s control. Greece demands that historical figures such as Alexander the Great of Macedonia and the Macedonian Empire be written out of the Macedonian national history and instead placed into Greek history, a move opposed by the majority of the international community.
The flags of North and South Macedonia are identical, accept the South’s features a blue background rather than red.
The above image taken from an old Macedonian school text book described in the legend the North as “Serbian occupied” with parts under “Albanian occupation” the South as “Greek occupied” and the East as “Bulgarian occupied” It is worth noting at this point that the Macedonian capital ‘Skopje’ at one point in history was the Serbian capital city… I did say the Balkan history and identities were some what intertwined.
Now the Macedonian prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, says he is willing to reopen dialogue on the issue with Greece, providing that any potential name change is put to a plebiscite in Macedonia.
“We are ready to discuss, to open dialogue with them, and to find some solution.” Gruevski said in an interview with the Guardian.
The announcement was met with strong public opposition in all Balkan states other than Greece, who are still complaining that a name change is short of the name, flag, ethnic identity and historical re-write they are demanding. Greece may not be asking for genocide, but it is definitely a cleansing of a cultural and historical identity. The EU seems to be simply turning a blind eye to the behavior of one of it’s member states.