Macedonia’s way to an illiberal democracy

Macedonia’s accession process to the European Union (EU) is ever more under threat. It is not only the name issue with Greece, but it is the internal development inside the country that is much more worrying. As the latest report of the European Commission at the end of October shows, Macedonia is not progressing but is taking a couple of steps backwards.

The latest EU report about “Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2014-15” clearly warns Macedonia of an “impasse.” Furthermore it states that the freedom of expression, the freedom of the media and the independence of the judiciary are under threat. Therefore, it is likely that also 2015 no accession talks with the EU can be started. Despite being a candidate country to join the EU since 2005, a tenth year in a row will pass without overcoming the hurdle to get approved.

Name dispute with Greece

It is the sixth time that the European Commission recommends to the European Council to approve the start of accession negotiations. The main reason that the heads of states of the EU have not approved Macedonia is the unresolved dispute with neighboring Greece over the name issue, as I wrote elsewhere.

Greece is opposed to the use of the name Macedonia by its northern neighbor, saying that it implies territorial claims to Greece’s northern province of the same name. Although there is very little evidence that Macedonia aims for this territory, Greece is at least scared that Alexander the Great is to be “stolen” by the Macedonians who claim that it is their hero.

Major setbacks

In the judiciary, increased politicization can be observed that leads to the common perception of observers that the independence of judges is not guaranteed. Critical media is marginalized or is even shut down completely. The mainstream media is under the control of government while independent journalists are threatened with fines for alleged insults.

The political climate in general is poisoned. There is a political dialogue with the opposition missing that is boycotting the political institutions, including the parliament, and in fact still does not recognized the results from the elections in April 2014 claiming that elections were “unfair and non-democratic.” However, the final report of the OSCE elections observer do not mention any fraud although mention quite some problems. Until today, the opposition insists that the government is not interested to “real dialogue.”

Ignoring the seriousness of the situation

In contrast to the criticism, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, does not seem to be willing to recognize the political realities. Rather, he points out that the European Commission is still recommending a start of EU membership negotiations. Gruevski who was celebrated as a “reformer” and “pragmatist” in 2006 when he came into power, is taking a hard stance ignoring the importance of unifying the country.

While it is correct, Gruevski is ignoring calls from civil society organizations and the opposition that criticize the lack of reform and point out that the latest report is way more critical towards Macedonia in comparison to the document issued last year. There is a small elite that controls the power, politically and economically. You are either part of it or not, because their resources by now are overwhelming.

Constructing a new identity - skopje
Downtown Skopje is rebuilt in neoclassical style to provide a “new identity” (c)

The Macedonian government is rather concerned about reconstructing Macedonian identity with a focus on ethno-nationalism and the family. In the capital Skopje it is particularly obvious with the project “Skopje 2014” as the main square and its surrounding areas were turned into a space full of neoclassical statues of heroes and “ancient” buildings at its worst, costing millions and described by one observer as “a heavy-handed, Vegas-esque attempt to impose both historical and aesthetic unity where there is none.”

These kind of “ancient reawakening” is linked with a strong tendency towards homophobia, as elsewhere in the region. Homophobia is still ripe, as a recent attack in Skopje shows, as two gay activists were wounded. It is not only the inaction of the government about that but also the active policy to explicitly forbid any kind of same-sex marriage.

On the way to an illiberal democracy

Overall, an article of the Deutsche Welle sums it up quite well in a recent title reporting about Macedonia, “Macedonia’s path from a progress to a problem child”. Macedonia is on the way towards an illiberal democracy. The EU should finally pressure Greece to overcome the name issue while at the same time pressuring Skopje to allow for real political reforms.

Most importantly though is that Macedonia’s young, well-educated elite should finally wake up and provide a much more liberal and open climate to rescue their country from disappearing.


Note: In an earlier version, there is also mentioned that a Michael Jackson statute was installed, although it turns out to be fake news.

Featured image: (c)


  1. Greece has done its half step toowards the solution of the name problem. It’s time for FYROM to do its half step. Anyway, Greeks cannot allow any nonGreek people to monopolize the name of Macedonia. Therefore no people, ethnicity, citizenship or language shall be called Macedonian but the language of ancient Macedonians.

    When freedom of speech is sestablished in FYROM then the people will like not to be called Macedonian any more. They will realize that Macedonians have undistutably been Greeks.

  2. Macedon is Greek Kingdom same as Sparta is Greek Kingdom – Both are Dorian, and both Greek. If minor Slavic country today, stepped on to world stage and claimed the name of Spartan Kingdom for country-name…sovereign state-name, nationality, language and ethnicity – How should the West react to such anti-Hellenic action? anti-Western by extension. In the Western worlds long-established cultural-historical narrative, Sparta is Greek Kingdom same as Macedon, both Dorian, both Greek. Who could argue otherwise. Those who do argue against have to explain themselves? FYRoM explains itself by using revisionism and pseudo-history.

    The FYRoM version of history differs from the Western standard. In the FYRoM version, Slavists convert the ancient-Kingdom of Paeonia to the ancient-Kingdom of Macedon. They convert ancient-Macedonians to Proto-Slavs. They convert the Centum-Greek language of ancient-Macedon to Satem-Slavic Serbo-Bulgarian. They convert the classics into something Vulgar…then plead for Western recognition – recognition that will eventually enable them to join the Euro-Atlantic economic and security area.

    The West gave this newly emergent country an inch, and it took a mile. The West gave this recently established country a chance to join the Western-worlds most prestigious economic and security structures of the EU and NATO. The West gave this minor Slavic country the opportunity to mend issues with neighbouring states – FYRoM gave nothing back. Instead, FYRoM continues to dupe the West by saying all the right things, but doing the wrong things.

    The West cannot accept into it’s midst, a recently established country that has issues with neighbouring states. Those issues must be resolved. The most pressing, and the most contentious issue FYRoM has, is the issue of the name-dispute with Greece over the use of the Macedonian name which FYRoM wants to use for country-name…sovereign state-name, nationality, language and ethnicity. Greece contends, there can be No ‘Republic of Macedonia’ just as there can be No ‘Republic of Sparta,’ both Dorian and both Greek. Macedon and Sparta are People-Names and Place-Names that belong in Hellenic world, to Hellenism, created by Greeks for Greek use.

    FYRoM clings on to the Idea, that one day, the West shall turn against Greece and fully recognize FYRoM like ‘Republic of Macedonia’ whereby Greece is then ejected from the EU and NATO, and FYRoM fills the void. The West would then view FYRoM like the legitimate heir and inheritor of the Macedonian legacy. The Macedonian Name, Identity, History, Heritage and Legacy would then shift over to FYRoM cultural-historical ownership and everything would be all good, fluffy and white – FYRoM would then be content little bunny!

    In the real world of politics…Greece holds the Academic, Moral and Legal high ground. In the real world of diplomacy, the Onus is on FYRoM to compromise, to adopt a name that properly reflects the ethnic-racial, cultural and linguistic reality in FYRoM. The Macedonian name, like the Spartan name, are names that are far too rooted in Hellenism to be contested. For example: Macedon is Greek Kingdom. Macedonians are Hellenic on the basis. Another example: Sparta is Greek Kingdom. Spartans are Hellenic on same basis. Final example: There can be No Republic of Macedonia, just as there can be No Republic of Sparta – both are Dorian, both are Greek.

  3. Macedonia:Understanding Haemus-Peninsula People-Dynamics

    FYRoM is free to follow ages-old natural path that facilitates discarding old cultural-linguistic baggage for new replacement ones. People-Dynamics tell us that people are just people…wandering free spirits. So people take journey’s. People wander into and out of, cultural-linguistic spaces, by force, by choice or by chance. If that place is hospitable enough, civilized enough, and rich enough to accommodate their needs, some people would find those things attractive enough to settle there. So in this regard, we can only talk about people like wandering free spirits, carrying with them some cultural baggage inherited from the previous cultural-linguistic area they decided to vacate.

    People have been uprooting themselves from since time immemorial, by their own free-choice or not, the point here is to illustrate the fact that biological make-up, blood and Dna, are not important factors on voyage towards development of new ethnicity. People with history, with previous ethnicity, with previous cultural-linguistic affiliations, are free to place those things on-hold during acculturation, the transitional period that leads to proper assimilation. History and the laws of People-Dynamics tell us that within 200 years or 8 generations, people can replace ethnicity with new one, replace language with new one, replace culture with new one. I shall not cite examples – that is for the reader to investigate and research.

    Long time ago, recorded in history, Slavic tribes uprooted themselves from steppe primordial homeland, a journey which led them to wander into new Greco-Roman cultural-linguistic area. The settlement of the Slavs into the Byzantine Empire is well documented. FYRoM’s immediate ancestors were the Draguvites, Sagudates and Berzetes. So FYRoM is Slavic in this regard. People-Dynamics ensured that within 200 years or 8 generations, the previous pre-Slavic Greco-Roman population there Slavicized, by force, or by fee-will. On this basis, FYRoM has been Slavic place from since the 6th Century AD, a cultural-linguistic area that can boast continuum >1400 years of Slavic history, where the Slavic-language, culture, and tradition has been practiced there for the same. FYRoM now though, appears to be in transition, on a journey towards development of new ethnicity, incorporating with it new identity-factors which do not follow the laws People-Dynamics taught us. The peoples there appear to be on voyage towards discarding their Slavic inheritance, shedding their Slavic cultural-linguistic identity for a Macedonian Hellenic one.

    FYRoM, without following the rules and laws People-Dynamics taught us, where (i) peoples are
    free to wander into, and outof, the cultural-linguistic spaces of others,(ii) people are free to settle, if they consider the place hospitable enough, civilized enough and rich enough to accommodate their needs,(iii) people are free to put on hold, their previous ethnicity during acculturation period,(iv) people are free to assimilate on acceptance by the host community,(v) people are free to absorb the language culture and traditions of host community,(vi) people are free to develop same ethnic-feelings, same collective-memories, same national pride of the host nation. FYRoM did none of these things. FYRoM did not follow the rules and laws of People-Dynamics, instead, FYRoM follows unnatural path of usurping them.

  4. Macedon has been an integral part of Hellenisms cultural-linguistic space for millenniums. Peoples in close proximity to Macedon, Hellenized. Macedonians themselves, Hellenized more peoples in more places than any other Greek-ethnos. Macedonians took Hellenism, the Greek-language, culture, knowledge and wisdom to the farthest easternmost reaches of the then known ancient-world. Macedonians in the history-books of eastern-peoples are the Yunans, Yavans, Unans, Yaunas – meaning Greeks, the eastern term for Ionians…the first Greek-tribe to travel east.

    Yunans in the East – Greeks in the West. Eastern-peoples met Ionians and referred to all Greeks by the variant-Yunani name. Western-peoples met Graeci, the first Greeks to travel West and referred to all Greeks by the variant-Graeci name. Yunan or variant, in the East. Graeci or variant, in the West. Hellene on home turf…this is how Yunani Graeci peoples referred to themselves on home soil, by the native name Hellene.

    Macedonians are the Yunans, on eastern soil. Macedonians are the Greeks, on western soil. Macedonians are Hellenes, on home turf. This, [[the way they are described][the way they describe themselves]] formula, applies to all the Hellenic tribes. The way Macedonians see themselves is the same way other Greeks see them. On this basis, FYRoM has no right to blur the distinction between Macedonians and the rest of the Greeks. Those who aid FYRoM to do that, simply have the Greeks to deal with.

    FYRoM calling itself ‘Republic of Macedonia’ is both problematic and confusing because (i) FYRoM is not Macedon, (ii) FYRoM-language is not Macedonian, (iii) FYRoM inhabitants are not Macedonians. Those who confuse FYRoM for Macedon and mistake Yugoslavians for Macedonians show disgraceful ignorance of history demography and philology. Those who do it intentionally, show their true colours…anti-Hellenic at heart, anti-Western by extension.

    FYRoM is Paeonia, then Dardania north from Skopje. The FYRoM language is Serbo-Bulgarian, similar to Serbo-Croatian. FYRoM inhabitants are South-Slavs, similar to Slovenes, Croatians, Serbians, Montinegrins, Bosnians and Bulgarians. Confusing Paeonia for Macedonia, mistaking Slavic-language for Hellenic-language, blurring the distinction between South-Slavic peoples and Hellenic-peoples, makes those who do it intentionally, anti-Hellenic by nature, anti-Western by design.

    Calling FYRoM ‘Republic of Macedonia’ takes something away from Hellenism…takes something more away from Western-worlds cultural-historical narrative. It diminishes Macedons Greek history and erases Macedons Hellenic identity…the former affects Greeks particularly and the latter affects the West in general. It authorizes Slavic-speakers with Slavic-heritage to stake claim to the history and heritage of the Greeks, empowering them to script a national historical narrative that undermines the Western-worlds long-established mainstream historical narrative.

    Calling FYRoM ‘Republic of Macedonia’ gives free-license to every Greek-hating Man and his Dog to humiliate Greeks and belittle Hellenism. Those who revel in this, simply aide in the slow incremental erosion of Western-worlds cultural-historical foundation. Erode that, and you take something precious away from Western Civil Societies understandings of a shared common heritage. Destroy that, and you destroy the West!

  5. Greeks live in Macedonia >3 Millenniums. Greeks were there during the days of the original Kingdom. Greeks were there during the Roman conquests which culminated in latin-Roman rule. Greeks were there during Greco-Roman rule, in Byzantine theme. Greeks were there during Slavic invasions, incursions and attacks, standing their ground at 6th Century AD. Greeks were there during Turkish domination of Haemus peninsula, in Ottoman Vilayet province. Greeks were there during the Balkan Wars 1912-1913, to ensure Macedonia returns back to Greek hands. Greeks fought the Ottoman Empire, retook Macedonia from the Ottoman-Turks. Greeks hold on to Macedonia, they are still there. Greeks have always been there, in Macedonia. It makes no sense for FYRoM, a recently established minor Slavic country, to rewrite the demographic history of Macedon in way that erases Hellenic identity of ancient-Greek Kingdom. No credible person of worth in the West, from politics, diplomacy or academia, sees FYRoM like Macedon, or Yugoslavians like Macedonians. It makes no sense for a modern Slavic country to covet the name of ancient-Greek Kingdom for country-name…sovereign state-name, nationality, language and ethnicity. During the time of the Kingdom, Macedonians never met Slavs, never spoke Slavic, never lived in FYRoM. It makes no sense to want to alter these academic reference points.

    There is no solution to the name dispute as long as there are politicians, diplomats and academics in FYRoM willing to use state apparatus to convince children, pupils, and students there to see themselves like Macedonians, and to see ancient-Macedonians like proto-Slavs. Teaching young Slavic children to themselves like Macedonians, to see Greeks like Africans, to see Greece like the enemy, to see Hellenism like loaded word beyond hate, are actions designed to promote arguments, hostility, hatred and confrontation. In FYRoM, young Slavic children see Maps which depict Macedon like Occupied land…Occupied by Greece, from since the Balkan Wars 1912-1913. Those Balkan Wars saw Macedonians and other Greeks fight Ottoman Empire with aim to return Macedon back to Greek hands.

    FYRoM is not military threat to Greece…FYRoM is more than that. Ideological indoctrination is more dangerous. Brainwashing young Slavic children to see FYRoM like the place where the progenitor of White race sprang from, where the primordial children of proto-Slavs began their ethnogenesis, is just an indoctrination too far! Greeks cannot sit idly-by watching, as FYRoM humiliates Greeks, ridicules Greece and belittles Hellenism. Those who aided and abetted FYRoM to see Greece go down have mysteriously gone underground now, too shameless to come out, to face the music, now that Greece holds the legal, moral and academic high ground. The West lost it’s way, where FYRoM is concerned. The West gave FYRoM and inch but they took a mile. After many warnings, things panned out exactly the way Greeks, legal-teams, and historians predicted. FYRoM now, uses quasi-official recognition to stake claim and make claims, to the Macedonian Name, Identity, History, Heritage, Legacy – against all the rules governing People-Dynamics.

  6. When Bulgaro-Slavic tribes settled on Imperial Byzantine soil, inside cultural-linguistic space of the Greco-Romans, they interrupted an ethnogenic cultural-linguistic continuum that permeated there for millenniums, replacing host Greek language with Slavic. Laws governing population-dynamics dictate, that culture and language of large people-group absorbs culture and language of lesser one, over time. It happened with the Bulgar tribes, they Slavicized after 200 years, or 8 generations. In that melieu of peoples, are remnants of Greco-Romans…the local inhabitants before Slavic settlement. Slavicization does not necessarily mean people displacement, descendants of the native host population are still there, in large numbers, measured by the amount of E1b1b J2 they carry. Slavicization did not displace the local Greco-Roman population. Language adoption from Greek to Slavic ensured survival. In FYRoM today, can be found E1b1b J2 Haemus natives that walk and talk like Slavs but descend from Greco-Roman Byzantines that stayed behind during Slavic settlement period.

    I belong to an ethnic group, if (i) I want it, if (ii) the host community accept me ? To be Macedonian is to be Greek. To gain acceptance means to Re-Hellenize, re-learn to Walk like Greeks and Talk like Greeks.

  7. Greeks have been using the Macedonian name for (regional) self-Identity from since it’s creation. The Macedonian name has been in constant use in the Hellenic world from since it’s inception. Macedonians are self-determined Greeks for >3 Millennia. There has never been a day, week, month, year, decade, century, millennium, where the Greeks did not take that name with them wherever they went.

    Question: Are the Slavic-speaking peoples of FYRoM that anti-Hellenic, they want to contest the Macedonian names Greek-Hellenic credentials? Macedonians have always been Greek a regional-historical people-group of ethnic-Greek stock.

    Two different, ethnically-distinct people-groups, one of them Northern-Hellenic, the other one Southern-Slavic, cannot espouse blood-ties or kinship-bonds towards the same group of ancestors!

    1- According to Geography – Macedon, the ancient-Kingdom is in Northern-Greece.
    2- According to Archaeology – Macedonian material-culture is Hellenic.
    3- According to Linguistics – Macedonians spoke an archaic Hellenic-language.
    4- According to Philology – Historical textual interpretations go by Consensus.

    Geography cannot be relocated, Archaeology cannot be doctored, History cannot be altered, and the study of Philology…interpretation(s) of historical texts go by consensus. The Academic scholarly community support Greece over FYRoM in the latter’s attempt to usurp the Macedonian name for country-name, sovereign state-name, nationality, language and ethnicity!

    Two different, ethnically-distinct people-groups…one Northern-Hellenic, the other one Southern-Slavic, cannot use the same ethno-generic tribal name for self-Identity – one of them is being insincere and disingenuous in their claim.

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