A German child's eye view of FYROM: Mazedonien

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 26 October 2008

Over the last couple of days I've been writing about the dispute between Greece and what is officially known as 'The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia'. It is a battle that Greece has struggled to make understood outside of the Balkans, to the extent that apart from official bodies of international law and sporting relations, the majority of people simply refer to FYROM as Macedonia.

This was typified by a children's map I saw in a shop window on my recent trip to Gelsenkirchen.

German children's map of the Balkans

Children in Athens and in Skopje may be learning very different versions of the history behind the name and the ethnic identity of the Macedonian peoples - both Hellenic and Slavic.

However, children in Germany are already simply learning that there is a country on the map called 'Mazedonien'.

FYROM flag through frosted glass

4 Comments

Hi Martin,

the previous "political" map you saw on the wall of the bar pretty much encapsulates the outrageous nationalism and (worse than that) refusal to respect neighbouring countries that holds back Greece on the international stage.

Regarding Macedonia, the reason German schoolchildren and pretty much all of Europe call Macedonia Macedonia is because, well, that has been the name of the place for at least a couple of centuries. Even if a spurious case can be made that other names have existed, it does not take away the right of this little country to choose it's own name. The name does not imply a territorial claim on northern Greece, where the name Macedonia is also quite legitimately used for a region with its own history, so Greece's position is all the way frustrating. The FYROM name is simply a sop to Greek nationalism. Everyone else ignored the "FYRO" bit ;-)

At a time when Turkey is moving so quickly towards a modern sense of its own nationhood, with all the tensions and contradictions that implies, it is such a shame to see Greece sticking to an out-dated, competitive and rather backward nationalism. During the wars in the Balkans, Greece shamelessly allied itself with war criminals such as Milosevic and Karadzic based on a misplaced sense of Orthodox brotherhood, despite the fact that Serbian ultranationalists left Serbs and Serbia in such a bad position. This is old C20th politics at its worst.

Like most people, I am a huge fan of Greek culture and history, which is why I find it so hard to fathom why the state seems so defensive, as if its claims to greatness are based on names and borders rather than the rich and unique contribution Greeks have made to world culture. Greece has nothing to fear from Macedonia.

'the reason German schoolchildren and pretty much all of Europe call Macedonia Macedonia is because, well, that has been the name of the place for at least a couple of centuries.'

please, answer: which place are we talking about? the whole territory? or just Fyrom? because the name has been used for the whole territory, not just for fyrom.
please answer: what about me? I am a greek Macedonian. for me macedonian is a sub-nationality, fully additional, not controversial to greek identity.

'The name does not imply a territorial claim on northern Greece, where the name Macedonia is also quite legitimately used for a region with its own history, so Greece's position is all the way frustrating.'

quite legitimately. with its own history. what is this history? could u please name?
If you are a fan of greek history, have u ever read a line of Aristotle?he uses the same language as Plato (an Athenian)and he advises Alexander to treat all greeks (macedonians and others) as free, all other speaking nations as slaves (he says so, not me!).

'The name does not imply a territorial claim on northern Greece,'

please go to numerous pages, such as this one [NOTE: This video is not in English and I can't vouch for the content - Martin]

I would be very glad to discuss with a neighbour, if only he/she wants to do so.
Regards

and something else: Lee, you seem to avoid commenting on the map displayed...

Apparently, Greece has nothing to fear from territorial claims... It is obvious that greek nationalism has pushed its limits...

Hi Martin,

I am a northern Greek girl who currently lives in the UK. First of all I would like to say that outrageous nationalism can be found in every country and you will always find uneducated or extemist groups of people who will be extreme and offensive and will not have serious arguments. I have seen these groups in Greece, in England and in Scotland, all countries in which I have lived.

I believe that when it comes to history someone can either study local history from more than one sources and so have an opinion with arguments or not know the history and simply dont have an opinion. I have no opinion on the England - Scotland issue because I ignore the local history, hence I am careful not to offend people.

There are some people who ignore history but unfortunately wanting to hide their ignorance express their strong views just because they think its a simple issue. Its just sounds easy to condemn one or the other. Well its not.

I am surprised that nobody commented the German map that shows Bulgaria and the so called "Macedonia" state expanding within modern Greek territory. If you notice carefully the so called "Macedonian" flag is placed on Thessaloniki, the capital of the Macedonian region which happens to be the second biggest city of modern Greece and my hometown. I am not sure why is that on a German map but doesnt it seem to contradict the statement of "no territorial claims" that our friend above mentions?

How would a map with a Norwegian flag over Aberdeen look like to a Scottish person? How would it feel if a part of Norway that wants to claim independance and is in search of identity names itself "Scotland" and adopts a flag similar to the Scottish? Will the statement "we want the freedom to name ourselves as we like" be valid? I dont think so..

Thanks for reading this.

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