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PRESS RELEASES

28/03/2008
The Academy of Athens' public position on the Macedonian Issue

 

The Academy of Athens, conscious of its scholarly mission, considers that a viable solution to the problem of the name of FYROM is possible only on the basis of an accurate evaluation of the facts. The Academy, therefore, is making public its own well-documented views. It also considers it a felicitous circumstance that scientific truth is consistent with reality and ensures the stability and peacefulness of a region that has suffered grievously both in the remote and in the recent past.

  1. Today, Macedonia forms a geographic zone whose borders extend to more than one of the states of Southeastern Europe. A specific region of modern Greece bears the ancient Greek name "Macedonia". One of the federal states that constituted the former Republic of Yugoslavia functioned under the name "Socialist Republic of Macedonia" (SRM). However, for many centuries in Antiquity, the name Macedonia designated an area about 90% of which is coincident with the modern Greek region of Macedonia. If this name were given to an independent state, without further specification that would clearly reflect these geographic and historical realities, it would entail the danger that the state in question might claim, and even claim exclusively, the use of the term "Macedonia" or its derivatives to describe its history, civilization, everyday political and social life, etc.
  2. Specifically, the ancient Macedonian state of Philip and Alexander the Great extended in the north to the lands of the modern Greek Macedonia, as well as a few kilometers into both the modern FYROM and Bulgaria. Every kind of historical source as well as archaeological finds proves that at the time the ancient Macedonians included their state among the other Greek lands. The first Slavic peoples which, obviously, had no relation whatsoever with the previous inhabitants of the region, entered the Balkans ten centuries later, in the seventh century A.D. Their presence in the area from that point on contributed to the gradual formation of various Slavic ethnicities. During the creation and the first development of the Slavic states of the area in the 19th century (Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria), there was no reference to a "Macedonian" nation. It is telling that even in the aftermath of the First World War, neither the representatives of the Balkan states, nor those-Woodrow Wilson being primary among them - who constructed the peace, men who, precisely, held the vision of an international community consisting of nation-states, ever hinted at a "Macedonian" nation. The effort to establish the existence of such a nation dates to the time of Marshal Tito, when he was engaged in creating the new federal republic of Yugoslavia in the aftermath of the Second World War. Indeed, the success of the daring endeavor undertaken since that time, that is, the transformation of the ethnicity of the Slav inhabitants of that particular geographic area, would have been impossible without the propaganda disseminated for almost half a century by a totalitarian regime.
  3. The geographic unit of Macedonia is a reality that is independent of any ethnological, political, or administrative division in the Southern Balkans. During the centuries-long Ottoman rule, the geographic area of "Macedonia" included the vilayets of Thessalonike and Monastir, and part of the vilayet of Kossovo to which belonged the sanjak of Skopje. The extension of the geographic borders of "historic" Macedonia towards the north is connected to the mapping of the region by the first European cartographers, after the Renaissance. These maps were composed on the basis of views that had prevailed in Roman times. However, neither then nor in modern times until the Second World War was there an ethnic content to the characterization of the inhabitants as Macedonian. The fact that, in the second half of the 19th century, Serbs and Bulgarians raised claims upon the lands that were inhabited by a majority of Slavic people is doubtless connected to the ethnic make-up of these specific geographic areas. By the same token, it is obvious that the same principle is also applicable to the larger areas of southern Macedonia that are inhabited by Greeks.
  4. The lessons one can draw from the authoritative analysis of the historical past are congruent with the necessity to achieve a solution that promotes peace and stability in the region. The artificial creation of one single "Macedonia" would necessarily be linked to the revival of outdated expansionist designs. To the contrary, scholarly analysis suggests the adoption of a compound name with a geographic content, and with respect for the distinction between ancient Macedonia and the state of FYROM. That would serve both the truth and the present-day needs of the geographic region and of the larger area surrounding it. The profound interest of the Greeks in the matter does not indicate any desire to contest the rights of their northern neighbors, even those rights that were but recently acquired. The position of the government and of the vast majority of the political forces in Greece is clear on this issue. The Greek interest does indicate the concern of public opinion in the face of intransigent provocations on the part of Skopje that tend-as is evident even in the school textbooks-not only to appropriate but even to monopolise the history, the cultural achievements, the symbols--including the ancient ones--, the monuments, and the personalities that were active in the Macedonian area in the past. It is self-evident that the expression of good will on the part of any Greek government is not sufficient to overcome the fact or the effects of nationalist excesses similar to those that were artfully cultivated during the post-war period.

The findings mentioned above argue for a solution to the problem that should not be unilateral. Greece holds firmly a position that leads to the consolidation of peaceful coexistence and cooperation among the peoples of the southern Balkans. On the contrary, the option to protract the impasse surrounding the name of FYROM not only nourishes designs that continue to be expansionist, but also perpetuates or even exacerbates the more general instability on a broader or narrower regional scale. Thus, privileging the current geographic realities, although it does not always satisfy the demands of history, especially the history of Antiquity, does nevertheless provide the basis for an honorable, final, and henceforth uncontested solution of the problem.