Archive for January 2018

The Identity of Macedonia

January 6, 2018

According to Article 2 of UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, “it is essential to ensure harmonious interaction among people and groups with plural, varied and dynamic cultural identities”.

5 million people live in the modern region of Macedonia, and more than half of them have a Greek national identity, along with their Macedonian cultural identity, due to their Hellenic heritage. Another quarter has Bulgarian, Albanian, Serbian, Roma or Turkish national identity.

That leaves us with a minority; less than a quarter of the region’s population. These are the people inhabiting a former Yugoslavian province, prone to state-sponsored propaganda and historical falsification. They refuse to accept that they constitute only a small part of Macedonia, have a different origin, and should define themselves accordingly.

But what’s the story about Greeks having different cultural identities? People from the island of Crete have their own cultural identity, and the same goes for Macedonians. When two Greeks discuss their origins, they say “I am a Cretan” or “I am a Macedonian”. If foreigners are involved, they might ask “So, you’re Greek… from where exactly?”. Ross Daly, an ethnic Irish musician living in Greece for decades, being completely integrated, would say in his thick Cretan accent: “I’m a Cretan”.

Macedonians belong in the Greek nation: they do not claim a separate ethnic identity, only a cultural one. This is very common. Sicilians and Bavarians are proud of their heritage. Sicilians are Italians, Bavarians are Germans. However, Germans aren’t Bavarians, and Italians are not Sicilians.

Point of Interest: United Nations seem to agree that cultural identities should be protected.
Over 3.5 million people worldwide with a Greek national identity and a Macedonian cultural identity, have a right to self-determination and preservation of their historic cultural identity. They claim what is rightfully theirs. If their northern neighbours monopolise the terms “Macedonia/Macedonian” for international use, in practice they are being denied one of their basic rights. In that sense, the term “Greek Macedonian” is problematic because it implies mixed ethnic background (another example: “my German Italian friend“).

Greeks do not want to be associated with “ethnic Macedonians”. This is where a “pure” identification term for the latter (a 25% minority in the region of Macedonia) leads to. There is no reason why a majority with a continuous presence in the area, should give up their cultural identity, in favour of a newly emerged nation whose folk heroes described themselves as Bulgarians.


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