August 7, 2009

The Case for "Vardarska Makedonija"

I missed this Foreign Policy article on the Macedonian name dispute, but it's a good read. Among other things, it argues that Macedonia (or the FYROM, more specifically) should adopt a name that won't be a source of international tension:
Imagine how Californians would feel if Baja California wanted to be called simply "California"? Or how Swedes would react if Norway changed its name to "Scandinavia"? The U.N.'s designated mediator has floated various possible names for FYROM, and Greece has recently indicated it would accept "The Republic of Northern Macedonia." But such a solution implies there is a "Southern Macedonia" in Greece inhabited by the same people, as in North and South Korea. But this is not the case linguistically or ethnically. A more sensible solution would be "Vardarska Makedonija," named for the river that flows through the region, which respects the dignity and identity of Greece's northern neighbor but also distinguishes it from the northern Greek province.
It would be one thing if it were just the name that was in dispute between Macedonia and Greece. But if it's true that the Macedonian government is appropriating Hellenistic history and imagery as its own, and claiming that the Macedonian region of Greece has some connection to the country of Macedonia other than the name*, then I think the UN and the US (which unilaterally recognized the "Republic of Macedonia" in exchange for the country entering the Iraq War -- thanks again, Bush Administration!) need to persuade the Macedonians to soften their stance on this issue.

Also check out the response to this article from the Macedonian ambassador to the US.

* Ethnically, Macedonians are closer to Serbs and other Slavs than they are to Greeks. While there is a large Slavic-speaking community in the northern Greek province of Macedonia, they identify themselves as Greek rather than Macedonian. For more, this Wikipedia article on the Macedonian ethnic group is worth reading.

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