Guardian: Alexander the Great Caught in the Middle of the Macedonia Naming Dispute
by Aggelos Skordas - Nov 11, 2014
Nikola Gruevski’s love affair with statues began with Alexander the Great. In 2011, much to the consternation of Greece, FYROM’s Prime Minister had the world’s largest sulpture of the warrior king installed in Skopje’s central square. Now, after peppering the capital with grandiose bridges, a gargantuan triumphal arch, concert halls, theaters, new government buildings and artwork, the Premier has gone a step further, the British Guardian underlined, referring to Skopje’s lately applied controversial policy of installing new monuments with Macedonian symbols in FYROM’s capital in order to promote the country’s position over the 23-year-long naming dispute with Greece.
Upping the ante in what has become one of the West’s more unlikely disputes, Gruevski instructed that waxworks of Alexander, his father, Philip II of Macedon, and his mother, Olympias, be given pride of place in a new archaeological museum. “All these exhibits are of priceless value for our country and represent a part of our cultural heritage,” Gruevski pronounced as he opened the museum last month, provoking the Greek side. The controversial artwork, part of a lifting in the city’s post Communist-era profile, cost some 500 million euros to one of the poorest countries in Europe. Gruevski’s ambition was that these would lift the spirit of his fellow countrymen, 30% of whom suffer from unemployment.
But officials do not deny that the building project has another purpose: to score points in the long-running battle over the name of Macedonia. The Greeks have long argued that their neighbor’s desire to lay claim to the nomenclature – and use of symbols associated with it – implies territorial ambitions over their own adjacent province of Macedonia. True to Balkan form, the row has its roots in ancient history, the Guardian underlined.
In the 23 years since the landlocked state proclaimed independence, Alexander the Great has dominated the dispute. Athens says the Greek-born general is irrefutable proof of Macedonia’s Hellenic credentials; Skopje says he is an inherent part of local identity as the leader of an empire that incorporated the region and extended as far as India, the report continued.
As a result to FYROM’s claims, Athens has blocked its bids to join the NATO and the European Union, insisting that the country should remain under the acronym FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), the provisional name with which it was admitted to the United Nations, despite the fact that almost 130 states have already recognized it as the “Republic of Macedonia,” which is the country’s constitutional name.
At the same time, even Skopjans themselves are at odds over a scheme that many say not only smacks of megalomania but has turned the capital into a mini Las Vegas. “I don’t see why the Greeks should be offended. We are offended,” said Sasho Ordanoski, a political analyst and outspoken critic of Gruevski’s overtly nationalist policies. “Skopje has become the European capital of kitsch in architectural and political style. The whole thing reeks of bad taste and has been a huge financial disaster. We both share the same territory of Alexander the Great’s historic empire and we have built Alexander’s highest monument in the world. If anything, Athens should be pleased,” Ordanski concluded.
In Athens, politicians privately say the time is ripe to settle the dispute. A compromise solution of “Upper Macedonia” is among those thought to have been proposed by Greek officials. The UN has announced that envoys from the two states will meet in New York on Wednesday for a new round of negotiations. But, as the Guardian foresees, the omens do not look good, because Skopje’s Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki declared before the talks that the two countries “are further away from a solution than we were a few years ago.”
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