Home » Issues » The “Macedonia” Name Issue

In 1991, the “Socialist Republic of Macedonia” — created by Marshal Tito in 1944 – became a sovereign state and declaring itself to be the “Republic of Macedonia.” The move sparked a bilateral “naming dispute” with Greece that persists to today.

Greece rejects use of the name “Republic of Macedonia” because of the fact that “Macedonia” is the name of a region in northern Greece, and because the use of that name fails to distinguish that state from the parts of geographic Macedonia from the Greek (the largest part of geographic Macedonia) and Bulgarian parts.  Some 2.5 million Greeks live in the Greek region of Macedonia. Under an interim accord signed on September 13, 1995, the two states agreed to the use of the reference “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM) until the naming dispute is resolved.  Greece has taken a significant step towards solving the dispute, offering the major compromise of a compound name with a geographic qualifier that would distinguish FYROM from the Greek region of Macedonia.

MORE THAN A SQUABBLE OVER A NAME: A FIGHT FOR CULTURAL IDENTITY AND TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY

FYROM’s long-standing demand to lay claim to the Macedonian name threatens not only to Greece’s cultural history but its territorial limits as well. Millions of ethnic Greeks living in the north of their country consider themselves “Macedonian” and they see the appropriation of that term by the former Yugoslav state as being an attempt to undermine their culture identity. Moreover, tensions over the name dispute have been fueled by the fact that FYROM embarked on a campaign to lay claim to other elements of Hellenic culture and identity as well.

Specifically, the nationalist VMRO-DMPNE party came into power in 2006 and brought with it a renewed vigor to manufacture a connection between the former Yugoslav state and ancient Hellenism. The country’s main airport in Skopje was renamed to “Alexander the Great Airport” and has launched a “Skopje 2014″ project, spending millions erecting monuments of Hellenic heroes throughout the country and fabricating a connection between FYROM and Hellenic culture.

On top of the attempts to expropriate Hellenic history to FYROM, there exists a movement within FYROM to pursue a “United Macedonia” that would envelope northern Greece and areas in Bulgaria, Albania and Serbia. Although FYROM abandoned any territorial claims in the Interim Accord, “United Macedonia,” maps depicting FYROM’s territory extending into northern Greece have been published.

It is against this backdrop that Greece has requested that FYROM use a compound name with a geographic qualifier for general use on the international stage, with some type of qualifier in its name — “New”, “Upper” or “Northern” — so as to ensure that no future claim against Greece’s territory is made.

Little progress has been made on the naming dispute over the last decade, but fresh negotiations are being undertaken between Athens and Skopje under the auspices of the Secretary-General to try to reach an agreement.

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