by Vladislav Perunović
In the dialectics of several months long acute struggle between the ruling VMRO-DPMNE and the opposing leftist party in FYROM, the Social-Democratic Union of FYROM, some Greek observers formed an opinion that political victory of SDSM – which in local political standards translates into “forming a government and giving mandate to a Prime Minister” – would have positive impact on Greece. The presumption is based on the ignorance of the position of SDSM on the name and identity issue of the major ethnic group of FYROM, an ignorance created by overt emphasis on bombastic and absurd identification of VMRO-DPMNE with Greek classical identity.
There’s no need to introduce a retrospective of these acts – renaming of streets and public object, erecting statues of important persons of northern Greek classical antiquity, semi-official use of Sun of Vergina, publication of pseudoscholarly books by circles that may be called members of the “official academia”. Observers of the latest years of the symbolic conflict generated by FYROM’s claim on classical antiquity know those facts well enough. However, the usage of the reasoning that VMRO-DPMNE reached a zenith of historical forgeries and that no single political option that would replace it can be worst is based on the false reasoning. The first and the most important is that, if domestic public in FYROM is excluded, these ‘ethnological theories’ formulated by VMRO-DPMNE have some worth in the realm of serious international academic circles.
For all 9 years of their promotion, not a single archeologist, a historian, linguist outside FYROM has accepted even partially those “theories of continuity”. A review of the most authoritative academic reference books produced outside Balkans in this period do not even quote those views as debatable stances, as theories worthy of mention. The only reason why some circles in Greece think that political elimination of this energetic forging of history by VMRO-DPMNE and affiliated (formally non-governmental organizations as well as private individuals) is the offense for the usurpation of the ancient cultural heritage of Greek people. However, what is forgotten is that, although this usurpation is offensive in itself, it is more of an indicator of anti-Hellenism in FYROM than a viable set of theories, models and hypothesis that have potential to sever the classical heritage of Macedon from the Greek historical narrative. What seems omitted by its critics is the fact that Gruevski’s identity politics alienated historical, linguistic, archaeological academic circles in stable academic environments (primarily in liberal democracies) which slowly, but steadily, begun (not without exceptions, but still in a majority) to accept the mainstream Titoist theories of separate “Macedonian” ethnicity which was produced in former Yugoslavia in 1940’s and 1950’s.
These sympathetic academics, most of them exponents of Western cultural liberalism or even cultural (as opposed to political) Marxism, are appalled in contemporary times by the unsubstantiated, vulgar theories of “ancient Macedonian continuity” which are groundless and established in total disregards of scholarly methodology. These academics, supportive of idea of separate “Makedonci” nationality, qualitatively different from Bulgarians, Serbs and Greeks, formed their opinions on the premises of notion of “self-determination” and similar philosophically Marxist and existentialists theories of ethnic genesis. The chief factor facilitating this development was the fact that among nationalisms in communist Yugoslavia, all were forbidden in the name of pan-Yugoslav “brotherhood and unity”, except the “Macedonian” nationalism, which was deemed necessary in order to weaken Serbia, sever ethnological ties to Bulgaria and position the young nation against Greece, or, more precisely, against Greek integrity in the North Aegean. This Marxist approach exported energetically in Yugoslavia (and, unfortunately, not challenged by official Greece, in time when Yugoslavia was west’s useful buffer zone against the Soviet bloc) was promoted by the “Communist Party of Macedonia” (KPM), the single political body of southern Yugoslav republic.
Today, its historical, philosophical, sociological and politicological descendants is the SDSM. This party today espouses, after criticism in 1990’s that it was “Pro-Serbian”, “anti-national”, “anti-patriotic” and subsequent reforms, based primarily upon leadership of relatively young people for which Yugoslavia is some sort of distant abstraction from the past, a reformed continuity of “Macedonian nationalism”. Precisely because this variant is very, very different from the bizarre ethnocentrism promoted by VMRO-DPMNE, it is more insidious for Greek long-term interests. Namely, this “Macedonian nationalism” of present-day SDSM is based on the idea of fundamental distinction of Slavic tribes of medieval period, which culminated in revolt by leftist intellectuals again “hegemonic expansionism” of Athens, Belgrade and Sofia, which gained popularity among masses which were ‘tired of fratricidal servitude to neighboring centers of power’.
This variant of “makedonski patriotism”, although ultimately also flawed, has an advantage that it is receptive for western liberals and postmodernists in present day. It is espoused in FYROM by such thinkers of SDSM as Denko Maleski, Ljubomir Frčkovski, Miroslav Grčev, Ljudmil Spasov et al. It has a tradition of institutional formation from 1944 to 1998. SDSM, regardless of the apparent “labourist”, “socialist”, “liberal” political ethos, is, due to the fact that Albanians, Turks, Vlachs, Serbs, Roma and others have their own national parties, still a party almost exclusively composed of people which are “Makedonci” of the Slavic kind. To sum the issue, it is a dilemma for Greek public what is more “acceptable”: the outrageous, bizarre and megalomaniac nationalism of VMRO-DPMNE or the “sociological” Marxist construct cherished by SDSM, which asserts that there is a ‘case’ for ‘Makedonci’ history and culture in a manner that may have some sort of appeal of ‘realism’? Finally, the ongoing struggle of VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM is about such issues as ‘freedom of speech’, ‘corruption’, ‘nepotism’ – neither of both party doesn’t challenge the consensus that “Makedonci” exists for centuries and have a ‘historical right to nationhood’.
Thus, the prospective factors that may bring a fresh change relevant for Greece are the already visible trends of rehabilitation of Bulgarian and Serbian patriotism inside FYROM, both of which have historical tradition based on ethnonym, language and culture.