Last war between the Macedonians and the Greeks
Writes: Denko Maleski
When the famous journalist David Brinkley, horrified by the slaughterhouse in Vietnam, asked the US President Lyndon Johnson why he did not return troops at home, Johnson replied: “I will not be the first American president to lose a war”. And in the “war” between Macedonia and Greece, the reason for the Macedonian and Greek politicians was the same: they should not be recorded in history as traitors to the name. In the Balkans compromises are not easily made because the history of the Balkan nations is traumatic. The products of these traumas are also the Balkan politicians. In them, there is often one poisonous blend of nationalism, obsession, and logic to stay in power as long as possible. Perhaps, in part, this also stems from the character of the Balkan wars. Namely, external observers, when describing our wars, concluded that these were not wars between armies, but of nations that wiped out each other. That is why the end of the war is not really the end of the war: hatred stays in us until the next showdown when we will try to revenge our ancestors. They say that peace is difficult in the Balkans, too. As hatred remains and is passed on from generation to generation. Knowing about this, I have warned that our peoples will not be able to reconcile if we oppose a Macedonian nationalist construction against the Greek nationalist construction. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. With the “antiquisation” of the historical hideouts of hatred and fear in our minds, we added new blocks of irreconcilable nationalism.
However, let’s not despair. The solution to the dispute realized with the Prespa Agreement can be seen in this way: when we removed the blocs of antiquity built from the policy of Macedonian nationalism during the mandates of VMRO-DPMNE and President Ivanov, we remained with the policy that we formulated and guided in the early nineties. What was that policy? It was the policy of peace and problem solving through dialogue and compromise. A policy that avoided irritating neighbors, and found the roots of our nation in its Slavic character. A policy that said that our country and nation was formed in the Yugoslav federation, after the Second World War, and dragged the roots of the Macedonian nineteenth-century renaissance through Krste Misirkov and the National Liberation War to the present day. It was an interpretation of the Macedonian history which was in accordance with the historical truth, present in all world textbooks and undisputed by anyone with a relevant weight in world science and politics.
Well, we left that policy first, and then we returned to it after a quarter century wandering after the imaginary glorious past. With the Prespa Agreement, the brave young politicians of the Republic of Greece and the Republic of Northern Macedonia, freed from the yoke of their nationalisms and with strong support from the West, returned us on the right path, on the old path. What we offered to the Greek state then, at the beginning of the nineties, was accepted by it only now. The change among the Greeks is great: then Greece wanted and worked on our disappearance, both as a state and as a nation. Its planes violated our airspace with a threat. A million and five hundred thousand citizens of Thessaloniki and Athens, out on the streets, in an atmosphere characteristic before the outbreak of a war chanted “Macedonia is Greek”. Today, as allies in NATO, Greek planes patrol in protection of the same Macedonian sky. Both sides can say they have won. Tsipras recently told his audience that they had won because they defended antiquity. We, in turn, have defended our present and future. For, the fact is that nothing important from what was our policy in 1991 has been taken away from us. Of course, dismantling our ancient nationalist construction, we had to pay a higher price for the compromise: a name for overall use, which, perhaps, we would not have to have paid if the policy had worked on a compromise instead of wasting its time by laying the foundations of our identity where, it should have known, it would be crushed. So, we made one circle of thirty years and we returned to the starting point.
But that is it. Will anyone be responsible for the catastrophic mistake? Will anyone be praised for being right? No, both in the first and the second case. We are not from those nations who learn from their mistakes. How could we when we refuse to admit mistakes? A real delight is to be a politician in a liberal democratic state: the former Greek political elite would almost destroy us in the same way as it financially destroyed its own state and no one was held responsible; the previous Macedonian political elite would have done the same to their own country, and no one would have been held responsible. More analyses are made on the former president’s premises than on his policies. One would wish for the Greek and Macedonian politicians to return to the medieval politics of Machiavelli and Medici when the stake to participate in the political game was the life of the politician, so rarely anyone died in his bed of old age. But those times are not coming back. Now we are civilized people. But we should be careful. The absence of control and accountability in the political system or a critical observation of past policies can be misused by the greedy and uncivilized. Therefore the institutions of the democratic state should be strengthened and the control and accountability of the work of the politicians: on daily basis. And my academic community has its own important mission. It must be more active in elaborating democratic alternatives and in critique of nationalism, if we do not want, on a new turn of history, like in the beginning of independence, to go astray again in a thirty-year circle, instead of moving forward rapidly towards integration with the modern democratic world. Politics is not a straight line, the shortest path between two points, some will say. Exactly. But that is why we always have to be careful for the long and curved path to the goal not to be much longer than necessary.
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