THE ANTHEM AS AN OCASSION: IF IT HAS TO HAPPEN, THEN IT BETTER BE SOONER THAN LATER
We have learnt from our experience that in this complex ethno-cultural society we cannot have taboo topics any more, not even when it comes to the most delicate issues like the state symbols.
writes: Zoran Ivanov
The topics are to be opened, discussed and debated so that we see where the uncertainties lie and seek solutions. That’s what politics should be dealing with, but also the public and all those who take part in the social and political life of the country. Our Macedonian experience taught us that every time we ignored the problems, the results were mainly devastating. Sometimes it ended up with a conflict, and the outcome was at times forceful and caused national trau ma. Do we have to remind ourselves of the situation with the Tetovo illegal university which was some sort of a “private party”, or the flags and the bloody civil war, all the trauma with the Framework Agreement and its implementation and the number of other similar events that happened in Macedonia.
The short-term memory, the lack of real national leadership, the lack of political sense of the requirements of this age, not projecting sustainable long-term conditions, all but lead to traumas. They also occur due to our national illusions or because of stubbornness, or due to promises not kept and permanent instabilities that characterize the Macedonian wavy path through its independence. It all happens because of political incompetence and the inability to sense the moment or realize the fact that this country is a community of all the people who live here. The society, the progress and the country’s affirmation as well as the affirmation of everyone and everythingin it have been suffering and will continue to do so.
If we are to judge by the public’s reactions and emotions and the vulgarization of the event that involved Tamara and the Macedonian national anthem, we can say that the same thing is happening now. In fact, instead of making so much fuss – there you have it – an occasion for a reasonable debate which comes at the right moment. Or, we can continue sweeping it under the rug and see what happens. Or, we might as well boldly open the issue on national symbols, including the anthem. The lyrics will remain “ethno-national” (just as many of our citizens feel them) or it will be transformed into a real national anthem for everyone, a solemn hymn that will make all citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia stand up straight.
We have learnt from our experience that in this complex ethno-cultural society we cannot have taboo topics any more, not even when it comes to the most delicate issues like the state symbols, mainly bacause of their dual interpretation and because they are seen as both state and national. We know it, but we keep quiet about the fact that despite our multiple specifics regarding the interpretations and the feelings for what belongs to the country and what belongs to the nation, we do have an issue her that concerns the political public in particular. Especially when it comes to the anthem. It is not exactly felt as solemn by a large part of the population in Macedonia, even by whole ethnic groups. It is definitely so with the Albanians, who, when in part of crowd at a sporting event, for example, turn their backs or whistle with disapproval every time it is sung. Moreover, their political leaders never fail to make an issue of the official national symbols stating them as obstacles for harmonizing the inter-ethnic relations. This raises the question whether we have the courage to face the country with another check-up for a more permanent stability of the Macedonian society besides all the past misfortunes which resulted in overall consitutional changes. This time, of the national symbols.
Whether the incident that happened at the US Embassy was accidental, deliberate, set up or none of the above, it was definitely a good occasion to remind us that there a couple of issues, which, no matter how sensitive or even painful they are, if we just keep quiet about them or sweep them under the carpet, they will not resolve on their own and will only lead to crisis that are sure to escalate at one time or another. Then, as we have witnessed many times before, their resolution becomes increasingly complicated and traumatic.
The anthems are a national brand, patended a few centuries ago, in times when so-called national states were being established. An umbrella which served to maintain the nation, or more precisely, the whole population within the given borders loyal to the state that was identified by its rulers. Since then, tow to three centuries ago, the national anthems have not lost much of whet they were originally intended to be – solemn songs to encourage and cherish patriotism, give an incentive for success, unite the nation. It is what they are originally aimed for. The same goes for the countries and their anthems, including the Macedonian one.
“Denes nad Makedonija se ragja” was composed in circumstances of a winning euphoria, in times of the initial establishment of the Macedonian state and the first institutional definition of the Macedonian nation. Seventy-five years have passed since then. The Macedonian anthem was rarely performed in former Yugoslavia, except at republic’s holidays or various local events. However, it never compensated for the Yugoslav “Hej Sloveni”. Our anthem received full recognition after our independence , when again, guided by the chance for finally having our own independent country, we forgot about and ignored the other ethnic gropus’ emotions and focused only on the Macedonian national emotions. It has remained the flaw of the national anthem till present days – its lyrics explicitly address the Macedonian nation as ethnicity and not the Macedonian country and all its citizens.
So, that’s the issue, and not why Tamara misinterpreted or whether she was made to do so. It is irrelevant, just as today it is irrelevant whether her performance at the Embassy was only a rehearsal to test the Macedonian people’s reactions on possible adaptations of this national symbol. Therefore, if possible, let us approach the issue of the national anthem and all national symbols a bit more relaxing and rational manner.
Let us briefly remind ourselves of the Macedonian state-building phases. With the latest constitutional interventions, we are practically living in the third Republic of Macedonia – the first one called Federal, then National and finally Socialist (ASNOM, 1944), the second one , Independent, established after the 1991 Referendum and the last year’s Prespa Agreement, and the third, present one – Republic of North Macedonia since January 2019. Since the first one, the very foundations of the political system in the Republic of Macedonia have evolve mainly on ethnic basis, and in order to harmonize the society, it has made the necessary compromises which resulted in a number of changes within the country. One of the latest is the Law on use of languages, or implementation of the provision on the second official language in the country. By that, the legal frame of the Framework Agreement was practically completed. Macedonia has put another historical point. The Ministry in charge of the implementation of the Framework Agreement has almost ceased to exist which can be seen as a message that we have completed that phase and that the country is ready to deal with other priorities.
Compromises have not only been made inside the country, but outside as well, with the neighbors, on the agreements with Bulgaria and Greece. They have caused and are yet to provoke further reactions, dilemmas and new realities. The social processes never cease and we are constantly facing new challenges – judging by the signals we receive, probably one of them will be the anthem. If those things are not prevented in time, they might cause problems very soon. And, of course, only if it proves necessary, to seek new solutions for this symbol. And them, a safer country for us, Macedonians and our national constitution.
It is expected that many people will show emotional reactions led by their impractical and useless urges. However, in this text, I am concerned with the reality and the inevitability of the processes. These finding, however bald, anti-national, rude and even perfidious might seem, all strive for finding a useful solution, if that turns out to be necessary. Even if that solution means making another compromise with the national anthem as one of the most impressive symbols of the country, so as to implant it as another cohesive element within a society equal for all. As another brick in the modern Macedonian state equal for all. Therefore, the main issue is whether the present national anthem, dressed in the lyrics it has, has played its historical role yet?
We shall seek the answer in a public, democratic and civilized debate. Silence is not a solution, nor is the calamity or the passionate reactions to Tamara’s gaffe. We need to open the topic regardless of the reactions and various emotional eruptions.
The sooner, the better. Let us discuss and see what we do further. For the benefit of our present and for the future of the Macedonian country.
Anyway, if something is bound to happen tomorrow, however sensitive that is for all of us, it better happen today.
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