Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Protest Regarding Your Newspaper Article ""Once around the bloc"‏

Dear Editor,

Please receive my praise for the quality evidenced by the overall content your newspaper delivers, manifested through expression of a broad-themed subjects, with a wide-ranging repertoire of articles . This is an impression evidenced instantly from your website and my guess is that it is reflected in its printed edition as well.

However, I have a remark over article by one of your authors, which contains a gross factual error, which has a multitude of connotations, all of them creating misleading impressions among, I believe, high number of your readers. My intention is to inform you about these errors in combination with arguments to the contrary and with the reminder of the implications the present article has, in light with the moral objectives of contemporary journalism to deliver fact-based and solid judgement founded reporting.

The subject of my critical comment is the following article:

“Once around the bloc” by Steve McKenna, from August 16, 2009, seen on website of “The Age”, retrieved at August 22, 2009, at this URL:

http://www. theage. com. au/travel/once-around-the-bloc-20090813-ejwb. html.

While the article itself appears to be a bona fide brief insight into the quality of landscape of Balkan countries, seen primarily with prospective tourist in mind, characterised by eloquent and vivid, image-evoking language - its strong point, the section entitled “Best for idling: Macedonia” contains many errors, some of them extreme.

The very title of the section, which contains the word “Macedonia” (a name in current usage which is from combined findings of history [including historical geography], linguistics and ethnology situated as modern-day northern Greek province) is misleading. Macedonia's Greekness in historic and present perspective is furthermore sanctioned by its Greek population, most of which shares a historically - attested lineage with the Macedonians of antiquity ( a Greek entity like their contemporaries: Athenians, Spartans, Thebans, Epirotes, Milesians etc).

The title of the article under dispute evidently refers to the country known internally by its Slavic name “Republika Makedonija” (“Republic of Macedonia”) and which is known in UN, NATO, many other relevant international bodies as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), including a large number of countries which recognised its under the later name. The provisional name FYROM came as a result of internationally mediated agreement involving FYROM and the Hellenic Republic (Greece). Greece protests usurpation of its heritage and territorial aspiration of the FYRO Macedonia, augmented by a decades long history of official as well as strongly embedded in the mentality of FYROMian Slavic inhabitants irredentism – a demand for annexation of Northern Greece.

This strategic aim of plenty of individuals and circles in FYROM and its Slavic diaspora, a large number of which are Australian citizens of a self-styled “Macedonian” ethnicity, unknown before it was created by systematic imposition of propaganda by the top officials of Communist Yugoslavia, is very prevalent and very persisting phenomena. By referring to FYROM plainly as “Macedonia” the author applied a grave misnomer which is in defiance with the standards of good and ethical reporting.

However, the opening segment of the article – quote: “That great Macedonian, Alexander the Great, would be turning in his grave if he saw what remained of his homeland's capital today; Skopje is one of Europe's greyest and most uninspiring cities. ” is a flagrant example of a poorly researched subject, journalism at its worst, containing a very grave error. Alexander the Great, the Macedonian Greek conqueror and Emperor, was born in Pella, a place in Macedonia, Greece, which exist today, in 356 BCE. Pella is located c. 26 Miles south of the FYROMian border, the FYROM being a political entity unknown before 1944 and which never included the area of Pella (regardless of the fantasies of some Slavic ultra-nationalists, invigorated by the ludicrous idea of their “Macedonian” ethnic affinity universally rejected by scholarship).

Alexander, the patron, benefactor and initiator of the Hellenistic epoch, as it is well known, died in Babylon in 323 BCE and as history testifies he has no known substantial relationship with the region of today's FYROM (whose southernmost part includes some areas which were historically Macedonian-Greek, this fact bearing no confirmation to the extraordinary presentation of present-day FYROM as “Alexander's homeland”).

Today, mainstream scholarship agrees that Ancient Macedonians, whose state formation, with all variations of its borders throughout history coincides roughly with modern-day Northern Greece, were a Greek entity, distinguished chiefly politically, in the variety of kingdoms and city-states which compromised the ethnic, historical Greece. The evidence brought to such conclusion comes from the testimonies of Macedonians themselves, other Greeks, Persian, Roman, Jewish and other authors recorded by history. The enormous wealth of Ancient Macedonian inscriptions is exclusively in Greek, with no indication that from their inception as a group of people they used other language. Most of the geographical names of Ancient Macedonia, including its very name, derived from its people are Greek, with exception of few Old Balkan names (which are certainly not related to Slavic). Furthermore, the Macedonian private names are all exclusively Greek – with a meaning in Greek and conforming to the laws of Greek language - and are equivalent to private names used by the Greeks outside their region. Their religion was a cult to Olympian gods, the Mt. Olympus being in Macedonia.

This brief introduction to who Macedonians were in Classical Antiquity, to which the fact should be added that in subsequent ages, despite all the turbulences, Macedonian Greeks remained up to present day the foundation of the Greek population in Northern Greece, should in itself exclude any relation to the political entity of FYROM. The latter was created after World War II, with a bulk of population of being Slavs renamed “Macedonians” in pursuit of Yugoslav Communist agenda of occupation of Northern Greece. Historically, the Slavic population (akin to modern day Poles, Slovenians, Russians and most closely resembling the neighbouring Bulgarians, from whose branch in their land they were suddenly transformed into Macedonians) which settled the area of FYROM (known in ancient times as Paeonia) by migration and conquest from the areas around Northern Ukraine in medieval times never called itself “Macedonian”, its language “Macedonian” nor some of its state formation “Macedonia” prior to 20th century. All records, originating from domestic individuals and those from outside observers for century called the Slavic population “Bulgarian” and on some occasions, part of it was called “Serbian”. This is how the “Macedonians” of FYROM viewed themselves until quite recently (a number of them still do).

Recapitulating that the Macedonians were and are Greeks, that Alexander the Great was a Greek from a Greek environment and that axiomatically he cannot be related to a country chiefly populated by Non-Macedonians, Non-Greeks, whose history starts from 1944, it is hard, indeed astonishing that your journalist could bring forward a conclusion that FYROM being Alexander's homeland constitutes a reality. This would imply ties of language, culture, ethnicity and above all historical and political continuity, which are absent between Alexander and a country with unrelated ethnic group formed over 22 centuries after his death. As for Skopje (I acknowledge author's impression of the city, once a capital of non-Macedonian ancient entity of Dardania and a capital city of medieval Serbia) being an unattractive city, characterised with irregularly, dysfunctionally and aesthetically all-prevalent soc-realistic architecture, with poor cultural life), in light of the aforementioned it needs no further emphasis that its was not Alexander's “homeland's capital”, being outside his Macedonia in every sense of the word.

Such claims, as that found on the pages of your publication, not rarely serve as a fuel to the extreme chauvinism of the nouveaux “Macedonians”, infusing in them a sense of (fake) confirmation by the mainstream media of the idea that their nationalism-based expansionist ideas incorporating brazen attempt of absorption of the cultural legacy of Northern Greeks is something true and on the margin, such statements create a potentially sympathetic audience to their proclaimed sinister goals. Many of these “Macedonians” of Slavic type and Bulgarian ancestry live as citizens or have other resident status within Australia, which is often one of the theaters, other than their homeland of FYROM, where the fanatical ultranationalism based on history and ethno-racial suprematism is living and escalating reality.
At this point I categorically affirm that I have no reason to believe that regardless of this flaw of their non-authentic ethnic orientation, by far the most of them, as individuals, are solid, law-abiding, productive citizens of Australia integrated into their homeland and with a history of positive contributions in various forms of country's elaborated and diverse cultural, scientific, economic and other fields of endeavour. But articles like the one in your publication, no matter the light-hearted, casual-worded approach of the author do little to ameliorate the tide of confusion about certain realities.

Letting aside few other, far less important errors: pretentious naming of the town of Ohrid as “Macedonian Jerusalem”, which is a recently coined term by local nationalists, regardless of the towns historical role as a medieval Slavic (Bulgarian) cultural centre and later a core of the Greek-led ecclesiastical denomination within the Orthodox Christian world (including taking the legend of “365 Churches” as a fact), I am of opinion that sound research would produce a better article devoid of such , mildly said, inaccuracies. To the unprofessional actions by the author the contribution of an external link to a propagandist website after the article itself, which offers plenty of quantity and little truth must be added.

This article likely caused rightful offence to Greeks worldwide who have read it and which are faced with another misrepresentation of the facts directly involving their identity. This includes the Greeks of Australia, which are probably most likely to have encountered the controversial article. It is principle right that in light of the extreme sensitivity of the subject, the Editorial Board of your newspaper acts in order to provide remedy for the highly-charged situation created in contradiction of easily verifiable academic studies-based definitive conclusion, the plausibility of which is brought by mountains of evidence in forms of facts and logical interpretation.

Concluding that my country, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, is not and was not, by any stretch of the imagination “Alexander the Great's homeland”, adding that I as well as many of people of my kind think of themselves as Slavs, in opposition of the political imposition of twisted identity by some internal factors, including the Government, I kindly advice you to reinforce stricter standards of reporting, even if the subjects – from Australian perspective – may seem exotic. This is something you own your readers and an ethical duty you should adhere to because it is something good in itself.

Vasko Gligorijević

Skoplje, FYROM

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