Greece Doesn’t Like Macedonia’s Name. We Have Ideas for a New One.
For more than two decades Greece has asked Macedonia to change its name. Is now when it will finally happen?
For 24 long years, the mere existence of the Republic of Macedonia has infuriated Greeks who claim its neighbor’s name was stolen from the Greek province that borders Macedonia to the south.
And it’s not just a passing tiff: The argument is part of Greece’s ongoing refusal to allow Macedonia into the European Union and NATO. And even the United Nations will only refer to the tiny country as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Now, after nearly a quarter-century of dispute, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is willing to consider a name change. “We are ready to discuss, to open dialogue with them, and to find some solution,” Gruevski told the Guardian.
Macedonia chose its name after it broke away from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. Aside from the name, Greece has aired other grievances about Macedonia’s tendency to copycat its southern neighbor.
Greek officials claim Macedonians have routinely stolen a number of Greek cultural icons for their own benefit, including the use of a Greek sun symbol in the Macedonian flag, and naming the main Macedonian airport, in Skopje, after Alexander the Great.
But even if there’s no talk yet of changing the flag or airport, the possibility Macedonia would rename itself is groundbreaking enough.
On Thursday, Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki will visit Athens for a rare meeting with Greek officials. Ahead of his trip, he told a leading Greek newspaper that “conditions are more than ripe” for the name change to happen soon. And Gruveski made clear to the Guardian he would like to find a solution as soon as possible. “If we find a solution, we have to go to the citizens and organize a referendum,” he said.
Just what the new name would be remains unclear. In an attempt to ease the process along for Macedonia and Greece, Foreign Policy has come up with a few suggestions:
Land of Ostentatious and Ripped-Off Monuments
Greece isn’t the only country where Macedonia seeks inspiration for its own cultural landmarks. Sure, there may be a massive statue of Alexander the Great in the capital’s central square, and the airport as well as many hotels may be named after him. But there is also a small Arc de Triomphe and Brandenburg Gate look-alike in downtown, making the capital look a bit more like Disney World’s Epcot than anything else.
This one is self-explanatory, but not so highly recommended. After all, if Greece is already mad about the airport, how would Athens feel if the entire country was officially named after him?
Mother Teresa was born in Skopje, and there’s even an outline on a road near the city center that’s supposed to be where her house once stood. But here’s the catch: She was an ethnic Albanian, an identity Macedonians don’t always appreciate — even if the person in question is on the road to sainthood.
Plus, Albania’s main airport is named Mother Teresa. Is that just asking for another conflict?
Macedonia is home to a volcano near the city of Ohrid. Its biggest claim to fame? It causes the surrounding area to reek of rotten eggs.
The Hard One
One of Macedonia’s most popular dances, which is traditionally performed by men, is called the “teshkoto.” In English, that translates to “The Hard One.” In Macedonia, it is meant to symbolize the struggle men experience when they travel away from home to earn money.
Photo Credit: SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images