Don't You FYROM Me!

In August 1903 Macedonian patriots rose against the Ottoman Empire. While they won Macedonian independence for only a limited time it was clear that Macedonian national consciousness was alive. Today there is a nonsensical "dispute" about the same land as Greece denies the right of the Republic of Macedonia to call itself by that name. In doing so Greece disregards the United Nations Charter's admonition that all people have the right to self-determination. Greece's stated basis for this "dispute" is that the Republic of Macedonia supposedly harbors "territorial ambitions" toward northern Greece. The Greek government also claims Macedonia misappropriates "Greek history." The Republic of Macedonia amended its constitution to unequivocally disclaim any "territorial ambitions" and it changed national symbols to remove "Greek" connections. But Greek government intransigence persists. The real reason for the "dispute" is that since Greece forcibly took possession of a large part of historical Macedonia following the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 it has denied the existence of the Macedonian people and ruthlessly pursued a policy of forced assimilation. These actions constitute genocide under the 1948 Genocide Convention (to which Greece is bound). Specifically, Greek governments have harassed, jailed and even tortured those who spoke Macedonian or otherwise practiced their cultural heritage. Greek governments also forcibly changed city names, family names, and even names on gravestones from their true Macedonian names to "Greek" ones. And, as documented in recent U.S. State Department Human Rights Reports, Greece has even denied entry into Greece to Macedonian citizens, born in Greece, but whose names are not "Greek" . Greece took these actions "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group"... by "[c]ausing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group" or "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part." (Genocide Convention, Article II.) An independent Macedonian state is anathema to Greece because it is an embarrassing reminder of Greece's failed attempts to wipe out the Macedonian people. This policy led to massive migrations of Macedonian-identifying people to the United States, Australia and Canada and, sadly, also to some Macedonians identifying themselves (at least publicly) as Greek. The international community has rejected Greece's heavyhanded position: more than 120 countries recognize the Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional name. In fact Greece's own top diplomat to the Republic of Macedonia, Dora Grosomanidou, stated on July 8 to the Financial Times that "Greece has to face the new reality, as the... Republic of Macedonia has been recognized under its constitutional name [Macedonia] by more than half of the members of the U.N." The Greek government sacked her the very next day. The claim that Macedonians are Bulgarians or Serbs is false and tellingly callous. Ethnographers and historians have concluded that Macedonians are a separate people. Greek claims also are undercut by historical Greek census data revealing the Macedonian language was spoken in northern Greece in the 1920s, counted separately from Bulgarian, Greek and Serbian. Furthermore, the Greek government in the late 1920s published, but later banned and burned, several thousand grammar books for Macedonian schoolchildren, written in Macedonian. The Republic of Macedonia has done more than enough to demonstrate it does not harbor claims on Greek territory. It is high time for Greece to act responsibly and cease its ugly gamesmanship aimed at covering up its misdeeds. It is only logical that those whose roots are in Macedonia should be able to identify as Macedonians.

1. Macedonia exists and its not in Greece