Learning from history

Reading the past and going back to ancient material can be a very positive and useful exercise, especially when engaged in at just the right moment. Now is a good time to revisit what was said in the Express newspaper on 28 October 1995, while also remembering comparable events which were viewed very differently then, both by the international community and by the communities who were directly affected.

  • After the end of the First World War, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire crumbled, the country we now know as Austria applied to join the League of Nations (now United Nations*) under the name of ‘German Democracy of Austria’. The application was rejected because it was considered that use of the adjective ‘German’ was an affront to the existing state of Germany. In the end the country became a member of the United Nations under the name Austria.
  • The European Economic Community (EEC) was founded in 1957, consisting of the six member states of France, Belgium, Italy, Holland, Luxembourg and West Germany. The EEC (now European Union) rejected the request for membership by Great Britain after France appealed against it, on the grounds that there was a French province named Brittany immediately to the south of England, albeit separated by the English Channel. So England withdrew its application, and then entered the EEC/EU on 1 January 1973, at the same time as Denmark and Ireland, under its new official name of United Kingdom. In 1983 Greece joined the EEC/EU as its tenth member state.

  • Slovenia, along with Croatia, was recognised as an independent state by the European Union on 15 January 1992, and on 22 May it became a member state. Slovenia then issued its currency, as it had every right to do. However, it made a mistake in the emblem it chose – not in this case the star of Vergina, but an Austrian imperial throne. Austria reacted in the strongest terms, even threatening to declare war on Slovenia if it did not immediately withdraw the banknote in question from circulation. And of course, Slovenia withdrew it. To be honest, I’m not sure whether there are Austrian citizens who would have said the kind of things some of us would have said, but still.

  • According to unverified sources, when General de Gaulle visited French Quebec in Canada, as soon as his foot touched the ground he shouted: ‘Long live French Quebec!’ As the story goes, he was immediately ushered away by security, and within five minutes he had been informed that he had to leave Canada within the next ten minutes. They certainly paid attention to correctness.

Dear readers, in recalling these events it is not my intention to provoke your anger. However, those who know about them are right to be enraged by the things that are happening and are being perpetrated against us, above all the unjustifiable and incomprehensible tolerance and indifference that are shown towards much graver and more critical circumstances than those listed above, circumstances which clearly threaten values which are of vital importance to us. It is unfortunate that those of us who defend those values are mocked and derided, ironically given the nickname ‘Hellinarades’ (‘Greater Greeks’). To all those ‘godfathers’ who taunt us in this way, I’d like to declare that I am no nationalist in the sense that they would use the word, but I am simply a true Macedonian patriot who respects history and loves his homeland.

Map of Macedonia

The silence of the Bulgarians, the cunning of the Skopians, 
and the  .....   ‘superiority’ of the Greeks.

It is not possible – at least not without serious consequences – for a state to exist alongside a geographically ancient region of the same name, especially when the state in question is poorer in terms of its territorial expanse, the purity of its population, its cultural past and the historical development of its heterogeneous population.

* The United Nations Charter was signed on 26 June and came into force on 24 October 1945, ratified by the five permanent members of the Security Council.

Published in Greek in "The Monthly Pontian International Newspaper" on Oct 20th, 2005.

London 2006

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