Letter to the National Geographic Society, March 26, 1996

National Geographic Society
1145 17th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
To the Editor:

Although your March 1996 article on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) sheds considerable light on this country's internal problems, it nevertheless paints an inaccurate portrait of relations between Greece and FYROM.

Greeks and their "powerful" lobby in Washington did not force FYROM to accept this admittedly awkward name (p. 132). The name was proposed by the UN Security Council and accepted by representatives from both governments in 1993.

Nor has Greece ever harbored any "expansionist temptations" against this republic (p. 124). Quite the contrary, from 1946 to 1949 Tito's communist partisans, who were based in what is now FYROM, fought against Greek national forces during the Greek civil war in order to annex parts of northern Greece. It is precisely memories of this event that make Greeks understandably apprehensive when dealing with modern-day FYROM's expansionist overtures.

Moreover, it was expansionism into Greece's northern province of Macedonia that was the very raison d'etre of FYROM's creation and of Tito's decision to change the name of this Bulgarophonic region from Vardarska Banovina to "Macedonia". U.S. Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, a prime architect of the UN Charter, recognized this in 1944 when he issued a warning about "Yugoslav Partisan and other sources [disseminating] increasing propaganda, rumors and semi-official statements in favor of an autonomous Macedonia . . . with the implication that Greek territory would be included in the projected state . . . to be unjustified demagoguery representing no ethnic nor political reality, and sees in its present revival a possible cloak for aggressive intentions against Greece."

The key to resolving the dispute between Athens and Skopje is buried on page 124. The author states that inhabitants in Skopje trace their name to Alexander the Great, the legendary Greek conqueror who disseminated hellenic civilization throughout the an cient world, while tracing their ethnicity to the distinct and separate Slavs "who migrated into the southern Balkans a thousand years later." Athens' argument to Skopje has been the same all along: retain, foster and be proud of your Slavic identity, bu t compromise on a name that has nothing to do with who you are. Is that too much to ask?


Nikolaos Zahariadis
Professor of Political Science
State University of New York

[AHMP Home Page] [Announcements] [Media Alert!] [Recent Responses] [Responses by Source] [Responses by Topic]

HTML by the HR-Net Group / Hellenic Resources Institute, Inc.