The ultranationalist regime of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO), an awkwardly and anachronistically named rightist political party of FYROM is likely to reach the zenith of its autocratic practices within the first quarter of 2009. The merciless wave of the Global economic crisis, although slightly curbed by measures in US and EU is likely to hit the economy of the small Balkan state throughout the winter, the period of the greatest expenditure of home budget. This will negatively adverse on Gruevski’s rating due to the prevalent mentality in FYROM that the government rather then the Free market is responsible for living standards ups and downs. Yet the reason for the fall from the grace are not to be sought in economy only. The expected withdrawal of support by official Washington after the takeover of Presidency by Barack Obama to Skoplje will add to the lost of support for government by the local Slavic population. The quite naive belief cherished internally that FYROM has a priority position in US Foreign policy on pair with Israel and South Korea, based on oil pipeline project and building of a CIA station of imposing capacity in Skoplje’s center, slowly fades within this small Balkan population of 1. 200. 000 indoctrinated for nearly two decades with belief of its exceptionalism and global importance.
So far, what remains is to assess the legacy of two years of VMRO’s reign of terror within the puppet-state. The most important aspect is the complete destruction of any possibility of good relationships, primarily with neighboring Greece (the name or rather, identity theft issue) and Serbia (the recognition of “Kosovo”). Relationships were uneasy with Bulgaria, regardless of the fact that the ruling VMRO also has a Bulgarian nationalist aspect. The only neighbors with which the young Balkan people has any substantial ties and mutual sympathies are Albania and Kosovo, although VMRO, representing FYROMian Slavs is in a state of latent civil war with its numerous ethnic Albanian population, numbering nearly 30% of the population. Unlike Serbia and Bulgaria, there are no Russophile thinkers in FYROM due to the fact that the population, termed “Macedonian” ceased to consider itself Slavic for a host of political and cultural reasons. Instead, it claims continuity with the Ancient Macedonians, a Greek tribe unrelated anthropologically, linguistically and cultural with present FYROMian population, inhabiting in antiquity mostly the region from southern borders of FYROM to the Aegean Sea around Greek port of Thessaloníki.
Turkey, an Asiatic power which enslaved FYROMian peoples for 500 years in a most brutal way imaginable is FYROM’s preferred strategic political and military partner in the wider region. Not much sense can be made from this absurd realpolitik except through the perspective of Pseudomacedonian “archaeological nationalism”. Reminiscent of Mussolini’s and Ceausescu’s grandomania, the practitioners of Pseudomacedonism put emphasis on revival of real or imagined ancient ancestral links via extensive public propaganda, sporting of ancient symbols, erection of forceful, imposing exemplars of architectural and plastic art evocative of glorious past, but out of place and any meaningful context.
The VMRO of today is not much unlike its predecessor, the historical VMRO (1893-1934). The Bulgarian terrorist organization created a fame in the world by being as ferocious in guerrilla warfare and assassination campaign against Serbia, later Yugoslavia as it was known for fratricidal campaigns for internal power. Based on income gathered by racketeering, VMRO integrated itself with the regular Bulgarian army in both Balkan wars (1912-13) and WWI, being responsible for the 1917 massacre in Toplica, Serbia, when 14.000 civilians were slaughtered by “komitadjiite”, the squad men of VMRO. Puzzled by the usage of terms “Macedonia” and “Macedonians” in organization’s document, younger generations of the “Makedonci” people erroneously think that this organization was centered around ethnic, categorical “Macedonism” segregated from Bulgarians and all other peoples, a notion rejected by the multitude of recorded statements and literature produced by members of the original VMRO. The name “Macedonian” is simply a Bulgarian subterfuge used to create impression of native character of the VMRO struggle and to reject accusation of Bulgarian irredentism. Such “Macedonian” character was cherished by VMRO groups operating in Communist Yugoslavia so that they could gain confidence of Anti-Communist governments which would lack if they proclaimed direct unification with Bulgaria, then a dogmatic Warsaw pact country, as a goal.
US Department of State initially classified VMRO, then an emergent “Macedonian” organization during 1990 as a terrorist organization, but it remains a mystery why that suitable label was withdrawn later. Today’s VMRO most staunchly defends a continuity with the historic VMRO, listing the friend and ally of Adolf Hitler and Ante Pavelic, the Bulgarian VMRO leader Ivan Mihailoff (1896-1990) as its ideological predecessor. Unlike other current and former terrorist organizations in Europe, whose strategists were subtle enough to create differently named civil wings for the purpose of negotiations and other political affairs, the fact remains that VMRO is the only authentic terrorist organization in power on European soil, albeit elected in a (quasi)democratic way.
The only significant difference which shapes the way modern-day VMRO articulates itself is that today, “komitadjii” have traded uniforms for suits, mountain shacks and caves for offices, donkeys for limousines. The Bulgarian core of the organization is evident on close inspection: while vast majority of its members, mislead by the atmosphere of decades-old, powerful, “Macedonizing” propaganda and especially its nebulous escalation, the “intellectual wing” is still “Crypto-Bulgarian”. One recalls the essayist and poetic phase of Antonio Milososki, current Minister of Foreign Affairs, marked by allusive, yet firm, often emotional Bulgarian patriotism. DRUM, a minor explicitly Bulgarian party led by A. Milenkovski and A. Čibišev was absorbed in VMRO-DPMNE in 2006, a process which failed to gather comments. Miroslav Rizinski, one of the unofficial leaders of the Skoplje‘s small right-wing Bulgarian element currently preoccupied with commemorations and anniversaries, was a high-ranking member of the current administration and member of VMRO-DPMNE regardless of his vehement denials of a “Macedonian” nation.
Crypto-Bulgarism, which manifest itself, curiosly, not with affirmative statements of Bulgarian ethnicity but with denial of non-Bulgarian ones, the absurd practice of “našisam“, (a territorial variant of nostrism which claim that every historical non-Muslim person born on soil of Geographic Macedonia regardless of actual ethnicity is “ours”–“naš“), thus, remains the spirit of the VMRO leadership. The repressed, or rather “auto-repressed” conscious Bulgarian element of FYROM, which numbers today perhaps about 200.000 people, mostly in Eastern FYROM, deserves its national emancipation. The current constellation of Crypto-Bulgarism for internal and “Ancient Macedonian” nationalism for external purposes, nevertheless, continues to exercise command in the realms of national and cultural politics. Without a “Macedonian” identity, the symbolism of sovereignty over municipalities in Western FYROM in which the Albanian element has not rarely an overt demographic majority would cease to exist. Indeed, “Macedonia for Macedonians”, if one agrees with the absurd notion that Slavs of FYROM are “Macedonians”, may sound logical. “Macedonia for Bulgarians”, however, is not exactly a slogan which can be stated to the world with a straight face. Just as somebody may leave his true identity in a confines of a bank in order to perform a fraud and then revert to one’s true person moments after, so the identity theft by Pseudomacedonians is designated to evoke sympathies of the public and governments of the Great powers. This trick was also employed by Tito’s Yugoslavia in order to propagate a myth of a “dismembered people” with a “lost and unredeemed homeland”. Taken to an extreme of farcical proportions by modern day nationalist in FYROM, it is the backbone of continuity of politics based on misinformation directed both inside and externally. This politics is aimed against Serbs of FYROM as well as those Slavs who are determined to remain non-Bulgarians. The former could react more directly if open, public program of Rebulgarisation ever becomes a reality. The later could join the Serbs and both could ask for secession in favor of Serbia. It is likely that the Pseudomacedonian political clique will attempt to homogenize the Serbophile and Serbian element within the broader “Macedonian” nation. The Pro-Serbian party has already been excluded from the public discourse about history and ethnicity which is replaced by the false dilemma of “Ancient Macedonism vs. Bulgarism”. The 160.000 strong Vlach group, residing chiefly within the Pelagonia region of southern FYROM, mostly semi-assimilated has been encouraged by the centers of power to create a nationalism of its own, separated from any Greek affinity of a type formerly prevalent among this community.
In retrospective it is easily to deduce that VMRO has all the characteristic of a fascist regime, not only in terms of conforming to historic political archetypes but also possessing peculiarities which, nevertheless, are perfectly explained with Fascism’s most ubiquitous feature: forced sacrifice of oneself to the altar of the Ethereal State via continuous reform imposed by the Top Leadership/the Big Government. Some formulaic and not so formulaic hallmarks of VMRO regime in FYROM:
Declared usage of a conservative-clerical model designed to impose social tranquility and complacency and to provide a social fabric based on units larger than the individual. Restriction on social drugs, alcohol, tobacco consumption.
Historicism, not only reminiscent to the types present in historical regimes of modern times, but of a more bizarre, eclectic, pompous type.
Effective modernization, sustained program of upgrading of the police and security agencies, without or with very liberal judicial mechanism of power control, insufficient to provide civilian control over this instrument of power. Spectacular overkill arrests of non-violent alleged criminals, with “accidentally” televised scenes of weapons and might display.
Grip on journalism through pressure, draconian laws and integration of the loyalist media into state’s giant megaphone. An extensive program of TV and magazine budget-payed advertising of the “successes” of the government, in essence a prolonged pre-election campaign.
Enforcement of a 1996 totalitarian law that forbids private research and foundation of private institutes and projects studying the identity cultures of peoples living within FYROM.
Politicization of groups of virile, ultra-nationalist young men (reserve troops, sport hooligans), making a standing Praetorian guard of them.
Nationalist-Clerical public primary education, obligatory in essence.
FYROM’s own Micro-Imperialism designed to dominate the North Aegean and to be dominated by USA, the later trend likely to be abolished from January 2009 onward.
While plenty in the development of internal relationships in FYROM remains to be seen and are yet to be studied, certain calls to actions come to the mind. It is clear that the individual will never have a peace of the mind in the vertically stratified command-type society of FYROM. The genocide of Bulgarians is the single greatest atrocity in FYROM, perpetrated by Pseudomacedonians, a number of which have Crypto-Bulgarian tendencies but the implementation of which is likely to prove itself fatal. Hellenism is the largest external victim of Pseudomacedonism: both as a colossal historical legacy and as a living reality, its symbols are expropriated zealously by Pseudomacedonians. The territorial pretension of FYROM against Greece are real, although they may seem in their preparatory phase as of now. The Slavs in general and the Serbs in particular are also threatened with their forced incorporation into the VMRO’s Big Brother State. What remains to be done?
As of now, no opposition worthy of name exist in FYROM. Public voices against the regime are rare. Hope remains that the world, drawing analogy between the consequences of actions undertaken by the doomed ideologies of the past, will awake. The world has an obligation to stop FYROM from being the trouble-maker of the Balkans and a source of major instability which could affect the wider region. The regime may implode, or even get overthrown by the dissatisfied masses. Yet apocalyptic scenarios are not necessary part of the solution-bringing equation. What is certain is that a long process of detoxification of entire FYROM must follow the fall of VMRO. Old politicians must be banned from any participation into politics. The educational system should be reformed, while the public culture sector should be privatized as much as possible and reformed. The collective delusion should be brought to an end through a public program. If reformist forces from within, ready to invest effort into the enterprise of DeVMROvisation, fail to be up to the task or even fail to appear, the International, primarily European Community should step in and impose order.
Only through a fall of Gruevski and his clique a full restoration of freedom-based values in FYROM may occur and fresh solution to the identity-crisis of the troubled Pseudomacedonian Balkan nation may be found. The one thing that is sure is that time is of essence and the time is getting late.