Tag Archives: Policy

Antifascist, Anti-VMRO Demonstrations by Liberal Youth in Skoplje [11-IV-2009]

A display of opposition by antifascist youth composed of moderate, centrist, liberal and libertarian intellectuals in defiance of Pseudomacedonian fascist policies of the regime of VMRO-DPMNE.

VMRO Reign in FYROM: Europe’s Last Fascists

nikolagruevski1The 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:

  1. 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.

  2. Historicism, not only reminiscent to the types present in historical regimes of modern times, but of a more bizarre, eclectic, pompous type.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Politicization of groups of virile, ultra-nationalist young men (reserve troops, sport hooligans), making a standing Praetorian guard of them.

  7. Nationalist-Clerical public primary education, obligatory in essence.

  8. 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.

FYROM: How a Lie was Imposed as a Supreme Reality

nikolagruevskiThe nominally “Macedonian” nation of FYROM emerged as a byproduct of Yugoslavia’s dissolution in the 1990’s and suffered a major transformation of the internal relationships after the US-supported uprising of its Albanian population in 2001 which led to a de facto confederalization of the country. As of late 2008, it is led by the charismatic ex-boxer Nikola Gruevski surrounded by a clique of young politicians. Plagued by chronic unemployment standing at the rate of 35%, with economy characterized by collapsing light industry based on primitive technologies and decaying public infrastructure, the nationalistic government of VMRO-DPMNE failed to attract any substantial foreign investments. Most of its economic policies failed to raise the public standard based on average salary of barely 300 USD. At the same time analysts predict that the consequences of the Global financial crisis are yet to strike FYROM, raising the issue of further deterioration of the prospects for decent livelihood.

The main-although progressively marginalized ethnic group-in FYROM are the “Macedonians”, a nation postulated by the Communist internationale in 1934 and created by policies of Josip Broz, Communist’s Yugoslavia strongman after 1944. A basic historical review of their ethnicity reveals that prior to 1941, when the Bulgarian army, invading the remains of royalist Yugoslavia, was greeted euphorically by the local population, this population considered itself Bulgarian and led a combined struggle of civil disobedience and guerrilla warfare against Belgrade in order to achieve either annexation to Bulgaria or a transitional autonomous state with Bulgarian preeminence. Further exploration of the past reveals an ubiquitously attested in historical sources Bulgarian character, an impression complemented with the peculiar character of the local Slavic language which shares features with standard and dialectal forms of the Bulgarian language proper which set it quite radically apart from all Slavic languages. While this ethnic group to a various degrees assimilated in the last two centuries a certain number of Serbs and Vlach/Aromanians (the latter having historically a Greek consciousness), this is almost irrelevant to its ethnological and linguistic qualities which are almost identical as the Bulgarian vernacular.

The other large population in FYROM is the Albanian. Compromised from descendants of the Paleobalkan ethnic group of Dardanians which was to a certain extent influenced by Roman culture and Latin language and which took refuge in the mountains of present-day north Albania (“Ghegnia”) in late antiquity/early middle ages, the Albanians which converted to Islam under Ottoman rule spread to Kosovo and western FYROM in 17th and 18th centuries. Today, in FYROM, they number near 600. 000, with a compact presence in the towns of Tetovo, Gostivar and Debar and representing a significant population in Skoplje, Kumanovo, Kičevo and Struga. Cherishing an archaic formalized code of conduct based on family and clan loyalty, ethos of reciprocity and obligation, Albanians have been historically more successful than the Bulgarians/”Macedonians” in preservation of means of private entrepreneurship and achieving a more vertical socio-economic stratification coupled with elaborated social network designed to minimize contact with the “Macedonian” non-Muslim population.

Among both the “Macedonians” and the Albanians, collectivist, anti-individualist attitude is deep-seated. Within the daily affairs of both ethnic groups there is a strong reverence for authority and hierarchy. The notion of “state”, a concept held identical with the actual government, which has to be obeyed and respected and which represent the supreme reality in which any individuality is lost is particularity prominent among the “Macedonians” having its root in their quite recent and long-lasting premodern feudal historical phase. It is no wonder that having realized that after the 2001 conflict and the subsequent signing of the Ohrid Agreement they lost the privileged status and that both factually and symbolically they cannot cherish the FYROMian state as their own, the elite of the “Macedonians”, realizing that any confrontation with the Albanian factor would be too dangerous, designed a national idea with the purpose of keeping the wider “Macedonian” public mobilized against non-issues. This recent idea is composed of the recycled concept of “Macedonian autonomism”-Bulgarian idea that that any initiative of the Slavs of Geographic Macedonia has to be labeled “Macedonian” in order to gain sympathies by deciding external political factors and the concept of “Ancient Macedonism”, the idea that the Slavs of FYROM are direct descendants of Ancient Macedonians.

The idea of “Macedonian autonomism” needs no further explanation of its perfidiousness and absurdity. Regardless of the trick character of the concept it still remains a doctrine of the Bulgarian nationalist originating from FYROM: The Bulgarians of Geographic Macedonia should claim that although their singular ethnic identity is the Bulgarian one they are, nevertheless, the exclusive Macedonians. As late as 1960’s this doctrine was restated by the leader of VMRO Ivan Mihailoff with the words “the name Macedonia should be preserved because it is a thorn in the eyes of Greeks and Serbs”.

The enormous success of the idea of “Ancient Macedonian continuity”, which originated among the most primitive sections of FYRO Macedonian emigration in 1970’s (in Sweden, Australia and Canada) needs careful analysis. Although the fallacy of the crude ethnogenetic theory which claims that the “Macedonians” of FYROM and elsewhere speak the tongue of Phillip II and Alexander the Great and that their customs, folklore and other aspects of the culture are either intact or evolved form of the civilization of Ancient Macedon is quite easy refutable, this is not the case in the current conditions under which the national discourse articulates itself in FYROM.

Briefly, Ancient Macedonians were a Greek entity with Greek ethnic name, using exclusively a Greek Doric dialect and later Koine Greek and practicing the same Olympian religion with the rest of the Greek. Ancient Macedonians participated at the Olympic Games, where only Greek were allowed to compete and had theaters on the soil of Macedon, an uniquely Greek concept. All names of Macedonians (with several exceptions) are Greek as confirmed by their Greek etymology. Conclusive to 2008, no scholar outside FYROM has even remotely claimed that the language and culture of Ancient Macedonians are an ancestral type of the present-day FYRO Macedonians, which are descendants of Slavs, an ethnic group originating from North-East Europe. Slavs settled the Balkans from 5th to 7th century and the FYRO Macedonian tribes were homogenized under the rule of the Turkic horsemen tribe of Bulgarians. These Slavs never called themselves “Macedonians”, while Byzantine, Bulgarian, Serbian, Ottoman sources as well as western travelers and others failed to furnish any reference to a “Macedonian” ethnic group prior to late 19th century.

The issue of the ethnic, cultural and linguistic nature of the Ancient Macedonians deserves a wider and detailed expose, referenced and structured according to the scientific method. However, in light of the present state of knowledge, based on the enormous archaeological wealth and a plethora of historic sources, modern historiography universally accepts the conclusion that Ancient Macedonians were Greeks. The key issue with regard to the “Macedonian” nationalism is how the opposite and improbable conclusion could became a “valid” and all-pervading form of public discourse and the root of national self-identification.

The problems arouse with the way in which the totalitarian VMRO-DPMNE government energized the masses among which the national confusion brought by media exposure of contradictory data grew. Firstly, it reactivated the conflict with Greece by multitude of irredentist moves. Secondly, within FYROM it carried massive policy of introduction of Ancient Macedonian symbols (names of institutions, statues) after the expected and natural Greek negative reaction. The population, feeling threatened, mistook the attitude of aggressive “Macedonization” sponsored by the government as “defiance” against a hostile state (the hostility of which was precisely provoked by FYROM’s initial provocations). Capitalizing on the fact that the vast majority of the general population does not have neither a capability nor a will for sustained scientific research regarding ethnology, history and linguistics, the government managed to capture attention of the whole body of citizens. One can presume that the sheer authority the organized government yields in a conformist society where libertarian principles of critical thinking and individual self-reliance regarding the process of opinion-forming are practically absent is sufficient to impose an entirely absurd idea of identity. In FYROM it is unchallenged by organized bodies from which a better knowledge of the true state of affairs might be expected, including universities, institutes, museums etc. With the sole exception of Internet, all electronic and printed media are participants in government’s monopoly over identity dogmas. Only few individual voices of distaste and revolt against the lies have insofar voiced their concerns (Denko Maleski, Petar Hr. Ilievski) but they got a hostile, unsympathetic public response.

While the prospect of organized challenge of the pro-governmental stances regarding the identity issues is something expected given the conventional political dynamics within pluralist societies, this is not quite a case. Nikola Gruevski achieved dominance of his party by calling premature elections in 2008 at the time of peak in the approval rating of his first mandate caused by populist measures. That gave him an unprecedented might against which FYROM has no institutionalized mechanisms of control. Furthermore, in a state of affairs whereby the larger part of the Slavs have abandoned their Bulgarian and Serbian culture in belief that they represent a separate ancient ethnicity in a category of its own, creators of the policy of the opposition (led by the leftist SDSM party) must carefully measure their words of opposition to the lavish Pseudomacedonian rhetorics, since they may be branded as “traitors” given the appropriate circumstances. Consequently, in such occasion they would find themselves ostracized from the ongoing debate.

This leads to the conclusion that the solution to the Pseudomacedonian hysteria which totally dominates public life in FYROM is not only confined to the change in the internal situation which may come as a result of economic collapse or a full-scale civil war, but also from strong pressure from outside which would enable FYROM to conform itself to reality and to rational way of conducting cultural policy. The reign of VMRO-DPMNE, characterized by collectivist, group-centered policies, extensive role of the police in society, new legislature sponsoring religious education, subsidizing biological procreation with wealth redistribution, enforcing ethics of service to the “common good”, emphasizing the feral, folklorist and medieval aspects of local national culture in opposition to modern as well as apolitical high culture, is the greatest political catastrophe FYROM faces in early 21st century. A hope remains that the Slavs of FYROM will reject the artificial and overbearing attempts to instill a connection with chronologically and ethnically distant Greek kingdom as well as to make history the most important aspect of their everyday lives. Only through enduring action from within and from abroad the local state-worshiping, centrally-planned tribal way of life may be liquidated and replaced with a political system based on freedom, a change which will forever put the era of Pseudomacedonism behind, as a doomed ideology based on lies.

Vasko Gligorijević

Skoplje, FYROM