1 Δεκ 2014

Macedonia for foreigners

Έλαβα τις προάλλες ένα μήνυμα από έναν πολύ αγαπητό μου φίλο από την Αμερική, μορφωμένο αλλά τελείως άσχετο με τα Βαλκανικά πράγματα, με το εξής περιεχόμενο:

Somebody in my office is from Macedonia.  How is Macedonian related to Greek?
Can you read of speak Macedonian?
Was Salonica ever part of Macedonia?

Έκατσα και του έγραψα μια κάπως εκτενή απάντηση, που ίσως μπορεί να χρησιμέψει σε όσους αντιμετωπίζουν καλόπιστες ερωτήσεις αγγλόφωνων ή αγγλομαθών ξένων σχετικά με το Μακεδονικό, γι'αυτό και την παραθέτω κι εδώ.

With your innocent question about Macedonia you have just opened a BIG can of worms. Sit back and prepare for a longish explanation.

In ancient times, Macedonia was the name of a kingdom north of Mt. Olympus, which certainly included the area where Salonica was built around 300 B.C. Whether its inhabitants were Greek is a controversial question, though modern evidence points to the affirmative. What is certain is that it was under very strong Greek cultural influence: the official language of the court and the only language used in writing was Greek, indeed Attic Greek (i.e. the variety spoken in Athens, not some local dialect), the reigning dynasty traced its ancestry back to the kings of Argos, and the great Athenian playwright Euripides spent his later years there, writing and staging plays for the court - which must therefore have been in a position to appreciate them.

Ancient Macedonia hardly interacted with Southern Greece until the time of King Philip, in the 4th century B.C. Philip got himself involved in inter-Greek wars, and after his death, his son Alexander the Great (who had had Aristotle as his teacher) conquered all of Greece and went on to build an empire extending from Egypt to Pakistan. And there is no question that it was the GREEK language and culture that he brought to these lands. Which is why, when the matter comes up, I like to say that "Alexander the Great was every bit as Greek as Napoleon was French." (After all, Corsica had been sold to France only a few years before Napoleon's birth, and his mother Letizia only barely spoke French!)

In the Hellenistic world that emerged from Alexander's conquests, the ancient Macedonians disappeared as a distinct people (as did the Phrygians, Lydians etc. and indeed also the ancient Greek tribes such as the Dorians, Aeolians and Ionians), merging into the Greek nation. The word "Macedonia" remained in use as a geographic term, denoting the region extending from Mt. Olympus northwards.

In the Middle Ages, Slavic tribes invaded the Balkans, settling all over the place (even in Southern Greece), including in Macedonia, though the cities - notably Salonica - remained Greek. South of Mt. Olympus they were gradually hellenized, so that no identifiable Slavic populations remained in modern times, even though the Peloponnesus (the big peninsula SW of Athens) is still full of Slavic place names. North of Mt. Olympus, the population remained ethnically mixed, and became even more so with the arrival of the Turks (who conquered most of the Balkans and even pushed as far as Vienna in 1529!) and the Spanish Jews (who formed a majority in 19th-century Salonica), not to mention the Vlachs, who are a whole different story, which I will spare you this time. This is why in Italian and certain other languages "macedonia" also means a mixed salad!

In modern times, as the various Balkan nations began to form (Greece became independent in 1830, Serbia had achieved independence even earlier, Bulgarian national consciousness developed extremely fast around the middle of the 19th century), they all laid claims on the geographic area still belonging to the Ottoman Empire and known to Western geographers as Macedonia (the areas east and west of it, up to the Adriatic and the Black Sea respectively, were known as Epirus and Thrace). Following a successful war in 1878, Russia imposed on Ottoman Turkey the Treaty of San Stefano, whereby an independent Kingdom of Bulgaria was to be set up that would incorporate all of Macedonia. The other great powers of the time refused to let Russia create such a huge client state and forced a revision of that treaty, whereby the area of the new kingdom was sharply curtailed and Macedonia remained under Ottoman rule. Bulgarians have been dreaming of San Stefano's Great Bulgaria ever since...

There followed a long struggle, which ultimately turned viciously violent, between Bulgaria and Greece (and Serbia) for the hearts and minds of the Slavic-speaking Christians of Macedonia. An unexpected result of that struggle was the emergence of a movement that claimed "Macedonia for the Macedonians" - which even started an ill-fated insurrection in 1903. Greeks believe that that was merely a front for Bulgarian expansionism, and that the "Autonomous Macedonia" they called for would promptly be annexed by Bulgaria (as had happened in 1885 to another autonomous entity set up by the revision of the Treaty of San Stefano); but there is no doubt that this also marked the emergence of a separate national consciousness among SOME Macedonian Slavs. In 1912-13, an alliance of Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria (and Montenegro) attacked Turkey and conquered all of Macedonia, which they divided among themselves. As they quarreled about the spoils, Greece and Serbia teamed up on Bulgaria and in a short but viciously fought war drastically reduced its share. Hoping to recover Macedonian (and Thracian) territory, Bulgaria joined the German side in World War I, and thus ended up losing even more land. They repeated that attempt in World War II, again finding themselves on the losing side (though, curiously enough, finally rewarded with a slice of Rumanian territory). Thus the geographical region called Macedonia was carved up between Greece (main city: Salonica) and Serbia (main city: Skopje), with a small part going to Bulgaria.

Greece went on to try and liberate/conquer more Turkish territory in the aftermath of World War I, but failed disastrously. The peace treaty that followed provided for a compulsory exchange of populations between the two countries: thus Greece got rid of most of its Moslems (Thracian Moslems were allowed to remain), but had to accommodate 1.5 million Greek refugees, who were mostly settled in Greek Macedonia. Thus, its population was very largely hellenized. (There was also a semi-voluntary exchange of minorities with Bulgaria).

Unfortunately for Serbia, there were hardly any Serbians in the part of Macedonia it had conquered. The Government tried to persuade the Slavic locals that they were "South Serbians", but met with rather little success, and the local population welcomed Bulgarian occupation in both World Wars. When Tito reorganized Yugoslavia on a federal basis in 1944, he elevated the local Slavic population to the status of a nation, equal in principle to the other nations of Yugoslavia (Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, to which the "Moslems" of Bosnia-Hercegovina were later added), which he called "Macedonians"; and their territory became the "Socialist Republic of Macedonia", with, as its official language, a literary norm based on the local dialects, which was named "Macedonian" (and which is very close to Bulgarian, despite deliberate efforts to maximize the differences).

This created a most unfortunate ambiguity, which was doubtlessly deliberate: if there is a "Macedonian" nation with its own language, which has attained statehood within Yugoslavia, then the people of Greek (and Bulgarian) Macedonia are an enslaved minority, awaiting its liberation/reunion with the motherland! This is utterly false - the overwhelming majority of the population of Greek Macedonia is Greek - but is often maintained, explicitly or covertly, by ex-Yugoslav Macedonian circles to this day. Which is why Greece has been bitterly (and sometimes stupidly) opposed to the international recognition of the Republic of Macedonia (independent since the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991) under that name.

To conclude: if your colleague says he is "Macedonian", he is most probably a Macedonian Slav, from the formerly Yugoslav "Republic of Macedonia". A Greek, talking to a non-Greek, would simply say he was Greek, and only if questioned about his district of origin might specify that he was Macedonian (i.e. from the Greek province of Macedonia, whose capital is Salonica and whose population, including my wife's parents, largely came from what is now Turkey in 1922). I don't speak or understand the language called Macedonian, which is very close to Bulgarian. And Salonica was never a part of a COUNTRY called Macedonia, though for over 2000 years it has been the main city in the geographical region by that name.

9 Οκτ 2014


Κουιζ (ακατάλληλον δι' ανηλίκους):
Κοιτάξτε εδώ και προσπαθήστε να μαντέψτε πώς προέκυψε ο ελληνικός τίτλος.
Ο όλος ιστότοπος είναι περιβόλι, τουλάχιστον στην ελληνική του έκδοση. Κάντε μια αναζήτηση με σχεδόν οποιαδήποτε από τις λέξεις που λέγονται μεν καθημερινώς αλλά δεν γράφονται σε ευπρεπή ιστολόγια (κοιτάξτε π.χ. εδώ ή εδώ -- αργεί καμιά φορά, οπότε περιμένετε λίγο) και όλο κάτι  θα βρείτε. Γελωτοθεραπεία εξασφαλισμένη!

6 Ιουλ 2014

Λύκε, Λύκε, είσαι εδώ;

Έστω και χωρίς την άδεια του σκιτσογράφου ή των εκδοτών, δεν αντέχω να μην αναδημοσιεύσω εδώ την υπέροχη γελοιογραφία του Πάνου Ζάχαρη από το "Ποντίκι"  της 22ας Μαΐου 2014, την οποία πρωτοείδα... σε γαλλικό νεοφιλελεύθερο ιστότοπο:

Πηγή: http://www.topontiki.gr/skitsografies/75122?sg=%CE%A0%CE%91%CE%9D%CE%9F%CE%A3%20%CE%96%CE%91%CE%A7%CE%91%CE%A1%CE%97%CE%A3