Bitola or Monastiri? ...Florina or Lerin? ...Istanbul or Constantinopoli?
October 30, 2007
A few days ago an incredible incident occurred in Niki/Negochani Florina/Lerin at the Greece and Republic of Macedonia border crossing.
An Australian citizen wishing to visit Greece was questioned by a Greek border guard at the Greek border crossing regarding his
destination to which the Australian replied “Lerin”, the Macedonian name for the city Florina. In a stern and loud voice, the
border guard again repeated the question to which the Australian again replied “Lerin”.
No sooner had the man finished speaking than he was summoned inside the office where he was questioned and body searched.
Frightened by the experience the young man asked if he could make a telephone call and called the Australian Consular office in Skopje.
About two hours later the Australian Consul arrived at the border crossing where he found the border guards very cooperative and polite.
Like magic they transformed into "angels" with the “please”, “thank you” and "no problem" sir as they paced back and forth from one
office to another.
At the Consul’s intervention the young man was released but he became disillusioned by his experience and no longer wanted to visit Greece.
These kind of incidents are a common occurrence especially with citizens from the Republic of Macedonia who wish to visit Greece and who
unknowingly or otherwise mention place names by their Macedonian names which they wish to visit.
Even people with visas have been denied entry and had their visa cancelled because they inadvertently or otherwise uttered a Macedonian
place name. Loss of a visa to some was not just an inconvenience to obtain another but a high price to pay as high as one-fifth of a
Certainly Greek citizens when visiting Bitola on occasion call the city Monastiri (a Greek name from Ottoman times) but no one objects or
creates problems for them. In fact Greece’s friendly neighbours have even put a sign at the entrance of the Greek Consular office in Bitola
on which the word “Monastiri” is written.
The same can be said about the Turks who certainly do not object to Greeks calling Istanbul “Constantinoupolis” when visiting there,
neither do they give them body searches or expose them to psychological torment.
Only through knowledge of different languages, toponyms and cultural varieties will we be able to achieve greatness for us and for our
In progressive democratic countries where a similar reality exists, authorities not only do not prohibit the use of native toponyms; do not
put foreign visitors who use local toponyms in whatever language they wish to speak through "drills", but they encourage and sometimes
legislate the use of double or triple names for toponyms as proof of respect for the culture and the people that identify with them.
Unfortunately in Greece we are still far, very far away from being progressive and democratic.
THE PRESS OFFICE
Political Party of the Macedonian Minority in Greece
Member of the European Free Alliance - European Political Party
Member of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (F.U.E.N.)
Stephanou Dragoumi 11
PO Box 51
53100 Florina, Greece
Tel/Fax: ++ 23850 46548