Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
1930 photo of proud Macedonians in Zhelevo Aegean Macedonia annexed by Greece in 1913
Op-ed

I Am Not Brand New. I Am Macedonian.


Published in The Foreign Policy Journal, by Bill Nicholov, President, MHRMI

If the West's anti-Macedonian arguments were applied elsewhere, then the countries – and their people – that declared independence after the Iron Curtain fell would be deemed “brand new”. So, they didn't have a history before 1991. The Armenian genocide didn't occur because there were no Armenians. Nameless, non-existent sub-humans were slaughtered by the Turks. All Ukrainians were six years old when the famous “Ukraine is game to you” Seinfeld episode aired. Quite a big accomplishment having been given a starring role on the greatest TV show ever for a brand-new invented nationality.

So tell me why these ridiculous arguments are applied to Macedonia. The artificial “name dispute”, admittedly created by Greece to deny the existence, persecution (and ultimate eradication) of Macedonians, has been deemed a “diplomatic dispute” between the “brand-new” Republic of Macedonia and Greece, Europe's biggest violator of human rights. Greece wants the world to believe that its claim to Macedonia is “old” while Macedonia's claim to MACEDONIA is “new”. They want you to believe that the independence declaration of a country is the creation of a people.

To even indulge any of Greece's arguments is to enable the oppressor. Would you listen to anybody who denies that North American colonization brutalized First Nations cultures? Would you humour a Holocaust-denier? So why has the West allowed itself to be fooled into believing Greece?

Ignorance, for one. Willful ignorance, two. Greece vowed to veto Macedonia's NATO and EU membership unless it changed its name, so the United States and Western Europe decided to abandon everything that they claim to uphold – democratic principles, respect for human rights, and international law – in order to force through NATO membership for Macedonia.

Let's not forget though, that Bulgaria, Albania, and Serbia have all made claims to Macedonia, so how can Macedonia be Greek, Bulgarian, Albanian and Serbian all at once? This one is easy to remember – Macedonia is MACEDONIAN.

I shouldn't have to, but I'll elaborate. The world, oppressors included, acknowledge that Macedonia waspartitioned after the Balkan Wars of 1912/13 among the aforementioned countries. Each began campaigns aimed at wiping out any trace of Macedonia and Macedonians. Greece, ironically, was the loudest Macedonia-denier, until it executed a shocking propaganda switch in 1988 and decided to start claiming Macedonia's name. Of course, it still bellows about our non-existence as a people and strives to make that a reality...

So this is not a “dispute” between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece. It is cultural genocide against all of Macedonia and all Macedonians. The Western-imposed “Prespa Agreement” (that nobody agreed to) changes Macedonia's name to "North Macedonia" and denies Macedonians' rights to our own identity. Article 7(2) hands over the term “Macedonia” to Greece. Article 8(5) mandates that a panel of Greek diplomats rewrite Macedonian history and that Macedonian textbooks be rewritten. Put yourself in our shoes. Try telling me that I'm suddenly a "North Macedonian". And stop pretending that the birth of a nation-state is the birth of a nation.

But where were Greece's claims to Macedonia before 1988? Nowhere. Greece removed any reference to Macedonia after its annexation of Macedonian territory. The newly-acquired land was renamed “Northern Greece” and one could not dare utter the “M” word without facing dire consequences – including another “M” word – murder. And think about this for a second: Macedonian folk songs are filled with references to the tragic partition and brutalization of our land and people. At my wedding, my friends joked with me that every song seemed to have the word “Macedonia” in it. Yet, not one Greek folk song even mentions Macedonia. If Macedonia was “always Greek”, I guarantee you that Greece's superiority complex would make sure you “knew it” in every way possible. Growing up in Toronto, all Macedonians ever heard from Greeks is “there’s no such thing as Macedonia”. It is Greece's claim to Macedonia that is brand new – not Macedonia's rightful claim to our own name.

I think you get the point, but here are a few more tragically “fun facts”:

  • Upon annexation of Macedonian territory, Greece changed the names of all Macedonian people, villages and cities into Greek through Decree No. 332/1926 and Law No. 87/1936. All of Macedonia had been under ruthless foreign occupation hundreds of years prior, yet all names remained Macedonian. So if Macedonia was “always Greek”, these names would have already been Greek.
  • When Macedonian immigrants began arriving in North America in the late 1800s, their Ellis Island and Pier 21 documents stated MACEDONIAN as their nationality despite still being under Ottoman occupation. The "Prespa Agreement" would have people rushing to Staples to see if Liquid Paper is still sold in 2019 so “Macedonian” can be replaced with something else...
  • My great-grandfather was born in 1903 under Turkish occupation. He stayed Macedonian under Greek occupation. He remained Macedonian when he moved to Canada. No amount of Western-enabled Greek (and Bulgarian) persecution should, or can, rewrite history and change who he always was – and who we are.

And my 96-year old grandmother. I recently visited her in the hospital, where she has, thankfully, recovered from an illness. She was trying to speak English to the staff, the exact same way she always has – broken and charming. She told the doctor that he is “good boys” (yes, plural); she told one of the nurses, “You good girl”; and another one who was leaving a few hours later, “I miss you too much”, even though she was still there. They all called her “Baba” (Macedonian for “grandmother”). As my Baba always says, “Site me milve” ("everybody loves me"). I get my slight overconfidence problem from her. (Is that really a problem?) So how would you like to tell her that all the hardship she endured at the hands of Greek oppressors - simply for being Macedonian - is now being erased and she is being given a new identity?Hit me up on Twitter and we'll set something up.

I get my pride in being Macedonian from my Baba, my parents and all of my ancestors. I get my drive to save my ethnic group from...actually, wouldn’t you have the same drive if your ethnic group was being eradicated? Help us. I would – and have – helped you. Our Name Is Macedonia. Join us in defending it.

Bill Nicholov, President
Macedonian Human Rights Movement International