Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
MHRMC Response to National Geographic Article on the Balkans

To the Editor:

"The Balkans” map supplement was intended to provide a comprehensive analysis of an area in which ethnic tensions have frequently erupted into conflict. However, it only perpetuated the myths that have often been the source of these conflicts.

For example, National Geographic seems to adhere to the Greek position that this country is ethnically homogenous. It states that 98% of Greece is Greek, while offering an "explanation” that "Greece does not recognize ethnic divisions.” In reality, the government of Greece does not recognize ethnic minorities and practices a policy of forced assimilation. The human rights violations against this state's ethnic Macedonians, Turks and Roma (among others) have been well-documented by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Greek Helsinki Monitor, the U.S. Department of State and others. Furthermore, today's Greeks are described as having a "cultural identity [that] is securely rooted in a history that is 3000 years old…” It is this notion of cultural continuity and "purity” that has led to the intolerant attitude prevalent in Greek society today.

The analysis of the Republic of Macedonia begins by stating that it is "Named for the homeland of legendary Greek hero Alexander the Great.” Is it logical to suggest that one country be named after another country's hero? Considering the history of tension between Macedonia and Greece, much of which pertains to Macedonia's name, why would National Geographic make such an erroneous and inflammatory statement? Moreover, Alexander the Great was actually Macedonian and viewed by the ancient Greeks as a "barbarian” (foreigner).

In its description of the Macedonian people, National Geographic states that they "speak a language they call Macedonian.” What gives the editors the right to question the validity of the Macedonian language? It is internationally recognized and taught at universities worldwide. It is this non-recognition of the Macedonian language and the Macedonian nation that has led to incessant problems between Macedonia and its neighbours.

One would not expect these errors from a magazine such as National Geographic. It is your responsibility to publish a revised, balanced and accurate analysis of the Balkans, and its peoples, in a future issue.

Sincerely,

Bill Nicholov
Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada
Address: P.O. Box 44532, 2376 Eglinton Ave. East, Toronto, Canada M1K 5K3
Tel: 416-493-9555 Fax: 416-412-3385
E-mail: info@mhrmi.org Website: www.mhrmi.org