A Greek Name in Modern Usage
The Balkan Wars of 1912-13 freed Macedonia from Ottoman suzerainty. Its greater part—over 50 per cent of the former Ottoman Macedonian geographical region—was incorporated into the Kingdom of Greece, while the rest was split between Serbia (Yugoslavia) and Bulgaria by a forty-ten ratio respectively. A year later, in 1914, for the first time since classical antiquity, the term ‘Macedonia’ was employed by the Greek state to define once again an administrative region, which from a geographical point of view was essentially identical to the ancient Macedonian kingdom. The name ‘General Government of Macedonia’ (Geniki Dhioikisi Makedhonias) was retained almost throughout the Interwar period, and continued in use even during the German occupation from 1941 to 1944. After World War II, it was named ‘General Government of Northern Greece’, subdivided into the General Governments of Eastern, Western and Central Macedonia. These divisions were retained up to 1950, when they were subsumed into the Ministry of Northern Greece which added Thrace to its jurisdiction. In the early 1970s, the ‘General Government of Macedonia’ made a further brief reappearance, only to revert after a few years to the name ‘Ministry of Northern Greece’ (Ypourgeio Voreiou Elladhos). Since 1988, however, the Ministry of Northern Greece assumed its current name as the ‘Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace’. Earlier, in 1986, the regions of ‘Eastern’, ‘Western’ and ‘Central Macedonia’ were also created.
The existence of a Macedonian administrative entity within the framework of the Greek state, together with the long Greek Macedonian heritage, were contributory factors which consolidated the widespread use of the Macedonian name as a feature of the regional and cultural identity of the Greeks in Macedonia. Such use was not limited to Greek administrative bodies and public sector companies and organisations in Macedonia; it also spread to businesses, as well as cultural and other associations and every relevant event in the private sector originating in Macedonia.
At this point it is worth stressing that in contrast to Greek Macedonia, in the other two parts of Macedonian territory that came under the sovereignty of the neighbouring states, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, the term ‘Macedonia’ was never used to identify an administrative region in the respective countries. Indeed, the name chosen for the Yugoslav region between 1929 and 1939 was ‘Vardarska Banovina’. It was only after the end of World War II, i.e. some thirty years after Greece had extensively used the Macedonian name to identify its own province in the north, that the newly-established communist Yugoslav Federation chose, for its own political reasons, to set up a federative unit, the ‘People’s Republic of Macedonia’ (subsequently, ‘Socialist’).