The first steps of the former Yugoslav "Socialist Republic of Macedonia" towards independent statehood bear the marks of nationalistic visions mixed with territorial expansionism.
It is not a coincidence that, as a result of the first democratic elections (December 1990), the party which won first place in popular votes and parliamentary seats was the "Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation" (VMRO). Its platform declared specifically its intention to work for the unification of all the Macedonian lands in one state: the "Republic of Macedonia".
Similarly, VMRO's electoral poster depicted a map of a united Macedonia which included the whole of Greek Macedonia, as well as the Pirin district in Bulgaria.
In November 1993, under the influence of nationalists, the Gligorov government prepared and passed through Parliament the Constitution of the "Republic of Macedonia". In its preamble, the Consh-tution stated that the new republic rests upon "the statehoodlegal traditions" of the "Republic of Krushevo" (1903) and of ASNOM (1944). Both events are considered in Stopje as the first steps toward the establishment of an independent and united Macedonian state. It is worth quoting certain paragraphs from the ASNOM documents of August 21, 1944:
"Macedonians under Bulgaria and Greece,
...The unification of the entire Macedonian people depends on your participation in the gigantic anti-fascist front. Only by fighting the vile fascist occupier will you gain your right to self-determination and unification of the entire Macedonian people within the framework of Tito's Yugoslavia, which has become a free community of emancipated and equal people. May the struggle of the Macedonian Piedmont incite you to even bolder combat against the fascist oppressors!"
And in a Proclamation to the people of Macedonia issued on August 4, 1944, it was stated:
"...In the course of three years of combat you have achieved your unity, developed your army,: and laid the basis for the federal Macedonian state. With the participation of the entire Macedonian nation in the struggle against the fascist occupiers of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Greece you will achieve unification of all parts of Macedonia, divided in 1915 and 1918 by Balkan imperialists" .
To popularise these visions, official or semi-official agencies and private enterprises in FYROM put in circulation all kinds of maps, calendars, car stickers, posters depicting the "homeland" of Skopje's "Macedonians" ;-not within the borders of FYROM but all the way to the Aegean coast, the city of Thessaloniki and Mt. Olympus! This is happening not in 1903 or 1944, but in 1992, 1993, 1994.
More ominous for the future was the publication of identical maps and texts of a similar mentality in the new school textbooks of history, published by President Gligorov's Ministry of Education in 1992-1993.
Thus, in no uncertain terms, it becomes clear that the new state was launched, from the very beginning, on a course of territorial expansionism.
At a closer look, one can observe certain striking similarities of the aims of present-day FYROM nationalists and those of the Bulgarian revolutionaries at the turn of the 19th century in Ottoman-held Macedonia; or those of the Bulgarian fascists during the Second World War; or, finally, of the Yugoslav communists during the first post-World War II years.
In all cases, the vision of terroristsguerillas-political activists wasand continues to beidentical: to unite all Macedonian lands into a unified entity, despite the different ethnological composition of these lands. Where these fighters or activists differed was their choice of the beneficiary. In the late l9th century and all the way to the Second World War, the aspiring beneficiary was nationalist or fascist Bulgaria. Later, it was Tito's communist Yugoslavia. Now, it is Gligorov'sor his successor's"democratic" FYROM.
Under the circumstances, one could hardly blame the Greeks, particularly those of the northern Greek provinces, if they view suspiciously the nationalistic claims of a new-born state in their backyard. After all, in the span of this century, they have experienced two foreign occupations and one Civil War, supported by neighbouring countries coveting Greek Macedonia and Thrace.
Let us take a glimpse at some not too distant historical events.
During the First World War, Bulgaria attempted to annex the Macedonian regions of her neighbours, Greece and Serbia, by espousing the cause of the Central Powers and Turkey. Indeed, with the support of Kaizer's Germany it managed to occupy Greek Eastern Macedonia where ethnic cleansing-type tactics were applied against the Greek population. The defeat of Germany and Austria-Hungary terminated Bulgarian occupation. Having failed to annex the coveted territory,- Bulgaria subsequently sought to promote the idea of an autonomous Macedonian state.
Once again, during the second World War, Bulgaria, allied to nazi Germany and fascist Italy, was given in exchange the right to occupy large parts of Greek Macedonia and Thrace all the way to the Aegean coast. Bulgarian occupation authorities, benefiting by World War I experiences, reverted to their familiar policy of ethnic cleansing. The collapse of the Axis terminated the second Bulgarian occupation of Greek Macedonia (19411944).
It is interesting to note that this was not only the policy of the Bulgarian ruling elites of the time, but also that of the Bulgarian Communist Party. It is a fact that during the interwar period, the Soviet Union under Stalin endorsed a proposal by Bulgarian Communists for a united and independent Macedonian state in the framework of a Balkan Communist Federation.
In 1944, it was Tito's turn, who set up the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia. The federal form of the state was meant to solve the problem of quarrelling nationalities and ethnic minorities within Yugoslavia. He set up the "People's Republic of Macedonia" (formerly known as the "Province of the Vardar"), and sought to annex to it the Macedonian provinces of neighbouring Greece and Bulgaria.
This brief historical expose is didactic in many respects. It brings out the fact that neighbours of Greece, irrespective of international alignments or internal political regimes, have pursued, throughout the 20th century, schemes for expansion towards Greek Macedonia and Thrace. Furthermore, it supports the thesis that no single Balkan neighbour dared to challenge Greek sovereignty over the two Greek northern provinces, unless it was in alliance with one or more external great Powers.
The succession of these great Powers is worth recording.
Certainly, Greece and the Greek people do not feel threatened today by a weak FYROM. Nevertheless, the logical assumption that comes to the minds not only of the Greeks but all those who know the history of the Balkans is a simple one: if FYROM is allowed to develop on a nationalist, expansionist and even revanchist course, then it is bound to seek its own patron who will hand over to it the "promised lands".
In the name of Peace and stability in the Balkans -not only in our times but for future generations- it is important that the new state should be helped to divest itself of the legacies of the past, i.e. of the nationalist Bulgarian and communist Yugoslav mentality. Thus:
If such initiatives are taken and such guarantees are given, Greece would be the first to extend its hand in support of the new neighbouring state to its north.