ISSN 2330-717X

Macedonia To Rename Divisive Statues That Irked Greece

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By Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Huge statues erected in recent years in the Macedonian capital of the ancient warrior kings Alexander the Great and Filip of Macedon – as well as that of Alexander’s mother, Olympia – will be officially renamed and marked in honour of Greek-Macedonian friendship, the Macedonian government has announced.

“The monuments will get plates with explanations. For example, ‘Equestrian Warrior’ will be called ‘Alexander the Great’ – with an explanation that he symbolises the Ancient Hellenic period and remains a symbol of friendship between Macedonia and Greece. The same will apply to the statues of Filip and Olympia,” government spokesperson Mile Bosnjakovski said.

“These monuments will be marked for the purpose of strengthening our friendship. We are not afraid to call the monuments as they are,” Bosnjakovski added.

The giant statues in the centre of the city form the centrepiece of the controversial Skopje 2014 project – a government-sponsored revamp of the capital.

They were erected in 2011 and 2012 by the then nationalist government of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

However, the statues were officially never named after the ancient figures they represented, in a futile attempt not to anger Athens, which still called them acts of cultural theft.

For example, the Alexander the Great statue was merely called “Equestrian Warrior” and his father Filip’s statue was simply named “Ancient Warrior”.

Their erection still annoyed Athens, which saw the move as a provocation and an attempt to appropriate what it considers exclusively Hellenic figures.

At the heart of the problem was not the statues but the long-standing dispute between the two countries over the name “Macedonia”.

After Greece blocked Macedonia’s NATO accession in 2008 over the unresolved dispute, and did the same next year with the start of EU accession talks, the government in Skopje turned towards more hard-line words and gestures, among other things erecting more statues that it indirectly linked to Macedonian heritage.

The move to rename the statues comes just days after the Macedonian government led by Zoran Zaev reached a historic deal with Greece aimed at ending the “name” dispute, which now has to be implemented.

Under the agreement, Macedonia is to change its name to “Republic of North Macedonia” in exchange for swift accession to NATO and the start of EU accession talks.


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Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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