By Misko Taleski
Many grieved at the news that the first president of independent Macedonia, Kiro Gligorov, died on the first day of the new year. But a debate has also opened up over his role in Macedonia’s history.
Gligorov was buried without any state ceremony — at his request — the government recognised the late leader by proclaiming January 3rd a day of mourning.
“Gligorov uttered the now well-known maxim ‘Macedonia is all we have’, through which he carried the faith of our ancestors,” President Gjorge Ivanov said at the commemorative session in parliament.”We remember what Macedonia meant to him, and also to all of us.”
But Gligorov also aroused anger in his country in 1994 when he told Greek media that the Macedonians are a Slavic people, having come to the Balkans in the 6th century, and have no connection to Alexander the Great and his civilisation.
“Yugoslavism was in Gligorov’s blood; for 50 years he believed all Yugoslav peoples have the same Slavic roots,” historian Violeta Achkovska told SETimes. “Gligorov’s unfortunate statement about the alleged Slavic character of the Macedonian nation was based on that old and unfounded argument.”
“He tried to save Yugoslavia to the last moment, [even] proposing a confederation with Bosnia’s president Izetbegovic,” she added.
During Gligorov’s two terms as president, between 1991 and 1999, Macedonia became a member of the UN under the temporary reference “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, accepted the 1995 Interim Accord with Greece and underwent a controversial economic transition.
“Practically, we laid the foundations of the Macedonian state,” former Parliament President Stoyan Andov told SETimes. “Those were dramatic times and Gligorov showed how to manage and undoubtedly has his place in contemporary Macedonian history.”
In October 1993, Gligorov survived a car-bomb assassination attempt in downtown Skopje. The police still have not uncovered who ordered or carried out the attack.
“It is a pity those involved in this terrorist act, in which I believe domestic structures such as Gligorov’s close colleagues were also included, still haven’t been caught. Not a single internal affairs minister, including the most called upon, Ljubomir Frchkovski, uncovered the truth to bring the matter to an end. This case should not be left unsolved,” security expert Ivan Babamovski told SETimes.
Skopje resident Jordan Nikolov, 49, credits the late leader for steering his people out of the bloodshed that engulfed other parts of the former Yugoslavia as the communist state fell apart.
“If it were not for Gligorov and his team, primarily then Prime Minister Nikola Kljusev, it would have been hard to pull Macedonia out of the bloody Yugoslav drama without war. Gligorov chose a wise policy in not to allowing a single bullet to be fired,” he said. “Macedonia became the only republic to have peacefully proclaimed independence.”