By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Todor Petrov, head of a pan-Macedonian non-profit organization, the World Macedonian Congress, has called on the authorities to rename the Skopje municipality now called Centar after the Ancient warrior king.
In the online magazine Macedonian Nation at the weekend, Petrov said it was only logical for the municipality to be renamed in this way as it now contains a giant equestrian statue of Alexander and will soon get an equally large statue of his father, Philip of Macedonia.
Although not officially linked to the ruling centre-right VMRO DPMNE party, his NGO is seen as close to the government.
Officials in Centar have not said whether they will support or veto the idea. “So far we have not considered such a renaming. We only heard about it from the media. When the proposal officially arrives we will consider it”, the municipal spokesperson, Jovica Ackovski told Balkan insight.
Macedonia’s opposition Social Democrats said they were against renaming Centar, saying it would only cause additional problems with Greece.
Relations between Macedonia and Greece are strained owing to the two-decades-long row over Macedonia’s name. Citing the unresolved issue, Greece has blocked Macedonia’s progress towards both EU and NATO membership.
Greece insists that use of the term “Macedonia” by its neighbour implies a territorial claim to its own northern province of the same name.
The origin of Alexander the Great is also part of the dispute, as the two neighbouring nations have different views on ancient history. The warrior king is one of many historic figures and symbols claimed by both states.
Last summer Greek officials strongly condemned Macedonia’s move to erect a giant statue of Alexander in the heart of the capital as “provocative” and “retrograde”.
It did not help matters much that Macedonia officially refers to the statue as an “equestrian warrior”, to avoid causing extra friction.
Since Nikola Gruevski took power in 2006, Macedonia has renamed its main airport in Skopje after Alexander the Great while the football stadium in the capital was renamed after Philip.
The internet news portal SKY MK, seen as close to the opposition, says the government is mulling renaming several other towns and municipalities in the same style if the country again fails to join NATO, due to a Greek blockade. The next NATO summit takes place in May in Chicago.
The government spokesperson, Martin Martinovski rebuffed these allegations for Balkan Insight insisting that “municipal names have nothing to do with the country’s NATO bid”.