By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
The spree of erecting giant monuments in Skopje continues as authorities make way for a new 30-metre-high statue of Nobel Prize-winning nun.
After the giant statue of Alexander the Great erected last year and that of his father Philip that was erected last week, Mother Teresa’s statue will be the third giant monument to join the centre of Skopje as part of the government-funded “Skopje 2014” revamp of the city.
The municipality of Centar has said the statue will be erected on Skopje’s main Macedonia Square.
Confirming the plans, Jovica Ackovski, the spokesperson of the municipality, said that the public will “get more details during later stages of the presentation of the [urban] plan”.
The location of the new sculpture, not far from that of Alexander, has already provoked some discussion among the city’s inhabitants.
“The square already has enough monuments, so they should find another place for Mother Teresa,” one local, named Borka Radivojevic, told Balkan Insight.
“It is way too close to Alexander. It makes no aesthetic sense,” another pedestrian added.
Born in Üsküb, today’s Skopje, when the region was part of the Ottoman Empire, Mother Teresa’s origins are today claimed by three neighbouring countries, Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia.
Major roads, airports and public buildings across the region bear her name, and cities including Tirana, Skopje and Pristina have their own statues of the Catholic nun who gained a world reputation for her work in the slums of India.
A several-metre-high bronze statue of the nun already exists in Skopje, which recently opened a memorial house in her honour.
The municipality on Monday meanwhile dismissed media speculation that it is considering renaming itself “Alexandria” in homage to the ancient warrior whose statue now presides over the main square.
“These reports are not true and we take them as malicious,” the municipality said in a statement.
This idea was first launched in January by Todor Petrov, head of a pan-Macedonian non-profit organization, the World Macedonian Congress, seen as close to the main ruling centre-right VMRO DPMNE party.
Media reports claimed the idea had gained popularity among the VMRO DPMNE-led majority on the municipal council after the country again failed to join NATO at the Chicago summit owing to a Greek blockade related to the dispute over Macedonia’s name.
Should the municipality change its name in to “Alexandria” this would almost certainly anger 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.