Two Macedonian traditions separated by a thousand years
September 23, 2013
From Mr Stephen Schwartz.
Sir, As a frequent visitor to the Republic of Macedonia, a speaker of its Slavic language and of Albanian, and an admirer of its landscape, cultural monuments, food and most of its people, I suggest Joyce Ann MacCafferty (“Alexander – the great Macedonian”, Letters, September 19) do some fairly basic research before dashing off a missive to your paper claiming Alexander the Great as a Macedonian of the same ethnic character as the Republic’s main inhabitants today.
I consider the complaints of Greece about supposed usurpation of the Macedonian geographical name, which the FT has covered with its usual excellence, to be absurd, dangerous and indicative of the political incoherence and growing chaos in the Hellenic republic.
But Alexander the Great, son of Philip of Macedon, was a Macedonian Greek. His culture was Greek and, as such, aspects of it were carried everywhere Alexander achieved conquest.
Alexander was not a Macedonian in the sense conveyed by the demographic title attached to residents of the republic, independent since 1991, of which the capital is Skopje.
Alexander the Great lived in the fourth century BC. The Slav Macedonians, as ancestors of the now-dominant ethnicity in the Republic of Macedonia, arrived in the Balkans during the sixth and seventh centuries AD.
The thousand-year gap between the two “Macedonian” cultural traditions cannot be closed by symbolic association of the present-day Republic of Macedonia with the conqueror of Persia and points east. Alexander the Great was not a Slav and did not conduct his famous conversation with Diogenes in a Slavic language.
The government of the Republic of Macedonia has responded unwisely to the antics of the Greeks over the state name, by gestures that aggravate the controversy, such as claiming Alexander the Great as one of their own. Today’s Macedonians can and must do better.
Stephen Schwartz, Executive Director, Center for Islamic Pluralism, US