Just when you thought that the Ottoman Empire was dead and buried – its ghost has again appeared on the regional stage.
As usual it is the southern Balkan region referred to over the years as FYROM, Skopje, The Republic of Macedonia, Macedonia, Vardar Macedonia, Socialist Republic of Macedonia, the People’s Republic of Macedonia, Vardar Banovina, which is again at issue (at least for Greeks).
Ok – so the news today is that the fragile coalition of the leftist Syriza party and the nationalist Independent Greeks (INEL) is endangered because the Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas used the term “Macedonia” (outloud – on Greek TV) when being interviewed regarding the crisis at the Greek-FYROM (Skopje, The Republic of Macedonia, Macedonia, Vardar Macedonia, Socialist Republic of Macedonia, the People’s Republic of Macedonia, Vardar Banovina etc.) border.
He later apologized for referring to the country, which calls itself the Republic of Macedonia (and Greece refers to as FYROM), as Macedonia. An apology is not good enough for the “Independent Greeks”. They want his resignation.
Whether or not Mouzalas is doing a good job at managing the refugee madness is of no concern to the nationalists.
As the Syriza coalition government has a slim majority, the demands of its partner cannot be easily dismissed as crackpotism.
Sensitive issue this name calling.
This entire area of the southern Balkans was administered as Ottoman until Bulgarian semi-autonomy in 1878 and the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913. Before then the inhabitants were identified as either Christian, Muslim, or Jewish subjects of the Sultan. Most individuals of all ethnicities spoke a variety of tongues which included Turk, Greek, Albanian, Bulgarian and other Slavophones, Vlach, and Serbo-Croatian.
During the course of the Ottoman Empire (built over the remnants of the Byzantine empire) the area in question was inhabited by ethnic Greeks, ethnic Bulgarians, ethnic Albanians, ethnic Wallachians (Vlachs), ethnic Turks, and “ethnic” Macedonians (who were, for the most part, ethnic Greeks, ethnic Bulgarians, ethnic Albanians, ethnic Wallachians [Vlachs].
The modern countries (with borders) in the Balkans began to come into political existence in the early 1800s.
Thessaloniki became part of the new nation called Greece (1832) only in 1912. The Greek government line that Macedonia has “always been Greek” (as we heard a lot about in the 1990s) is very simplistic, self-serving and kinda true.
It is a complicated and divisive situation – politically typically Balkan.