The erection of a giant statue of Alexander the Great in the Macedonian capital of Skopje is the latest round in an ongoing controversy with neighboring Greece.
The statue, erected on Tuesday as part of an ambitious urban development plan called Skopje 2014, drew criticism from some Greek politicians and nervous mutterings from European diplomats. They say it’s deliberate provocation because Greece objects to the name Macedonia. Using this name, some say, implies a claim over the Greek province of Macedonia, where Alexander the Great was actually born. Of course neither country existed at the time, the land being divided up into a patchwork of ancient city-states. When history is used as a propaganda tool, historic accuracy goes out the window.
Macedonia, officially the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, broke off from Yugoslavia in 1991 and has been in a row with Greece about its name ever since. This isn’t some minor squabbling. Greece successfully blocked Macedonia’s entry into NATO and is stonewalling the country’s attempts to join the European Union. With Macedonia being one of the poorest countries in Europe, this argument over a name is costing them a lot.
[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]