Feature 31 Jan 18

Macedonia Consigns Fake ‘Antique’ Makeovers to History

The new government is starting to jettison the policy of promoting Classical Antiquity as a model for Macedonians’ ethnic identity - but the divisions this caused within society will take time to overcome.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Skopje. Photo: BIRN

“Farewell Alexander, Hello Friendship,” read the front-page headline of Sloboden Pecat, Macedonia’s biggest-circulation daily newspaper, which was being held by 76-year-old Gjorgija, a pensioner from Skopje, as he basked in a brief moment of winter sun on a bench in one of the capital’s squares.

The headline was referring to last Wednesday’s decision by the government to remove the name of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great from the country’s busiest highway which heads towards Skopje Airport and to Greece.

Instead, in a sign of goodwill towards Greece, which saw the previous name as a provocation, the route which most Macedonians use to go shopping in Thessaloniki will be renamed the ‘Friendship’ highway.

“God speed. Let’s hope things turn out for the best,” Gjorgija told BIRN, with unconcealed optimism that the symbolic gesture by the government would help the ongoing UN sponsored effort to find a compromise in Macedonia’s long-running ‘name’ dispute with Greece.

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