Opposition supporters on Friday protested against plans to rename hundreds of streets in the capital, accusing the authorities of re-writing history - but the ruling party insists that most of the criticism is misplaced.
Opposition members holding pictures of WW2 hero Stiv Naumov | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Opposition Social Democrats say the move by the ruling VMRO DPMNE party is part of a bid to write off important figures linked with Yugoslavia’s anti-Fascist wartime struggle and replace them with controversial names that fit the party’s nationalist ideology.
To make their point, several hundred Social Democrats blocked a street in central Skopje named after the World War 2 anti-Fascist hero Stiv Naumov, which is earmarked for renaming.
On Thursday, the city council approved some 30 new street names proposed by the ruling VMRO DPMNE and its ethnic Albanian junior partner, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI.
The plan to rename several hundred city streets is the first mass renaming of streets in the two decades since Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia.
“VMRO DPMNE has earned itself a shameful place in recent Macedonian history,” said Andrej Petrov from the Social Democrats.
He urged Skopje residents not to change their addresses on their ID cards, as the party would bring back the old street names once it regained power.
The opposition protests especially over the inclusion of some 19th and 20th-century nationalists who in the Communist era were denounced as reactionary servants of foreign interests.
|Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic|
One is Todor Aleksandrov, member of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, VMRO, which fought for Macedonia’s independence from Ottoman rule but was in some periods closely linked to Bulgaria.
Although previously considered pro-Bulgarian in his beliefs and thus undeserving of hero status, the ruling party recently named one of the main bridges in Skopje and a street after him.
“I was a fellow fighter with Stiv Naumov who sacrificed himself for Macedonia. It is shameful that his name is now being scrapped,” Trajce Grujoski, a member of Macedonia’s association of Second World War veterans, said.
His association already condemned the renaming bid, saying in a statement that, “the goal is to erase the names of those who organized and led ... the Macedonian people and who in the end formed the Macedonian state”.
VMRO DPMNE, which has a majority on the city council, says the attacks on the plan are unjustified and emotive.
“We are not revising history but only changing about 8 per cent of the street names that had nothing to do with Macedonian history,” Aleksandar Bicikliski, spokesperson of VMRO DPMNE, said.
The party insists that they are not erasing Stiv Naumov's name from the city as another street will bear his name.