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News 02 Apr 13

'Skopje 2014' Symbolizes Macedonia’s Frustration, Book Says

The makeover of the capital reveals Macedonia's national weaknesses and frustrations, a well-known professor says in a pioneering scientific study.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

A well-known archaeology professor has criticized the government-sponsored makeover of the capial, Skopje 2014, for improvisation and for megalomania.

“There is no common master plan that unites all the separate parts into one unified and meaningful whole,” Nikos Causidis writes in his e-book, “Skopje 2014 - Sketches for Future Research”, published last week.

“It has been made by piling up buildings based on... improvisation and petty daily interests,” Causidis maintains.

Through case studies of separate buildings, monuments and complexes that form part of the project, the professor casts a critical eye on its architectural and artistic values.

With its “anachronistic artistic styles and inconsistencies [Skopje 20124] is the result of all the traumas and inconsistencies that we as a country and as nation are experiencing… not only through the centuries, but in the last ten years,” Causidis opines.

The grand government-led drive aims to give the neglected, grey-looking centre of the Macedonian capital a more monumental appearance.

Drawing inspiration from Classical Antiquity, the project envisages the construction of museums, theatres, concert halls, hotels and administrative offices as well as tens of large marble and bronze monuments.

The project also envisages adding neo-Classical facades to most of the iconic modernist buildings in the city centre.

The project appears broadly popular with members of the public, but critics object to its high price tag, estimated by some to be at least 500 million euro, as well as to its artistic styles.

The heart of the project is a 22-metre-high bronze equestrian statue of the Ancient warrior, Alexander the Great, which stands atop a white marble fountain on the main square. 

The statue has caused much friction with neighbouring Greece, which claims Alexander as an exclusively Hellenic figure.

Greece already has a long-running dispute with Macedonia over its name, which Athens says implies a territorial claim to its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

Since 2008, Greece has been blocking Macedonia from joining NATO over the unresolved name dispute. The blockade has also prevented Macedonia from obtaining a start date for EU membership talks.

Causidis, a professor at the state Sts Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, says his book is not a finished scientific work but more of a synopsis, preparing the way for a more thorough study.

“I made several attempts to publish the book [in hard copy], but that did not work out. In the end I decided to publish it myself in electronic form,” he recalled.

Meanwhile, the government has announced its own project to analyse and evaluate the project, comprising books and CDs on the historic events and personalities memorialized as part of Skopje 2014.

These include the 10th-century Tsar, Samoil, as well as two Ottoman-era revolutionaries, Goce Delcev and Pavel Shatev.

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Skopje 2014: The new face of Macedonia, updated

The government-funded revamp of the Macedonian capital, called Skopje 2014, aims to give the city a more impressive and ‘historic’ appearance. See new images in this updated gallery.