Thursday, May 22, 2008

Macedonia: Greek Pacifists' Visit

Anastas Vangeli posted his impressions of the anti-nationalistic and anti-militaristic Greek-Macedonian Dialogue which took place last Saturday - in Macedonian and English. The participants were branded as traitors in the Greek media, and the Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Church put an anathema on them in his Sunday sermon.

(First published by Global Voices Online)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Macedonia: Bloggers Emphasize Need for Open Communication with Greece

by Filip Stojanovski for Global Voices Online (15.05.2008).

Amid the internal turmoil caused by Greek actions to block Macedonia's accession to NATO and the EU, and due to an increasing number of reports of attacks over Macedonian truck drivers (official reaction) by nationalist mobs in Greece, many Macedonian bloggers are attempting to bridge the gap of ignorance existing between the two nations. On the one hand, they've identified the need to pass information about Macedonians to Greeks, and, on the other hand, some have taken to the task to share information from Greek media with fellow Macedonians.

Many bloggers reacted to a statement by Greek Foreign Minister that even mentioning the existence of Macedonian language and ethnicity is “not helpful” to solving the name issue, perceiving it as continuation of the policy of ethnocide. Zharko Trajanovski, referred to the related U.S. Dept. of State Briefing, extracting the most interesting parts (MKD).

In the same vein, dozens of bloggers promoted the video of the song “Postojam” (”I Exist”), by embedding it in their own posts and even reposting copies of it on YouTube. The video features scenes from documentary films about the ethnic cleansing of Macedonians during the Greek Civil War of 1946-49, accompanied with humanistic lyrics: “I exist… All is forgiven: even your wish for me to be no more.”

The author of the blog Agness wrote (MKD):

Since its official release, the video of the single “Postojam” by the pop rock singer Miyatta received wide media coverage and it is a topic of discussion among the Macedonian population all around the world. Interest for the English translation of the lyrics and releasing it abroad has also been shown. Regardless of the context, the video has become something worth a comment. Those who were familiar with that part of Macedonia's history congratulated Miyatta for delivering this audio-visual expression. Those who see such pictures for the first time, think that it is too painful to be true. Some believe that this is just an attempt at attention-seeking. All kinds of positive and negative comments are yet to be heard. I am happy that the number of people who were indifferent towards “Postojam” is rather small.

Images of sorrow and exile on the one hand, and images of unity and pride on the other make for a rather authentic representation of Macedonia.

The past is not to be revived, but to be outgrown.
Let us outgrow it, but first,
Let us know it!
Macedonia exists.

In the other direction, the blog Drugarche posted translations of articles from the Greek press, including cartoons [MKD]. A number of bloggers also praised the interview of the Macedonian director Milcho Manchevski [GRE], given to the Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia, and posted links to its English translations. Some offered more historical information from ancient books [MKD] and Western newspaper archives [MKD], as well as about the possible origins of the Greek flag.

But, most importantly, blogs have proved to be the primary vehicle for distributing information on grassroots peace-building. The news about the upcoming visit of about 50 Greek peace activists to Skopje scheduled for May 17, 2008, appeared [MKD] on the influential Vuna blog first:

This is not an attempt to stoke fires of the Macedonian nationalist sentiments. This is not a call to stone embassies, supermarkets or whatever.

On the contrary, this is a call to participate in an event intended as opposition to all the madness. Greek citizens are first and foremost human beings, and most of them have nothing to do with their retrograde and fascizoid state policy, nor with the hordes of morons who harass people on the highways. At the same time, not all Macedonian citizens are hotheads who “hate every Greek thing” and can't wait to throw stones on the Liaison office.


Peace, love, empathy!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Macedonia: Sakura - Cherry Blossom Celebration in Skopje

by Filip Stojanovski for Global Voices Online (May 6, 2008)

Even though very few ethnic Japanese live in the Republic of Macedonia, many locals took part in the second annual celebration of Sakura - the festival of cherry blossoms in Macedonia's capital, Skopje. Organizers of the festivals included martial arts dojos and some prominent bloggers who recently started a collaborative blog, Japan@mk [MKD], and initiated spreading the word through the Macedonian blogosphere.

The festival took place on April 12, on a street lined with Japanese cherry trees in full bloom, next to Skopje's main square. The program consisted of martial arts demonstrations, reciting of haiku in Macedonian language, accompanied by music played on Japanese flute, making of origami, writing the names of participants in Japanese calligraphy, and tasting healthy products made of Japanese fungi.

Thanks to the social networking within the community, dozens of bloggers used the event to socialize, including several who came from other cities. Some of them, like Bi, Volan, Strumjan, and neW1, posted extensive photo-galleries afterwards, while others wrote posts with most favorable impressions. Nadezna and HibernusCorvus, posted their reasons why they didn't attend.

Sakura in Skopje
Members of Samurai Dojo in action. Photo by Volan.

Bi, one of the organizers and an Iaidō practitioner, wrote [MKD] about her insider experience:

The origami were quite successful, and were done in three booths… [for samurai hats, cranes, and cats]. The kids were very happy, and many of them took their samurai hats to Nahomi [Japanese lady who did calligraphy] to write their names in Japanese.

Nahomi got genuine Macedonian experience because the audience did not allow her to catch her breath. They crowded around her, handing papers under her nose to write their names in Japanese, without any order. They even overturned her ink. She was confused because the people could not form a line, but accepted all requests with grace and impeccable manners…

The haiku turned out great, and the three guests read poetry by classic Japanese masters and by Macedonian poets. Some in the audience turned a deaf ear on this, and complained of boredom… Other audience members provided an unpleasant experience of rude curiosity, by grabbing and even drawing the swords and the bokken from the participants' hands…

I hope next year we'll have an even more interesting and more beautiful program, with more elements, and the city will help with more than just providing space, and the consulate will provide more than just moral support. We had great time anyway, even when the uncultured mishaps mentioned above are taken into account :)


Macedonia: Bloggers Discuss NATO Summit and Greece

Last week, the Macedonian blogosphere buzzed about Greece's obstruction of Macedonia's NATO entry. This post presents a set of typical initial reactions to this news.

Filip Petrovski described (MKD) the atmosphere in Macedonia several days before the NATO Summit:

The tension in the air is incredible. The upcoming NATO Summit in Bucharest created a heavy atmosphere of expectation in the region. It is absolutely impossible to predict what will happen there. Expecting closure is already unavoidable part of our lives, of all everyday discussions… I recently observed two friends who had different opinions about Macedonia's stance on the latest proposal by the mediator Nimetz. I've known these two persons for a while, and I have never seen them being nervous, aggressive or intolerant of each other on political or historical issues. But this time it wasn't so. One of them simply got up and left in the middle of the discussion.

On the night of April 2, upon learning that Greece would stop NATO from reaching a consensus on invitation of new members, dozens of Macedonian bloggers reacted with angry posts.

Some placed pictures of the current Macedonian flag on their sites, while others chose to display (MKD) Macedonia's 1992-1995 flag, which carried the Vergina Sun symbol and is no longer in use due to Greek objections. Many, including Toast Government (MKD), expressed an opinion that the goal of Greece is to completely negate the Macedonian identity and eradicate the nation. Along with congratulations to Croatia and Albania (MKD), the countries that succeeded in receiving NATO invitations, some bloggers recommended (MKD) that Macedonians unite in the time of a calamity and offered ideas (MKD) to the Macedonian government on how to act in the future.

The next day, there seemed to be more optimism in bloggers' responses; some included video clips with Macedonian music in their posts. One blogger wrote (MKD) that this was not the “end of the world”:

Since morning, people around me seem possessed by some kind of madness or hysteria. They come and go out of my office, and I hear wailing, sighs, conversations about NATO, […] VETO […] …

I see higher spirits on the blogs, but they seem to slide into it, too. Oh, what shall we do, too bad for our youth, loads of such stuff… Hey, people! You were not this scared when the war started in 2001! Come on, let's all cry out to heaven and wait for the judgment day. As far as I can see, the Sun rose up again, my house is still in the same place, and the work I have to do is still waiting for me!!!

Zoriv commented (MKD) ironically on the Greek attempts to monopolize the world's historical heritage, saying that the true heir of Alexander the Great would not show fear that “his country could be invaded by a nation which is five times smaller.”

Anti and Bi (MKD), bloggers who have been promoting principled pacifism for years and advocated Macedonia's non-involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, reiterated their stance against participation in military alliances.

Kalina reacted (MKD) to the new breed of skepticism towards NATO and EU integration, pointing out that after the failure at the NATO Summit, some inconsistent analysts, who have never before questioned this long-term strategic objective of the country, started talking that maybe Macedonia should give up trying to gain membership in these international institutions.

Human rights experts Mirjana Najcevska and Zharko Trajanoski (MKD), held the government accountable for failing to fulfill its obligation to provide NATO membership for Macedonia. The latter warned that the huge obstructive force of Greece could not be the sole excuse for all Macedonian failures.

Bazhdardzhijata criticized (MKD) the Macedonian journalists who protested by leaving the press conference of Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs in Bucharest:

I still can't get over the prideful stupidity of these journalists. Instead of staying at the event and bombarding with revealing questions, which would have caught the Greek fascist policies with their pants down, they decided to leave. And the way they left! They did not make any noise, they just turned their backs on them. After such a departure, I am sure Dora [Bakoyannis] sincerely and silently thanked them.

In the following days, some Macedonian bloggers realized how important it was to communicate about these issue with the world and started publishing more English-language posts.

VBB used historical examples to emphasize that Greek arguments were unsustainable:

There's an island called Ireland. Because of historical reasons similar to those described above, that geographical region became divided between the Republic of Ireland (an independent state like the Republic of Macedonia) and Northern Ireland, a constituent unit of another country- the United Kingdom (similar case as the Greek province of Macedonia). The British crown has imposed harsh measures on its Irish possesions, that also included colonising loyalist elements from Great Britain. Basically its the same story as with Greece. However, the difference is that, today the UK does not demand from the Republic of Ireland to change its constitutional name.

Taking into account the role that politics plays in Macedonia's daily life, it is quite possible that NATO integration will remain one of the hottest political subjects for Macedonian bloggers in the near future.