Macedonians Ask Recognition

Macedonians Ask Recognition, Not Greek Land

The New York Times, April 2, 1994

To the Editor:

In contrast to your balanced March 8 editorial calling for an end to the Greek blockade of the Republic of Macedonia and your well-researched March 12 report from northern Greece, "End the Intransigence," the March 19 letter from the press counselor of the Consulate General of Greece in New York, contains inaccurate and misleading statements.

The press counselor's assertion that the use of the name "Macedonia" by the newly independent Republic of Macedonia implies territorial claims against Greece was rejected by a European Community arbitration committee in 1991. More recently the republic's government has explicitly disavowed such claims and offered to sign international agreements to that effect.

More significant, the press counselor denies the existence of a Macedonian minority in Greece. The inaccuracy of his assertion that people in Greece who speak the Macedonian language (which he derogatorily calls "a Slavonic-oriented idiom") are all "fervently Greek" has been demonstrated in reports of such organizations as the State Department, Helsinki Watch and Amnesty International. While many Macedonian-speaking people in northern Greece have a Greek national identity, some do not. Some have a Macedonian, not a Greek, national identity.

A small group of Macedonians in Greece actively seek recognition of the Macedonian minority. They have formed a Macedonian human rights committee, which is struggling to win the right for Macedonians in Greece to attend church services and obtain an education in the Macedonian language. They also seek repeal of laws specifically excluding Macedonians from the amnesty under which political refugees who left Greece after the civil war were allowed to return and reclaim their property.

In several court decisions they have been denied the right to establish a Macedonian cultural center. Finally, two Macedonian human rights activists were tried, convicted and sentenced to prison for asserting their identity as Macedonians in an interview published in a Greek magazine. (The charges against them were later dropped.)

Recognition by the Greek Government of the Macedonian minority in Greece would be an important first step toward easing ethnic tensions in Macedonia. To deny this minority's existence, however, will only inflame tensions.

LORING M. DANFORTH Lewiston, Me., March 24, 1994
The writer is a professor of anthropology at Bates College.

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