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Academy of Athens Award

Honorary President
Archbishop Demetrios



July 14, 2008

Daniel Fried
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
The State Department

Dear Secretary Fried,

We are grateful for the opportunity to meet with you today.

We would first like to outline our position regarding our Macedonian identity. We are American citizens of Macedonian cultural and historical identity. Being ethnologically Hellenes from the Hellenic province of Macedonia, we consider our Macedonian identity as a cultural and historical reality. The reasons why we believe this Macedonian identity should belong exclusively to us and not to Slavic inhabitants of FYROM include the following:

1.We are from Macedonia and they are from the former Vardarska Province of Yugoslavia
2.The Macedonian identity became an integral part of the Hellenic world one thousand years before the arrival of ancestors of the Slavic inhabitants of FYROM in the Balkans.
3.We are the heirs of the Hellenic civilization, language, and culture which were spread to the then known world by our ancestor Alexander the Great.

We use the Hellenic alphabet and language of Alexander, while the Slavic inhabitants of FYROM use the Cyrillic alphabet and speak a Bulgarian dialect modified by the communist regime on the basis of an ASNOM decision in 1944. Another European example of a cultural though not ethnologic identity involves Bavarians, who are ethnologically and linguistically German, consider their Bavarian identity as a cultural and historical reality, and constitute an integral part of the German nation. One could easily imagine the reaction of Germans if inhabitants of a neighboring country were to call themselves ethnic Bavarians.

The Macedonian king, Alexander the Great, spoke Greek, used the Hellenic alphabet, carried a copy of Homer’s works with him, and disseminated the Hellenic language and civilization throughout the world. He certainly did not speak the Bulgarian dialect spoken by people in FYROM and he did not use the Cyrillic alphabet, which did not appear until twelve hundred years after his death. Alexander the Great is our Abraham Lincoln, as he united the North and the South of the Hellenic World into a single Hellas. Slavic people cannot be ethnically, linguistically or culturally Macedonians because they had not even come to the area until the 6th century AD, when they settled there. The Hellenic name Macedonia, which has always identified the northern area of Greece, preceded the arrival of a Slavic population in the area of FYROM by well over 2000 years.

There is agreement that the people of FYROM – as you have stated some time ago, Mr. Secretary – “do exist.” However, they are not connected to ancient Macedonians. The majority of FYROM inhabitants are of Slavic ancestry; they are related to Bulgarians, and they speak a Bulgarian dialect. We acknowledge their human right to consider themselves as a nation, but we strongly object to their calling that nation “Macedonian,” a term that we feel belongs only to Hellenism, culturally and historically. We also acknowledge their human right to call their Bulgarian dialect, as modified by Tito, a language. However, we strongly object to their calling that language “Macedonian.”

Being very concerned with events in the Balkans, we have come to you Mr. Fried, the key official in our government, in your capacity as Assistant Secretary of State for European & Eurasian Affairs. We are particularly appalled by statements and accusations made by the United “Macedonian” Diaspora and posted on the internet against Greece, a NATO ally.

On behalf of all Hellenes, we would like to thank our government for its contribution during the civil war in Greece. The United States under President Truman, together with the Greek people, succeeded in the 1940s in keeping our ancestral homeland out of the clutches of communism, while all countries surrounding Greece surrendered to communist regimes one after the other.

Greece and the United States fought together and defeated communism at that time and many communist partisans (some ethnologically Greek and others ethnologically Slavic) found refuge in various Iron Curtain countries after the end of the civil war. With the support of their Slavic brethren across the border of southern Yugoslavia, these people raged a murderous campaign, destroying whole villages and murdering thousands of people in their effort to break Greece apart and attach its Macedonian province to the former Yugoslavia.

More than one hundred thousand people were killed; the destruction caused was immense; while during their retreat, to avoid just punishment, communist partisans fled abducting thousands of Greek children with the intention of using them later against their parents and country. These Greek children were placed in communist re-education camps and were taught that they were saved from the Greek national army; they were taught hatred against their own parents. This extraordinary destruction of Macedonia, Greece, during that time took half a century to heal. Despite all this, the Greek government allowed a large number of them to return to Greece in subsequent years. At the same time, Greece has every right not to allow the return of those who refuse to use the Greek name of their birthplace on their passports and stubbornly maintain its Slavic usage. You would agree, we believe, that our US government would do the same, if we had to face such hostile behavior. 

In relation to property left behind by partisans when they fled to communist countries, UN resolutions indicated these people could return if they agreed to abide with the law of the land. However, they did not return and they cannot expect compensation, as abandoned properties were taken over by their relatives. Moreover Greeks can claim many properties within FYROM in such places as Bitola, Gevgelija etc. Greece let these ghosts of the past rest for sixty years now, in an effort to promote peaceful relations with the former Yugoslavia. Were this issue to be reopened by the political leadership of FYROM, Greece would have every right to ask for enormous compensation from its neighboring country, as it was particularly on the territory of today’s FYROM, where communist partisans received support for the destruction they caused. This will open a Pandora’s box creating hostility and reviving terrible memories between the people of Greece and FYROM that will make it impossible for the people of Greece to accept FYROM as an ally in NATO and the European Union for generations to come. Moreover, reopening these cases will remind Greeks that other previously communist neighbors now in NATO – Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania – also helped the partisans in their destructive campaign in Macedonia, Greece. Any such process will serve as a legal precedent for millions of people around the world to revisit forgotten conflicts of the past.

We are particularly appealing to your erudite disposition and scholarly background regarding myths fabricated by the FYROM leadership about the so-called “Detsa Begaltsi” (children refugees) that go against the record of international organizations such as the United Nations, the Red Cross, and the League of the Red Cross Societies. The term “Detsa Begaltsi” is inaccurate and misleading. Those children of Greek ethnicity were not refugees; their parents did not sent them out of the country. These children were abducted by communist Slavic and Greek partisans. It is accurate however, that retreating Slavic partisans took their own families with them. They escaped punishment, lived a long life with their families in communist countries and nobody in Greece pursued them legally, or otherwise for compensations for the destruction they caused.  As stated in this context by the Voice of America on December 29, 1948:

“The name of Herod will remain in history linked with one of the most appalling crimes in humanity. Herod sinned against God and man, using the child as vehicle to secure his rule. Now after 2,000 years, some other fiends used the child as a political weapon.”

FYROM is a small landlocked country in the southern Balkans with serious external and domestic problems. It is the only country in Europe that fuels serious and entirely distinct conflicts in relation to each of its four neighbors, with no effort for immediate resolution.
To the north with Serbia, a Partnership for Peace country that aspires to NATO membership, FYROM maintains a conflict involving their illegal and schismatic church, the so-called “Macedonian Orthodox Church,” which generates problems not only with Serbia, but others as well.

To the east, NATO member Bulgaria does not recognize the so-called “Macedonians” as a distinct nation, nor a “Macedonian” language, and accuses FYROM of usurping its history. FYROM currently seems to raise linguistic or ethnologic claims to approximately 20% of the territory of this NATO ally. The FYROM leadership projects its agenda through OMO Ilinden Pirin, an organization that aspires to political status in Bulgaria, where it is regarded as a foreign government-funded separatist organization. It is noteworthy that nearly one hundred thousand Bulgarian passports have been issued to FYROM citizens, including one to former FYROM Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. Public statements by Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev during his recent visit to Washington affirmed his country’s positions.

To the west, citizens of Albania clearly and rightfully consider that over 25% of the population of FYROM who are ethnic Albanians cannot be called “Macedonians.”

To the south, FYROM’s hostile propaganda has aggravated Greece and has especially angered us Macedonians worldwide, as we see our identity and history being usurped. Current irredentist propaganda, threats, and vicious revisionism of Greek civil war events by FYROM’s leadership have especially injured relations between Hellenes everywhere and FYROM’s Slavic people. In Melbourne, Australia, on May 24, 2008, FYROM diaspora representatives formally raised claims against Greek Macedonian territories with Thessaloniki as the capital. A pattern of hostile relations against Greece is a key policy option adopted by the government in Skopje today.

The United States wrongly assumed that recognition of FYROM as “Macedonia” would appease its Slavic inhabitants and make them implement the Ohrid agreement. On the contrary, this has whetted their appetite and the political party VMRO, which supported the referendum against the rights of Albanians, won the elections by an overwhelming majority a year and a half later.

It seems more important to FYROM’s Slavic citizens to support the political party which opposes the rights of Albanians than support the Slavic political party associated with recognition of their country as Republic of “Macedonia” by the United States. These developments clearly contradict assumptions among U.S. policymakers, though they do not surprise those of us familiar with the region and its people.

There are increasingly more divisions between ethnic Albanians and FYROM’s Slavic majority. The two communities do not talk to each other, do not learn each other’s language, do not allow their children to play together, learn history differently, and end up intensely resenting each other. Yet, there are those in NATO who believe there can be a united “Macedonian” army. Moreover, Greek soldiers and officers cannot be expected to work alongside any “Macedonian” counterparts in NATO.

According to the most recent census, only 62.5% of the population of FYROM consider themselves “Macedonians.” Who gives them the right to impede the Euro-Atlantic integration of the remaining 38% (i.e. minority) of the country’s population for a name dispute which does not even concern them, as there might be quite a few among the 62.5% who would look forward to a resolution, regardless of how they identify themselves? However, we also note with interest that during the aforementioned census it was not allowed that anyone identifies himself/herself as Hellene. Really how big is the Hellenic minority in the FYROM?

One should recall the prophetic words of then Secretary of State E. Stettinius who warned against “Macedonian” aggression toward Greece in a December 26, 1944 note sent to all U.S. consular officials [Foreign Relations, Vol. VII, Circular Airgram (868.014)]:

    "The Department has noted with considerable apprehension increasing propaganda rumors and semi-official statements in favor of an autonomous Macedonia emanating from Bulgaria, but also from Yugoslav partisan and other sources with the implication that Greek territory would be included in the projected State. This Government considers talk of ‘Macedonian Nation’, ‘Macedonian Fatherland’, or ‘Macedonian National Consciousness’ to be unjustified demagoguery representing no ethnic or political reality, and sees in its present revival a possible cloak for aggressive intentions against Greece.”

As it appears the current leadership of the State Department believes that there is such a thing as a “Macedonian” nation, which, according to the Stettinius State Department, did not exist in 1944. How can the recent inhabitants of The FYROM be considered as “Macedonians” being born by parents that were not Macedonians?
On the contrary, there are over two and a half million Hellenes in and from Macedonia, Greece, including the Greek Prime Minister, who consider themselves Macedonians.

As American citizens we appeal to the Administration to use its influence and advise FYROM’s leadership to stop hostile propaganda and policy against Greece, to stop teaching their youth that their land is under Greek occupation, and to find with Greece a mutually acceptable name for their country, which will be compatible with all its neighbors and will serve as a unifying force for its entire multifaceted population. Only this course can promote good neighborly relations and the integration of FYROM into Euro-Atlantic institutions.

The serious political miscalculation of recognition by the United States on November 4, 2004 of FYROM’s irredentist name has undermined our credibility and the credibility of NATO, as there was no consultation with Greece, and must now be corrected. This mistake which encouraged intransigence by FYROM’s leadership against long-term U.S. and Greek interests involving NATO’s expansion in southeast Europe is the reason why so many Members of Congress, including staunch Republicans, have distanced themselves from administration policy in this respect and have sponsored Resolution HR-356 in the House and Resolution SR-300 in the Senate. We note with particular interest that Senator Obama, candidate for the Presidency of the United States, strongly supports the Greek/American community on this issue of vital importance to us. 

We appeal to the Administration to stop disappointing a community of Americans of Greek heritage of over 3.000.000 and their many friends.

We appeal to the Administration to step back from compounding the miscalculation of encouraging FYROM inflexibility by encouraging or not strongly advising against issues of ethnicity, language or non-existent minorities being raised in an overburdened context.

We appeal to the Administration to focus on the deep bonds and shared interests with Greece and encourage FYROM’s leadership to stop hostile propaganda and proceed to a mutually acceptable solution that will be embraced formally by the United States, as President Bush has committed himself, and internationally.

As for the Greek-American community, loyal to the multiple resolutions passed on this issue, we wish to inform you that we cannot accept the words “Macedonia”-“Macedonian” as part of the final name of the FYROM.

Furthermore, Mr. Undersecretary, as American citizens, we come to our government to protect our Macedonian/Hellenic identity.


Dr.Nina Gatzoulis   
Supreme President 
Dr. Antonios Papadopoulos
Supreme Vice-President


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