Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 10:10 GMT

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Publisher WRITENET
Author Owen Bennett Jones
Publication Date 1 April 1994
Cite as WRITENET, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 1 April 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a6ba4.html [accessed 17 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

1. INTRODUCTION

Even the issue of what to call the country under discussion is highly controversial. This paper will use the acronym FYRM, standing for Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which is the name under which the United Nations has recognised the country.

FYRM has every reason to be fearful of one of the governing principles of Balkan politics: that each nation assumes it has a valid claim on territory that was once within its boundaries, however long ago. Given that FYRM has, over the centuries, been occupied by virtually all the regional powers, this tendency to establish a nation's "natural boundaries" by looking back to history bodes ill for the country.

The territory within FYRM has for centuries been highly volatile and has witnessed successive wars. it has long been a refugee-producing and refugee-accepting area. Given the current instability in the region there is, at the very least, a possibility that in this respect history will repeat itself. As a report by Radio Free Europe has put it:

The Republic of Macedonia might become the last domino to fall in a complex game of nationalism involving itself and its neighbours. Should an armed conflict break out, the potential for drawing in the rest of the Balkan peninsula should not be overlooked. The ramifications could include a Balkan war involving two NATO members (Greece and Turkey), one EU member (Greece), the new Yugoslav state, Bulgaria and very likely Albania. A quantum increase in the number of refugees from the Balkans flooding north could also be expected......" (RFE, 1992, 45).

Given FYRM's precarious position in Balkan regional politics the United Nations Security Council announced in December 1992 the deployment of a preventative peace keeping force in the country (Jane's Intelligence Review, 1993, 387). On a visit to Skopje, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili said the presence of the American troops was an attempt to stop the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina spreading to FYRM (Agence France Presse, 31 March 1994; Associated Press, 31 March 1994)

The contents of this issue paper demonstrate that the FYRM is vulnerable to regional instability. The conclusion will outline some of the scenarios which observers believe could result in diplomatic tensions escalating into more serious conflict.

2. A BRIEF HISTORY

2.1 History from Ancient Times to World War Two

It is difficult to establish precisely what area of land is meant by the term Macedonia. Clearly, it means different things to different people. The Encyclopedia Americana defines it thus:

It is generally considered to be bounded by the Sar Mountains on the northwest, the Rhodope Mountains on the northeast, the Aegean Sea, Mount Olympus and the Pindus Mountains on the east and southeast and Lake Ochrid on the southwest. The region today is divided among Greece, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. About half of the territory lies within Greece, about 500 square miles (6,400 sq km) within Bulgaria and the remaining 38% forms the Federal Republic of Macedonia within Yugoslavia [present day FYRM]". (1990, 18:19)

In the third century BC, Macedonia was one of the most powerful nations on earth. Alexander the Great was perhaps the greatest of all the ancient world's military commanders - he established control over areas as far away as India. He based his military expansion on the achievements of his father Philip of Macedonia. At this time the Macedonians were probably Illyrian in ethnic background. (Jelavich, 1983, 1:7)

It is worth noting that, in the debate over what FYRM should be called, the Greeks do in part base their case on these historical events. At the time that FYRM was seeking UN and EC recognition, Greece argued that the people living in FYRM were not the descendants of the ancient Macedonians, but that their ancestry can be traced back to the Slav tribes that moved into the area in the seventh century. As a consequence, the Greeks argue, the government of FYRM has no right to use symbols - or names - dating back to the ancient period as an expression of national identity today. Some historians point out, however, that during the ancient period, the Greeks were keen to dissociate themselves from the pre-Slav Macedonians, regarding them as little better than barbarians. (Times, 9 April 1993 and 16 October 1992; Independent, 14/16/17/18 November 1992 and Financial Times, 6 July 1992).

In the sixth and seventh centuries AD, Macedonia was settled by Slavic tribes which gradually assimilated the local population. Having become dominant, the Slavs accepted Christianity and became members of the Orthodox Church centred in Constantinople (Encyclopedia Americana, 1990,18:19).

In the seventh century, Byzantium partially subjugated the Slavs of Macedonia. By the ninth century most of Macedonia became part of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. Macedonian territory passed hands between various Bulgarian Kingdoms and Byzantium on a number of occasions until the mid 14th century when it was conquered by the Serbs.

This period of Serb domination was followed by a long period of Ottoman rule, and the forcible introduction of Islam at this time produced mass emigration from Macedonia. Equally, various ethnic groups moved into the area. Turks from Anatolia, Albanians and Jews expelled from Spain all came in. (Encyclopedia Americana, 1990, 18:19; Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1974, 15:219).

Firmly under Ottoman control, Macedonia was one of the last regions to be affected by the Balkan national revivals of the 19th century. But by the 1890's a national movement was developing. In 1896 the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO) tried to resist the influence of the regional powers (Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia) which wanted control of Macedonia and came up with the slogan "Macedonia for the Macedonians". It was to be a fruitless campaign. As a result of the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 the entire historical region of Macedonia was divided up amongst Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria. (Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1974, 15:219; RFE, 1992, 35).

2.2 History Post-World War Two

The Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (present day FYRM) was made up of land which in 1918 had fallen under Serb control. For a brief period during the Second World War the territory was taken over by Bulgaria and, to a much lesser extent, Italy, but afterwards was incorporated into Yugoslavia. Bulgarian control was reduced to an area of Eastern Macedonia known as Pirin Macedonia. (Encyclopedia Americana, 1990, 18:20).

The founding of Yugoslav Macedonia encouraged the development of a Macedonian Slav nationality with its own recognised language, culture and institutions (RFE, 1992, 36). Tito was relatively tolerant of national groups furthering their identity within Yugoslavia. Macedonia was able to use the post war period to engage in some nation building activities. It was not until the 1940's and 1950's, for example, that Macedonia developed a distinct literary language. Tito's policy was to some extent self-serving: the development of a separate Macedonian identity tended to undermine Bulgarian and Serbian claims to Macedonia (Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1974, 15:221; RFE, 1992, 36). The Yugoslav authorities were keen to create an official dialect which would be noticeably different from Serbian. In the event they chose one which was reasonably distinct from Serbian but very close to Bulgarian. This has only helped encourage the view of most Bulgarians that Macedonians are in fact Bulgarian (Poulton, 1993, 49).

3. INTERNAL POLITICS

3.1 General Issues and the Political Parties

In mid-1989 the ruling League of Communists of Macedonia, acting in line with developments elsewhere in Yugoslavia, committed itself to the introduction of multi-party politics. The general relaxation in the political climate in Skopje led to something of a national revival. The people of FYRM voted for independence in September 1991. The ethnic Albanian community largely boycotted the vote (Guardian, 17 November 1992). The constitution was subsequently re-worded so that the Socialist Republic of Macedonia was re-defined as "a nation state of the Macedonian people and the Albanian and Turkish minorities" (Poulton, 1993, 50).

The political party which most assertively promotes Macedonian nationalism is the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party of Macedonian National Unity (IMRO-DPMNE). The organisation was founded in June 1990 and pledged to fight for "all free Macedonians being united in a Macedonian state" (Poulton, 1993, 50). IMRO-DPMNE is led by the 28-year-old Ljupco Georgievski. For a time he was the Vice President of FYRM. The party takes a strong line on the issue of the country's name as well as being relatively hostile to the Albanian minority (Eastern Europe Newsletter, 14 April 1993).

In elections in November 1990 IMRO-DPMNE won 37 of the seats in parliament making it the largest party. The party has continued to pursue its nationalist agenda. For example, in 1993 it put down a vote of no confidence in the government as a challenge to its decision to accept the UN's recognition of the country as the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". IMRO-DPMNE felt that the government should have stuck out for recognition of "Macedonia" and nothing less. The government, though, narrowly won the vote of no confidence (RFE, 1993, 119).

Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski comes from the Social Democratic League or SDS (the successors to the former Communist Party) which has 31 seats in parliament. President Kiro Gligorov is also a member of the SDS (RFE, 1992, 37). The coalition government includes ministers from three other parties in the parliament: the ethnic Albanian PDP (see below); the Socialist Party of Macedonia and the Reformed Forces of Macedonia-Liberal Party. According to Radio Free Europe, much of the power in FYRM is in fact held by President Gligorov (1993, 119).

There are two ethnic Albanian parties - the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP) which has 25 seats, and the more radical National Democratic Party, which has called for union with Albania (Eastern Europe Newsletter, 14 April 1993).

The PDP had earned itself a reputation for moderation, arguing for greater ethnic Albanian autonomy within FYRM. There are however signs that the Albanian minority in general - and the PDP in particular - are becoming increasing radical. At a PDP Party Congress in Tetevo (home to PDP headquarters) on 13 February 1994, the moderates were pushed out of the leadership (Eastern Europe Newsletter, 2 March 1994). The authorities in Skopje have subsequently alleged that the split "was caused by direct interference from Tirana". And there are reports that Mendu Thaci, the leader of the breakaway and more extreme faction, has received a hero's welcome in Albania (Agence France Presse, 3 April 1994). According to a report in the Observer Thaci said that "if the Macedonians go on refusing Albanian demands there will be bloodshed here" (27 February 1994).

3.2 The Issue of Recognition

The post-Yugoslav politics of FYRM have hinged on one overriding issue: international recognition. It is still not resolved. The authorities in Skopje, though, have made substantial progress.

The first country to recognise FYRM (in January 1992) was Bulgaria. But Bulgaria recognised FYRM as a civic state - not a nation state. There is still great reluctance in Sofia to concede that the Macedonian people do constitute a distinct national group (Eastern Europe Newsletter, 21 February 1993). For a more detailed analysis of the Bulgarian position see section 6.5 below.

On 16 December 1993 six member states of the EU: Italy, Germany, France, Britain, Denmark and Holland recognised FYRM (BTA [Bulgarian Telegraph Agency], 17 December 1993, in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 21 December 1993). The United States recognised FYRM on 9 February 1994 (Daily Telegraph, 10 February 1994).

Other countries which have recognised FYRM include: Russia, China, Turkey, Slovenia, Croatia, Lithuania, Philippines, Belarus, Albania, Indonesia, Ukraine, North Korea, Belgium. Not all of these use the formulation FYRM. North Korea and China, for example, recognise the "Republic of Macedonia" (BBC News Information, 16 December 1993).

4. MINORITIES IN FYRM

4.1 General

In 1981 the Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (which covers the geographic area known as Vardar Macedonia) had a population of 1.9 million. Official Yugoslav statistics indicated that of those, 1.2 million were ethnic Macedonians, 377,726 Albanians, 86,691 Turks, 47,000 Gypsies, 44,000 Serbs, 40,000 Moslems, and 7,190 Vlachs (Poulton, 1993, 47).

4.2 Albanians in FYRM

The Albanians constitute the biggest minority in FYRM. While there is a broad range of Albanian opinion from the moderate to the fervently nationalist, all Albanian leaders are calling for greater cultural, regional and educational autonomy. Albanians are poorly represented in official bodies and those who are employed by the government tend to have low grade jobs as cleaners etc. (Eastern Europe Newsletter, 2 March 1994). Having said that, President Gligorov has shown a relatively conciliatory attitude towards the ethnic Albanians - there are, for example, ethnic Albanians in the Government.

Most ethnic Albanians live in the west or north west of FYRM close to the borders with the Serb province of Kosovo and Albania itself. They constitute a majority in many western areas. According to the 1981 census they make up 19.8% of the population. Albanian politicians claim the real figure is nearer 40% (RFE, 19 June 1992).

There have been significant tensions between the authorities in Skopje and the ethnic Albanians for many years. Back in 1983, for example, teachers in Tetevo were disciplined and dismissed from the League of Communists for not observing certain regulations concerning the use of Macedonian in official paperwork. On December 1986 Tanyug reported that a registrar in Tetevo was expelled for registering names "which stimulated nationalist sentiment" (Poulton, 1993, 80). By 1988 the restrictions against the ethnic Albanians had gone further. A ban was introduced on selling land in Western Macedonia. This was to prevent ethnic Albanians buying land, thereby creating ethnically pure areas (Poulton, 1993, 81).

Since the collapse of Yugoslavia the ethnic Albanians have felt less restrained about demanding greater rights. The Albanians in FYRM have, for example, frequently voiced their dissatisfaction with the status accorded to them by the new constitution (RFE, 1992, 38). For example, Professor Sami Ibrahimi, the Vice President of the PDP, has said:

In 1944, when Macedonia was created by Tito, both Albanians and Macedonians started out on an equal footing, but now we are treated like second class citizens. We are not a minority, we are a constituent nation of Macedonia. (Guardian, 31 July 1992).

In January 1992, over a quarter of a million Albanians voted in a referendum and a 74 percent majority favoured "territorial autonomy for Albanians in Macedonia". The government denied the validity of the poll. An estimated 40,000 ethnic Albanians demonstrated in Skopje in March 1992 calling for autonomy and jobs. (RFE, 19 June 1992). Then on November 6 1992 ethnic Albanians in Skopje rioted - the ensuing violence left four dead after a nine hour gun battle. The trouble began when rumours spread that an Albanian boy, arrested for illegally trading cigarettes, had died after rough treatment from the police. The Government in Skopje said that the riots were pre-prepared and Serbia had been involved in stirring up the trouble (Eastern Europe Newsletter, 1 December 1994) The Albanian parties blamed the police for the riots (Tanyug, 8 November 1992 in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 10 November 1992). According to the Independent:

The violence in Skopje was seen as a blow to the moderate Macedonian President, Kiro Gligorov. He has insisted on a policy of conciliating ethnic Albanians [...] Albanians hold seven ministries in the government (9 November 1992).

According to Radio Free Europe, some Albanians have established a self proclaimed "Republic of Ilirida" near Struga in the West of FYRM. The same report says that the Albanian liberation movement has a terrorist offshoot called Unikom which advocated the use of violence to resolve the question of Albanians in FYRM (1992, 41). In November 1993 a Skopje daily paper, Vecer, claimed that 21,630 ethnic Albanians had been organised in paramilitary formations and "organised to destroy in one hour the 14th Brigade of the Army of Macedonia which is in charge of the defence of the northwestern border at Tetevo" (Tanyug, 14 November 1993 in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 16 November 1993).

In a clear sign of the degree of tension in FYRM over the ethnic Albanian issue the government was reported to have arrested several ethnic Albanians in November 1993 and charged them with preparing an armed rebellion. The Government alleged a plot to create a "Republic of Ilirida". According to the Financial Times two of the arrested were deputy government ministers (11 November 1993). A subsequent report in the Independent stated that in fact only one, former, deputy minister was amongst those arrested. The incident strained relations between Albania and FYRM because Skopje accused Tirana of helping the plotters - a charge which was robustly denied (20 November 1993). The incident provoked a strong reaction from Ljupco Georgievski, the leader of IMRO-DPMNE. As well as demanding the resignation of the government he denied allegations that President Milosovic of Serbia had helped ethnic Albanians to acquire large amounts of weapons (Tanyug, 15 November 1993 in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 17 November 1993).

According to the Eastern Europe Newsletter there are ominous signs of what could happen in the event of relations breaking down between the Macedonian majority and the Albanian minority. IMRO "protection committees" have been established in nearly all the larger towns in FYRM. Leaders of the protection committees have admitted that their members are armed. One committee leader in Ochrid, Lambe Arnaudov, is quoted as saying that the committees exist to check the "unconstitutional activities of the Albanian minority" (19 October, 1992). Jane's Intelligence Review has also published information about the protection committees:

[... the committees] have acted in concert with local police forces to protect what they see as Slavophone interests. Some militants were arrested trying to blow up an Albanian mosque near Ohrid. In addition two Albanian soldiers were shot, one fatally, in a border incident with Macedonian troops in June [1993] (1993, 388).

One ethnic Albanian party, the People's Democratic Party, has claimed that the protection committees have about 100,000 armed people (Tanyug, 13 November 1993 in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 16 November 1993).

The difficulties encountered in trying to create an army in FYRM demonstrate the tensions between the Slav and Albanian populations of the republic. According to Jane's Intelligence Review there are virtually no Albanian officers or NCO's. The Albanian parties have called for ethnic Albanians to boycott the armed forces and it is estimated that Albanians only make up about five percent of the forces. Jane's Intelligence Review goes on:

[...] the army and the security forces have become increasingly politicized. There has been no purge of ex- communists and as a result, strongly authoritarian and undemocratic figures remain in some leading positions (1993, 388).

4.3 Turks in FYRM

The 1990 census recorded 70,000 ethnic Turks in FYRM. This compares with 86,691 in the 1981 census (Poulton, 1993, 91). According to the Eastern Europe Newsletter, the Government in Skopje is anxious that the Turkish community should not make common cause with their fellow Muslims, the ethnic Albanians. As a consequence, the authorities are relatively tolerant of the ethnic Turks, granting them educational and cultural rights (2 March 1994). Radio Free Europe offers another explanation for this stance: the authorities in Skopje are keen not to alienate Ankara because Turkey represents a welcome counterweight to Greece (1992, 41).

4.4 Bulgarians in FYRM

Since the collapse of Yugoslavia an organisation for Bulgarians in Macedonia has emerged. "The Society for Bulgarians in Vardar Macedonia" denies the very concept of a Macedonian nation and asserts the Bulgarian ethnicity of all Macedonians in Greece, FYRM and Bulgaria. In 1990 the Society appealed to the new democratic government in Sofia to "intercede on behalf of the Bulgarians living outside of Bulgaria" (Poulton, 1993, 53).

Another organisation, the Party of Human rights in the Republic of Macedonia, takes much the same line. In June 1993 its leader, Ilija Ilievski said:

Since 1945 the indigenous population of over 1,500,000 Bulgarians in the Republic of Macedonia, has been subject to assimilation, terror, harassment and extermination. We insist that the Macedonian Government grant fundamental rights to the Bulgarian majority and recognise its national identity. We call on the President to stop misleading the international public by claiming that there is a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. (BTA, 22 June 1993, in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 24 June 1993)

President Gligorov has said that in his opinion there are "very few" Bulgarians living in FYRM.

4.5 Serbs in FYRM

According to the 1981 census there are 44,000 Serbs in FYRM - 2.2 percent of the population (Poulton, 1993, 222). The Montenegrin newspaper Pobjeda, though, has claimed there are 300,000 (quoted in RFE, 1992, 43). Most of the Serbs in FYRM live in the Skopska Crna Gora and Kumanovo regions. Early in 1992 there was a referendum in the Serb areas on autonomy although it appears to have been something of a failure (RFE, 1992, 43.) In June 1993, FYRM agreed to Belgrade's demands and stated moves to grant the Serb minority in FYRM the same legal status as other minorities (Poulton, 1993, 222; Tanyug, 4 October 1993 in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 8 October 1993).

In September 1992 the Society of Serbs and Montenegrins in Macedonia issued a statement denying any intention of declaring an autonomous Serb republic within Macedonia. The Society said that Serbs and Montenegrins were committed to living within Macedonia (Radio Belgrade, 6 September 1992 in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 8 September 1992). Since this time, however, the Society has become increasingly strident - in particular demanding improved access to Serb language education (Tanyug, 22 March 1993 in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 27 March 1993).

4.6 Slav Muslims in FYRM

The Slav Muslims in Macedonia are known by many different names, including Torbeshes, Pomaks and Poturs. Their numbers have fluctuated greatly in censuses over the years: in 1953 there were 1,591; in 1961 there were 3,002; in 1971 there were 1,248 but in 1981 this had risen to no fewer than 39,555. The Slav Muslim Macedonians formed an association and held a meeting in 1970 at the monastery of Saint Jovan Bigorski in Western Macedonia. The Association claims that some 70,000 of its members have been assimilated by other Muslim groups (mainly the Albanians) since the Second World War.

In August 1990, the chairman of the republican community for the cultural and scientific events of Muslim Macedonians sent an open letter to the Chairman of the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP), accusing the ethnic Albanians of trying to assimilate Slav Muslims. In the November 1990 election many Slav Muslims did vote for the PDP (Poulton, 1993, 55).

4.7 Other Minorities in FYRM

The Vlahs are quite strongly represented in FYRM. These people are also known as Koustovlahs, Aromani and Cincari. They speak a form of Romanian and are Orthodox in faith. In general terms they seem to be treated relatively tolerantly wherever they live (Serbia, Greece, Albania and FYRM). This is probably because they have no state sponsoring their claims and rights. The Vlahs in FYRM predominantly live in and around Bitola, Resen and Krusevo, in the Osgovo mountains and the Kriva valley. There are Vlah societies in Bitola and Skopje calling for improved language/educational rights etc. The census shows their number has declined from 8,669 in 1953 to 6,392 in 1981. The Vlahs seem to be loosing their identity and are being gradually assimilated into the majority Macedonian population. This process has been accelerated by the difficulties of sustaining a nomadic way of life in late 20th century Europe. (Poulton, 1993, 96).

Yugoslavia as a whole had the largest Gypsy or Roma population in Europe and FYRM has, according to the 1981 census, 43,223 Gypsies. This was a significant rise on the census result a decade before, probably reflecting the better official status and decline in stigma attached to being Roma in Yugoslavia. Suto Orizari outside of Skopje has a Roma population of an estimated 35,000. According to Hugh Poulton these people are virtually segregated from the majority population. On the other hand they do have freedom to organise and they are represented by a Roma MP. (1993, 89).

5. THE MACEDONIAN DIASPORA

5.1 Macedonians in Bulgaria

It is a widely held view in Bulgaria that the Macedonians are in fact Bulgarians (Encyclopedia Americana, 1990, 18:20). This results in a tendency amongst Bulgarians to deny the existence of a Macedonian minority in the country. Petar Dertliev, the leader of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party reflected the prevailing view when he said "the thesis that a Macedonian minority exists in Bulgaria is a threat to this country's national identity" (BTA, 11 October 1993 in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 14 October 1993). President Zhelu Zhelev has expressed similar views (Poulton, 1993, 106).

The credibility of the Bulgarian position is not helped by the fact that there was a period when Sofia found it politically expedient to recognise the Macedonian minority. The Bulgarian census of 1956 stated that there were 187,729 Macedonians in Bulgaria - 95 percent of whom lived in the Pirin Macedonia. Indeed this 187,729 strong people accounted for fully 70 percent of the total population of the Pirin region (Bell, 1886, 99).

In the 1965 census the number of Macedonians living in Bulgaria had dropped to 8,750 and in the 1975 census there were none (Report on Eastern Europe, December 1991, 7).

The level of organisation of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria remains somewhat opaque. One Macedonian nationalist group, the United Macedonian Organisation-Illinden, was denied registration by the Bulgarian Law Court in late 1990 on the grounds that the Bulgarian constitution states that no political party should be based on ethnic lines.

Although it is not legally recognised, the organisation clearly exists. It was formed in November 1989 under the name Illinden. In April 1990 it changed its name to United Macedonian Organisation-Illinden (UMO-Illinden) and sent letters to the UN, the Bulgarian parliament, the European parliament, Bulgarian TV and the International Court in the Hague calling for an autonomous Macedonia (Poulton, 1993, 110).

In December 1993 the Skopje-based television channel A-1 carried interviews with members of Illinden (and other organisations including the St Illiya Union of Christian Brothers, the Illinden Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation-TMO and the Union of Macedonian Anarchists). All complained of "repressions [...] on the part of the Bulgarian state". The speakers called for the creation of an autonomous Macedonian region within Bulgaria's borders (Bulgarian TV, 6 December 1993 in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 15 December 1993).

In August 1993 some Sofia newspapers reported that UMO-Illinden made a statement in Skopje asking for "support from Serbia for the recognition of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria". In response a Bulgarian foreign ministry official made these comments:

In the foreign political aspect, the Illinden United Macedonia Organisation is not regarded as a problem for Bulgaria because it does not concern the country's relations with any of its neighbours [...] The problem should not be regarded as existent in the internal aspect either because there is no registered organisation called the Illinden United Macedonian Organisation" (BTA, 13 August 1993 in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 17 August 1993).

In addition to the legal challenges based on the Constitution, other actions have been taken by the government to try to limit the activities of UMO-Illinden. In a submission to the Council of Europe, Professor Mortan Sklar wrote that:

meetings of Macedonian minority groups relating to the celebration of ethnic national days have been broken up by police - often using violent means (Sklar, 15 June 1992).

The Bulgarian authorities look much more kindly on the main rival to UMO-Illinden, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO). (Note the distinction between the Sofia-based and pro Bulgarian IMRO and the Skopje-based and Macedonia nationalist IMRO-DPMNE.) Indeed, the Bulgarian president, Zhelu Zhelev has met leaders from IMRO (BTA, 28 September 1993, in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 30 September 1993).

IMRO is committed to "countering all attempts to erode Bulgarian national unity"; it stands against "pan Serbian and pan Greek ambitions at the expense of Macedonian Bulgarians". At a Macedonian fair in Blagoevgrad held in 1991 the chairman of IMRO, Dimitr Gotsev said:

We are against the lies of the Comintern and Tito that we are Macedonians and not Bulgarians. The very fact that about a million and a half refugees from Macedonia or their descendants live now in Bulgaria shows what we are and which country we consider our homeland" (BTA, 25 May 1991, in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 28 May 1991).

Not surprisingly, relations between IMRO and Illinden are poor. There were violent clashes between the two organisations early in May 1991 (BTA, 5 May 1991, in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 8 May 1991).

5.2 Macedonians in Greece

The Greeks have always refused to recognise the Slav Macedonians living in Greece as Macedonians. Athens refers to them as "Slavophone Greeks". This Greek policy of non recognition has been consistent since 1913 (Poulton, 193, 207). In fact many of the Slavs living in Greece left, or were expelled from, Greece during and after the Greek Civil War (1946 - 1949). It is estimated that between 80,000 and 100,000 left at the time with the majority settling in Yugoslav Macedonia. These people are sometimes referred to as the Cham minority and there is a dispute between Greece and FYRM over restitution for them (RFE, 1992, 36 and 39; Financial Times, 6 July 1992).

In 1953 Athens issued a decree intended to start the colonisation of the northern parts of the country "with new colonists with healthy national consciousness". The anti-Macedonian element of this law became apparent when the only other significant minority in northern Greece - the Turks of Western Thrace - were excluded from the measure. In 1954 the Papagos government resolved to remove all Slav Macedonians from posts as officials in Greek Macedonia. In 1959 villagers from Lerin, Kostur and Kajlari were asked to confirm publicly, in front of officials, that they did not speak Macedonian. Many emigrated to Australia and Canada (Poulton, 1993, 179).

The Greek attitude to the Slav Macedonians makes it very difficult to estimate how many are actually living in northern Greece. The Times has estimated the figure at 75,000 (5 October 1993). Radio Free Europe has also hazarded a guess:

Those who remain [after the Greek civil war] probably number between 10,000 and 50,000 although unofficial Greek sources place the figure at between 2,000 and 3,000 and the Athens government claims that there is no 'Macedonian national minority' [...] in Greece [...] Although data are scant, it appears that the Slavs remaining in Greece, known officially by the government as "Slavophone Greeks", generally regard themselves as Greek. It seems that the language of the older generation is Slavic [...] be it Bulgarian or Macedonian. The younger generation appears to know only Greek (1992, 36).

Nevertheless there are indications that at least some of these Macedonians in Greece have held on to their Macedonian identity. For example, there is a newspaper - Ta Moglena - which is distributed to some 5,000 people in northern Greece who claim to be Macedonians.

Furthermore, in 1989 an organisation calling itself the Central Committee for Macedonian Human Rights appeared. This organisation has made representations to the UN Centre for Human Rights in Geneva, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. According to Hugh Poulton its not clear whether the organisation is run by inhabitants of Northern Greece or by emigre Macedonians (1993, 179).

5.3 Macedonians in Albania

One factor in the relationship between Tirana and Skopje which should not be overlooked is the Macedonian minority in Albania. Hugh Poulton estimates that there are between ten and twenty thousand, although Skopje claims over 100,000 Slav Macedonians are living in Albania. He argues that the ethnic Macedonians in Albania are treated relatively tolerantly and that the Albanians do not see their Slav minorities as posing a significant threat (1991, 6).

Radio Free Europe says the highest available figure for the Macedonian population in Albania (to which RFE does not attach much creditability) is 80,000 (1993, 38).

6. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FYRM AND ITS NEIGHBOURS

6.1 General

As will already be clear, FYRM has highly complex relationships with its neighbours. The fact that so many countries have an interest in FYRM and that so many have minorities in FYRM makes Skopje an important focus of regional diplomacy.

6.2 Albania

In the immediate aftermath of the collapse of communism it seemed that Albania and FYRM were moving closer together. In June 1992 President Salih Berisha of Albania and President Gligorov pledged to establish a "model relationship" based on open borders and economic cooperation. In 1992 the borders were opened on a number of occasions to allow Albanians from either side of the border to meet their relatives (RFE, 1992, 38).

At the same time, Albania was slow to recognize FYRM because it was hoping that in return Skopje would recognize the self proclaimed republic of Kosovo. Skopje was afraid to do that for fear of Serb reprisals (Eastern Europe Newsletter, 21 September 1992).

It was perhaps inevitable that tensions would arise over the status and treatment of the large Albanian minority in FYRM.

In 1993 Tirana started seeking "constituent nation" status for the Albanian minority. Albania vetoed FYRM's membership of the CSCE (Eastern Europe Newsletter, 10 August 1993).

The Government of FYRM has shown an increasing tendency to blame Tirana for the more extremist elements of the Albanian minority within FYRM (for examples, see section 4.2 above).

6.3 Serbia

Serb nationalists have not reconciled themselves to the loss of Macedonia. In September 1992 Vojislav Seselj announced the creation of a Serbian Autonomous Region of Kumanovo Valley. The local Serb population were quick to deny that they had any such plans (see section 4.5 above).

The Serbian President, Slobadan Milosovic, has coordinated his policy towards FYRM with the Greeks. In 1993 he started to use the Greek formulation of "Skopje" to describe FYRM (Eastern Europe Newsletter, 14 April 1993). Also in line with Athens, he suggested the name "Slavomacedonia" as a new name for FYRM. The use of this name would obviously be unpopular with the Albanian minority (Eastern Europe Newsletter, 8 June 1994).

There has been tension over the rights of the Serb Orthodox Church in FYRM. In December 1992 the Serb Orthodox Church asked the Macedonian Orthodox Church to give up its independence (which it had won in 1967) and become subordinate once again to Serb Orthodoxy. The Macedonian Church rejected the proposal. Furthermore, the Macedonians denied that the Serb Church has any property in FYRM despite the claims of the Serbs to have vast territories there (Eastern Europe Newsletter, 16 February 1993).

According to the Greeks, Serbia's President Milosovic suggested in late 1991 that Greece and Serbia carve up FYRM. The Greeks were not impressed with the idea and the Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis reported the proposition to the European Community (RFE, 1993, 44).

6.4 Greece

Greece's relations with FYRM or, as the Greeks call it, "the State of Skopje", have been getting steadily worse ever since the country declared independence. Greece argues that the emergence of a Macedonian state to its north poses a threat to its territorial integrity. It accuses FYRM of having undeclared pretensions to the northern Greek province of Macedonia. This is a big issue in Greece where up to one million people regularly attend demonstrations to protest against the use of the name Macedonia in describing FYRM (United Press International, 31 March 1994).

The Greeks have three specific disputes with FYRM:

First, the name. In fact, the President of FYRM, Kiro Gligorov, did indicate in 1992 that he was willing to negotiate on the name. At the time there were various proposals - the Greeks wanted "Republic of Skopje"; the Austrians suggested "Central Balkan Republic"; the Albanian minority favoured a classical term, "Dardania". President Gligorov discussed the possibility of keeping the term Macedonia but qualifying it with "north" or "new". In the event none of these options were acceptable to all the parties concerned (Eastern Europe Newsletter, 21 September 1994). As the matter stands Greece refuses to accept the word Macedonia, however qualified, in the name of the new country (Agence France Presse, 31 March 1994).

Secondly, Greece is demanding an end to the use of the gold pointed Star of Vergina as the national emblem of FYRM and as the centre piece of its national flag. The Star of Vergina was a symbol of the ancient Macedonian dynasty of Philip and Alexander the Great. It was discovered in 1977 by Greek archaeologists in the southern tip of Greek Macedonia - a region which never had any Slav population (Eastern Europe Newsletter, 21 September 1992; 1 December 1992).

Thirdly, Greece wants changes to some passages in the constitution of FYRM which it regards as "irredentist" (Agence France Presse, 30 March 1994).

In order to press home the extent of its concern about these issues Greece has taken a number of steps. In December 1992 it formed 44 new battalions, bringing its northern border force to 60,000 men (Daily Telegraph, 9 December 1992). In March 1994 it imposed trade restrictions on FYRM. No goods - except humanitarian supplies such as medicines - are being allowed through the port of Salonika. This is a grave blow to land-locked FYRM which relies on the port for 80% of its imports (Agence France Presse, 31 March 1994).

The Greek blockade of FYRM has drawn Athens into a dispute with the European Union. In April 1994, the EU Commission decided to take Greece before the European Court of Justice in the belief that the blockade breaks EU rules which provide for free trade between members and third parties (Agence France Presse, 6 April 1994; Reuter, 6 April 1994). At the time of writing Greece has refused to back down (Agence France Presse, 7 April 1994). It counters complaints from the EU with the argument that there are "political as well as legal " aspects to the embargo (United Press International, 31 march 1994; Reuter, 31 March 1994).

6.5 Bulgaria

The relationship between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria was for a period amongst the most difficult of any relationships between two communist states. The dispute between the two countries hinged on the so called "Macedonian Question". Tito wanted to incorporate Pirin Macedonia in Yugoslavia. The Bulgarians were not interested in such a proposal. The argument came into the open when Belgrade broke its close links with Moscow. Having originally acknowledged the existence of a Macedonian minority in the Pirin region, by 1965 the Bulgarians were saying that there was no such minority. By 1969 Sofia was on the offensive, claiming that two thirds of the people who lived in the Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were in fact Bulgarian (Crampton, 1987, 190). The dispute still rumbles on.

In September 1991, for example, it flared up at the "Moscow Conference of the Human Dimension". The Yugoslav delegation to the conference alleged that Bulgaria was violating the rights of the Macedonian minority. This was denied by the head of the Bulgarian delegation who said: "There is not a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria", before going on to describe the Yugoslav allegations as a "regrettable relapse to the past". (BTA, 27 September 1991 in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4 October 1991). While Bulgaria was the first country to recognise FYRM in January 1992, that was largely because Bulgaria would rather see an independent government in Skopje than one subordinate to Belgrade (Poulton, 1991, 7). Furthermore, it is important to notice the lack of an explicit recognition of the Macedonian people as a separate nationality (RFE, 1992, 42).

A Bulgarian Foreign Ministry official spelt out Sofia's position on this issue thus:

The position of Bulgarian diplomats is firm: Bulgaria recognizes Macedonia's independence but there is not reason to recognise a non existing nation (BTA, 4 February 1993, in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 9 February 1993).

7. CONCLUSION & REFUGEE ISSUES

Skopje lies at the heart of a region which, excepting the long period of Ottoman rule, has been for two millennia amongst the most volatile in Europe. Apart from the ethnic Albanian riots in Skopje in November 1992, FYRM has managed to avoid significant political violence throughout the course of the war in former Yugoslavia.

Nevertheless it has found itself playing host to thousands of refugees. After a meeting between the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, and President Gligorov in March 1994, Mrs Ogata thanked the President for receiving 10,000 refugees from the territory of former Yugoslavia, most of them muslims from Bosnia. She said the UNHCR was trying to help care for these people by sending them financial aid and food. (Tanyug, 14 March 1994, in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 16 March 1994).

According to Hugh Poulton, in April 1993 the government of FYRM said there were 30,000 refugees in the country. At that time the UNHCR figure was 22,000 and the Catholic Relief Service said there were 18,000. Other estimates went as high as 50,000. Certainly there were enough refugees in the country to cause some resentment amongst the host population: demonstrations were held to protest at the construction of accommodation blocks for refugees (Poulton, 25 April 1994).

The difficulty of counting refugees in FYRM is enhanced by the presence of so many ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and from Albania itself. They do not show up in official figures because they do not have official papers. The Albanian parties in FYRM claim that there are as many as 100,000 ethnic Albanians in FYRM who are now people "without nationality" (ATA, 3 March 1994, in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 7 March 1994). These people are likely to be excluded from the forthcoming census in FYRM. In fact the ethnic Albanian leadership has threatened to boycott the census on the grounds that the difficulty in obtaining official papers means that the number of ethnic Albanians will be under-counted. (Albanian TV, 3 February 1994 in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 8 February 1994; Albanian TV, 7 April 1994, in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 11 April 1994) According to Hugh Poulton, the government would rather see the ethnic Albanians from outside of FYRM as refugees whereas the ethnic Albanian leadership wants these people included in the FYRM's own Albanian minority (Poulton, 25 April 1994).

It is worth noting a related issue which has been causing considerable controversy with FYRM. According to the Independent, a secret meeting took place in Vienna on 10 March 1994 between various European Interior Ministers and officials to organise the repatriation of ethnic Albanian asylum seekers through FYRM to Kosovo. The border between FYRM and Kosovo was closed in October 1993 after complaints from FYRM about the number of refugees being returned. (The Independent, 18 March 1994). According to Tanyug, a senior official at the Macedonian Interior Ministry, Kiril Sarevski, confirmed that the Vienna meeting took place - at the request, he said, of the German authorities. However he said the FYRM had not agreed to a large deportation of ethnic Albanians from Germany being carried out via Skopje airport (BBC Monitoring, 25 March 1994). There was much parliamentary comment in FYRM about this issue with opposition MPs complaining that the Government was allowing Europe to shift the blame for these repatriations from itself and onto FYRM (Tanyug, 29 March 1994, in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 31 March 1994).

Looking ahead there is considerable potential for refugees both entering and leaving FYRM. As Prime Minister Crvenkovski has himself put it:

There is no doubt that if a conflict breaks out here in Macedonia, a Balkan war including Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey is unavoidable (Times, 6 April 1994).

It is possible to imagine a number of scenarios which would result in the destabilisation of FYRM. Writing in the Times Misha Glenny has argued that the most significant threat comes from the ethnic Albanian community within the

War in Macedonia can still be avoided. But to do so the government will have to act decisively to advance Albanian rights, even in the teeth of a Macedonian nationalist backlash. Urgent international mediation is also required to reconcile the differing interests of Skopje, Tetevo and Tirana (The Times, 6 April 1994).

Hugh Poulton agrees that a breakdown in the relationship between the Albanian minority and the authorities in Skopje is the most likely cause of destabilisation in FYRM (Poulton, 25 April 1994).

Even if the Government in FYRM were to advance Albanian rights, there can be no guarantee of a stable outcome. Much depends on the attitude of Serbia. Prime Minister Crvenkovski has made quite clear his view that the Serbian President has not reconciled himself to the loss of Macedonia: "Serbia wants all of Macedonia back", he says (Independent, 11 November 1992). Jane's Intelligence Review outlines two possible scenarios involving Serbia:

The first is a Serbian move across the border to reoccupy Macedonia [...] the second is that fighting could break out in Kosovo and spill over the border. Refugees would be pushed over in a new Serbian campaign against ethnic Albanians, while the ethnic Albanians in western Macedonia would provide the basis for Albanian resistance in Kosovo. This would result in Serbian incursions into Macedonia (Jane's Intelligence Review, 1993, 387).

Hugh Poulton agrees that unrest in Kosovo would be dangerous for FYRM:

The situation in Kosovo will remain crucial to the republic [FYRM] with real possibility of it being dragged into any violent conflict which may erupt there. (Poulton, 1993, 222)

Any of these three scenarios: (1) the Albanian minority demanding greater or complete autonomy; (2) violence in Kosovo spilling over or (3) a Serb invasion of FYRM, would have refugee implications. The following analysis of the likely outcome of these scenarios is based on a telephone interview with Hugh Poulton on 25 April 1994.

If there were conflict between ethnic Albanians and the majority population in FYRM then the Albanians might try to flee. They would go to Albania and Greece. There are already between 100,000 and 200,000 ethnic Albanians in northern Greece and these would probably act as a magnet to ethnic Albanian refugees from FYRM. At the same time it is quite likely that if there were a substantial movement of people towards Greece, Athens would try to seal its border. In that case, the ethnic Albanians would have little choice but to go to Albania itself.

Much the same considerations apply to destabilisation resulting from civil conflict in Kosovo. But in this case there would be one important further consideration. Substantial numbers of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo would be likely to move towards Albania and FYRM.

The situation would be rather more complicated if the Serbs invaded FYRM. In that case, some of the majority Macedonian population as well as ethnic Albanians could be expected to try to flee. Like the ethnic Albanians, many might try to move to Greece. Again it is likely that they would be thwarted because the border would probably be sealed. In that case, the Macedonians would have little choice but to move to Bulgaria. The Bulgarians would be likely to receive them warmly. In fact Bulgaria is the traditional destination for Macedonian refugees - substantial numbers moved to Bulgaria between 1900 and the late 1920's and again after the second world war. It is worth noting that the Macedonians currently in Bulgaria sometimes refer to themselves as refugees even though their families moved to Bulgaria many generations ago.

These are by no means the only scenarios which foresee a threat to the stability of FYRM. Other scenarios, though, are so speculative as to have little value. But even the three offered above serve to demonstrate the vulnerability of the new state. There is also the increasingly difficult relationship with Greece although, as the Guardian has pointed out: "Ironically, given the vehemence of the Athens campaign, Greece alone among Macedonia's neighbours is not a predator (The Guardian, 19 March 1994).

The Greek embargo of trade with FYRM is tending to divert attention away from other more potentially serious problems. The real threat to stability in FYRM comes from the north (Serbia), the west (Albania) and within (an aggrieved Albanian minority). It is difficult to escape the conclusion of the British foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, who has described FYRM as "a disaster waiting to happen". (The Guardian, 31 July 1992).

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The views expressed in the papers are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of UNHCR.

 

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