The Macedonian Tendency: Why Can't Robert Kaplan Find Any Macedonians!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Why Can't Robert Kaplan Find Any Macedonians!

Dear Robert Kaplan,
Balkan Ghosts
Eastward to Tartary

From: David Edenden

I found your old travel article from 1989 from the New York Times website on your visit to Greek Macedonia (which is thankfully available for free). Robert, you are a good writer and this is a good article. It makes me want to book my ticket right now! However, you forgot to mention any ethnic Macedonians who might be scurrying around the mountains of Vitsi and Gammos, a place where Macedonians gathered to fight for their rights during the Greek Civil War, unfortunately closing the wrong side. You mention Vlahs, and Greeks of course, but no ethnic Macedonians. Probably just an oversight.

Now in Balkan Ghosts, you said Macedonians were really Bulgarians who spoke Bulgarian with a speech impediment. I assured my grandfather, after he slowly read the Macedonian chapter of your book, that the error would probably be corrected in the following edition, because ... you know ... so many countries, so little time! (Has it? I don't think so. Maybe later.)

In another book, Eastward to Tartary, you mentioned that no one wrote about the existence of the Macedonian people as a separate ethnic group, prior to WW2, so therefore "Tito invented a counterfeit nation", as the Greek slander goes. Well, Robert, I think you must have forgotten Krste Misirkov and his book, On Macedonian Matters - 1903, and lets not even mention the Bulgarian slander that Macedonians were invented by a Serbian plot circa 1890.

If it exists,I will try to get a picture of you, at the Krste Misirkov Institute, which is "The Academie Francaise" of the Macedonian language. I am sure you visited there with the professors, and they must have showered you with all kinds of documents and information about the Macedonian people. Maybe you lost them?

Now Robert, I am starting to be suspicious. I admit I have an incurable form of male answer syndrome. I have never met you, but let me see if I can guess why you you overlooked the plight of ethnic Macedonians in Greece . I know you spent a great deal of time in Greece and at least one of your children was born there and you speak fluent Greek.

Was it your wife? Did she say "if you discussed the mistreatment of ethnic Macedonians in Greece you could never eat feta cheese in Athens again"? Did she say "you could never return to the Greek Islands"? Did she say that "you would lose all your Greek friends and your picture would be posted in every Greek restaurant, in every "Greek Town", around the world ... behind a dartboard"?

I have a suggestion that can address my concerns and those of your wife. Have one of your nephews or nieces (hopefully named Kaplan) to do a story on the pressure on the small Jewish communities in both Macedonia and Greece to toe the "nationalist party line" in their respective countries. Maybe Dimitar Vlahov can be mentioned, who according to C. L. Sulzberger, "often spoke out in defense of the rights of the Jews, when Jewish members of the Ottoman Parliament were too cowed to speak" (Sulzberger's words "A long row of candles; memoirs and diaries, 1934-1954"). In addition, the movement to create a "Joint History Project" for the Balkans can also be discussed.

That's the cake. The icing on the cake would be a report on the Greek Issues Caucus and how they destabilize the Balkans by ignoring human rights violations for ethnic Macedonians in Greece ... and Bulgaria too!

Anyway, thanks and don't be a stranger!

A Greece of Forests And Mountain Lakes - New York Times

Published: February 12, 1989

"The town of Kastoria boasts a spectacular situation at the foot of the Vitsi and Grammos mountains, at the edge of a lake that has the mysterious, toneless quality of a dusty mirror.

The lake gets its name from Orestes, Agamemnon's son, who according to legend founded Kastoria during a grief-stricken, self-imposed exile after murdering his mother, Clytemnestra, and her lover. Kastoria was occupied by Bulgars, Serbs, Albanians and Turks before being restored to Greece in 1912. The mountains behind the town were scenes of important battles in World War II and the subsequent Greek Civil War. " ...

...Metsovo's several thousand inhabitants are Vlachs, originally from Rumania, who speak their own Latin-based language as well as Greek. The town owes its original wealth to an incident in the 17th century, when a Turkish vizier, out of favor with his sultan, was given refuge by a local peasant. The vizier later came to power and returned the favor by granting Metsovo virtual independence and tax-free privileges, a circumstance that led many wealthy Christian families to settle here and build mansions.


  1. Maybe you should have asked Kaplan why couldn't he find any Gauls (or Celts, as some have described them) of those who invaded Macedonia during the Hellenistic period, and caused a real turbulance, sacked the orcale of Delphi (unsucessfully) and then moved to Asia Minor in the region of Galatia (Capital: Ancara!) until they defeated by the Macedonian troops of the diadochi - and only with the use of Elephants on the Macedonian side.

    Seriously now, the Vinozhito/Ouranio Toxo has never managed to gather more than 2,500 votes alone, or 5,000 votes together with the reformed communists of OAKKE (old habits die hard) and those in the whole of Greece, when they did bother to participate. Nowadays they only participate in the elections for the European parliament.

    How do you expect Kaplan to find those folks with a single visit? Personally, I have lived in Serres for a long period of my life (you know where that is eh?) and I am currently posting you from there. I have known of Vlachs, and heard their language occasionally, but I have yet to find any of your folks in the vicinity on my own (although I have some reliable info from various sources, I don't want to dishearten you though!)


    We can start the common history project together if you want, in here. Since the theory that Tito did not invent any ethnicities, and could not invent and impose ethnicities on the ground, has been accepted by both of us, we can start the discussion by arguing of what really happened...

    ...I warn you though, I am a seasoned veteran of many discussions about Macedonia. You'll never see the post that shall pierce the backbone of your theories until it is too late...

    ...And I do not follow the "official" Greek line (a small secret here, there was no official history of Greece after the Balkan wars until a decade ago, and maybe there still isn't one!)

  2. The Macedonian element in northern Greece has been dormant ever since the 60's after suffering humiliating episodes such as the expulsion of about 100,000 children to former communist countries and the burning and ransacking of many villages. Those people are silent and afraid to be who they are in a country where being other than Greek can guarantee total exclusion of society, losing your job and frequent threats, all of which are experienced by Macedonians who are still, at least whispering in their native language. When things in your country will change, things such as recognition of ethnic minorities and respect of human rights...then you will see that the forces of denationalization and assimilation have failed to engulf the entire Macedonian population. Unfortunately that will not happen any time soon because you and I and many people in Strasbourg know the Greek government, any Greek government, will never relinquish its tight grip on domestic policies in respect to minorities, especially the Macedonian minority.

    You do have nearly half a million Albanians in Greece though. You keep barking at the wrong tree all this time. You DO need friends and having better friends than Macedonians is close to impossible. Learn your lesson. Recognize, emphasize and stop hating.

  3. The previous comment said nearly all that can be said. To all of you nationalistic Greeks (note that I am using the name that you choose for yourselves and how would you feel if I do otherwise) it is high time that you open any unbiased history record and read finally about the ethnic composition of the "newly acquired" territories of Greece after 1913. And, be sure to read about the subsequent measures of the Greek government to erase any ethnicities that were not Greek in those parts (relocation, arrests, terror). After you have done that, we can have a talk. I am a descendant of such a persecuted family. My grandfather was on the side of the communists because of the inhumane and fascist treatment Macedonians received after the Greek annexation of 51% of ethnic Macedonia, which Dora Bakoyannis nowadays so proudly admits. Let me be clear. I am not asking now almost a 100 years later for the borders to be changed. That is in the past. But, when the Greek state acts like this, denying the name of us Macedonians, and denying our right to call ourselves that, knowing what it had done in the past, how can we be expected to be reasonable? Remember, Macedonians exist, our history is what it is; I have only to ask my grandparents and have a decent account, I do not need to be "enlightened" by modern day politicians. And, incidentally, you can go over to my blog. If you can not read what is written there, it is because it is written in the MACEDONIAN language. I wish that you will finally see the light. Macedonians will not judge you for what your forefathers have done. We forgave you, but we do not forget.