Greece and the Macedonian Question Yesterday
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
1. Fiachra Gibbons interviews Greek director Theo Angelopoulos.
2. He knows he lives in Florina where 50% of the residents are ethnic Macedonians.
3. He does not ask him how he can live with people, yet ignore their existence in his movies.
I don't know Fiachra, but I can only assume that he likes Greece and he does not want to do anything that would make it difficult for him to work or vacation there.(Greek Islands Ya Know) He has no problem discussing Turkish problems with the Armenian genocide.
Apparently Fiachra Gibbons is writing a book on the Ottoman legacy in Europe. I predict that he will ignore the treatment of ethnic Macedonians in Greece and he certainly won't criticise Theo Angelopoulos for aiding and abetting cultural genocide in Florina. We really need someone who can review his films and life
Tale of the century
Greece's greatest living film-maker has embarked on his most ambitious
project yet. Theo Angelopoulos talks to Fiachra Gibbons
Wednesday January 19, 2005
It is easy to joke about Theo Angelopoulos, maker of such exceeding long and
exceedingly slow intellectual epics as Eternity and a Day, a film that felt
only marginally shorter than its title. It's even harder to resist parody
now the great master is making a trilogy of films that modestly set out to
define the past century.
On the evidence of The Weeping Meadow, however, we may have to find a new
butt for our jokes. No one is saying the famously stern Greek auteur has
gone mainstream, but this is his most accessible film in decades and
contains such nakedly bourgeois fripperies as emotions and characters that
might almost be real.
When I tell him how many people cried when they saw his first instalment,
the story of Greek refugees from the Russian revolution adrift in their
ancient homeland, he jolts back in his chair, momentarily horror-struck. Yet
The Weeping Meadow, which contains several close-ups and other barefaced
sops to populism, clearly shows Angelopoulos is going soft in his old age -
or what he prefers to term his "Aristotelian period". But then, even
arthouse legends have occasionally to consider the audience, particularly
when they are in danger of not having one any more.
I meet him in Thessaloniki, the northern Greek city where the new film is
centred, on one of these bright clear winter days Angelopoulos hates. Living
in Europe's sunniest country is a constant trial for a man who only shoots
in fog or rain. It is so clear, in fact, you can see Mount Olympus across
the gulf, on whose lofty heights Angelopoulos has all but dwelt since The
Travelling Players made him an art-cinema immortal a quarter of a century
ago. It's easy to sympathise with young Greek film-makers frustrated by the
way he has hogged the top of the heap, and the country's limited resources,
for so long.
Which is why he takes me by surprise the next day by revealing how even gods
feel vulnerable when they are staring 70 in the face. Listen, he says,
gesturing with the ghost of the cigarette he is no longer allowed to smoke,
I have only really made one film, and I've made it again and again. "Of all
the thousands of scenes I've shot, there have only been one or two images I
can honestly say were original - that were from my own gaze, my own
experience. The first one was in December 1944. I was nine and Athens was in
the turmoil of civil war - there were dead bodies everywhere and I remember
my mother holding me by the hand as we walked through the city looking for
my father's corpse. I remember looking for him on a plot of land full of
dead bodies. We didn't find him. Fortunately, he had not been executed.
"Then I remember as I was playing in the street one afternoon when my father
returned. He was dressed in rags and I shouted to my mother, and she came
out to meet him. There was a very deep and absolute emotion in this. There
was nothing for supper, we had some thin soup, and we couldn't talk. That is
the first sequence in Reconstruction, my first film.
"In all these years, they are the only images I can say that are truly
He stops himself, looking for a suitably philosophical rationale for this
uncharacteristic confession. "My earlier films were emotional in the second
degree; now they are in the first degree," he says.
You can see that even in the way this film looks. The usual motifs are
there: the fogs; the tiny figures lost in a huge canvas like matchstick men;
the spectacular, lingering set-piece shots; the eternal refugees with their
suitcases. But there is an intensity now that says we are nothing in the
face of history, and those who try to change its course risk being destroyed
by it. Like Odysseus, his favourite mythological character, we are in the
lap of unfeeling gods.
As is Angelopoulos himself. Taking on the story of the 20th century might
seem like megalomania, but that is not how the small, edgy man appears
without entourage, fuss and cameras.
Though his films divide Greeks, they are undeniably national events. His
shoots are like circuses, with thousands of tourists and rubberneckers
descending on the remote lakes and mountains of Greek Macedonia, where he
likes to assemble his huge painterly tableaux. At weekends there are traffic
jams, fast-food vans and Gypsy bands to entertain the crowds, which stay at
a reverent, un-Greek-like distance as he waits for the weather to close in
so he can shoot. Many of these people will not go to the films; they come
simply because he is great and Greek.
But there is more than national pride at stake now. Angelopoulos's
motivation for so huge and risky a project so late in his career could not
be more personal. He came up with the idea of the trilogy while watching his
"By the time I got to her bedside she couldn't speak, and I thought, this
woman has experienced the whole century - she was born at the beginning and
is dying at its end. She has seen its hopes and disasters and now it is too
late for her to pass those on to me. I had just returned from Cannes with
the Palme d'Or for Eternity and a Day, and it was not what I was expecting.
I thought it might be a good idea to tell this story through a woman. Women
more than men are tragic figures. My mother, for example, was Antigone at
times or Hecuba other times. In her life she played different roles."
The second part of the trilogy - for which he has not yet found funding,
despite winning a European Film award last month for The Weeping Meadow -
starts in the Soviet Union in 1953, on the day Stalin died, with a train
taking home an international brigade of disillusioned activists who have
lost faith with socialism.
The resonances for Greece, where a popular leftwing government was
overthrown by the British and Americans after the second world war and
150,000 refugees were sent into exile in the eastern bloc, could not be
stronger. Angelopoulos himself had to carve out his career under the beady
eyes of the military dictatorship of the early 1970s, which was again
supported by Washington. In some ways, his distinctive cinematic style grew
from the mists of symbolism in which he had to cloak his early films to stay
out of jail.
"My last film will be about the future, and our visionary relations with
it," he says. But he refuses to elaborate. He has a flight to Rome to catch.
He is receiving another award, this time the Vittorio de Sica prize from the
Italian government. I congratulate him but he looks at me as if I'm mocking
him, suddenly pained. "Prizes are prizes, but I still need to tell that
story. And being simple is the hardest thing."
GREEK AMBASSADOR GIVES CAPITOL HILL BRIEFING OF WASHINGTON BALKAN POLICYMAKERS ON GREECE’S LEADERSHIP IN THE REGION
Hellenic News of America:
"His remarks focused extensively on the provocative and hostile propaganda of the Government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). This included a power point presentation showing expansionist maps used in FYROM schools and by FYROM’s military academy, as well as television interviews which showed the use of the name of Alexander the Great for Skopje’s airport As part of irredentist and political propaganda."
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
"Sofia /25/01/ 13:16
A presentation of the recently uncovered Diary of Krste Petkov Misirkov was held in Sofia today - a week after the presentation in Skopje - which was attended by the heads of the Bulgarian and Macedonian State Archives.
The diary is in the form of manuscript authored by the founder of the Macedonian national history, literary language and orthography, Krste Petkov Misirkov. It was uncovered by a Bulgarian expert on Balkan's history in late 2006.
Last week, the diary was presented in Skopje, when the State Archive of the Republic of Macedonia and the Archives Administration with the Ministerial Council of the Republic of Bulgaria agreed to issue a single edition of the diary in both languages.
Zoran Todorovski, the director of the Macedonian State Archive, said today in Sofia that the diary was first presented in Skopje because Misirkov is one of the most prominent figures in the Macedonian history.
'Misirkov is the founder of the Macedonian literary language and of the Macedonian national idea', Todorovski said.
When asked by the Bgnes agency's journalists whether he felt uneasy because of meddling of politicians in the discovery, Todorovski said 'it is normal for the politicians to get their hands onto historiography', adding that Archives consider the science t"
'This is my final assignment,' says Connellsville soldier - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
"Coughenour said his group continues to work alongside the Macedonian Special Forces in their daily efforts with the Iraqis.
'And let me be the one to say these soldiers from Macedonia are truly the greatest thing that has happened to us in Iraq,' he said, adding that he couldn't imagine or speculate how the tour would have been without them.
Coughenour is scheduled to end his deployment within a month. He expects to return to Fort Lee in March and will return to his previous job as a training developer until the fall. He then plans to take transitional leave until his retirement in January 2008."
Macedonian Heritage - 'Communist Landlords' and Political Refugees from Greek Macedonia:
"Slav-speaking peasants in Western Greek Macedonia were indeed the backbone of the Communist led Democratic Army in the last year of the Greek Civil War (1948-49). Either communist by belief or forcefully conscripted, in any case they were compelled to leave the country along with the retreating communist fighters of the 'Democratic Army' in 1949. In their ranks were World War II collaborators of the German, Bulgarian, and Italian occupation armies, as well as Slav-Macedonian communist activist of the Civil War. The latter were inspired either by the Yugoslav dream to annexe Greek territories or by the prospect of a united Macedonian state within a Balkan Communist Federation. All had to flee to avoid persecution for high treason."
How many Slav-speakers fled away? Greek bibliography generally accepts that 30-35,000 plus some 14,000 children, out of 28,000 moved across the border by the "Democratic Army". "Nova Macedonija" (see MILS 5.7.1996) mentioned 65,000 political refugees, a much cited specialist Dr Risto Kirjazovski, an Egejski himself, talks about 80,000 refugees (MILS 26.1.1996). Other Slav-Macedonian sources give different figures: the "Association of the Aegean Macedonians" in Bitola claims 100,000; a similar association in Poland cites 250,000; in the electronic list "Makedon" even the figure of 300,000 was once mentioned. The evaluation of these sources is easier, if we take into consideration that in 1940 the total population in all three prefectures of Florina, Kastoria, and Pella, Slav- and non-Slav-speakers together, was 275,000; 55,000 of them were interwar refugees from Asia Minor. In 1951 the total population of the same prefectures, which were heavily involved in the War, was 234,000. Apparently the discrepancy is due not only to a tendency of exaggeration by certain Slav-macedonian nationalist or refugee organisations, but also on account of including as Egejski mixed marriage families and descendants born in F.Y.R.O.M. or other countries (Australia, Canada, etc.).
Friday, January 26, 2007
U.N. Offers Plan for Kosovo’s Independence - New York Times:
"The recommendations would leave the former Yugoslav province free to declare independence from Serbia, according to Western diplomats who have seen the plan. But they say it would also impose international supervision, much like what exists in Bosnia, to provide protection for Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs."
Oxford University Press: Population Exchange in Greek Macedonia: Elisabeth Kontogiorgi: "Population Exchange in Greek Macedonia
The Rural Settlement of Refugees 1922-1930"
Dr Kontogiorgi examines the exchange of populations and the agricultural settlement in Greek Macedonia of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Asia Minor and the Pontus, Eastern Thrace, the Caucasus, and Bulgaria during the inter-war period. She examines Greek state policy and the role of the Refugee Settlement Commission which, under the auspices of the League of Nations, carried out the refugee resettlement project. Macedonia, a multilingual and ethnically diverse society, experienced a transformation so dramatic that it literally changed its character. Kontogiorgi charts that change and attempts to provide the means of understanding it. The consequences of the settlement of refugees for the ethnological composition of the population, and its political, social, demographic, and economic implications are treated in the light of new archival material. Reality is separated from myth in examining the factors involved in the process of integration of the newcomers and assimilation of the inhabitants - both refugees and indigenous - of the New Lands into the nation-state. Kontogiorgi examines the impact of the agrarian reforms and land distribution and makes an effort to convert the climate of the rural society of Macedonia during the inter-war period. The antagonisms between Slavophone and Vlach-speaking natives and refugee newcomers regarding the reallocation of former Muslim properties had significant ramifications for the political events in the region in the years to come.
"Kadare speaks out the truth about Macedonia in the middle of Athens
Tirana /26/01/ 12.26
Albanian writer Ismail Kadare caused 'a diplomatic incident' in Athens by using the name of Macedonia, which Greeks consider to be a part of their national heritage."
Athens's Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis welcomed the Albanian writer at the beginning of a book promotion event, but as soon as Kadare used the word Macedonia referring to the Republic of Macedonia, Kaklamanis left.
Kadare visited Athens to promote his books "Agamemnon's Daughter" and "The Heir" translated in Greek language, Albanian daily "Shqip" reported.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
FYROM denies hidden agenda:
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) did not rename its main airport after Alexander the Great in order to provoke Athens but believes that the move could help resolve the dispute over the official name of Greece’s neighboring country, FYROM’s foreign minister told Sunday’s Kathimerini.
“There is no hidden agenda or intention to provoke the Greek government behind the decision to rename Petrovec Airport,” said Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki.
Last month’s renaming of the Skopje airport after Greece’s 4th century BC military hero led to criticism from Athens, which saw it as a blow to relations between the two countries.
“Bilateral relations with Greece are so stable, especially in the areas of trade, tourism and business investments, that the issue of the [airport’s] name cannot put these in any great danger,” the minister said.
Milososki added that the renaming “could provide a challenge... to reassess our attitude about what can be disputed and what cannot.”
FYROM’s foreign minister suggested looking at Alexander the Great through a “European prism” and seeing him as a figure who unites rather than divides countries.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
US 1990 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)
Nationalist conflict in Yugoslavia is exacerbated by the recent spectacular growth of Macedonian nationalism. This has been in response to the disintegration of the federation, but more specifically to perceived Serbian threats to Macedonia's own integrity. Macedonian nationalism has now assumed a transnational dimension in attempting to appeal to claimed fellow-nationals in Greece and Bulgaria. Since Serbs, Greeks and Bulgarians reject the notion of a separate Macedonian nationhood, the potential for an international crisis is manifest.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Theatre review: Credible Witness | The Guardian :
"Wertenbaker approaches her subject obliquely but the nub of the issue is this. Alexander, a Macedonian teacher, has escaped persecution and made it to Britain; three years later his indomitable mother, Petra, arrives at Heathrow in search of him. Alexander has disappeared into a world of community work and street-cleaning: the proud and institutionally detained Petra goes on hunger-strike until the authorities find her son. Eventually they meet in a confrontation of irreconcilable attitudes: the one embodies an intransigent Macedonian nationalism, the other the necessary assimilation of the exile.
As always, Wertenbaker is not afraid to tackle big issues: above all, she attacks the idea of historical paralysis. Britain, she argues, is locked into a notion of itself as an island fortress destined to repel unwanted boarders. Other nations equally are walled in by their oppressive past: to that end she shows even Petra's chauvinism crumbling. Behind the play lurks a vision of a world where we are not all defined by nationhood and where the free passage of peoples is a sustainable ideal.
Wertenbaker's ideas are fascinating, even if their dramatic resolution is not always plausible. The big mother-son confrontation packs the right emotional punch. But Wertenbaker also invents a harrassed immigration official rather too symbolically named Simon Le Britten. And, while he effectively embodies the arbitrary power and rash certainty of the bureaucrat, the scene where he winds up in a detention centre on New Year's Eve to sort out Petra's case defies belief.
There is a knockdown performance from Olympia Dukakis as Petra, a superb embodiment of maternal and nationalistic pride. Adam Kotz as her son persuasively stands for exiled absorption and there is good work from Clive Merrison as the emotionally involved desk-wallah. Even if you feel Wertenbaker manipulates the dramatic situation to suit the argument, her play adds weight to the growing canon of asylum dramas.