Identity as National Security
Consider the following:
The name of the Republic of Macedonia has been changed and, increasingly, Macedonians are referred to as “North Macedonians” and things that simply should be Macedonian are increasingly referred to as “North Macedonian.” In other words, the identity is changing. You can read my frequently updated list of examples here.
On another front, a few weeks ago I wrote a column titled “The people of ‘North Macedonia’” subtitled “Or, a new way to avoid saying ‘Macedonians’” and referred to this emerging trend to use the phrase “the people of North Macedonia” when referring to the Macedonians to avoid saying Macedonian or Macedonians. (On this point I challenge anyone reading this: scroll through the tweets and social media posts, read the comments of the speeches and remarks of any Western embassy official or other international institution working in Macedonia and find the number of times they state or write Macedonians. You won’t find many, if any).
At the same time, those using these linguistic gymnastics, mostly transnational elites including politicians, bureaucrats, those in the media, think tanks, academia, civil society, and even cultural institutions have no problem whatsoever referring to other peoples and related things by their proper adjectives: Estonians in Estonia, Norwegians in Norway, Italians in Italy, and Hungarians in Hungary, to name but four other ethnic groups and their states in Europe.
“Why is this happening?” is a question I keep coming back to. Is this deliberate on the part of those transnational elites? After all, “North Macedonians” — who do not now and never have existed — could be construed to be a “new” people group with a very short history, heritage, culture, or even claim to the land on which they live. And “the people of North Macedonia” could mean anything though its principle aim is to avoid mentioning the Macedonians. And of course the argument could be made (and in fact, it is being made) that “North Macedonia” is a “new country” which again points to a weak claim on history, heritage, culture, and even land.
This brings me to the main point of this week’s column: national identity, especially as it relates to Macedonia and the Macedonians, is a national security issue. It is a national security issue because if Macedonian identity is weakened to the point of being non-existent or nearly non-existent and if it is weakened deliberately, out of mere laziness, or a combination, then that very weakening will invite malevolent actors to come in and, quite literally, take a chunk out of Macedonia, meaning land, and everything that goes with it.
Bulgarians, for instance, believe that Macedonians are Bulgarians, and wayward ones at that. Many Albanians believe that the territory of Macedonia is mostly ethnic Albanian. Serbs, of course, have their own issues with Macedonians, starting with the Macedonian Orthodox Church. And the Greeks believe that there are no Macedonians and never have been full stop. In each of these cases, if the identity of the Macedonians was weakened to the point of a sizeable number of Macedonians themselves not caring or considering themselves as something else, this would then invite the aforementioned expropriation of territory, meaning there would be war because there will always be Macedonians proudly proclaiming themselves as Macedonians. More simply, the aforementioned peoples would see a potential division among the Macedonians and would seek to exploit it.
Can the identity of a people be weakened? Of course it can. We see the greatest example of this in the European Union today where the transnational progressive elites are deliberately attempting to undermine the identity of the individual nation-states that make up the EU and replace it with a “European identity.” Young people, increasingly, are jettisoning their national identity and identifying as “Europeans” in a personal, legal, and even secular humanist sense.
The Robert Schuman Foundation credits and affirms what Dutch thinker Luuk van Middelaar (who was a member of the cabinet of Herman Van Rompuy, the first president of the European Council) says about identity in the EU: “In other words the project of peace demands the sacrifice of national identities to the benefit of universal values, whilst the project of power demands the development of a European identity.” Or, to put it another way, national identities must be subsumed by the EU project and pay obeisance to it. As one gains, the other dies. And as the other dies, so does the state in which it lives, to be exploited by other identities, either peacefully or otherwise.
Because Macedonian identity is a national security issue, it must be encouraged, supported, and strengthened — and that takes work by Macedonians in Macedonia, in the region, the Diaspora, and, if I might add, friends of Macedonia. What does this look like? It can and will take many forms — but it begins at home — with parents, grandparents, older brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, cousins and more — teaching younger Macedonians about Macedonian history, heritage, culture and instructing them in the Macedonian language and, if Believers, the faith. It means supporting those institutions that support and teach these things and it means standing up for all of these things when attacked. And it means reminding each other, and the world, with passion, clarity, and conviction about all these things, and about what it means to be a Macedonian.