The dark skies are temporary. The sun-dappled Macedonian mountains, hills, and valleys, however, are permanent — if you can keep them.

Macedonia’s Independence Day, September 8, 2019

Macedonia and the Macedonians: what kind of a people are you?

On December 26, 1941, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill, addressed a joint session of the United States Congress. Europe was in the midst of war and the United States had been attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor less than three weeks before. As the Prime Minister — whose mother was an American thus making him not only half American but also very familiar with his audience — reached the midpoint of his speech, he asked a pointed question of the enemies of freedom and liberty, asking “What kind of a people do they think we are? Is it possible that they do not realize that we shall never cease to persevere against them until they have been taught a lesson which they and the world will never forget?”

It is an excellent question and so today, as Macedonians celebrate independence, I ask the question of you, Macedonia, and Macedonians everywhere: What kind of a people does the world think you are? What kind of a people are you? As too many individuals — around the world and even in your own country — have engaged in a multitude of tactics to try to change your name and identity, will you “never cease to persevere against them,” as you continually work and if need be fight, to preserve, protect and defend your name, identity, culture, heritage, history, language, faith and much more?

Over 116 years have now passed since the Ilinden Uprising. That equates to more than five generations of Macedonians who have come and gone. The men and women of Ilinden prized and praised liberty because it would give them freedom for Macedonia and the Macedonians of then, and for all future generations; 116 years is enough time to have ingrained into the Macedonian mindset what liberty and freedom means. But liberty is always unfinished business.

So how can we proclaim freedom and liberty for Macedonia when the name of the country has been forcibly changed, the very name and identity Macedonians freely chose for themselves? How is that freedom? How is that liberty? Macedonians, on this day of independence, gather to celebrate independence for a free and independent Macedonia; but it is very difficult to celebrate a free and independent Macedonia when one does not have the freedom to choose one’s own name. A poignant example: this past week the current prime minister of Macedonia — whose name I will not write — invited Macedonians to a celebration of independence leaving out the name of the country!

The history of the world is littered with the corpses of nations that have either ceased to exist because they have been destroyed or because they have been assimilated into other nations and other cultures. After struggling for centuries, will Macedonia and the Macedonians go this way?

When neighboring countries (and even citizens in your own country) tell you that your entire identity is made up and false and when Western elites blithely dismiss your concerns about your identity and essentially laugh it off, and when your own government and the ruling culture class ignores you and uses illegal methods to forcibly change your name and identity, against your expressed will, then the core of your dignity is damaged. And a people with a damaged dignity are vulnerable to an entire host of potential troubles which can and likely will have negative knock-on effects on the region.

Our dignity as individuals and as a part of our tribe, if you will (all humans are tribal), is of utmost value and importance. And Macedonians are a proud people and rightly so for their unique history, culture, language, heritage and so much more which all contribute to and make up the Macedonian identity; this is part of their dignity. But of the many problems with progressive elites around the world, one is that they dismiss things like identity because it cannot be measured by monetary figures or other numbers and they only value things that can be measured. So the identity of Macedonians — or any other people’s identity — because it cannot be measured and therefore valued (often in monetary terms) is not only not important to them but is something to be discarded.

There is no dignity in being told that you must change your name which will, over time, change everything about you. There is no dignity in being dictated to by outsiders — countries, unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats, the media, academia, think tanks, and others. There is no dignity in being told — by your own government! — that they will ignore your will — the consent of the governed! — and tell you want you are to be called. This is the opposite of dignity. It is humiliation And there are consequences in being humiliated, both for Macedonia, as well as the region.

It is up to Macedonians both in Macedonia and around the world to resolve that Macedonia will not only continue to exist, but thrive. The Macedonians and the Macedonians alone must resolve that Macedonia thrive in ways not imagined by Macedonia’s forefathers. The Macedonians and the Macedonians alone must promise to each other now living; must promise to those who have passed away, those who gave everything for Macedonia, including their lives; and must promise to those Macedonians who have yet to be born, that they — this current generation — will not allow the sacrifices of the past to have been in vain because if Macedonia either ceases to exist or — and this is vital — is fundamentally changed and yet still exists as a legal entity only — then this current generation will have failed and the sacrifices of the past will indeed, have been made in vain with the children of today and the children who have yet to be born bearing the greatest and most dire consequences — the lack of a homeland either as a real place and or, perhaps, in name and identity.

Three thoughts as you celebrate the true “consent of the governed,” demonstrated through that happy day on September 8, 1991. First, the majority of Macedonians I have come to know over the past almost a quarter of a century will definitely continue to work, and if need be fight, to preserve, protect, and defend their name, identity, culture, heritage, history, language, faith and much more. Second, the so-called “Prespa agreement” will eventually be overturned through incrementalism and time and the rightful name of Macedonia will be returned to Macedonia and the Macedonians. And finally, Macedonians in Macedonia and around the world will continue celebrating Macedonia’s independence as and only as Macedonia as long as there are Macedonians who believe in and fight for their name, identity, history, faith, language, heritage, culture and everything that makes Macedonia and Macedonians unique and beautiful in this world.

Let me end where I began. What kind of a people are you? I will let Krste Misirkov offer an answer to that question from his article “The self determination of the Macedonians” (1925) when he asserts “Uncompromising and unlimited love toward Macedonia, the constant thinking and working for the interests of Macedonia and the full conservativism in the manifestations of the Macedonian national spirit: the language, the national poetry, mentality and customs — those are the main characteristics of the Macedonian nationalism.”

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Jason Miko

Proud American & Arizonan w/Hungarian ethnicity & passion for Macedonia, Hungary & Estonia. Traveler, PR man, history buff & wine, craft beer & cigar enthusiast