Malicious or mistake?

Deliberate and repeated attempts to change Macedonian identity

When I go to a restaurant, the grocery store, the hardware store, or any other place where the employees wear name tags, or tell me their name, I always try to use their name in my communications with them. Why? Because people are very attached to their names and appreciate it when others recognize and acknowledge their names. And because it is the decent and right thing to do.

The same thing applies to other names we identify with, such as that of our countries. I don’t need to rehash my reasons on why the name change of Macedonia was wrong. I’ve written and spoken probably tens of thousands of words on that subject. I’ve also written and spoken tens of thousands of words about the subsequent change of the Macedonian identity, brought on because of that forced name change. But here is something new, in my opinion: I believe that many men, women and organizations, especially in the West, are intentionally using the adjective “North Macedonian” in its various forms, as a way of purposely attempting to deny Macedonians their identity.

Recently, FIFA World Cup (8.1 million followers on the Twitters) tweeted out “The Week in Quotes,” a list of quotations from football players around the world. They led their list with Goran Pandev together with a great picture of Pandev on the pitch. They quoted him as saying “This is my last game for the national team, I think it is the right moment to say goodbye. I hope these guys, this generation, goes on to qualify for the World Cup. They bring a lot of joy to the North Macedonian people because they are quality players who play for good teams and I think they deserve to make it to the World Cup.”

You know where I am headed with this. Pandev did not call the Macedonians “North Macedonians.” You can listen to the press conference where that quote came from, here. He said “the Macedonian people.”

So, why did FIFA World Cup fabricate his quote? Was this an honest mistake or was it malicious? This is malicious. Whoever did the translation of his statement knew enough Macedonian to know that the word “North” was not in his quote — and yet they inserted it anyway. In my opinion, this was done with malice aforethought — a Macedonian hero is falsely made to be seen as endorsing a false identity. How many people read that and now believe Macedonians to be “North Macedonians?”

I went back and reviewed a number of videos created by UEFA, focusing on the Macedonian football team and the games they played in the European Qualifiers. Of course they use the unaccepted name “North Macedonia” throughout. But in at least two videos that I viewed, they also went out of their way to change what the Macedonians they interviewed said. For instance, in one video with coach Igor Angelovski, the coach clearly states at one point “Goran loves Macedonia….” But the translated voiceover is “Goran loves his country.” In another, with goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski, he clearly states, in Macedonian, “Macedonia” whereas the translated voice over states “North Macedonia.”

Mistake or malicious? This is malicious.

And it goes hand-in-hand with other malicious behavior and actions.

The internet “news” publication Balkan Insight, which receives most of its funding from Western governments and institutions and which could not operate without such funding, regularly and repeatedly uses the adjective “North Macedonian” despite being called out on this usage multiple times by organizations such as the United Macedonian Diaspora. Their “reporter” for Macedonia, Sinisa Jakov Marusic, does this at least once per month in his “reporting.” When they are called on this they do change it, but they do not note, as is journalistic best practices, that the corrected story has been updated and corrected. This is one reason why they are not a serious “news” organization.

Beyond that, why won’t Sinisa simply write “Macedonian?” Here, for instance, is one recent article where he writes “…including this year’s North Macedonian contestant…” (this is the archived version, which I saved). Here is the corrected version (which Balkan Insight does not acknowledge as being corrected) where Sinisa writes, “…including this year’s North Macedonia’s contestant…” which, linguistically, doesn’t make any sense.

Of course the larger question, for Balkan Insight, is why can’t they — why can’t Sinisa — simply write, “..including this year’s Macedonian contestant…” which is correct?

Mistake or malicious? This is malicious.

I won’t even get into NATO and how some NATO officials refer to the “North Macedonians,” or use other linguistic gymnastics to avoid saying “Macedonian” or “Macedonians.”

Look, people make mistakes — God knows I do all the time. And for someone unfamiliar with Macedonia and the changes forced on Macedonia and the Macedonians, I can understand those mistakes. But when it comes to the above examples, I firmly believe all of this is malicious and a deliberate and repeated attempt to change the very identity of Macedonians, to weaken it, to make it something it is not. The government of Zoran Zaev and his former foreign minister, Nikola Dimitrov, are chiefly to blame for this.

Macedonians know who they are as Macedonians and have confidence in that knowledge and identity. As to those who refuse to recognize this fact and refuse to call Macedonians by their chosen name and identity, or worse, call them something else, well, this reflects poorly on these small and petty men and women.

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Jason Miko

Jason Miko

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