Monday, December 22, 2008
NGO Report on Greece
The specificities of Balkan nationalisms
A comprehensive understanding of ethnic conflict and, therefore, of the plight of nearly all minorities in the Balkans requires a reference to the, usually overlooked, particular characteristics of Balkan nationalisms. They certainly belonged to the second wave of nationalisms, the romantic and linguistic, mostly nineteenth century European, nationalisms.
At the heart of each such nationalism was the elevation of a usually vernacular to the status of
a literary language-of-(actual or potential) state by (Anderson, 1991:79):
“a coalition of lesser gentries, academics, professionals, and businessmen, in which the first often provided leaders of ‘standing,’ the second and third myths, poetry, newspapers, and ideological formulations, and the last money and marketing facilities.”
So, from the multitude of -nevertheless linguistically similar- Southern Slavic dialects and the archaic Church Slavonic emerged the (internationally but not locally considered today) common Serbo-Croat literary language, based on the neostokavian (ijekavian or ekavian) dialects; Slovenian, based on the Ljubljana dialect; Bulgarian based on the Northern Bulgarian dialect; and Macedonian, based on the Bitola dialect. It should be mentioned that the differences among the various Southern Slav languages are smaller than among the various Italian dialects or those between French and the Occitan dialects (Garde, 1992:125- 141).
In the same period, emerged the other Balkan literary languages-of-state: ‘purified’ Greek, based mainly on the Alexandrian ancient Greek; Romanian, based on the Daco-Romanian dialects but with the replacement of the Cyrillic by the Latin alphabet to distance Romanians from Slavs; Albanian, based on the spoken dialects in modern times Albanian territories; and, finally, as was the pattern at the time, modern Turkish, different from the official Ottoman language, a mixture of Turkish, Persian and Arabic (Anderson, 1991:72-5).
Generally (Anderson, 1991:195):
“In Europe, the new nationalisms almost immediately began to imagine themselves as ‘awakening from sleep’, a trope wholly foreign to the Americas.” “The ‘founding intellectuals’ of the various dormant people of Europe will rediscover -or sometimes fully invent- national epic literatures bearing founding myths. One after the other, the nations rediscover heroic and unfortunate ancestors.” (Plasseraud, 1991:49).
Today, it is considered commonplace that there have therefore been three stages in the development of that national consciousness (Hroch, 1968:24-5, as summarized in Banac, 1992:28):
“In the first stage a group of ‘awakened’ intellectuals starts studying the language, culture, and history of a subjugated people. In the second stage, which corresponds to the heyday of national revivals, the scholars’ ideas are transmitted by a group of ‘patriots,’ that is the carriers of national ideologies, who take it upon themselves to convey national thought to the wider strata. In the last stage the national movement reaches its mass apogee.”
Moreover (Banac, 1992:30):
“The ideology of nationalism [...] found its fulfillment in national self-rule and invariably promoted state independence either through a separation of national territory from a larger multinational state (secessionism) or through incorporation of kindred territory within the already established matrix-state (irredentism).”
Irredentism is also known as ‘piedmontization’ after the model of the Italian unification, built around the Piedmont state.
The first peculiarity of Balkan nationalisms, and the most crucial to understand the historical evolution of the area to this day, is that, in most cases, national self-rule was the product of both secessionism and irredentism, unlike in all other non-Balkan countries. If one looks at the maps of the first, initially autonomous and then independent, Montenegran (respectively 1516 and 1878), Serbian (1829, 1878), Greek (1829, 1830), Bulgarian (1878, 1908) and Romanian (1861, 1880) states, and compares them to their maps in the 1990’s, s/he will immediately notice that the first states included no more than half the territory these states rule over today. All of them were the product of secessions from the Ottoman Empire, first in the form of autonomy then as independent states. From the very beginning, they perceived themselves as matrix-states with an irredentist mission to conquer all as yet ‘unredeemed’
territories (Sellier & Sellier, 1991). No other European state has lived through a similar experience, as the current ‘external’ West European frontiers are very similar to the 1815 or the 1885 ones, while the non-Balkan Central and East European frontiers are very similar to the post-World War I 1924 ones. The fact that the early modern Balkan states had to adopt an irredentist attitude would not by itself have inevitably led to the serious ethnic conflicts which have plagued the region in the last two centuries: witness the irredentist formation of Italy and Germany. However, in the Balkans, the unredeemed territories targeted by each new nation-state conflicted with those targeted by other(s) state(s), because of the mixed populations and, usually, their lack of a clear national consciousness in these territories. This specific Balkan situation resulted in:
• one century of diplomatic and armed conflicts in the area (1810’s-1920’s), often accompanied by ethnic cleansing;
• official policies of assimilation of the minorities which were not eliminated or expelled, a characteristic absent from the other romantic or linguistic nationalisms but present in the third wave of ‘official nationalisms’, which were the belated reaction of the native speakers of the official vernacular of the imperial states (England, Russia, Turkey, etc.) to the emergence of the second wave or romantic nationalisms (Banac, 1992:28; Anderson, 1991:78-111);
• development of historical revisionism in the popular culture and, often, the official policies of the Balkan states, as in almost all cases the dream of a large state including all irredenta was materialized for a short period to be shattered soon after: Great Bulgaria (in 1878 and between 1941-1944), Great Romania (1918-1940), Great Serbia (Yugoslavia between 1918-1941 and 1945-1991), Great Greece (1918-1922), Great Albania (1941-1944), Great Croatia (1941-1944); as for Great Macedonia, its creation was envisaged during the post-World War I negotiations, but the idea was in the end rejected by a combined British-French effort (Wilkinson, 1951:233); this led to the emergence of the concept of ‘lost fatherlands’ (the frustrated irredenta) which explains why the large majority of the citizens of the Balkan countries today consider that their countries’ frontiers are bad, although they are not ready to fight wars to change them;
• repression of the remaining minorities, which survived ethnic cleansing, population exchanges or expulsion, and assimilation, more than in other European countries; this often means the refusal to recognize the presence of such minorities, just like the competing Balkan nationalisms had in the past refused to acknowledge each other’s legitimacy.
It is indeed instructive to recall that, in the last two centuries, there has been ‘an almost systematic will to refuse the existence of the neighbor’ nation (Raufer & Haut, 1992:11) in the Balkan peninsula. The Illyrianist movement in its Pan-Croatian form (19th century) considered all Southern Slavs as Croats (Banac, 1992:71-6); it was reciprocated (in the 20th century) by a denial of the existence of separate Croat and Slovene identities by Pan-Serbian nationalists like the interwar Radicals (Banac, 1992:161-2). Likewise, the Bulgarian distinct nation was challenged by Croats (Banac, 1992:71-6), Serbs (Ancel, 1992:164) and Greeks (Jelavich, 1991:41). Serbian nationalism also considered Albanians ‘lost Serbs’, who had become ‘savages’, and ‘their nationalism was the product of Austrian and Italian intrigue’ (Banac, 1992:293-5); the latter view was shared by Greek nationalists too, who contested the existence of a separate, non-Greek Albanian nation (Lazarou & Lazarou, 1993:171; Vakalopoulos, 1994:246). Naturally, the irredentist Croat and, especially, Serbian nationalisms had no room for the Bosnians, demeaned as ‘Asians, unstable, perverted’ etc. (Banac, 1992:371-7). Likewise, Serbs, Bulgarians and Greeks have never come to terms with the presence of culturally distinct Macedonians and Vlachs in the area: the Macedonians have been considered as ‘Southern Serbs’ by the Serbs, ‘Western Bulgarians’ by the Bulgarians, and ‘Slavophone Greeks’ by the Greeks (Raufer & Haut, 1992:11), who have regularly
demeaningly called in 1992-3 the Republic of Macedonia ‘Skopjan statelet’ and its inhabitants ‘Gypsy-Skopjans’, ‘Balkan Gypsies’, ‘Skopjan Vlachs’ (Elefantis, 1992:39). On the other hand, the word ‘Vlach’ has often had a pejorative meaning among Croats and Albanians (derogatory for Serbs) (Banac, 1992:257 & 300-2) and Greeks (meaning ‘coarse’) (Tegopoulos & Fytrakis, 1993:152). For the generalised use of ‘hate speech’ in modern 1995 Balkan electronic and print media, see Dimitras, Lenkova and Nelson (1995).
This attitude has hardly changed in recent years; in fact, the collapse of communism in
Central and Eastern Europe has led to the reappearance of nationalism as strong as ever
(Plasseraud, 1991:13-4; see also Garde, 1992:344):
“There is a point on which the nations of Central and Eastern Europe differ substantially from us; it concerns their relation to time and history. Contrary to the Westerners who hardly have an historical memory and today gladly place themselves in the instant, the people in the East often forget to live in the present as a result of an acute historicist consciousness. Their thought and their instinctive reactions are usually located in an historical perspective even if that reference handed down from parents to children is often largely mythical.”
This is particularly true in the Balkans, ‘whose people are loaded with more history than they can bear’ according to Winston Churchill (quoted in Rupnik, 1992:11). Throughout the region’s recent history, with rare exceptions, minorities were perceived, sometimes not without reason, as being manipulated by the fellow ethnic state at the expense of the national interests of the state they lived in. Since in the ‘new order,’ imposed by Hitler at the height of World War II, their presence was used as an excuse to redraw the frontiers at the expense of the winners of World War I, once the ‘protecting curtain’ of the Cold War collapsed, the populations started fearing the return of the ‘old ghosts’, i.e. the ‘border games’ that shattered Europe in the first half of this century; in some nationalist sectors in almost all Balkan countries, nevertheless, such a return was seen in a positive way, in the hope that it could restore some of the ‘lost fatherlands’.
The case of Macedonian nationalism
Macedonian nationalism is the last nationalism to have developed in the Balkans, in the very end of the nineteenth century. The creation in Salonica of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO or VMRO in Macedonian) by teachers of the Bulgarian high school (Lory, 1993:133), in 1893, is celebrated today as the beginning of the Macedonian struggle for a nation-state. However, from the very beginning, there were two trends among Macedonian-speaking activists: one, the ‘centralist’, which aimed at an independent Macedonia, and another, the ‘supremist’ which believed that the Macedonian struggle was, in the end, a component of Bulgarian irredentism which sought the creation of Great Bulgaria encompassing all territories granted by the San Stefano Treaty to the ephemeral Great Bulgarian state in 1878 plus Salonica: for the ‘supremists’, an autonomous Macedonia would be only a first step towards eventual annexation by Bulgaria, as in the case of Eastern Rumelia (annexed in 1885 by Bulgaria), while the ‘centralists’ wanted the autonomous Macedonia to become a part of a Balkan federation (Crampton, 1993:45).
It is generally believed today that, “since the seventh century, [Macedonia] has been overwhelmingly Slavic and, moreover, the cradle of Slavic literary activity” (Banac, 1992:35) and that these Slavs spoke various Bulgarian-Macedonian dialects, on which was based the first codified Slavic language, St. Cyril and Methodius’ Church Slavonic (Garde, 1992:24-7).
However, it is not accepted neither that the Church Slavonic is just Old Macedonian, as Macedonian nationalists claim (Danforth, 1993:7), nor that a separate Macedonian identity had developed in these early ages (Banac, 1992:23):
“It is highly significant that, among the South Slavs, the national identity of the Bulgars, Croats, and Serbs was acquired, though not firmly fixed, long before the development of modern nationalism. These three nations maintained a collective memory of their medieval statehood, and this memory survived in various forms –in the consciousness of national elites but also in part in popular imagination- despite interruptions or reductions in full state independence. As a result, the measure of state-historical tradition separates old South Slavic nations from the Slovenes, who acquired a national consciousness only in the nineteenth century, and especially from the Montenegrins, Macedonians, and Bosnian-Hercegovinian Muslims, who are the products of twentieth century mutations in South Slavic national affinities and are, indeed, still in the process of formation. Since the ideological underpinnings of these new South Slavic nations were seemingly incomplete without a state tradition, modern Slovenes therefore looked upon the early seventh-century Carantanian principality as their prototypal state and the proof of their continuous nationhood, and theorists of Montenegrin and Macedonian national uniqueness augmented their claims with references to eleventh-century Doclea (Duklja) and the Western Bulgarian empire of Samuil.”
Banac exaggerates when he speaks of ‘national identities,’ formed in such early years, but he is right in pointing out that Bulgarians, Croats, and Serbs had a richer history to look back to than the other South Slavs. Bosnians, too, can trace their roots back to the fourteenth-century Bosnian rulers and, especially, the emergence of the dualist sectarian Church of Bosnia, often confused with the Bulgarian Bogomils (Banac, 1992:39-40). Albanians can be proud of their ancestral states in the fourteenth and fifteenth century, some having stretched all the way south to include today’s Western Continental Greece (Nakratzas, 1992:21-4 and Sellier & Sellier, 1991:173). Romanians trace their roots back to the Moldavian and Wallachian principalities of the same period (Sellier & Sellier, 1991:132). Even the Southern Balkan Aromanians (Vlachs) could recall Vlach principalities in the tenth and the twelfth and thirteenth centuries (Bérard, 1987:296; Nakratzas, 1992:51-4) and the Kingdom of Vlachs and
Bulgarians (1185-1260), usually known as second Bulgarian kingdom (Bérard, 1987:297). On the contrary, the Macedonians’ claims to historical precedents are common with the
Bulgarians’, like Samuil’s Empire: this has contributed, on the one hand to the confusion between the two contemporary national identities and, on the other hand, to an intense conflict between Bulgarians and Macedonians. This ‘weakness’ in the historical roots in the medieval period may also explain why the Macedonians have been very keen to invent a direct historical link with the ancient Macedonians and Alexander the Great, a source of equally intense conflict between Greeks and Macedonians also involving the latter’s name.
However, the Greek propaganda in the nineteenth century inadvertently contributed significantly in the development of the Macedonian identity (Kofos, 1990:107-138, from where most of the information in this paragraph is drawn). Following the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1870, a nationalist-based secession from the Patriarchate of Constantinople not recognized by the latter but sanctioned by the Ottoman authorities, a fierce Greek-Bulgarian rivalry developed in, still Ottoman, Macedonia to win its mostly mixed populations (hence the ‘salade macédoine’ and the ‘macédoine de fruits’ for vegetable and fruit salads in French cuisine) to the competing national causes, later joined by Serbian, Albanian and Romanian claims. Already after 1830, when neither the Bulgarian nor the Macedonian national ‘awakenings’ had occurred and these Southern Slavs had fought in Greek and Serbian independence struggles, Greek propaganda in that area focused on the revival of its Macedonian name, the learning of and the identification with the glorious history of ancient Macedonians and Alexander the Great, who had, undoubtedly for the Greeks, Greek origins. To achieve that purpose, even a popular story of Alexander’s life in the local, i.e. Macedonian, dialect, but in Greek script, was published and circulated. The effort was successful, as in the end of the century, most inhabitants of Macedonia proudly called themselves Makedones (in Greek), Makedontsi (in Macedonian), Makedoneni (in Vlach). But Alexander was by then claimed as an ancestor not only by Greeks but by Bulgarians, too, just as had done much earlier (in 1525) the initiator of Slavic reciprocity which led to the Illyrian movement, Vinko Pribojevic (Banac, 1992:71).
One of the most respected authors in modern Greek literature, Penelope Delta, in a book she researched for twenty years in among other places the Greek Foreign Ministry’s archives, gave in 1937 (when it was first published) the following definition of Macedonia in the second half of the nineteenth century (Delta, 1992:46):
“Macedonia was then a mixture of all Balkan nations. Greeks, Bulgarians, Aromanians, Serbs, Albanians, Christians and Muslims, lived higgledy-piggledy under the heavy yoke of the Turks. Their language was the same, Macedonian, also a blend of Slav and Greek, mixed with Turkish words. As in the Byzantine era, the populations were so mixed that it was difficult to tell apart a Greek from a Bulgarian -the two dominant races. Their only national consciousness was the Macedonian one.
When though Bulgarians declared their religious independence and, in Constantinople, the Exarch was recognized as the head of the Bulgarian Church instead of the Patriarch, and when the 1872 Synod [of the Patriarchate] declared the Bulgarians schismatic, Macedonia was divided in Patriarchate Greeks and Exarchate Bulgarians, and so were divided the people of the same area, the same village -even the same family.”
Given the close proximity of Bulgarian and Macedonian dialects, it is important to clarify the meaning of the word Bulgarian (Ancel, 1992:180-1):
“[T]he word ‘Bulgarian’ [u]ntil the emancipation of Danubian Bulgaria, indicated in the Balkans the farmer attached to the land, under Turkish yoke; before 1878, Nich, Pirot, in the middle of Chopi, were considered Bulgarian lands; after the creation of the Exarchate as a ‘Bulgarian’ Church (1870), protected by Russia, the Macedonian Slavs claimed the name of ‘Bulgarians’, looked towards Sofia, rather than a Belgrade enslaved by Austria and which was temporarily renouncing the deliverance of the
So (Jelavich, 1991:90-1):
“In the late nineteenth century four states put forward claims in Macedonia - Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, and Romania. In addition, Albanian national leaders, at a minimum, wanted the vilaets of Bitola and Kosovo to form part of their future autonomous region. As in the past, the arguments were based on three main principles: the historical background, the ethnic composition of the population, and the necessity of maintaining the balance of power. The third consideration involved the idea of compensation: should one state gain an increase of territory, then its neighbors should receive equal acquisitions. If history were used as the basis for modern ownership, then the Greeks had the advantage. The lands had been associated with ancient Greece and Byzantium, and they had been under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which functioned as a Greek national organization. The Bulgarians and the Serbs also had, of course, historical claims dating back to the pre-Ottoman period. The really difficult question was the determination of the national divisions of the population. The Ottoman census of
1906, which was based on the millets, reported 1,145,849 Muslims; 623,197 Greek Orthodox, who were under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate; and 626,715 Bulgarian Orthodox, or member of the Exarchate. The figures for Muslims, of course, included the Albanians. The numbers given for the Patriarchate and Exarchate were also misleading. The Serbs, without a strong national organization, could join either church; Bulgarians could be counted among the Greek Orthodox if they lived in an area outside the jurisdiction of the Exarchate. The major problem in drawing national lines was not separating the Albanians, Greeks, and Turks, who could be differentiated by language, but distinguishing among the Slavs. (...) Because of this confused situation, it was also possible to argue that the Macedonian Slavs were neither Serbian nor Bulgarian, but formed a unique nationality of their own.”
The three-quarters of the century following the proclamation of the Exarchate were dominated by the efforts of the Bulgarians, the Greeks and the Serbs to covet the allegiance of these Macedonian Slavs, countered by the struggle of Macedonian nationalists who aimed at transforming the Macedonian Orthodox identity to a Macedonian national identity. Though religious and secular propaganda was used, the most important and the most efficient efforts were violent and bloody. In the five-year ‘Macedonian Struggle’ (1903-1908) among Greek ‘andartes’, Bulgarian ‘comitadji’, and, to a lesser extent, Serbian ‘chetniks’ (Kofos, 1990:115):
“Under the threat of imminent extermination by rival armed bands, entire village communities rapidly changed national allegiances which had been shaped, painstakingly, over decades. The long, laborious process of nation-building had given way to the show of arms, which proved to be a more efficient method for serving Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian state-building needs. The Balkan wars of 1912-13 led to the eviction of the Turks from Macedonia and confirmed the superiority of force over ideological conversion.”
The resort to the use of force was in a way called for by the attitude of the Great Powers at the time, following the Ilinden and Preobrazhenie uprisings of 1903. On St. Elias’ day (Ilinden in Macedonian), 20 July/2 August (old and new calendar respectively), IMRO forces rose in the ‘vilaet’ (district) of Bitola (in Macedonia) and proclaimed an independent administration in Krushevo; on the Lord’s Transfiguration day (Preobrazhenie) on 6/19 August, a second IMRO uprising took place in the Andrianople vilaet (in Thrace) leading to the creation of an independent administration in Strandja (Banac, 1992:316):
“Contrary to the expectations of the revolutionary leaders, the European powers failed to intervene on behalf of Christian insurgents. Both uprisings were drowned in blood, the Turkish soldiers and Albanian irregulars having burned some 150 villages round Bitola.”
After the first effort to establish a Macedonian state failed, Austria and Russia, the European powers mainly concerned with the area, agreed on a scheme to manage the Macedonian crisis by introducing European supervisors in Macedonia (Crampton, 1993:48):
“Unfortunately, the Murzsteg scheme also contained the provision that Ottoman administrative boundaries should be redrawn so as to produce the greater possible degree of ethnic homogeneity within each unit: this merely made the Greeks, Bulgarians and Serbians more determined to establish cultural dominance in as wide an area as possible, and thereby sharpened the struggle between the protagonists of the three potential successor states.”
The powers’ scheme was an invitation to ethnic cleansing, similar to the one their late twentieth century successors have, with their attitude and their decisions, invited in Bosnia and in other areas of former Yugoslavia. As, following the defeat of the 1903 uprisings, the IMRO ‘centralists’ or ‘autonomists’ were weakened to the benefit of the ‘supremists’ or ‘verhovists’, the final and most crucial phase to win allegiances in Macedonia was characterized by the absence of fighters for an independent Macedonia. The result was that, after the Balkan Wars and World War I, the legitimate pretenders to the area of Macedonia were only the Serbs, the Bulgarians, and the Greeks. It is interesting though that the Carnegie Commission thought that an independent Macedonia would have been the best solution
(Carnegie, 1993:38 & 59):
“The most natural solution of the Balkan imbroglio appeared to be the creation in Macedonia of a new autonomy or independent unity, side by side with the other unities realized in Bulgaria, Greece, Servia and Montenegro, all of which countries had previously been liberated, thanks to Russian or European intervention. (...) What was precipitated [by the Balkan wars] was the loss of Macedonia to the profit of the allies. Fear of a real liberation of the Macedonian nation brought about its conquest by the competitors [Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia].”
The right for Macedonian self-determination was briefly and not very seriously discussed on the negotiating tables of the late 1910’s (Wilkinson, 1951:233), though the existence of a separate Macedonian identity was acknowledged at least by the Greeks, as ‘Macedonian Slavs’ in the official ethnological map produced in 1918 by the Venizelos government (Soteriadis, 1918), the Serbs in Cvijic’s maps they officially used (Wilkinson, 1951:203), and the British (in an internal memorandum) (Green, 1970:193):
“Yet if a right of appeal is granted to the Macedonians or the German Bohemians it will be difficult to refuse it in the case of other nationalists movements.”
Macedonia was divided up in 1913 with little respect to the national affinities of its Slav population, the large majority of whom were Bulgarophiles. Greece annexed over half of that area, but “the political frontier, dating from 1912, was traced clearly to the north of the linguistic frontier”; as a result, Greek or Aegean Macedonia’s “population is in its majority Greek, but there are Slavs in the whole northern part” (Garde, 1992:246). Serbia received over a third of the territory with Bulgaria getting only a mere tenth, “in inverse ratio to their ethnological strength” (Kofos, 1990:114).
As soon as they acquired these territories, Serbia and Greece engaged in, often brutal, systematic and forced assimilation (if not extermination sometimes) aiming at eliminating Bulgarophilia among Macedonians: a detailed report of the related practices can be found in the Carnegie Endowment Report (Carnegie, 1993:158-207). Its conclusion (Carnegie, 1993:268):
“These supreme acts of intolerance on the part of Greece and Servia toward educational institutions, which had long been a saving grace in Macedonia, may find some defense in the militant nature of the national propaganda which priests and schoolmasters carried on; but such coercion and ill treatment employed by one set of Christians against another, all adherents of the same [O]rthodox faith, can not hope to escape the censure of the civilized world. They were fiendish, both in their conception and in their execution, and were appropriate only to the times of the Spanish Inquisition. (...) They also convict the Greeks and Servians of maladministration and intolerance at the very beginning of their avowed work of reconstruction. Recalling that under the Turks there had been a high degree of liberty in education and worship, is it strange that large populations are now wishing that the Turks were again in control?”
Soon after, though, most of these territories reverted back to Bulgaria (1915-1918) which engaged in an, often equally violent, persecution of ‘Graecomane’ and ‘Serbomane’ Macedonians, Greeks and Serbs, documented by the special Inter-Allied Commission after the war (Poulton, 1995:76). Such practices invited more repression by Bulgaria’s revengeful opponents after these territories were returned to Serbia and Greece, though, this time, between “(1918-1924) the repression in Aegean Macedonia was far less intense” than in Vardar Macedonia (Banac, 1992:317-9). This round of terror repeated itself during World
War II, when Bulgaria fully annexed (and not just occupied) once again most of the Macedonian territories it had ‘lost’ to Serbia and Greece: initially, Bulgarian rule was popular especially in Vardar Macedonia, as a result of the preceding repression; soon, though, the centralizing and ruthless methods of the Bulgarians led to the final emancipation of Macedonians from their Bulgarian affinities, an emancipation which had started developing since the 1930’s, and paved the way for the creation of a distinct Macedonian republic in the post-war federal Yugoslav state. The latter was the only way Yugoslavia could keep Serbian Macedonia under its rule after the War; it also furthered Tito’s short-lived ambitions for a Belgrade-centered Balkan federation with a Macedonian component which would have included a Great Macedonian component at the expense of Bulgaria and Greece (Crampton, 1993:125; Banac, 1991:327; Danforth, 1993:7; Wilkinson, 1951:298-300).
The Macedonian entity within Yugoslavia developed through 1991 entirely under communism. It showed most of the traits of Balkan nationalisms of the preceding century. First, the language which became official in that state, and one of the official languages of Yugoslavia, was certainly based on the Bitola dialect, but with a deliberate effort to de-Bulgarize it, like the phonetic orthography which is a characteristic of the Serbian and not of the Bulgarian language (Garde, 1992:243). Macedonia also acquired an official history that led to a permanent conflict with Bulgaria and Greece, as it ‘appropriated’ historical figures and entities which were traditionally considered to belong to the latter two peoples’ histories, as we said above. Moreover, the Macedonians considered their entity as only the ‘Piedmont’ of an eventual Great Macedonia, which was to include the ‘unredeemed’ territories under Bulgarian and Greek rule, regardless of the fact that massive population movements had altered the ethnological composition of these areas, turning the Macedonians still living there into minorities, with a large number of them, perhaps as a result of past repression, having been assimilated. Anyway (Kofos, 1990:139; the quotation marks in the Macedonian terms from the original text):
“The movement for unification was particularly strong during the war years and until Tito was expelled from the Cominform in 1948. It has since been abandoned as official dogma, but has survived in ‘Macedonian’ literature and historical treatises, and has been adopted by certain ‘Macedonian’ groups in the diaspora.”
In the 1990’s, the irredentist dream has not disappeared and is in fact included in the program of the new state’s largest party in the first elections, the VMRO (37 out of 120 seats in 1990; always in opposition to the governing coalition, but has disintegrated in the mid-1990s); moreover, the choice as national symbol of the star found on the tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, discovered in Greek Macedonia could not but fuel the Greeks’ fears about contemporary Macedonian revisionism. Nevertheless, irredentism has been a key characteristic in every new Balkan state fifty years after its establishment (the current age of the Macedonian separate entity); whereas, though, it was ‘legitimate’ in the nineteenth century, it can be destabilizing in the late twentieth century: an official, concrete and sustained, condemnation of it was perhaps Greece’s only reasonable demand in the conflict over the international recognition of the new state in the mid-1990’s. Finally, every new Balkan state with an Orthodox population sought to create a national church; the Macedonians, thanks to a decision of the, theoretically atheist, federal Yugoslav authorities, acquired their autocephalous church in 1967, despite the opposition by the Serbian and, as a consequence, the other Orthodox Churches including the Greek one: this ecclesiastical conflict is expected to last longer than the problem of the international recognition with a definite name.
An impartial review of Macedonian history leads to the conclusion that (Garde, 1992:243; &
“A consciousness of identity (...) has always existed among Macedonians. French geographer Ernest Granger wrote in 1924: ‘The Slavs of Prilep, Bitolj, Strumica, Lower-Vardar have not had to this date the consciousness of belonging to a clearly defined nation. To the question: are you Serbian? are you ulgarian? are you Greek? or Albanian? they were answering: I am Macedonian.”
A leading Greek writer who fought in the Bitola area during World War I made the same observation also in 1924 (Myrivilis, 1991:104):
“These peasants, whose language is perfectly understood by the Bulgarians and the Serbs, dislike the former because they drafted their children in the army. They hate the latter who mistreat them as they consider them Bulgarians. And they look with a lot of sympathetic curiosity to us, the passing by Rums [Greeks] because we are the genuine spiritual subjects of the Patrik, that is the ‘Orthodox Patriarch of the Poli’ [Constantinople]. (...) But they want to be neither ‘Bulgar’, nor ‘Srrp’, nor ‘Grrtc’. Just ‘Makedon Orthodox.’”
This feeling of a separate Macedonian identity (albeit not yet a national one) was shared by many scholars in the first half of the twentieth century, as indicated by the dozen maps which included them separately from the Bulgarians, the Greeks, or the Serbs (Wilkinson, 1951).
However, the frustration of their earlier struggles for independence and the cultural affinity with the Bulgarians led them to often identify with the latter. So, in the 1930’s (Banac, 1992:327):
“They were Bulgars in struggles against Serbian and Greek hegemonism, but within the Bulgar world they were increasingly becoming exclusive Macedonians.”
After World War II, they were elevated to an official nation by Tito who wanted to distance them from the Bulgarians and, secondarily, the Serbs, just like Stalin established Moldavian nationality, language and entity in formerly Romanian Bessarabia (Garde, 1992:245):
“But in Bessarabia linguistic differences were fictitious, regional specificity nonexistent, while in Macedonia they were both real. (...) So, Moldavia, after independence, eagerly seeks reunification with Romania. Macedonia claims plain and simple independence.”
We can therefore conclude that a distinct Macedonian ethnic identity -just like a distinct Vlach ethnic identity- had definitely developed before World War II, irrespective of the varying historical explanations for it: it is on that basis that the post-war Yugoslavia recognized and helped develop the Macedonian national identity. On the contrary, no distinct Moldavian ethnic identity existed before the War; hence Stalin’s failure to definitely distance the Moldavians from the Romanians.
Bulgarians have accepted that, in the last fifty years, the Slav population of Yugoslav Macedonia developed a separate identity although they keep the hope that they can be reintegrated in the Bulgarian nation in the future (Kofos, 1990:127).
Their attitude has enabled them to be the first to recognize Macedonian independence in 1991, though they will not officially acknowledge the separate nation. Greeks have yet to come to terms with that reality and, thus, were the last to fully recognize their neighbors. In any case, both countries adamantly deny the existence of Macedonian minorities in their respective territories.
Past repression in Greece
According to League of Nations statistics, which however were based solely on Greek sources, when Greece annexed over half the territory of Macedonia in 1913, the Greek speaking population made up just 43% of its 1,200,000 inhabitants as compared with 39% for the Turks, 10% for the Slav and 8% for the Jews (Wilkinson, 1951:266; Nicolaidis, 1992:32).
However, in those figures, Slav-speaking people who belonged to the Patriarchate were classified as Greeks. Should we limit the Greek population to the Greek-speaking one, we would reach an estimate of 20%-25% of Greeks vs. 30%-35% of Slavs (Lithoxoou, 1992c; Carnegie, 1993:195; Poulton, 1995:85).
In general, to quote Greek Minister of the Army K. Nider from a 1925 memorandum (Divani, 1995:77):
“When Macedonia was liberated by Greece, there was a mosaic of national consciousness, of Greek-leaning (åëëçíéæüíôùí), Bulgarian-leaning, Serbian-leaning, Romanian-leaning people.”
The Slavs tended to be considered as Bulgarians by the Greek authorities, which explains why
Professor R. A. Reiss who was commissioned by the Greek government to study ethnologically the new territories felt compelled to insist that “those you call Bulgarophones, I will simply call them Macedonians” (Reiss, 1915:3).
Following World War I, and the Greek-Bulgarian convention of 27/11/1919, which allowed voluntary population exchange, some 53,000 Slavs left for Bulgaria (Wilkinson, 1951:262), usually compelled by the Greek state’s discriminatory implementation of that convention in favor of those leaving the country
(Nicolaidis, 1992:32); in ‘exchange’ some 30,000 Greeks emigrated from Bulgaria to Greece. Divani (1995:58) -whose book is using Greek foreign ministry archives- mentions –though without a source- an exchange of 46,000 Greeks for 92,000 Bulgarians, though she uses the 53,000 figure for Bulgarians later on (p. 332); Poulton (1995:86) mentions 25,000 Greeks for 52,000-72,000 Bulgarians. At the same time, and following the implementation of the mandatory exchange of population between Greece and Turkey after the Greek defeat in Asia Minor in 1922 and the Lausanne Treaties in 1924, some 700,000-800,000 Greeks settled in Macedonia (Wilkinson, 1951:263-269).
So, in the inter-war period, the composition of the population of Greek Macedonia was dramatically altered. To quote the current bishop of Florina: “If the hundreds of thousands of refugees had not come to Greece, today there would be no Greek Macedonia. The refugees created the country’s national homogeneity” (Avgi, 9/2/1992).
Still there were many Macedonians left: some 82,000-85,000 according to official census data in 1928 and in 1940 (with their language referred to as Slavo-Macedonian), but probably as many as 200,000 in reality, as even the association created to help ‘Hellenize’ them (Association for the Dissemination of Greek Letters) admitted (Mavrogordatos, 1983:247; Divani, 1995:333).
This homogeneity could not have been achieved though without additional compulsory and repressive assimilation policies of the Greek state. Although the Greek state was compelled to protect its ‘Bulgarian’ minority by the 1920 Sèvres treaty and, in fact, tried to negotiate the implementation of the provisions of the latter in 1924 (by the Kalfof-Politis agreement), strong reaction by public opinion and by Yugoslavia canceled all such initiatives, and the special Abecedar printed in 1925 to teach the (Latin not Cyrillic) alphabet (based on the dialects spoken in Greece rather than on the Bulgarian or Serbian alphabets -hence its rejection by Bulgaria -Divani, 1995:148; Poulton, 1995:88-9) at the primary schools (as promised by Greece in the League of Nations on 10/6/1925, see Divani, 1995:323) was never used, as (Williams, 1992:83):
“The Hellenistic ideology of the post-Lausanne Greek state favors nation-building and assimilation into one Greek people of all other non-Turkish constituent minorities.”
On the contrary, since the mid-1920s, all Exarchate and Serbian schools from the pre-annexation era were closed, while the Slavonic icons were replaced or repainted with Greek names (Poulton, 1993:176 & 1995:89); likewise, the Slavic names of the villages were changed, a process which had already started in 1909 in the territories which were already part of Greece then (Lithoxoou, 1991: 63-4; Poulton, 1995:88). Moreover, from Thracian villages near Bulgaria -but also from villages in Western Macedonia-, many Macedonians were exiled to Crete in an effort to neutralize hostile Bulgarian propaganda, partly carried out through IMRO band intrusions in Greek territory (Kargakos, 1992:100; Mavrogordatos, 1983:248; and Tounta, 1986:56). But for the Macedonian masses (Mavrogor-datos, 1983:249):
“The most explosive and perennial issue, however, was that of the land in conjunction with refugee settlement. Slavo-Macedonian natives reacted strongly and often violently to the massive settlement of Greek refugees and to their occupation of fields they had themselves coveted or even cultivated in the past. (...) Slavo-Macedonian peasants would massively declare themselves Bulgarians, or even Serbs, in the futile hope that their villages and lands would thus be spared the refugee invasion.”
As a result, Macedonians tended to oppose the most nationalist political family, the liberal Venizelists, whose electoral base was the refugees, and vote for the conservative populists, also because the latter were receiving strong support from Greek Old-Calendarists (Orthodox Christian who have not accepted the new calendar) and Macedonians were Old-Calendarists too. In fact, some local populist politicians campaigned among Macedonians using separatist slogans “Macedonia for Macedonians” and “Macedonia iskra” (Divani, 1995:80).
Nevertheless, a minority of the Macedonians was voting for the communists, who, along with the other Balkan communists, advocated an independent Macedonia. The consequence (Mavrogordatos, 1983:251):
“[T]he connection between Slavo-Macedonians, Communists, and the threatened loss of Greek Macedonia was most effective-not only for propaganda, but also for the police repression of both Communist and Slavo-Macedonian agitation.”
Despite all this harassment, a large number of Macedonians, and their vast majority in the Florina and Kastoria district, lacked Greek national consciousness (Mavrogordatos, 1983:247; & Lithoxoou, 1992a:36-42). So, during the Metaxas dictatorship (1936-1941) –ironically Metaxas was the leader of a populist political party Macedonians had supported in the past-, compulsory and repressive methods of assimilation were introduced, resulting in the alienation of the non-assimilated Macedonians (Kofos, 1990:116). The use of the Macedonian language was prohibited both in public and at home, and the penalties included fines, forced drinking of castor oil, thrashing, torture, and exile. All its native speakers were forced to attend night school to learn Greek. Special training schools for women were created to help
‘Hellenize’ the ‘Bulgarian-speaking mother’ (Divani, 1995:345). Finally, all those who had not changed their names from Slavic into Greek ones, were obliged to do so, while 340 Macedonians emigrants to Canada or the USA were losing their Greek citizenship and were not allowed back even with their families living in Greece (Divani, 1995:345). It is no wonder therefore that many Macedonians, having felt hostile towards the Greek ‘bourgeois state’, were eager to cooperate with the Bulgarian occupants during World War II and, especially, with the communist resistance in the same period and the communist forces in the ensuing civil war, which, towards the war’s end even openly supported the idea of an independent Macedonia (Karakasidou, 1993:3; Kargakos, 1992:187; Lygeros, 1992:33; & Mavrogordatos, 1983:252).
In the villages under control of the resistance and then the communist forces, Macedonians had their schools, schoolbooks, newspapers, and church services and enjoyed a freedom they had never had before and have never had since (Poulton, 1993:178 & 1995:110).
The Macedonians paid dearly for their choice during the civil war (1946-9) and for their call for an independent Macedonia they made during it. Like most communists, some 35,000 Macedonians fled Greece after the defeat of the communist side (Danforth, 1993:4); but, whereas, in 1982, a law allowed the free return of and property restitution to all these political refugees, it excluded specifically all those of non-Greek origin, i.e. the Macedonians. All those who left lost their citizenship (on the basis of decree LZ/1947) and their property (first during the civil war with decrees M/1948 and N/1948 and after it with law 2536/1953) even if the latter had been left at the hands of relatives or tenants. Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) and MRG-Greece have documents showing that, at least in one case, a Macedonian, named Athanasios Gotsis, was stripped of his citizenship four years after his death in a civil war battle. With the same 1953 law, ‘nationally-minded’ Greeks, mostly retired army and police officers and privates, but also some Vlachs, were resettled in the Macedonian-populated areas, in the very lands which had been expropriated (Poulton, 1993:178; SAKE, 1993:20).
In the 1950’s, the policy of ‘memoricide’ was subtler than in the past. For example, the state opened many more kindergartens in the Florina district, where the Macedonian children could go spend the day, enjoy day-care and warm food, and take lessons of Greek, the only language they were allowed to speak. Thus, young children, when their parents were at work, were growing up away from the influence of the Macedonian-speaking grandmothers.
The Bishop of Florina praised the kindergarten’s work. (Avgi, 9/2/1992) Also, the ‘best and the brightest’ pupils were -and have since been- sent to at least two boarding schools far away in Kefallonia and Volos, in order to receive ‘proper’ education. Moreover, Macedonians could hardly find a job in the civil sector and their children were, reportedly, being discouraged from having a complete secondary education. Towards the end of that decade, the authorities pressured many villages to stage public swearing-in ceremonies in which they pledged never to use again the Macedonian language: these ceremonies were proudly reported in the Greek press (see for example: Eleftheria 7/7/1959; Hellenikos Vorras 8/7/1959; Vima 8/7/1959; Hellenikos Vorras, 5/8/1959; Kathimerini 11/8/1959; Hellenikos Vorras 11/8/1959).
Finally, many Macedonian villages near the border had been included, through the period of the dictatorship, in a restricted zone, where the movement of the citizens to and out of that zone was controlled by the authorities (such zone had also existed through 1995 in the mountain villages of Thrace where Pomaks and Turks, both identifying as ethnic Turks, have been living). At the same time, Greek authorities resettled in Macedonian-populated areas many Greeks with ‘healthy national consciousness’ often giving them the property of the Macedonians who had fled the country (Poulton, 1995:162).
In that context, it is interesting to mention the Greek-Yugoslav border movement agreement of 18/6/1959: it called for the freedom of movement of inhabitants of the villages and the two towns (i.e. Florina/Lerin in Greece and Bitola/Monastir in Yugoslav Macedonia) in a 10 km zone each side of the frontier between the two countries: some 3,000 of them from each side (excluding political refugees from Greece, though) could travel (without passports), trade, cultivate land and exercise liberal professions freely within that zone; the special licenses were issued in Greek and Macedonian (the term was used not in the text but by Greek foreign minister E. Averoff-Tossizza in parliament), which implied an official recognition of the latter by Greek authorities. The agreement was repealed in 1967 by the dictatorship and has never been reinstated since the restoration of democracy in 1974, despite repeated Yugoslav démarches in that direction (Valden, 1991:12-14 & 128).
Discrimination against average Macedonians
Even the most militant Macedonians acknowledge that their situation has improved since the restoration of democracy in 1974, and, especially, since the coming of the socialists to power in 1981, when the public use of their language, dancing of their dances and singing of their songs was again tolerated, at least until the return of the conservatives to power, when again some of the public festivities were broken up by police. After the socialists returned to power in 1993, many Macedonians reported a slight easing up of repression.
From an international human rights point of view, the most important discrimination against the minority is the official refusal to recognize it, even as a linguistic one, with the consequence that there is no education in Macedonian, not even any teaching of the Macedonian language in the public schools of villages and towns with large, if not exclusive, Macedonian population. The Greek authorities may be partners of the CSCE agreements that call for the respect of the self-determination of the minorities, but they do not acknowledge that there are Greek citizens who declare having not a Greek but a Macedonian consciousness and national identity; or just a Macedonian ethnic identity and no national identity: when confronted with information about self-professed Macedonians, the official Greek attitude is either demeaning, ‘they are a handful’, or demonizing, ‘they are Skopjian agents’. As for their language, the official position repeated to the fact-finding mission over and over again is that it is an idiom with many Greek, Slav, and other words, based on ‘Homeric Greek’, with no syntax or grammar (Karakasidou, 1993:11), therefore not able to be considered a proper language.
These arguments are also put forward for the Aromanian and the Arvanite minority languages in Greece, and they are even defended by some Greek linguists, but by no non-Greek ones.
The speakers of the Macedonian language are therefore called ‘bilinguals’ or, at best, ‘Slavophone Greeks’. As a result, the use of the language is waning from generation to generation, especially as, after decades of repression, many parents do not want their children to learn it as it could jeopardize their future. The mission was told of one recent case of a harsh and humiliating punishment of a pupil for speaking the language at the Xyno Nero school, and of reproof to the parents of another pupil who disagreed with his history teacher on a matter related to his culture. It should be mentioned though that, in recent years, there has been a -limited in scope- revival of interest, with young people eager to learn their parents’ and grandparents’ language, mainly in the Florina destrict which has always been the strongest in Macedonian population (almost all people the mission met there agreed that 50%-70% are Macedonian native speakers).
The Macedonians of Greece, though, have a higher priority than the official recognition and the teaching of, or in, their own language. With no exception, the first concern is granting their relatives who live abroad, mostly in the Republic of Macedonia, as political refugees, the right to freely return to and/or visit their native land. The latter’s plight was eloquently described by the socialist deputy of Florina George Lianis, when his party was in opposition in 1991 (EDM, 1992:16):
“There are a number of political refugees from the Florina area who has never returned to Greece. (...) And I tell you that they are Greeks, who have brothers, fathers and grand-fathers in Florina, in the villages of that area, who they cannot visit with for weddings, (...) for funerals, (...) and these people cannot enter our fatherland not even with the status of visitors. I want to add that some, exploiting the fact that Skopje are indeed making anti-Hellenic propaganda, hurt the local pride by insinuating that whoever raises such issues or demands the return of a certain number of refugees who are Greeks (...) is suspect.”
Mr. Lianis became secretary of state for sports in the 1993 PASOK government and is reported to be very close to the Prime Minister: although the easing up of repression may bear his influence, he has done nothing to correct the above situation, as the conflict between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia makes such a policy decision very delicate and probably very unpopular. The mission heard of many specific cases of political exiles who could not come to Greece for a short visit even when an important family matter (relative on the deathbed, funeral, wedding) was involved. However, in all these cases, on both sides of the border, it was clear that the people concerned indeed defined themselves as Macedonians and not Greeks, contrary to Mr. Lianis’ argument. The mission visited the annual festival of these Macedonian exilés in the Republic of Macedonia in 1993 and was convinced that they all have a Macedonian national identity that they are not willing to renounce in order to return to Greece. This division of families by the border was the subject of Angelopoulos’ film The Suspended Step of the Stork, shot in Florina amidst continuing unrest of the most nationalist sectors of the local population, led by the bishop.
As official census data do not exist, and if they did they would not be reliable, we will mention here the most frequent estimate of some 200,000 Macedonian speakers in Greece (IHF, 1993:45; & Rizopoulos, 1993); the 1987 Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year 1987 gives an estimate of 180,000 (Banfi, 1994:5). Also, an anonymous Greek ethnologist gave an estimate of 200,000 for the community, among whom some 100,000 understand the language and a few thousands have a Macedonian conscience (Chiclet, 1994:8). Another scholar, based of a detailed estimate of 30,000 speakers in the Florina and Aridea area makes a global estimate of 100,000-150,000 Macedonian speakers throughout Greek Macedonia (Van Boeschoten, 1994). Thus, the 200,000 estimate for the Macedonian community seems reasonable, also in view of the fact that the -naturally conservative- prefects of Greek
Macedonia estimate the ‘idiom’ speakers at some 100,000 (Financial Times, 4/11/1992), also the estimate of the Jyllands Posten correspondent (17/7/1993). Among them, a minority of a few tens of thousands, a figure growing since the beginning of the recent ‘Macedonian imbroglio’ (Karakasidou, 1993:20), have a non-Greek consciousness (Danforth, 1993:8); most of the latter probably live in the Florina area: “the figure [of nationally conscious Macedonians] may increase in conditions of free expression which today do not exist” (Valden, 1993:21), when “many people are afraid to [even] admit they know the language” (Karakasidou, 1993:11). The results of the Macedonian minority list in the June 1994 European elections (7,263 votes which correspond to a total population of more than 10,000) also confirm that the Macedonians with a national identity are neither a negligible (‘a handful’) nor the largest section of the Macedonian community. In fact, given the difficult circumstances of this first election appearance, the estimate of a few tens of thousands of people with a Macedonian national consciousness in Greece seems plausible.
The issue of the return of the political refugees who left Greece after the civil war was solved for all non-Macedonians with ministerial decision 106841/1982 (Official Gazette, second volume, 5/1/1983):
“All the Greeks by origin who during the Civil War 1946-1949 and because of it sought refuge abroad as political refugees may freely return to Greece even if they had been stripped of the Greek Nationality.”
The decision also called for the restoration of the citizenship to all those applying for it, and covered their immediate family. The refugees who were not Greek by origin, that is the Macedonians, were not allowed to return, a decision taken by the then socialist government with the tacit agreement of the conservative and the communist opposition. In fact, “[s]uccessive Greek governments have claimed that these people are agents deeply involved with ‘Skopjan’ anti-Greek propaganda activities” (Karakasidou, 1993:12). The origin of each applicant was established on the basis of his/her declaration: nevertheless, most Macedonian political refugees opted to declare their different, Macedonian nationality and lose their right to return to Greece.
In a related matter, since the collapse of Yugoslavia and the practical closing of the border between Greece and Macedonia in early 1992 (those crossing it were being harassed and often ended up with security files, later conveniently leaked in the extreme nationalist weekly Stohos), the population of Florina lost their regular contacts with that of Bitola, less than half an-hour away, with which it had more frequent contacts than with the closest Greek city.
Florina and Bitola are in the same plain and are separated by mountains from the other major cities in their respective countries. The economy of Florina was severely hurt as a consequence; but for the Macedonians, this severance also meant being cut off from their relatives as many live in the Bitola area or they could easily reach it.
Macedonians have also been discriminated against in the hiring in the public sector, though the mission heard that that was more acute in the past than nowadays. Such a practice was certainly commonplace before the 1980s, and a leaked secret National Security Service memorandum of 16/2/1982 (reg. no. 6502/7-50428), at the hands of GHM and MRG-Greece, recommended, besides the non-return of the Macedonian political refugees, also the hiring of non-Macedonian-speakers in the civil service and, ‘especially’ in schools. Moreover, a handwritten letter to Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis by the commune president of Kelli (a village with Macedonian-speakers with Greek consciousness) in February 1992 with the plea to hire some villagers in the public sector acknowledged past discrimination against the villagers: “we do not have one civil servant from our village” (Moglena, May 1993). On the other hand, the Meliti commune president and secretary of the PASOK District Committee, who told the mission he is Macedonian (“how can I say I am a Greek when the state refused my grandfather the right to return to Greece because he is not a Greek”) just like many of his villagers, argued that, since the restoration of democracy, all local party organizations have been taken over by ‘indigenous’ -‘dopioi’- (as Macedonians are usually called) who, through the usual patronage system, have pushed for the hiring of party sympathizers regardless of their origins; this resulted in more indigenous than refugees being hired, as the district has a 70% local population, and, as a consequence, it is now the refugees who are complaining that they are discriminated against.
Moreover, some name changing of localities is still taking place. The mission saw that the Pozar Baths (in the Pella district) have been renamed to Loutraki Baths (poorly corrected road signs and pre-1990 official maps were convincing evidence) and heard allegations that an effort to rename Kopano (in the Katerini district) was under way in mid-1993. Sometimes, the name changing is requested by the village’s administration, either because it is so ‘instructed’ or in an effort to prove the villagers’ Greekness by adopting an ancient Greek name of some adjacent archeological site. Another prewar measure, the replacement of icons with Slavic inscription and the tearing down of ‘Exarchist’ churches, resumed in Florina since the current bishop took office during the junta: he is still “implementing an order of the foreign ministry” as he wrote in a local newspaper about the icons’ removal (Moglena, May 1993) and “because of irreparable structural damages” for the churches as he, and some priests, told the mission.
Conflict over land is also reappearing from time to time: the mission heard allegations that a dried-out section of the Vegoritida lake was refused to the adjacent indigenous villagers of Aghia Paraskevi (Florina district) despite State Court decisions in their favor, so that it be given to the refugee villagers of Vegora. Especially after 1989, moreover, public singing and dancing of Macedonian songs and dances has often been broken up by police (Karakasidou, 1993:13), as such a cultural activity “remains a nationally suspect if not anti-Greek act” (Lygeros, 1992:97).
To conclude this section, we should mention the views of the prefect of the Florina district, the mayor of the city of Florina, and the bishop of Florina, in July 1993. The prefect denied the existence of a distinct minority and gave the aforementioned arguments for the ‘idiom’, admitting though that it is “broadly spoken in the area.” He denied the existence of any discrimination against the indigenous generally and in the public sector or the existence of any climate of fear, claiming that those who make these arguments and those who say they are not Greeks but Macedonians are a small group (“they can be counted one by one”) “who are not serving Greek national interests, as they are directed from centers abroad.”
Asked to substantiate these serious allegations, he said that he could not give any proof, but that such is the impression they give when they say they are not free to exercise their activities. He also denied knowledge of the Misalis case of lost citizenship (see below), though the mission later saw official correspondence between him and Mr. Misalis to that effect. He also assured the mission that it was not followed by any security police or secret service, something that contradicted the mission’s experience as related above.
Florina’s mayor argued that the ‘idiom’ (for which he offered similar arguments) was spoken by very few and those who claim the contrary are wrong. He even took exception to the use of the term ‘Slavophone Greeks’ by then Prime Minister Mitsotakis (to whose party he belongs) saying that he said it because he does not know the situation in the district. He finally named five activists who, according to his view, are the only ones who claim to be Macedonians.
When told that the commune president of Meliti also claimed a Macedonian ethnic identity, he embarrassingly replied he is sorry to hear it but he is wrong.
Finally, the bishop was very hostile and accused the mission’s foreign members of being agents of foreign powers or of Skopje. In the brief encounter he even denied things he had said to the Greek press, especially that, for a large number of inhabitants of Florina, the idiom is their mother tongue and it is anyway largely spoken in the area, where “the Greek language is shrunk, as the large majority of people barely know 500-600 Greek words” (Avgi, 9/2/1992).
After the October 1993 parliamentary election, when a Macedonian activist stood as an independent in the Florina district and received 369 votes, the official argument that those with a Macedonian consciousness were a mere ‘handful’ was updated (letter of Ambassador Elias Gounaris to The Independent, 16 May 1994):
“This has been proved once more, and quite dramatically, at the last elections. When a local eccentric, one A. Boules, decided to test the waters, run for parliament and become the recognized chief of a slavophone community in Greece, he polled at the general elections of 10 October 1993 exactly 369 votes. Now this number is certainly not representative of the bilingual Macedonians living in Greece. However, Mr. Boules and company, maverick leaders of 369 voters, have been misled to believe that they represent a minority, even an “oppressed” one; and that as a result of this newfound status, they can enjoy internationally sanctioned privileges and immunities. This is not the case.”
A month later, the Macedonians polled more than 7,000 votes. The Greek authorities had then to revise their arguments again.
Harassment of Macedonian activists
Until the late 1980’s, there was no apparent autonomous (i.e. outside the mainstream political parties and associations) minority activism in Greece. However, as on the one hand the problems grew and on the other the emphasis in the post-cold war European world moved towards human rights, both in Thrace and in Macedonia some members of minorities became energetic human and minority rights activists. Among those with a Macedonian national identity, two organizations had emerged by 1994: the older one is the Macedonian Human Rights Movement, with Christos Sideropoulos as president in recent years, and the newest one is the Macedonian Movement for Balkan Prosperity (MAKIVE), run by a five-member secretariat and occasionally publishing a newspaper (first called Moglena -Byzantine name of the area- then Zora -Macedonian for dawn). The former appears to be more active in the international fora and in close contact with the overseas Macedonian organizations, while the latter seems to have a broader base within Greece with members from at least six districts.
In 1993, they both filed candidates in elections: Tasos Boulis of the first organization ran as an independent in the October parliamentary elections, in the Florina district, and received 369 votes (1% of the electorate), while Pavlos Voskopoulos of the latter ran in the January indirect elections for the prefecture councils (elected by the president and the council members of all municipalities and communes of each district) and received 84 votes (14% of the electorate). In the June 1994 Euro-elections, a Rainbow list was presented by MAKIVE, in cooperation with the Rainbow group of the European Parliament (which included the minority and regionalist MEP’s between 1989-1994). The list was immediately strongly attacked and slandered by the state news agency and some media; then the country’s Supreme Court invalidated its candidacy, on the grounds that it had not declared it was not aiming at overthrowing the regime, a declaration not used since 1974.
Following the outcry, the Rainbow and two other leftist lists, which were initially excluded, were reinstated. The Rainbow list was the only one not to get any air time on state television during the campaign and was not able to distribute ballots in most Southern Greek electoral districts; also, on election day, GHM and MRG-Greece received reliable information that the Rainbow ballot was not given to the voters in many Greater Athens voting places. Despite all those problems, Rainbow received 7,263 votes or 0.1% of the total electorate. Its relative share of the vote was significant in three districts where it received more than half its votes: 5.7% in Florina, 1.3% in Pella, and 0.9% in Kastoria. In the October 1994 more polarized district elections, the Rainbow list in Florina received 3.5%.
A year later, in September 1995, the office Rainbow opened in Florina, with an inscription in both Greek and Macedonian, was attacked and sacked by a ‘mob’, led by the mayor of Florina; before the sacking, the prosecutor had ordered the removal of the inscription and had announced the indictment of Rainbow leaders for having incited division of the people through the use of the Macedonian language on their sign: no political party, nor any medium condemned the sacking of the party offices, which was on the contrary praised by extreme right nationalistic papers like Stohos and Chrysi Avghi, whose members reportedly took part in the sacking. In fact, the use of the bilingual inscription was condemned by all political parties, one of which, PASOK, even initiated a court procedure which was later withdrawn, as it appeared that many signatures on it had been put without the knowledge of those concerned.
The authorities continuously harass the Macedonian activists, as they claimed, and the mission was able to substantiate in some instances. First, they are often followed by national security or secret service agents, just like the mission itself was. Secondly, they are repeatedly treated as Skopjan agents by authorities and media alike, without ever the latter providing any substantive claim or -in the case of most media-publishing disclaimer or protest letters sometimes sent by the activists: it is characteristic to mention here the instructive public dialogue between two then mere deputies, the conservative Virginia Tsouderou, who later became secretary of state in the foreign ministry in charge among other things of human rights, accusing some groups of Macedonians of their “willingness to serve another country (...) [and] along with the Skopjans make this cultural assault and genocide to the detriment of Greece”; and the socialist George Lianis, deputy of Florina, and since late 1993 secretary of state for sports, who called this allegation “an inconceivable thing for Greece in the 1990s” (EDM, 1992:18 & 22).
Thirdly, at least two activists, Christos Sideropoulos and Tasos Boulis, have stood trial and were convicted for having spoken out as Macedonians, while the former was also indicted for having spoken out at the 1990 Copenhague CSCE meeting (the charges were dropped in 1995, after an international mobilization campaign launched by our organizations). In early 1994, a general amnesty led to the dropping of the charges in the former case, as well as in most cases of mainly leftist Greek activists who had publicly disagreed with official history or policy of Greece on Macedonia and the minority and were convicted or had cases pending against them (two such cases still await for their appeals in 1996). In other cases, intellectuals or journalists were left without jobs for publicly holding similar, ‘heretic’ views details of these persecutions can be found in Helsinki Watch et al., 1993). Also, in May 1994, the ultranationalist
weekly Stohos gave the addresses, phone numbers or car license numbers of two scholars who have such ‘dissident’ views, encouraging its readers to show them their feelings; one of them received death threats as a result and was forced to cancel her field research plans in the Macedonian villages (see The Independent, 10 May 1994, for one of these cases).
Moreover, the same newspaper, on 17 August 1994, asked that MRG-Greece and Greek
Helsinki Monitor spokesperson Panayote Elias Dimitras “and his likes” be “thrown out of the country”.
Fourthly, the mission witnessed the expulsion from Greece of a young Macedonian from Meliti, George Misalis, who is an activist in Australia. He has been stripped of his citizenship on the basis of article 20 of the nationality code (for alleged actions abroad benefiting a foreign government) without ever having been properly informed of the decision; an appeal was turned down by the prefect who asked him to come in person to file it; when he finally did, in July 1993, and while he made a short visit to Bitola to see his relatives, he was not allowed back in, as Greeks who lose their citizenship are blacklisted even when they have other passports (Australian in this case): so, he was practically denied an appeal by the prefect, who at the same time claimed to the mission he was not familiar with his case.
Subsequently, the Greek Foreign Ministry wrote to the Danish Helsinki Committee that the border authorities should have given Mr. Misalis a transit visa (Siesby, 1993).
Fifth, the ordeal of a priest, Father Nikodimos Tsarknias, is indicative of how far persecution can go when the state and the church coordinate it. He was one of the first activists and was publishing, through his sister, the newspaper Moglena, which reported on local problems, including minority issues. Because he spoke against the bishop of Florina, he was fired in 1981; in 1982, he was reinstated by the bishop of Kilkis in a parish with mostly refugee population where he became very popular; since 1983, there was pressure to remove him again which culminated in 1990 when apparently faked indecent pictures were circulated and contributed to his second dismissal in early 1993; Father Tsarknias told the mission that he has joined the Macedonian Church and was thinking of starting a parish in Greece, something which will complicate matters as that Church is still both Old Calendarist and not recognized by any other Orthodox Church. By the end of 1995, Father Tsarknias had accumulated more than a dozen convictions for ‘pretense of authority’ as he was, according to the courts, ‘impersonating a priest’ because he continued to wear the frock; he has always appealed and has never been in prison, though he has spent a few days in custody before some of the trials.
In some of his trials, as in the trials of the aforementioned activists, many elements of fair trial were absent. In Appendix II, we present the detailed statements of our organizations on these trials.
Sixth, the mission heard of the consequences in the personal and professional lives of the Macedonians. The first movement’s president was forced to resign his state tenured job after he was transferred to a far away island following his deposition at a CSCE meeting.
Moreover, activists of the second group from the Aridaia area (district of Pella) signed in 1992 a petition asking for Macedonians’ rights; some of the reactions against them included extreme psychological pressure on their relatives, including their children, in small villages; slandering graffiti still visible in mid-1993 (GHM and MRG-Greece have pictures of it); removal of an officer from elected office in an association for ‘having damaged its reputation’; loss of clientele which was threatened so as not to patronize a private business; etc..
Seventh, we heard repeated allegations that printers are discouraged by the authorities to print the activists’ newspaper and that many of the latter’s issues never reach their addressees, as they are thrown away at the post office: the latter claim seems to be substantiated by related bragging and the publication of addressee lists in Stohos; also by the tampering with mail sent to the Greek Helsinki Monitor and to a dissident writer, as well as the non-distribution of Zora and the Jehovah Witnesses’ correspondence in early 1994, confirmed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (see GMHMR 1994a:14-5 & 1994b:9).
Finally, the Greek courts have repeatedly refused the necessary accreditation to a Macedonian cultural association; the Supreme Court confirmed that decision, and the matter is now before the European Court of Human Rights. At the same time, the mission heard many complaints that the state’s subsidies to cultural associations in the Florina district are distributed disproportionably to the ‘nationally correct’ ‘Aristotle’ association, at the expense of all other cultural associations in the district (For more details on the current human rights issues, see Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, 1994).
It should be noted here that the activists have never raised sensitive issues like autonomy or secession; on the contrary, the Macedonian Human Rights Movement, in a 20/7/1993 letter to the Prime Minister asking for a treatment of the Macedonians in Greece similar to the one the Prime Minister had just claimed from the Albanian authorities for the Greeks in Albania, stated clearly that the Macedonians are “an inseparable part of Greece (...) an ethnic Macedonian minority which is a constituent element of the Greek state.” Moreover, its president has supported the respect of present borders and taken a distance from the movements of Macedonian emigrants that call for an independent or an autonomous Macedonia, while he voiced his disapproval for the choice of the ‘Vergina star’ as the Republic of Macedonia’s national symbol (Avgi, 4/11/1992). The MAKIVE activists, in conversation with members of the mission, and later on in discussions with other international missions, expressed similar views on these sensitive issues, adding that their European perspective favors the lowering of the borders rather than the anachronistic redrawing of them.
The dark side of the moon: Greece’s human rights record
The Greek state’s poor human rights record
Greece’s human rights record is very poor when judged by traditional Western, liberal standards, but not very bad by Third World or even post-communist Central European standards. As Greece, though, has participated in the competent Western institutions like the Council of Europe since the beginning, one would have expected her to have adapted her human rights standards to the average Western, liberal ones. This is far from being the case, and the attitude of the other Western countries is partly responsible for it: whereas they were vigilant during the seven-year dictatorship in Greece (1967-1974), they have hardly looked at Greece’s human rights problems since the restoration of democracy in 1974, giving her the impression she can proceed with such a poor record unobstructed.
The first factor explaining Greece’s poor human rights record is historical and can be traced back to the creation and the early development of the modern Greek nation-state in the nineteenth and early twentieth century (Kitromilidis, 1992:50-8):
“Independence was achieved without the civil liberties and the civil rights (...) the vision of freedom remained unaccomplished. (...) [I]n the course of the nineteenth century [there is] an antinomy between modernizing liberalism and pretentious and inflexible nationalism in the furthering of the demand for national integration. The study of this antinomy in the Greek political thought leads to sad conclusions. The deviation from the attachment to the rational examination of political problems and the defense of freedoms and the entrapment, on the contrary, in the authoritarian rationale of a highest bidding national intolerance which does not accept challenges and alternative approaches includes as a price of emagogy an ineluctable national disaster. (...) The passions of the national schism (...) resulted in a terrible intolerance and phanatism in Greek society, with as the first victim naturally the respect of individual rights and the rights of dissenters. (...) The defense of the right of dissent in Greek society often sounded like a cry of despair and isolated protest.”
The second factor is Orthodox Christianity, which has a central role in Greek political culture
“[T]he concept of hellenicity in modern Greek history is inextricably intertwined with that of Orthodoxy, and (...) this twin conception of modern Greece has definite implications for the value structure of the society. (...) While, therefore, the overall influence of the Church within Greek society is declining, it still remains an institution which, whether directly or indirectly, continues to have an impact on the attitudes, beliefs, and values of the population and to act as a powerful mechanism of secondary political socialization.”
But, Orthodoxy and human rights are fundamentally incompatible, as Orthodoxy has yet to adapt itself to (in fact lose out to, like Catholicism) secularization (Pollis, 1993; for similar arguments see also Lipovatz, 1993):
“The historical origins of contemporary individual human rights lie in the natural law which (...) has been alien to Orthodoxy. (...) The implication for human rights of these sharp discrepancies between Catholicism and Protestantism on the one hand, each of which, in its own way, values the diversity and recognizes the Church as temporal, and Orthodoxy which dissolves the individualized person into the spiritual organic whole of Ekklisia, are profound. (...) Of crucial importance for the discussion that follows on Orthodoxy, the state and rights, is the contrast between the West where separation of Church and state prevails, even in states such as England where there is an established church, and Orthodox societies in which such a separation is alien. (...) In Western Europe the new nation-states (...) were an affirmation of secularism and liberalism. In sharp contrast in the Balkans and Eastern Europe nationalism and religion, particularly Orthodoxy, became intertwined. The construction of national identities among Orthodox Christians in the dismembered Empires invariably incorporated religion as a crucial component of the newly constructed nationality. The ethnos (nation) and Orthodoxy became a unity. (...) By contrast, in Western Europe nationality and religion are delinked; religion is not a crucial element of national identity. (...) The inexorable conclusion which flows from the above analysis is that individual human rights cannot be derived from Orthodox theology. The entire complex of civil and political rights -freedom of religion, freedom of speech and press, freedom of association, due process of law, among others- cannot be grounded in Orthodoxy -they stem from a radically different world view.”
Such is the influence of the Orthodox tradition even on widely considered ‘progressive’ legal scholars in Greece that (Pollis, 1993):
“It is in fact striking that Greece’s eminent scholar, Aristovoulos Manesis, and a staunch defender of rights, forcefully rejects natural law and its derivative natural rights as constituting the origin of the contemporary theory of rights. It is the state that is the source of individual rights for Manesis and not natural law.”
The consequence of such thinking is that (Pagoulatos, 1992:48):
“If though individual rights are not natural but are granted by the state (...) does this mean that the state (...) has the right to take these rights back? The answer of (...) profoundly antitotalitarian and genuine European intellectual (...) Constantine Tsatsos is -implicitly but clearly-affirmative”
The third factor explaining Greece’s poor human rights records in recent years is the resurgence of nationalism since late 1991, as a result of the way politicians treated the ‘Macedonian problem.’ On the one hand and for the reasons explained above, Greeks grow up within a very intolerant political culture. On the other hand, Western societies in crisis often seek refuge in nationalism in what we have called its ‘primitive’ form (Dimitras & Lenkova, 1995), as Julia Kristeva has convincingly stated (Le Monde des Débats, October 1992):
“The depressed individual covers himself with a kind of shell drawing upon archaic identity values: land, blood, cult of language; whatever is most familiar, most maternal, most hot. For the nations, depression resulting from a fragmentation of the social fiber often leads to an apology of national origins which is fundamentally a discourse of hatred, a discourse unacceptable in Europe after the nevertheless prestigious history of our civilization.”
The combination, therefore of traditional intolerance and the primitive nationalist resurgence in times of deep social and political crisis in Greece, spearheaded by an external stimulus (the issue of the recognition of the Republic of Macedonia) led to nationalist hysteria: as a result, not only any dialogue on minorities could not take place but, for the first time in the post-1974 democratic period of Greece, heralded as the most liberal in its history, people were prosecuted for their opinions on the basis of laws introduced by dictatorships but never repealed since. Within fifteen months, twenty Greek citizens were tried and fifteen of them convicted for voicing dissenting opinions on ‘national’ issues, and the prosecution appealed the acquittal of the remaining five. Eventually, an amnesty law swept away most of these convictions or pending trials, with only two still awaiting their appeals in 1996 (Helsinki Watch et al., 1993; GMHMR, 1994a: 3-6).
These trials have led to growing international reaction, reminiscent of the dictatorship years. Amnesty International has sent letters and published at least two special reports on the trials (Amnesty International, 1992 & 1993); likewise for Helsinki Watch & The Fund for Free Expression (Helsinki Watch et al., 1993). In addition, letters were sent by the Minority Rights Group affiliates in Flanders, France, Denmark, and St. Petersburg, as well as by the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers, Article 19: International Center Against Censorship, International Pen: Writers in Prison Committee. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, as well as its Balkan national committees, has also issued public appeals. Finally, proposals for motions were introduced by the Rainbow and the Green groups in the European Parliament, but were never passed, while in the US Congress, the Congressional Committee to Support Writers and Journalists, made up of 16 senators and 76 representatives, has sent a letter too. It is characteristic that the new socialist Minister of Justice promised, in the fall of 1993, to abolish or amend the articles which led to those trials and convictions; he subsequently never did as he was reportedly told by his colleagues in the government that the major foreign policy problems Greece is faced with necessitate to keep those articles so as to quiet dissent.
More specifically, towards minorities, Greece’s official attitude can be simply summarized in one sentence:
‘in Greece there is only one minority recognized by international treaty, it is a religious minority, the Muslims of Thrace, it is blossoming and enjoying its full rights, and makes up some 1.5% of the total population.’
Naturally, anyone who claims the contrary is suspect, and, if s/he is a Greek may end up in court. Never mind that, implicitly, Greek jurisprudence recognizes as ‘allogenous’ (i.e. of non-Greek origin) all those who do not have a national consciousness, established on the basis of common racial origin, often but not always common language and religion, and especially common history and ideals (Armenopoulos, 1975:10), so that they can be deprived of their citizenship through article 19 of the citizenship code or be refused any job as kindergarten or primary school teachers. Nor that, in the 1950s, the same state ordered all Muslims in Thrace to call themselves Turks and not Muslims, threatening them with penalties if they did not comply (Helsinki Watch, 1990:51-3) and even in the 1990’s some schoolbooks call them Turks (Skoulatos et al. 1990:117).
Likewise, modern Greece has often recognized its Slav minority and its language as Bulgarian or Macedonian Slav or just Slav: in the official map circulated in the post-World War I negotiations (Soteriadis, 1918), in at least one official Greek Foreign Ministry document of 1924 (the language was mentioned as Macedonian, Divani, 1995:228), in interwar newspapers (Margaritis, 1993:27) or official notary documents (GHM and MRG-Greece have copies of them), in its publication of the 1920, 1928, 1940 and 1951 census results (Lithoxoou, 1995 -for the 1920 census where the language is mentioned simply as Macedonian and is distinct from Bulgarian (!)- & Dimitras, 1991:62 -for the other), in public statements by leading politicians like Venizelos and Papagos (MHRMG, 1991:10 & 16).
Moreover, when Ambassador Tsamados tried to explain to the Yugoslavs the Politis-Kalfof agreement, he argued that (Divani, 1995:139).
“[Greece’s] Slav populations should rather be considered as belonging to the Bulgarian [and not the Serbian] nation because both of their language and their national consciousness.”
In reality, the various linguistic, religious and ethnic minorities in Greece make more than 10% of the population, while the (semi) official data implicitly acknowledge 6%. Officially, the Muslims of Thrace are estimated at 120,000; also, the local authorities estimate the Macedonian-speakers at about 100,000, while Greece admits the presence of some 300,000 Roma; moreover, Greek authorities have no problem in acknowledging the presence of some 50,000 Catholics and of some 50,000 Jehovah Witnesses and Protestants, as well as a few thousand Jews: thus, we reach 6% of the population. However, the figures for the Muslims are exaggerated: our own careful estimates on the basis of the 1991 census and the area’s electoral behavior, confirmed by a state official who wants to remain anonymous, indicate that, in Thrace, we have at most some 50,000 Turks, 30,000 Pomaks, and 10,000 Muslim Roma; a few thousand Pomaks, Turks, and Muslim Roma are elsewhere in the country, while there are at least a few thousand Greeks with Turkish as their mother tongue. The official figures for the Macedonian-speakers and the Roma are underestimated according to knowledgeable experts, who put the two communities at 200,000 and 350,000 respectively.
Also, experts estimate that there are two 200,000-large communities of Aromanians (or Vlachs) and Arberor (or Arvanites) (see Banfi, 1994 for a summary of some of these estimates). No estimates exist, though, for the Old Calendarists. All these figures lead us to an estimate of the probable share of minorities at near 11%; to that, one should add at least 500,000 mostly illegal foreign immigrants in Greece, who thus make another 5% of the near 11 million inhabitants of the country.
The confusion is such that the existence of Macedonians with no Greek consciousness is implicitly admitted even in the official propaganda material the Greek state has been distributed in the 1990s. So, for example, one can read that, after the exchange of populations in the 1920s (IIPSS, c1991:8-30):
“the population of that area became purely Greek even though some of the inhabitants were bilingual. In other words, Greek Macedonia became an entirely homogeneous part of the Greek State.”
This homogeneity is belied, though, in the very next sentence:
“This became even more the case in the post-Occupation period (1945-1949), when almost all the bilingual inhabitants of the area whose national consciousness was not Greek moved to neighboring states.”
And a few pages later:
“In Greek Macedonia (...) a smaller group (...) had adopted the Bulgarian national identity or remained non-aligned” or “In the past, there were undoubtedly persons with a Slav national consciousness, who sometimes behaved as Bulgarians and sometimes as Slav-Macedonians.”
Two other booklets, with a very similar content but with interesting omissions, additions and corrections in the most recent one, also acknowledge the presence of Macedonians before the war and, the first, recommends that:
“the various national groups who live in the wide Macedonian space should be called clearly -and especially when abroad- as Slav or Yugoslav Macedonians, Greek Macedonians or Bulgarian Macedonians”
(a suggestion omitted from the newest edition) (Christopoulos et al., 1991:26-8 & 45-7; MNER, 1992:32).
On the other hand, the Greek judiciary seems less confused and more determined to set the record straight: so, in rejecting the Macedonians’ demand to accredit their cultural association, the Shelter for Macedonian Culture, the Fourth Section of the Salonica Appeals Court made, in its 8 May 1991 decision no. 1558, sweeping statements ‘beyond any doubt’ about historical truth (exact borders of ancient Macedonia; Greekness and Greek purity of ancient Macedonians and of their language, their religion and their habits; the role of the area of Macedonia throughout history basing their arguments even on a Nazi tourist guide:
“according to a Guide of Salonica prepared by German historians and archeologists during the last (World) War (II)”), linguistics (character of the local ‘idiom’), geography (the city of Skopje belongs not to Macedonia but to Dardania), minorities (absence of particular Slavic culture from the area of Greek Macedonia, the Macedonian minority is ‘ethnologically non- of national independence and human rights cannot be the work of associations’. These arguments are now part of Greek jurisprudence and can be used to prosecute other dissenters, although the case itself is pending before the European Commission of Human Rights.
There is no question that the Greek state’s human rights record is in violation of the many international conventions it has ratified, i.e. the various CSCE documents on the human dimension, the Council of Europe’s human rights conventions, and the UN human rights conventions. But even in her attitude towards international human rights conventions, Greece is behind all other EEC and West European countries. Namely, Greece has yet to sign or ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as its Optional Protocol (by the end of 1995, Turkey was the only other European country not having ratified it), and was the only Council of Europe member voting against the new Charter of Regional and Minority Languages in 1992 (although in the official record of the vote the Greek representative managed to change the ‘no’ vote to abstention).
The lack of documentation
The Macedonian minority in Greece is one of the least known minorities in Europe, just like most other minorities in Greece and in the Southern Balkan countries. In earlier, specialized, literature, there is no reference to any minorities in Greece (Caratini, 1986) or there is a reference only to the Muslims, reportedly enjoying their full rights (GDM, 1987). The first EEC report on linguistic minorities did not include Greece, as “the channels we tried to establish with Greece have not functioned to this date” (CCE, 1986:9). When a few years later, a second report on Spain, Portugal and Greece was prepared for the Commission, only the summary was ever published, after, reportedly, significant editorializing from the Greek side which the European Commission unfortunately accepted. In that summary, only one page is devoted to the “Slav-speaking” minority: one paragraph deals with the precarious situation of their language as both education and religious ceremonies are carried out exclusively in Greek, with the rest of the document explaining the Greek official arguments for the sensitivity of the issue. The new report under preparation in 1994 was supposed to be more detailed, but it was sloppily handled by the European Commission and will probably never be published, either because of its very poor quality on Macedonians and Turks or because of the recent reluctance of the EU to publish documents unfavorable to Greece.
The first effort to document the history and the problems of that minority is MRG’s report on the minorities in the Balkans, now in its third version, the second edition of the book (Poulton, 1993:175-182): it is noteworthy that the lack of sufficient documentation in Greece led to that text being based almost exclusively on Macedonian and other Yugoslav sources.
MRG’s World Directory of Minorities, with the same sources, has references to the Macedonians of Greece (MRG, 1990). Some anthropologists like Karakasidou (1993) have probably done the most serious studies, while one can find books published in the 1990’s claiming that there is no Slavophone or Macedonian minority in Greece (Raufer & Haut, 1992:30 & 80). On the contrary, some references have been made in two recent books about modern Greece (Dimitras, 1991; Pettifer, 1993), which are far from complete though, as has also been the case with recent US Department of State reports on human rights in Greece, which, since 1991, have nevertheless been including more and more references to the problems of the Macedonians. Recent NGO reports by the Danish Helsinki Committee (Siesby, 1993) and Human Rights Watch/Helsinki (1994) are certainly the best-informed documents on the matter.
Although every effort has been made to make this document -in both versions of it- as accurate as possible, GHM and MRG-Greece believe that it, too, is far from a definite study of the topic. There is a need to investigate in details all the various claims of discrimination against that minority, not to establish the obvious, i.e. that such a problem exists, but to verify how serious it is. Moreover, as many, if not most, Macedonian speakers appear to have a Greek national consciousness, it is important to do extensive research to establish what percentage of that minority should be considered as just a linguistic minority, what percentage as an ethnic minority, and what percentage as a national minority. Naturally, as there are no reliable figures, there is a need of a fair census for this as well as for the other minorities in Greece, for which similar detailed studies ought to be carried out.
‘No news from the Western front’: (lack of) international response
One consequence of the lack of sufficient knowledge on the Macedonian minority in Greece and its problems is that there has hardly been any international interest in her plight. In fact, it may be argued that, had it not been for Greece’s internationalization of the issue of the conditions for the recognition of the Republic of Macedonia, most countries would have still ignored the problem. The only international forums where it was heard had been Australia and Canada with their very vocal Macedonian communities, and some CSCE meetings when Macedonian activists from Greece voiced their claims, or Greek Helsinki Monitor and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights present the country’s human rights problems. The Macedonian sources, though, have been treated with caution as they could be considered as nationalist. Until, therefore, independent documentation of the minority’s problems was provided, most international governmental and non-governmental institutions had been reluctant to consider the problem and have therefore implicitly contributed to the danger of extinction of a minority culture in a European country. With this document and the reports, which were prepared by the other two NGO’s that joined MRG-Greece in Greek Macedonia in July 1993, one can hope that international awareness of the subject will be raised, and Greece will be advised or even pressured to adjust her policy to the international standards, lest the situation in Greek Macedonia escalates further.
Ways forward to avoid escalation
Given Greece’s poor record by CSCE standards, it is urgent that the High Commissioner’s office of that institution takes a very careful look at Greek practices in the matter, as he has already done with the Greek minority in Albania. Perhaps the various international nongovernmental organizations should jointly act at the various competent institutions like the UN sub-commission on human rights to put Greece’s attitude on their agenda. All these institutions should pressure Greece to honor her signature of the various international human rights documents and to sign the new Charter on Minority and Regional Languages of the Council of Europe, as well as the Framework Convention. They should also encourage her to make a census of her minorities under international supervision, as the Republic of Macedonia did in mid-1994.
More specifically for the Macedonians, Greece should first follow “widely accepted sociolinguistic insight that the decision as to whether a particular variety of speech constitutes a language or a dialect is always based on political rather than linguistic criteria” (Danforth, 1993:8), and recognize the Macedonian language spoken on both sides of the border. Then, Greek authorities should introduce instruction of the language at all levels of school and university system, wherever there is sufficient demand for it. Although the large number of Macedonians in Florina may even warrant comprehensive schooling in Macedonian, this has hardly been asked by the people concerned, even by their activists, as they realize that the young generations ought to come out of school perfectly fluent in Greek, the language necessary for any advancement in society. Naturally, the persecution of people for speaking, printing in, singing in or dancing songs in that language ought to stop immediately. Wherever there is significant demand for it, icons with Cyrillic inscriptions should be reintroduced or allowed to be introduced in the churches and the reintroduction of services in Macedonian should be taken into consideration, preferably within the authority of the Church of Greece and not of that of the Church of Macedonia, to avoid potential complications. Generally, the Greek state needs to take some form of affirmative action to encourage the survival of that language, endangered by its previous actions.
Most Macedonians will agree, though, that the first priority is the amendment of the 1982 decree to allow for the free return of all Macedonian political refugees, with the same conditions applied to the other political refugees, and, even more, as many would not want to return, the freedom of movement across the frontier so that they can visit their birth places and their relatives. Obviously, all these people, and all others who lost their citizenship in the past, should be reinstated should they wish to, and the related articles of the code of citizenship should be abolished.
As it is understandable that such changes will shock Greek public opinion, it is necessary that Greece launches an effort to re-educate her citizens on the country’s and the region’s real recent history, using “memory instead of myths” (Nicolaidis, 1992:50) and inform them on the country’s human rights obligations. This concerns all religious, linguistic and ethnic minorities, and not just Macedonians. The media have a key role to play in that effort, which means that they should take the leadership in such an effort rather than follow the majority of the county’s intelligentsia in the intolerant path they have chosen: the often praised in Greece cases of independent and anti-nationalist media in the former Yugoslav republics could serve as examples.
Moreover, these changes should be introduced with caution so as to avoid that the previously oppressed Macedonians consider them an opportunity to take revenge of their perceived oppressors, i.e. the Greeks of refugee origin living in the area, especially in Florina where the latter make up only a third of the total population. The fact-finding mission heard of disturbing incidents showing that the two elements may slowly be growing apart, as it has recently happened in Thrace between the Turks and other Muslims on the one hand and the Christians, mostly of refugee origins too.
Finally, all the above will be facilitated if they take place within the framework of a global regional (i.e. Balkan) effort to solve minority issues and make of all the minorities in the region bridges of understanding rather than potential or actual reasons for conflict. The large majority of Greeks, even if invited by their authorities, would be very reluctant to accept an one-sided effort of their country to improve her human rights record, still not the worst in the region, when the Greek minorities outside Greece (i.e. mainly in Albania and in Turkey) are also victims of similar if not more intense discrimination. Similar is probably the attitude of the populations in the other Balkan countries. So, a ‘Balkan CSCE’ is the best way to look for permanent solutions to the various human rights problems in the region: most people will be more eager to accept radical improvement of the treatment of their country’s minorities when they know that the other countries’ minorities will be treated likewise and that, thus, the minorities will cease to be potential ‘Trojan horses’, as many had indeed been in the past and many are still perceived to be today. Only then in a way will ‘history be forgotten’, as it has been in Western Europe.
The Macedonians in Greece have been the victims of a usually systematic campaign of memoricide by the Greek state in the last half-century. As a result, the majority among them appears to be assimilated and declare a Greek national consciousness, which does not deprive them of the status of an at least linguistic minority, similar to those of the Aromanians, the Arberor or the Roma in Greece. Their ill-treatment is similar to the one the other minorities in the Balkans have suffered in this century. However, in the case of the Macedonians, the conflict over the recognition of the Republic of Macedonia is pushing Greece to implement what some consider “a case of symbolic ethnic cleansing” by attempting “to destroy the identity, language and culture of that minority” (Danforth, 1993:10). It appears that the effort is backfiring, as the level of ethnic consciousness has been on the rise among Macedonian speakers since the beginning of the recent Macedonian imbroglio in 1991: the Greek state therefore “may be nurturing the very nightmare it wishes to dispel” (Danforth, 1993:8), i.e. the creation of a large and militant ethnic minority with hostile feelings towards the Greek state, like the Turks and other Muslims in Thrace, instead of achieving the complete assimilation it has been hoping for. In any case, contemporary human rights standards compel Greece to radically alter her human rights policy or face the consequences in the international institutions concerned, assuming that the latter will show the political will they have lacked to this day. The role of the international NGO’s is therefore crucial to alert these institutions of the problems as well as to help Greece implement the necessary changes should she opt for the necessary cooperation. Despite no apparent change in the new, socialist government’s attitude in the first two years in office, the related views of some of its key ministers publicly expressed in the past may lead to the expectation of some change.
NGO HARASSMENT BY GREEK AUTHORITIES
The Greek foreign ministry had received requests for assistance to the MRG-Greece/Helsinki Watch/Danish Helsinki Committee mission by the British, Danish and US Embassies in Athens on behalf of the three NGO’s involved. The mission itself asked the Greek foreign ministry for a briefing in Athens on the first day; an appointment was arranged with deputy foreign minister Virginia Tsouderou, which however did not take place as she insisted on seeing only the Helsinki Watch and the Danish Helsinki Committee members, excluding the Minority Rights Group representative in Greece, a discriminatory offer refused by the mission’s members; no other briefing was offered instead. In the first day of the mission’s trip in the Florina area, security agents followed its members until the MRG-Greece member went up to them and notified them that the mission was aware of their presence which was denied by the prefect. On the sixth day, while crossing the border to the Republic of Macedonia at Niki (near Florina), the passports of the three investigators were taken away from them and held for twenty minutes by the border police, probably to be photocopied and for telephone instructions to be given to the policemen; then, the investigators’ car was the only one of the half a dozen crossing the border at the same time which was searched, indeed thoroughly, with the policeman looking carefully only at documents and books: in fact, one master’s thesis at a Danish university carried by the Danish investigator was also taken away to be photocopied.
On 15 September 1993, the extreme right-wing weekly Stohos published the ‘top secret report’ of the Greek secret service on that mission, with information on nearly all the meetings they held, including names of people they met with, times of meetings, car license numbers, passport numbers of them as well as two other scholars who joined the meetings, and even the name of one person the MRG-Greece representative telephoned to from his hotel: the full text may be found in Appendix III.
The Danish investigator, in November 1991, in a similar mission, was prevented from meeting with Macedonian activists by the police which blocked the entrance of his hotel not allowing the latter to enter it or the former to leave it: his mission was then aborted. The MRG-Greece representative, in that capacity, participated in a delegation of Greek intellectuals who had a meeting with Macedonian counterparts in Ohrid, Macedonia, in March 1993. When the delegation returned to Greece, the border police copied from all passports the personal data on official entry forms, from which however EEC citizens are exempted: when they protested, the MRG-Greece member was told by a security officer that they wanted to check whether any ‘Skopje agents’ were in the delegation. Then, the police also checked thoroughly the books and documents of all delegation members, illegally seizing one of them, printed in Skopje. A few weeks later, all the personal information copied by the border police was published in the extreme right and hyper-nationalist weekly Stohos, well known for its ties with the Greek secret and service and security police.
In conclusion, it should be mentioned that the new socialist foreign minister was informed of the above problems and invited to inform MRG-Greece on whether he possibly has a different attitude on the matter but had not responded by the end of December 1995.
‘INTERNATIONAL HELSINKI FEDERATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS’ AND
‘GREEK HELSINKI MONITOR’ MAJOR STATEMENTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS
PROBLEMS OF THE MACEDONIANS OF GREECE
GREEK HELSINKI MONITOR
Sad Conclusions from the Sideropoulos Trials
Athens, 10 October 1994. Greek Helsinki Monitor (the Greek National Committee of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights) attended as an observer two trials of Christos Sideropoulos, president of the Macedonian Movement for Human Rights. The first took place in Florina (5/10/1994) and the second in Athens (7/10/1994). The basic conclusions which were drawn are the following:
1. The penal prosecution against Christos Sideropoulos for his statements in a 1990 Parallel Activity of the CSCE meeting in Copenhague was based on a classified document of the Greek foreign ministry which has not been made available to the defendant: it is therefore a prosecution based on a secret document and taking place with the full cooperation of the Greek state (and not as a simple product of an independently functioning judiciary).
2. The defendant's right to have the best possible legal defense is curtailed by the denial of (his department) Florina's lawyers to undertake his defense as well as by the offense against Christos Sideropoulos' Athenian lawyer by a judge.
3. The attitude of the great majority of political parties, mass media, bar associations, and non-governmental organizations which deal with human rights -particularly when compared to the respective attitude in the case of the prosecution of the five cadres of the (Greek minority party in Albania) Omonoia- gives the impression that in Greece there are few consistent defenders of human rights: the great majority of the others invoke them only when they serve their intentions, whatever they may be, and, for many, are compatible with their general national(istic) choices.
The Florina trial (5/10/1994)
On 5 October 1994, Christos Sideropoulos was to be tried by the Misdemeanor Court of Florina for having violated article 191.1 of the Penal Code, charged with ‘disseminating false information which may cause disruption of the international relations of Greece.’ The charge has been based on the following extract of an alleged statement to journalists “in a press conference of ‘Slavomacedonians’ which was a parallel activity to the CSCE meeting in Copenhague,” according to the indictment:
“I belong to a category of people who are deprived of their rights, even of the right to their name. I am a Macedonian and I live in Greek Macedonia but I do not have the right neither to say it, nor to use my language, nor to maintain the customs of my ancestors in order to transmit them to my descendants. Regardless of the carving up of the Macedonian people in 1913, they preserved their culture, their identity and their unity... That is precisely why 50% of the Macedonian population has become political refugees or immigrants; even when they return to visit their relatives, their entry is prohibited.”
The court put the trial off for 27 September 1995 due to the absence of the prosecution witness, that is of the lawyer from Piraeus who filed charges at the district attorney in 1991; the witness was considered essential by the court.
a. Inadmissible postponement
The postponement itself is considered inadmissible for the following reasons. Firstly, the witness, by a telegram to the court, before both the first court date of 25/5/1994 (at that time the trial was postponed due to the lawyers' strike) and the second court date of 5/10/1994, notified the court not only that he could not be present because of his professional obligations, but also that he had nothing more to state beyond his initial deposition, which he asked to be read in court.
Had the court considered him an essential witness, it ought to have at least -after the second postponement- asked for his forceful summons, since it is obvious that the witness has no intention of appearing. But nothing like that happened. In addition, the reading of the initial statement, in which he just brings to the attention of the prosecutor an article in Ethnos concerning Christos Sideropoulos and two more people and asks for their prosecution for high treason, combined with his telegram that he has nothing more to add, shows that the witness is anything but essential.
The one year postponement of the trial in this way, combined with the fact that among the three people mentioned in the publication, only Christos Sideropoulos is prosecuted, reinforces his argument that the state wishes to hold him ‘hostage’ by similar procedures and, hence, to try to neutralize his activity.
b. Refusal by Florina's lawyers to defend Christos Sideropoulos
Christos Sideropoulos reported to Greek Helsinki Monitor that three lawyers from Florina refused to undertake his legal defense. Greek Helsinki Monitor (which has the names of the three lawyers at its disposal) has confirmed the denial of one of them. Moreover, the Athenian lawyer who finally undertook the defense stated to the Greek Helsinki Monitor observer that, after a conversation with the president of the Bar Association of Florina, she had the impression that all of its members face with reluctance, if not denial, the undertaking of Sideropoulos’ defense. The president himself told the Greek Helsinki Monitor observer that there was no official denunciation of the matter and that, if there were one, he would convene a General Assembly of the Association to look into it.
c. Prosecution based on a classified document of the Greek foreign ministry
The Greek Helsinki Monitor observer, after having examined the indictment and the newspaper on which it was based, ascertained that in the latter, neither the holding of a press conference of Christos Sideropoulos nor -mainly- the statement attributed to him, in quotes, in the indictment (see above) were mentioned. The extract from the newspaper mentions the following (presented without any editing):
“As far as the ‘Slavomacedonian minority’ is concerned, Ethnos has learnt the following: Skopje used three Greeks, among them a civil servant, who ‘confessed’ to an American embassy cadre, who visited villages of Florina, the oppression which they allegedly endure from the Greek government. These three Greeks have testified against Greece at the CSCE which took place in Denmark on 15 June 1990.
According to the Panmacedonian Federation of America, they are Christos Sideropoulos, Constantine Gotsis and Stavros Anastasiadis.”
First, it should be mentioned that the testimony to a specialized body like the CSCE does not constitute a public statement and, in consequence, its content cannot even be considered as dissemination of false information, offense for which the defendant is prosecuted. Secondly, the comparison between the newspaper's text and the indictment can lead to three conclusions: the publication refers to actions of three people whereas the indictment accuses one of them, the publication refers to a testimony at the CSCE, and the indictment to a press conference within the framework of CSCE, and the alleged statements of Christos Sideropoulos in the indictment are not mentioned in the article.
Following that, we looked into what led to the divergence between the indictment and the publication, on which evidently the penal prosecution could not be based. According to a statement by Christos Sideropoulos, when he went to the prosecutor to plead his defense, he noticed in the relevant file the existence of a three-page classified document of the Greek Foreign Ministry, but was refused a copy by the prosecutor, on the grounds that the document was classified. The defendant’s lawyer said to the Greek Helsinki Monitor observer that after the examination of the case file she found out that the prosecutor asked the Foreign Ministry for ‘a text with the press conference of Christos Sideropoulos’ which, however, was not among the documents of the file she was given to examine.
Hence the conclusion that the prosecution against Christos Sideropoulos was based on a secret document (a legally inadmissible act) which the foreign ministry eagerly handed over to the prosecutor evidently in order to facilitate the prosecution against the defendant (a politically inadmissible act): this Foreign Ministry action belies the official governmental position that the prosecutions for ‘crimes of opinion’ constitute actions of the independent judiciary with which the government does not necessarily agree.
The Athens trial (7/10/1994)
On 7 October 1994, the Administrative Appeals Court of Athens held hearings for the appeal of Christos Sideropoulos against the state, challenging his transfer from Florina to Cephalonia, which took place after his appearance at the CSCE in 1990 and as an immediate result of it (as the article of Ethnos confirms). The court’s decision will be issued in the future.
Offense against Christos Sideropoulos’ lawyer
During the trial the court turned down the motion by Christos Sideropoulos’ lawyer for postponement, because the Appeals Court’s judge in charge of the case had refused the examination of the file by the lawyer before the trial: during the relevant exchange of arguments, the lawyer was verbally assaulted by the judge, who subsequently -after he had stepped down from the bench and had left the courtroom and in the presence of the Greek Helsinki Monitor observer- addressed the lawyer with insulting expressions.
After this, Greek Helsinki Monitor calls on the minister of justice and the competent judiciary authorities to take the appropriate actions in order to sanction the judge's behavior and prevent any future similar action, which is unfortunately not unique, so as not to give the impression that in Greece minority citizens as well as their lawyers are treated with prejudice by the judiciary.
The silence of most political parties, organizations and media
Greek Helsinki Monitor noticed with regret that the political parties (apart from the Coalition), the mass media (except for Eleftherotypia, Avgi, Epohi, and Prin), the bar associations and the other non-governmental organizations which deal with human rights ignored the inadmissible prosecution of Christos Sideropoulos for his opinions. On the contrary, in the case of the prosecution of the five Omonoia cadres for their political action, all of the above made their presence most visible by denunciations, monitoring missions, etc.
It is characteristic that the positions of Greek Helsinki Monitor on the trial of the Omonoia cadres got broad coverage by the Greek media whereas the positions concerning Christos Sideropoulos’ prosecution got minimum coverage. The comparison between the two cases gives the impression that, in Greece, there are few consistent defenders of human rights: the great majority just invokes them only when they serve their intentions, whatever they may be, and, in many cases, are compatible with their general ational(istic) choices.
GREEK HELSINKI MONITOR
Conviction Of Orthodox Priest Sets Dangerous Precedent For The Balkans
Athens, 5 December 1994. Greek Helsinki Monitor condemns the double conviction of Father Nikodimos Tsarknias by Edessa's Single-Member Circuit Court (presided by Vassilios Tsourdas), on 2 December 1994, as it is a violation of religious freedom and sets a dangerous precedent of intolerance in the Balkans. It thus calls on the Greek government to see that such prosecutions stop immediately and to instruct judges to protect defendants, witnesses, and lawyers from verbal abuses like the ones they took place in Edessa with impunity for the offenders, among which were even other lawyers.
Father Tsarknias was tried for pretense of authority, under article 176 of the Greek penal code; more specifically for wearing a uniform of a clergyman of the Eastern Orthodox Church. After having served for twenty years in the Greek Orthodox Church, Father Tsarknias was defrocked in early 1993, officially for reasons of discipline, but in reality for his advocacy for the rights of the Macedonian minority in Greece. At that time, he joined the Macedonian Orthodox Church and became a brother of the monastery ‘St. George the Great Martyr’ in the village of Kuckovo, Skopje. Since then, he has been relentlessly persecuted for pretense of authority by the Greek authorities. Even before the recent trial, he had been
convicted ten times to sentences from three to five months, always in abstentia, as the courts refused to postpone the cases despite his absence for reasons of health or trips abroad. All convictions were appealed and therefore the only time he has spent in custody was that following his arrests.
On 2 December 1994, Father Tsarknias was finally able to defend himself for the first time and presented documents confirming his affiliation with the Macedonian Orthodox Church; nevertheless, the court decided to ignore them and convicted him to three months in prison, which he appealed but also had to buy off, as, in this case, the alleged crime was committed in the court and the sentence was not suspendable. As after the trial Father Tsarknias refused to promise that he will never wear the frock again, stating that he will have to consult first with his lawyers and his spiritual counselor, the court decided to prosecute him again immediately after the first trial. Father Tsarknias was tried in a summary way as he did not participate in the proceedings and his lawyers resigned in protest against the abusive nature of the second trial: the court handed him a second three-month sentence which he appealed and bought off as before; the judge was also willing to continue trying him until he promised not to wear the frock any more, but the public prosecutor decided to stop the process.
According to the court, the convictions were based on the argument that Father Tsarknias, as a
Greek citizen, cannot invoke his affiliation to a non-Greek church. Greek Helsinki Monitor considers that this sets a dangerous precedent for the Balkans: until now, the clergymen of the various Orthodox Churches, including those of the Macedonian Church which is considered schismatic by the other Orthodox Churches, enjoyed freedom of movement around the region.
Such a precedent may now be invoked by Albanian authorities to expel Greek clergymen who serve in the Albanian Orthodox Churches; or by Macedonian authorities against either Serb clergymen who live in that country but adhere to the Serbian Church, or Greek clergymen who visit or travel through Macedonia and can be arrested on the basis of reciprocity.
Moreover, during the trial, Greek Helsinki Monitor spokesperson was called ‘a traitor' by a member of the audience while he was making a human rights expert's deposition, while bystanding Edessa lawyers called Father Tsarknias’ lawyers, one from Athens and one from Salonica (local lawyers have been refusing to defend him), ‘miasma’ and ‘defenders of a foreign fatherland’, without the court prosecuting them for disturbance of the procedure: as one of the defendant’s lawyers stated to the court there were a series of crimes committed during the trial.
Father Tsarknias faces two more indictments for pretense of authority in the first instance, besides the by now twelve appeal cases. At the same time, the bishops of the Church of Greece who have been demoted by the Church or not recognized by the state because of illegal appointments and continue to wear their frocks and perform religious services are repeatedly violating articles 175 (assuming without justification the service of a clergyman of the Greek Orthodox Church) and 176. They have never been arrested or prosecuted; only in one case did a public prosecutor initiate a procedure of inquest to determine whether such crimes have been committed. In the case of Father Tsarknias, though, before any court decision becomes final, the government and the courts have been initiating new procedures against him, in an obvious effort to force the clergyman to abandon his service.
INTERNATIONAL HELSINKI FEDERATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
NATIONAL COMMITTEES IN ALBANIA, BULGARIA, CROATIA, GREECE,
KOSOVO, MACEDONIA, MONTENEGRO, ROMANIA, SERBIA
Dangerous Precedent Of Religious Intolerance Set By Greek Court Decision.
Announcement Of IHF Missions To Study Minority Problems In The Southern Balkans.
Vienna, 10 December 1994. On this International Human Rights Day, the Balkan National Committees of the International Helsinki Federation from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, and Serbia express their deep concern for the recent conviction by a Greek court of Father Nikodimos Tsarknias, a citizen and resident of Greece who is a brother in a monastery belonging to the Macedonian Orthodox Church. The verdict was based on the argument that a citizen of Greece cannot invoke his affiliation to a non-Greek church, which has set a dangerous precedent for the Balkans: should such a principle apply in general, Greek clergymen in Albania or Serb clergymen in Macedonia could be prosecuted; likewise, there could be pressure in Macedonia to reciprocate and arrest
Greek priests visiting or traveling through that country. So, the Greek court’s decision not only is an obvious violation of religious freedom but may also create new conflicts in the region that is already experiencing the consequences of so many other conflicts.
As many of these conflicts are related to minority problems, we have decided to organize fact finding
missions to investigate the problems of these minorities. So, a joint delegation of the Bulgarian, Greek, and Macedonian Helsinki Committees will visit the Macedonians in Greece, the Greeks and Bulgarians in Macedonia, and the Macedonians in Bulgaria; and a joint delegation of the Albanian, Greek, and Macedonian Helsinki Committees will visit the Macedonians in Albania, the Albanians in Macedonia, and the Albanian immigrants in Greece. Already, a joint mission of the Albanian, Bulgarian, and Greek Helsinki Committees visited the Greeks in Albania in August 1994. Such missions will enable us to produce impartial reports and suggest appropriate solutions to the parties involved.
INTERNATIONAL HELSINKI FEDERATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Greeks Drop Charges Against Sideropoulos; New Charges Brought Against Macedonian
Vienna, 2 October 1995 On 26-27 September 1995, an IHF mission visited Florina, in Northwestern Greece, to monitor the trial of Macedonian minority activist Christos Sideropoulos and investigate the problems of the Macedonian minority, especially the sacking of the headquarters of the minority party Rainbow. Greek authorities denied an entry visa to a delegation member from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in the Republic of Macedonia on grounds that a trial of a Greek citizen does not necessitate the presence of foreign observers; such an attitude is in direct violation of the OSCE Human Dimension agreements to which Greece is a signatory. Moreover, the movements of the three remaining members of the delegation were followed by plainclothes state security agents, as has happened in previous monitoring missions of IHF national committees. With respect to the trial itself, the IHF welcomes the court’s decision to drop the charges against Christos Sideropoulos as inadmissible in accordance with the Greek penal code, an argument that the IHF and Greek Helsinki Monitor had repeatedly made in the past. Christos Sideropoulos had been charged for statements he made in the 1990 Copenhagen CSCE meeting about his Macedonian identity and discriminatory treatment of ethnic Macedonians in Greece. It is now the responsibility of the Greek authorities to investigate the reason why an inadmissible procedure was initiated against a Greek citizen and take all necessary steps to compensate him.
The IHF delegation also visited the offices of the Macedonian minority party Rainbow, which were set on fire and completely destroyed on 14 September 1995. On the previous day, the police, on the order of the prosecutor, and later a group of people, led by the city’s mayor, pulled down signs which read Rainbow - Florina Committee (in both Macedonian and Greek).
The delegation also observed hate speech slogans (‘Out with the Slavs,’ ‘Out with the Traitors,’ etc.) on many walls near the party’s office, but also in one high school, which were not erased, unlike other unrelated slogans. Moreover, it gathered evidence that inflammatory and defamatory public statements by a number of Greek media, as well as the local mainstream party committees, preceded these violent incidents.
The district’s public prosecutor pressed no charges against anyone for these violent incidents, but instead pressed charges against the Rainbow leadership for incitement to disturb the peace through disharmony, through the use of the Macedonian language and the Macedonian name of the city. There was no condemnation of these events by the government, the country’s political parties and media - with a few rare exceptions among the latter.
We note the context within which these events took place. In the recent past, the authorities had refused the necessary accreditation to a Macedonian cultural association (the case is before the European Commission of Human Rights); refused the return of tens of thousands of Macedonian political refugees who had fled the country during the civil war (although all Greek political refugees were allowed back) - these people are also not allowed to visit Greece even to attend family weddings or funerals; revoked the citizenship of Macedonian activists who are living abroad and have acquired a second citizenship; disturbed Macedonian cultural festivals in which Macedonian songs were being sung; harassed and prosecuted Macedonian activists as well as Greek activists who spoke in favor of the rights of the Macedonian minority; and slandered Macedonian activists as foreign agents, traitors, etc..
Naturally, in such conditions, there is neither any education of, or in the Macedonian language, as Greece refuses to treat the mother tongue of the ethnic Macedonians, as well as the larger group of assimilated or nearly assimilated Macedonian speakers with a Greek national consciousness, as a language; it is considered to be an idiom, different from the literary Macedonian language and heavily influenced by the Greek language, and therefore not appropriate to be taught.
The IHF welcomes the Interim Agreement signed by Greece and Macedonia, and considers it a major step towards improving relations between the two countries. It is unfortunate, however, that at the very moment this agreement was being signed in New York, the violent events against the Rainbow party were taking place. It therefore calls upon the Greek authorities to honor their signature on international documents, which calls for the recognition of all minorities and the respect of their rights.
INTERNATIONAL HELSINKI FEDERATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Drop the Charges Against Father Tsarknias
Vienna, 22 December 1995. On 22 November 1995, a three-member IHF mission visited Edessa, in Northwestern Greece, to monitor the four trials of Macedonian minority activist Father Nikodimos Tsarknias held that day.
The IHF welcomes the court's decision to postpone the four trials of Father Tsarknias for 8 May 1996, and calls now for the dismissal of all charges. The court decided to postpone the trials after it heard extensive testimony from Greek Helsinki Monitor's Spokesperson Panayote Elias Dimitras on why these cases raised serious and complicated questions of freedom of religion and interstate relations between Greece and Macedonia; the postponement was granted in order to call on an expert of ecclesiastical law to advise the court on these matters.
Father Tsarknias was convicted on 2 December 1994 for “pretense of authority” for wearing the frock of an Orthodox priest although the Church of Greece had defrocked him in early 1993. The court discarded the certificate of the Orthodox Church of Macedonia that Father Tsarknias had in the meantime joined that Church, arguing that, in Greece, only the Church of Greece can accredit clergymen. Father Tsarknias has accumulated a dozen similar convictions, most in abstentia.
To the surprise of Father Tsarknias' defense and of the IHF's monitors, the written version of the 2 December 1994 verdict that was being appealed on 22 November 1995, included a very different explanation of the verdict. In that, the court recognized the existence of a self administered schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church, which shares the same dogmatic principles with the other Eastern Orthodox Churches. On the basis of that “unity of faith” the court argued, the acquisition of the quality of clergyman is regulated by the same rules in all churches. Hence, as in the Church of Greece, a defrocked clergyman needs the permission of the Church which sanctioned him to re-acquire that quality. Father Tsarknias, the Court argued, needed such authorization to join the Macedonian Church.
As IHF’s representatives testified, however, a secular court in Greece cannot apply the rules regulating the affairs of the Church of Greece, which are also Greek state laws because of the non-separation of Church and State in Greece, on the functions of the Macedonian Church: the latter has its own rules that are unknown to the Greek court and, moreover, these rules do not even have legal value in Macedonia, in which - like in all post-communist states – there exists separation between Church and State. A Greek court cannot, therefore, apply the laws of the Greek Church to a member of another, in fact non-Greek, Church and should satisfy itself with the Macedonian Church's affirmation that Father Tsarknias is a legitimate clergyman.
In fact, as was testified in court, the Greek state and court system tolerates within Greece the wearing of the Orthodox frock of clergymen of two Eastern-rite Churches that the Church of Greece has never recognized: the Old Calendarists and the Greek Catholics (Uniates).
Finally, the court was reminded that the European Commission and Court of Human Rights have in recent years with decisions and recommendations repeatedly stipulated that the application in Greece of the rules of the official Church of Greece on other Churches (schismatic Orthodox, non-Orthodox, even non-Christian) is incompatible with Article 9 on religious freedom and inappropriate for a democratic country.
In a related matter, the IHF deplores that, as it is mentioned in the minutes of the 2 December 1994 trial, the court failed to prosecute the member of the audience who insulted the GHM’s spokesperson while he was giving testimony, calling him a “traitor”. Although P. E. Dimitras asked the court to press charges against that person, and the court should have tried him immediately (applying the “flagrant délit” procedure called for by the Greek law), the person was sent to a hospital and the court had written in the minutes that “no charges were pressed as the person offended did not press charges”, which was obviously inaccurate.
The IHF therefore calls on the Greek authorities to drop all charges against Father Tsarknias, to investigate the matter and take appropriate action for the blatant falsification of the trial's transcript, and to take disciplinary action against all those responsible for the non-prosecution of the alleged offender in court.
THE ‘STOHOS’ ARTICLE WITH THE SECRET SERVICE REPORT ON
THE NGOs’ MISSION IN GREEK MACEDONIA
JANISSARY DIMITRAS SPOKE ON THE PHONE TWICE FROM FLORINA
WITH “NEW POLITICAL MAN” TSOLAKOGLOU
Minute by minute the moves of the traitors who want to infect Northern Greece
Twice - during a ‘visit’ of janissaries in the Florina district - their leader Dimitras spoke on the phone with the “new political man” Tsolakoglou [at the time one of the closest associates of Mr. Samaras, President of Political Spring], who called him at the hotel ‘Alexander the Great’ where the gang lived. This relation confirms Stohos who has repeatedly said that the janissaries play the games of our own politicians (and not only Gligorov’s) who use them to ‘hurt’ mainly their opponents. Besides the two long phone calls Tsolakoglou-Dimitras, the visit had many more interesting things (in persons and situations) which are very clearly reflected in the following ‘top secret’ document of a Special Service, which says:
1. At 1:30 am of 20/7/1993 arrived in the hotel ‘King Alexander’ in Florina in a white private car, make Renault Clio, license number BE 5752, the following:
a. DIMITRAS Panayote of Elias and Angeliki, born in 1953, in Athens, resident likewise (82 Constantinople St.), professor.
b. WHITMAN LOIS QUICK, born in 1926, in New Jersey - USA, American citizen, passport number 061160753, journalist.
c. SIESLEY ERIE OSEAR, born in 1921, in Copenhagen, Danish citizen, passport number 15699138, journalist.
2. The above at 14:00 of 20/7/1993 met at the hotel they were staying at with the ‘well-known’ VOSKOPOULOS Pavlos and then paid a visit to the prefect of Florina. After they left the prefecture they went to a fashionable tavern in the city for lunch until 17:00. - At 18:00 they met at the hotel with SMYRNIOU-PAPATHANASIOU Violetta, resident of Salonica, President of the Monastiriotes, who sought that meeting and with the various questions she asked them made it difficult for them to answer.
Their discussion dealt mainly with the alleged ‘Macedonian’ minority in the Florina area. - At 21:00 of the same day, they paid a visit to the village of Meliti and attended the festival that took place, celebrating the local religious feast of Prophet Elias. - During the festival DIMITRAS Panayote met with the ‘well-known’ SIDEROPOULOS Christos, and had with him a warm discussion, and also met with other people who lean towards the ‘well-known’ space. In Meliti they stayed until 3:00 am of 21/7/1993.
3. At 10:30 of 21/7/93 they met in the hotel’s cafe with the ‘well-known’ GOTSIS Konstantinos, SIEKRIS George, VOSKOPOULOS Paul, DIMTSIS Peter, KLIGATSIS Pantelis of George and Fani, born in 1955, in Ammohori-Florinas, doctor at the AHEPA Hospital in Thessaloniki and two other persons who are unknown to our Service.
- At 14:00 the ‘well-known’ SIDERO-POULOS Christos visited them. In a discussion
among SIDEROPOULOS, DIMITRAS, the Dane, and the American woman, DIMITRAS, addressing the American, said in English that ‘they are afraid and do not undertake any activity or any other action and other movements because they do not want to provoke the intervention of the Public Prosecutor.’
- At 18:30 of the same day they went to Meliti-Florina and visited the Town Hall. At the Town Hall, they were welcomed by TSOTSKOS Michael, President of the village, SIDERIS Vasilios of Alexander and Agapi, born in 1964, in Meliti, resident of Germany, and the ‘well-known’ MISALIS George.
- At the Town Hall of Meliti the three visitors were accompanied by:
a. KARAKASIDOU Anastasia of Nikolaos, born in 1955, Thessaloniki, and resident there (Vlahernon 19, Kalamaria), and
b. GREGORI ANTONI HOUP, born in 1962, passport number 643574, who is the husband of KARAKASIDOU Anastasia.
- The above mentioned persons drove a white private ZASTAVA car, license number 6583, owned by KARAKA-SIDOU Anastasia.
- At the Town Hall of Meliti the above mentioned persons stayed until about 21:30.
4. At 10:00 of 22/7/93 they visited the City Hall of Florina where the Mayor welcomed them. During their discussion, the Mayor said among other things that: “I come from Vevi of Florina and can speak the local idiom. Until 1975, they called us Bulgarians and now you call us Slavomacedonians. Our grandfathers were Greek, weren’t they?”.
In their answer to the Mayor of Florina, the three visitors said: “The President of the village of Meliti told us different things”.
5. At 10:30 of 23/7/93 they departed for the Pella district, and returned to the hotel at 1:20 of 24/7/93. At the hotel, GOTSIS Konstantinos waited for them and they discussed for some 10 minutes.
6. At 14:00 of 24/7/93 they departed for Prespes, accompanied by the private car with license number 6583.
- At 22:00, ‘well-known’ professors DIMTSIS Peter and SKENDERIS Stefanos, waited for them at the hotel, where the owner of the hotel PAVLIS Vasilios assailed them with comments for their attitude and blamed them for their general anti-Greek behavior.
7. At 12:30 of 25/7/93 both cars left our country towards the Republic of Skopje, through the Niki border crossing of Florina’s district. DIMITRAS, the American woman, the Dane, KARAKA-SIDOU and GREGORI ANTONI HOUP were in the cars.
- The reason of their visit was to attend the festivities that were taking place in Tirnavo on 25/7/93, 4 km away from Monastir, and were organized by the ‘Association of Macedonians from Aegean Macedonia’.
- During the search of the car with the journalists by Police Officers of Niki, the latter found a book with the title ‘ETHNIC RIVALRY AND THE QUEST FOR MACEDONIA 1870-1913’ whose pages from the beginning, the middle and the end are submitted in photocopies with a translation in Greek of its preface.
- At the passport control of Ketzetlegi (across from Niki) MISALIS George waited for them, to inform them on the prohibition of his entrance in Greece (YF 3/307944).
- At 18:55 they returned to our country on both cars through Niki, except for WHITMAN LOIS.
- The above mentioned persons were accompanied by GOTSIS Konstantinos, DIMTSIS Peter, KLIGATSIS Pantelis in the central square of Florina.
8. At 11:00 of 26/7/93 DIMITRAS Panayote and the Danish journalist left Florina on the private car with license number YBE 5752 towards Athens.
Learn the enemies of our nation and do not forgive them. God forgives. Greece never does!
This report was prepared by Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) and Minority Rights Group-Greece (MRG-G)