In glorious times past, Macedon was the ancient kingdom of Alexander the Great. Now, it is a picturesque and controversial little country. In Bulgaria, people tend to think of Macedonia as an erstwhile part of the Greater Bulgarian Empire, from back when their own vast kingdom reached “the three seas” — the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Aegean. In more recent years it was part of what was known as Yugoslavia, the collection of mostly Slavic states cobbled together in the messy aftermath of WWI. Then when that was torn apart starting in the 1990s and running into this century, the bits and pieces included at least one part they couldn’t even label. That was, of course, Macedonia. The country’s official name is F.Y.R.O.M., at least as far as the EU and NATO are concerned. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Really! That’s because neighboring Greece lays claim to the word Macedonia, since it is the name they call a region of theirs near the border. Like having trademark rights on “Greek Yogurt” (because, as any Bulgarian will tell you, yogurt originated in Bulgaria and the best comes from there. Even our FDA says it isn’t yogurt unless it contains lactobacillus bulgaricus. But I digress.)
I mentioned Macedonia only in passing in A Breeze in Bulgaria, in connection with telling about the history behind September “Unification Day” holiday (p. 52). Still, every time it came up it was an uncomfortable topic, one that people would say that’s too hard to go into now, beyond half-jokingly saying that the Macedonians are really Bulgarian but they just don’t know it. The languages are very similar, the food and certainly the rakiya are the same, the Orthodox Christian religion is separated only by political jurisdictions, and many cultural traditions are so similar as to be identical to the casual observer. I’m quite casual enough to qualify, and I expect many readers here will be as well. With so much similarity (for those of us unaware of nuances and old injuries), the underlying and persistent antagonism between the two countries is hard to comprehend.
With that background, I was surprised to read today of a breakthrough in international relations, one related to Macedonia. The headline caught my eye immediately:
Macedonia, Bulgaria Set to Sign Historic Friendship Treaty
I think it’s about time we had some news involving peace and friendship, don’t you? The story was reported in the Balkan Insight news service, and if I may quote,
That is great news, isn’t it? I hope it gives you a lift. It does me. I needed one. I’ve been drawn into a few rabbit holes lately, on Facebook and by watching the news.
Peace in our time. Think about it.
I could sign on to PEACE in our TIME, and respect the planet in our time, and equal respect to every human and animal on the planet (unless they are trying to kill me) in our TIME. Actually, I don’t have that much time left. Change all of the previous IN OUR TIMES to IN YOUR TIME or THEIR TIME. No war would be really terrific. But wait! That would put wheel chair makers out of business. I had better re-think this whole thing.
No war, good idea. Don’t worry, the wheel chair makers will still have the people who fall off trains and stuff like that.
It would be wonderful to be there for the celebration and symbolism!!
Bet there will be a lot of horo dancing! Rakiya, sausages. International treaties always make me hungry.
Now if only the Israeli and Palestinian disagreements could come to this wonderful disposition! Thank you for sharing this great news, Bruce.
Us too! There are lots of places we could make peace. Been working at if throughout most of our history. Maybe we’re doing something wrong. But yes, I agree, friendship treaties all around! Peace be unto you, my friend.
Wow, I didn’t know the President of the EU will be a Bulgarian next year. I called a Bulgarian friend and told her about the article. She knew about the EU president selection but she hadn’t heard about the friendship treaty. She had an opinion on it immediately though, putting the two things together. She said Macedonia was doing this because of Bulgaria taking over the EU presidency and they want to get an inside track on joining. Once BG is in charge I wonder if they might be able to get rid of that dumb F.Y.R.O business and just tell Greece to suck it up. I doubt it.
Well, I guess you’re right. Thanks for reading, and for your comments. On getting Greece to let Macedonia use the name without the qualifier, that might fall into the “highly unlikely” category. Western Europe has been trying to get Greece to “suck it up” for years now (remember the last big bailout, back in 2015?
And by the way I think your headline is kind of misleading. The “Friendship Treaty” just says they will stop arguing about what to call their language and stuff like that. There weren’t any hostilities like war or military maneuvers. “Peace in our time” will need a lot more work than that. It’s kind of funny when you think about it, like a treaty between Texas and Oklahoma. (That could never happen though.)
Aww, misleading? Any little bit of peaceful resolution is a good thing. Besides, I can’t write right and keep my tongue in cheek all at the same time. Peace, my friend.