Sunday, May 17, 2009

Colonizing the Past

Macedonia square in central Skopje has been at the centre of disputes over the planned construction of a church. But, as it has recently been revealed, the municipal authority of Skopje has even more ambitious plans over the city's central public space. As the daily Dnevnik has revealed, no expense has been spared in the city's intervention to give character to the square; Fonderia Artistica Ferdinando Marinelli, located in Florence, Italy, has been secretly hired to make statues of figures that are central in Macedonian national narrative. Apart from a monumental statue of Alexander the Great riding his horse Bucephalus which, together with its 10 metre high pedestal will reach 22 metres, statues of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and of Czar Samuil as well as a host of Macedonian revolutionaries and politicians are planned to be positioned in the square.
This ‘excess’ of history in one public space is something that begs closer investigation. It certainly constitutes an attempt to imprint in space a particular historical narrative, a narrative that attempts to bring and suture together and seamlessly a host of pasts, some of which are contested by Macedonia’s neighbours. The narrative attempts to construct a sense of continuity and equivalence of moments from distinct eras.

Starting from the contested Macedonianness of Alexander the Great, moving on to the equally problematic ethnic or national origin – at a time when nations did not exist - of the Byzantine emperor Justinian and of Czar Samuil who is claimed by both Bulgarians and Macedonians as their own and culminating into the incorporation of personalities that played a role in the construction of modern Macedonian nationhood, the narrative has been criticized as both expensive and controversial – some even argue incendiary.
But what is interesting is the effort that has been invested in such an enterprise, an effort that hints that the past that is being constructed is not straightforward as it is intended to look and probably reflects a present that is ridden with anxiety and societal insecurity, a present that is marked by the ruling coalition’s attempt to establish its hegemony over a society that is deeply divided in terms of where it is moving towards. In some ways, this obsession with the past hides a preoccupation with the present and the future of Macedonian society … .

1 comment:

  1. FYROM nationalists aren't "ethnic Macedonians" an iota more than than they are "ethnic Istabulers" or "ethnic Serbs". . They are ethnic Bulgarians that se state force to oppress evidence of their own ethnic Bulgarian past.

    You (and those like you) that bizarrely call them "macedonians" in the face of obvious state propaganda) are morally complicit in that state oppression.

    Much like Tito era communsists (that erased the ethnic Bulgarian context of their "macedonian" identity and used fake cries of "persecution" as a technique to lure in the unsuspecting to their cause)... by calling them "macedonians" FYROM's appologists effectively encourage the exact sort of propaganda they claim to be against.

    What leftist extremists like you don't grasp (aside from the fact that you are an extremist) is since you've told them they are "Macedonians" the current inhabitents of Paeonia take that as license to insintuate all of Macedonian history (including Macedonia Greece) belongs to them.

    What "comrades" like you don't grasp is for FYROM's narrative as "Macedonians" to be real... requires they once again attempt to erase Macedonians in Greece (much like IMRO alligned with the Axis dand later contridbuted to the Greek civil war)

    In short, history seems to be repeating itself. (Some) Greek leftists apparently haven't learned at all from the Greek civil war. They are once again betraying their country to show how we are all "comrades". (except this time its wrapped up in in post modernist neo-liberal word salad instead of communism)