Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1997


Triandafyllidou, A., Calloni, M. and Mikrakis, A. (1997) 'New Greek Nationalism'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 2, no. 1, <>

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Received: 13/9/96      Accepted: 15/1/97      Published: 31/3/97


The creation of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia after the dismantling of the Yugoslav federation has led to a revival of Greek nationalism. Greece has refused to recognize the new state as the 'Republic of Macedonia', sustaining that its name and national symbols form part of Greek culture and identity and are, therefore, unacceptable. The aim of this study is to highlight the Greek claims of 'property' over certain cultural traditions and, more specifically, the relationship between these claims and the ethno-cultural character of Greek national identity. Moreover, the paper examines the strategic manipulation of nationalist feelings by Greek politicians. The role of political and cultural myths in (re)defining national identity and in drawing the boundaries, symbolic and territorial, between 'us' and the 'others' is investigated. The problems that may arise from such an ethnic conception of the nation-state are discussed and a 'constitutional model of patriotism' is proposed as an alternative solution.

Culture; Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM); Greece; Macedonia; Nationalism; Symbols


Contemporary European politics is characterized by the emergence of new forms of nationalism and regionalism. Amongst the nationalist movements existing today in Europe, one of the most interesting and probably little known is the nationalist movement which has emerged recently in Greece as a result of the so-called Macedonian controversy. The proclamation of independence on the part of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia under the name 'Republic of Macedonia'1 tout-court has challenged the nationalist feelings of the Greeks who considered everything 'Macedonian' to be part of their cultural heritage. The official reaction of the Greek government has been followed by a spectacular mobilization of the Greek people both in Greece and in the diaspora communities. This article will provide a brief account of the controversy and the matters at stake. The main aim of the study, however, will be to highlight the claim of 'property' that a national community may raise with regard to its cultural heritage. The controversial nature of this claim will be discussed.

Moreover, the paper will review the Greek positions with regard to the Macedonian question through highlighting the ethno- cultural bonds and traditions on which Greek national identity is based. The particular trajectory of nation-building followed by the independent Greek state will be analyzed in an effort to understand, though not to justify, the 'sensibility' of Greeks with respect to the Macedonian question. Furthermore, the study will concentrate on the strategic manipulation of nationalist ideology by the Greek government in an effort to highlight the (dis)aggregating power of political and cultural myths.

In conclusion, the restrictive nature of an ethnically or culturally defined model of nationality will be discussed. The implications of this type of nationalist politics for cultural, linguistic or ethnic affinities that may exist between neighbouring countries and also for minority groups residing within the national territory will be examined. A constitutional model of nationalism will be proposed as a more viable alternative.

The 'Macedonian Question'

The phrase 'Macedonian question' has been widely used over the past century to refer to a political conflict and warfare in the Balkan peninsula focusing on the geographical region of Macedonia. The use of this phrase in this paper, however, is confined to the contemporary issues raised by Greece after the proclamation of independence by FYROM in 1991. The dispute between the two countries over the name of the new Republic is part of a 'global cultural war' (Featherstone, 1990: p. 10) that the two states have been fighting over the control of symbols, traditions and glorious ancestors. This 'war' and the politics of identity involved in it have now been raised to the highest level, that of international diplomacy.

According to the decision of the United Nations, despite its recognition as an independent state, FYROM has not been able officially to use its flag because this would 'offend' the national feelings of the Greek people. The name 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' (FYROM), has been assigned by the United Nations to the new state, despite the discontent of the latter.2 Indeed, this is the first time that an independent state may not use its symbols and its name as it wishes in order not to offend the national sentiments of another country. These decisions have resulted from an international diplomatic rally the Greek government engaged in and which included a veto within the European Union. The quest was that the 'Republic of Skopje', as Greeks call it, would not be recognized as 'Macedonia' tout-court.

A Controversy Over Cultural 'Property'

The complexity of the Macedonian question is due to the intertwining of cultural with geographical and political issues. On the one hand, there is a Greek part of Macedonia, whose capital is Thessaloniki and which forms an integral part of the Greek state and the Greek nation. According to Greek historiography, the inhabitants of this region define themselves primarily as Greeks (Christides, 1949; Martis, 1984). Moreover, this region is identified with the dynasty and the accomplishments of origin of Alexander the Great.3 Therefore, Greeks consider the symbols, myths and traditions relating to Alexander as part of their cultural heritage.

By contrast, according to the government of Skopje, there can be no such historic claim regarding the nationality of Alexander the Great; he was certainly not Slav, but neither was he Greek or Bulgarian in the modern sense of the concept. Therefore, all parts of the geographical region of Macedonia (the ex-Yugoslav, the Bulgarian and the Greek section) have equal rights to refer to Alexander since his cultural heritage is shared by the entire territory. Thus, if Macedonian tradition is not the 'property' of the Greeks, there can be no veto raised on the use of its name and/or its symbols.

As Bourdieu (1991: p. 236) argues, naming is a fundamental expression of political power. To name something means to bring it into existence. As if to confirm Bourdieu's argument, Greece has strongly opposed the use of the name 'Macedonia' by the new Republic. According to the claims of the Greek government, the use of the name implied the overall appropriation of the symbols, traditions, myths and even the territory associated with the name 'Macedonia'. It is worth noting that the 'Socialist Republic of Macedonia' existed previously as a federal state within Yugoslavia. After the dismantling of the Yugoslav federation and in accordance with the will of the people living in the republic, as this was expressed in the referendum of September 8, 1991, an independent and sovereign state was established. Thus, the name 'Macedonia' now described not a political unit subordinated to a federation, but a nation-state.

In accordance with the nationalist perspective, Greece has also opposed the use of the flag of FYROM, because it bears the image of the 'star' of Vergina. This 'star' or 'sunburst' as it is often called, was discovered in the mid-70s at Vergina, where the ancient Macedonian capital 'Aegai' was located, at the south-west of Thessaloniki, and is considered to be the emblem of the empire of Alexander the Great.4 The Greek government has pointed out the oddness of a flag which represents the national identity of a people, i.e. the 'Macedonians', by evoking the national tradition and cultural heritage of another nation, namely the Greeks.5 The argument is based on the specific political role assigned to cultural symbols within the nation-state. These are supposed to represent the continuity and unity of the national community through history. Therefore, the flag and the very name of the new state have been judged contradictory by the Greek government.

The historic and cultural semantics embodied in the national symbols has led the Greeks to regard the recognition of the new republic as a violation of their national identity. The Greek nationalist movement has thus acquired a defensive character; it has sought to delineate and protect what was perceived as national heritage (cf. Calloni, Mikrakis and Triandafyllidou, 1996). In fact, according to the Greek nationalist view, classical Greek culture is the intellectual property of the Greek nation-state (nation and state are here merged) while its geographical and/or cultural neighbours are excluded from this heritage. Culture is thus defined as an object, associated with time and space as the property of a particular community (Handler, 1988: p. 142), the Greek community in this instance. Moreover, the possession of this cultural heritage is perceived as a fundamental element of the nation's existence.

The (Dis)Aggregating Power of Political and Cultural Myths

The extreme sensibility of the Greek population with regard to the Macedonian question is related to the prominent role given to the past in the definition of Greek identity. Traditions, myths and collective memories, in particular those associated with national struggles against 'invaders' or 'enemies', real or imagined, have played a prominent role in the formation of the Greek nation (as is the case with all nations). Since the achievement of national independence (1829 - 30), the Greek state has engaged in a process of construction in which its ethnic origins have been in remote antiquity. The historical trajectory of the nation has been traced in a linear form and without ruptures or discontinuities from antiquity to modernity. Thus, any changes which have marked the past and the history of the national community have been re-constructed in such a way that the nation is represented as a homogeneous and compact unit. In contrast to contemporary times that Greece appears as a nation-state, the Greek nation survived through the centuries within a number of different political formations such as the great Empires (Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman) which succeeded each other in the region (Kitromilidis, 1989; Mikrakis, 1993). Nationality was thus defined as the expression of genealogical descent and in direct reference to the glorious past6 of Themistocles, Pericles and Alexander the Great. Greeks were distinguished from Turks in terms of ethnicity and religion but they were also contrasted to their neighbouring slavic populations on the grounds that the latter could not make a claim on classical Greek culture.

The integration of the past in the present within the Greek concept of national identity is manifest also in the Greek language. In Greek, the concept of an ethnic group or a nation is described with the identical term ethnos which embraces both the pre-modern concept of a homogeneous ethnic community and the modern notion of the nation as a political community (Karakasidou, 1993: pp. 457 - 8). A community of people who share a set of cultural and ethnic features is characterized as a nation, an ethnos, regardless of their possession of a state. The continuity and unity of the Greek nation for more than 2,000 years is thus affirmed despite the different political forms that it has taken over the centuries.

In summary, Greek national identity has been (re)constructed through the territorialization and politicization of ethnic and cultural traditions. Ethnic customs, linguistic ties and religious beliefs have been transformed into national sentiments. According to Smith's (1986) distinction between ethnic and territorial nations, the Greek national community belongs clearly to the former type. Thus, any questioning of the 'hellenicity' of Alexander the Great is perceived as a threat to the very essence of the nation because it casts doubt on the continuity of the national community through history.

The nationalist feelings of the population have however been manipulated by political parties as a campaigning device, namely as a means of discrediting one another while keeping the voters' attention away from internal economic and social problems (Mouzelis, 1978: p. 135). A conservative government initially and later a socialist government stimulated nationalist sentiments and, simultaneously, acted to disorient the electorate in a period of economic and political crisis. National pride has systematically been emphasized in a political discourse which concentrates on the 'injustice' caused by 'foreigners', i.e. FYROM or the international community. Thus, as often happens, the glories of the past have been used to recompense for the failures and dissatisfaction of the present.

Such manipulation has marked the political history of Greece since the beginning of this century. The example of the Megali Idea, i.e. the idealistic conception developed by the Greek state up to the expedition in Asia Minor in the 1920s, according to which all the territories in which people of Greek origin lived were to be incorporated into one powerful and independent Greek state, is too recent to be forgotten (Mavrogordatos, 1983). The end was certainly not reached, yet Greece succeeded in dramatically increasing its territory and population as a result of its participation in the Balkan wars and the First World War.

Furthermore, in conditions of socio- economic crisis and political conflict the existence of a presumed 'enemy', FYROM in this instance, helps people to forget their differences and feel united in the face of the common threat (Doob, 1964). Moreover, tradition becomes a cultural resource which enhances a communitarian unity within the state. Thus, nationalism seems to have been adopted by the Greek state as a strategy to relieve popular discontent (Mouzelis, 1978: p. 135; Manitakis, 1993).

A rigid nationalist position was initially adopted by the conservative government of Mr. C. Mitsotakis, leader of Nea Demokratia.7 The governing party, which held a parliamentary majority of merely one seat, seems to have tried to increase its electoral appeal through the use of nationalist propaganda. Indeed, the government took up a number of cultural initiatives against the recognition of the 'Republic of Macedonia'. Roundtables, workshops and public debates with the participation of the academic community and the media were organised. Furthermore, the National Tourism Agency (E. O. T.) launched an advertizing campaign promoting cultural trips to the North of Greece, in the regions of Macedonia and Thrace. Nationalist messages written in English so that tourists would understand were stamped on T-shirts and stickers. 'First learn history' and 'The spirit of Alexander the Great is universal but his homeland Macedonia has been Greek for the past 3,000 years', were some of the most eloquent slogans.

The government's initiatives were successful in mobilizing Greeks at home and abroad. An enormous public rally took place in Athens in December 1992. Although organized in a rather informal way, this rally gathered approximately one million people. It seems that collective mobilization occurred quite spontaneously because of the perceived importance of the matter at stake. Another public demonstration was organized in Thessaloniki a few months later, as were others in most of the Greek diaspora communities in the U.S.A., Canada and Australia (Danforth, 1995).

The adoption by Mr. Mitsotakis of a more flexible attitude with regard to the Macedonian question during the summer of 1993 was regarded as behaviour that was 'nationally dangerous' and led a small number of MPs from the conservative party to withdraw their support from the government. Moreover, a new party called Politiki Anixi was created under the leadership of the ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andonis Samaras. A small number of conservative deputies abandoned Nea Demokratia and joined forces with the ex- Minister, claiming that Mr. Mitsotakis was acting against the national interest, particularly with reference to the Macedonian question. Nationalist fervour dominated the pre-election campaign in autumn 1993 and was widely promoted by the opposition parties, both Politiki Anixi and the Socialists, in their campaigning discourse. Any negotiation with FYROM regarding the acceptance of a name would constitute 'treason of the national interest', as Mr. Samaras bluntly put it.

The Macedonian question remained a major policy issue for the socialist government and its leader, Mr. A. Papandreou, who won the election of October 1993. After the election, the socialists and Mr. Papandreou took a more rigid position than that adopted by the previous government. The situation reached a moment of particular tension during the Greek presidency at the European Union in the first semester of 1994. The Greek government upheld its position and refused to raise the embargo it had imposed on FYROM in November 1993. In fact, any proposal for compromise regarding the name 'Macedonia' and the symbols associated with it seemed likely to provoke a strong popular reaction and put into question the legitimacy of the government itself.

Diplomatic and economic relations between Greece and the FYROM were restored in September 1995 after the intervention of the U.S.A. which put pressure on both countries to reach a compromise. Indeed, the 'star' of Vergina, royal symbol of Alexander the Great and his accomplishments, has been removed from the flag of FYROM, while Greece has lifted the embargo it had imposed on the country in 1993. The administrations which succeeded Mr. Papandreou«s withdrawal from politics in January 1996 have made clear their wish to find a compromise and so did the government of FYROM. Nonetheless, negotiations over the name question are still in course and a number of alternatives have been discussed but no final decision has been made; both sides are extremely cautious in accepting a solution that could in any way provoke the national sentiments of their populations. For the time being, the country has been recognized by the United Nations, the Council of Europe and other international organisations with the name FYROM.8

Ethnicity and Nationalism in the Balkan Context

The Macedonian question is closely related to the breakdown of the Yugoslav Federation. The collapse of the federal state has been followed by a rupture of all the links which had tied together the various republics since the 'national pact' created by Tito after the Second World War (Banac, 1984). Among the former federal states, Slovenia was the first to gain autonomy, while Serbia-Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina found themselves involved in a nationalist war. By contrast, FYROM has been seeking its international legitimacy and its national identity in a non-slavic cultural tradition.

The Balkan region has been characterized over the centuries by shifting ethnic boundaries, diverse traditions and cultural groups and, therefore, by numerous conflicts. The case of Macedonia is typical of the ethnic diversity and complexity that characterizes the Balkan peninsula. In effect, the name 'Macedonia' refers to a broader geographical area which is shared by three states. These raise different political and cultural claims in order to legitimize themselves and justify their possessions. Apart from the Greek region of Macedonia and FYROM, which are nowadays at the core of the controversy, there is also a Bulgarian section. The indigenous population that lives in that region seems to have been assimilated by the Bulgarian majority.

The question at this point is whether the claim for an independent Macedonian state makes sense. This discourse is not at all new and at times it has acquired a variety of forms, ranging from the quest for the creation of a unified Macedonia within another state (Bulgaria and Yugoslavia have at times raised this sort of claims) to an independent Macedonian state. The latter currently finds some support in extremist circles such as the VMRO in FYROM. It seems, though, very difficult (if not impossible) to find a global solution which would bring the different parts of Macedonia together.

The numerous conflicts which have taken place in the region in the period 1911 - 1913 show the complexity of the question. More specifically, the first Balkan war which took place between Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia, on the one hand, and the Ottoman Empire, on the other - as well as the second Balkan war which brought together Greece, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and the Ottoman Empire against Bulgaria - have not succeeded in giving a definitive solution to the Macedonian question (Adanir, 1992). Conflicts between Greece and Bulgaria regarding the Macedonian region had started already in the nineteenth century and have continued in the twentieth century from the first Balkan War until the Second World War. An effort to bring an end to the nationalist controversies was made with the creation of the socialist Yugoslav federation. The modern history of Macedonia is thus marked, on the one hand, by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and, on the other hand, by the dismantling of the Communist regimes. The contemporary Macedonian question has therefore to be seen in its specific historic context, namely the creation and the breakdown of two socio- political systems.

The relations between Greece and the FYROM are elements of the complex political reality of the Balkans within which politics, culture and religion are inextricably inter-linked. The relationships between the Greeks and the Slavs are characterized by a religious affinity. The Greeks share with a large part of the slavic population a common Christian-Orthodox tradition (Stoianovitch, 1960). However, the common religion shared by a number of Balkan nations also involves a significant potential for conflict with respect to the muslim populations residing in the Balkan peninsula.

Most recently, attention has focused on the region of Kosovo which remains under Serbian control9 although its population consists mainly of Muslims of Albanian origin. Therefore, aggression on the part of the Serbs against Kosovo would risk bringing about new conflict between Albanians and Serbs. Besides, the diplomatic relations between Greece and Albania have at times reached particularly low levels. The large numbers of Albanian immigrants who illegally cross the Greek borders (Triandafyllidou & Mikrakis, 1995), on the one hand, and the problems arising from the existence of a Greek minority in the southern part of Albania, on the other hand, often increase the tension between the governments of the two countries.

Moreover, the past but also the recent history of the Balkan region is characterized by political and military intervention of various super-powers because of its strategic position. During the nineteenth century, the strategic manoeuvres of the powerful of the time, namely Russia, France and the U.K., often focused on the Balkan peninsula. More recently, the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union have taken the place of the earlier powers. Therefore, the will of the peoples residing in these regions has often been neglected or even violated. Within this framework, the preoccupations of the Greek government take on an international- political rather than internal-cultural character. The Macedonian question becomes a political matter to the extent that the appropriation of the name and symbols of Macedonia and Alexander the Great by the new republic represent not only a presumed falsification of history but also a political challenge within the uneasy Balkan context.

The Genesis of a New Nationalism

The analysis of the Macedonian question developed in this article aims at a better understanding of the emergence of a new Greek nationalism. The claims of Greece with reference to FYROM are based on cultural, historical and, to a certain extent, geographical arguments. However, the Macedonian controversy is mainly of a political nature. The existence of an 'enemy' functions as a catalyst for the national consciousness. The use of Greece's national symbols by a different national group threatens the identity of the ingroup. This leads the Greek people to re-define their sense of 'we' in contrast to a 'they' which becomes a concrete outgroup, FYROM in this instance. They thus emphasize the distinctiveness of their culture and the uniqueness of their trajectory through history. Moreover, their arguments find their concrete expression in the numerous monuments and 'poetic spaces' found within the Greek territory. By the course of time those ruins which became a second nature to the Greek landscape were 'charged' with a new function: to serve as constant reminders of the nation's descent (Smith, 1986).

By contrast, the claims of the government of Skopje seem to serve different internal and international interests. The existence of a Socialist Republic of Macedonia within Yugoslavia did not seem to include any serious claim for the creation of an autonomous 'Macedonian' nation-state. Tito's efforts to raise such an issue after the Second World War were not successful (Kofos, 1989). They reflected, at least in part, his political will to reinforce the 'Macedonian' tradition and/or culture as a common ethnic or cultural basis which would tie together the slavic populations residing in the southern part of Yugoslavia. The very existence of the new republic was not as much a threat against Greece as it was one of the measures which weakened Serbia within the Yugoslav federation. The new republic, as well as Kossovo ('autonomous region') and Vojvodina ('autonomous province'), were created out of territory which hitherto belonged to Serbia, which thus lost the opportunity to predominate within the federal state. However, things aquired their own dynamic. The creation of a new political formation was naturally in need of legitimacy. Given the Balkan tradition in general and the internal competition of the Yugoslav federation in particular, it had to be retrieved from the past. It is noteworthy that several decades of Communist rule failed to erase nationalist feelings in Yugoslavia (Russinow, 1977: pp. 158 - 9; Ramet, 1984: pp. 96 - 110). 'Macedonian' identity is thus re-constructed, or re-invented (Smith, 1986: p. 178), in order to create a solid basis of legitimacy for the new republic. The 'Macedonian' identity may thus fill the ideological and political gap created by the collapse of the Communist regime.

Our analysis suggests that the so- called Macedonian question which has arisen with the creation of FYROM, centres on the use of a common set of cultural symbols by two different nation-states for the same purposes. In other words, the classical Greek heritage which, according to the Greeks, constitutes an integral part of the Greek national culture is now 're-invented' (Hobsbawm, 1983) by the new 'Macedonian' state to define its own national identity. Therefore, the conflict between Athens and Skopje may not be reduced to a mere problem of 'names.' The use of the term 'Macedonia' involves a set of cultural elements. The use of these elements as distinctive features of the national identity of a new state does not mean a simple appropriation of the name, but rather an appropriation of the culture and the tradition that this name signifies.

Moreover, FYROM did not seem to have other alternatives in defining its own national identity considering the Balkan norms. Given that all Balkan nations define nationhood based on primordiality, it seems that they had to follow suit. Given also that the region's official history is perceived as well explored, registered and 'distributed', in spite of disputes among the neighbouring countries with regard to certain interpretations (Malingoudis, 1991; 1992), space had to be made for the emergence of a new nation. That was a particularly uneasy task. Naturally, FYROM had to create its own official history at the expense of another nation's history. Out of the three surrounding countries which have been at times involved in the course of Macedonian dispute, Greece presented the most appealing case. Thus, it is not difficult to understand why the use of the name 'Macedonia' by another nation is interpreted by the Greeks as an act of 'cultural aggression' which threatens their collective identity and their very existence as a nation within the international community.

The conflict creates for the Greeks a sense of isolation, both geographical and cultural, with respect to their European partners. This idea of 'difference'10 becomes particularly salient within the contemporary Balkan context. Greeks have distinct symbols, language and culture from the Slavic and Turkish populations. The Greek nation defines itself as anadelphon - according to the neologism used by the former President of the Hellenic Republic M. Sartzetakis in a speech delivered in Northern Greece in 1989 - i.e. as a nation deprived of brothers or allies. Pessimistic as it might sound, this perception sets the foundation for the distinctiveness of Greekness.

Thus, the classic Greek dichotomy between 'us' (Greeks) and 'them' (non-Greeks) is currently used within a new context. In antiquity it had served to distinguish between the Greek civilization and the 'barbarian' populations (those not enlightened by Greek thought). In contemporary times the dichotomy acquired a new character. During the past two centuries the Turks have become the salient outgroup. Memories of the Turkish invasion in Cyprus (1974) which led to the division of the island into a Greek-Cypriot and a Turkish section11 are still too recent. Recently, FYROM seemed to have the potential to also be identified as a significant 'other' given also its religious and political affiliations with Turkey (Poulton, 1995: p. 203).

The new Greek nationalist movement highlights the linear interpretation of the past (Friedman, 1992). Any discontinuities which have marked the history of the national community are re-constructed in such a way that the nation is represented as a compact unit. However, the affirmation of cultural homogeneity in response to the pressure of an external 'threat' may lead to the neglect of the social and cultural diversity existing among the people living within the national territory. Indeed, the supposed homogeneous composition of the Greek nation has often led to the suppression of minority religious rights (Pollis, 1992). The Macedonian question might thus offer a unique opportunity to the Greek people to understand and recognize the complexity of defining a 'we' in contrast to the 'others' which may not only be outside the national territory but also within it.


Contemporary international reality is characterized by the emergence of peripheral nationalisms and the re-ethnicization of politics (Calloni, 1995; 1996) which challenge the boundaries of the nation-state. The eclipse of the ideological discourse deprived entire societies from meaningful symbolic frames of reference, a development which certainly applies primarily in eastern Europe. The development generated a vacuum which gave birth to syndromes of 'romantic nostalgia' of old traditional values which provide a sense of collective 'security'. The phenomenon is neither peculiar to the southeastern part of Europe nor is it first manifested after 1989. It actually appears in a variety of forms such as xenophobia, anti-Maastricht attitudes, return to religion, deification of nature to name only a few.

Yet we have to stress a local feature. In contrast to western Europe where national identities evolved in parallel with the citizens' incorporation into the nation-states' economic, administrative and educational structures; Balkan nationalisms were manifested before the respective states came into existence. So nationalisms evolved first as ideologies which sought to reach collective ends, namely the generation of new nation-states (Mouzelis, 1994: pp. 37 - 9). More specifically, in the Balkans, where nations are perceived in ethnic terms, the states which succeeded the Ottoman Empire set the foundation for great illusions, namely that they represented ethnically homogeneous societies. In this sense, the 'others' were supposed to be outside the borders, and minorities within them were just neglected or disguised. Loyalty thus to the nation is interpreted as a form of symbolic support for a metaphysical essence which reflects the idealized 'we'. Yet the latter was different from what it was perceived. Minority groups experienced a variety of exclusionary measures varying from suppression of rights to extreme situations such as collective expulsion and ethnic cleansing.

So when nationalism, a byproduct of modernity since it is only manifested within the latter, is premised on the assumption that the nation is defined in ethnic terms, has the potential to employ an extreme form, that of an integral kind. It elevates the nation, or better the ethnic community which appears as the nation, 'to the position of supreme and sole focus of loyalty' (Schwartzmantel, 1992: pp. 54 - 7). It cuts across social- class divisions, opposing any other conflict as being against the 'national interest'.

In this context, a normative idea of democracy (Habermas, 1992) and a constitutional model of patriotism (Habermas, 1994; 1995) seem to offer a plausible means of accommodating ethnic and cultural diversity within the nation-state. The Aristotelian politeia, according to which citizens of Athens were only those whose parents were born in the city, provides no solid basis for a modern notion of citizenship (Calloni, 1991). Patriotism cannot but refer to the constitutional law of the state and to the mutual recognition of the rights and diversity of both the majority and the minorities (Kymlicka, 1995).

The republican tradition seems no longer able to provide solutions to conflicts emerging either at a local or an international level. Contemporary reality requires citizenship not to be restricted to groups which claim to be ethnically and culturally homogeneous. Greece may therefore reflect on the content but also on the form of its national identity. The heritage of the classical period, the ancient polis and the prototype of Athenian democracy may become a stimulus for a critical reflection on the present situation. The past may be integrated into the present in a creative manner. Selective forgetting is a strategy which helps to reconstruct an idealised past but does little for the future. The cultural heritage and the identity of a nation may be better preserved through peaceful collaboration and recognition of diversity rather than through rejection of the 'other'.


1At the time this article is submitted, the name question has not yet been settled. So in order to refer to the new state, the temporary name adopted by the UN, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is used. The term 'Macedonia' refers to the geographical region of Macedonia, which is shared by three states, namely Greece, FYROM and Bulgaria. Wherever reference is made to the Greek region of Macedonia, it is accordingly specified (e.g. 'Greek Macedonia').

2As K. Gligorov, President of FYROM put it, 'We are not "former" and we are not "Yugoslav" any more' (Nea Ellhada, October 30, 1993, p.2 cited in Danforth, 1995: p. 156).

3Cf. Dimaras (1982) regarding the symbolic significance assigned to Alexander the Great in Greek historiography.

4Although for the general public the star of Vergina is the royal emblem of Alexander the Great, there is considerable disagreement among scholars regarding the 'ethnic', 'national', royal or other meaning of the symbol (Borza, 1981; Adams, 1983), as well as with regard to Andronikos's (1977) argument that the gold larnax of Vergina (which bears the symbol) belonged to the tomb of Philip of Macedon (Hammond, 1982; Lehman, 1980).

5Dimaras (1982), however, points out that at the early stages of the emergence of the independent Greek nation-state, there were contradictory views with regard to the 'hellenicity' of the cultural heritage of Alexander the Great and his dynasty. Also, see Kitromilidis (1989).

6The role of the collective representation of the nation's 'golden age' in the construction of national identity has been highlighted by Smith (1986: p. 182).

7Nea Democratia is the major conservative party in Greece. It was in office from 1974 to 1981 and again from 1990 to 1993. Currently, it is the main opposition party in parliament under the leadership of Mr. M. Evert.

8The alternative solutions discussed included the name 'Slavomakedonia', which was rejected by Albanians and other ethnic minorities residing within FYROM, and 'Nova Makedonia' or 'Novomakedonia' which were turned down by the Greek government (cf. Danforth, 1995: p. 155; Poulton, 1995: p. 178).

9Serbia claims that the region of Kosovo is inextricably linked with the history of the Serbian nation and therefore 'naturally' belongs to its territory.

10The differentiation between Greeks and 'others' is salient also with regard to immigrants, among whom a distinction is made between those of Greek descent and the 'others', the 'aliens' (Triandafyllidou, 1996).

11...although the Cypriot appeal is still pending at the United Nations.


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