Thursday, 27 September 2012

Κάθε δεύτερη εβδομάδα

Στερημένα και λειψά μοιάζουν τα χρόνια 
πιό βαριά στη σκόνη του δρόμου
Κι εμείς ζούμε το δικό μας Μεσολόγγι
κάθε δεύτερη βδομάδα
στους κινηματογράφους
'Οι Ελεύθεροι Πολιορκημένοι'
για εμάς τους διψασμένους.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Pericles' Funeral Oration

Thucidides: Pericles' Funeral Oration
 (Θουκιδίδης: Περικλέους Επιτάφιος λόγος)

From History of the Peloponnesian War  (Book 2. 34-46)

"Most of my predecessors in this place have commended him who made this speech part of the law, telling us that it is well that it should be delivered at the burial of those who fall in battle. For myself, I should have thought that the worth which had displayed itself in deeds would be sufficiently rewarded by honours also shown by deeds; such as you now see in this funeral prepared at the people's cost. And I could have wished that the reputations of many brave men were not to be imperilled in the mouth of a single individual, to stand or fall according as he spoke well or ill. For it is hard to speak properly upon a subject where it is even difficult to convince your hearers that you are speaking the truth. On the one hand, the friend who is familiar with every fact of the story may think that some point has not been set forth with that fullness which he wishes and knows it to deserve; on the other, he who is a stranger to the matter may be led by envy to suspect exaggeration if he hears anything above his own nature. For men can endure to hear others praised only so long as they can severally persuade themselves of their own ability to equal the actions recounted: when this point is passed, envy comes in and with it incredulity. However, since our ancestors have stamped this custom with their approval, it becomes my duty to obey the law and to try to satisfy your several wishes and opinions as best I may.

"I shall begin with our ancestors: it is both just and proper that they should have the honour of the first mention on an occasion like the present. They dwelt in the country without break in the succession from generation to generation, and handed it down free to the present time by their valour. And if our more remote ancestors deserve praise, much more do our own fathers, who added to their inheritance the empire which we now possess, and spared no pains to be able to leave their acquisitions to us of the present generation. Lastly, there are few parts of our dominions that have not been augmented by those of us here, who are still more or less in the vigour of life; while the mother country has been furnished by us with everything that can enable her to depend on her own resources whether for war or for peace. That part of our history which tells of the military achievements which gave us our several possessions, or of the ready valour with which either we or our fathers stemmed the tide of Hellenic or foreign aggression, is a theme too familiar to my hearers for me to dilate on, and I shall therefore pass it by. But what was the road by which we reached our position, what the form of government under which our greatness grew, what the national habits out of which it sprang; these are questions which I may try to solve before I proceed to my panegyric upon these men; since I think this to be a subject upon which on the present occasion a speaker may properly dwell, and to which the whole assemblage, whether citizens or foreigners, may listen with advantage.

"Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighbouring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves. Its administration favours the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy. If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; if no social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way, if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition. The freedom which we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life. There, far from exercising a jealous surveillance over each other, we do not feel called upon to be angry with our neighbour for doing what he likes, or even to indulge in those injurious looks which cannot fail to be offensive, although they inflict no positive penalty. But all this ease in our private relations does not make us lawless as citizens. Against this fear is our chief safeguard, teaching us to obey the magistrates and the laws, particularly such as regard the protection of the injured, whether they are actually on the statute book, or belong to that code which, although unwritten, yet cannot be broken without acknowledged disgrace.
"Further, we provide plenty of means for the mind to refresh itself from business. We celebrate games and sacrifices all the year round, and the elegance of our private establishments forms a daily source of pleasure and helps to banish the spleen; while the magnitude of our city draws the produce of the world into our harbour, so that to the Athenian the fruits of other countries are as familiar a luxury as those of his own.

"If we turn to our military policy, there also we differ from our antagonists. We throw open our city to the world, and never by alien acts exclude foreigners from any opportunity of learning or observing, although the eyes of an enemy may occasionally profit by our liberality; trusting less in system and policy than to the native spirit of our citizens; while in education, where our rivals from their very cradles by a painful discipline seek after manliness, at Athens we live exactly as we please, and yet are just as ready to encounter every legitimate danger. In proof of this it may be noticed that the Lacedaemonians do not invade our country alone, but bring with them all their confederates; while we Athenians advance unsupported into the territory of a neighbour, and fighting upon a foreign soil usually vanquish with ease men who are defending their homes. Our united force was never yet encountered by any enemy, because we have at once to attend to our marine and to dispatch our citizens by land upon a hundred different services; so that, wherever they engage with some such fraction of our strength, a success against a detachment is magnified into a victory over the nation, and a defeat into a reverse suffered at the hands of our entire people. And yet if with habits not of labour but of ease, and courage not of art but of nature, we are still willing to encounter danger, we have the double advantage of escaping the experience of hardships in anticipation and of facing them in the hour of need as fearlessly as those who are never free from them.

"Nor are these the only points in which our city is worthy of admiration. We cultivate refinement without extravagance and knowledge without effeminacy; wealth we employ more for use than for show, and place the real disgrace of poverty not in owning to the fact but in declining the struggle against it. Our public men have, besides politics, their private affairs to attend to, and our ordinary citizens, though occupied with the pursuits of industry, are still fair judges of public matters; for, unlike any other nation, regarding him who takes no part in these duties not as unambitious but as useless, we Athenians are able to judge at all events if we cannot originate, and, instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling-block in the way of action, we think it an indispensable preliminary to any wise action at all. Again, in our enterprises we present the singular spectacle of daring and deliberation, each carried to its highest point, and both united in the same persons; although usually decision is the fruit of ignorance, hesitation of reflection. But the palm of courage will surely be adjudged most justly to those, who best know the difference between hardship and pleasure and yet are never tempted to shrink from danger. In generosity we are equally singular, acquiring our friends by conferring, not by receiving, favours. Yet, of course, the doer of the favour is the firmer friend of the two, in order by continued kindness to keep the recipient in his debt; while the debtor feels less keenly from the very consciousness that the return he makes will be a payment, not a free gift. And it is only the Athenians, who, fearless of consequences, confer their benefits not from calculations of expediency, but in the confidence of liberality.

"In short, I say that as a city we are the school of Hellas, while I doubt if the world can produce a man who, where he has only himself to depend upon, is equal to so many emergencies, and graced by so happy a versatility, as the Athenian. And that this is no mere boast thrown out for the occasion, but plain matter of fact, the power of the state acquired by these habits proves. For Athens alone of her contemporaries is found when tested to be greater than her reputation, and alone gives no occasion to her assailants to blush at the antagonist by whom they have been worsted, or to her subjects to question her title by merit to rule. Rather, the admiration of the present and succeeding ages will be ours, since we have not left our power without witness, but have shown it by mighty proofs; and far from needing a Homer for our panegyrist, or other of his craft whose verses might charm for the moment only for the impression which they gave to melt at the touch of fact, we have forced every sea and land to be the highway of our daring, and everywhere, whether for evil or for good, have left imperishable monuments behind us. Such is the Athens for which these men, in the assertion of their resolve not to lose her, nobly fought and died; and well may every one of their survivors be ready to suffer in her cause.

"Indeed if I have dwelt at some length upon the character of our country, it has been to show that our stake in the struggle is not the same as theirs who have no such blessings to lose, and also that the panegyric of the men over whom I am now speaking might be by definite proofs established. That panegyric is now in a great measure complete; for the Athens that I have celebrated is only what the heroism of these and their like have made her, men whose fame, unlike that of most Hellenes, will be found to be only commensurate with their deserts. And if a test of worth be wanted, it is to be found in their closing scene, and this not only in cases in which it set the final seal upon their merit, but also in those in which it gave the first intimation of their having any. For there is justice in the claim that steadfastness in his country's battles should be as a cloak to cover a man's other imperfections; since the good action has blotted out the bad, and his merit as a citizen more than outweighed his demerits as an individual. But none of these allowed either wealth with its prospect of future enjoyment to unnerve his spirit, or poverty with its hope of a day of freedom and riches to tempt him to shrink from danger. No, holding that vengeance upon their enemies was more to be desired than any personal blessings, and reckoning this to be the most glorious of hazards, they joyfully determined to accept the risk, to make sure of their vengeance, and to let their wishes wait; and while committing to hope the uncertainty of final success, in the business before them they thought fit to act boldly and trust in themselves. Thus choosing to die resisting, rather than to live submitting, they fled only from dishonour, but met danger face to face, and after one brief moment, while at the summit of their fortune, escaped, not from their fear, but from their glory.

"So died these men as became Athenians. You, their survivors, must determine to have as unfaltering a resolution in the field, though you may pray that it may have a happier issue. And not contented with ideas derived only from words of the advantages which are bound up with the defence of your country, though these would furnish a valuable text to a speaker even before an audience so alive to them as the present, you must yourselves realize the power of Athens, and feed your eyes upon her from day to day, till love of her fills your hearts; and then, when all her greatness shall break upon you, you must reflect that it was by courage, sense of duty, and a keen feeling of honour in action that men were enabled to win all this, and that no personal failure in an enterprise could make them consent to deprive their country of their valour, but they laid it at her feet as the most glorious contribution that they could offer. For this offering of their lives made in common by them all they each of them individually received that renown which never grows old, and for a sepulchre, not so much that in which their bones have been deposited, but that noblest of shrines wherein their glory is laid up to be eternally remembered upon every occasion on which deed or story shall call for its commemoration. For heroes have the whole earth for their tomb; and in lands far from their own, where the column with its epitaph declares it, there is enshrined in every breast a record unwritten with no tablet to preserve it, except that of the heart. These take as your model and, judging happiness to be the fruit of freedom and freedom of valour, never decline the dangers of war. For it is not the miserable that would most justly be unsparing of their lives; these have nothing to hope for: it is rather they to whom continued life may bring reverses as yet unknown, and to whom a fall, if it came, would be most tremendous in its consequences. And surely, to a man of spirit, the degradation of cowardice must be immeasurably more grievous than the unfelt death which strikes him in the midst of his strength and patriotism!

"Comfort, therefore, not condolence, is what I have to offer to the parents of the dead who may be here. Numberless are the chances to which, as they know, the life of man is subject; but fortunate indeed are they who draw for their lot a death so glorious as that which has caused your mourning, and to whom life has been so exactly measured as to terminate in the happiness in which it has been passed. Still I know that this is a hard saying, especially when those are in question of whom you will constantly be reminded by seeing in the homes of others blessings of which once you also boasted: for grief is felt not so much for the want of what we have never known, as for the loss of that to which we have been long accustomed. Yet you who are still of an age to beget children must bear up in the hope of having others in their stead; not only will they help you to forget those whom you have lost, but will be to the state at once a reinforcement and a security; for never can a fair or just policy be expected of the citizen who does not, like his fellows, bring to the decision the interests and apprehensions of a father. While those of you who have passed your prime must congratulate yourselves with the thought that the best part of your life was fortunate, and that the brief span that remains will be cheered by the fame of the departed. For it is only the love of honour that never grows old; and honour it is, not gain, as some would have it, that rejoices the heart of age and helplessness.

"Turning to the sons or brothers of the dead, I see an arduous struggle before you. When a man is gone, all are wont to praise him, and should your merit be ever so transcendent, you will still find it difficult not merely to overtake, but even to approach their renown. The living have envy to contend with, while those who are no longer in our path are honoured with a goodwill into which rivalry does not enter. On the other hand, if I must say anything on the subject of female excellence to those of you who will now be in widowhood, it will be all comprised in this brief exhortation. Great will be your glory in not falling short of your natural character; and greatest will be hers who is least talked of among the men, whether for good or for bad.

"My task is now finished. I have performed it to the best of my ability, and in word, at least, the requirements of the law are now satisfied. If deeds be in question, those who are here interred have received part of their honours already, and for the rest, their children will be brought up till manhood at the public expense: the state thus offers a valuable prize, as the garland of victory in this race of valour, for the reward both of those who have fallen and their survivors. And where the rewards for merit are greatest, there are found the best citizens.

"And now that you have brought to a close your lamentations for your relatives, you may depart."

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Macedonia - The naming dispute in context

The Balkan region of Macedonia today is a region that includes:
* The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), a current state, also referred to as the Republic of Macedonia.
* Macedonia (Greece) a region of Greece, subdivided into three administrative districts: - West Macedonia - Central Macedonia - East Macedonia and Thrace.
* Pirin Macedonia, an unofficial name for the Blagoevgrad Province, a region of Bulgaria.

Historical Macedonia, Macedon or Macedonia (Greek: Μακεδονία) was the name of a kingdom in the northern-most part of ancient Greece, bordered by the kingdom of Epirus to the west and the region of Thrace to the east (Britannica). For a brief period it became the most powerful state in the ancient Near East after Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world, inaugurating the Hellenistic period of Greek history.

The first Macedonian state emerged in the 8th or early 7th century BC under the Argead Dynasty, who allegedly migrated to the region from the southern Greek city of Argos (thus the name Argead). Their first king is recorded as Perdiccas I.

Prior to the 4th century BC, the kingdom covered a region approximately corresponding to the province of Macedonia of modern Greece. It became increasingly Atticised during this period, though prominent Athenians appear to have regarded the Macedonians as uncouth.

We must stop here for an important parenthesis. Just who were the Greeks (Hellenes)? The most popular theory is that the pro-hellenes were made up of various Pelasgic peoples (Dryopes, Kares, Leleges etc) which were later subdued and assimilated by the Greek (Hellenic) tribes. These tribes were the Achaians, Ionians, Aeolians and the Dorians. They were part of the arian tribes that migrated from eastern europe at around the 3rd millenium BC and invaded central europe and the southern balkans. Historical records indicate that these tribes shared a similar language with small idiomatic differences. Their descent came in three waves with first the Ionians, then the Aeolians and Achaians and finally the Dorians. The Dorians were a militaristic tribe and knew how to use iron while the former tribes were still in the bronze age.

Origin of the Hellenic name: The name Hellenes first appears after the Homeric times, around 800 BC. Homer calls the resident peoples of Greece Achaians, Danaei and Agreians. The name "hellenes" becomes popular much later, when the city states had to cooperate to face the Persian invasions, and when Alexander the great expanded the borders of the Hellenistic civilization beyond the Aegean. None of those tribes came as "Greeks"; they became Greeks by being there, all around the Aegean. Language and customs identified them and wove new ties between them (J. M. Roberts The History of the world.). The language spoken today in Greece has the same alphabet and is the direct evolution of the language spoken by those ancient peoples. The name "Greeks" was the name of a Boeotian tribe that migrated to the Italian peninsula in the 8th century BCE and probably through contact with natives there brought the term to represent all Hellenes, which then established itself in Italy and in the West in general.

Who were the ancient Macedonians? There were more than 200 greek city states but we only have precise information for just a handful of them. What we do know is that they had the same customs, spoke and wrote in the same language, were allowed to participate in the Olympic games and worshiped the same gods. Macedonia was a Doric tribe and was no exception to this. However, there was one notable difference. Aristotle divided Greek governments into monarchies, oligarchies, tyrannies and democracies, and most historians still use these same divisions. In the Late Bronze Age (the Mycenean period), between about 2000 and 1200 BC, all Greek city-states seem to have been monarchies, ruled by kings. While this changed in time for many of the city states, Macedonia retained this model of governance until much later and as such was regarded as "backwards" by several other city-states, most notably the ones that had made the transition to democracy.

The weakening of Persian power was seen as an opportunity for militaristic Macedonia to expand. Philip sought status and recognition from the other city-states. When he became regent of Macedon in 359 BC he began a steady acquisition of territory at the expense of other Greek states. His ultimate argument was a powerful army which, by the end of his reign, had become the best-trained and organized military force in Greece. He first began by unifying Macedonia and later assimilated other city-states. This expansionist policy was seen as an encroachment upon the interests of Athens. Her power started to decline when previous allies seceded and placed themselves under macedonian patronage. Demosthenes, a prominent orator at the time and a devout democrat, considered the Macedonians `barbarians` and feared that the dominance of the macedonian kingdom would mean an end to democracy but others hailed Philip's vision to unify the city-states and willingly joined the Macedonian expansionist cause.

Eventually a peace treaty was signed after the Macedonian army had defeated the Athenians and Thebans in 338BC. The terms imposed were not harsh but the League that was formed had to agree to go to war with Persia under macedonian leadership. During Alexanders reign, the former democratic city-states tried to break free and become independent again, but were successfully subjugated and the city of Thebes was made an example of: It was razed to the ground and its population was enslaved (335BC). This marks the transition from the city-state period to a unified greece under macedonian leadership.

Important dates:
[323-300 BC] The death of Alexander the Great breaks into a civil war as the leading generals fight over the rule of the Empire. By 300 BC, the Empire is carved up between the dynasties of Alexander's generals Antigonus I, Ptolemy I, and Seleukis I.

[300-146 BC] Philip V (222-179 BC) clashes with Rome that has began an eastward expansion. The two "Macedonian Wars" against the Romans end up in defeat of Philip V's armies. Rome rises to power.

[395] The Roman Empire splits into Western and Eastern. The region of Macedonia falls to the Eastern (Byzantine), a multi-national empire stretching over three continents at its height.

[535] The Slavs overrun the Balkans and mix with the peoples there.

[855-886] Two brothers, Cyril and Methodius from Salonica, create the first Slavonic alphabet and promote Christianity among the Slavic peoples.

[1453] The fall of the empire's capital, Constantinople (Istanbul), to the Ottoman Turks marks the end of the Byzantine empire. The macedonian region is populated by a mix of people of different ethnic origins.

[1789] The French revolution:
The French Revolution paved the way for the modern nation-state. Across Europe radical intellectuals questioned the old monarchical order and encouraged the development of a popular nationalism committed to re-drawing the political map of the continent. The days of multi-national empires were numbered. National awakening also grew out of an intellectual reaction to the Enlightenment that emphasized national identity and developed a romantic view of cultural self-expression through nationhood. It was argued by Hegel (1770-1831) that a sense of nationality was the cement that will hold modern societies together. With most of Europe's peoples still loyal to their local province or city, nationalism was confined to small groups of intellectuals and political radicals. Nationalism came to be seen as the most effective way to create the symbols of resistance and to unite in a common cause. In the Balkans, this meant revolting against the Ottoman empire.

[1821+] After Greek independence, and while the Ottoman empire was crumbling, Greek Nationalism, exemplified by the Megali idea (the Grand Idea), focused on expansion and the forging of a national identity. As such, it was to come into conflict with similar Bulgarian and Serb nationalist expansionist plans. These plans came into conflict ever more frequently with the demographic, linguistic and cultural realities of the peninsula at the time (M. Glenny - The Balkans).

[1878-1879] The treaty of Berlin restored the region of Macedonia and Thrace to the Ottoman Empire. The great powers had now linked their imperial interests to the aspirations of the emerging balkan states. By october 1878, Edinstvo (unity), one of the new nationalist committees which had sprung up in Bulgaria was planning an uprising in the Kresna district. Two local leaders, P. Georgievski-Berovski and Stoian Karastoilov (one a Russian, the other a Pole) began to gather men and weapons. The revolution spreads quickly and focuses on the liberation of slavic regions but is crushed in just over a month by the Ottomans. The Kresna uprising posed in a violent way, and for the first time, the issue of identity of the region. This was the start of the Macedonian Question. Studies of the uprising are largely unknown outside Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and there are discrepancies between them. Historians from each side call the uprising either "Bulgarian" or "Macedonian".

At the time of the Congress of Berlin, the Macedonian region is an extraordinary pot-pourri of cultures, faiths and traditions. The four largest populations are - in no particular order - Greeks, Slavs, Albanians and Turks, although Salonika (Thessaloniki) is also the home of 50,000 Sephardic Jews. There are many other smaller communities too, like the Vlachs (who speak a language akin to romanian) and Roma gypsies. In many parts of central and western macedonia, a greek, a slav, a vlach, a turkish and an albanian dominated village exist side by side in harmony.

To summarize, the region was Europe's most enduring and complex multicultural region.
When the process of fragmentation started with the collapse of the Ottoman empire, the potential for violence and the rise of nationalism was greater there than anywhere else.

The Bulgarians' claim was based on the Slav population and the Bulgarian elite assumed all the Slavs were Bulgarians. This was not unreasonable, since the languages spoken by the slavs were very similar, but with dialectal variation. However, the Slavs of Macedonia referred to themselves as Macedonian though this was not necessarily a denial of their Bulgarian identity. On the other hand, Greeks in the region referred to themselves as both Greeks and Macedonians.

The question of the origins of the modern Macedonians (in FYROM), who feel themselves categorically to be a Slav people distinct from Serbs or Bulgars, provokes a lot of intellectual fanaticism. For example, a nationalist scholar from Skopje will maintain that his nation has existed for thousands of years whereas a more moderate scholar will say that Macedonians first developed a separate identity from Bulgaria about 100 years ago. A Serb will claim that the Macedonians only emerged as a nation at the end of world war II whereas a fourth, Greek or Bulgarian, will maintain that a claim of a macedonian identity by the people of FYROM is ridiculous and that is has never existed.

[1903] The Ilinden uprising:
The Ottoman authorities had long expected an uprising and had steadily strengthened their positions. Colonel Anastasas Iankoff, an agent of Bulgarian interests, began stirring up western Macedonia, in part to destroy the autonomy of the resident macedonian slavs who were planning a more underground, longer-term uprising. The Turkish authorities quickly re-established control and crushed both groups.
In an attept to provoke great power intervention, Gemidzhii, a group of anarchists associated with the most radical wing of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO), a group which planned for the liberation of the region of macedonia and which was under slavic leadership (but not restricted to slavs), started a series of attacks that provoked the wrath of the muslim mob which began lynching the Slav minority in Salonika killing about 60 before the governor imposed martial law.

On August 2, 1903 VMRO launches the Ilinden Uprising against the Turks and declares Macedonian independence. The revolutionaries capture the town of Krushevo and establish a new government. The uprising is brutally crushed by the Turks. Krushevo is bombarded with artillery over several days, with the Greek and Vlach parts particularly hard hit.

[1908] The Young Turk revolution and the collapse of the Ottoman empire:
The importance of the Young Turk revolution is comparable with the Russian revolution of 1917. The speed with which the Sultan's power crumbled astonished the great powers. The Young Turk revolution was a courageous blow to the despotism of the Sultan. It was the start of a wave of modernity that swept throughout Turkey. The Young Turks issued a general amnesty and promised equality of civil rights for all nationalities. However, external powers saw it as a sign of weakness of the Ottoman Empire and the expansionist ambitions were rekindled.

[1912-1913] The balkan wars. 
The Balkan wars were fought mostly on the territory of the region of Macedonia. The first balkan war was fought mainly against the Turks and the second between the former allied powers to determine the new borders.

After the failure of the Kresna uprising, Ottoman rule was harsher. One Greek agent of the time in Kastoria mentions: "the Christian inhabitants of these parts have reached such a point that they would welcome with open arms not only Russian or Bulgarian bands, but also Indochinese bands, if they would promise them to deliver them from the Ottomans". The Greek and Bulgarian forces were desperate to capture Salonica (source: M. Glenny - The Balkans). It was the single greatest prize of the first Balcan war and there had been no prior agreement about it's status. In this case, possession of the city would count for all the law and foreign powers would be unlikely to intervene. The Greek king Constantine beat the Bulgarian division by a matter of hours and entered the city first, establishing Greek dominance.

The Turkish refusal to hand over Adrianopole to Bulgaria, as the peace treaty required, sparked more fighting. Bulgaria and Serbia attacked and though the Turks heroically defended the city, it fell. Estimates of the dead range between 40 to 60 thousand. The treaty of London recognized the union of Crete with Greece and Bulgarian control of Adrianopole (Edirne). Albania became independent. Only one issue remained - the division of Macedonia.

Bulgaria was much weakened by the first Balkan war and the situation between the former allies was still tense. Greece and Serbia saw this as an opportunity and, prompted by a Bulgarian tactical mistake to issue secret attack orders against Serb positions, the Second Balkan war was started.

The Second Balkan war lasted only 1 month. Greeks and Serbs, joined by local Turks, fought against the Bulgarians. Under the treaty of Bucharest (1913) Bulgaria was forced to surrender almost everything it had gained in the first war by sacrificing tens of thousands of its citizens.

[1914+] The greek prime minister Venizelos was a great supporter of the Megali Idea and considered the transformation of Salonika crucial to the Greek expansionist plans. As an ally of the Entente, he realized that Greece would be in an excellent position to realize its territorial claims primarily against Bulgaria and Turkey. However, the Greek King was a Germanophile and publicly supported Greek neutrality. This caused a Greek national schism.

In 1916, Entente troops landed at Pireus and marched into Athens, settling the dispute. After some fighting against the monarchists, Greece eventually joined the Entente and Venizelos was vindicated while the Greek king Costantine was forced into exile. Bulgarians had joined with the Germans.

At the end of the first world war, Yugoslavia did not exist as a country. In November 1918, it was constituted as a kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes without clear borders. This did not settle the national question.

[World War II] Bulgaria was eventually forced to give up neutrality and join the Axis. Yugoslavia made an agreement in Vienna not to permit German troops to enter the country but to allow the transport of war materials through its borders. No further war obligations towards the Axis powers were required and Yugoslavia could remain intact. In return, the Germans supported Yugoslavian expansionist plans to Salonica - which meant Bulgarian aspirations to get it could not be fulfilled. Infuriated by this agreement with the Axis, Yugoslavians revolted (particularly the Serbs) and there was a coup d'etat. An infuriated Hitler ordered the Wermacht to invade the country. Germany quickly occupied the Balkans and during that time the Jews of Salonika were exterminated in the Croatian Ustase camps.

In 1944 the Red Army advanced in the Balkan Peninsula and forced the German forces to retreat. The pre-war borders were restored under U.S. and British pressure because the Bulgarian government was insisting to keep its military units on Greek soil. The Bulgarian Macedonia returned fairly rapidly to normality, but the Bulgarian patriots in Yugoslav Macedonia underwent a process of ethnic cleansing by the Belgrade authorities, and Greek Macedonia was ravaged by the Greek Civil War, which broke out in December 1944 and did not end until October 1949.

After the Greek civil war, a large number of former ELAS fighters took refuge in communist Bulgaria and Yugoslavia and described themselves as "ethnic Macedonians".

[Post World War II] Tito separated Yugoslav Macedonia from Serbia after the war. It became a republic of the new federal Yugoslavia (as the Socialist Republic of Macedonia) in 1946, with its capital at Skopje. Tito also promoted the concept of a separate Macedonian nation, as a means of severing the ties of the Slav population of Yugoslav Macedonia with Bulgaria. Although the regional language is very similar to Bulgarian, the differences were emphasized and the region's historical figures were promoted as being uniquely Macedonian (rather than Serbian or Bulgarian). A separate Macedonian Orthodox Church was established, splitting off from the Serbian Orthodox Church, but it has not been recognized by any other Orthodox Church, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Communist Party sought to deter pro-Bulgarian sentiment, which was punished severely; convictions were still being handed down as late as 1991.

Tito had a number of reasons for doing this. First, as an ethnic Croat, he wanted to reduce Serbia's dominance in Yugoslavia; establishing a territory formerly considered Serbian as an equal to Serbia within Yugoslavia achieved this effect. Secondly, he wanted to sever the ties of the Macedonian Slav population with Bulgaria because recognition of that population as Bulgarian would have undermined the unity of the Yugoslav federation. Third of all, Tito sought to justify future Yugoslav claims towards the rest of Macedonia (Pirin and Aegean), in the name of the "liberation" of the region. The potential "Macedonian" state would remain as a constituent republic within Yugoslavia, and so Yugoslavia would manage to get access to the Aegean Sea.

Tito's designs on Macedonia were asserted as early as August, 1944, when in a proclamation he claimed that his goal was to reunify "all parts of Macedonia, divided in 1912 and 1913 by Balkan imperialists". To this end, he opened negotiations with Bulgaria for a new federal state, which would also probably have included Albania, and supported the Greek Communists in the Greek Civil War. The idea of reunification of all of Macedonia under Communist rule was abandoned as late as 1949 when the Greek Communists lost in the Greek Civil War and Tito fell out with the Soviet Union and pro-Soviet Bulgaria.

J.M. Roberts - The History of the World
M. Glenny - The Balkans
Wikipedia (quotations from referenced sources)

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

All alone in the night

Time-lapse footage of the Earth as seen from the International Space station. You can clearly see the lights from the cities at night, lightning storms and some beautiful aurorae.