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2007 | 31 | 163-169

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Between 1870 and 1912/13, the Slavic population of Ottoman Macedonia was exposed to the aggressive attempts at nationalisation by the Greeks, the Bulgarians (and the Serbs) who according to their 'mental maps' shaped discourses of Macedonia as their genuine national landscapes, thereby ignoring and deconstructing the demographic realities in the region. The Greek party claimed the Macedonians for their religion: On the basis of the millet-system defining ethnicity as religious belonging, the whole Christian-Orthodox population (the so-called millet rum) should be converted into national Greeks. The Bulgarian party, on the other hand, claimed the Macedonians on the basis of mother tongue - an equation developed by German political romanticism in the 19th century and later applied by Wilson in the reorganisation of Europe after World War I. Like in Silesia or Alsace, the newly shaped exclusive identities did not fit the identity patterns of bilingual borderland groups in Macedonia, where the local population had developed strong regional loyalties to evade the merciless bipolar national Greek-Bulgarian antagonism. This regionalism in Macedonia became reinforced by the incorporation into already existing nation-states after the Balkan Wars: A successful integration of Vardar-, Pirin- and Aegean Macedonia into the Serbian, Bulgarian and Greek state respectively failed, because the discursive inclusion was faced by de facto exclusion in the process of internal colonisation. Between 1942 and 1944, Tito's communist partisans started a successful nation-building on the basis of the widespread regional consciousness: Macedonia until 1991 was governed by a pro-Serbian elite and represented the most peaceful republic in Yugoslavia. The paper explores the different functioning of territory in definitions of historical and national identity in Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav Macedonia. In Tito's times there were two taboos: No Serb should continue the Great Serbian discourse of the interwar period denying the exinstence of Macedonian nationality. Therefore Macedonians were obliged to define their national identity exclusively within the Yugoslav borders. After 1991 politicians and historians clearly have broken with the national identity policy of Yugoslav time where the subordinate Serbocroatian-Macedonian bilingualism reflected the subordination of Macedonian national identity to the new supranational Yugoslavian identity. Like in other former Yugoslav republics, collective group borders were redrawn exclusively along ethnic lines. This ethnification of the society brought in two new factors: first, the irredentist 'mental map' of Great Macedonia, and second, the Ancient Macedonian heritage and its most crucial symbol, Alexander the Great and the 'Macedonian Sun' from Vergina imported from the transatlantic Macedonian diaspora. Since the armed conflict in 2001 the Macedonian Sun is a part of an anti-Albanian discourse which makes use of a mythological Macedonian ethnic continuity dating back to Alexander the Great. The purpose of this discourse of autochthonicity is to compete with the myth of Illyrian identity used by radical Albanians to challenge the legitimacy of the Macedonian state. Macedonian transnational nationalism as described by Danforth 1995 can serve as an prototype case for 'long distance nationalism' in a globalised world (as described by Appadurais 'ethnoscapes' 1996).






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  • Ch. Voss, Freiburg University, Erlangen/Freiburg, Bundesrepublik Deutschland


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