with Michael Seraphinoff
Papers :: by Michael Seraphinoff, PhD
:: Critical Papers ::
Dimensions of the Greek-Macedonian Name Dispute
The independence of the Republic of Macedonia upon the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991 inflamed nationalist passions in Greece. Greeks of all major political parties united in their demand that their neighbors to the north cease calling themselves Macedonians, no longer call their state the Republic of Macedonia, and refrain from any use of names or symbols taken from Macedonian antiquity.
The Greek position is quite clear, Macedonia was, is, and always will be Greek. The Macedonian position, on the other hand, is mainly an extension of their state tradition within the Yugoslav federation, established at the end of World War Two. This includes use of an official, standardized Macedonian literary language in public life, the use of names and symbols that identify the people as Macedonians, and an understanding of history that, at the very least, connects their society to documented medieval roots that date back to the 9th century.
All major Macedonian political parties are united in their refusal to alter their identity to satisfy Greek demands, particularly when those demands have not been supported by other nations. Their position is that the name dispute is essentially a Greek-Macedonian problem, since over 120 nations recognize the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name.
In the most recent period, however, the name issue has become a concern of other nations due to the upcoming votes in NATO and the EU on Macedonian membership. Greece has threatened to veto Macedonian entry if the name dispute is not resolved to their satisfaction. The chief concern of other states is the further destabilization of the Balkans that continued Macedonian exclusion might cause at a time when many serious issues, such as the future of Kosovo, require regional cooperation.
A Survey of Macedonian Literature
in English Translation
Presented at the Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies Conference, University of Washington, Seattle, April 2006
Macedonian may arguably be the oldest written Slavic language as the basis for Kiril and Methodius’ nineth-century translations of Christian liturgical texts into what we today call the Old Church Slavic language. However, it is also the most recent Slavic language to receive official recognition and standardization after the establishment of the Republic of Macedonia as part of Yugoslavia in 1946.
The number of literary works by Macedonian authors in English translation today is surpassed only by translations in Serbian and/or Croatian during the existence of the former Yugoslavia. Particularly since the full independence of the Republic since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the pace of publication of English language translations has increased dramatically.
This is due in part to the large concentrations of Macedonian immigrants, numbering in the tens of thousands, in major cities throughout English-speaking Canada, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, and a dramatic increase in communication and collaboration among members of the Macedonian diaspora and Macedonians in the home country with improved means of travel and the effective spread of internet communication worldwide.
Confronting Ethnic Cleansing
in Tetovo, Macedonia
The fact that members of nearly every ethnic group have at some time victimized their neighbors has provided outsiders with an easy rationale for ignoring desperate pleas for help from individuals and communities under attack. “Those people have always been killing each other” is a mantra that is often used to drown out the cries of the victims.
For those who choose the lovely simplicity of this response, there is little that one can say or do that would stir them to action on behalf of the victims of ethnic cleansing. It is responses such as this that allowed a ship filled with thousands of Jews to be sent back to Germany from a U.S. port of entry during the height of the Holocaust. This is why 6000 unarmed men in Srebrenica, Bosnia could be slaughtered by Serbian soldiers while U.S. jet fighter planes sat idly nearby in 1995. This is why nearly a million people of Rwanda, men, women and children, could be slaughtered by their raging neighbors while the world looked on.
Yet I know that there are those who would, in the name of justice, bear witness to such crimes against humanity. To them I offer the following documented accounts of the brutal campaign of intimidation and murder of Macedonians in western Macedonia by organized Albanian groups. In the absence of widespread public knowledge and condemnation of the ethnic-based violence committed against these people, their suffering will only serve the aims of their tormentors. It will only serve the forced eviction of the minority ethnic Macedonian community in western Macedonia from ancestral homes in thousand-year-old settlements.
Through a Child’s Eyes
Presented at the North American Macedonian Studies Conference
Ohio State University, May 2003
Macedonian literature has a number of works with child narrators that are worthy of note. These include Makedoncheto (The Macedonian Boy) by Petros G. Vocis, whose childhood memoir is written in the child narrator’s voice of five-year-old Petros, who recounts his life in the lost world of his family’s ancestral home village of Setina in northern Greece. The book is a memoir of a year when the Greek Civil War raged in his home village. The author recounts the tragedy of a family and a community torn apart by the events of that war.
Another work that deserves our attention is Zhivko Chingo’s novel, Golemata Voda (The Big Water) that is narrated by the young boy Lem during his time in an orphanage in postWorld War II Macedonia.
A third noteworthy work in which a child frequently appears as narrator is the collection of short stories by Jadranka Vladova, Voden Znak (Water Sign). Her child narrator often evokes a certain magic and romance in everyday family life in Macedonia’s capital Skopje in the 1950s and 60s.
The Life and Art of Atanas Kolarovski,
master performer and teacher of Macedonian folk dance
Presented at the 7th North AmericanMacedonian Conference
Atanas was born in the village of Drachevo, the Republic of Macedonia on August 9, 1926. He grew up in a typical pre-industrial Balkan village and home. The people of his village, including his own family, grew or made just about everything they consumed. They grew their own food, kept livestock for meat and milk products, and wore clothing and shoes of simple village or home production. Atanas explains that: “the villagers only occasionally went to town, and that was usually only to trade for oil and salt that they couldn’t produce at home themselves.”
The Kolarovi family, according to one of its elders, Mile Kolarov, Atanas’s uncle and a one-time mayor of their village, tells that their clan settled in Drachevo, which is some eight miles from the capital city of Skopje, nearly 300 years ago. They were originally from the central Macedonian Prilep region.
:: Personal Papers ::
Why I Love the Balkans
Email journal entry from Michael Seraphinoff to friends in the US from Ohrid, Macedonia, August 2000
Some of the best things in life defy any easy explanation. My delight in Macedonia, even if it is only my occasional Balkan promised land, is such a thing, and lasting and ever so real for me.
My Second Home
December 22 was cold and bright, and there was freshly fallen snow on the ground. We all rose early that day, and as soon as breakfast was over, Aunt Darya wrapped a freshly baked loaf of bread in a clean white linen cloth, Uncle Tome poured hot sugared brandy into a small flask, and Cousin Trpana prepared a small bowl of boiled wheat grain sprinkled with sugar. When all was ready, Uncle Toma and I, dressed in our Sunday best, collected these items and followed the sound of the tolling church bell up the narrow winding stone-walled streets of the village until we arrived at a white-washed little Eastern Orthodox church.
It was sometime in the fall of 1992 that word was announced that Skagit Valley College would like one of its professors to volunteer to spend the winter as an exchange teacher at a college in Siberia. Due to a background in Slavic languages and literature, I was personally invited to take the college up on this once in a lifetime offer. My first reaction was to ask myself who would be crazy enough to trade a comfortable post in the lovely, mild and civilized Puget Sound basin for a teaching assignment in Siberia in January.
Mt. Athos - Visit to a holy mountain
It seemed as if I had been drawn to this place without knowing why I should want to go to all the trouble it required. Already, even here in the most accessible part of Mt. Athos, the mood and feeling of the land had changed dramatically. Fascination mingled with fear as I viewed the scene before me. Everything from the narrow, cobblestone streets and the low weathered, ancient-looking buildings to the appearance of the full-bearded and unshorn monks, in their long black robes and flat hats suggested a timelessness that is rare in our world. To an outsider such men appear unfathomable and foreign, and their own slightly suspicious stares at visitors do little to narrow the gulf between us.
:: Book Reviews ::
The Descendants of Alexander of Macedon
Book by Aleksandar Donski, Grigor Prlichev-Sydney, 2005
Review appeared in The Descendants of Alexander the Great
Review of Children of the Bird Goddess
Book by Kita Sapurma with Pandora Petrovska, Pollitecon Books
Review appeared in Macedonian Weekly, Toronto, Canada
The Village of Leshhok Tetovo
Book by Ilija Petrushevski, Mi An Press, 2006
Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee Review
Michael has been writing reviews of Macedonian literary works on a regular basis for the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee Review. His work can be read online.