LLR Books

“Macedonia:” What's in a Name?



By Noha Khaled

Macedonia’s name has been the biggest headache it faces internationally, as well as the most sensitive topic debated nationally. (Reuters)
Ever since it emerged as an independent republic after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Macedonia’s name has been the biggest headache it faces internationally, as well as the most sensitive topic debated nationally.
Macedonia is a name that is often associated with Greece, and for good reason. Macedon was an ancient Greek kingdom — corresponding to today’s Northern Greek province of Macedonia — that rose to glory under its two famous kings, Phillip II and Alexander the Great, and had an important role to play in the Hellenistic culture of Ancient Greece. Later, in the Roman Period, the term expanded to refer to the narrow Greek Macedonia and a further territory to its North.
Slavic influx from Eastern Europe started to reach the Balkans starting around the 6th century, until a significant Bulgar population existed in the region. In the medieval ages, this Greater Macedonia became the heart of the Slavic Bulgarian Empire and was later conquered by Serbs and then Ottomans.
By the late 19th century, the Macedonia region was part of the Ottoman Rumelia province, teeming with Greeks, Serbs, Bulgars, and Albanians. And although some consider them to be linguistically a Bulgarian group, their possession of a distinct Bulgarian dialect coupled with the name Macedonia, lead to the emergence of a Macedonian national consciousness separate from the Bulgarian.