The Macedonian constitution enshrines the rights of Albanians to speak their own language, and receive primary and secondary school education in their own tongue. The Macedonian state subsidizes the Albanian language media quite generously, including Albanian-language newspapers, radio and television programs. Flaka, a major Albanian-language newspaper, receives 67% of its operating costs from the state budget. The Helsinki Human Rights Group report on Macedonia confirmed that “despite government funding Flaka remains editorially independent and has never been interfered with by the state, according to its deputy editor Daut Dauti.” While Macedonian is, unsurprisingly, the official language of Macedonia that is, the language in which state business is carried out minority languages are also guaranteed a place at the table: Albanian and other minority languages are in official use not only where the majority of the inhabitants are Albanian, but also “where there is a considerable number of inhabitants belonging to [the Albanian] nationality, their language and alphabet are also in official use, in addition to the Macedonian language and Cyrillic alphabet, under conditions and in a manner determined by law.” But that isn’t good enough for the Albanians, who make up some 30 percent of the population, for whom nothing less than parity with the majority is acceptable.
This lunatic linguistic intransigence is a metaphor for the stance of the Albanian nationalists who are now battling Macedonian troops for control of Tetovo, Macedonia’s second largest city: for their goal is not integration into Macedonian society, but linguistic, cultural, and eventually political separation from the Macedonian state and union with a “Greater Albania.” Unleashed and emboldened by NATO’s unswerving support, the partisans of Greater Albania have used the politics of racial, religious and ethnic grievance to split Macedonian society into warring factions and set up the conditions for another Balkan war this time one that could bring in Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey, as well as Albania, the former Yugoslavia, and the KLA. The way they have accomplished this division is a perfect paradigm for the militantly multicultural mindset that dominates such disparate American institutions as college campuses, and the national political scene, including most recently the Republican party. As an exaggeration, albeit an entirely consistent and logical one, of our own ethnic correctness, let the Macedonian civil war stand as a warning: in the Balkans, Albanian versions of Al Sharpton and his followers are bringing the region to the brink of a conflagration.
The division of Macedonian society into warring ethnic camps is exemplified by events taking place in the crucible of that struggle: Tetovo. It is there that the Albanian flag has been raised in an open show of support for Albanian secessionism, and the city, situated in western Macedonia, has long been the backdrop of the country’s longest-running ethnic dispute. But first, a little background. . . .
AN IMAGINARY COUNTRY
The locus of Albanian ultra-nationalism has long been the two-pronged demand for a separate Albanian-language university and ethnic quotas in the Macedonian civil serve, with the former serving as a transmission belt for the latter. But the Macedonian government a coalition including the Albanian Democratic Party has resisted this demand, rightly fearing the atomization of their country. After all, the classification of “Macedonian” as a separate language, unique to itself, like English French, and German, is quite a stretch: it is more like a regional dialect, one with Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian influences (both of which, like Macedonian, are written in the Cyrillic alphabet). Indeed, as far as the Bulgarians are concerned, there is no such language as “Macedonian,” but only a dialect of Bulgarian: the Serbo-Croatian speakers in Macedonia proper hold a similar view. The fragility of this linguistic nationalism is, furthermore, exacerbated by the historical reality that no such country as “Macedonia” has had a separate existence since the days of Alexander the Great: its resurrection by Tito and the Yugoslav Communists was merely a crude attempt to intervene on the Communist side in the Greek civil war. This, however, has not deterred “Macedonian” nationalists from determinedly averring their linguistic and cultural uniqueness, and fiercely defending their (largely imaginary) national identity. Against the genuine cultural chauvinism of the Albanian fanatics, however, the faux nationalism of the “Macedonians” is a weak reed bending in a strong wind.
In January 1995, an independent, Albanian-language university was set up in Tetovo in western Macedonia. The opening of the university was the occasion for a riot in which one person died: while the government did not forbid the opening of an Albanian-language university, neither did they agree to fund it with tax dollars an omission that outraged the protesters, who took to the streets. The OSCE stepped in, agreed to mediate the issue, and came up with the compromise solution that a private university would be founded in Tetovo, with funds from European donors. This was rejected by the Albanians and the self-proclaimed rector of Tetevo U, who would settle for nothing less than a state-subsidized university, one that, in addition, guaranteed its graduates a certain proportion of government jobs.
TETOVO U: ALBANIAN DIPLOMA MILL
What the Albanian radicals are after, in Tetovo, was made clear in a report issued by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, which sent a delegation to Tetovo consisting of former university professors and administrators. According to their report, they “were surprised that the two leading officials at Tetovo University had no documentation on hand concerning the names and qualifications of faculty, the programs and courses offered, and the composition and intellectual quality of the student body. Indeed, contrary to what a published statement describing the visit said, we were not given detailed answers to all our questions. We are still waiting for written information.” All we need to know about “Tetovo University” is contained in a single paragraph of the IHF report:
“While officials of Tetovo University deny the creation of a “parallel institution,” and indicate that the institution is bilingual in principle and practice, the same officials speak of educating students who will practice in professions (law, medicine, etc.) as members of the specifically Albanian community. The continuation of the institution in the face of obstacles was termed a ‘holy way,’ and a map depicting ‘Greater Albania’ appears on the wall of the Dean’s office.”
UNIVERSITY OR BASE CAMP?
In short, Tetovo U was all along intended as a base camp for Albanian insurgents. Far from allowing themselves to be assimilated peacefully into Macedonian society, Albanian nationalists seek to assimilate a large chunk of Macedonia into a “Greater Albania.” The guerrilla war now being conducted by the “National Liberation Army” based in western Macedonia was prefigured by two infamous incidents, one in Gostivar, in July 1997, when the Albanian mayor raised the Albanian flag over the town, and an expedition by Macedonian police to tear it down was followed by a riot in which 3 people were killed and many more wounded. The town council, which had voted to raise the double-headed eagle of Albanian expansionism, also voted to raise the Turkish flag a move decried by the Turkish ambassador, who claimed that it was a violation of Turkey’s constitution that the flag be flown anywhere outside its own country. Still, the flags were not removed: the Parliament then stepped in with a law forbidding the flying of foreign flags over public buildings, and the police moved in to enforce the law. (The Albanian Democratic Party deputies voted with the majority.) In Tetovo, the mayor of the town similarly defied both the Parliament and the nation’s highest court, the Constitutional Court. In their defiance, these local officials symbolically proclaimed their political objective: the dissolution of the Macedonian state.
THE SOROS CONNECTION
The make-believe country of Macedonia is a Yugoslavia in miniature: with all the built-in problems of the latter even more deeply embedded in its origins. Its first President, Kiro Gligorov, was a longtime Communist bureaucrat who served under Tito and, like Milosevic, made the transition to the post-Communist political scene. Unlike old Slobo, however, Gligorov obtained the invaluable support of billionaire speculator and international do-gooder George Soros, who literally bailed out Macedonia with a generous loan and became the country’s de facto ambassador-at-large, lobbying for international recognition in the face of an embargo declared by Greece. The Greeks, it seems, feel threatened by the country’s very name, Macedonia, which is the same as Greece’s northern province, and some aspects of the Macedonian constitution, couched as it is in irredentist language: when the Macedonian government published a textbook showing a map of “Greater Macedonia,” including large chunks of Greece, Athens was not amused. In a [January 23]1995 New Yorker profile of Soros, the special relationship between Soros and the Macedonian model of “multiculturalism” was explored:
“Nowhere has Soros put more energy and money into bolstering a government than in Macedonia. “George is the savior of Macedonia,” his friend Morton Abramowitz declared. And the Macedonian representative in Washington, Ljubica Acevska, says of two separate Soros loans of twenty five million dollars, ‘People found it difficult to believe. The opposition said, ‘A country does not help you- why would an individual help you?’ Remember, twenty-five million dollars in Macedonia is like billions here… the fact that Soros did it helped the government a great deal.'”
The Macedonian branch of the omnipresent Soros-sponsored “Open Society Institute” became the ideological nerve center of the Gligorov government, and Soros proclaimed in public that he would go to Macedonia if necessary and personally campaign for the President to ensure his reelection. To Soros, Macedonia a completely made-up nation, without a history or a real cultural basis was the ideal vessel in which to pour his dreams of the perfect model of modern multi-culturalism. Seeking to explain why Soros championed the Macedonian cause against the Greeks, the New Yorker noted:
“In the good-guy, bad-guy formulation to which Soros is so partial, the Greeks became the bad guys. He did not go to Greece to get the Greek view. In his few hours with Gligorov, he became persuaded, as he often insisted since, that Macedonia is the only multi-ethnic state left in the Balkans with a government devoted to pluralism and democratic principles- a view contested by many ethnic Albanians, Macedonia’s largest minority, who charge that Gligorov’s actions belie his words, and that they are discriminated against in schooling, employment, and political representation.”
But the honeymoon was soon over: the Macedonians soured on their benefactor when he began dictating policy to the Gligorov government. In 1995, when Soros tried to intervene in the dispute with Greece over Macedonia’s name, proposing that the country change its name to “Slavomakejonija,” he was roundly rebuffed. Thanks for the advice, said the Macedonians but no thanks. They also told him to take a walk over his insistence that the government cave in to Albanian demands in Tetovo. A newspaper close to the government, Nova Makedonija, accused Soros of “publicly suggesting…the introduction of a second official language into Macedonia through the back door.” The Skopje government saw the Tetovo incident as a provocation aimed at destabilizing the region and annexing it to a future “Greater Albania” and, it turned out, they were right.
A PATTERN EMERGES
Isn’t it funny how, mixed in with the irony and tragedy that is the theme of the Balkan story, we also have another theme: George Soros, the eccentric billionaire who has made his life’s work a crusade against what he calls “unrestrained capitalism” and yet is widely seen as the least restrained of all capitalists. Aside from writing books attacking the alleged “dangers” of laissez-faire capitalism, Soros was also one of the most effective and relentless advocates of US military intervention in the Balkans. The Soros-funded Balkan Action Council brought together the top warmongers in both parties, and among the intellectuals, mobilizing public opinion behind the idea of US intervention on behalf of the allegedly victimized Kosovars: Soros personally spoke out in support of the Kosovo war, utilizing his considerable influence with such Clinton era figures as Strobe Talbott on behalf of the War Party. That war, in turn, upset the ethnic balance of Macedonia, when a large number of Kosovar refugees poured into the country and, with the help of Soros’s “philanthropic” activism, they have stayed there, settling in and staking their claim to the extended borders of Greater Albania. Now, having turned against the Macedonians, whose federal system he saw as a possible model for his “open society,” Soros is having his revenge: a reenactment of what happened in Kosovo, only this time with Skopje playing the role once reserved for Belgrade. It is an ironic turn of events, and, given Soros’s record in the Balkans, an entirely predictable one.