Have you been wandering why has Macedonia changed its name to North Macedonia in February 2019? The story has a long beard and it started soon after this tiny Balkan nation gain its independence from Yugoslavia back in 1991. Since then the country has come a long way in defending its identity while negotiation its place on the world stage at the same time. Here is the short story.
If we want to truly understand why has Macedonia changed its name, we need to travel much further back in time – all the way to antiquity and the era of Alexander the Great. In the 4 century BC this ancient hero inherited the throne of a tiny kingdom in northern Greece called Macedonia. As you probably know, Alexander went on to create one of the largest empires the history has ever seen, stretching from the Balkan peninsula all the way to the Indus River. Although Alexander died soon after his great conquests, he is credited with spreading the Greek culture through almost the whole known world.
Later this area – even though part of the Roman and Byzantine empires – was still known by its ancient name. After the arrival of the Slavic nations to the Balkans in the 7th century and conquest of the area by the Bulgarian and later Ottoman empire; the name Macedonia was slowly forgotten. It wasn’t until the 19th century when he newly independent country of Greece started using it more widely in its propaganda to gain territories which at that time were still under the Ottoman rule. The Turks finally lost most of its European territories during the first Balkan war in 1912/13, including Macedonia. While its southern part became part of Greece, its northern part was occupied by Serbia and as such incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes after WWI.
So far so good. The Greeks first raised their eyebrows after WWII when the kingdom of southern Slavs became known as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and its southernmost republic was named Socialist Republic of Macedonia. The Greek government immediately express concerns that this move presages a territorial claim on the Greek region of Macedonia and continued to do so until the the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Things got really messy in 1991 when Macedonia declared its independence from Yugoslavia. The Greek authorities were furious because they felt the new country is unjustifiably using not just its name, but also its flag. If you look at the Macedonian flag you can see it features a stylized image of a sun very similar to the famous Vergina Sun also used by Greek region Macedonia. This is the same symbol also used by the kings of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia and can be found of the tomb of Alexander the Great’s father, Philip II. No wonder that the Greeks felt like the Macedonian are stealing their culture.
Strong Greek opposition delayed the newly independent republic’s accession to the United Nations and its recognition by the European Community. If you remember watching international sporting or other events such is the Olympic games or even the Eurovision Sing Contest, this Balkan country was always presented by the name of F.Y.R. Macedonia, which stands for “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. This was regarded as a temporary solution as Greece wouldn’t allow the country to use its short name on the international stage.
Luckily things got sorted in 2018 when prime ministers of both countries signed the so-called Prespa agreement, named after the lake shared by both nations. The treaty came into effect the following year, giving North Macedonia its current name and allowing it to continue its path towards international institutions and alliances such as NATO and European Union, which was previously blocked by Greece.
So, now you know why has Macedonia changed its name. We hope this post was helpful and informative. To learn more about Balkan countries and maybe later even visit some of them, we invite you to continue reading our blog and check some of the pre-prepared itineraries. As a local travel agency, we are specialized in tailor-made trips across this divers region. Don’t hesitate on sending us an inquiry about the destinations you are interested in.
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