Make Macedonia Great Again! The New Face of Skopje And The Macedonians’ Identity Dilemma

  • Abstract:

    For long time, the existence and the nature of the Macedonian nation have been contested by Macedonia’s neighbours – particularly Greece and Bulgaria. With the establishment of Tito’s Yugoslavia, Macedonia became a federal unit and its inhabitants, the Macedonians, a constituent nation. However, the Yugoslav decades seems to have been only a buffer-time period, and identity disputes re-emerged in 1991 with Macedonia’s declaration of independence. A huge debate with Greece started over the use of the term Macedonia but, more profoundly, over the symbolical meaning and national importance of all that the term Macedonia symbolizes. From 2010, the Macedonian government has undertaken a project called “Skopje 2014”, aimed to renew the capital city Skopje not only by adopting neo-baroque style and building statues but also renaming the major streets, the stadium, the airport and the schools after the names of alleged ancestors that lived in “a glorious past”. Hence, the project has gradually shaped, and changed, not only the identity of Skopje but the one of the Macedonian nation more generally, producing new national narratives. The importance in analysing what seemed to be a simple urban renovation lays, therefore, in a devious identity politics whose narrative is emphasizing a direct descent of the Macedonian people from Alexander the Great. However, opinions concerning reason and purpose of this new identity building are many, ranging from a serious identity crisis, to more economical and political reasons. Nevertheless, considering the turbulent past of the Macedonian nation-building, the paper seeks to analyse more in detail this “making Macedonia great again” by means of architecture, paying particular attention to the new state-promoted ‘ethnogenesis’ and the national narratives attached to it.