Macedonians On Name Change: From ‘Disastrous’ To ‘No Impact’
June 14, 2018
First Published on 13 Jun 2018
Yugoslavia, at least by name, could now be history.
A June 12 agreement on a new name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would mean the end of any official usage of the name Yugoslavia.
Founded in 1918, Yugoslavia eventually consisted of the republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia. The country held together until the early 1990s, when its breakup often turned violent.
Macedonia was able to avoid bloodshed, and peacefully broke away from Belgrade, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.
But that immediately raised the ire of Greece, which would only accept the new nation as the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)” at the UN, even as much of the world came to recognize it as Macedonia.
Athens objected to its neighbor’s new name, saying it implied a territorial claim over Greece’s province of the same name across the border.
Serbia and Montenegro were the only two republics left, forming the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. But that name was disputed by the former republics and in 2003, the name Yugoslavia was dropped in favor of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.
Three years later, that ended with Montenegro’s own independence proclamation, leaving FYROM as the only place one could find the word Yugoslavia on the map.
That is, until June 12, when Macedonia and Greece said they had reached a deal to resolve their 27-year dispute.
Florian Bieber, a professor of Southeast European studies at the University of Graz in Austria, says the final nail in Yugoslavia’s titular coffin isn’t a sad event, “just an echo and not a happy one of the old state.”
“Just like the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which was replaced by the state union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2003, did not stand for Yugoslavia, neither did FYROM offer a fond memory. It basically said that the country is something from the past, like a leftover, not a country as it is today,” he tells RFE/RL.
“It is better to consider Yugoslavia as a formative historical experience of all the countries that succeed from it and many of citizens with good and bad sides than these references,” he adds.
Athens and Skopje agreed on the name Republic of North Macedonia, or Severna Makedonija in Macedonian, to end the dispute that has hampered Macedonia’s ambitions to join both the European Union and NATO.
As could be expected, the name Yugoslavia has been slowly dying out in official capacities as time puts the former Balkan nation-state in its rearview mirror.
Most recently, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) wrapped up its mandate in December.
Still, many from the region say the name will live on in people’s minds, even if not on world maps.
“Yugoslavia will only be history when the last person who has a Yugoslavian memory dies,” writer Faruk Sehic said on Twitter.
Alan Crosby is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL.