One of the most interesting political develropments in the late 20th century, especially the 1990s, was the downfall of the Soviet Union and other affiliated Communist regimes in the eastern bloc. The break-up of the Soviet Union led to rise of wholly new nation states as did the fragmentaiton of former Yugoslavia.
One of the most interesting developments in the rise of these nation states was the rise of historical revisionism. Iran and its ancient Persian legacy is not the only ancient historical nation which has witnessed its historical icons and geographical names hijacked in the quest to manufacture new nation-states. Attempts at revisionism have been directed against other ancient historical nations such as Greece. The latter case can be clealry seen with respect Greece. Today the core of Greek identity is being challenged by revisionists who question the Greek origins (and legacy) of Alexander the Great.
Changing the name of Skopje to the Republic of Macedonia.
As noted previously, the Yugoslav Federation disintegrated in the 1990s. One of the former federated regions, which had a pre-dominantly Bulgarian-speaking Slavic majority, appropriated the ancient Hellenic geographical designation “Macedonia”. This region was previously known as “Skopje” – the actual Macedonia remains mostly in modern Greece. Not surprisingly, a number of Greeks have suggested that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia be referred to by its former name: Skopje.
The “Macedonia Resurrected” project not only threatens Greek territorial integrity, but the very basis of her culture and identity. Like anti-Iran Azerbaijan projects, there are now fraudulent “academic” projects endeavouring to prove that Macedonia was never historically Greek but “Macedonian”. Even the very Hellenic origins of Alexander and his father Phillip are being called into question.
The appropriation of geographical nomenclature has been immediately followed with claims to the Macedonian legacy of ancient Greece and all of the associated icons of that legacy. The Hellenic legacy of Phillip of Macedon, Alexander the Great and Macedonia is being rejected. This is a process called Retroactive De-Hellenization.
Again a quick study of archival documents contradicts the de-Hellenization of Macedonia. The term “Phillip” is derived from the Greek stem words “Phil” (to love) and “Hippos” (horses) – literally translated as “one who is affectionate to/loves horses”. “Alexander” is broadly translated as “the protector of men”. A handful of references below serve to illustrate the Hellenic legacy of Macedonia.
Herodotus commenting on the invasion of Greece by Darius the Great of Persia – Book VII 417-418
“…Now surely, as they all talk the same language, they ought to be able to find a better way of settling their differences…In any case, the Greeks, with their absurd notions of warfare, never even thought of opposing me when I led my army to Macedonia“.
Herodotus commenting on the Greek tribes of Dorians, Ionians, Aeolians, who were originally known as Macedones according to Herodotus – Book I 56
“…but the Dorians on the contrary have been constantly on the move; their home in Deucalion’s reign was Phthiotis and in the reign of Dorus son of Hellen the country known as Histiaeotis in the neighbourhood of Ossa and Olympus; driven from there by the Cadmeians they settled in Pindus and were known as Macedons; thence they migrated to Dryopis, and finally to the Peloponnese, where they got their present name of Dorians.“
A variety of other historial references may be produced. One prominet example is Quintus Curtius Rufus author of The History of Alexander. He was Roman senator and historian who most likely wrote at the time of Emperor Vespasian (r. 69-71 AD) or Claudius (r. 41-54 AD). He cited the Greek identity of the Macedonians in Quintus C. Rufus 3,3. His writings can be consulted on-line. Another is Diodorus (1st century BC), an ancient Greek historian who referred to the Greek identity of the Macedonians in Diodorus 17.67.1. Polybius (203-120 BC) was an ancient greek historian who wrote the text The Histories and refered to the Greek identity of the Macedonians in his Book IX 37.
There is virtually an endless stream of additional archival references, some which include:
Thucydides (c. 460 B.C. – c. 395 B.C.) an ancient Greek historian, as portrayed in a fresco in the Church of Monastery of Filanthropinon (16th century). For references to the Greek identity of the Macedonians consult Thucydides 4.124.
Demosthenes (384-322 BC). For references to the Greek identity of the Macedonians consult Speeches 11-20, the Letter of Philip.
Arrian (ca. 86 – after 146) also known as Lucius Flavius Arrianus ‘Xenophon’ or Arrian of Nikomedia. For references to the Greek identity of the Macedonians consult Arrian 14,4,
Plutarch (c. 46-120 AD) also known as Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus was a Roman historian of Greek ancestry. For references to the Greek identity of the Macedonians consult Plutarch 47,6 & 69,4.
Pausanias was a Greek travellor and geographer of the second century AD. For references to the Greek identity of the Macedonians consult Pausanias 7.6.
Strabo (63 BC – 24 AD), a Greek geographer, philosopher, and historian as depcited in the 16th century. For references to the Greek identity of the Macedonians consult Strabo 7.8.
The above-mentioned historical citaitons often matter little to nationalist ideologues intent on nation-building. It is as if by the stroke of a pen, the Hellenic legacy of Macedonia is to be erased by those harboring a political agenda.
An interesting article pertaining to this topic was produced by the Christian Science Monitor (March 20, 2008) entitled “2,300 years later Alexander-Mania grips Macedonia“. This illustrates how historial revisionism can rapildy transform into reality by those who wish to percieve it as such.
One of the quotes of the article states:
In an intense media campaign, locals are told that ethnic Macedonians are the proud direct descendants of Alexander, and thus a people responsible for spawning the white race of planet Earth, from the Caucasus “to the seas off Japan,” according to a public service spot on national TV.
Note how no acknowledgement is made with respect to the fact that the south Slavs migrated to Skopje centuries after the foundation of ancient Greece.
The facts on the ground today are being confused with ancient history. Politics is now overpowering neutral scholarship for this very purpose, as highlighted by this quote:
the new program deeply troubles many scholars and intellectuals here – who are being sidelined – for its promulgation of myth as truth. The new taxpayer-funded Alexander ideology has no serious texts.
As noted previously, Skopje (renamed Republic of Macedonia) is a former province of Yugoslavia. The process of nation-building now utilizes the re-writing of history by politicians and politically-motivated (or inspired or funded) historians. This has resulted in the inculcation of a new version of history in which the residents of former Skopje are linked to a de-Hellenicized “Macedonia” which claims many facets of ancient Greek culture, and territory. But Greece is only one exampel of an ancient civilization whose very historical identity is being put to the test.
“Nizami Mania“: An example of nation-building from a former Soviet Republic
Iran is also witnessing a number of its cultural and historical icons being “re-assigned” new identities (as non-Iranians) in the wake of Soviet and post-Soviet nation-building projects. One such figure is the Iranian poet Nezami Ganjavi (1141-1209) who is being appropriated for nationalistic purposes by the Republic of Azarbaijan which gained its independence as recently as 1990.
Azarbaijan did not exist as a nation distinct from Iran – it has historically been a province in Iran’s northwest since antiquity. The Republic that bears the same name (Azarbaijan) did not exist until 1918, and this nomeclature was applied to territories variously known as Arran, Albania as well as khanates such as Nakhchevan, Shirvan, etc.
In the effort to invent new nationalities in the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) ordered his “historians” to write new “history” textbooks that would help advance Soviet policies at home and abroad. Soviet ethno-engineering began to simplisically (and deliberately) classify historical figures from Albania/Arran (known as Republic of Azarbaijan since 1918) and the historical Azarbaijan in Iran as “Azerbaijanis“. The aim was to convey the message that these two regions were never distinct provinces of Iran, and that neither had any cultural, linguistic or historical associations with Iran. Note the parallels seen with Skopje being renamed “Macedonia” by former Yugoslavia to help the former make historical and territorial claims against historical Macedonia in Greece today.
The Soviets literally “erased” and expunged all archives before 1917 that distinguished Albania/Arran from Azerbaijan in Iran. But the falsifications did not end there. A key proponent of the Russo-Soviet assault on the historical identity of Iran was Joseph Stalin (1878-1953).
Joseph Stalin, one of the founders of the Soviet Union. Stalin began to cite many famous Iranian literary figures such as Nizami Ganjavi as “great national Azarbaijani literary figures”. No reference was made regarding their association and origins in Persia.
Staling even even so far as to say that Nezami Ganjavi:
“…must not be surrendered to Iranian literature, despite having written most of his poems in Persian.” (Kolarz, 1952).
In fact, Ganjavi wrote all of his poems in Persian and nearly all claims made by the Soviets and their successors in the region are false. Stalin’s statement was clearly aimed at rewriting history in the name of Soviet ethnic engineering. It was meant to convey the impression that (a) Nizami was Turkic in origin and (b) wrote his ‘other’ poems in Turkish. Post-Soviet Russian historians however have retracted the Communist-era propaganda by acknowledging that Nezami was:
“Nizamy (Sheikh Nizamoddin Abu-Mohemmed Ilyas ibn-Yusof) is the best romantic Persian poet (1141-1203)…” (From the Brockhaus and Efrona Encyclopedia, 1890-1900 published during the Czarist era).
For a thorough source of this subject consult:
Shnirelman, Viktor A. Memory Wars: Myths, Identity and Politics in Transcaucasia. Moscow: Academkniga, 2003 ISBN 5-9462-8118-6. Translation from Russian:
“By that time, already mentioned Iranian and Armenian factors contributed to the rapid azerbaijanization of historical heroes and historical political entities on the territory of Azerbaijan. In particular, in 1938, Nizami in connection with his 800-year anniversary was declared a genius(marvelous) Azerbaijani poet (History, 1939. Pp 88-91). In fact, he was a Persian poet, which is not surprising, because the urban population in those years was Persian (Dyakonov, 1995. page. 731). At one time it was recognized by all Encyclopedic Dictionaries of published in Russia, and only the Big Soviet Encyclopedia for the first time in 1939, announced Nizami as a “Great Azerbaijani poet” (Sr. Brockhaus and Efron, 1897. page. 58; Garnet, 1917. page. 195 ; BSE, 1939. p. 94)”.
The statue of Nizami Ganjavi (designed by Fuad Abdurahmanov) in Baku, Republic of Azarbaijan. Thanks in part to Soviet-era falsiification of texts and post-Soviet ethno-nationalist rhetoric there is a sincere belief in the region that this poet was not related to Iran, depsite the fact that his poetry praises ancient iran and his works have been written in Persian.
Professor Nazrin Mehdiyova, herself a historian from the modern Republic of Azerbaijan has noted that: