Macedonian history email lands MP in strife

first_img Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram In her ongoing efforts to change Australia’s position of the renaming of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, federal Labor’s Alannah MacTiernan entered the realm of highly-contested historical interpretation this week, saying it was not clear if “the original Macedonians can be described as ‘Greek’”.The comments, written in an email to an unnamed Greek Australian who expressed his concern over the MP’s position on the naming issue online, were subsequently published by the Skopje-based ‘Macedonian English Language News Agency’ as Ms MacTiernan’s response to “voiced arguments by Greek politicians from her Labor Party”.Speaking to Neos Kosmos, however, the MP refuted any suggestion that the remarks had been made in relation to any Australian politician. “There’s no doubt I wrote the comments, but to say they were made in response to something a Greek Australian politician said is complete nonsense,” said Ms MacTiernan. “It’s a fabrication.”The MP added that after press coverage of her visiting Woolongong last month, where she expressed her support for recognition of the name ‘Republic of Macedonia’, she had been inundated with critical comments – by email and through social media, many of which were abusive – from Australians of Greek heritage.In her retaliatory email to one critic, she was spurred to respond: “In classical accounts, [the original Macedonians] conquered the Greeks and unified them into the Macedonian kingdom, which was then Hellenised,” wrote the member for Perth, before adding that “the Battle of Chaeronea, where the Macedonians defeated the Greeks in 338BC, was said to mark the end of Greek history and the beginning of the Macedonian era”.Ms MacTiernan went on to equate the notion of Hellenic Macedonian identity with that of Irish Celts and the effects of Viking invasion, saying that “cultural victory of the vanquished is not unusual – the Vikings invaded Ireland but quickly embraced Celtic culture”. The MP added that the gene pools of Greek Macedonians “and those from the republic are likely to be very similar”, and that she did not see herself as “choosing between Australian Greeks and Australian Macedonians”.Ms MacTiernan’s latest intervention in the debate over Macedonian identity – and Australia’s relationship to it – is unlikely to bring the two sides together anytime soon.Victorian coordinator of the Australian Hellenic Council, Mr Peter Jasonides, described her comments as “inept and opportunistic”, and suggested Ms MacTiernan should “distance herself from playing the partisan political game, and look at history in a non-political way, as it has been written by internationally recognised historians, and not by propagandist spin-doctors”. Asked to comment on the accuracy of Ms MacTiernan’s historical analysis, Emeritus Professor John Melville-Jones of the University of Western Australia, an independent expert on Balkan history, told Neos Kosmos a number of the statements made by the MP were either one-sided interpretations or exaggerations. “I wouldn’t be able to give her a pass in Ancient History,” he said. “The suggestion that the ‘gene pools’ of Greek Macedonians and those from the republic are likely to be very similar is an exaggeration. This may be true of some places, for instance Florina, but it certainly wouldn’t be true of the whole of Greek Macedonia.”last_img read more