Protesters in Skopje, Macedonia, September 2018
Marko Djurica/REUTERS

In southeastern Europe, the name change game continues. A provisional agreement between Greece and Macedonia, under which Macedonia would change its official name to the Republic of North Macedonia, has tempers running high in both countries. In Skopje, parliamentary gridlock is threatening to sink the deal. In Athens, the controversy’s first causality is the Greek foreign minister, who resigned this week following a public cabinet spat over the name issue. In a recent article, “The Name’s Macedonia. North Macedonia,” I argued that despite these difficulties, the agreement between the two countries offered an unprecedented chance to put to rest a long-standing dispute over history, national identity, and language.

In “The Problem With North Macedonia,” Ioannis Kotoulas pushes back against my case for the agreement. Questioning my description of the dispute’s background, he writes that “our reading of history […] should not be based on factual inaccuracies.” This is sound advice, but Kotoulas fails to heed it himself.

THE POLITICS OF LANGUAGE

Kotoulas begins by pointing out that Macedonia is “known internationally by its UN designation, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM.” This is indeed Macedonia’s designation in many international contexts, but Kotoulas ignores the fact that 137 states recognize the

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  • VICTOR A. FRIEDMAN is Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, University of Chicago, and Research Professor at La Trobe University. He has written extensively on the linguistics and history of Macedonian.
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