The Authoritarian Temptation

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Here is the English version of a comment I wrote for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung called “The Authorititarian Temptation in the Balkans”. It draws on an article (co-authored with Irena Ristić) and a book chapter published in 2012.

The Serbian elections 16th March end a year of political speculation. These are already the seventh early parliamentary elections since 1990, they are unnecessary as there was no government crisis ahead of them being called. The coalition government consisting of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS ) of Aleksandar Vučić and the Socialist Party (SPS ) of Ivica Dačić was stable and had a solid majority . However, SNS wanted elections to translate their popularity into a large parliamentary majority. In 2012 SPS could still bargain hard to obtain the post of prime minister. Today, this is hardly imaginable. Although the SNS is unlikely to be able to govern on its own after the election, it can determine the shape of the government.  The early elections are an example of the authoritarian temptation of governing parties in the Balkans, weaken the rule of law to secure their own dominance.

The “semi- democracies” of Southeast Europe

Regular studies of the Bertelsmann Foundation and by Freedom House show, that a particular type of democracy has taken hold in South Eastern Europe: elections are democratic, the political landscape is diverse, but populist and corrupt governments hinder the consolidation of democratic structures. Most post-communist countries in Central Europe developed into consolidated democracies. In the  South Eastern Europe, however, was intermediate form dominants, the democratic formalities be observed, but at the same time, populist parties control the state through patronage structures. This is particularly evident through the dominance of political parties over the media, the state and the weak rule of law.  The election campaign had not yet begun in Serbia, as the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vučić saved a child stuck with its family in a snowstorm on the highway from Belgrade to Budapest. Conveniently,  the state television on hand to film it. While this ‘performance’ was quickly mocked in social networks, the message got through : Vučić rescues children, while others go campaigning.

Not only in Serbia have governing parties used their dominance to engage in a continuous election campaign.  Even when elections are not upcoming [this was written before early elections were called in Macedonia], the ruling party of Macedonia, VMRO-DPMNE constantly advertise their successes on billboards and in advertisements. Due to this non-stop campaign by governments, it is difficult for the opposition to formulate alternatives. In early elections governing parties already have a decisive edge.  A second aspect of the authoritarian temptation is reflected through control of the media. Only a few critical media of the nineties have survived the past decade. The economic crisis and the state as the most important advertiser to have resulted in a media landscape in the region in which critical voices hardly find a place. This is particularly pronounced in Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia. In Macedonia all important critical media, such as the private channel A1 have been forced to close done and only few journalists dare to openly criticize the government. In Montenegro, there is often to attacks by “unknown” perpetrators against independent media. In Bosnia is the businessman and media tycoon Radoncic to became security minister [he was dismissed the day the article was published], despite persistent rumors of his contacts to the underworld. In the Republika Srpska the media is local President Dodik, criticism is only aimed at against the opposition, “Sarajevo” and foreign powers. In Serbia, only few media nowadays dare to openly criticize Vucic.
Media loyal to the government, however, weaken the opposition. Allegations of corruption, often without evidence, are part of the strategy here. The tabloids in Serbia regularly accuse members of the DS government that was in power until 2012 of corruption. Even if these allegations are certainly partly justified, they are used to discredit political opponents.  In addition to accusations of corruption, government media also regularly challenging the loyalty of the opposition and suggest that it is committing treason of the state or nation, particular in Macedonia or the Republika Srpska.
A final aspect is the dominance of political parties over the state. Careers in the public administration and in government-controlled companies are usually only possible with party membership. Thus,
parties acts as employment agencies and can thus secure the loyalty of its voters. This reduces the potential for protest as public criticism may result in loss of employment.

Political, not cultural causes
the danger of populism with authoritarian tendencies is not limited to the Western Balkans. EU member states such as Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria show that with EU accession the danger is not over. The temptation is great to attribute this development to “Balkan political culture,” but it has more to do with weak states and social and economic crisis that predates the global economic crisis. Often the EU overlooks the authoritarian temptation too readily, as long as the governments
cooperate. Thus, the willingness of the Serbian government to compromise in dialogue with Kosovo helped to distract from domestic political populism. However, if the rule of law cannot take hold, this will either lead to social protests, as recently in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or to illiberal governments, which seek to preserve their power with populist means, as in Macedonia and, probably soon, Serbia.

Skopje 2014 in 2014: Mission accomplished?

Panorama of the 'new' center

Panorama of the new center

When the short video of Skopje 2014 was released around four years ago, I was among the many viewers who saw this plan as either a joke or a grandiose plan that would not (or at least not fully) see the light of day. Now, the year is here and Skopje is transformed. Not all the buildings are completed, but Skopje has been transformed in the past years: more monuments and buildings have been either built or have progressed to a stage that they are likely to be completed this year than the original video suggested. Over the past days, I had the pleasure to participate in a number of discussions on the project in Skopje, giving me the opportunity to reflect on the project. A recent survey suggests that Macedonians are divided over the project. However, it is probably too early to judge whether the project will be successful in remolding nationalist narratives. If the reconstruction–in combination with new historical narratives promoted in the media, text books and museums–is able to survive in the years to come, it is likely to take root.

New facade of the government in the making

New facade of the government in the making

One of the striking features of the project is the speed. I have witnessed few building projects pursued with such determination and speed. This is a government in a hurry: no doubt elections play a role. The quicker the project is completed, the more it presents itself as a fait accompli any subsequent government will have a hard time to reverse. In addition, there is something else at work. When building modern architecture, the process of building is an acceptable part of the process. In fact, often the building process itself is a source of reflecting on modernity, materials, techniques, etc. However, this process is about suggesting that the new cityscape is actually not new. There is something nearly shameful about the building process. The Porta Makedonija—Skopje’s arc de triomphe was a large concrete cube during its construction, in need to be covered up as quickly as possible (I was told that for the anniversary of Macedonian independence a few years back, the top portion was not yet covered so the arc was provisionally covered with a printed version of the stone ornaments). Once complete, the effect is to seem like the new is the old, and the older socialist modern architecture is the new, intruding the in the space.

Many columns, little in between

Many columns, little in between

Facade with a bit of building attached

Facade with a bit of building attached

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The project is also mostly about the façade. The buildings on the northern bank of the Vardar are grotesquely narrow. The large façade has just as much building behind it to not seem like only a façade. However, reports suggest that the internal spaces are dysfunctional, with balconies not accessible, office spaces inadequate for use. However, criticizing the buildings for this is to misunderstand their purpose. If their goal is to cover up what is behind them, the internal function is just a tool to justify the façade, not a purpose itself. In this sense, the façades fulfill their intended goal. They hide the Čaršija the old center of Skopje, making it invisible from the new center, they block the view of the minarets and they hide the modern architecture of the opera or are given as a make-over to the government complex and other socialist era buildings.

After, 2014

After, 2014

Before, 1999

Before, 1999

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One aspect critics of the project have to contend with is the blank canvas the government found when it started the project. The center of Skopje had been neglected in the post-Socialist period; this neglect provides probably the most potent justification for the project: ‘at least something is finally being done.’ This sheds light on broader social dilemma: what is the urban and also social project in post-Socialism that can structure public spaces other than nation-building. The main other project is that of an uncontrolled market economy and the privatization of the public space into malls and shopping centers, devoid of any local meaning and shaped the reproduction of an outside commercial aesthetic. Thus, the inability to provide for an alternative urban project to shape the public space (such as the one Skopje had after the earthquake), made the current urban plan possible.

A final feature that was striking during the discussions was the fear factor many noted. Besides a few protests that mobilized not many citizens and the installation of a golden toilet bowl as a protest monument in the early phases of Skopje 2014, there has been little open resistance to the project, despite its massive intrusion in the public space. Organizations critical of the project have been subject to low-level harassment by the government and its crack-down on independent media and aggressive constant campaigning have led to a serious deterioration of democracy. The center is monitored with cameras and many activists fear engaging in a public and visible critique of the project, i.e. through graffiti, such as in Bulgaria, or ‘guerrilla’ action to erect alternative monuments (with the exception of the appearance of a Tito statue, which was localized away from the official monuments and in front of a school named after Tito and home to several early commemorations of Tito). The project is thus representing coercive imposition of the government’s narrative of the past and on the urban landscape that because of its visibility requires a level of control that further undermines democracy. As such, Skopje 2014 as a project is not just an imposed, kitschy and often grotesque reconfiguration of public space, it also has large detrimental consequences for society and democracy.

Tito among the citizens of Skopje

(I have blogged earlier about Skopje 2014, including photos I took over the years, on parallels with other building projects, and the early phases of the project in 2010 here and here)

The Museum with the longest name

Among the many novelties of Skopje in recent years there is also a new museum, probably the museum with longest name in the world, called the “Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Statehood and Independence “Museum of IMRO and Museum of the Victims of the Communist Regime”” (official website). The visit was probably the strangest and also most unpleasant museum visit I had.

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The museum with the long name is a strange reincarnation of a 19th museum. The access and the narrative is tightly controlled. You have to join a group and are not allowed to visit the museum by yourself. The tour lasts close to two hours in which the guide (in my case a friendly history student) tells a well rehearsed national story from the beginning of the revolutionary struggle to the various forms of repression by neighboring nations and finally Communist cruelty. Taking pictures is not allowed and strictly enforced. The narrative texts are very short and there is no ability to understand the museum and its story without the guide/narrator. Although the museum is poor in original artifacts (the vast majority are guns), it chooses to not use interactive tools or allow visitors to approach the items, but instead it imposes distance and supposed administration. The control suggests that the government wants to impose a narrative, but also tightly control it and avoid individuals engaging with the narrative or challenging it, in particular when it becomes controversial (here is a short summary of the exhibits). For example, the guide pointed out that an early 20th century program of the Macedonian Revolutionary Museum should not be wrongly understood to be in Bulgarian, but rather it was written in archaic Macedonian. Later, he asked whether the older Macedonian visitors had learned about a case of Serbian forces torturing a Macedonian patriot during the Balkan wars in school. When the visitors negated, it became evidence of past manipulation of history during the Yugoslav period.

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Officially, the museum describes itself as “Collection of wax 109 wax figures of prominent Macedonian revolutionaries, ideologists, voivodas, intellectuals, communist activists, politicians, and foreigners, collection of artistic paintings – 25 portraits of prominent Macedonian activists and 85 mass scenes of significant events and battles from the contemporary Macedonian history; 1500 items including weapons, documents, photographs, ambient items, newspapers, brochures, albums, etc. These collection is in constant process of enrichment through purchase of museum materials and through donations from citizens.”

The museum in parts reminds of Madam Tussaud’s chamber of horrors, we see wax figures of Macedonian heroes bleeding or hanging from the gallows as a result of torture by Bulgarian, Serbian, Communist and Greek, Ottoman fascists/nationalists/imperialists. The 85 mass scenes are large historical paintings, mostly painted by artists from Russia and Ukraine. The style evokes the romantic nationalist paintings (in German these types of paintings are appropriately known as Schinken, ‘ham’) of the late 19th, early 20th century, such as Antoni Piotrowski and his portrait of Batak–a key event in the Bulgarian national history (on the historical mythmaking see here) . The scenes and portraits are hyper-realistic, but painted over 100 years after the events, they are at best a ‘creative’ reflections on the topic by the artist and in most cases simply made up (this is not to argue that the events they portray did not happen, but their depiction is made up). As such, most of the museum is fiction, not fact.

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The narrative arch is uncreative and follows the classic structure of nationalist story-telling elsewhere. It suggests the Macedonian nation is several sentences old (so one of the few narrative texts suggests), in the 19th century the Macedonian national revolutionaries emerged, who struggled for autonomy and independence from the Ottomans, threatened and killed by the neighboring national movements. The most difficult period for the narrative is the positive view of the World War Two national liberation struggle and Communist recognition of the Macedonian nation, followed by the Communist terror and how Communist Yugoslavia incarcerated Macedonian leaders. It ends with Dragan Bogdanovski, a Macedonian exile and co-founder of the ruling party VMRO-DPMNE in 1990 (which sees itself as a direct successor to the Macedonian revolutionary movement), thus making sure that the merger between the  nation, the national movement and the governing party becomes complete. Bogdanovski’s New Jersey vanity license plate is also exhibited, it reads VMRO 1.

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Pictures from Skopje (2009-2013)

A colleague recently asked me about the photos I have been posting on facebook of Skopje over the years of the Skopje 2014 project. I thus decided to upload the best photos from a four year period (2009-2013).

Copyright for all photos with Florian Bieber. If you would like to reproduce the photos, please contact me.

Of Eurovisions and Riots in Macedonia

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What links Eurovision, EU mediation and riots on the streets of Skopje? Not much at first glance. It is still an odd coincidence that a scandal over this years contribution to the Eurovision song contest by Macedonia and major riots in Skopje occur at the same time these days. The song “Empire” by Esma Redzepova and Vlatko Lozanovski (aka Lonzano) is at first glance the class kitschy pop that works well at the Eurovision song contest (although definitely not the caliber to do particularly well there). The lyrics are banal, but what to expect from ESC song:

Vlatko:
Odam,cekoram po nebo,      I walk, I walk through the skies,
Letam jas niz vremeto,          I fly through the times,
I koga zaspivam,                      And when I fall asleep,
Pesni jas sonuvam                   I dream of music

Background vocals
Ejgidi more dejgidi,
Nasi pesni ubavi                       Our beautiful songs

Esma:
Zivotot e muzika,                     Life is music
Energija,                                       Energy
Nasata imperija                         Our Empire

Chorus:
Imperija,imperija,                    Empire, Empire,
Muzika caruva na zemjata,    Music rules on earth
Imperija,imperija,                    Empire, Empire
Najmokna sila na planetata   Most powerful force on the planet

Vlatko:
Koga spie cela vselena,            When the whole universe sleeps,
Peam vo nokite,                          I sing in the nights,
Gi dopiram svezdite                  I reach for the stars,
So krilja na notite                       With wings of musical notes.

[the video of the original song imperija has been deleted and is now been purged from cyberspace and replaced by the new song, F.B. 19.3.2013]

Of course from the lyrics it is clear that the empire they are singing about is music. However, the link between a video clip that looks like a promotion of the controversial Skopje 2014 building program and references to “Empire” with images of the statue of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian Arc de Triomph do evoke not only musical empires. So unsurprisingly some media in Greece took offense (‘ONCE AGAIN FYR MACEDONIA PROVOKES GREECE’ and a moronic comment by the Greece ESC participant Agathonas Iakovides: “The Greek history cannot be insulted by anyone I am Greek from head to toe”), as did Bulgaria and Esma and Lonzano cancelled their trip to Bulgaria. Luckily Germany did not protest over the video showing a monument that looks a lot like the Brandenburg gate & Siegessäule in miniature or France (and Romania) for the depiction of an obvious copy of the Arc de Triomphe or the Bucharest Arcul de Triumf.

Also domestically, the video came under extensive criticism for showing off Skopje 2014 project that is rejected by many as kitschy, wasteful and nationalist. The combined international and domestic protests thus made the MRT withdraw the clip as “it did not comply with the broadcasters requirements.” In its stead, some really funny spoofs popped up, the one being the clip below, a wonderfully cut duet of Darth Vader and Jabba the Hut

[unfortunately this spoof has been deleted for copyright infringement, F.B. 19.3.2013]

So what does this silly story have to do with the unrest that has been going on in Skopje in the days since Talat Xhaferi,  a former NLA commander, was named Minister of Defense or the mediation of the EU in Macedonia a few days ago over the opposition boycott of parliament and the threat to boycott elections?

The current government has maneuvered the country in a very difficult and volatile situation. The unrest first by Macedonian war veterans against Xhaferis nomination, followed by Albanian counter protests demonstrate the volatility of Macedonia and the risks of playing with nationalism in an environment were few of the underlying prejudice and segregation has been tackled. Instead, the ruling VRME-DPMNE has been combining its nation building strategy with accommodating the largest Albanian party–a double act that seems to be running out of steam. At the same time, the opposition boycott and EU intervention is reminiscent of the polarization that has plagued neighboring Albania for more than a decade and is both a sign of weakness of the opposition and the government. Finally, the Eurovision ‘scandal’ (the only real scandal or rather sad part of the story is that Esma Redzepova is one of the two singing the song) signals either naivete or willful confrontation the current Macedonian government seems to be good at provoking Greece and Bulgaria. These three dimensions–rising nationalist confrontation, polarization of the main parties that requires external mediation and continued confrontation with Greece–cannot be good news for Macedonia and filming a new video clip is the least of all troubles coming from all of this.

A friendly letter from the International University of Struga

In June I wrote a post on private universities in the Balkans with strange names or websites. For some reason, the blog was picked up a few days ago and become quiet popular. In addition to a short article in Vijesti which noted that UDG (or as a reader calls is JuDiDži) is on number 3 of the top 10, I also received the letter below from the International University of Struga.

Dear Mr. Florian Bieber,

Well, Mr. Bieber let us teach You that when a researcher comes out with such accusations should make serious research because any other allegation without facts is cause for a criminal offense.

Even relying on data from our website, we responsibly claim that you have not handled it well because what you say African-American students, is information that we have a good academic collaboration with the University of California precisely with American Heritage University.

In the future when you undertake to write articles of this type be well informed and do not play with the dignity of institutions and employees. From where do you know the academic staff and their quality? You stay in your office, click on the web pages of universities and make decisions, well, Sir in order to come up with such facts at least you are supposed to stand up from the chair in which you are pinned and to visit these universities and explore, if one day you want to become a professor in the true sense of the word.

According to the above and according to the values that should possess a professor turns out that you are in the top list of most miserable professors who play and imagine they are scientists.

Obviously you need attention!

We inform you that for Your accusation the legal department of our university is preparing to submit criminal charge because it is a slander.

Sincerely,

International University of Struga

Now I should clarify a few things: the list of “bizzare” universities was based on the self-presentation of the universities and their name. Some might be trying hard to become respectable institutions, some are degree mills (I just heard that there is a university in the region housed in a former mill).

Now specifically for the International University of Struga. When I wrote that “According to the website, the uni boasts many African-American and Asian-American students, palm trees,” this was not based on field work, but on irony. If one visits the website of the university the pictures look like they were bought from the ACME university photo shop and do not seem to show much of IUST. Thus, if one were to rely on the photos, it would look like the student population of IUST looks more like that of a college in California than on lake Ohird.I am also curious to hear how claiming that a university is having African and Asian-American students and palm trees is slanderous (even if it is not true).

The Risks and Benefits of Ethnic Citizenship

Millions of people in Southeastern Europe are citizens of more than one state. Many acquired this status when they were gastarbajteri [guestworkers] in Germany, Austria and elsewhere in Western Europe; others received a second passport as they fled the wars that accompanied the disintegration of Yugoslavia. For some people, dual citizenship seems due to a quirk of fate: for example, their father may have been born in a different Yugoslav republic than they and held that republican citizenship when Yugoslavia was still a single country and when republican citizenship had no practical significance. Due to some long abandoned vestiges of patriarchal rules, today they have the right to a second citizenship of a republic they never lived in. Among the many ‘multi-citizens’ of Southeastern Europe there are probably a million who have received passports from countries they have never lived in. Hundreds of thousands of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina hold Croatian citizenship as a result of their ethnic Croat identity. Over 50,000 Macedonians also became citizens of Bulgaria after declaring themselves to be ethnically Bulgarian. Recently, Serbs from Bosnia (and elsewhere) have been able to become Serbian citizens by declaring their loyalty to Serbia—most prominently, President of the Serb Republic, one of the two Bosnian entities, and Milorad Dodik, who publicly submitted his request for citizenship to the Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić in 2007. Nearly a million Moldovan citizens have applied for Romanian passports and over 100,000 have been granted EU citizenship, on the grounds that they are descendents of former Romanian citizens who lost their Romanian citizenship when Bessarabia was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1944.

Read the rest of the comment at: http://www.citsee.eu/op-ed/risks-and-benefits-ethnic-citizenship

 

Fantasies of New Cities: Andric’s Marina, an older Skopje and other etno-dreams

Ever since the mayor of Trebinje Božidar Vučurević announced during the siege of Dubrovnik that “we will build an older and nicer Dubrovnik” (Sagradit ćemo još stariji i ljepši Dubrovnik), the destruction of cities and towns has been matched with fantasies of new cities and towns which would reflect the respective nationalist fantasies. The engineers of destruction were so successful in their destruction of cities that even 20 years since the beginning of the wars, these fantasies remained largely unrealized (if one excludes the successful elimination of reminders of the other). Right after the war, there were plans about transforming the Eastern suburbs of Sarajevo and the mountain resort/war-time “capital” of the Bosnian Serb leadership Pale into a Serbian Sarajevo metropolis. After 15 years, little of what has been planed was ever built.  Most post-conflict states were busy with reconstruction and short in cash to engage in grandiose building plans. In recent years, there has been movement. There is no Astana on the horizon, but rather a number of smaller projects which are telling about today’s nationalist fantasies.

Andrićgrad. This project by director Nemanja Emir Kusturica to build a city/tribute to Ivo Andric/stage for his film of Andric’s novel The Bridge on the Drina. Ground breaking ceremony was held on 28 June (Vidovdan) with heavy machinery, Carmina Burana and the President of the Serb Republic and Government.  A large-scale project, co-founded by the RS government and Kusturica has an estimated cost of about 12 million euros (although the costs seems little considering the ambition of the project), includes 50 stone houses as well as a church, hotels, theatre, and shops. The project has been controversial for ignoring the context of the recent war–one of the worst war criminals Milan Lukic lived close by. Furthermore the project seems problematic due to its proximity to the UNESCO world heritage protected bridge, the hero of Andric’ novel. The plans suggest that the new ‘town’ is more a Disneyland for Andric (The New Yorker even picked up the story and suggested the establishment of a string of similar towns in the US, including Rothlandia in Newark, New Jersey), focusing on tourism (including a marina?!). The goal of this plan is not to re-create Ottoman Visegrad, as Andric describes it in his novel, but a parallel history, a Balkan renaissance city which never could happen due to the “Turkish occupation”.

Küstendorf-Drvengrad. This little fake Serbian village was a by-product of Kusturica’s film Life if a Miracle. It  looks like a modest dry-run for Andricgrad. Like Andricgrad, it is not a town or city, but rather the attempt to recreate an idealized village. This vision is rejecting diversity, but rather projects a homogenous idealized Serbian rural village, centred around a church and the anti-globalization film festival.

Etnoselo Stanišići. This little “ethnic village” (ethno selo sounds a lot less conspicuous than an ethnic village). The benefactor of this village, Borisa Stanišić apparantly brought together Serb farm houses from throughout Bosnia to build this idealized village, including a Greek restaurant and a hotel Pirg in a retro-‘Balkan’ style.

Slobomir. This is the only project which is clear modernist in outlook, it plans to be more than just a tourist destination–including the Pavlović Tower, the tallest tower in the Balkans (although the predicted 37 floors seem to be beaten by a number of candidates in the region, the Avaz tower in Sarajevo has 36 floors). However, the plan seems to be older than others (dating back to the late 1990s), but besides the university, bank and television station, not much has been built.

Skopje 2014 differs from the other projects. It does not create a new city, but is transforming an existing city. It does share a number of similarities: It is a project to re-write history to cover up the present. It includes the constructions of buildings which were destroyed by the earthquake in 1963, the recreation of a pseudo-authentic Macedonia architecture, interspersed with a monumental landscape which reminds of a host of national heroes at every corner, but also the old-fashioned style of the sculptures suggests that the monuments are ‘old’ and ‘authentic’ reminders of the heroes, not new creations.

The fantasies of new cities are fantasies of ethnically homogenous towns, often small, lying about their own age, suggesting that they are authentic and old. They are constructing an alternative history, idealizing a past which never existed, from a Balkan renaissance to an neo-classical  Macedonia style. It is no surprise that a project of creating a modern city in the rural countryside a la Slobomir has not fared as well as the creation of ‘new-old’ towns  that are justified as tourist destinations and shed the burden of complexity and diversity which real cities in the region can offer.

Solving the Macedonian name dispute

A group of Balkan scholars recently met in Ohrid and in its aftermath in a creative brain storming exercise have finally come up with a solution to the name dispute over Macedonia (esp. hat tip to Jelena V.). The solution is strikingly simple: The final name of the country is McDonia. It is sufficiently different from the contested name and yet sounds strikingly similar. In addition, it can also resolve McDonia’s financial woes by signing a 20 year lease of the country to a well-known American fast food chain. This shall secure sufficient income for the country and will revive the beef and potato industry. Finally, the insertion of the golden arches will aestetically compliment the existing flag. There are many opportunities for resolving further problems. For example, the largest nation in the country could be simply known as BigMac, the population constituting a quarter Quarter Pounders and many new names to diffuse ethnic tensions.

Finally, it would also provide for an opportunity to liven up the plans for Skopje 2014.

Aleksandarplatz, Skopje

Berlin has an Alexanderplatz, but it’s nothing in comparison to Skopje’s own Aleksandarplac, aka Macedonia square. In the latest development of the Skopje 2014 plan, the pedestal for Alexander the Great is already being built and the pedestal is some two stories tall so it’s easy to see how Alex will tower over Skopje. The Pizzaria Fiorentina on the square already has an Alexandar Pizza on the menu (it’s the pizza with everything, suv. vrat and all other goodies for emperors and heroes).

Lion Type One (old school)

Lion Type Two (Transformer)

Close by on the bridge between the government and the center, four new pussy cats guard over the Vardar, know as Lav tip 1 and Lav tip 2.  The old-school lion is overlooking the newer part of town while the transformer lion (right) is facing stara carsija.

Of course part of the building plan is also the ‘reconstruction’ of buildings long lost. It is thus without any irony that one of the new buildings is called ‘stari teatar.’

New old theater Old new post
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