Mikis Theodorakis reveals in his reply to the famous Skopian tenor Blagoj Nacoski, how his relationship with the Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito was disturbed. The tenor protested with an open letter to the media about the clear position of the Greek composer on the name dispute with FYROM.
Through a flashback, Mikis Theodorakis explains in a simple but comprehensive manner how the so-called “Macedonia” was created, how they came to be called “Macedonians”, how they came to consider Greek Macedonia “enslaved” and their dream of a “Great Macedonia” that will include even Olympus and Halkidiki.
What is particularly interesting is Theodorakis’ revelation that his relationship with Tito was disturbed when the latter asked him to compose music for a Yugoslav film in which Macedonia was “occupied” by Greece.
The Mikis Theodorakis’ letter, which is really worth reading many times, is as follows:
I guess you are very young and therefore you do not know certain facts that took place many years ago and that explain my current attitude to the issue of relations between our two peoples.
Before the Second World War, when the then young and weak Greek Communist Party (KKE) wanted to become a member of the Communist International (Moscow), the Bulgarian and Yugoslav Communist Party made it a prerequisite for its accession to declare that it agreed to the establishment an independent communist state under the name “Macedonia” that would include the whole of Northern Greece.
As was natural, this raised a stormy reaction in Greece, which forced KKE to revise this position. However, this left a big stain, which I think was erased when KKE in 1941 lead the Resistance against the Germans.
At the end of the war, Communist Yugoslavia was created, and then Tito gave the name “Macedonia” to the southern part of the country in the region of Vardar, in the hope that it would be possible in the future to extend the borders of his country in the Aegean Sea.
What was unfortunate Greece was that after its liberation from the Germans, we were led into the Civil War, during which the survival of Government of Athens depended on the help of the Western Powers. They were completely dependent and, as it turned out, the English did not want to upset Tito in the hope that he would do what he did at the end. That is, to cut ties with Moscow. That is why the Greek governments did not protest at that time, although the whole world knew that by this name the Yugoslav leader was creating a Trojan Horse in order to repeat what he had attempted as a person of the Communist International. That is, to create the “Aegean Macedonia”.
It was then that the myth according to which the inhabitants of this area were the descendants of Alexander the Great, with everything that is included (I do not know if they are still included) in the Constitution of your country. That is, the “Great Idea” of irredentism, which many generations have been nurtured with, including you I presume, which have been linked to this “Idea”. And I truly understand them that they regard themselves as Macedonians since they grew up with this myth.
However, you must also recognize that we are right, when, on the basis of this name, you are sending maps of Macedonia to the Aegean that reaches to Mount Olympus, you argue that we Greeks are the conquerors of our own co-capital, Thessaloniki, etc. etc. thus challenging the very integrity of our country.
So how do you ask of me to be a…”cosmopolitan” when with all these myths some people are trying to cripple my homeland?
But, dear Mr. Nacoski, it was Fate that made me find out firsthand the guileful of the Yugoslav Leadership in order to make me an accomplice in this policy of “Great Macedonia”. It was when I composed the music for the battle of Sioucheka and I often visited the then Yugoslavia, a guest of the Tito that I so admired and appreciated.
Tito himself asked me to write the music for a “Macedonian” film. When I read the script, in which the Greeks were conveyed as conquerors of Thessaloniki and oppressors of its inhabitants, not only did I refuse to write the music, but I also had the courage to come to a strong confrontation with Tito. Because I found that he was the one who considered that, since “his Macedonia” was a historical necessity according to his own “communist” perception, he was entitled to create a communist state at the expense of a capitalist country such as Greece.
Our relations were disturbed, especially when I pointed out to him that he, who had laid his homeland above Moscow and Stalin, should not fail to appreciate my own patriotism which I as well have the courage to place above all.
In my whole life I have shown, I think, how much I am truly committed to the peaceful coexistence of the peoples.
And I have no hesitation in saying that I have nothing against your people that I feel very close to, like when I was directing Zorba at Skopje.
But when I see this assumption of the peaceful coexistence of our peoples being pretentious in the hands of some dark forces exploiting the peoples and the ultimate result is that the territorial integrity of my homeland is at present in jeopardy, it is impossible for me not to react with all my strength.
The Greek composer replied to an open letter from the 39-year-old Skopian tenor, one of the world’s leading artists of FYROM, Blagoj Nacoski, who protested about what Mikis Theodorakis publicly said about the name issue. The Nakoski’s letter, published in Skopje’s media, is as follows:
I am really astonished by reading your comments in today’s edition of Proto Thema, where you relate the problem of your country with the name of my homeland. My surprise is for many reasons:
Firstly, from a person like you, a well-known artist worldwide, I expected at least a little more cosmopolitanism. We artists have the pleasure of working in a noble profession that allows us to travel around the world and to speak a language that can throw down walls and demolish conflicts. This allows us all to be united in a large family where cultural differences between our nations represent the wealth of human expression.
Secondly, in 1997, your most popular work, “Zorba”, was presented at the ‘Macedonian’ National Theater in the presence of former President Kiro Gligorov (…) and was broadcast live on Greek television. Personally, as a student at Skopje High School, I attended all the rehearsals and my mother participated in the show. (…) Then you visited Zorba’s tomb in the cemetery at Butel. This very story of Zorba could be one of the positive examples of contacts between the cultures of the Balkan peoples, but it could also give us the impetus to find constructive solutions.