From the CIAO Atlas Map of Europe 

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CIAO DATE: 11/00

Civil-Military Relations In Macedonia *

Biljana Vankovska

July 2000

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute


1. Historical background

The entire ambiguity of the notion of the Balkans can best be illustrated by the case of Macedonia. As there have been many Balkans throughout history, there have also been many Macedonia(s). The ambiguity is more related to the geographical and ethno-cultural boundaries of Macedonia than with its political entities. One of the most frequent definitions of the Macedonia region locates it between the Sar and Osogovo Mountains in the north, the Rila Mountain and Mesta River in the east, the Bistrica River, the Aegean Sea and the Pindus Mountains in the south, and the Albanian highlands and the Lakes of Ohrid and Prespa in the west. The existence of geographical Macedonia has never been a contested issue as long as one does not try to define the outlines too precisely. They were movable and changeable in different periods but also in the perceptions of various groups. Yugoslavia’s dissolution has contributed to a further complication of the issue in that during the Cold War period the Balkan quarrels over territories and ethnicities had been frozen and pushed out of the agenda. In the collective perception of today’s ethnic Macedonians the imaginary ethnic boundaries of the territory populated (or which used to be populated) by their ethnic kin occupies three Macedonias: the territory of the present Republic of Macedonia (Vardar Macedonia), the south-western part of Bulgaria (Pirin Macedonia) and the Greek province of Macedonia centred on Salonika (Aegean Macedonia).

The appearance of Macedonia as a Yugoslav successor state and a new subject in the international community provoked different reactions. It was seen as a miracle because of its peaceful withdrawal from the Federation; but on the other hand, not everyone in the international community welcomed the birth of the young state. Macedonia’s hyper-reality consisted of two imaginary dimensions: the first dimension was in its existence as a state and as a people; and the second dimension was that of its status as a peaceful nation. Given the tremendous security challenges this state faces, the second dimension is questionable even when viewed as a negative peace (i.e. absence of war). However, the identity problem is an enormous obstacle in political and security terms. The existence of the distinct Macedonian ethnicity is under contention in linguistic, religious, cultural and historical terms.

The identity issue is not a characteristic only of this Balkan state, but the Macedonian case is unique because there is an eagerness both to negate and affirm the distinct Macedonian national identity. Since the political, ethnic and cultural boundaries of Macedonia are still under contention, this case study focuses only on the predominant perceptions of the population of the current state and the others are taken into account only if and when they significantly affect the state of affairs related to political and military issues. The process of invention of traditions in the post-Yugoslav Macedonia inevitably contains two intertwined dimensions—a political and a military one.

The issue of the ethnic origins of the Macedonians was not topical in former Yugoslavia. Along with the right to self-determination for the first time in their history, Macedonians were granted the same treatment as the other Yugoslav peoples. They were seen as descendants of the Slav tribes, which moved in the sixth and seventh centuries on to the territory that had been known as Macedonia. Hence the delicate Macedonian Question was kept frozen for decades. Yugoslavia’s dissolution re-posed it again on the agenda of the Balkan confrontations and competition over the territory and population of Macedonia. Advocates of nationalist policies in the neighbouring countries as well as in Macedonia strongly criticised the communist version of history. External critics have been arguing that Macedonians are a non-existent (or rather, artificial) nation invented by Tito for (geo)political reasons. On the other hand, Macedonian nationalists have been complaining precisely because Tito’s policy and Yugoslav historiography allegedly deprived the modern Macedonians of their right to cherish their famous and direct linkage from Alexander III of Macedon (known as Alexander the Great).

Macedonians still suffer from old and still existing historical frustrations and complexes. They perceive their history as a series of injustices, denials and assimilation policies by neighbouring states and nations. Establishing its own state and protecting its national identity have always been Macedonian ideals. In the most patriotic versions of history the statehood tradition is not continuous but is certainly glorious. For decades Macedonians believed that they originated from pure Slavic stock 3 . The thesis that the Slavs’ invasion caused a significant alteration to the cultural and ethnic makeup of the region was not strongly objected to as long as the Slav component was dominant. The Golden Age of their statehood is related to King Samuil (AD 976-1014). Although a relatively short historical episode this kingdom gave the Macedonians a sense of identity—glory and trauma at the same time.

The glorious part of the story refers to Samuil’s state being the largest early medieval Slavic state in the Balkans 4 . The original state was established by the Brsjak prince Nikola, after the rebellion he had led together with his four sons (Mojsej, Aron, David and Samuil) in 976. The special importance of Samuil’s Empire comes from the fact that he not only conquered the largest territory but also received international recognition by the Pope Grgur V. The fact that Samoil was crowned a Bulgarian king is a matter of bitter disagreement between Macedonian and other historians. In the Macedonian interpretation Samuil had liberated Macedonia from the Bulgars by the end of the tenth century 5 . His throne had been located at first in Prespa, and after a while he moved to Ohrid—both towns in today’s Macedonia. He only inherited the Bulgarian crown after the Byzantine King had already held the Macedonian one.

The vast historical literature considers Samuil a Bulgarian ruler (who also called himself Bulgarian King), but for the Macedonians it is of the utmost importance to claim the inheritance of the statehood. It had been their only statehood experience by the end of the Second World War. The legend of Samuil contains all the necessary elements of myth—historical setting, military glory and trauma. The decisive defeat of Samuil’s military (as the story goes) was in a colossal manner: in the battle near to the Belasica Mountain 14,000 of his soldiers were blinded on the Byzantine Emperor’s orders but with each hundredth soldier being left with one eye to lead the others. Ostensibly, after the shock caused by the scene of his blinded soldiers, Samuil died by heart attack. In the collective memory of the Macedonians the scene of defeat excelled the scenes of Samuil’s state at its peak. However, it does not have the same depth of trauma as does the Serb legend of the Kosovo Battle. The explanation might be that the Golden Age of the medieval state (as the Macedonians see it) happened very early, in a short period of time—and never re-appeared again. The material proofs and documents from that period are very fragile (as well as controversial and, moreover, do not always back the thesis of the origins of Macedonian statehood and nationhood). The tragic episode is used more as a basis for complaints about the historical ‘bad luck’ and unfavourable geopolitical location of Macedonia. The other missing element in the Macedonian myth of Samuil is the lack of a clearly defined enemy that could have been blamed for the future misfortunes. And finally, the legend of Samuil was renewed only at the beginning of the national awakening process in the nineteenth century. Hence the lack of collective trauma in the following centuries among the population.

The Empire of Samuil (AD 980-1014) is perceived as a short and tragic episode but also an extremely significant prototypal Macedonian state history and a proof of its continuous nationhood. The dominant stand in the historical literature is that the Slavic population of Macedonia belonged to the same linguistic, historical and cultural zone as the Bulgarians. For instance, Ivo Banac identifies three South Slavic matrix-nationalities—the Croats, Serbs, and Bulgars 6 . Being aware that the others perceive their identity as a bit tenuous, given its short history 7 , Macedonians have started seeking for some kind of verification of their ethnic existence throughout history. The situation is bizarre for the feeling of insecurity regarding its national identity has been enlarged by Macedonians after the dissolution of former Yugoslavia. Paradoxically gaining state independence affected the need for ethnic confirmation both on the domestic and international scene. It looks as though the question ‘to whom do Macedonia and Macedonians belong?’ has risen once again.

Having rejected the old Communist heritage, the Macedonians took a step back in the search for their ethnic roots. The versions of the glorious ancestry directly from ancient and even biblical times only appeared after 1991. Some ambitious people saw the issue as a tool for personal promotion in political life. For example, the professor of international law Dr Vasil Tupurkovski discreetly announced his future political ‘comeback’ though his books on the history of Macedonia 8 . The future candidate for presidency promoted a new ‘identity’ for the citizens of his state in a kind of ‘reconciliation’ of all Macedonias and all Macedonians:

I uphold the approach that focuses on history i.e. in the past as a real basis for what is happening and will be happening to us in the future. In that sense, I believe that we have to interpret all our existences—the ancient, current, future—through a harmony that can be achieved only through respect for all and everybody ... In this context, at the beginning of my writing on the history of Macedonia, which means of all Macedonians throughout time, I find it unacceptable to fight or argue with anyone in order to prove our distinctiveness, or to deny others’ positions.

The ‘reconciliation’ approach could not help much, for Macedonians—as everyone else does—define their identity in regard to what they are not (ex negatio). The most extreme version argues that the Macedonians are ‘biblical people’ and today’s Macedonians are a cross between the ancient Macedonians and the Slavs:

Macedonia is a biblical land, and Macedonians are biblical people. Thus, the attempts by neighbouring countries to erase Macedonia from the geographical maps and to assimilate its people are futile. Macedonia and Macedonians cannot be abolished and it is high time that the others, who live with their own illusions, finally accept that. 10

In a more extreme nationalist version special emphasis is given to the distinction with those nations which, objectively, are most similar: the Serbs and Bulgarians. In respect to the Albanians (in Macedonia) they see another difficulty: the problem is not an identity but ethno-territorial one. Some people see the claim over ancient Macedonia as the only solution that can make the differences crystal-clear. Belonging to an ancient and glorious race is the only ab antiquo argument useful in the game of the descendants of the Illyrians (Albanians) and Macedonians. In regard to the Greeks the differentiation is made by negation of any ethnic tie between ancient Macedonians and Greeks. And finally, the problem with the Slavs is not a problem at all since Macedonians had been there long before their arrival on the Balkans. For moderate interpretations of history, the legacy of Samuil is seen as sufficient and any connection to ancient Macedonia is perceived as harmful to the Slav identity of the Macedonians.

Alexander’s legacy could have given the best military traditions for today’s Macedonians, but acceptance of that thesis would collide with the perception of the Macedonians as disseminators of the literature and culture among all Slavic nations. The cultural identity has been given priority because of its more substantial and visible effects on the cultures of the other Slav (and neighbouring) nations. It gives not only a sense of identity but also of superiority in regard to all the other nations that have been more successful in political and military terms. The legend of Cyril and Methodius from the ninth century pictures the two brothers as Macedonian educators of Slavic origin from Salonica. Macedonians do not believe in the myth that they are ‘gatekeepers’ of Christianity but they do believe that they ‘enlightened’ the other Slavs by bringing them literacy and Christianity. The two best disciples of the famous missionaries Clement and Naum were founders of the first Macedonian archbishopric in Ohrid, which became a centre of Slavic culture in the Balkans 11 . The downfall of the Samuil’s Empire meant an end of the cultural and religious life around the Ohrid Archbishopric.

The Byzantines and Bulgars ruled Macedonia alternately from the ninth to the fourteenth century, when Stefan Dusan of Serbia conquered it and made Skopje his capital. A local noble, Volkasin (or Vukasin in Serbian), called himself king of Macedonia after the death of Dusan, but the Turks annihilated his weak military forces in 1371 and assumed control of the region known as Macedonia. However, in Macedonian historiography none of these state entities is considered significant from a national point of view. The centuries of Ottoman rule are perceived as a dark period of subjugation and cultural deprivation that left the Macedonian Slavs (once disseminators of culture and education) backward and illiterate. Today’s Macedonians perceive these dark centuries through a prism of what may be called ‘collective amnesia’. Having being treated as raya (Christians) Macedonians believe that they could not develop their ethnospecificity but succeeded in preserving the sense of being different from the Turks and their love of freedom.

In the real history there are no clear proofs of the insubordination and freedom spirit of the population. Moreover, a well-known proverb from that time reads: ‘The head kept down cannot be cut off by the sword.’ In other words, obedience before the more powerful ones is the only way to survive. The legend of the hero called Krale Marko (King Marko) whose seat was in Prilep (in today’s Macedonia) is preserved in the epic poetry written in Macedonian. However, Marko was an imaginary hero, a legend shared also by the other Balkan peoples (Serbs, Bulgarians). Deterioration of the living conditions of the Christians in Macedonia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries caused sporadic resistance by ill-organised fighters called komiti.

The ‘real’ history of the Macedonians begins in the nineteenth century with the outburst of nationalism and the intensification of national liberation movements among all Balkan peoples. The nineteenth century is actually the time when the Macedonians’ ethno-genesis began and since than it has gone through many phases and trials. Despite constant and strenuous efforts to prove the opposite, the historical documents show that even the name ‘Macedonian’ was used for the first time to determine a separate ethnic identity as late as the nineteenth century. Macedonians believe that national consciousness came late to them because of a lack of cohesiveness and international support for their national movement. Furthermore, from the very beginning of their existence the newly established Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian states manifested their competing claims over Macedonia, which became ‘an apple of discord’ in the Balkans.

Macedonians feel betrayed by their Balkan neighbours. Many Macedonians fought in other peoples’ national liberation wars but once each of them gained statehood they completely forgot the idea of solidarity and of Macedonia’s contribution in the wars against the ‘common enemy’. Thus Macedonians were always left in the lurch, while the new Balkan governing élites were transformed into concurrent forces ready to wage wars over Macedonia. The picture of the Four Wolves surrounding the country is still present in the collective belief of the Macedonians. However, from time to time one of the ‘wolves’ could become the best supporter and protector from the others. According to many witnesses from the time of the Ottoman Empire decline, Macedonians were described as a conglomerate of several nations without ethnic Macedonians. It is said that the Slavs from the Macedonia region were uncertain about their allegiances and did not initially deny any of their affiliations 12 . A foreign witness gives the following picture of the Macedonian population during the First World War:

I hope that the above short description of the incessant and bloodthirsty irregular war that has so long devastated Macedonia will have explained certain features of the population. Many visitors have expressed surprise at the poverty-stricken, unprogressive, unintelligent appearance of the people, and the poor use made of land. But is this not to be expected, when for years the peasants have lived in a state of uncertainty and haunting terror? One feature of the landscape bears eloquent witness to the age-long spirit of fear that has lain like a cloud over Macedonia ... Ask one of these Macedonians what he is? He will, of course, not tell a soldier of the Allies that he is a Bulgar. Nor will he be likely to say that he is Serbian or Greek. He does not know who may overhear him, or what might come of such a declaration, should the Bulgars come back. He will probably smile and say that he is Makedonski, which is a wise answer and that has not yet been improved upon by the professors and journalists who have studied the question. The Macedonian child must have gone through a bewildering education in Serbian Macedonia. Starting perhaps with being educated as a Greek in a Patriarchist school, he then discovered, after the ‘conversion’ of his father and schoolmaster, that he was a Bulgar. Then came the Serbian army and annexed the country, whereupon our lad found that he was a Serb 13 .

Unable to develop stronger national movement and military resistance, many Macedonians had two alternatives: either to organise small group of rebels to fight a guerrilla war or to join stronger resistance forces in the neighbouring countries. Macedonian historiography, but also the documents from other sources, gives proofs that these individuals were good and brave soldiers 14 . The participation of the Macedonian fighters in these wars, however, is given a different interpretation by the Balkan historians. The Macedonian version is that these people were led by the sincere wish to help the neighbouring countries in need and to extend the war activities on Macedonian territory. However, the Serbian and Bulgarian historiography have been trying to use that fact as a proof that the Bulgars/Serbs from Macedonia gave their contribution to the liberation wars of the entire Bulgarian/Serbian ethnic kin. One of the most glorious examples from the Balkan liberation wars allegedly was Marko Bocvarot, a hero from the Greek liberation war (in Greek historiography known as Marko Bocaris). Lord Byron, who had fought with him, admired him so much that he asked to be buried next to his grave.

Since the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century Macedonians have identified three crucial factors to blame for the failure of their own liberation movement: the Great Powers 15 , aggressive neighbouring policies and the chasm within the Macedonian movement. There is a strong belief that the historical misfortunes of the Macedonian people were very often a result of the so-called ‘Macedonian syndrome’—a kind of self-destructive force that like a curse has been hanging over the fate of the people from the unhappy land 16 . The belief is backed by many examples of betrayal in the Macedonian national movement when some of the best activists were killed by their own compatriots (such as Goce Delcev, Djorce Petrov, Kosta Racin). The Macedonian national liberation organisation from the nineteenth-century Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO, or in Macedonian VMRO) wasted much of its time on internal quarrels and was split into two factions—Makedonists (advocating autonomous Macedonia) and Vrhovists (pushing towards the reunion of Macedonia with its ‘motherland Bulgaria’).

The 1878 peace treaty of San Stefano represents a landmark in modern Macedonian history. It is believed that since then Macedonia’s fate has been decided at different diplomatic meetings, ranging from San Stefano to Berlin (in the same year), and from Bucharest (in 1913) to Paris (in 1919), and never according to the will of the people concerned. San Stefano Treaty was supposed to create a ‘Greater Bulgaria’ by inclusion of all geographic and ethnic Macedonia. The abolition of the treaty is still one of the most traumatic memories for the Bulgarians, although in the perception of today’s Macedonians there is finally a sense of satisfaction, despite the injustice of the Berlin Congress which left Macedonia under the Ottoman control until the Balkan Wars.

From the Macedonian perspective, the provisions of the Berlin peace agreement had special significance in terms of the promised legal and political status of Macedonia. According to Article 23 Macedonia, like the other Ottoman provinces, was supposed to be given special legal status. As the exemplar for establishing political autonomy in Macedonia the 1868 Constitution of the island Crete should have been used. Thus, inter alia for the first time in its political history Macedonia was granted autonomous status and was regarded as both a distinct ethnic community and territorial unit. Formally, Macedonia was constituted as an autonomous region within the Ottoman Empire. In short, Macedonia was freed from its international anonymity and entered modern world politics 17 . However, Ottoman’s refusal to implement Article 23 provoked revolutionary actions and rebellions. During the most important Kresna Uprising in October 1878, Macedonian revolutionists adopted a document known as Rules—Constitution of the Macedonian Revolutionary Committee 18 , which embodied the national programme of the movement and the first vision of a sovereign Macedonian state. The Constitution defined the aims of the rebels in the following way: ‘Liberation of Macedonia, of the country of the famous Slav scholars and teachers, St Cyril and Methodius, a country which for centuries suffered under Turkish slavery’ 19 .

The Ilinden Uprising of 1903 remains the brightest and most powerful memory of the national struggle of the Macedonian people. It is seen as the most important step towards de facto state building. Actually there are many points that suggest a different story.

First, according to many historical documents the uprising was premature. It is believed that there were two possible reasons behind the decision to instigate it. One possibility is that the leaders were aware of the military inferiority of the rebels but they intended to turn the attention of the Great Powers and to make them intervene on behalf of the Macedonian cause. The other possibility is that pro-Bulgarian faction in IMRO intentionally urged the rebellion (whose tragic failure was not difficult to predict) in order to demoralise the Macedonian autonomists and to get them back to the idea of a Greater Bulgaria.

Secondly, in regard to the final goal the leadership uprising made a compromise. Macedonia was supposed to be a ‘self-governed’ territory within the Ottoman state, but under collective international control.

The Uprising was unique and some of its characteristics still give today’s Macedonians a sense of pride and identity. Despite its glorious symbolic meaning, however, it was a failure in military terms. In modern Macedonian history it is also believed that the Republic was an extraordinary political achievement, which for the time being made it the most democratic political community in the Balkans. The leadership proclaimed a Republic, established elected institutions and promoted some of the best socialist ideas of the time. The Krusevo Republic, as it was called (after the small town in the mountains in central Macedonia, where the rebels seized power) only lasted for ten days. The proclamation of the Republic was obviously a symbolic gesture, which also showed that the rebels were not quite sure whether they could extend their power over the whole of Macedonia.

The Republic (which was not called ‘Macedonian’) issued a Manifesto, whose content is seen as very important but which is given different interpretations. The Manifesto addressed all the nationalities living in the Krusevo district, and named them as ‘fellow countrymen and dear neighbours’. It was an invitation for a joint struggle ‘since Macedonia is ours’ where they had been living together (‘since the time of our great-grandfathers we have been living as brothers on this land and therefore we consider you as ours and we would like this to remain so’). The Manifesto also stated that ‘we did not take arms against you—it would be shameful for us; we haven’t risen against peaceful, hardworking and honest Turkish people’. For some external analysts this is a clear indication of the confusion of the notion of ‘Macedonia’ and ‘the Macedonians’ among the leadership that only reflected the reality of its time. For the domestic scholar the Manifesto promoted

beliefs untypical for a time and a region, which was known for religious exclusiveness and violation of human rights and freedoms. It strongly echoed the ideas of the French Revolution and anticipated the Huriet, while in the history of the Macedonian people it was remembered and included in the foundations of the ASNOM proclamation of the idea of ethnic co-existence 20 .

The rebellion leadership declared and in practice respected the norms of the international military law.

Thirdly, IMRO developed intensive ‘para-diplomatic’ relations with many states and public institutions, trying to obtain its active right to represent Macedonia in international relations 21 . Despite all these efforts, both the Great Powers and the governments of the Balkan states resolutely objected to demands for changing the status quo in the Balkans. Left alone without any international political support, the Macedonian rebels were exposed to the most brutal repression of the Turkish authorities. The actions for crushing the revolt were directed both at the armed and civilian population. Some international observers characterised those measures as a kind of genocide. This barbarian reaction was tolerated by the attitude of the entire European diplomatic corps, which recognised the Turks’ sovereign right to suppress the internal rebellion by unrestricted violent means.

The Ilinden Uprising has been remembered not only as the most heroic moment in modern Macedonian history, but also as the first in a series of national traumas in the twentieth century. The aftermath of the rebellion brought enormous sufferings to the population and decimated the national movement. The years that followed were burdened with disillusionment and trauma, lack of self-confidence and shifting coalitions. Macedonia, formally under Turkish control, became the battlefield of a silent war among the neighbouring élites that undertook a whole range of political and military actions in the country. Various guerrillas from Serbia and Bulgaria were fighting each other and terrorised the population, while leaving the Turkish forces aside. The fierce nationalist propaganda introduced the first but invisible division of the population into Serbomane, Bulgaromane and Graekomane. Ivo Banac describes the situation as bellum omnium in omnes. It was an overture to the three war conflicts that would have Macedonia as one of their main objectives and would be bellum omnium contra omnes.

The Balkan wars left deep scars on the Macedonian collective memory. The dominant perception of these events is radically different from the ones held by the other Balkan nations. From Macedonian point of view there was nothing glorious even in the First Balkan War. The wars did not bring liberation but only turned the country into a battlefield of the overt conflicts among the neighbouring nationalist élites. Since then Macedonia has been named an ‘apple of discord’ in the Balkans. While the Balkan wars were perceived as an apparent victory for the indigenous Christian populations in eastern Europe, gaining independence in the wake of retreating Turkish domination, for Macedonians they represented the prologue to a new national tragedy:

Three wars over Macedonia broke out one by one. Three wars for the ‘liberation of the brother slave’. Three brotherly people, whose souls had been poisoned with national chauvinism, wrenched against each other in a bloody exhausting battle ... However, the consequences of this madness were the most horrible for Macedonia and the Macedonian people. Having undertaken on its shoulders the horrors of three wars, instead of getting freedom, the Macedonian people were pushed into a new, even worse, national slavery. The Macedonian people were asking all over again only one question: ‘Why were there wars? Why was there blood and devastation? For liberation of the brother out of slavery? Well then... Did anyone ask the Macedonian slave whether he wanted to be ‘liberated’ in that way? 22

In the official version of the Macedonian history there is a certain degree of amnesia regarding various facts which are seen as harmful for the Macedonian national cause. Namely, within the armies of the Balkan states there were included some volunteer units made up of Macedonians who supported one or other side in the war. The number of men forcibly mobilised by various armies was even bigger and never precisely estimated. However, the collective memory is mostly focused on the enormous civilian sufferings, material destruction and fratricidal war crimes 23 . The Treaty of Bucharest, 1913, which concluded the Second Balkan War, was the most painful outcome for the Macedonians. Having lived in a territory ruled by one power they found themselves divided among neighbouring states. Greece retained about 50 per cent of the territory (Aegean Macedonia), Serbia (later the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) occupied about 40 per cent (Vardar Macedonia), and Bulgaria ended up with about 10 per cent (Pirin Macedonia).

From the Macedonian perspective the First World War had nothing to do with the global affairs neither was it a kind of heroic national martyrdom as it was for the Serbs. Again there was rivalry over Macedonia between the Bulgarians who wanted to revise the unjust Bucharest Congress decision and to regain ‘their historical territories’, while the Serbs were dying for what they considered Southern Serbia. The Paris Peace Conference that followed the First World War was the next occasion for IMRO to appeal to the international community to revoke the injustice. The Conference only confirmed the provisions of the Bucharest Treaty. The delegate of IMRO was not recognised as a legitimate representative of the Macedonian people, despite regular authorisation. By this rejection, the Peace Conference advocated the thesis that an international legal personality could be given only to states, and not to national liberation movements and organisations. This attitude was favourable for the governments of the three Balkan states, which had annexed parts of Macedonia and had already started the implementation of an assimilation policy. The words of one of the leading Macedonian intellectuals and revolutionaries, Krste Misirkov from 1924, still ring with their prophetic message:

Only a just solution to the Macedonian question by the League of Nations can avoid the future Balkan and world conflicts, which will inevitably break out if Macedonia is left in its present situation 24 .


2. Yugoslav states and the Macedonians

The deep misunderstanding among the three constituting peoples (Serbs, Croats and Slovenes), crucial for the conflicting state-building agenda of First Yugoslavia, had no particular meaning for the Macedonians. Officially, there were no Macedonians at all. Within the Kingdom of SHS Macedonia entered as an integral part of the Serbian Kingdom. The province of Southern Serbia, as Vardar Macedonia was called, had no recognised ethnic, cultural or other specifics. Unlike the Slovenes who enjoyed cultural and linguistic autonomy, Macedonians were not recognised, and furthermore, a fierce process of ethnic assimilation was imposed on them. The Macedonian language, considered as a Serbian dialect, was banned for public use. Family names were re-baptised into the Serbian form (by adding the suffix ‘vic’). The official educational policy was intended to nurture ‘good Serbs’ of the Macedonian children.

From the Macedonian perspective, the appearance of the new state did not bring any major changes to its colonial status. On the surface everything was the same as in the Serbian Kingdom—the state administration and decision-making were under the control of Belgrade. Like the other political institutions, the Yugoslav army was perceived as an instrument of Serbian domination. It is likely that some individuals of Macedonian origin made careers in the military but there are no reliable figures since they were all categorised as Serbs. The major change that followed the First World War was a more intensive military presence on the Macedonian territory. The deployment of a force of 50,000 soldiers gave an impression that the region was under a kind of military occupation. The Belgrade regime considered the situation in the southern province as unstable and the population as unreliable. The fact that some Macedonians took Bulgaria’s side during the war could neither be forgiven nor forgotten. The Yugoslav military undertook actions of punishment and even execution of those Macedonians inclined towards Bulgaria. Forced labour for the army was imposed on a part of the male population.

The Yugoslav regime did not make any attempt to integrate its ‘Macedonian Serbs’: on the contrary a process of internal colonisation with Serbian settlers took place. Truly, Macedonia was not a part of the core conflict in the First Yugoslavia, but certainly was a part of its complex conflict formation. The province was seen as troublesome for the Serbian rule, especially during the first years of the aftermath of the First World War. The security situation was dramatic due to the continuous military actions of armed groups organised in Bulgaria and sent to Macedonia to destabilise the situation. Many members of these groups were of Macedonian origin, but there was genuine confusion among them regarding the real goals of their actions. The deep division between those with pro-Bulgarian orientation and those who believed in fighting both against Serbian and Bulgarian factions further complicated the situation. The VMRO armed actions were far too insufficient to harm the Yugoslav regime, but heavily affected the status of the local population. They were a good excuse for the regime to strengthen state control. The VMRO activists considered themselves freedom fighters, while the regime treated them as terrorists. Somewhere in between the population suffered from both sides and was left with no rebellious spirit (in contrast to the VMRO’s hopes). Reports from the 1920s and ’30s pictured the sad social and economic situation of the population: famine, malnutrition, a high mortality rate and a low level of literacy. The local population was between the ‘hammer and the anvil’, terrorised equally by the Yugoslav state and the irregulars supported by Bulgaria 25 . In short, during the First Yugoslavia the experience that Macedonians could acquire in terms of civil-military relations was non-existent. On the other hand, Macedonia’s experience of tragic conflict experience was increased.

After Yugoslavia’s capitulation Macedonia was divided and put under different occupational regimes. With Hitler’s permission, the Bulgarian troops were deployed in the major part of Macedonia on 18 April 1941. The historiography of the Second Yugoslavia praised the Macedonian contribution to the partisan movement and the Liberation War of the Yugoslav peoples. However, as in all previous war situations, Macedonia was in a state of total confusion for quite a long time. The Bulgarian army ‘liberated’ Macedonia once again, and perceptions among the local population differed a lot. Many Macedonians, fed up with the Belgrade state terror, welcomed the Bulgarians as liberators:

Concentration of two-thirds of the Yugoslav ground military forces, along with the gendarmerie, border units and the para-legal organisations in the three districts: Skopje, Stip and Bitola, had been backing the colonisation politics, expulsions, expropriations, resettlements, cultural assimilation and psychical liquidations. The resistance against such Serbianisation had been formed primarily in the Bulgarian spirit. At the time of their invasion in 1915 and in 1941, the Bulgarian troops were greeted as liberators, but in the four-year rule Bulgarian nationalists lost all sympathies 26 .

It soon became clear that the Bulgarian regime behaved as any other occupational regime led by revanchism and practised harsh methods against its opponents 27 . Furthermore, there were many organised quisling groups who offered their services to the Bulgarian regime 28 . On the other hand, in western Macedonia Albanians greeted their ‘liberators’, the Italians, who granted them Greater Albania. The only contested issue between the Italians and Bulgarian forces was Ohrid, the city that King Boris the Unifier considered a ‘cradle of Bulgardom’.

According to some historical documents before the outbreak of the Second World War Hitler took into account the possibility of the creation of an ‘independent Macedonian state’ just as he had for Croatia. The Macedonian ‘Pavelic’ was supposed to be the VMRO leader Vanco Mihajlov, but he obviously failed to convince Hitler of his ability to put Macedonia under control. The Bulgarian and Greek fascist regimes were more reliable than an experiment with an inexperienced Macedonian nationalist. However, today this fact is used by some ‘historians’ to prove that the Macedonian nation was recognised even before Tito did. Mihajlov is one of the most controversial figures of the Macedonian national movement. While some see him as a traitor and fascist collaborator, others see a devoted Macedonian patriot who fought for the eternal ideal of his people—an independent or autonomous Macedonia. In pursuing these objectives he collaborated with the Germans and with the Albanian Ballists, but also had a good relationship with Ante Pavelic’s Croatia.

The war situation in Macedonia was extremely complex since all historical frustrations and aspirations awakened once again. In addition to the Italian, German and Bulgarian regular forces and paramilitaries supported by them, there was a range of other groups often with unclear political goals and ready to create unbelievable and shifting coalitions. In that chaotic situation the civilian population was again the main victim.

Today’s official historiography still keeps alive the myth of the glorious partisan resistance in Macedonia and of the heroic struggle of the Macedonians in the anti-fascist coalition. The Second World War is seen as the critical moment when finally Macedonians took fate in their own hands and changed their subjugated position. The Macedonians were, however, the last to organise a resistance and join the other Yugoslav peoples. The delay is explained as being due to an internal discord within the Regional Committee of the Yugoslav Communist party for Macedonia as well as the interference of the Bulgarian Worker’s Party (Communists) in the Macedonian movement. Actually, a faction of the Macedonian leadership led by Metodija Satorov-Sarlo decided to include the organisation within the Bulgarian party. Some more recent speculations deny Sarlo’s treason and shed new light on him as a patriotic Macedonian communist who only wanted to emancipate the movement from the Yugoslav party.

For the time being the Bulgarian party advocated the policy of non-resistance and waiting for better times to fight. Thus Sarlo’s politics has been remembered not only as pro-Bulgarian but also as cowardly. History textbooks teach that after the removal of the pro-Bulgarian elements the partisan movement flourished with new impetus 29 . While the Serbs and Croats still argue about who was the first to start the resistance, the Macedonians proudly celebrate 11 October 1941 as a state holiday—the day when the first gun was shot against the occupiers. In fact the communists attacked the undefended Bulgarian police stations in the towns of Kumanovo and Prilep. The two rather small and symbolic actions are still praised as a symbol of national disobedience.

Due to the unclear situation the partisan movement was rather underdeveloped in Macedonia. The first major partisan unit was established only in 18 August 1943, which date is today taken as the official day of the Macedonian Army. The same year the Macedonian Communist party was created. Both processes were guided by the Yugoslav Communist Party, which was seen by many as a new form of Serbian domination and distrust in the Macedonian cadres. In 1943 Tito sent his aide Svetozar Vukmanovic-Tempo to ‘put the Macedonian party organisation in order’ and to organise the armed resistance. Even at that time Macedonian communists were caught in the same historical dilemmas—which side to chose as an ally? Three factions dominated with their ideas: to join the Yugoslav orientation, to support pro-Bulgarian policy or to fight for the liberation of Macedonia over its ethnic and historical boundaries.

The success of the pro-Yugoslav orientation was due to its ability to use the rhetoric close to the Macedonian ideals of independent statehood and nationhood. For example, one of the most significant historical documents of the Macedonian Communist Party, the Manifesto of the Central Committee from June 1943, was originally drafted by a Serbian communist (Dobrivoje Radosavljevic). It expressed all the national ideas about centennial Macedonian national ideals and the unification of the whole of Macedonia, the Second Ilinden, the right of the Macedonians to decide on their fate etc. The document was strongly criticised by Yugoslav communist leadership but de facto was very helpful in bringing Macedonian cadres closer to the Yugoslav option. According to the eye-witness account of a British liaison officer in 1944:

The Macedonian partisan movement is primarily national, and only secondarily communist. In their propaganda the emphasis is always placed on their national independence. [...] Because since the twelfth century they have not had independence, the swift realisation of these goals through the partisan movement have united all political and class considerations in Macedonia [...]. Their ideas are absurdly grand. The leaders seriously think that Greece and Bulgaria will hand out territories to new Macedonia. They ask new borders to be from the Mesta River to Ohrid and from Salonica to Kumanovo. I would like to stress that this is not a speculation but serious claim of Apostolski, Abaz (Cvetko Uzunovski) etc. At the same time they have realised the necessity to become a member of a strong federation of the Yugoslav states. Being a centennial target of the various Balkan forces, they are deeply aware that in order to preserve their independence they will need to rely completely on a strong Yugoslavia 30 .

The second gathering of AVNOJ (Anti-Fascist Assembly of the People’s Liberation of Yugoslavia) held on 29 November 1943 in Jajce (Bosnia) has been considered not only as a birthday of Second Yugoslavia, but also as an event when for the first time in history the right to freedom of the Macedonian people was recognised for which they had been struggling for decades. However, since 1990 there have been different interpretations to the effect that AVNOJ’s decision has no legitimacy for the Macedonian people because its delegates were not present at the gathering in Jajce. Furthermore, the Macedonian communist leadership sacrificed the eternal ideals of independent Macedonia and accepted a new form of Serbian domination in Vardar Macedonia, while forgetting about the other two parts of integral Macedonia.

Truly, there are many historical documents that clearly indicate that during the Second World War there was a real confusion in Macedonia both in terms of the political and military strategy. Deep historical distrust and trauma caused by previous war experiences created a situation of disunity among the Macedonians as well as between the Macedonians and the members of the other ethnic groups in Vardar Macedonia. As in other parts of Yugoslavia, the war in Macedonia often had a trait of civil conflict. The fighters were attached to the Macedonian territory more than any other partisan movement all over Yugoslavia, and despite being under strong influence and supervision from the General Staff of the Yugoslav national liberation movement, they were mostly concerned with the situation in Vardar and the other two parts of Macedonia.

The victorious partisans in Macedonia were also internally divided as the end of the war approached. Throughout the whole war resistance the Ilinden and VMRO’s ideals were used in a more than a symbolic manner 31 , so the turning point came by the end of the war. Yugoslav political and military leadership thought that Macedonian military units should contribute to the last major military operations for the liberation of Yugoslavia (i.e. on the Srem Front), while a part of the Macedonian communists was more inclined toward final liberation of the other parts of Macedonia. The first major purges and excommunications happened in 1944/45 on the eve of the glorious victory. The communist regime never openly showed the real figures of the partisans purged or even liquidated in that period. Some Macedonians still remember the first years after the liberation as a period of terror and prosecution of the Macedonian patriots and VMRO fighters by the Macedonian communist wing loyal to the Yugoslav/Serbian leadership 32 . The parole of ‘Brotherhood and Unity’ in Macedonia had many dimensions since it had to reconcile various groups involved in the civil war, such as Macedonians vs. Macedonians, Macedonians vs. Albanians, Albanians vs. Albanians, Serbs vs. the others, etc. As in the other parts of post-war Yugoslavia, the issue of war crimes was blanketed in a heavy silence.

The myth of the anti-fascist resistance is still very important for the Macedonians, but from today’s perspective there are different perceptions. More radical critics claim that during the war Macedonians fought against the fascist occupiers, which gives them a significant place among the anti-fascist European nations; but, on the other hand, the creation of the Socialist republic of Macedonia as a federal unit of Yugoslavia was only a new form of Serbian occupation. Macedonian partisan veterans, however, manifested their dissatisfaction with some official interpretations of the resistance in Macedonia. They oppose the interpretations that the resistance achieved its real dimension and first successes only thanks to the role of Tito’s envoy, Svetozar Vukmanovic-Tempo.

The First Session of ASNOM (Anti-Fascist Assembly of the People’s Liberation of Macedonia) held on 2 August 1944 in the monastery of Prohor Pcinski is the most crucial historical event in recent Macedonian history. Despite all controversies, on that day the Macedonian state was born and institutionalised. Macedonians overwhelmingly greeted its constitution as a ‘Second and the last Ilinden’ 33 . It seems right to say that Tito did not invent Macedonian nationalism but blessed its institutionalisation. Some believe that the process of ‘national enlightenment’ was not an easy one. One of the best known martyrs of the Macedonian movement was Metodija Andonov-Cento, the first president of the Presidency of ASNOM. Allegedly, during the process of adoption of the first constitution of Yugoslavia in 1946 he insisted on inclusion of the clause on the right of self-determination including the right of secession for the Yugoslav constituent nations.

The Second World War was the last war waged on Macedonian territory and several decades of peaceful development followed. From the very beginning construction of tradition took place through the interpretation of history. Therefore, with the exceptions of a small revision in the 1990s, the main part of the Macedonian military history was written in the aftermath of the Second World War. No matter how inaccurate, since then the dominant perception of the military history is that there have been many wars on Macedonian territory but they were not the wars of the Macedonian people:

Macedonian military tradition and experience is freedom-like, non-militant and anti-militaristic, because they have been shaped throughout the struggle against foreign occupiers and riles over Macedonia. The main goal has always been the liberation of Macedonia and the creation of its own free and independent state. It is a product of a progressive struggle, because the Macedonian people has always connected its national liberation struggle with the progressive ideas, hopes and movements in the Balkans 34 .

This is the typical Macedonian self-perception that pictures the other Balkan nationalisms as unjust and aggressive and one’s own as righteous and noble as a result of the privileged position and blessings it was given in former Yugoslavia. Such a treatment gave unprecedented impetus to the state- and nation-building process that reached its zenith in terms of political, economic and cultural development. In the consciousness of Macedonians someone else was always guilty for their historical misfortunes and they eventually developed a sense of self-pity. The favourable atmosphere in the Second Yugoslavia helped Macedonians nurture national dignity and self-respect. Although it sounds like an exaggeration, there are some who argue that Macedonia’s existence within the First and Second Yugoslavia consisted in 83 years of cruel occupation during which Serbs managed to transform Macedonians into their appendage. For different reasons the Yugoslav leadership as well as the republican ones treated Macedonia as a ‘pet’:

In spite of difficulties related to their national history, at the beginning Macedonian authors enjoyed bigger freedom regarding the introduction of nationalistic symbols than historians from other republics 35 .

According to some speculations Tito had very practical external and internal reasons for the promotion of the Macedonian republic. Allegedly in his Machiavellian plans externally sovereign Macedonia was useful in terms of neutralising Bulgarian claims on the First Yugoslavia’s territory and population. On the other hand, his underlying plan was to diminish the relative size of Serbia in comparison with the other republics, which feared its domination. The Macedonian leadership also flirted with the national sentiments whenever it was useful in the domestic political scene. In regard to the central government it was ready to complain on the basis of allegedly ‘re-awakened’ fears from the Belgrade terror in Southern Serbia. On the other hand, Macedonians could always rely on the sympathies from the Croatian and Slovenian side against centralist tendencies. Later on republican élites also found it very useful to support Macedonian national aspirations as an indirect way of promoting their own interests:

The involvement of the Macedonian reformists gave enough coverage to their northern partners, who received protection against Belgrade’s accusations about nationalist deviations: the Macedonian case was perfect, since the nationalist element that was the moving force in the process of construction and ‘affirmation’ of the young nation could not be doomed as nationalistic 36 .

Macedonia was seen as a coalition partner together with the most developed republics in the events of the 1960s. The Macedonian liberals held different positions from their counterparts in the other two republics, but were seen as useful because of their strong national component. The liberals from Croatia and Slovenia primarily had the economic interests of their republics in mind regarding the central power, while the Macedonian exponents advocated more consistent implementation of the principle of ‘democratic centralism’ in relations between the republics and the federation. Thus Macedonia, being a small and not very powerful factor in the federation, became a significant agent in the inter-republican power game.

This republic was more a consumer than a provider of services to the Federation, especially in economic and security terms. However, when the problem was opened it did not stop Macedonian critics to talk about its economic exploitation by the northern developed republics. They were grumbling about unfavourable position in the federation but did not do anything radical to change it. However, when it came to the military reform, Macedonians strongly supported the introduction of the doctrine of total people’s defence. The participation of Bulgarian forces in the intervention in Czechoslovakia was perceived as a direct security threat in Macedonia since the campaign took place at the peak of anti-Macedonian/Yugoslav propaganda in Bulgaria itself. The republic was going through a pre-war psychosis and blamed Bulgaria that it had been doing the same thing in Czechoslovakia as in Vardar Macedonia in 1941. The support of the Yugoslav federation was more than needed. Tito’s statement that any attack on the Macedonian people and Macedonia would be considered as an attack on all Yugoslav peoples and SFRY calmed down the situation and earned great appreciation.

Included as an equal member of the powerful Federation, Macedonia not only received security guarantees but also very important experience in defence matters. The only experience in civil-military relations that Macedonia had ever achieved before 1991 was the one obtained in the communist period of its statehood. One may argue that some experience was acquired during the national liberation struggle and uprisings of the Macedonian people, but the most essential point is that without an established state apparatus one cannot discuss political-military relations or civil-military authority. In the context of a revolutionary and/or liberation movement, as a rule, there is a specific relationship between the political and military strategy as well as between the political and military leaders (that most often coincide). Nevertheless, these relationships and experiences are incomparable with the relationships between the political power and the military positioned within a constitutional and institutionalised state framework. From today’s point of view, the communist legacy is usually considered as a burden and one of the major obstacles in the process of democratic transformation of civil-military relations. In the Macedonian case, however, it still has a significant national dimension and is cherished as such.

In the federal system of the Second Yugoslavia, civil-military relations were created and exercised at the highest level. The republics could acquire some experience only in a roundabout way through the functioning of the Territorial Defence. Furthermore, Macedonia could be satisfied with its well-used quota and representation in the Yugoslav People’s Army. However, there was a dose of silent dissatisfaction because the republic’s actual influence in regard to the defence system was completely insignificant. The constitutional principle of proportional representation in the YPA allowed befitting space for Macedonian officers. Still the officers of Macedonian origin never occupied the highest posts in the political-military hierarchy, such as federal defence minister, chief of staff, head of military intelligence etc. At that point there was a big difference in comparison with, for example, Slovenian officers, who although always in a small minority, always played important roles in the development of the YPA 37 .

From a theoretical point of view, the fact that Macedonia has almost no experience of its own in regard to civil-military relations, or better in terms of military’s interference in politics, can be perceived as a favourable factor 38 . This may indicate that this young state has been freed from the burden of this kind of historical frustration and can start framing civil-military relations without such historical mortgages. Macedonians perceive their military history as a series of injustices, wars over their freedom and territory, but have never quite developed a cult of the military as such. The peaceful way in which Macedonia left the Yugoslav federation might be one more favourable factor in this sense. Yet there are some other quite unfavourable aspects that may also be quite significant and might be serious challenges for the democratic prospects of civil-military relations in Macedonia.

The process of invention of tradition is not a surprising fact in Macedonia. However, what is really worrisome is another fact: it has been a multi-track process. All groups assume one single line of tradition, which is decisive and extended rigorously in both directions along the axis of time 39 . To make things worse, all these versions and interpretations of history are competing with each other, which enables the process of construction of a common military and political history for all citizens of today’s Macedonia. In that sense, the current Macedonian military stands on shaky historical ground.


3. Macedonian ‘peace story’—if any?

At the beginning of the Yugoslav imbroglio, having been heavily dependent on the federation in economic, political and security terms, Macedonia was a total outsider. Dire predictions of the majority of external and domestic analysts appeared to be wrong—almost a decade later Macedonia is still the last miracle in the turbulent Balkans. The unfortunate land that has always been known as a ‘powder keg’ has become known as an ‘oasis of peace’. Macedonia is the only Yugoslav successor-state that gained independence in a peaceful way—the only exception to the rule. By itself it is an amazing achievement, but Macedonia deserves the epithet because of some additional peculiarities. First of all, the Yugoslav republic with the most complex ethnic configuration seems to be overcoming its internal conflict potential and is taking the first steps towards a state-building agenda that differs a lot from the traditional nation-state model. From a regional point of view, Macedonia was a stage for the unique preventive peacekeeping UN mission as well as for other forms of preventive diplomacy.

Has a magic formula for conflict resolution been found in this case or is the absence of war only a result of a belated process that has not yet reached the conflict stage? This question has become burning since the NATO intervention in neighbouring Yugoslavia, but was always hanging as a Damocles sword over the citizens of Macedonia. While the war/violent conflict has been the crucial determinant of all major developments in the other former Yugoslav republics, on the surface it looks as if Macedonia is an exception where all the reforms take place in a peaceful environment. Is everything as it looks at first glance?

In the last years of the Second Yugoslavia, Macedonia was not immune to nationalist fever, but according to some observers, surprisingly enough, there was neither a wish to secede nor to prepare itself for the ongoing disintegration and violent outcome. Foreign analysts praise Macedonia as the only peaceful actor that never had any intention to secede:

It was not the ’Macedonian Question’, well known to scholars as leading to battles between rival experts in a half-dozen fields at international congresses, which provoked the collapse of Yugoslavia. On the contrary, the Macedonian People’s Republic did its best to stay out of the Serb-Croat imbroglio, until Yugoslavia was actually collapsing, and all its components, in sheer self-defence, had to look after themselves 40 .

In contrast to this opinion, in the ‘family quarrels’ Macedonia is blamed for the bloody outcome by the northern republics. According to them, Macedonia should have opted for the confederal solution and earlier opposed the Serbian nationalism. In the internal political debates, the Macedonian leadership led by Gligorov is also blamed for its alleged pro-Serbian orientation and for hesitating to promote the Macedonian cause at the most critical moment of its history.

The behaviour of the leadership might have seemed weird for those who had no knowledge about the situation in Macedonia and for those who opposed it for political reasons. Gligorov and the Bosnian president Izetbegovic devised a ‘Quixotic’ compromise constitutional formula in their desperate attempt to preserve Yugoslavia 41 . The two most vulnerable republics were not so much pro-Yugoslav as they were trying to secure their survival. They shared several similarities, such as lack of pre-Yugoslav state traditions, high internal conflict potential and hostile regional environment, i.e. rebirth of the old Balkan ghosts. The proposal came too late when the other constituencies were not willing to take it seriously. Although Macedonia was not a crucial player in the game, its vote in the federal presidency contributed to the decision-making on the essential issues. Thus the Macedonian vote allowed the use of the YPA units against anti-regime protesters in Belgrade in March 1991. Later on the Macedonian representative voted against the Serbian proposal for introduction of a state of emergency in the country.

Some observers believe that Macedonia gained its independence without demanding it, or more precisely that today’s Republic of Macedonia is not the achievement of an intended state-building policy but a by-product of Yugoslavia’s disintegration. Once there was no other choice, Macedonia’s official stand was that 1991 was a glorious year symbolically pictured as the ‘Third Ilinden’. There were two dominant standpoints which are difficult to reconcile. According to the moderate stand, Macedonia had to withdraw from the collapsing federation because it did not want to take part in a fratricidal war that could not stop. Nationalists, however, insisted on the accomplishment of the centennial dream for one’s own independent state. They celebrated the death of Serboslavia and the final liberation of the Macedonian people. However, very soon it became clear that the Third Ilinden would last some time. In other words, 1991 was not the apotheosis of the final struggle but the overture to a long and uncertain period of struggle for international recognition and internal stabilisation.

Once it had come into being, the new state had to define its legitimacy foundations and historical identity. Even the moderate factions accepted the magical formula, that Troebst correctly presents in the following way: VMRO + 1000 = FYROM. The Macedonians were introduced to a new period of historical amnesia and made believe that independent Macedonia was what they had always held as the only genuine political ideal. The feeling of Yugo-nostalgia still present among Macedonians is mixed up with the idea of the Third Ilinden. The process of invention of traditions was twofold. First, contemporary ideas (or better, the need) for statehood were projected back into the history, looking back to the creation of VMRO in 1893. Also, selected historical facts were extrapolated into the present and then reflected on into the future:

Symbolically VMRO may be pictured as a Phoenix, the mythical bird that comes out from the hearth of the enslaved people, the bird with incomparable beauty that burns out from its own heat and reproduces from its own ashes. The symbolism is clear: resurrection and immortality, cyclical birth and death. This Macedonian bird with shining colours has wings that during the time get darker—one of them turns black (Todor Aleksandrov, Vanco Mihajlov), and the other tuns red (Dimitar Vlahov, Pavel Satev, Petre Caulev) ... VMRO is not ad acta. VMRO is not something that belongs to the museum of history. VMRO is the philosophy of the Macedonian existence, never ending pulsation of the Macedonian independence. VMRO is the very essence of the Macedonian nation 42 .’

Almost a decade after, a question still rings with its accuracy: was Macedonia really the only peaceful and anti-militant actor of the Yugoslav drama? How was it possible that the vulnerable and inexperienced state overcame the challenge of war? As for peace, the crucial point is that Macedonia has preserved a negative peace (in Galtung terms) comprehended as an absence of war. Since the Macedonian ‘peace story’ has not finished yet one cannot give a viable prognosis on the prospects both of negative and positive peace in the country. Issues of war and peace have been repeatedly used in the public debate over domestic problems. In the government discourse war was sometimes an immediate danger and at other times Macedonia was the oasis of peace and prosperity in the Balkans.

During the last several years Macedonian case has attracted the attention of many observers, scholars and journalists, all preoccupied to discover the secret formula for preserving peace in the country where it has been unlikely to see such a development. The offered answers usually emphasise one aspect at the expense of another. The explanation as to why it was possible for Macedonia to leave the federation in a peaceful manner can be found in a set of factors. First of all, Macedonia was not a part of the core inter-ethnic and inter-republican conflicts. From the point of view of Serbian nationalism it was not perceived as a threat. Macedonia was so helpless, and the Serbian minority hardly numerous, so it seemed that Southern Serbia could be re-instated without any problem at some later point. In 1991-92 the focus of the Serbian policy was on the other Yugoslav fronts where military capacity and armament were badly needed.

The second happy circumstance was the tactics that the Macedonian leadership used. It relied on the fact that Macedonians had never been perceived as secessionists and inimical towards Serbia. There had not been any military preparations, and the government favoured the negotiation table as a form of conflict resolution. In the eventual worst-case scenario President Gligorov opted for non-violent resistance and appealed to the international community. No matter how risky and unsound it looked at the time, the leadership thought that independence should not be defended at any cost. An additional, though not crucial, circumstance was the fact that in the negotiation team of the YPA there were officers with long years’ service in Macedonia and with Macedonian wives. Yet military reasons prevailed in the decision to withdraw peacefully from Macedonia.

One of the most crucial moments in the crisis was the dominant public stand regarding the Yugoslav wars that had already started. There was nothing heroic or belligerent about this—instead the situation was rather depressing. The Macedonians were in a state of shock from the very beginning because of the coincidence—the first death casualty of the pending conflicts was a Macedonian private killed during the unrest in Split in spring 1991. The developments that followed persuaded the public that there was nothing for Macedonia in the wars in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. Furthermore, the scenes were highly distressing. The only anti-war reaction came because of the government’s belated withdrawal of the Macedonian conscripts and officers from the Yugoslav army. Some rather ill-organised anti-war protests were initiated by the parents of the Macedonian soldiers who demanded the safe return of their children. Bearing in mind that Macedonia was sending the annual quota of recruits in the YPA until and issued the appeal to the officers of Macedonian origin to return to Macedonia only in early 1992 (i.e. when the final agreement with the YPA was reached), one could conclude that the republic was partly involved in the wars in Slovenia and Croatia.

The final factor that determined Macedonia’s behaviour during the dissolution was the external one. The republic had no external ally to rely upon or from which to get encouragement as was the case with Croatia, for example. Positive signals were coming from Bulgaria, but the Macedonians were fearful of Bulgarian historical aspirations. Self-reliance meant strengthening of Macedonian nationalism, although it took time before it became a driving force leading towards state independence. Thus the appearance of the new Macedonian Question in 1991 had one new actor—Macedonian nationalism—to counter the old ones.

The first occasional calls for the creation of a separate Macedonian army and secession from Yugoslavia came from the nationalist block of newly born political parties. Gradually voices became more loud and articulate. The first party that endorsed secession was the Movement for All-Macedonian Action (MAAK) in August 1990, but the demand did not get much publicity since it was not considered to be serious by the majority of citizens. In early 1991 VMRO repeated the call to the Macedonian government and urged creation of the Macedonian army. According to VMRO leaders YPA should have withdrawn since the only legitimate defender of Macedonia was the Republican Territorial Defence. One of the first intellectuals who dared consider the issue in public was Prof. Trajan Gocevski with a newspapers article with a symbolic meaning ("Alea jacta est") published in July 1990. At first, he was condemned as a traitor and nationalist but later on he became the first civilian defence minister who negotiated with the YPA leadership.

On 25 January 1991 the Macedonian Assembly adopted the Declaration of Sovereignty, but there was still hesitation in regard to ruining all bridges with the federation. The issue of possible independence was on the agenda of the Assembly on the day when war in Slovenia broke out, but the only decision made was to postpone the whole thing for the time being. On 6 July the decision was made in terms that ‘if no agreement can be reached in a peaceful and democratic way on a union of sovereign states on Yugoslav territory, the government must put before the assembly a constitutional law whereby the Republic of Macedonia, as an independent and sovereign state, will assume and carry out its sovereign rights’ 44 .

On 8 September 1991 a popular referendum on independence was held in Macedonia. That date is taken as a historic day when Macedonian citizens decided on their future without Yugoslav patronage. However, the way the referendum question was formulated indicates that there was a dose of reluctance and/or lack of self-confidence. The ambiguous question was overwhelmingly backed because it was seen by some as a clear vote for independence while for the others it was not a definite goodbye to Yugoslavia, because it left open the possibility of future association with the Yugoslav republics. The optimistic result that should have indicated unanimity over the most crucial problem, however, anticipated that only citizens of Macedonian origin would back the Macedonian statehood. The Albanians boycotted it, which was a symbolic message for the coming years. They were the last ones to support any kind of association with the Yugoslav federation, but had another national agenda in their mind. The hope was that when Yugoslavia was finally disintegrated Albanians from all over the country would gain the right to self-determination in a similar way to that of the Yugoslav republics. The prognosis was basically wrong since neither did the Macedonian republic receive full international recognition nor were the Albanians supported in their demands.


4. Birth of the Macedonian Army: decoration of the statehood?

Following the referendum on independence from 8 September and the new Constitution of 17 November 1991, the first organic law to be adopted in the Assembly was the Defence Law in February 1992. Bearing in mind that the withdrawal of the YPA units from Macedonian territory happened in March 1992, it becomes clear that the new defence system in a period co-existed with the old federal one. Avoidance of any hostilities was of utmost importance for the stability of the new state, even at high material costs. The YPA took along all movable armament and equipment (and what was not possible to remove was destroyed). Macedonia was left totally militarily helpless and even more—there were no heroic stories about the courageous behaviour regarding the mighty military opponent. The price was paid in material terms, but the reward was peace. One may even conclude that Macedonia did not fight for peace, it was granted freedom and independence. However, of far more important moment was that the Macedonian army had no internal opponents in a form of paramilitary forces out of any state control.

Unlike Slovenia that had built up its military force on the foundations of the Republican Territorial Defence long before the war occurred, the delayed process in Macedonia took a different course. Along with the YPA withdrawal from the borders the units of the Macedonian Territorial Defence took over control, but it was never given the status of a nucleus of the new army. Since early 1992 Macedonian officers were coming back and were immediately included in the Army of the Republic of Macedonia (ARM). A few months’ vacuum period caused a slight competition atmosphere among the members of the TD and the professional military staff from YPA. The former insisted on their more prominent position in the new military hierarchy, claiming that the ARM was established thanks to the TD’s existence and efforts. There was even a formal request to the President of the Republic for transformation of the Republican Staff of TD into a new General Staff of ARM 45 . Once established ARM included without any discrimination all available cadres from TD and the former YPA.

Despite calls from some political parties and intellectuals, the government undertook more resolute steps toward formation of the ARM only after the establishment of the entire political and legal framework. More importantly, it was done in a relatively peaceful atmosphere and with absolute rejection of any military option. There was no euphoria or national sentiment accompanying the creation of the first military force of independent Macedonia. Even the nationalist party (MAAK) that had called for secession since 1990, in September 1991 proposed a radical solution for Macedonia in the form of a Manifesto for Demilitarisation of the Macedonian Republic. Some domestic authors are uncritically euphoric about the meaning of this document and the peaceful behaviour of Macedonia in 1991-92:

The process of gaining independence from the ex-Yugoslav federation peacefully has cast light on the Republic of Macedonia as a civilised state and the small Macedonian population as a great civilised people striving for establishing eternal peace in Cant’s sense of the word: Zum ewigen frieden. This unique example in comparative constitutional law was marked by the famous Japanese constitutionalist and pacifist Tadakazy Fukase as ‘Macedonian peace model in the Balkans’. The essence of the Macedonian peace model on the Balkans has been pointed out in the Manifesto for Demilitarisation of the Macedonian Republic’ in September 1991 46 .

Actually, the Manifesto was a symbolic cry of a group of intellectuals concerned about Macedonia’s future in the hostile Balkans. It was not the product of a mature civil society movement or a sound theoretical consideration, and thus it did not echo strongly in the society. Unlike Slovenia in 1990, the demilitarisation idea was not backed by any critical evaluation of the deficiencies of the previous military establishment. It was more a product of Macedonia’s passivity and self-pity than a concept led by a proactive and democratic attitude towards national security issues. Macedonia’s peacefulness was more a coincidence than a result of some political decision. Very soon it was apparent that the young state possessed a deep conflict potential and lacked the democratic culture for a peaceful conflict resolution. Therefore, it is incorrect to conclude that demilitarisation and making an ‘oasis of peace’ out of Macedonia were the leading ideas in government policy-making in 1991-92 47 . The idea of a neutral Macedonia promoted by the creator of the new defence system, professor of defence studies Trajan Gocevski, did not create any public attention and was treated only as a nice but unrealistic idea 48 .

In early 1992 Macedonia was de facto a demilitarised country since the YPA did not leave any armament or equipment behind. However, de jure it was the beginning of the new defence system build-up in 1992. The most urgent need for the time being was making a precise account of the human and particularly professional potential and the material resources. These efforts seemed hopeless in the context of the series of disadvantages from that period, such as: the double embargo from the north (by enforcement of the UN sanctions against FR Yugoslavia) and from the south (by the Greek government because of the name dispute); the UN embargo on the import of arms and military equipment for all Yugoslav successor states indiscriminately; decreased level of economic development emphasised by the disintegration of the former Yugoslav market etc.

The government undertook a series of activities in respect to building the ARM, for which the official rationale was the creation of a respectable and creditable military force capable of exercising its primary military mission (i.e. defence of the country from external military threats). Indeed the military by definition is an institution whose legitimacy depends on its functional efficiency and capability to perform its mission. However, the data from public pools showed that the citizens were not convinced that the new military was capable and efficient enough to preserve peace 49 . The government efforts could not cover the truth that the army-building process faced enormous difficulties. Furthermore, the country was under a dual pressure of accomplishing both functional and societal imperative (in Huntington terms). This was almost an impossible task to accomplish under conditions of trauma, transition and initial democratisation.

Paradoxically enough, in this critical period when it was totally disarmed the country was not directly militarily threatened. The possibility of spillover effects from the other war zones in former Yugoslavia was immense, but the traditional rivals over Macedonia were not showing serious aggressive intentions toward the young state. The negative effects of the external factors were decisive in terms of the growing feeling of insecurity regarding the state identity issue. The struggle for international recognition was more than difficult, but the obstacles contributed to strengthening Macedonian nationalism. The Macedonians still cannot forget the very critical political moments when they were ‘left in the lurch’ by the Albanians on the most substantial issue—the international recognition of the Macedonian state.

On the other hand, the internal threat of violent inter-ethnic conflict was becoming more and more pertinent. Since 1991, on the Albanian side there have been several important indications concerning the attitude towards the Macedonian state: Albanians boycotted the referendum on independence in 1991 as well as the census; the Albanian parliamentary group boycotted adoption of the new Constitution in the same year; in 1992 Albanians held illegal referendum which demonstrated that 90 per cent supported independence; in 1994 they declared an autonomous ‘Republic Illiryda’ in the western part of the Republic. In early November 1993 the police arrested a group of Albanians (including a deputy minister of defence in the government of Macedonia) and accused them of attempting to establish paramilitary forces. Their next steps ostensibly would have been to separate ‘Illiryda’ by force, and then to unify it with Albania and independent Kosovo.

The ARM was supposed to find solid foundations of its legitimacy in the state, whose complete identity was highly contested (the name, borders, membership in the international organisations etc.). The Defence Law defined it as ‘armed force of all citizens of the Republic of Macedonia’, which should have been accompanied by a number of actions that would have promoted the integrative social role of the military. Like the former YPA, the ARM was supposed to contribute to the general national integration. In reality the implementation of this policy faced big difficulties. In the first several years the young Albanian conscripts boycotted compulsory military service. The government and the judicial system deliberately ignored these phenomena, while in the public it was a taboo.

Regarding the professional officer corps the Albanians have always been highly underrepresented (since the Second Yugoslavia period). Because the ARM had to rely on the old cadres from the former parent-institution, it inherited an unfavourable situation regarding ethnic representation in the officer corps. Unofficially, the so-called ‘national-key’ was seen as the best solution, at least, regarding the high-ranking officers. Although the ‘national key’ principle might sometimes be the simplest way to achieve ethnic balance, as a criteria for recruitment it is in direct opposition to the ethos, or at least, the myth of the military as an institution. It is, or should be, an institution where the principles of professionalism and capability are primarily respected. It does not relieve the civilian and military authorities from taking measures aimed at stimulation of interest in the military profession among the members of the ethnic groups that are poorly represented in the military hierarchy. So far the Macedonian state has not done anything in that direction. The data from the first five generations of cadets enrolled in the Military academy indicate that the problem continues to be important.

The problem is far deeper because its real roots are in the existing gap between the two most numerous ethnic groups—Macedonians and Albanians. In the background is one crucial issue—the so-called ‘question of loyalty’, which is typical not only for multiethnic and fledgling democracies in South-East Europe 51 . In Macedonian society there is a widespread opinion that when stability and national security are at issue one does not pose the question: ‘Will Macedonians attack Albanians, or vice versa?’, but ‘Will they defend and protect each other in case Macedonia is attacked by a third party?’ 52

The ethnic concerns have been present in all debates on the profile of the Macedonian army. The proposals for total professionalisation have most often been directed towards the creation of a military organisation that would easily be tailored according to pure ethnic criteria. In March 1998 certain circles (so-called Council of Intellectuals) around VMRO (while it was in opposition) advocated the concept of a ‘Macedonian National Army’. According to the retired General Mitre Arsovski (the first Chief of Staff in independent Macedonia) the idea of ARM as a military of all citizens was supposed to serve the state (i.e. regime and consequently it was politicised). The National Army, in opposite, would serve the (Macedonian) people. Another member of the Council put it more explicitly: ‘One cannot expect loyalty from a military consisting, among others, of Albanians and Kosovars.’ 53

The Macedonian Constitution clearly determines the external military mission of the armed forces, which is usually seen as a guarantee that they will be kept away from the internal political scene. The interaction of societal and external (regional and international) factors not only determines the concept of security, but also the role of the military and the police. The data on the social and material status of the police and army staff clearly indicate that the Macedonian police forces are much better off than the Army’s ones. In other words, internal security threats are seen as more serious than the external ones. Thus police represent a serious functional rival to the military as well as a competitor in regard to the scarce social and economic resources. Self-conscious regarding its inferiority in guaranteeing the external security and gravity of the internal (ethnic) conflicts, the ARM could easily turn more attention to the internal plight:

Since there is no clearly defined role with regard to external security, the army could be led, or could even itself take measures, to adopt an internal security doctrine. 54

During the first months of independence, and later on as well, there were incidents on the Macedonian borders which were not so challenging but certainly provocative. The spontaneous reactions of the top brass ‘ready to respond in a decisive manner’ manifested their inability to adjust to the new environment. For the time being the loudest advocate of such an approach was the Chief of Staff, Gen. Mitre Arsovski. Only several years after, he proposed an internal security doctrine that would allow the military to intervene in domestic riots and conflicts when the police were not sufficient to cope with them.

The government’s call for an international presence in 1992, however, manifested a far more reasonable and critical attitude to the security capabilities of the Macedonian state. The first initiative for deployment of UN peace forces on the Macedonian territory came from President Gligorov on 11 November 1992. In fact, at the beginning it was a request for extension of the previously established United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Macedonian leadership was concerned about the possible impact of the Yugoslav armed conflict on the peace and stability in the country. After hearing of the report of the exploratory mission sent by the Secretary-General on 28 November 1992, the Security Council authorised the establishment of UNPROFOR’s presence in Macedonia by its resolution 795(1992) of 11 December 1992 as ‘UNPROFOR’s Macedonia Command’. The main intention was maintenance of the United Nations presence on the republic’s borders with Albania and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Its mandate was originally defined as follows: ‘to monitor the border areas with Albania and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; to strengthen, by its presence, the country’s security and stability; and report on any developments that could threaten the country’ 55 .

By the Security Council Resolution 983(1995) from 31 March 1995, UNPROFOR was replaced by three separate peacekeeping operations: UNPROFOR (in Bosnia and Herzegovina), UNCRO (in Croatia) and UNPREDEP (in Macedonia). At the beginning UN forces comprised a battalion of up to 700 all ranks, 35 military observers, 26 civilian police monitors, 10 civil affairs staff, 45 administrative staff and local interpreters. Subsequently, in June 1993, with the Security Council authorisation the United States provided about 300 additional troops in order to reinforce UNPROFOR’s presence in the republic. Finally, the force of roughly 1050 soldiers has been composed of about 500 US troops, 350 from Finland, and smaller units from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Indonesia. Since March 1995 UNPREDEP’s mandate has been extended several times for a further six-month period through 30 November 1997. On 1 February 1996, UNPREDEP officially become an independent mission.

Establishing the first preventive diplomacy and deployment operation in the history of UN was welcomed both by Macedonian authorities and by the international community as a very encouraging and prospective precedent. For the time being Macedonia was in a very delicate political, economic, social and security situation. The deployment of the UN troops was perceived as a very important ‘achievement’ of the Macedonian government. It was a kind of de facto international recognition and confirmation of its international existence. For the public it was a sign that the international community was not indifferent towards the peaceful Macedonian population, and even a premature optimism and misconception on the real scope of the UN mission prevailed 56 . However, the first more serious situation ruined all optimistic expectations that the country was under international protection.

The analysis of the character and virtually changing mandate of the UN preventive deployment in Macedonia proved that this unique mission was stationed for the wrong reasons. It was established when external aggression from the north was a highly unlikely scenario. By this time the mandate was transformed and more focused on internal conflict mitigation, but officially it has been admitted neither by the UN officials nor by the Macedonian government. Thus, the praised political will of the relevant factors was de facto based on a blurred conception about the real mandate of the mission. UNPREDEP’s achievements ought to be given a positive evaluation, but it did not succeed in alleviating internal conflict potential or in addressing the roots of the conflict. On the other hand, it was quite successful in monitoring the porous borders towards Albania and Yugoslavia (Kosovo) where the main routes for drugs and arms smuggling had been leading. The mission helped Macedonian Army’s border units to perform their tasks to a great extent. In the period 1993-99 the Macedonian military co-existed with another (international) military force, whose mandate was not seen as concurrent but helpful.

The conclusion about the first several years of Macedonian independence is that civil-military relations were in the shadow of a more important issue—society-military, or better, ethnic-military relations. Soon it became clear that the issue would deeply affect the profile of civil-military relations in the long-run.


5. Impediments of Macedonian civil-military relations

The revival of the pre-communist military traditions and symbols in the other Yugoslav successor states had begun before the final dissolution took place. Macedonia does not fit into that pattern since ‘the national emancipation in the military sphere’ came as a sort of surprise. When it became clear that state independence became the inevitable option, creation of the legal preconditions of the independent state was the priority. Adoption of the new Constitution (17 November 1991) and several organic laws (including the Defence Law) were sine qua non as legitimacy before the international community. The whole proceeding was done in a rush with no time for a wider public debate on the state (and defence) policy. The fragile balance of the actors on the political scene (of which none had enough power to determine the basic directions) mirrored the many compromise solutions included in the legal system.

The profile of the political system was created in accordance with the basic premises of parliamentary democracy, but in an inconsistent way with lots of improvisations. The democratic deficit was to be compensated for by imitation of the institutions and principles from the developed Western democracies. The major focus of the tailoring of the legal system was on democratic legitimisation with special emphasis on fundamental human rights and freedoms. Again the solution was easy to find—the list was copied from the basic international documents on human rights and pasted into the Constitution. In short, there was nothing much in Macedonian society to constitutionalise in autumn 1991, so the Constitution was more a list of good intentions than a product of the social reality.

Having lacked any pre-communist democratic traditions, Macedonian constitutionalists had a rare opportunity to draft a political system ‘out of nothing’. The situation that could be described as ‘tabula rasa’ allowed them to choose among the available models, ignoring the fact that they have all been established in a long process and in accordance with the national conditions. The situation regarding the model of civil-military relations was even more bizarre. Having lacked any experience and expertise, the issue was not given any special attention. The existing model is more a by-product of the accepted democratic pattern of the political system than a result of some idea about the necessity of democratic control of the military. After all, for the time being Macedonia did not have its own armed forces and one could not guess when these would be created. The (normative) model of democratic control preceded the establishment of what should have been controlled. The whole issue was virtually terra incognita. Even eight years after the issue is still a kind of novelty both for the academic community and the public in Macedonia. At the same time, the problems are growing, while the gap between the normative and the real is getting deeper. Furthermore, the normative model of separation of powers has its own deficiencies.

The Macedonian Assembly, which is supposed to be the focal political institution in the parliamentary democracy, has been playing a secondary role in the overall political process. From a constitutional point of view, it not only holds the most important competencies typical of a legislative branch, but its position is strengthened even beyond what is usual. Namely, no other branch of power can dissolve the parliament and call for new elections. Hypothetically, only the parliament itself is authorised to do that, which is highly unlikely to happen. In reality, however, the parliament has been on the margins of political developments. Under the clear supremacy of the executive power (government and/or the President) most often it has been in the role of a voting machine for decisions made elsewhere. The structure of the Assembly so far has been in favour of one party or a ruling coalition with a weak opposition. This situation created a kind of disdainful attitude towards the proposals and critiques coming from the other side of the political spectrum. Thus the politically very important control function towards the executive branch has been discredited. The activities of the parliamentary commission for internal policy and defence have been more focused on giving support to the government’s proposals than toward their critique.

The most unusual characteristic of Macedonian parliamentarism is in the structure and position of the executive branch. It is two-headed and consists of Government and the President of the Republic. The relationship legislative-executive power as well as the relationships within the executive domain has been dependent more on the current power-holders than on the constitutional model. The inconsistency of the constitutional model consists of two basic premises. First, there is the inability of the government to dissolve the parliament under any circumstances. Secondly, the president is elected directly from the citizens and is thus not responsible to parliament. An additional problem arises from the non-existing legally defined relationship between the Government and the President, especially in the realm of security and defence policy. The Constitution defined the boundaries of the institutions’ competencies in a vague way, relinquishing to the Defence Law the task of developing a network of institutional relations. However, the Law also failed to eliminate ambiguity in terms of competencies and responsibilities on several lines, such as: the President of the Republic (as designated Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces) and the Government; the Government—Ministry of Defence; and the President of the Republic—Ministry of the Defence—General Staff.

Most analysts of the Macedonian political system agree that it is not a pure model of paliamentarism because of the strong elements of presidentialism. The debate usually runs around the legal aspects while neglecting the more substantial dimension. Presidentialism in Macedonia, particularly linked with the personality of the first president Gligorov (1991-99), was more existent in essence than based in the constitution. Coming into office, the new President Trajkovski made a good contrast with the situation created by his predecessor. An inexperienced and even anonymous Methodist priest (Trajkovski) replaced the ‘Old Fox’ (as Gligorov is nicknamed). The former was a charismatic leader backed with much popular and international support. Unlike his counterparts in Croatia and Yugoslavia, Gligorov has been remembered as a wise and reasonable politician and a ‘father‘ of the ‘oasis of peace’.

However, his methods used in domestic affairs, although rather ‘soft’, showed a cunning politician. He used his influence in a rather informal way, which is indirectly proved by the fact that there are few acts with his signature applied to them (except in the case of promulgation declaring laws). He wanted to see himself as a president of all citizens, but the opposition saw him as a number one member of the ruling Social-Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) 57 . In regard to the military Gligorov had unquestionable authority and very often even bypassing regular channels of communication 58 . For the opposition it was a clear sign of building an alliance between the pro-Serb oriented President and the former YPA officers, all called ‘old guard’. According to foreign analysts the civilian control of the military and the national security system was ‘personalistic’ and depended more on Gligorov’s role than on constitutional mechanisms 59 . The change in office from 1999 showed that the function of the President was heavily dependent on who is in office. Gligorov’s successor lacks his experience and charisma, but also some knowledge in defence matters. However, his main deficiency is lack of legitimacy. He came into power in a way that many see as fraudulent elections 60 . Trajkovski has been trying to implement the peace-promoting approach of his successful predecessor with minor success.

It is believed that the invisible coalition between Gligorov and the Government of Branko Crvenkovski (SDSM) was an alliance in which Gligorov dominated the young and inexperienced Prime Minister. The situation changed a bit after the assassination attempt on Gligorov’s life in 1995, when gradually his influence in political developments was partly marginalised by the ‘gamins from our own rows’, i.e. the young ambitious SDSM élite. After the 1998 parliamentary elections Macedonia faced a situation where for the first time the Government and the President belonged to opposite political positions. The problem was named ‘cohabitation’ and was explained as a normal political phenomenon in any democracy, but the serious collisions occurred at several very important points with a clear significance for the foreign and security policy of the country. The election of Trajkovski promised far better understanding between the President and the Government but it soon appeared that the Prime Minister, as a leader of the ruling VMRO, has been a far most dominant political figure.

The 1991 Constitution introduced a new institution in the national security system—the Security Council of the Republic of Macedonia. It gathers together the leading political figures, such as the President of the Republic (who acts as its chair), the Prime Minister, the president of the Assembly, the ministers of foreign affairs, interior and defence and three members appointed by the President of the Republic. Although it is not established as a body attached to the President’s office, so far it has been under its decisive influence. Formally it is supposed to consider matters of significance for the national security system and to give advice and recommendations to the Assembly. In practice, it has been a rather ‘shadowy institution’ functioning ad hoc and in a highly untransparent manner. Actually the public has perceived the sessions of the Council as an alarming signal. The feeling of confusion and insecurity usually increased, especially after the opposite statements on security situation given to the media by the different members.

At the beginning of the 1999 NATO intervention in Yugoslavia after the meeting of the Security Council, President Gligorov said to the media that he had proposed the introduction of a state of emergency, but he had been outvoted. However, the Government’s representative stated that the situation was under control and that Gligorov only wanted to effect a ‘coup d’état’ in order to prolong his mandate and postpone the presidential elections. The weakest point in the public quarrel was that according to the constitution the state of emergency might have been declared only ‘when major natural disasters or epidemics take place’ and not because of a refugee influx, no matter how big it was. The second similar situation happened in spring 1999 after several serious armed incidents on the border with Kosovo, when the President proclaimed it a serious situation and ordered combat readiness of part of the ARM and deployment of twice as many soldiers in the border area, while Prime Minister Georgievski calmed down the public by saying that the situation was perfectly stable and secure. His coalition partner Arben Xhaferi, the leader of the Albanian party (PDPA, Party of Democratic Prosperity of Albanians) backed his statement saying that Macedonia had never been more secure 61 .

The Government’s competencies in defence matters in practice mostly depend on the current relationship between the President and the Prime Minister, although every day more operative activities are left to the Defence Ministry. The existing legal lacuna regarding the position and responsibility of the Defence Minister in practice produces many deviations. The most important issue is whether the Minister is responsible to the Government or to the President of the Republic. The Defence Law’s inconsistencies imply a closer relation with the President, but it is not necessarily always the case. During Gligorov’s term, it was believed that his consent regarding the choice of the defence minister was, although informal, decisive. However, the new President Trajkovski is usually not consulted about the most important issues of national security, which puts him in a rather farcical situation as far as the public is concerned 62 .

One of the main novelties of the 1991 Constitution has been the demand that only a civilian can be appointed a defence minister. The idea strengthened the civilian control of the military. However, from the very beginning the ambiguity of the relationships between the President, the Government and the Defence Ministry was noticed by the General Staff. Then Chief of Staff, Gen. Arsovski and a group of high-ranking officers came up with a proposal for tighter linking of the General Staff with the Commander-in-Chief (the President). Moreover, in their view the appointment of the civilian defence minister was a sign of politicisation of the Defence Ministry and the ARM. Soon after this letter Gen. Arsovski was dismissed from office and retired early. However, he re-appeared again as an under-secretary in the Defence Ministry in the VMRO government. The act of appointing a civilian at the top of the Defence Ministry is often an insufficient step in terms of civilian control. It cannot guarantee civilian surveillance in defence matters in the long run, unless other competent civil experts surround the minister. Regardless of who has been in office, the general pattern in the Macedonian defence Ministry is that the ministers do not call for external civilian expertise. As for the internal one available in the administration the civilianisation process is being implemented in a bizarre way. The élite comprehends civilianisation as an open opportunity for endless purges and nepotism. Purges among civil servants and experts are made on a strange political criterion, which is centred on the ‘question of loyalty’. On the surface this loyalty is attached to the SDSM or VMRO (the two dominant political parties), but in the background there is the old division on Serbomane and Bulgaromane respectively. During the previous SDSM rule two under-secretary offices were vacant for quite some time after the spectacular removal of civilian officials with the assistance of the military police. Under the current government the positions have been occupied by people who were in office for an extremely short term and then replaced. For some time, for example, the under-secretary for defence policy was a military officer (afterwards appointed assistant to the Chief of Staff of ARM) as well as the under-secretary for procurement and legal affairs. Asked at a press conference about this solution, the Minister Kljusev replied that Gen. Savo Janev (the under-secretary for defence policy) had been wearing a civil suit during work hours and had been very obedient, so there was no danger of violation of the principle of civilian control.

Some peculiarities that left a certain mark on civil-military relations are related to the personalities of the defence ministers. The first civilian minister (Gocevski) was a distinguished professor of defence studies, but lacked any practical experience with the military. His manner of settling affairs between civilians and military staff was based more on informal and tolerant behaviour. His opposite was the minister Handziski, also a professor but in engineering, who enjoyed military protocols and ceremonies 63 . It is believed that the biggest contribution in setting the consistent and clear civil dominance over the military was that of the minister Popovski (a law professor) 64 . The current minister Academic Kljusev is infamous for his numerous gaffes in public and for his poetic ambitions, together with a complete ignorance in defence matters.

The Macedonian Ministry of Defence has its ‘shady side’ and has often been accused of various affairs involving illegal arms procurement and trade with the Yugoslav successor states. The public in the ‘oasis of peace’ faced the shock that some circles in the state leadership were involved in the arms trade and transferred armaments towards the war fronts on the former Yugoslav territory.

Civil-military relations in Macedonia have been shaped in an atmosphere of sharp fragmentation and antagonism on the political scene. The party system is divided along ethnic lines, but there are also traditional divisions among the Macedonians themselves. A political opponent is usually seen as an enemy who should be discredited as a ‘traitor to the Macedonian cause’. Some years ago the SDSM government was accused for its ‘soft’ policy towards Albanians’ demands. From the beginning of the multiparty system VMRO has declared itself as the only genuine Macedonian party, and introduced the division of ‘patriots’ and ‘traitors’, i.e. ‘real Macedonians’ and ‘the others’. Today being in power, the situation is the opposite: VMRO is in a coalition with the radical Albanian party (PDPA) and is blamed for ‘selling and dividing’ Macedonia between Albania and Bulgaria. Over the course of years the nationalistic zeal has grown in a relatively less nationalistic Macedonia. Fermentation of the relationship between the politics and the military has not reached its zenith yet, since the political system and the military still go through serious mutations with uncertain outcome on both sides.


6. The officer corps: old faces in new uniforms

According to the official (and even some scholarly) interpretations the Macedonian Army is a new institution not only due to the time of its creation, but also given its new political, legal, social and cultural foundations. Most often it is totally ignored that it still bears certain (visible) scars of its parent institution. Namely, the YPA took all armaments but left the officers to withdraw to their home republic and to join the Macedonian Army.

Macedonia did not have big problems in terms of recruitment of commissioned and non-commissioned officers thanks to the attractiveness of the military profession among the youth in former Yugoslavia. Most of the officers of Macedonian (and a few of Albanian) origin moved to the republic after the appeal of the government in 1992. However, the gathered cadres gave an odd profile of the military institution. Among the ten generals and 2,400 officers some specialised as navy or air forces officers. In one period the peculiarity of the landlocked country was the vice-admiral on the post of the Chief of Staff (Dragoljub Bocinov).

Macedonian officers left the YPA with inferiority complex and, even with a belief that they were discriminated against in terms of career mobility on the upper ranks of the military hierarchy. On the other hand, they also suffered frustration because of the collapse of the state and the military they used to loyally serve until the last moment. Overnight they found themselves in a radically different political and military environment. Two opposite driving forces—Yugo-nostalgia and pro-Macedonianism—have shaped the institutional identity of the Macedonian military. Both inclinations, however, appear to be harmful either for them personally or for the democratic prospects of the country. For many from the older generation officers the memories of the ‘good old times’, when they served the fourth best military in Europe, are still fresh. It had nothing to do with their political loyalty to Yugoslavia (or Serbia), but rather with their inability to adjust to the unfavourable military environment. At the same time, some of them have finally found a favourable environment for their professional affirmation, but also for re-awakening of national pride and Macedonian patriotism. For the officers raised in the spirit of communism, abolishing the ideology created a vacuum that called for some other substance. Nationalism was seen as the best choice thanks to the situation when the young state was threatened both from outside and inside. Loyalty was attached more to their nation than to the (multiethnic) state.

Constitutionally, it seemed that the ARM was granted only the external military mission, i.e. protection of independence and territorial integrity of the country against aggression. Compared with the former YPA it seemed like the abolition of the internal function and protection of the regime from domestic threats. The officers have to abandon the messianic self-image as the ultimate defenders of the constitutional order (and regime). Nevertheless, the total concentration on an external military mission has induced new frustrations for ill-armed and poorly trained army. In the first years after gaining independence there were often border provocations or the manifestation of force both in the south and the north. Although they were not serious security threats, they were sufficiently distressing for the military officers.

One of the most critical incidents happened on the northern border on the elevation 1703 (known as Cupino Brdo) in 1994. Ten Yugoslav soldiers occupied the elevation on the undefined Yugoslav-Macedonian border, which was seen by many as a clear provocation and overture to a war between the two states. The Defence Minister Popovski reacted resolutely and set a deadline for the withdrawal of the Yugoslav troops and said that the Macedonian Army would take over the elevation by force if necessary 65 . When the Yugoslav soldiers withdrew upon the order of the Yugoslav General Staff, no one believed that it was the Macedonian military power that had made them go peacefully. The incident happened on the eve of the presidential elections in Macedonia, so the opposition came forward with the speculation that the incident was faked and was the result of an agreement between Gligorov and Milosevic. Allegedly, both of them could score positive points—Milosevic internationally and Gligorov internally. The attempt of an armed forcing out of a foreign army from what was seen as the Macedonian territory should have shown the decisiveness of Gligorov, who had been accused for his pacifist and soft foreign policy by the opposition parties. However, the feeling that dominated in Macedonia after the peaceful settlement was not victorious. The resolution to fight back was rather seen as a possible dangerous venture, doubtlessly at a much greater cost than the strategic significance of the elevation 1703.

The other external challenge for the Macedonian army has been related to the 1997 events in neighbouring Albania. The collapse of the state was followed by the abandonment of the border posts by the Albanian soldiers. Different gangs were freely crossing the border and running arms smuggling from Albania in Macedonia, and mainly in Kosovo. For the time being Macedonian border troops together with UNPROFOR forces achieved some results, but the course of events showed that it was not sufficient.

Officially, the Macedonian military is not permitted to exercise any internal missions (except disaster management under conditions prescribed by law). However, at least on one occasion there were rumours about its engagement in the context of internal political struggle. Having blamed the government for fraud in the first round of the 1994 elections, the opposition organised a big protest meeting in the capital, Skopje. Allegedly, the President of the Republic issued an order to certain Army units to raise their military readiness in case the peaceful protests turned into violent ones. At the beginning the rumours were categorically denied by the officials, but later on they admitted that ‘the Army units were engaged in a safeguard of the Commander in Chief’. The order was made by the Commander in Chief himself and realised through the Defence Ministry, but without the knowledge of Chief of Staff Bocinov.

The affair that had been left at a level of speculations, nevertheless showed several critical points. First, it showed that all possibilities for involvement of the military (or some units) in the domestic political confrontations had not been eliminated despite a relatively clear legal regulation. Secondly, the special units that were supposed to be used were out of the regular chain of command, i.e. under a direct line of command that led from the President to the Defence Ministry (the Department for Military Security and Intelligence). Thirdly, bypassing of the General Staff might have been an indication of a lack of confidence that the military in general would be willing to act against the citizens. Several years after the event, then Chief of Staff 66 energetically denied his involvement in the whole matter:

I find offensive the allegations about my responsibility for obeying the orders for mobilisation of the army and increase of the military readiness. I claim that such an order was not issued. If it had been issued—you can be sure that I would have rejected it. Since long ago I had said ‘no’ to such orders. I had no motivation and there is no power in the world that would enforce me to use weapons against my own people. I have proved that many times before, even in the times when one should have courage to do that and to persist as a Macedonian. [...] As a professional and orthodox soldier I have always honourably and with dignity defended the interests of the Macedonian people. One thought has always been leading me—the thought of the Macedonian cause. I am not a machine and a servant, but I am a patriot. 67

In the background of this statement is the idea of the so-called ‘patriotic soldier’ as opposed to the modern concept of a ‘professional soldier’. The patriotic soldier is believed to be loyal to his nation rather then to the constitution. In this very case the dubiousness arise from the fact that the Macedonian nation does not match with (all) Macedonian citizens. According to widespread opinion the sources of instability and conflict in Macedonia are predominantly internal ones, i.e. related to the fragile inter-ethnic relations in the country. Constitutionally the military mission is strictly limited on its external dimension, but even some of the creators of the Constitution advocate rather flexible interpretation of the possible engagement of the military when territorial integrity has been threatened 68 . According to this standpoint, there will be no need for declaration of a state of war or state of emergency if any secessionist movement tries to violate Macedonian territory. If the police and other security forces are insufficient to control the situation, then the ARM will be automatically called to intervene. Such interpretations leave a ‘small door open’ for military intervention in case of intra-state conflict in spite of the legal definitions of the military mission. Since the officers of Macedonian origin heavily dominate in the military ranks, the question of their loyalty in such a case is irrelevant.

The Macedonian state lacks a clear concept of national security as well as a working model of democratic control of the military. Under such conditions, it is not surprising that the ARM is not sure about its raison d’être. From the point of view of the internal regime within the ARM another bizarre situation has existed. The explicit regulation of the military service, i.e. rights and responsibilities of the military officers, is the guarantee of the social and professional autonomy as well as of the secure status of the military officers. At the same time it is a pre-condition for successful depoliticisation and professionalisation of the military. In 1993 the Constitutional Court repealed the statutory provision according to which military service was to be regulated by the act of the defence minister (Article 46 of the Defence Law). The legal vacuum created by the decision of the Constitutional Court has not yet been eliminated. This situation raises serious doubt about military discipline, especially the disciplinary accountability of the officers and the recruits.

Depoliticisation of the ARM is formally proclaimed but only in the form of departisation. The Defence Law prohibits organising and performing activities on behalf of the political parties and other civil associations within the Army. The de facto situation looks different. The overwhelming majority of the officers of ARM have a communist pedigree and until the 1998 parliamentary elections (and VMRO’s victory) there were very often allegations that they were members of the ‘old guard’. Under the VMRO government the depoliticisation process has been intensified but in a weird manner. The VMRO-isation of the armed forces, police and intelligence services is of enormous magnitude. Today’s opposition (SDSM) blames the government for purges among the state administration, military and security forces on political criterion. Unofficially, many officers claim that the VMRO membership is the only way to get a career promotion. Staff without adequate education and experience hold higher positions, while the removal of the old cadres is being explained by cleansing of the ARM of Gligorov’s influence. The former defence minister Kitanovski describes today’s situation in Macedonia as a state of security anomie 69 .

The biggest purges have been done among the élite ARM units, such as ‘Scorpios’ and ‘Wolves’. The financial terms of the service in these, for now only, entirely professionalised units have contributed to mass abandonment of the young well-trained cadres. The bad working conditions, unlimited work hours and unpaid salaries are the main points of criticism among the professionals. Following the demands for professionalisation of the Army, which is seen as a crucial feature of the ‘Western model’, the government claims certain achievements as well as ambitious plans for the future. The official data from 1996 showed that 30 per cent of the ARM military staff were professional, and it was expected to increase to 50 per cent in the next several years. 70 The figures seem less important than the fact that the negative tendencies, such as nepotism, corruption and politicisation, have contributed to relativisation of the meaning of professionalisation. From the perspective of the former YPA officers today’s situation has less in common with military professionalism and professionalisation that the one in the former Yugoslavia.

The way professionalisation is comprehended in Macedonia indicates that it is seen mainly as an important criterion for admission to NATO and less as a control mechanism in Huntington’s terms. Aside from the prism in which professionalisation is seen, a more crucial aspect is the financial ability of the state to achieve this goal. Macedonia had to build the army from scratch, so the priority was to provide some armament regardless of its source or the standard. Most of the current military arms and equipment are of different age, military purpose and country of origin, which in general creates a huge problems in terms of achieving NATO standards. Bearing in mind that many of the donator-states 71 gifted Macedonia with weapons that were far from modern and of suspicious quality, many observers believe that the country has been turned into a depot for old and useless arms, that are expensive to maintain.

The material situation in the ARM is so poor that it does not deserve even the attribute of a ‘paper-tiger’ since no one has ever taken it seriously. Some episodes, moreover, present it in a rather comical light. For example, in 1996 at the peak of the public campaign about Macedonia’s (allegedly) pending inclusion in NATO, on the Day of the Air Force and Anti-aircraft Defence, there was a modest aircraft show where the Macedonian potential was publicly shown. It consisted of three Czech piston engine aircraft and two Russian transport helicopters for training purposes. In 1998 there was a public scandal over an article published in the Macedonian weekly Dnevnik, which released the information that officers would have to buy themselves firearms (CZ-75 of Czech production) out of their salaries. The sum of 500 DEM that should have been paid for the firearms was justified as a patriotic debt and a kind of self-contribution of the officers to the country’s defence. All these prove that the ARM has all the pre-conditions not to be released from its inferiority complex in the years to come.


7. Macedonia after the Kosovo War: place d’arme

In the first two years of independence Macedonia had practically no security policy. It was turned in on itself and the urgent problems of survival. The turning point was 1993 when the UN troops were deployed, but also when the Assembly declared Macedonia’s wish to join NATO. Both initiatives were, however, motivated by the need to find a security provider rather than a result of some pro-active foreign and security policy. Recognition of the wish to join NATO was a clear signal that the ‘oasis of peace’ wanted to catch up with the other aspirants.

The decision to join the Atlantic Alliance was not a result of any wide public or expert debate. The only quarrel that occurred was focused on the merits of who was the first one to have mentioned the idea. The first civilian defence minister Gocevski claimed that the first letter of intentions had been sent to Brussels during his mandate. However, the debate made public the whole inexperience of the government officials who had been writing letters with no idea about the formal procedure. More importantly, in Macedonia no other alternatives have ever been considered since from the very beginning NATO was defined as a kind of dogma. Admission to NATO and EU has been one of the rare political matters around which all-party consensus has been reached. Any dissonant voice was under threat of being blamed as traitorous. The logic behind the idea was that small and helpless Macedonia could survive in the Balkans only with a powerful external assistance.

The pro-NATO security policy has been also the best legitimating card before the so-called international community and the domestic public. So far all Macedonian governments claim an all-national consensus that is taken for granted. The question has never been posed publicly and no single pool or serious research of public opinion has been conducted. The responsible state actors have successfully avoided the issue of the economic costs of the admission, while the public has been made to believe that the benefits (in security terms) would be much greater than expenses (in economic terms). The expectations were based on the presumption that NATO was so concerned about the country’s security that it would let Macedonia in despite not meeting the criteria for admission.

The rather poorly conducted and even naive campaign had some effects on the traumatised citizens who, in lacking any hope, badly needed to be lied to. It was orchestrated in order to create an illusion that Macedonia would not only be admitted into NATO but also that NATO were begging Macedonia to join it as soon as possible. The so-called SOFA agreement that was signed in June 1996 should have been a proof of the high level of mutual co-operation and appreciation between Macedonia and NATO/USA. The agreement centred on the status of army troops exchanged between the two contract parties. The Government claimed that it was an outstanding achievement of its foreign and security policy, while Foreign Minister Frckovski believed that ‘Macedonia has taken a step forward towards refuge under the Western defensive umbrella’. Independent media argued that the Government was misusing a rather technical issue in order to gain scores with the domestic public 72 .

Striving to prove its unreserved co-operativeness, however, soon made Macedonia a hostage of its policy. The SOFA agreement, comprehended as a legal framework for the presence of foreign military troops on Macedonian territory, showed all its deficiencies in the eve of and during the 1999 Kosovo crisis. According to the former President Gligorov:

The agreement that allows deployment of NATO troops in Macedonia was signed too easily. They are exempted from the point of view of our statutes, which means that they are only responsible before the institutions of their countries of origin and their own courts. This is only one aspect. The other one is that according to that agreement at most 9,000 NATO troops could have been deployed. As the crisis in Kosovo and later on the NATO intervention were escalating their number rapidly increased. The government accepted the situation with no objection and too promptly. [...] Having permitted transit and deployment on its territory that even our military had to leave the barracks in order to provide space for the NATO troops, the question could have been posed. Did Macedonia assert itself as a sovereign state? The situation should have been used for imposing certain conditions and for clarification of possible cases that usually occur when foreign troops are deployed. Our agreements do not assume any compensations... 73

The overture for the following events was the expected termination of the UN mission as a result of China’s veto in the UN Security Council 74 . There are indications that the Government had been counting on replacing UNPREDEP with NATO and/or US troops. From that moment on civil-military relations in Macedonia have been given a quite unusual dimension. They concerned the relationships between the Macedonian political leadership with various foreign military troops and the relationships between the ARM and the other military units. Domestic aspects of civil-military reforms within the democratisation context have been pushed on the margins of the developments.

From a Macedonian perspective, the motions of the so-called international community regarding the Kosovo crisis (since fall 1998) were extremely contradictory and dangerous. Ostensibly, the real motivation behind the undertaken ‘necessary’ measures including the NATO military intervention was prevention of the conflict spreading to Macedonia. It was the beginning of the stationing of some missions with strange mandates in Kosovo and Macedonia. The so-called OSCE verification mission (KVM) in Kosovo was followed by the NATO-led 4000-troop ‘extraction’ force stationed on Macedonia’s northern border. Some observers believe that the real role of the OSCE mission was to serve as a prelude for the NATO mission in Macedonia and subsequent bombing of Yugoslavia. Both Macedonian and international representatives were repeatedly stating that the ‘extraction mission’ was of an essentially humanitarian nature and that its main task would have been to protect and evacuate unarmed OSCE verifiers if and when necessary. Suspicion about its real mandate increased when speculations about sending an additional military force in the form of ‘extractors of the extractors’ were revealed by the media. The absurdity of the mandate of this mission became very apparent when OSCE verifiers withdrew from Kosovo without any incident, in a very short time, and just before the beginning of the NATO military campaign over Yugoslavia.

Suddenly, just before the military intervention, the mild Macedonian landscape was dramatically changed by the presence of the NATO forces. Macedonia was put into a very ambiguous and undesirable position, at the same time hosting UN and NATO forces with essentially different mandates and different impacts on its security. As a result, Macedonia has been transformed into a place d’arme. Unlike the UN preventive peacekeeping mission that was initiated by the Macedonian government, in this case the installation of NATO troops was resolutely demanded by Brussels (and Washington) at a very critical moment of Macedonia’s internal political life. It was an interregnum period, when the new parliament and government were not constituted yet after the latest elections. It was presented as a test for Macedonia’s co-operativeness and willingness to join NATO. It was de facto blackmail and the Macedonian government was not able to have any choice in the matter. It was not in the country’s best interests to participate in something that was bound to antagonise Serbia and looked like a support for Albanian separatism through violence. Heavily dependent upon foreign military assistance and tending towards NATO membership and EU integration, the Macedonian government accepted an ever-increasing foreign military presence. At one point NATO had three times more soldiers (45,000) than the regular Macedonian army (10,000).

The term ‘collateral damages’, which has been cynically invented by strategists, applies perfectly to the situation in Macedonia. The Macedonian euphoria that followed words of praise from NATO Secretary-General Solana vanished during the first weeks of the war. The government was soon in a state of shock. When Prime Minister Georgievski warned NATO that its military campaign was about to make Macedonia an innocent victim of the war in Yugoslavia, it was too late, because the country had already been badly hurt. Regardless of whether Macedonia was an ‘innocent victim’ or a ‘naive collaborator’ in the military campaign, it is abundantly clear today that the consequences of the war are visible in every sphere and that their reparation will be a difficult challenge in the long run. Summing up the consequences of NATO intervention is a very difficult and ambiguous task. Ambiguity is, however, a result of the ‘ostrich tactic’ practised by the Macedonian government(s) that is not willing to allow an open debate on the issue—what was the price that Macedonia had to pay during the Kosovo crisis in spring 1999?

For the parties directly involved in the Kosovo conflict the need to claim victory is quite understandable. The behaviour of the Macedonian government in the aftermath of the intervention was nothing but bizarre. The Prime Minister Georgievski hurried to congratulate Gen. Clark for the ‘shining victory’ and publicly declared that during the crisis NATO troops had been so welcome in Macedonia that they were ‘not guests but hosts in our country’. Bearing in mind that the Macedonian parliament has always been pushed to the margins in terms of decision-making regarding the deployment of foreign troops, while the government could not free itself from its obedient attitude towards NATO political and military power, it becomes clear that the Macedonian case has many problems in terms of civilian control over the other military forces rather than with its own Army. The announcement of Georgievski who accepted the control of the Alliance’s commander as a host in a sovereign state only shows the deep respect of a civilian politician with no democratic culture in regard to the military as such.

Not surprisingly, the one-year jubilee is also seen as a memory of the ‘great victory’. From the government’s perspective, staying in office under the tremendous conditions that have been prevailing during the last year is a great success indeed. The real question is—what does this jubilee mean for the Macedonian society and its citizens? The leading political elite tries to link the survival of the state with the survival of the ruling coalition. In this interpretation these two different matters are presented as synonyms. Truly, the last year has brought many challenges for the fragile Macedonian state and society, and some moments will be remembered in the future as a nightmare. Nevertheless, explanation of the public stand on the Kosovo crisis is a very difficult task because there is not one Macedonian perspective but several. Various segments of the divided Macedonian society perceive NATO intervention in opposite ways.

However, the worst and potentially the most dangerous consequence of the NATO intervention are shaken identities. While the Macedonian government is speaking about ‘positive energy’ and ‘relaxed inter-ethnic relations’, according to many indications the feeling of internal cohesion in each of the major ethnic groups has increased rapidly. It is the case not only within the Macedonian/Albanian community in Macedonia, but also between the Albanians in Macedonia and those in Kosovo. The Albanian community in Macedonia has also not identified with what is seen as a common mighty protector—NATO/USA. The gap of distrust and animosity between Macedonians and Albanians has become deeper than ever.

The 1999 NATO intervention left deep scars on the military sphere of Macedonian society. The ARM was not only pushed out of the barracks but also on to the edge of bankruptcy. The population of Macedonian ethnic origin overtly manifested disagreement with the NATO intervention, while the solidarity with the Yugoslav side was based merely on the perception of the Albanians as a common enemy. The level of military readiness had been increased and a number of military reservists were mobilised. Yet, the dominant attitude was anti-war. 75 On the Albanian side of the population, the behaviour was completely different. In the bigger cities in Western Macedonia there was publicly conducted illegal mobilisation of the Albanian youngsters, who were sent to Kosovo to fight 76 . In the same period, in an interview to the Italian Radio, Arben Xhaferi said that Albanians in Macedonia would not respond to an official mobilisation call should the Macedonian authorities issue one. This attitude was nothing new since even in March 1998 Xhaferi had said that the situation in Kosovo ‘is pushing us to be soldiers, to think in a military way. We are good soldiers and we know how to fight.’ 77 This standpoint was repeated in January 1999 by one of the leading Albanian intellectuals in Macedonia, Kim Mehmeti in a TV interview. 78 Mehmeti, who is also well-known as the director of the Centre for Inter-Ethnic Understanding and Co-operation, appealed to his co-nationals in Macedonia that supporting their Kosovo brethren was their moral duty. The strong emotional tie to Kosovo was explained in this way: ‘Albanians in Macedonia may feel an ethnic tie to Albania, but the big emotional tie is to Kosovo. Kosovo is the cultural and intellectual foundation for us. The writers, the journalists, the educators all came from Kosovo; anything of value is from there. We need to defend Kosovo. Should the first person being killed in the struggle to protect my sister be an American?’ 79

The internal security situation worsened dramatically. The Macedonian police found huge amounts of ammunition and military equipment from the secret KLA stores or headquarters. In the face of complaints from the Macedonian side that KLA had moved its headquarters and resources on to Macedonia’s territory and that the country might become the next involved party in the conflict, the assurance came from Gen. Wesley Clark and German Foreign Minister Fischer who promised to appeal personally to the KLA leadership not to destabilise Macedonia. In the Albanian-populated villages one can still see graffiti such as ‘UCK - NATO’, and in some villages there are monuments built in honour of the KLA heroes killed in the war. On the other hand, the trucks of the Macedonian Army were attacked with stones by citizens who were shouting their support of NATO and KLA while passing through Albanian-populated places.

The war in neighbouring Yugoslavia is officially over, which is not true for the Kosovo conflict. Macedonia is still a place d’arme, not only because it is a constant transit route for KFOR troops and NATO soldiers deployed on Macedonian territory. The mosaic is getting more complex after the latest report that in Macedonia several Albanian paramilitaries and para-police forces operate, the so-called AKSh (Albanian National Army) being one of the most famous.

Paradoxically, one of the biggest problems of the ARM is recruitment of the conscripts. The response is only around 30-40 per cent at a contingent. 80 Preservation of peace in Macedonia in the last decade has been perceived as a miracle, and some nationalists hurried to conclude that the Macedonians are the only peace-loving people on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Unlike Croatia which is undergoing a transition from wartime to peacetime, the situation in Macedonia is the opposite. Croatia is trying to catch up with the developments because of the delay imposed by war, while in Macedonia a decade of development in a relatively peaceful milieu seems to be wasted and the country is facing retrograde tendencies. Having lacked the Serbian type of political culture and military frustrations, Macedonia could have gained on its anti-heroic attitude. What saved Macedonia from war devastation was exactly its military weakness, but with the worsening of the situation the fantastic aurora of ‘oasis of peace’ in the Balkans has been destroyed. Macedonia has been handed back its old historical epithet of being a ‘powder keg.’



*: The present Working Paper will appear in revised form as a chapter in the book, Biljana Vankovska & Håkan Wiberg: Between the Past and the Future: Civil-Military Relations in Post-Communist Balkan States. London: I.B. Tauris (forthcoming).  Back.

Note 1: Duncan M. Perry, ‘The Republic of Macedonia: finding its way‘ in Karen Dawisgha and Bruce Parrott (eds), Politics, Power, and the Struggle for Democracy in South-East Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997): 227; Loring M. Danforth, The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World (Princeton and New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1995): 44.  Back.

Note 2: It is considered that there are clearly identifiable Macedonian, Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian perceptions on Macedonia, which include mutually exclusive versions of the history and national identity of Macedonian people. (For more details, see: Graham Craft, ‘Searching for answers to the Macedonian Question: identity politics in the Balkans‘, Journal of Public and International Affairs, July, 1996, webedition (  Back.

Note 3: Unlike the other Yugoslav peoples, the ancestors of the Macedonians had not been known under a common name (such as Serbs or Croats). It is believed that until the mid seventh century, the members of several Slav tribes (Draguviti, Brsjaci, Sagudati, Rinhini, Strumjani, Smoljani, Velegziti etc.) inhabited the territory of Macedonia.  Back.

Note 4: At its peak, Samuil’s Empire occupied Bulgarian territories between the Danube and the Balkan Mountains, Epirus, a part of Albania, Dalmatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Srem.  Back.

Note 5: At its peak, Samuil’s Empire occupied Bulgarian territories between the Danube and the Balkan Mountains, Epirus, a part of Albania, Dalmatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Srem.  Back.

Note 6: Ivo Banac, The National Question in Yugoslavia. Origins, History, Politics (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1991): 33.  Back.

Note 7: Robert W. Mickey and Adam Smith Albion, ‘Success in the Balkans? Case study of ethnic relations in the Republic of Macedonia’, in Ian Cuthbertson and Jane Leibowitz (eds), Minorities: The New Europe’s Old Issue (Prague: Institute for EastWest Studies, 1993): 55.  Back.

Note 8: Dr Tupurkovski was the Macedonian representative in the collective presidency of Former Yugoslavia at the time of dissolution. After the first personal disagreement with the President of independent Macedonia, Kiro Gligorov, it seemed that he withdrew from politics for a couple of years. His comeback was celebrated with a new book on the history of ancient Macedonia in a promotion that was a unique event in the capital city, Skopje.  Back.

Note 9: Vasil Tupurkovski, Istorija na Makedonija: od drevnina to smrtta na Aleksandar Makedonski (History of Macedonia: From Antiquity to the Death of Alexander the Macedonian) (Skopje: Titan, 1993): 7.  Back.

Note 10: Georgi Pop-Atanasov, Biblijata za Makedonija i Makedoncite (The Holy Bible on Macedonia and the Macedonians) (Skopje: Menora, 1995): 132.  Back.

Note 11: The city of Ohrid and its thousand-year-old monuments and churches still have a deep symbolic meaning for the Bulgarians as they see Ohrid as a cradle of their nationhood. Like Kosovo for the Serbs, Ohrid is perceived as the Bulgarian Jerusalem. It is one of the hottest points of conflict between Macedonians and Bulgarians even today.  Back.

Note 12: Ivo Banac, The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics , 308.  Back.

Note 13: R.G.D. Laffan, The Serbs: The Guardians of the Gate (New York: Dorset Press, 1989): 65&-;6.  Back.

Note 14: Manol Pandevski, Makedonskoto osloboditelno delo vo 19 i 20 vek (Macedonian Liberation Actions in 19th and 20th century) (Skopje: Misla, 1986).  Back.

Note 15: One of the nineteenth-century Macedonian revolutionaries, Dimo Hadzi Dimov, argued that the Macedonian Question was exploited by the hypocritical European diplomats. In his view ‘there would have been no Eastern Question, if it had not been for the fatal tactics of the great powers who commit the most monstrous crimes to satisfy their unlimited greed. The sun of freedom would have been shining for a long time over Macedonia and wherever it is needed, if philanthropy had been the driving force of diplomacy.‘ (Quoted by Vera Veskovich-Vangeli, ‘The national identity of Macedonians between the past and the present’, in Stefano Bianchini and Marco Dogo (eds), The Balkans: National Identities in a Historical Perspective (Ravenna: Longo Editore, 1998): 114.  Back.

Note 16: One of the most popular jokes in Macedonia says that one Macedonian is a komita (rebel) , two Macedonians comprise a group of komitas, and three Macedonians are a group with a traitor.  Back.

Note 17: Aleksandar Hristov, Sozdavanje na makedonskata drzava (Macedonian State-Building) (Skopje: Misla, 1990).  Back.

Note 18: Pravilata-Ustavot na Makedonskiot vostanicki komitet (Rules – Constitution of the Macedonian Revolutionary Committee) , Documents (Skopje: Institut za socioloski i politicko-pravni istrazuvanja, 1980). For a discussion see Vlado Popovski, Makedonskoto nacionalno-osloboditelno dvizenje do TMORO (Macedonian National and Liberation Movement until TMORO) (Skopje: Makedonska kniga, 1989): 171–96.  Back.

Note 19: Quoted by Ljuben Lape (eds), Odbrani cetiva za istorijata na makedonskiot narod (Selected Readings on the History of the Macedonian People) (Skopje: 1953): 257.  Back.

Note 20: Biljana Popovska-Netkova, ‘Za polozbata i pravata na nacionalnostite vo procesot na konstituiranjeto na Republika Makedonija kako sovremena pravna drzava’ (On the status and rights of the nationalities in the process of establishing of the Republic of Macedonia as a modern legal state) in Konstituiranje na Republika Makedonija kako moderna pravna drzava (Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia as a Modern Legal State) (Skopje: Praven Fakultet, 1995): 141.  Back.

Note 21: The leadership of the uprising addressed the Great Powers with a special Declaration, which explained the reasons and the goals of the Macedonian people’s struggle. In the Declaration the European diplomacy was asked to get involved in the process of the resolution of the Macedonian Question.  Back.

Note 22: Vasil Ivanovski, Zosto nie Makedoncite sme oddelna nacija (Why We Macedonians are a Distinct Nation) (Skopje: Arhiv na Makedonija, 1995): 102.  Back.

Note 23: One of the most authentic testimonies of the horrors over the civilian population in Macedonia was given in the Report of the Carnegie Endowment Commission on the Balkans. However, for decades, although advocating the same theses, the Macedonian authorities never based their allegations on that document because the population in Macedonia was named Bulgarian by the authors of the Report. The Report was translated and published only in early 2000, when the pro-Bulgarian Macedonian government of VMRO insisted on that. The Macedonian public doubted that it was done for the sake of the historical truth about the sufferings Macedonians went through the Balkan wars, but for other political reasons.  Back.

Note 24: Quoted by Vera Veskovich-Vangeli, ‘The national identity of Macedonians between the past and the present‘, 122.  Back.

Note 25: Zoran Todorovski, Vnatresna makedonska revolucionerna organizacija 1924–1934 (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation 1924–1934) (Skopje: ROBZ, 1997): 134–55.  Back.

Note 26: Stefan Troebst, Bugarsko-Jugoslovenskata kontroverza za Makedonija 1967–1982 (Bulgarian-Yugoslav Controversy over Macedonia 1967–1982) , translation from German edition (Skopje: INI, 1997): 58.  Back.

Note 27: Vance Stojcev, Bugarskiot okupaciski sistem vo Makedonija 1941–1944 (Bulgarian Occupational System in Macedonia 1941–1944 (Skopje: Grigor Prlicev, 1996).  Back.

Note 28: According to some Bulgarian historians the military force deployed in Macedonia even consisted of 47 per cent people recruited in Vardar Macedonia.  Back.

Note 29: Petar Pepeljugovski, Prilozi za voenata istorija na makedonskiot narod (Supplements for the Military History of the Macedonian People) (Skopje: Studentski zbor, 1988): 181–253.  Back.

Note 30: Capt. D.S.M. Macdonald, ‘Report on Mission Brasenose’, 18 November 1944 quoted by Stefan Troebst, Bugarsko-Jugoslovenskata kontroverza za Makedonija 1967–1982 (Bulgarian-Yugoslav Controversy over Macedonia 1967–1982. This statement is quoted very often but with different purposes. Some see a proof that Macedonians have always been supportive to the Yugoslav idea and that they were de facto recognised as allies in the Anti-fascist Coalition, while the others find a base for their claims that Macedonians always wanted an independent and united Macedonia (which was prevented by the Yugoslav policy and Tito).  Back.

Note 31: According to the historical documentation, in a range of addresses, documents and proclamations of the Macedonian Communist Party and the General Staff of the National Liberation Movement the glorious Ilinden traditions and the objectives of the Krusevo republic were regularly mentioned. In addition, most of the partisan units were given names after the Macedonian revolutionaries, and each anniversary of the Ilinden Uprising was officially celebrated by the partisans. Actually, some of the most important gatherings were held on that date (2 August) with the intention of proving the continuation of the Macedonian struggle for freedom. The partisan movement should have been ‘the Second and the last Ilinden’. (See in Novica Veljanovski, ‘Revolucionernite idei na VMRO i Ilinden vo NOV na Makedonija 1941–1944’ (‘Revolutionary ideas of IMRO and Ilinden during the National Liberation Movement 1941–1944’ in Sto godini od osnovanjeto na VMRO i 90 godini od Ilindenskoto vostanie (100th Anniversary of VMRO and 90th Anniversary of Ilinden Uprising) (Skopje: MANU, 1994): 459–85.  Back.

Note 32: There are rumours about a secret mass execution of a group of young Macedonian officers near Skopje charged for treason because of their refusal to go to the Srem Front. In the period 1945–48 there were many trials of the members of VMRO because of their anticommunist activities during the war. Some believe that the trials were merely political and directed towards the ideology of mihajlovism (i.e. of independent Macedonia out of Yugoslavia). The 1991 Macedonian Constitution includes a clause on rehabilitation of the VMRO fighters prosecuted by the Yugoslav regime. It is done in a reconciliatory way that equalises the participants of the partisan movement with the others. The Article 36 reads: ‘The Republic guarantees particular social security rights to veterans of the Anti-Fascist War and of all Macedonian liberation wars, to war invalids, to those expelled and imprisoned for the ideas of the separate identity of the Macedonian people and of Macedonian statehood, as well as to members of their families without means of material and social subsistence.’  Back.

Note 33: In his speech on the First Session of ASNOM, the oldest delegate (Panko Brasnarov) referred to the traditions from Samuil and Goce Delcev and the Krusevo Republic. He pictured the ‘young Macedonian Army’ as a successor of the glorious Ilinden military force, and even anticipated the future unification of all Macedonia.  Back.

Note 34: Todor Atanasovski, ‘Karakterot i primarnite svojstva i belezi na makedonskoto vojnistvo i voenoto nasledstvo’ (The character and the primary facets of the Macedonian military tradition and legacy) in Sto godini od osnovanjeto na VMRO i 90 godini od Ilindenskoto vostanie (100th Anniversary of VMRO and 90th Anniversary of Ilinden Uprising) (Skopje: MANU, 1994): 124.  Back.

Note 35: Stephen E. Palmer, Jr. and Robert R. King, Yugoslav Communism and the Macedonian Question (Connecticut: Hamden, 1971): 64.  Back.

Note 36: Stefan Troebst, Bugarsko-Jugoslovenskata kontroverza za Makedonija 1967–1982 (Bulgarian-Yugoslav Controversy over Macedonia 1967–1982), 74.  Back.

Note 37: Anton Bebler, ‘Civil-military relations in Slovenia’, in Constantine P. Danopoulos and Daniel Zirker (eds), Civil-Military Relations in the Soviet and Yugoslav Successor States (Boulder: Westview Press, 1996).  Back.

Note 38: It is believed that ‘a country with no experience in a coup will be less likely to have one than a country where one has already occurred’. (Rosemary O’Kane, ‘A probable approach to the causes of coups d’état’, British Journal of Political Science , 1981–82, p. 295).  Back.

Note 39: Stefan Troebst, ‘IMRO + 100 = FYROM?’, in James Pettifer (ed.), The New Macedonian Question (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).  Back.

Note 40: Eric J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992): 166.  Back.

Note 41: In an interview for RFE/RL in 1998, the authors of the constitutional agreement, Izetbegovic and Gligorov expressed divergent opinions. In Izetbegovic’s opinion the illnesses of Yugoslavia had already been incurable, while Gligorov said that the war could have been avoided. ( RFE/RL Bosnia Report , vol. 2, No. 37, 16 September 1998).  Back.

Note 42: Gane Todorovski, ‘Mozno li e i nuzno datiranjeto na radjanjeto na makedonskata nacija?’ (Is the dating of the birth of the Macedonian nation possible and necessary?) in Sto godini od osnovanjeto na VMRO i 90 godini od Ilindenskoto vostanie (100th Anniversary of VMRO and 90th Anniversary of Ilinden Uprising) , 293.  Back.

Note 43: In one occassion President Gligorov confirmed that at the time of the negotiations on the YPA withdrawal from Macedonia he had already prepared a video-type with his address to the nation. In case of failure of the negotiations and his arrest the type was supposed to be broadcasted. The message was a call for non-violent civil resistance and an appeal to the international community. (Interview of the author with President Gligorov, Ohrid, October 1997).  Back.

Note 44: Quoted by Sabrina Petra Ramet, ‘The Macedonian Enigma’, in Sabrina Petra Ramet and Ljubisa S. Adamovich (eds), Beyond Yugoslavia. Politics, Economics, and Culture in a Shattered Community (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995): 215.  Back.

Note 45: Trajan Gocevski, Kolektivnata bezbednost i odbranata na Makedonija (Collective Security and Macedonian Defence) (Kumanovo: Prosveta, 1990): 255–6.  Back.

Note 46: Olga Murdzeva-Skarik and Svetomir Skarik, ‘Peace and UNPREDEP in Macedonia’, paper presented at XVI IPRA General Conference, Creating Nonviolent Futures , Brisbane, Australia, 8–12 July 1996, p 11.  Back.

Note 47: Olga Murdzeva-Skarik and Svetomir Skarik, ‘Peace and UNPREDEP in Macedonia’.  Back.

Note 48: Trajan Gocevski, Neutralna Makedonija:od vizija do stvarnost (Neutral Macedonia: From Vision to Reality (Kumanovo: Makedonska riznica, 1995).  Back.

Note 49: Agency for Public Opinion Survey (NIP Nova Makedonija, DATA Press) realised two surveys during March–May 1996 on a sample of 2,800 respondents. The survey titled peace in Macedonia showed interesting results regarding ARM. Only a small minority of citizens (2.29 per cent) was convinced that ARM had contributed to preserving peace in the country. Only 14.71 per cent thought that the realisation of a lasting peace depended on the military.  Back.

Note 50: The consistent and sometimes even stubborn implementation of the ‘national key’ principle, as both the Yugoslav and Soviet case proved, is not a guarantee for satisfactory results. (Cynthia Enloe, Policija, vojska i etnicitet: fundamenti drzavne vlasti (Police, Military and Ethnicity: Foundations of State Power) (Zagreb: Globus, 1990): 177.  Back.

Note 51: Alon Peled, A Question of Loyalty: Military Manpower Policy in Multiethnic States (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1998).  Back.

Note 52: Ferid Muhic, ‘Kulturnata integracija i socijalniot pluralizam: makedonskiot model’(Cultural integration and social pluralism: the Macedonian model), Socioloska revija , vol. 1, n.o 1, 1996, p 26.  Back.

Note 53: Budo Vukobrat, ‘Mitre would like to go to NATO!’, AIM Press Skopje (, 5 March 1998.  Back.

Note 54: Zlatko Isakovic and Constantine P. Danopoulos, ‘In search of identity: civil–military relations and nationhood in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’, in Constantine P. Danopoulos and Daniel Zirker (eds), Civil–Military Relations in the Soviet and Yugoslav Successor States (Boulder: Westview Press, 1996): 187.  Back.

Note 55: ‘UNPREDEP – United Nations Preventive Deployment Force: Mission Backgrounder‘, Department of Public Information, United Nations , Webedition, updated 12 June 1997.  Back.

Note 56: At the beginning there was a widespread public opinion that UN forces were sent with the purpose of defending the country in case of external aggression. Later the public expectations and disposition towards the mission radically changed. For example, the result of the public opinion poll in spring 1996 showed that 50.29% of the examined citizens thought that the peace in Macedonia could have been preserved without UNPREDEP. For more detail see: Olga Murdjeva-Skaric and Svetomir Skaric, ibid.  Back.

Note 57: Many of these allegations appeared to be true during the presidential and parliamentary elections in 1994 when Gligorov’s campaign was conducted together with the SDSM and the other two parties united in the coalition ‘lliance for Macedonia’.  Back.

Note 58: For example, President Gligorov promoted the former defence minister, retired Col. Risto Damjanovski, into a general in an unprecedented way. Damjanovski had been removed from office because of his loyalty towards the YPA orders during the period of gaining independence. It had been believed that he had been responsible for withdrawal of the draft Defence Law in 1991 under the explanation that ‘we already have a federal defence law that is still valid’. His promotion was made exclusively by Gligorov who skipped the regular procedure of taking proposals from the General Staff of the Army. The other peculiarity was that Damjanovski had been retired for three years, when he was promoted into a general. Obviously Gligorov introduced a practice valid in the former Yugoslavia, although the retired officers are usually promoted only in exceptional situations like wartime when it is necessary. (‘Gligorov napravi general od ministerot Damjanovski smenet poradi projugoslovenstvo’ (Gligorov promoted into a general the minister Damjanovski, who was replaced because of pro-Yugoslavness), Dnevnik, 1 September 1997).  Back.

Note 59: Zlatko Isakovic and Constantine P. Danopoulos, ‘In search of identity: civil–military relations and nationhood in the Former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia (FYROM)’.  Back.

Note 60: OSCE monitoring mission reported serious violations of the procedure in Western Macedonia, but only after the new president came into office.  Back.

Note 61: Quoted by Iso Rusi, ‘Incidents on the Macedonian-Kosovo Border’, AIM Press -Skopje (, 23 June 2000.  Back.

Note 62: For example, in spring 2000 a public scandal occurred when the media revealed a report of the head of the Military Security Service on activities of Albanian paramilitary units in Macedonia. It appeared that the report had been submitted to the Prime Minister, while the President had not been informed at all.  Back.

Note 63: Extreme in this regard is, however, the behaviour of the current head of the MoD unit in Bitola (the second biggest city in Macedonia). Crnomarov belongs to the top circles of the ruling VMRO, infamous because of the issuing of ‘death sentences’ at the time when VMRO was in the opposition. He had been known under his nickname ‘Vojvoda’ and having entered the new office he had a mask uniform made for him with insignia typical for a ‘generalissimus’. His explanation allegedly was that ‘a vojvoda cannot be an ordinary private’. His public walks in Bitola have become an everyday event.  Back.

Note 64: He was, however, infamous for building the so-called ‘Resen navy’ because of his wide employment of his co-citizens and relatives from his birthplace Resen.  Back.

Note 65: Panta Dzambazoski, ‘What caused the General Staff off?’, AIM Press – Skopje ( , 5 July 1994.  Back.

Note 66: Bocinov has been known as a ‘Macedonian hero’ from the Yugoslav wars because of his refusal to obey the order of his superior to fire on Split (Croatia). He was charged by the YPA military judicial authorities and put to jail where he was tortured. He was released only after long negotiations and pressures on the Belgrade regime.  Back.

Note 67: ‘General Bocinov: Nema sila sto ce me natera da pukam vo sopstveniot narod!’ (General Bocinov: ‘There is no such power that would enforce me to fire against my own people!’), Nova Makedonija , 17 February 1999, p. 7.  Back.

Note 68: Interview of the author with Dr Vlado Popovski, the member of the expert group who drafted the Constitution and the former Defence Minister, Skopje, June 2000.  Back.

Note 69: Interview with Lazar Kitanovski, the former Defence Minister and a member of the Assembly, Start, 30 June 2000.  Back.

Note 70: Nova Makedonija , 2 September 1996, p 2.  Back.

Note 71: One of the biggest ‘achievements of the VMRO government was the agreement with Bulgaria that provided 100 tanks for the Macedonian army. Both sides intended to score positive points in domestic and international terms. The Macedonian Government pictured the gift as ultimate proof of the friendly intentions from the Bulgarian side that should have definitively reassured Macedonians of their good will and non-aggressive politics towards Macedonia. On the other hand, it was presented as a significant improvement of Macedonia’s military capabilities. In addition to the propagandists’ points, the Sofia regime could show NATO/EU that it had Europeanised its policy towards the neighbours. Besides, it elegantly got rid of the extra tanks in accordance with the international agreement for reduction of arms in Central and Eastern Europe. Very soon it appeared that the gift did not consist of all one hundred tanks but less, and that the funds needed for their maintenance are an unbearable burden for Macedonia, let alone the fact that they are completely inadequate for Macedonia’s defensive strategy.  Back.

Note 72: Tomi Aleksovski, ‘NATO – Expensive ‘entertainment’ for poor Macedonia’, AIM Press- Skopje (, 13 June 1996.  Back.

Note 73: Interview with Kiro Gligorov for the Macedonian weekly Start, 12 November 1999.  Back.

Note 74: Only a week before the session of the UN Security Council that should have extended UNPREDEP mandate for one more term, the Macedonian foreign policy issued its official state recognition of Taiwan. China’s response was to cease diplomatic relations with Macedonia, so its veto was everything but a surprise.  Back.

Note 75: As an illustration one may take the fact that during the first days after the intervention began, the student dormitories were empty since the parents picked up their sons out of fear that they might have been mobilised. Terrified people were buying huge amounts of food supplies and other necessary things.  Back.

Note 76: There are data that during the war in Kosovo children from Macedonia (15–18 years old) were recruited into the paramilitary forces (i.e. Albanian KLA and the Serbian ‘Tigers’). It is believed that, at least, 150 of them were killed. ( Puls, 28 May 1999, pp. 30–1).  Back.

Note 77: ‘Macedonians fear they could be next’, BBC News, 11 March 1998.  Back.

Note 78: Interview with Kim Mehmeti in the TV show A1-International, 20 January 1999.  Back.

Note 79: Quoted from the report of the International Crisis Group, ‘The Albanian Question in Macedonia: Implications of the Kosovo Conflict for Inter-Ethnic Relations in Macedonia’, 11 August 1998, p. 2.  Back.

Note 80: After the first years of boycott the young Albanians have finally accepted their duty towards the state, which is not true for the young Macedonians. Out of 17,000 conscripts the Macedonian army can rely only on 5,000–6,800 privates. According to research conducted in 1996 the attitude of majority students (70.7 per cent) from the high schools in Macedonia was against the obligatory military service. However, their readiness to take part in defence of their country in case of need was the opposite – 65 per cent of the respondents replied positively. (Zorica Saltirovska, ‘Problems in the conscription system in Macedonia during the transition period’, unpublished MA thesis at the Institute of Defence, University of Skopje, October 1998).  Back.