Thousands of Greeks Protested the Fact That Macedonia Is Called Macedonia

For decades, Greece has been worried that its neighbour, Macedonia, will one day claim the Greek province of the same name.

by Thodoris Chondrogiannos
05 February 2018, 2:58pm

All photos by Panos Kefalos

This article originally appeared on VICE Greece

This Sunday, an estimated 140,000 Greeks took to the streets of Athens to protest something fairly confusing: the Greek government's attempts to solve a decades-long dispute with Greece's neighbour, the Republic of Macedonia, over the latter country's name.

Ever since Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Greece has argued that the only real Macedonia is the Greek province of the same name, which was the birthplace of Alexander the Great.

Greece is worried that the fact its neighbour calls itself "Macedonia" implies that, at some point, it will lay claim to the Greek region. However, the Republic of Macedonia's current government has always maintained that it has no plans to expand into Greece.

Last week, a UN negotiator announced that both sides seemed keen to find a compromise that would see the former Yugoslav republic amend its name slightly – but, crucially, keep the "Macedonia" bit, while adding something to set it apart from the Greek province. An agreement could help normalise relations between both countries, and would likely lead to Greece dropping its opposition to Macedonia joining the EU and NATO.

In response, a coalition of right-wing groups in Greece organised Sunday's protest through Athens' Syntagma Square, to show that many Greeks find any kind of compromise unacceptable and that they won't be happy until the Republic of Macedonia drops its name entirely.

Scroll down to see more photos from Sunday's protest.