“If you don’t vote VMRO you’re not Macedonian”. A study of Macedonian Identity and National Discourse in Skopjee
By Morten Dehli Andreassen
Supervisor: Associate Professor Tone Bringa
In this thesis my aim has been to take a closer look at the connection between ethnicity, identity and political power in Macedonia.
I have tried to achieve this by focusing on identifying some enabling structures and constraining factors for identity construction on three analytical levels of the Macedonian community in Skopje. I started out by focusing on the perception of history among my informants, just like my informants often started out by discussing perceptions of history in our conversations. I have tried to take a closer look at the different shifts in Macedonian history, which I have indicated by leaning on Todorova’s are identity transformations. I have further indicated that such an identity transformation started in Skopje around 2006 and are still ongoing. I have also suggested that the identity issues with the surrounding countries are based on controversies going back at least a hundred years, making it easy for the political elite to make use of in contemporary identity construction. In addition I have attempted to show how the government through their dominant position in Macedonian politics is fronting poster campaigns drawing the Macedonian genealogy back to the antique Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great.
I have divided the Macedonian population into three generations and referred to them as group A, B, and C. My aim was to show how the three generations interpreted the Macedonian history based on their own lived experience. One of my conclusions is that the Macedonian history narration as presented in Skopje by the official Macedonian historians, is legacy as perception and that the Macedonian government party is shaping this perception through its national discourse. I move on to explain how the political elite influences the perception of national history, by creating a national genealogy going back to the antique Macedonians’ and by doing this influences the perception of Macedonian identity. I also try to show how this is restricted to the ethnic Macedonian population through juxtaposing history, descent and religion with ethnicity to create and maintain ethnic boundaries.
In chapter three of the thesis I have chosen to focus on the national discourse analysed through a critical discourse analysis perspective. I chose to focus on the national discourse because I saw through my fieldwork that nationalism was an important aspect connecting nation-building with ethnicity and the ongoing identity discourse. I used Øzkirimli’s theoretical approach to national discourse to identify four important dimensions within the Macedonian national discourse. These were identified as the spatial, temporal, symbolic and everyday dimensions. The four dimensions are important in the national discourse as enabling homogenisation of Macedonian identity.
The conception of history and the national discourse in Macedonian nation-building has been in focus throughout this thesis. My aim has been to use history conception and national discourse to illuminate how ethnicity, identity and political power influence each other in Skopje. There are however many other variables that go beyond the scope of this thesis. One of the factors I was unable to discuss is the economic factor. Economy plays an important role in every political turmoil and according to Todorova (2004) also in identity transformations...