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Interview: Nikolaos Mertzos (Kathimerini, 11.03.2012)

March 12, 2012

Part of an interview given by Nikolaos Mertzos to Ilias Maglinis of Kathimerini, published 11.03.2012. Translated from the Greek.

Nikolaos Mertzos

Nikolaos Mertzos is a journalist and President of the Society of Macedonian Studies. He served as advisor to the Prime-Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis between 1990-1993.


The Balkans are our back-yard, our neighbourhood, our brothers

 During the three years between 1990-1993 [Balkan Story note: the period of the Mitsotakis government in Greece], N. Mertzos was advisor to the then Prime-Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis on National Issues. “With Gligorov”, he remembers, “we had arrived very close to an agreement during the Lisbon summit. Gligorov wanted to have me as a partner in the discussions. He used to say ‘Mertzos knows our trouble”.

And what is their trouble? I ask. “Their pain is that they have a divided personality. They have Greek relatives. Some of them are descended from Greeks. They want to be called Macedonians so as to have an identity. Gligorov used to tell me, ‘if they call you simply a Greek, you have 3.000 years of history behind you; from us, if you remove the ‘Macedonian’, we are left with just 20 years of existence.’

Personally I accept them as Slavomacedonians and that was the agreement with Gligorov. The country would be Slavomacedonia. When I expressed this opinion, I was called a traitor, that Mitsotakis had given secret funds and that Mertzos had sold out. The great Averov had written a book, the ‘History of lost chances’. There he writes that every time, in various crises, the Greeks had the solution, we rejected it and finally we would miss the opportunity. However there is still leeway to meet. It is, however, an issue that must mature in peoples hearts.”

Source of Evils

“The younger generations of Skopjans believe that the Greeks are the source of their evils. But Macedonia is not a nation. There was a tribe of Macedonians until the Romans came to these territories. There followed three multiethnic Empires and intermingling happened. Nowadays we have Greek Macedonians, Slav Macedonians, we also have Turk Macedonians – as Kemal [Balkan Story note: Ataturk]. Or Macedonian Jews. For five hundred years the Jews were here – note that the Israelite community has supported us a lot. Thus Macedonians are the inhabitants of a wide region, not a nation.”

N. Mertzos has also connected his name to the great demonstration that took place in Thessalonike in 1992. Today he admits that the move “was not helpful”. “We had created the Macedonian Committee, and it was that which took the decision. I personally had many objections for the whole move, but I was in the minority. Mr Mitsotakis was in Italy. I spoke with Panagiotis Grivas, the head of his office. My veto was that such a move, precisely because it would attract a great number of participants, would bind the hands of the politicians. We needed the approval of the government.”

According to the version given by mr Mertzos, it proved impossible to contact mr Mitsotakis, and thus the green light was given by mr Antonis Samaras, then minister of Foreign Affairs. “He said ‘do it because it helps our interests’. Later the whole move was demonised, especially by the Germans: the Spiegel wrote that we Greeks were expansionists. Our slogan was ‘Macedonian is Greek and only Greek’ – thus, according to the Germans, we were claiming a part of Skopje”.


Balakan Story note: The use of Skopje and Skopjan for the country and the people follows the Greek original. In Greek these terms have come to be commonly used without negative connotations, despite the fact that they are perceived in FYROM as insulting terms.

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