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Macedonia, Albania aim to turn page on encyclopedia dispute

May 1, 2012

The Macedonian and Albanian academies of arts and sciences move towards peace and tolerance, but critics say the latest initiative interferes with Macedonia’s internal affairs.

By Misko Taleski for Southeast European Times in Skopje, 30/04/12

photoThe Macedonian Encyclopedia remains at the centre of a controversy. [MIA]

By June, the Macedonian and the Albanian academies of arts and sciences will form a joint co-operation council that will offer a different interpretation of the history of relations between the Macedonian and Albanian people.

“By the constitution, such a body … will solve problems and open questions,” Gudar Beciraj, president of the Albanian Academy (ACS), said.

Science should lead the way to dialogue, not conflict, Macedonian Academy (MANU) President Vlado Kambovski said. “A Balkan academy is needed to solve all open questions regarding history and science.”

The two academies’ members will meet in June in Ohrid to address the open issues between Macedonians and Albanians.

“Macedonians and Albanians have common history. The same rulers ruled and used the same measures towards them both. Whatever the truth about the Macedonian-Albanian relations, it should be viewed from more sides,” Rizvan Sulejmani, professor at Tetovo State University, told SETimes.

One of the key issues to be addressed is the Macedonian Encyclopedia. Albanians dispute the book because it says they are newcomers to the Balkans and not native to Macedonia.

A wave of criticism in 2009 ceased publication of the book.

The encyclopedia is a project of MANU’s Lexicographic Centre. More than 250 academy members, university professors and researchers created the two-volume encyclopedia over the course of seven years. It covers 9,000 people, concepts and events from all time periods within the geographical boundaries of Macedonia, from prehistoric to contemporary times.

The encyclopedia describes Albanians as “mountain people” and says the nation descended in Macedonia together with the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century.

The ASC says these views are nationalist, and called on their Macedonian colleagues to reconsider the publication for the sake of “truth in history and good neighbourhood relations.”

“All statements in the encyclopedia are based on proof and documents which are verified. If some do not like facts, it does not mean the facts should be changed. Let them prove they are native to these lands,” Gjorgi Malkovski, historian and one of the encyclopedia authors, told SETimes.

“The attempt to change the Macedonian encyclopedia in the interest of Albanians will degrade Macedonian historical science, which has made a tremendous progress,” he added.

“The Macedonian Academy [MANU] is forming a new team to produce a new encyclopedia which will contain statements that will be acceptable to the Albanians. But nothing will come out of that effort. After all, is MANU interfering in the publishing and content of the Albanian Encyclopedia? In it, Macedonians are not even recognised as people but are assimilated into phantom ‘Slavomacedonians’,” the book’s editor and veteran academy historian, Blazhe Ristovski, told SETimes.

Despite the efforts to smooth relations, historians are unanimous that history is not subject to goodwill agreements.

“We have seen similar efforts regionwide — primarily from Greece and Bulgaria — to legally ‘solve’ the gaps in their national historical narratives, including by attempting a political diktat or political agreements, especially towards Macedonia,” historian Violeta Achkovska told SETimes.

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