Skopje 2014

Project Skopje 2014 and Societal Security Sector

Dunja Stojanović

Societal Security is the term characteristic for academic thought known as Copenhagen School. The term was first introduced by Barry Buzan. That is one of the five security sectors in one society beside political, military, economic and environmental sector. Another theorist within’ the School, Ole Waever defines societal security as “the ability of society to persist in its essential character under changing conditions and possible or actual threats”.[1] These conditions are “conditions for evolution of traditional patterns of language, culture, association, etc.”[2]

Possible or actual societal threats that were recognized in Macedonia can be divided into external and internal. Conditions for evolution are related to identity which, in my opinion, Macedonia is still seeking for. Nation building project named Skopje 2014 was sort of
an attempt to reconstruct or to build national identity of Macedonia. External threats were seen in Macedonian neighbors who constantly question the existence of Macedonian nation and identity. Another challenges and threats are internal and related to Albanians in that country.

In 2006 when VMRO-DPMNE came to the power, Nikola Gruevski as leader in that time suggested the process of reconstructing identity that was known as antiquisation. That was the linkage between Macedonians of that time with ancient Macedonians. The figure that was used was Alexander the Great. Also in 2006, the Skopje Airport was renamed to his airport. After their second election win in 2008, the Stadium in Skopje was renamed to National Arena Philip II. Skopje 2014 project appeared as the biggest effort by then. It included reconstruction of buildings and setting the statues of Alexander the Great, Philip II, Emperor Samuel, Cyril and Methodius and the monument dedicated to the victims of ethnic conflict in 2001.

This project tried to strengthen societal security of Macedonians, but that can provoke insecurity for the other groups. That is called societal security dilemma. External, Bulgaria and Greece understood this project as stealing their own history. Bulgaria accepts the Macedonian country, but not the nation. Greece and Macedonia have bad relations from the first years of Macedonia’s independence, because of the country’s name. In 2008, Greece vetoed Macedonia’s admission for NATO membership. This project only highlighted their conflicts. Internal, Albanian people in Macedonia looked at the project as insulting and offensive. That led to their perception of exclusion. As an answer Albanians started up the project in which Skenderbeg Square was built and schools and streets in Albanian part of the Skopje were renamed.

Now, with new government and Zaev as prime minister, a desire to settle the dispute with Greece is recognized. Airport name is withdrawn. Also, Zaev is considered the prime minister who did something for Albanians’ rights at the moment. Because of that, Macedonians see themselves endangered.

This societal security dilemma in which one has more and other less security leaves Macedonia with no continuity and with relations within the state unstable.

[1] Waever, Buzan, and Kelstrup 1993, 23.

[2] Waever, Buzan, and Kelstrup 1993, 23.

This was one of the most interesting experience during this fild trip. I had the chance to see how Skopje looks like after project Skopje 2014. Nikola, the tour guide explained the political system in Macedonia and how that affcts in everyday life of people.
Dunja, M.A. Student U Belgrade

Sehr interessante Führung und gute Hintergrundinformationen zu „Skopje 2014“. Ich bekam einen guten Eindruck, wie die „eigene ‘Geschichte“ geschrieben wird , anhand der großen Anzahl der Denkmäler, der Bauten und wie der Anspruch der VMRO-DPMNE durch dieses Vorhaben war, das „MazedonischOrthodoxe“ vom „Albanischen“ zu trennen.
Michal, M.A. Student HU Berlin

„Skopje 2014“ and failed identity politics – a critique

Sandra Türk

When the earthquake hit Skopje July 26th 1963 and the station clock stopped at 5.17am no one suspected what the town centre would look like over 50 years later. An architectural programme costing 850 million euros was supposed to give the town a new imperialistic and neo-classical look, without publicly discussing or even announcing this project. The NGO “Плоштад Слобода” (Pložtad Sloboda, engl. Freedom Square) has planned a campaign called „Skopje 2014 uncovered“ to bring light into this absurd scheme. They want to prove to the public that public money went to government-close enterprises which were commissioned for this project.

National need for prestige

The capital of Macedonia is undergoing an institutionally imposed renaissance: 100 sculptures of supposed heroes, 34 overloaded monuments and 27 buildings with pimped up facades in a neo-classical and neo-baroque style are supposed to reflect the new nationalism and a strong Macedonian identity. This kind of overdesigned and disrespectful architecture which is so far only known from eastern Asian autocracies or futuristic desert oases has now also arrived on the Balkans – with third class quality as the plasterboard facades made of flammable materials do not conform to fire safety requirements. New bridges with imperialistic lanterns connect the two banks of the Vardar River which separates the post socialist orthodox centre with the medieval Ottoman old town. But these bridges do not serve to unite the two parts of towns. The government didn’t fail to construct new buildings on the Muslim bank of the river, obstructing the view of the Muslim heritage. This heritage which cannot be denied historically is supposed to be withheld.

Ethnopolitical tension

Only 65% of Macedonia’s population are of Slavic-Macedonian origin, almost a third is ethnically Albanian. But Skopje insists on its Christian culture which is made clear by the over-dimensional Mileniumski Krst, the millennium cross on the mountain of Vodno, another symbol of Orthodox-Muslim segregation. There is no space for an ethnic Albanian culture however. Only the Muslim Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mother Teresa fits in, a memorial was dedicated to her on Ulica Makedonija – on of the highlights of every city tour. The Ohrid Agreement 2001 includes the principle of non-discrimination, however Albanian still is not recognised as a second official language. Albanian participation has grown but the integration has not. The ethnic segregation is increasing through the western Italian-oriented mother country Albania, due to the historic and geographical situation.

The rebellion of the younger generation

As if the pseudo-monumental refurbishment wasn’t enough, 12 parks and 35% of Skopje’s trees  – many up to 70 years old – were removed which has entailed a higher air pollution. All of this contributed to the fact that the assumed descendants of ancient Macedonia and its ruler Alexander the Great are not impressed and have made their own kind of memorial: in an insurgence the freshly painted buildings were attacked by enraged inhabitants and students, Skopje 2014 became the victim of colour bombs. These traces are now also an inevitable part of the town’s history.

The crescent moon stands higher

The nationalistic government party under Nikola Gruesvki wanted to part with socialism and the architectural heritage of the Ottoman Empire with the help of Skopje 2014, an insecure country that is looking for a new identity as a post-Yugoslav nation. Greece is blocking Macedonia’s joining the EU and NATO due to the naming dispute, although this could be an important step towards political order and stabilisation. The jaundiced attempt to confirm the national self-esteem with plasterboard seems ridiculous from a Eurocentric perspective, but it is also dangerous. Because as long as buildings and churches are erected with the aim of surmounting every minaret the silk thread which is holding the sensitive peace on the Balkans will become longer and longer until it threatens to tear. Nevertheless, the government cannot prevent the ever-returning crescent moon rising above Vodno Mountain and its cross. Because even the highest plasterboard panel will not be able to obscure it.