[Berlin] Event/Panel Discussion „Guns, Cash and Alexander the Great: Nationalism and Imperialism in the Balkans“, March 2, 2018

WHEREan tel

Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Seminarraum 1
Franz -Mehring-Platz 1, 10243 Berlin


Friday, March 2, 2018 at 6 pm.


Theo Pelekanidis (Greece, ANTARSYA, PhD candidate at Humboldt University in Berlin)

Elena Stavrevska (Macedonia, Solidarnost, Postdoctoral fellow at Bard College Berlin)

Aleksandar Matković (Serbia, visiting scholar at the Institute for Philosophy II at Humboldt University and PhD candidate at the Postgraduate School of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Ljubljana, Slovenia)


Thanos Liapas (Greece, ANTARSYA)


Several events mark the current political situation in the Balkans. The decades long ‘name dispute’ between Macedonia and Greece flamed again under the pretext of the Macedonia’s NATO and EU membership aspirations, while on the Greek side it mobilized the nationalist right; at the same time NATO plans to hold joint military exercises with Serbia during 2018, despite no plans to downsize its significant forces in Kosovo in the foreseeable future. Hence, the deep connection between the Balkans and NATO remains ever more evident. But, what does such NATO involvement mean for the Balkans? What are the economic, geopolitical  and historical dynamics that drive it and result from it? What are the underlying forces behind the ‘name dispute’ in Greece and Macedonia? With the ongoing events unfolding between thesе countries, the discussion will provide a much needed international point of view. This will be done through three 15-minute exposes, followed by an open discussion.

First, Theo Pelekanidis (Greece) will give a historical background of the situation, based on the emergence of nationalism in the Balkans after 1870, with special focus on the Greek and Bulgarian nationalism, and will mostly concentrate on the situation in geographic Macedonia in the neuralgic period from 1918 to 1945. He will argue that it is necessary to highlight that the whole subject of a Macedonian or Slavomacedonian, as is called in Greek literature, national identity has its roots on the Bulgarian nationalism, which is something that is today “forgotten”, because Bulgaria actually „lost“ this claim after three consecutive lost wars (1913, 1918, 1945). So the main focus for the interwar period will be how Bulgarian policy affected the politics in Macedonia in general, the relationships between Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece, what moves were made by the three governments in relation to Macedonia and – most significantly – the role of VMRO in the formation of these policies. There will also be some mention of the politics of the Comintern in the Balkan with regard to the subject of the existence of a Мacedonian national identity and its meaning for future developments in the region.

Then Elena Stavrevska (Macedonia) will shed light on and attempt to deconstruct the dominant discourses inside and outside Macedonia about the necessity and inevitability of the country joining NATO, which has been one of the main arguments behind the efforts of the new government to resolve the so-called name dispute. In unpacking and challenging these discourses, she will reflect on the consequences of the decade-long intense national identity engineering and the antiquizing thereof by the previous government, the related and ever present question of the country’s stability, and the diverging views inside Macedonia on the potential change of the name at the cost of future NATO and EU membership.

Finally, Aleksandar Matković (Serbia) will focus on the imperialism in the Balkans. He will begin by challenging the notion of the breakup of Yugoslavia as purely “ethnic” in origin. The focus will be on how EU’s integration profited from the crumbling of its socialist competitors and from the outsourcing of the production processes of some of its largest producers. Along with NATO’s presence in maintaining the “stability” of the Balkans he will oppose these EU’s policies against the backdrop of of Chinese investments and Russia’s political influence on the case of Serbia. He will argue that the Balkans act as an economic buffer zone between the EU, Russia and China. In consequence the wages of its working class have been “raced to the bottom” and mass strikes of workers in Serbia have erupted, all of which started precisely in foreign owned companies. Aleksandar will conclude by arguing that what connected them was precisely economic imperialism.


Leftist Movement Solidarnost

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