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Macedonia May Finally Have a Name

Lake Prespa, Greece —(Map)

Greece and Macedonia have been arguing about a name for over 27 years. Now they may be on their way to solving their problem.

The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia shake hands after the agreement is signed.
The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia shake hands.
The two countries agreed on the name “Republic of North Macedonia”.
(Source: By Влада на Република Македонија from Македонија, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Over 2,500 years ago, Macedonia was a kingdom. Macedonia later became the one of the most important parts of Greece when Alexander the Great was its leader. Greece is proud of its history, which has had big effects around the world.

The shapes and names of the countries in Europe have changed many times. There still is a large part of Greece called Macedonia, even though the shape is different than it was long ago. The countries to the north of Greece have also changed – sometimes being grouped together, sometimes splitting apart in different ways with different names. Most of these changes were caused by wars.

Simple map showing Greece, Macedonia, and ancient Macedonia.
Simple map showing Greece, Macedonia, and ancient Macedonia.
(Source: Future Perfect at Sunrise, from Wikimedia Commons.)

In 1991, an area of a country that used to be called Yugoslavia decided it wanted to be its own country. The country is north of Greece and includes a small part of ancient Macedonia. The country wanted to call itself the “Republic of Macedonia”.

Greece said no.

Greece didn’t accept the idea of another country calling itself Macedonia. Greece felt that the history of Macedonia belonged to Greece and didn’t like that another country seemed to be trying to take it. Greece was also worried that the country might want to take over the area which is called Macedonia in Greece.

Because of the naming problems, Macedonia was not allowed to join the European Union, which could help it work with other countries in Europe. It also could not be part of NATO, a group of countries that work together to protect each other.

Many Greeks have protested because they don't want other countries to use the name Macedonia.
Many Greeks don’t want other countries to use the name Macedonia.
These Greeks are protesting in Australia.
(Source: George Papadopoulos, via Wikimedia Commons.)

The problem is serious to the Greek people. Many Greeks protested many times. They believed that no country other than Greece could use the name Macedonia.

The people in Macedonia weren’t happy either. They didn’t like other countries telling them what to name their country. They even started renaming other things in their country, almost as if they wanted to prove they were the real Macedonia. Greeks were not happy when Macedonia named an airport and a highway after Alexander the Great.

But on Sunday, the two countries signed an agreement. Greece has said that it will allow the country to be called the “Republic of North Macedonia”.

The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia watch as the agreement is signed.
The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia watch as the agreement signed.
The parliaments of both countries must still agree to the deal.
(Source: пресс-служба президента российской федерации , via Wikimedia Commons.)

The prime ministers of the two countries worked out the agreement, which was signed on Sunday.

The agreement is not final, though. Parliaments  in both countries must agree. Macedonian voters will also have to say okay to the deal in a special vote called a referendum  .

Not everyone is happy about the agreement. People in both countries have protested against it. Many people in Greece still don’t want the word Macedonia used in any other country’s name. The president of Macedonia has said that he will not support the agreement.

Macedonia has changed its airport's name from Alexander the Great Airport to Skopje International Airport.
Macedonia has changed its airport’s name from Alexander the Great Airport to Skopje International Airport.
(Source: Sandor Diego Weijn, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Still, this is the closest the countries have gotten to a solution. Macedonia has renamed its airport in Skopje, and the Alexander the Great highway, which leads to Greece, is now called “Friendship Highway”.

Lake Prespa, Greece


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