Nikola Gruevski, the former Prime Minister of what is now North Macedonia, embarked on an ambitious project called “Skopje 2014” to forge the “national Macedonian consciousness” by appropriating and creating monuments of Greek and Bulgarian figures.
The most infamous of these monuments was “Warrior On A Horse” who suspiciously looked like Alexander the Great.
Gruevski is an ultra-nationalist and radical historical revisionist who claims the Ancient Macedonians were not Greek and is against the Prespa Agreement that ended the name dispute between Greece and what is now known as North Macedonia.
“There is a part of the agreement that says all antique history is exclusively related to Greece and that the other party, meaning us, has nothing to do with it,” he said, referencing his government’s battle with Greece over history and historical personages that Greece claimed as Hellenic cultural property, according to Balkan Insight.
Article 7 of the Prespa Agreement ended Gruevski’s dream of stealing Ancient Macedonian history as it affirmed that Ancient Macedonia is a “Hellenic civilization, history, culture and heritage.”
Most interestingly though, despite Gruevski’s radicalism and historical revisionism, is that his grandfather was Greek named Nikolaos Grouios. Gruevski’s grandfather was born in the northern Greek town of Achlada and was martyred in 1940 while defending Greece from the Italian invaders in World War II. As Gruevski’s grandmother was a communist, she and her son (Gruevski’s father) fled to Yugoslav where they Slavisized their name to Gruevski to gain citizenship. As part of the Yugoslav mechanism during this period, the regime embarked on a propaganda campaign to the highly uneducated and mostly peasantry of southern Yugoslavia to convince them they were a separate “Macedonian” identity.
This served two purposes:
- To legitimise annexation of northern Greece and the highly prized city of Thessaloniki.
- To weaken Bulgarian identity so that Bulgaria itself would not annex southern Yugoslavia.
Despite North Macedonia being an extremely poor country by European standards and ranked 128 in the world for its GDP, Gruevski squandered $750 million on the “Skopje 2014” project. This is now becoming undone, including a wooden ship on the Vardar River. The reason is because of a potential collapse of the galley because of risk of flooding. The ship has changed the flow of river water.
In an interview to Ethnos.gr, Skopje Mayor Petre Silegov – who comes from SDSM (Social Democratic Union) – is expected to remove the ship by mid-April, in co-operation with the road maintenance company and without burdening the municipality financially. This will officially start reversing the “Skopje 2014” project.
The project did not just include the Byzantine style ship and a look alike of Alexander the Great, but also Roman arches and public buildings with ancient Greek facades.
In addition to the withdrawal of the ship, the mayor of Skopje also plans to “decongest” the city’s main square from the endless statues that have flooded it.
“Late last month, a very strong wind literally destroyed a large section of the baroque building facade in the center of Skopje and I made it clear that after the parliamentary elections I would ask the City Hall to grant ownership of the monuments that emerged as part of the “Skopje 2014″ project. This in order for the Municipality of Skopje to create the legal conditions for their removal from the current locations,” the mayor said.
“Skopje is a modern city and it is worth developing following modern urban standards. We owe this to our children, to future generations,” Skopje Mayor Petre Silegov told ethnos.gr
A thorn in the side, however, is the prolonged election period, which has been frozen due to coronavirus, as according to the legal status of the country, no transfer of state property can take place before the elections.
According to Petre Silegov, he will wait for the green light from the municipality of the Center of Skopje immediately after the parliamentary elections and then he will launch the deconstruction of the statues. Apart from the wrong messages sent by the ‘Skopje 2014’ project, it is also costly as according to the municipality of Skopje, the maintenance of the statues and the fountains reaches 500,000 euros per year.
“Skopje 2014 is a criminal plot by the previous ruling party, led by Nikola Gruevski. A project that not only reflects their authoritarian mentality, but is also a serious urban and aesthetic insult to our capital,” the mayor said.
“This plan was an attempt to place Skopje in a historical context, a context that never characterized Skopje as a city with buildings reminiscent of old architecture – a kind of architecture that was never typical of this part of Europe,” he said, adding “Apart from the apparent overcrowding of the monuments that took place – disregarding the laws and the planned procedures which had to be followed – a part of the constructions of the ‘Skopje 2014’ project was built on shaky ground due to their proximity to the river Vardar.”
But also in some buildings, their facades were changed with unsafe materials, as a result of which they suffered very serious damage with the first windstorm. Apart from being criminal, it is also a project that is unsafe for the people of Skopje.
The attempt to remove the ships is not being made for the first time in Skopje as the same municipal authority had sought to remove them two years ago when they flooded, but without success.
As for the other two ships in Vardar’s riverbed, they have been given a concession contract by the previous municipal authority to a private companies for exploitation. The contracts for the concession of the two ships, according to the local media, expire in 2027 and 2035 respectively.
In order for the contracts to be broken, the Skopje municipality will be required to compensate their owners with 6 million euros, an amount which, according to Petre Silegov, will be requested by the next government that will emerge after the elections in order to complete their decommission.
“No one has the right to offend the appearance of people in Skopje according to their own irrational ideas, such as Nikola Gruevski and his VMRO DPMNE party. I believe that some of the ‘disasters’ caused by the ‘Skopje 2014’ plan can be remedied and I consider it my personal responsibility and my obligation to do so. Skopje can and should be a better place to live. Skopje is our home and we must face it with the same responsibility,” he concluded.
In August 2019, new plaques were placed on the monuments of Alexander the Great, his father Philip II and his mother Olympia that confirmed they were Greek. The Vergina Sun was also removed from various locations, public buildings, and monuments in Skopje.