Kitschy “nation building” in the capital of North Macedonia

Pseudoaltstadt in Skopje
Pseudo old town in Skopje

In the Macedonian capital you can admire nation building of the worst kind. On the riverbanks are impressive buildings with tall columns, perhaps reminiscent of Paris. In the squares, huge statues of Alexander the Great and his father Philip II. And on the quay and on the bridges, a crowd of bronze statues of all the personalities who had a touch of importance in the country’s history. The whole thing looks like a mixture of 19th century and Greek antiquity, only everything is far more recent: in some buildings, the plaster is probably not yet dry. The pseudo-sailboats built into the riverbed fit in well with all the kitsch.

A nation as young as North Macedonia (the former Yugoslav province of Macedonia), must of course first invent itself. The current government is visibly trying to create a national identity and to emphasise the greatness of ancient Macedonia. After all, Alexander the Great’s empire reached as far as India. It does not matter that Alexander came from a town in Greece, in the Greek province of Macedonia. In any case, I am not surprised that the minorities living in Macedonia and the neighbouring countries are not exactly thrilled by the pompous self-discovery. Nor that the opposition is demonstrating, accusing the government of electoral fraud and demanding its resignation. By then, at least Skopje will have reinvented itself; no one is likely to tear down the new buildings and rebuild the old prefabs.

Read on