Diaspora Greeks appear split over “Macedonia” name dispute


Replying to New Diaspora’s questionnaire, Greeks abroad seem to be more conciliatory compared to their compatriots in Greece. 

On January 21st, 2018, a large rally took place in Thessaloniki, demanding that the word “Macedonia” will not be included in the official and constitutional name of FYROM, the Balkan state that has already been recognised by 130 countries as “Republic of Macedonia”. Since the early 1990s, the standing position of the Greek state remains the acceptance of a composite name with geographic designation ‘erga omnes’ (for all), without raising territorial and other claims against Greece.

The story of how Macedonia has been geographically defined since ancient times is rather complicated. The same goes to the extent Alexander the Great’s achievements can be attributed to a population of mainly Slavs and Albanians that first appeared in the region a thousand years after his death. For anyone interested in learning more about the issue, there are many and reliable sources explaining how this diplomatic conflict has emerged, breaking down nationalist inaccuracies on both sides of the border.

What we wanted to know, however, was what Greek people living abroad think about the issue. Addressing mainly the members of our online community, we published a short questionnaire that was filled by nearly three hundred people. We would like to clarify that the following results are indicative and not representative, as there was no data validation, sufficient statistical sample and other parameters that would make the methodology we followed scientifically acceptable.

In their overwhelming majority (88%), respondents said they live permanently outside Greece, as can be seen from the geographic analysis of Polldaddy, the platform that hosted the New Diaspora survey and recorded responses from 31 different countries. 88% is also the percentage of those who reside permanently in an EU country.

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Please note that although our Facebook post caused the interest of some passionate commentators from the neighbouring country, only one person from FYROM (which appeared as “Macedonia” in the Polldaddy geo locations) filled in our questionnaire. The other quantitative and qualitative features of the research do not indicate an organised attempt to alter the results.

Let’s start with the basics:

ND FYROM chart 01 Eng

ND FYROM chart 02 Eng

Two-thirds (66%) of respondents who said they live abroad migrated over the last decade, which has been marked by eight years of recession. The remaining 1/3 (34%) lives more than ten years abroad or was born/raised there. As expected, the age distribution shows that 70% of respondents have not yet reached forty.

ND FYROM chart 03 Eng

ND FYROM chart 04 Eng

The educational level of the respondents seems to confirm the reputation of a “brain drain”, i.e. the leak of highly skilled human resources. In the first hours following the publication of the questionnaire, the PhD holders exceeded the BA/BSc graduates, with postgraduates always having a comfortable majority. Altogether, 91% of those who responded to the survey have gained some degree of higher education. 62% work as salaried employees, with 14% freelancers, 9% students, 6% unemployed and a fairly high percentage of 5% entrepreneurs.

ND FYROM chart 05 Eng

Moving on to the burning issue, there is indisputable preference for a solution with a name that does not contain the word “Macedonia” (44%), despite the fact that at an international diplomatic level this is not openly discussed as a realistic prospect. 32% accept the position of the Greek government for a composite name with geographic designation, and a -disproportionately high for Greek standards- 12% prefer the Greek state to officially recognise FYROM as “Republic of Macedonia”. Perhaps this trend is due to the fact that many Greeks living abroad (and in particular employees of large companies) come more easily in contact with colleagues, customers and acquaintances who define themselves as “Macedonians” (with no one else besides some Greeks having a problem to call them so).

Added together, responses that advocate a more conciliatory tactical approach from the Greek side reach 44%, equating with those who insist on a tough stance. Finally, 9% prefer to perpetuate the current situation, either by lifting the Greek veto for NATO/EU membership (3%) or not (6%).

ND FYROM chart 06 Eng

As far as the rally is concerned, Greeks abroad seem divided: 47% perceived it in a little to very negative way, while 41% were a little to very positive about it. It’s noteworthy to mention that our survey began after the release of numerous photographs showing the participation of Golden Dawn leaders at the Thessaloniki rally, as well as individuals who caused mixed reactions with their costume choices.

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As we have written above, the New Diaspora survey is not representative, but only indicative. The data and the way it was collected cannot allow safe conclusions to be drawn. The only thing for certain is that interpreting the results as a sign of nationalism or lack of patriotism is pointless. The collective identity of Greeks, inside and outside of Greece, is always characterised by a kind of national pride, which as long as it doesn’t see other peoples as inferior is treated globally with sympathy or even with admiration. Contrary to the fabled rhetoric of hatred among Balkan fanatics, which the rest of the planet neither comprehends nor seems interested in comprehending.

On February 4, another rally will take place on the same issue, this time in Athens.


Nikolaos Stampoulopoulos

Founder and Creative Director of New Diaspora



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