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AHI Sends Letter to Editor of National Geographic Magazine Regarding their Identification of FYROM as "Macedonia"
September 23, 2005—No. 81
(202) 785-8430

AHI Sends Letter to Editor of National Geographic Magazine Regarding their Identification of FYROM as "Macedonia"

Washington, DC—On July 25, 2005, AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis sent a letter to the editor of National Geographic Magazine regarding the June 2005 issue which includes an insert map of Europe identifying the nation of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as that of "Macedonia." The text of the letter appears below, followed by the letter of response from National Geographic Magazine.

July 25, 2005

National Geographic Magazine
P.O. Box 98199
Washington, DC 20090
Dear Forum Editor:

Your June 2005 issue has a map insert which identifies the nation of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as that of "Macedonia" instead of its United Nations recognized name of "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." The United Nations accepted this nation under this temporary name until a permanent name can be negotiated between Greece and FYROM under U.N auspices. Greece’s objection stems from the 1991 secessionist Skopje regime naming itself in the most provocative way possible as the so-called "Republic of Macedonia." To date the name issue has not been resolved.

When we contacted National Geographic to learn how you choose names for country’s, we were told that the following four criteria is considered:

  • The Board on Geographic names under the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, which has ties to the U.S. State Department;
  • The United Nations;
  • Maps from the U.S. State Department; and
  • What a country calls itself.

It would seem that the most objective and correct authority should be the United Nations, the one international body that the overwhelming majority of nations belong. Not the U.S. State Department, where decisions are based on political considerations.

For the record, Macedonia is Greek in origin. Its use in Ancient Greece as the Kingdom of Macedonia of Phillip II and Alexander the Great even then denoted a region, not a nationality. Macedonians, like Athenians, Spartans, people from Crete and Cypriots, were Greeks.

In 1945, following Marshall Tito proclaiming the southern Yugoslav province in 1994 the ‘Socialist Republic of Macedonia,’ this entity mounted a propaganda campaign against Greece claiming all of Macedonia for the so-called 'Macedonian people.' However, there is no such separate ethnic group. There are people speaking a Slav dialect living in the parts of Macedonia controlled by Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Serbs say, 'these people are Serbs.' Bulgarians say they are Bulgarians. Ancient Macedonians were Greeks. As all historical and archeological evidence demonstrates.

Population estimates in FYROM today are between 25 and 40 percent Albanians, up to 10 percent Greek, 10 percent others including Gypsies, and the remainder 40 to 55 percent are Slavs which speak a Bulgarian dialect.

Further, National Geographic should be careful when using as one criteria what a "nation wishes to call itself." The premise is not sound and has the potential to be dangerous. Names have a powerful significance. They are used for territorial claims and interference in the internal affairs of one’s neighbors. This is particularly so in the Balkans.

I will hope that in future maps issued by National Geographic the reference to this nation will be listed as "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" until such time a change is warranted.


Nick Larigakis
Executive Director,
American Hellenic Institute

Nick Larigakis
American Hellenic Institute
1220 16th St, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Mr. Larigakis:

Thank you for your letter to the National Geographic Society prompted by the inclusion of Macedonia on our June map of Europe.

National Geographic maps portray de facto situations. We feel that it is only through this system that we can produce reliable maps. Our decision for name usage has nothing to do with our government's policies.

Macedonia was given independence when the Yugoslav government announced the new smaller Federal Republic of Yugoslavia consisting of Serbia and Montenegro only. In 1993, Macedonia was admitted to the U.N. under the provisional name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. We use the short form of this name on our map.

Should Macedonia accept Greece's suggestion to change its name, our maps will change accordingly.

We appreciate your comments, and I will see that they are circulated among our editorial and Cartographic staffs.


Erin Dickinson
NGM Comments Coordinator


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