On September 16 the Macedonian Academy of Science and Arts (MANU) launched the first national "Macedonian Encyclopaedia". The Encyclopaedia was published with the financial support of the Macedonian Government. The book was first promoted last week as a key national document at an event attended by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. The PM said it sublimated the knowledge of the modern Macedonian scholars about the complex appearance of the country, people and state. The project may not fully depict the overall being and growth of the country, but it scans authentically Macedonia's point of view about its cultural and political past and present and strives to become an objective, integral information about us and our country, stated Gruevski. Despite those statements, only a day after its promotion the MANU’s Encyclopaedia caused a serious stir among the Albanian community. According to its representatives, the encyclopaedia contains numerous "inaccuracies". One of them was the text which tells the story of the Albanians in Macedonia, where they are named as "shiptari" and that settled in Macedonia in the 16th century, which is not historically correct. “Shiptari” is a racial slur used in Macedonia; the Albanian term for an 'Albanian' is "Shqiptar.” The encyclopaedia also refers to Ali Ahmeti, leader of the country's 2001 ethnic Albanian insurgency, as a war crimes suspect. Ahmeti now heads the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), which is a junior partner in the government. The Netherlands-based UN war crimes court has investigated atrocities in the conflict but never implicated Ahmeti. Shortly after the publication of MANU’s Encyclopaedia the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha declared that the book was "absurd and unacceptable" and said he warned Macedonian President Georgi Ivanov that no one can build "identity based on the forgery of history." In Kosovo, which has unresolved border issues with Macedonia, parliament president Jakup Krasniqi said that Skopie was "isolating itself and making enemies."
Analysis and forecast: increasig risk
This is not the first time that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has had problems with its neighbours and minorities over historical issues. Currently the country is arguing with most of its neighbouring countries over historical facts and terms. The most severe argument is with Greece over the name “Macedonia” that determines interior political conflicts as well. It could also destabilize the coalition government, which includes the largest ethnic Albanian party – DUI. Having in mind the still fragile ethnic balance which led to fighting in Macedonia in 2001, it could be predicted that if the Macedonian authorities do not react quickly and responsibly this scandal could develop in serious tensions. Already a few non-parliamentary Albanian parties in Macedonia, non-government organizations and Albanian academic representatives have organized protests against the MANU’s encyclopaedia with the demand that the book be annulled and withdrawn. Those protests, on the other hand, appear to be insulting for the Macedonian population and led to counter-reaction and new rising of the tension. However, it should be mentioned that some Macedonian academics have already criticized the book as hastily prepared and politically motivated. Additionally, good news came from the meeting between the PM Nikola Gruevski and Ali Ahmeti, leader of DUI, who agreed on September 29 that the encyclopaedia should not affect interethnic relations. The coalition partners stressed that they will not allow anyone to profit from the situation or to harm multiethnic co-existence. They concluded that problems should be resolved through dialogue and recommended that the Macedonian Academy of Science and Art (MANU) find a solution to the controversial sections in the book. The fast resolving of the scandal is essential not only for keeping the ethnic peace in Macedonia, but also for preserving the coalition government stability and further European integration of the country.