Greece refuses to recognise the name "Republic of Macedonia" (often named "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", FYROM) because this country is only a part of historical Macedonia, the other part being a region in Greece (along with very small parts in other neighbouring countries).

With current administrative borders, Greece does not have a region directly called "Macedonia", but seems to have what is called the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace (link)

This region however only has south of historical Macedonia and west of historical Thrace, FYROM having north of historical Macedonia and Turkey having east of historical Thrace. Why don't Greece reflects this in the region's names in order to make an example for what FYROM should do?

  • 2
    This might seem rational to the rest of us. But the Greeks have a lot of national pride invested in this, and a good pinch of machismo, which prevents them from doing what might be perceived as backing down.
    – RedSonja
    Oct 29, 2018 at 12:13
  • 1
    @RedSonja A lot of machismo actually, but there's a bit more to the story, if I may interest you in my answer
    – rath
    Oct 29, 2018 at 16:41
  • Because the whole naming conundrum is irrational - a reasonable nation wouldn't even care about it in the first place. Oct 29, 2018 at 21:56
  • @JonathanReez In terms of trade, some aspects of the objection is perfectly rational. Certainly if a new company called "Coke Zero" started up, Coca Cola would object to it
    – origimbo
    Oct 29, 2018 at 22:24
  • 1
    @origimbo there are plenty of regions where names overlap with neighboring countries and they're doing just fine. E.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silesia Oct 29, 2018 at 22:48

3 Answers 3


From the point of view of many of the Greeks making the objection, "Macedonia" should be the land on Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great. The core of this territory lies in modern Greece, so for lots of them, it would be "central" or "true" Macedonia, rather than South Macedonia. Unfortunately for them, the name continued as a Roman Province, a Byzantine region, and a slavonic ethnic identity. The map at the top of the Wikipedia page on the naming dispute does a good job of showing the different regions.

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    +1 I think this is the point of view of both sides, not just the Greeks: FYROM touts Alexander the Great as its national hero, not some Byzantine nobody.
    – rath
    Oct 29, 2018 at 15:58
  • @rath I'd understood that on the Slavic side there were also undercurrents of a greater unified Slavic Macedoni, into which the name Northern Macedonia fits. But yes, I can also see how the cultural appropriation is a related problem, which might be getting fixed.
    – origimbo
    Oct 29, 2018 at 22:51

Because FYROM wants to change its name and Greece doesn't.

Macedonians of Greece object to being called South Macedonians all of a sudden because that's not their identity - as far as they're concerned they live in a region called Makedonia and consider themselves Makedones, and have been doing so for as long as anyone cares to remember.

Not to mention that most other Greeks perceive this as an attack on and usurpation of their national identity. Both countries fly the Vergina Star and claim Alexander the Great as their hero and ancestor. What is at stake here is the claim to the ancient legacy, not some Byzantine or Roman region.

Finally, South Macedonia happens to be most of historical Macedonia by today's borders, and most of it is located in Greece. Greeks find it extremely difficult to accept a naming change either way when they hold most of the territory with the contested legacy, and when their neighbours to the north have none of the historically important sites.

Any notion of "backing down" will not be received well at home, where sentiments are running high. The current Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, knows that the country is in a precarious position where nobody likes them at the moment, and being inflexible on the naming issue won't win him any favours abroad, so he has a very delicate balancing act to perform: to play with a weak hand internationally, while having the minimum amount of people calling him a traitor at home.

Additionally Tsipras' party is left-wing pro-European and it has to maintain its pro-EU stance even at the face of a negative outcome, in a country where Europe is not thought of in kind terms at the moment.

Finally, Greeks are aware that the outcome will set a precedent for other neighbouring states to claim their piece of their homeland. The most likely candidates are Albania and Turkey. Albania will want to claim parts of Epirus, and Turkey will of course go for Thrace. This is not at all beyond the pale as Johannes Hahn, a member of some European committee, is already talking about restructuring the Greco-Albanian border and Turkey seems more agitated than usual as of late.

Bulgaria, historically an antagonist, is quite friendly these days and is supporting Greece's stance on the naming issue, as they too find themselves facing territorial claims from their common neighbour that stem from the same nationalist idea which sparked the naming debate in the first place. Serbia is also considered an ally, largely due to Orthodox Christianity, and Greek support during the Kossovo war.

Apart from those two nations, Greece doesn't have very many friends at the moment, and sign of weakness will be paid for by future generations.


The other answers give the nationalist perspective, but form a more rational point of view, the simple answer is that there is no region named "Macedonia" in Greece.

If you look at the list of administrative regions of greece, there are three regions with Macedonia as part of their name, namely:

  • Western Macedonia,
  • Central Macedonia, and
  • Eastern Macedonia and Thrace

Now one could argue to rename them to "SouthWest Macedonia" etc, but that would only add complexity with no obvious benefit.

If a single region existed in Greece named "Macedonia", then renaming it to "South Macedonia" would probably make sense.

Regarding the decentralized administration, it doesn't even include Western Macedonia, so its name is not very accurate anyway, I see no harm in renaming it to something more accurate.

  • 1
    Ok, but then the Eastern Macedonia and Thrace region should really be Eastern Macedonia and Western Thrace, as Turkey&Bulgaria have most of historical Thrace.
    – Bregalad
    Oct 30, 2018 at 7:40
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    @Bregalad That's true but neither Bulgaria nor Turkey have expressed any interest in that happening. I guess the difference is that it's just a region and not an independent state. Greece also didn't express any problems when (North) Macedonia was a region of Yugoslavia. The problem started when they became independent.
    – user000001
    Oct 30, 2018 at 7:47
  • I see no harm in renaming it Obviously not :) Please see my answer: Renaming to South Macedonia would be seen as capitulation by populations of both countries. That's plenty of reason not to do it. Also the dimensions of the regions are "wide" rather than "tall", so from a practical perspective it makes sense to have East and West but not so much North and South - it would slice it too thin. And of course there might be infrastructure reasons that make East/West more sensible for administration.
    – rath
    Oct 30, 2018 at 11:07
  • @rath: My point about renaming the decentralized administration was that the name is inaccurate: It is called "Macedonia and Trace", but Western Macedonia is in a different administration, with Epirus. Renaming it to "South Macedonia" would have the same problem, the name I envisioned was something like "North East Greece" or similar.
    – user000001
    Oct 30, 2018 at 13:36

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