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Home / Articles / Opinion / Private Eye /  My Greek DNA Beats Yours
Private Eye

My Greek DNA Beats Yours

Dear U of U: You don't have to be born in Greece to be a Greek.

By John Saltas
Posted // November 4,2009 -

A couple of years ago, I and other family members traced our DNA through FamilyTree.com. My DNA—so that of my father, his Greek father and so on—tested into Haplogroup R1a1, meaning our Y chromosomes have been wandering around central Europe since at least the time of the last Ice Age. My mother’s Cretan father (tested via a male cousin born to my mother’s brother) was shown to be a member of Haplogroup J2. That group is found throughout the ancient seafaring regions of the eastern Mediterranean. Landing there perhaps thanks to the Phoenicians, J2 is prevalent on the island of Crete, and it dates at least to the Minoan era.

That means distant male relatives of mine have been traipsing on or around the Greek homelands for thousands of years. During those millennia, the great power Macedon arose in what is now northern Greece and gave history two great leaders: Phillip II and his son, Alexander the Great, who conquered the world.

When he did so, he used some of those J2 DNA Cretans as archers in his army. Given the prevalence of R1a1 DNA throughout the Balkans, I can easily imagine that somebody in my bloodline helped Alexander ride into history. As such, I’m more than interested in the current tensions in that region between Greece and its neighbor to the north.

Macedonia is the northernmost Greek province, spreading vastly outward from the main port city of Thessaloniki. In recent decades, the southernmost republic of what was once called Yugoslavia— southern Serbia in fact—magically began calling itself Macedonia, too. The two Macedonias border each other. Imagine if someone decided to change the name of northern Mexico to Texas. Texans would be pissed. Well, Greeks are pissed.

Some very passionate—or crazy—scholars argue about who is the more rightful heir to the name Macedonia. It’s an important issue because the Republic of Macedonia (a name barely recognized even beyond Greece—maps refer to it as FYROM, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) is seeking admission into the European Union. It’s a silly point. You can’t have two places of the same name bordering each other. Greece wins. They had it first and longest. Period.

The Greek region of Macedonia comprises over 75 percent of what was the former Macedonia, including the Macedonian cities of Pella, Vergina and Thessaloniki. The capital of FYROM is Skopje, which lies beyond the borders of ancient Macedon. That’s easily explained if you have lots of time, but basically, say thanks to Yugoslav leader Josip Tito (who promoted the name Macedonia in southern Serbia while aspiring to extend his domain through Greece to the warm port city of Thessaloniki); Communist insurgencies; plus Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian and Albanian conquests, among others.

If you think Mormons and non-Mormons fight a lot and say nasty things to one another, you need to check out what the people supporting FYROM are saying about the Greeks. And what the Greeks are saying back. Greeks living in the northern provinces suffered terribly during the civil war that followed World War II while rejecting their own Communist uprising that consumed countries to their north. Thousands were slaughtered by the Bulgarians who also have eyes on Macedonia. For Greeks, it’s not merely an ancient name they lay claim to but their very heritage—they would live in freedom or die fighting for it. Since they live on the best lands of ancient Macedon, they’ve been run over more than a BYU defensive back. Both sides fought dirty; both can point to atrocities by the other. You can easily discover if the Greeks were protecting their historic homelands or expanding their influence into the Tito’s cabbage patches.

The argument distills around whether ancient Macedonia was ever Greek—or, correctly, Hellenic—in the first place. If those arguing for FYROM claim they are the real ethnic heirs to Macedonia, then they should call up FamilyTree.com and find out. But given just-recent history with so many Albanians, Serbs and Bulgarians moving in and out of there, it would only prove that their slice of ancient Macedonia has new tenants. Hellenism is conceptual, not ethnic, and Greek is a language not an ethnicity. FYROM doesn’t get the concept, but it’s this: You don’t have to be born in Greece to be a Greek.

Alexander is a Greek name. So is Phillip. So is Thessaloniki. So is Bucephalus, the name given Alexander’s ox-headed horse (and, also, trivia nuts, the nickname of Hank “Bocephus” Williams Jr.). Macedon participated in the exclusively Greek ancient Olympic Games. Alexander was tutored by Aristotle, a Greek. Alexander and his Macedonian kingdom were Greek.

This week, the University of Utah is sponsoring the seventh Macedonian-North American Conference on Macedonian Studies—a scholarly attempt to commit national identity theft of the name Macedonia. There will be plenty of fingerpointing going on—if Greeks are allowed in to point back, that is. Each side will say they suffered more. Each will say the other is reshaping history. Each will count dead bodies, broken promises and acts of barbarism. And none of that will change the consequence of allowing two states or nations to share the same name—more trouble for that region.

University of Utah President Michael Young is right to allow such free expression on his campus. But Michael Young probably lacks either R1a1 or J2 DNA, too, so he may not understand why Greeks are riled at him. I suspect he’d feel differently if a long-lost cousin of his, maybe a Benjamin Young, started a new university in Orem, called it BYU and began claiming victimization while trashing Brigham Young himself. Yeah, he’s related, and Brigham likely did some awful things in his day, but that wouldn’t mean Michael might not want to wipe Benjamin’s snot off.

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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // November 5,2009 at 03:42

Dear Editor

In the international relations, every state is free to choose the name that wants. But when exercising its right to choose its name and indeed when exercising any other right, it must do so in a manner that will not obstruct other states’ exercise of their own right or do, that does not differ in its aim from the aim for which this right was accorded, and that does not cause injury to another state. Prohibition of the abuse of rights is a general principle of law found time and again in international legal practice; and it comes higher up in the hierarchy than the rules governing the exercise, by the subjects of international law, of their individualized rights. [Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Amsterdam, Elsevier, I,1992, pages 4, 7-8).

As regards the specific issue (the onomatology of states in international law) that examined in your article , international practice chows clearly and unequivocally that a state’s right to choose its name or its symbols may be restricted if international peace and security be placed in jeopardy by such name or symbols. It is also well known that the maintenance of peace may not only be endangered through the use of violence, but also by acts that are not at the outset contrary to international law.

In the case in question, the practice of the United Nations and of the European Union shows that Greece’s claim that a state’s choice of name may constitute a form of aggression is not without foundation. Moreover, there is recognition of the possibility in theory that a state’s choice of name may be taken as hostile propaganda against a neighbouring state, inasmuch as that name is adjudged to conceal territorial ambitions.

From this point of view, it is no secret that maps have been repeatedly published in FYROM with the current international boundaries altered in such a way as to portray the country with broadened geographical and ethnic borders taking in what FYROM refers to as Greece’s ‘irredenta territory’. It should be noted that the purpose of maps is not simply to give geographical information; they are a record of the limits of a state’s territorial sovereignty and may be cited in evidence as proof of title in international law. Though to speak of ‘cartographic aggression’ might seem excessive, publishing misleading maps does give the injured state, in this case Greece, every right to make a formal protest.

But it is not just on maps that there is misinformation. To quote a claim from a speech made by FYROM’s former ambassador to the US, Ljubica Acevska, and published in the Valparaiso University Law Review:

‘The name controversy pertains to Greece objecting to the Republic of Macedonia referring to itself as “Macedonia” because Greece annexed a territory known as Aegean Macedonia earlier this century in the Balkan Wars and fears that Macedonia may seek back this land, populated by ethnic Macedonians’.(34,Summer 2000, 477 f, with 484 n. 9)


At all events, going by current international regulations, in the six official languages of the UN list of country names, FYROM’s name is being referred to as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Consequently, the claim made by FYROM’s representatives at international meetings that the name FYROM is not the real name of the country is, besides being a direct violation of the Interim Accord, not acceptable by international organs. Going by current international regulations, FYROM has never been released from its legal obligation to choose a name after negotiation with, and agreement with, Greece.

I am afraid that the the University’s academic creditability is jeopardized by permitting such a conference that propagates revisionism, propaganda and hate speech. Upon our review of the conference’s program, as noted on the web site, beyond any academic discourse regarding a Slavic linguistic idiom, there will be presentations by apologists of communist human rights abuses, including but not limited to, the abduction of 28,000 Greek children during and after the Second World War.

To date, over 332 academic scholars have co-signed a letter to President Barack Obama in opposition to such historical revisionism that the U of U is now facilitating. As a former Professor and Director at Columbia University, President Michael K. Young you might be interested in noting that two current Columbia faculty members, Professors Mylonopoulos and Lougovaya, are signatories of this letter.

At the conference, a scheduled presentation will apparently question recognized human rights abuses directed against defenseless Greek children by communist guerillas. The recognized facts of these events have been recorded by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Red Cross Societies, and has been condemned by the United Nations General Assembly with resolutions recorded in 1948 (193), 1949 (288), 1950 (382), 1951 (517), and 1952 (618).

As adopted by the UN General Assembly, the truth is that “the Greek children have not as yet been returned to their homes in accordance with the resolution of the General Assembly” and that all “States harbouring the Greek children to make all necessary arrangements… for the early return to their homes.” More that 28,000 Greek children were forcibly torn from their families and abducted by communists and thereafter brainwashed to reject their national identity and homeland.

Where would be the academic responsibility of the U of U if it permitted blatant historical revisionism that seeks to dispute these facts? The human tragedy of these contemptuous acts affected thousands of Hellenic families for many years and decades. While only some 4,000 children were returned by 1963, the vast majority were confined to camps in Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Poland, East Germany, and Albania until the collapse of the Communist Bloc.

As UN General Assembly resolution 618 (1952) clearly states, it “Condemns the failure of the harbouring States other than Yugoslavia to co-operate in efforts to enable the Greek children to return to their homes.” This statement is absolute with regard to the identity and fate of these Greek victims of communism. The vast majority of the children were sent to camps outside of Yugoslavia, and most of the few thousand that were in Yugoslavia were repatriated following the reproach of Tito with the West.
We therefore condemn any effort by a Slavic fringe group to usurp the identity of these Greek victims of communist aggression. . This is the time to stand up against hate speech and apologists for totalitarian regimes.

Thanks

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // November 5,2009 at 02:16

Dear Mr Young,
All my personal comments in light Red among your text in the answer to Mr Taneris, below

------------

From: President
Subject: RE: The Macedonian Revisionist Conference at University of Utah
To: "Nikolaos Taneris"
Date: Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 6:37 PM

Dear Mr. Taneris,

Thank you for sharing your concerns about the upcoming conference at the University of Utah . Please know that the University of Utah is a strong advocate of rigorous academic exploration and the freedom to engage in that exploration. Mr Young, is there any attempt by the University of Utah to see if what is presented in papers is actually researched thoroughly, or anyone can present anything?

The “Seventh Macedonian-North American Conference on Macedonian Studies” (now here you need to define Mr Young, which Macedonian are you referring to. Remember we have the Ancient Macedonia and the Macedonia purported to be of Slavic origin in this day and age. Has the University of Utah made any attempt to define which is being discussed, or has it been left to your colleagues to jump from one to the other without clear clarification of which they’re referring to?)
offers an opportunity for scholars from around the world to examine cultural, literary and linguistic topics (linguistic topics, very interesting, which language are we talking about? Or have we left it to anyone to talk about any language. Do you realise there are several hundred languages in the world today? Have we defined/researched which is the language of Macedonia?) relevant to a broad spectrum of inquiry. We welcome thoughtful, reasoned and well-researched perspectives that add light and knowledge to the global discussion on these topics.

The University of Utah supports the intensive research and academic pursuits of its professors, and endorses all intellectual inquiry that seeks to enhance our understanding of the world and our place in it. (“Seeks to enhance our understanding…” to which point? Did you discuss how far one professor can go, perhaps to the point of presenting and accepting fiction as fact?)

The mission of the University of Utah is to serve the people of Utah (serve ‘the people of Utah’ with what ever comes along Mr Young or attempt to serve them with historical fact and thousands of years of history? Don’t you think that the University is rather doing a disservice if the people are served with lies?) and the world through the discovery (discovery of what Mr Young? History is one and only one, cannot be re-invented to suit the underprivileged in our midst.), creation and application of knowledge (now this is where there’s grave danger that knowledge is not applied but actually supplied cooked Mr Young); through the dissemination of knowledge by teaching, publication, artistic presentation and technology transfer (the extend of misinformation in the world today is well known Mr Young, have the University of Utah conference organisers made any attempt to describe what methodology will be used in selecting truth from fiction?); and through community engagement. As a preeminent research and teaching university with national and global reach, the University cultivates an academic environment in which the highest standards of intellectual integrity and scholarship are practiced. (We do applaud the ‘highest standards’ practiced, but do standards remain standard, or change with the waves of what is defined as freedom Mr Young?) We zealously preserve academic freedom, promote diversity and equal opportunity, and respect individual beliefs. We advance rigorous interdisciplinary inquiry, international involvement, and social responsibility.

Again, thank you for sharing your perspective and suggestions.

Mr Young, generally now, I believe if we’re to examine a topic you should look at the start of its existence. Because, Mr Young, before a beginning was made there exists nothing natural, if we’re to refer to Aristotle at all. Hence if we look at the beginning of the argument we can really see what did not exist, when it started existing and hence understand its development and future. The Ancient Macedonians Mr Young, did not speak a Slavic dialect. The names of the Ancient Macedonians were ALL Greek in origin with combined words of deep meaning. The discoveries of all archaeologists have brought to light only Greek stones, monuments, artefacts Mr Young (see German, Slav and Greek archaeologists like Manolis Andronikos, Zlatko Videski, Dragi Mitrevski, Americans like Stephen G. Miller, etc). Nothing discovered was anything else but Greek in origin, language, culture. So where do you allow these people to take you Mr Young and the people of Utah along with you?

President Michael K. Young

Iakov Osgari

 

 
 
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