Scholarly conference on the partition of Macedonia a great success

The Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee (AMHRC) was honoured to host an international scholarly conference on the Partition of Macedonia and the Balkan Wars of 1912-13.

The conference was held at the Monash University Law Chambers from 4-7 September 2013.

The aim of the conference was to attempt a historical survey of the context and the effects, both short and long term, of the partition of Macedonia on the inhabitants of Macedonia, from a variety of perspectives, especially linguistic, sociological, anthropological and political.

The conference and subsequent post-conference dinner dance event attracted strong interest from the Macedonian community and beyond. A number of very high quality papers were delivered, resulting in stimulating discussions and scholarly debate.

Here is a brief summary of the papers/presentations:

Professor Andrew Rossos of the University of Toronto presented a paper on The Balkan Wars (1912-13) and the Partition of Macedonia: A Historical Perspective. In his paper Professor Rossos placed the partition of Macedonia in the context of the long history of the Macedonian question.

Professor Victor Friedman of the University of Chicago presented a paper titled The Effects of the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest on the Languages Spoken in Macedonia. His paper examined the fate of the languages spoken in Macedonia at the time of partition by the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest. Large segments of the population were bi- or multilingual, as evidenced, among other things, by folklore as well as the grammatical and lexical commonalities that characterize the Balkan Sprachbund.

Professor Katerina Kolozova of the University American College-Skopje made a presentation titled Living beyond identity in which she examined how a name points to the narrative of how one identifies, explains, defines, and positions oneself in the world.

Professor Keith Brown of the Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University, USA, presented a paper titled How Trauma Travels. His paper sought to understand some of the mechanisms at work, focusing in particular on the transmission of trauma through history, memory and testimony. 

George Vlahov of the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee presented a paper titled A Survey of the ‘Macedonian Question’ in Dialogue with Greek Nationalism. His paper surveyed the attempts of the Greek state and some of its supporters to provide historical justifications for preventing the international recognition of the Republic of Macedonia and for denying the right of present-day Macedonians to refer to themselves and their language as Macedonian.

Dr Vasko Nastevski also of the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee presented on The Partition of Macedonia and International Law: From Clausewitz to McDougall. His paper considered the different aspects of international law: from the legal and moral justifications to the preceding armed conflicts; the conduct of belligerents during those conflicts; and the ultimate division of the geographical territory known as Macedonia and the legitimisation of the partition through international treaty.

Professor Loring Danforth of Bates College USA wrote a paper titled The Scholar and the State: Evangelos Kofos on the International Recognition of the Republic of Macedonia. His paper offer an anthropological critique of Evangelos Kofos’ work on the Macedonian conflict, the “global cultural war” between Greeks and Macedonians over the name by which the Republic of Macedonia should be internationally recognized.

Professor Christina Kramer of the University of Toronto presented on Partitioning Language Policy and Status Planning in Macedonia. Her paper focused on how the partition of Macedonia in 1913 led to asymmetric developments in the Macedonian language and, more specifically, the use of Macedonian in a number of public and private domains.

Professor Peter Hill of University of Hamburg presented a paper titled The codification and elaboration of the Macedonian standard language under the conditions of partition. His paper focused on the codification of the Macedonian Standard Language. Like other European standard languages, the MSL contains both indigenous and borrowed elements.

Grace Fielder of the University of Arizona presented a paper on Partition, Linguistic Identity and Language Standardization. Her paper focused on a specific problem of variation in a local linguistic practice in Sofia, Bulgaria, which cannot fully accounted for nor fully understood without reference to the partition of Macedonia in 1913.

Dr Akis Gavriilidis of University of Macedonia, Salonika presented on the topic Who was liberated in 1912? Parts, Wholes and States in partibus. His paper drew on psychoanalysis but also from other theoretical traditions such as translation studies, linguistics and philosophy.

Pandora Petrovska of La Trobe University presented a paper titled Recalibrating the past: using narrative and language education. Her paper explored some of the ways in which Macedonians in the Diaspora have dealt with the consequences of the partition of their homeland, namely the poverty which accompanied the partition, land dispossession and population exchanges. It also considered the refugee experience and the effects of forced migration.

Dr Jim Hlavac of Monash University presented a paper on Partition without fragmentation: a cross-perspective analysis of Macedonian language maintenance in Australia. His paper presented a study of Macedonian language maintenance across three generations of speakers. The study employed a multi-faceted analysis of a well-established speech community and draws on domain-focussed questionnaires, language attitude data, ethno-linguistic vitality questionnaires and video-taped narratives conducted in the minority language.

The conference papers will now be complied into a book which is expected to be published in 2014.

The AMHRC would like to express its sincere gratitude to all the speakers and those who attended, as well as to the following sponsors of the conference: Macedonian Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria (St.George, Epping); Australian Macedonian Youth Association; Macedonian Community of Adelaide and South Australia; Macedonian Australian Orthodox Community of Melbourne (Uspenie na Presveta Bogorodica, Sydenham); Macedonian Community of Brisbane; Jim Thomev; and Macedon Publishers and Translators.