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"Skopje 2014" and Macedonia’s ethnocracy or how to divide a city


Janev,  Goran
Socio-Cultural Diversity, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Janev, G. (2011). "Skopje 2014" and Macedonia’s ethnocracy or how to divide a city. Talk presented at "Urban Conflicts: ethno-national divisions, states and cities". Queens University, Belfast, UK. 2011-05-19 - 2011-05-21.

Almost two decades in the making the Macedonian ethnocracy is finally taking its full shape and is expressing itself in the form of the “Skopje 2014” the project for rebuilding the central part of the capital. The symbolic reconstruction of the capital managed to finally turn the alleged divided city into one that really is separated along ethnic lines. Macedonia stands on multiple cleavage lines, linguistic, religious, ethnic and historically at the fault lines of empires, political systems, and the changing international order and state formation. Regardless of the regime, previously, Macedonian citizens had maintained high levels of mutual respect and tolerance. Recently, the political system based on communitarian principles recognizes, in practice, ethnopolitical parties’ leading role. Seated in government, central and local, these parties rush to symbolically mark their respective ethnic territory. The ruling party, at first very timidly and later bombastically, presented the plans for the new look of the capital. By year 2014 they will create, install and build over 50 monuments of historical figures and over a dozen buildings in neo-baroque, neoclassical, eclectic, historicist stile. The building is ongoing, relentlessly, in spite of the numerous, loud and persistent opposition. In this paper I follow the parallel development of the ethnocratic regime in Macedonia and the growing resistance to it. The project “Skopje 2014” has been crucial for the catalysis of these processes. On the one hand it materializes the ethnopolitical system while on the other it provokes reactions against it. Moreover the announcement of the Project “Skopje 2014” invigorated or introduced for the first time properly, the debate on multiculturalism in this country of great ethnic, religious, and linguistic mixture. It is striking that the opposition grew from without not within the system of ethnopolitical parties that managed to monopolize the public sphere and are marching towards the monopolization of the public space. We certainly still find the sites of resistance to the homogenizing discourse in the contact zones in the city like the Old Bazaar although it has been proclaimed a border zone for the better part of Macedonia’s independence during the process of establishing ethnocracy. By linking the public sphere and the public space via the concept of the public, I seek an understanding of the sites and forms of resistance to the process of ethnic homogenization and consequential differentiation.