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Readers write about the affect of Alexander the Great on the present-day Balkan states, why China must allow academic freedom, why the end of US evangelism could be a good thing, and the right of employers to prevent their workers from wearing the

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Alexander the Great still affects present-day Balkans

In regard to the March 23 article, "2,300 years later, 'Alexander-mania' grips Macedonia": The looming battle between Macedonians and Greeks over the legacy of Alexander the Great is, in a word, silly.

Modern Macedonian Slavs are about as likely to be direct descendants of Alexander as Nazi Germans were of a “pure Aryan” progenitor. I use that analogy deliberately since the nationalist claim that Macedonians spawned the “white race” is uncomfortably reminiscent of the Nazis’ Aryan fantasies. Moreover, the tragic irony of this pseudo-historical nonsense is that all the Slavic peoples – including the South Slav – were regarded by the Nazis as “subhumans” and thus fit only for slavery or extermination.

Nor is the Greek position any more credible. Although the ancient Macedonians likely spoke a Greek dialect, they were considered rank inferiors by their Greek contemporaries. The Athenian orator Demosthenes spoke for many Greeks when he referred to Philip of Macedon, Alexander’s father, as “not only no Greek, nor related to the Greeks, but not even a barbarian….” For most of these Greeks, when Alexander succeeded Philip it was like father, like son. Only grudginglly, after the son’s astounding conquests, did they accept him as “one of us.” Success has a way of changing people’s perceptions.

In sum, those who use – or rather, misuse – history for their own narrow purposes nearly always distort it. In this case, the distortion might be funny were it not for its potential to reinforce the already chronic instability of the Balkans.


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