But Greece – which has no designs on the territory of this Vermont-sized nation, but just the name – says that everyone knows Alexander was Greek and that Macedonia is in Greece (indeed, there is a region of Greece called Macedonia). They insist that their Slavic-majority neighbor – known in Athens and at the United Nations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) – is trying to steal their heritage.
That assertion drives Blazho and his park bench mate, a retired Yugoslav major, to distraction.
"We haven't done anything bad to the Greeks," says Blazho.
"It's irrational what the Greeks want from us. To change our name," chimes in his friend. "If the Greeks were so attached to the name Macedonia, why didn't they call their country Macedonia?"
In the ethnic caldron of the Balkans, all national identities are comparatively new, forged as the region's empires crumbled. Modern Macedonian identity, however, is still very much a work in progress, and the country's government is waging a concerted effort to claim the brand of Alexander and forge a link between the present and that hallowed past. Visitors to the capital, Skopje, now arrive in the Alexander the Great Airport (though you can't fly there direct from neighboring Greece). And milk-white classical-era sculptures – borrowed from the national collection – have been mounted on the steps of the main government building.
But at the hulking, Soviet-era Museum of Macedonia, hard evidence of those links is harder to find.