Inconsistency and hypocrisy of Russian foreign policy towards Macedonians

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The Russian Embassy in Skopje congratulated our citizens on the holiday “Ss. Cyril and Methodius”, generally describing them as Slav educators. The greetings of the Russian Embassy in Sofia, however, described them as Bulgarian, which was not accepted well in our country. The Russian Embassy in Athens, on the other hand, calls us “Skopya” behind our backs, and while all of this is ongoing, Russia acts as though it is some kind of a protector of “Macedonianism”. The topic here is not whether some historic figures belong to us or Bulgaria, nor the dispute with Greece, but the inconsistency and hypocrisy of the Russian foreign policy 


Author: Vangel Basevski 


Unfortunately, our citizens have too much trauma from the distant and close past such as the conflict in 2001, the dispute with Greece, the change of the constitutional name, or the Bulgarian veto of our European integration, thus so some citizens see a savior in Russia. According to them, Russia is a better option than the West because the West seems inclined toward the Albanians, and the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia was amended under the pressure of the West, which was an attack on Macedonian national identity in favor of those who denied us – the Greeks – and in favor of NATO enlargement… The role of the Russians in this narrative is as ‘adamant supporters’ of the Macedonians, but that is false to a large extent. 

For example, during the visit to Moscow by former Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov on 24.5.2017, his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin flattered him that the Day of Slav literacy was also celebrated in Russia and that the literacy reached Russia from Macedonia. He most probably has his advisers who whisper to him what to say from the viewpoint of good manners. In contrast, to other guests – for example, the Bulgarians – he might have flattered them with the idea that Bulgaria played a key role in Slav literacy, etc. 

On 24.5.2024. the Russian Embassy in Skopje congratulated our citizens on the holiday “Ss. Cyril and Methodius”, generally describing them as Slav educators. The greetings of the Russian Embassy in Sofia, however, described them as Bulgarian. The topic here, however, is not whether some historic figures belong to us or Bulgaria, but the inconsistency and hypocrisy of Russian foreign policy. 

An emerging trend in our country have been some pro-Putin inclined nationalists who believe that Russia supports them unconditionally – but as we saw, that is not the case. In reality, most of the Russians have no idea where we are on the map (fundamentally, and based on personal experience from living in Russia), while the Macedonian issue is not the central topic in their lives, of course, not even in their politics. 

Russia showed somewhat of an interest in us when former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski started flirting with the country following the disappointment from the NATO Summit 2008 when we did not become part of the Alliance due to the Greek veto. Russia’s interest in us grew even more when finally, the dispute with Greece was to be resolved for the purpose of our NATO membership which implied changing our Constitutional name. Russia was reluctant to see that happen, not because it cared for our name, but because it was against our NATO membership. It started using the Macedonian nationalism card and encouraged the revolt against the name change. An example of that was the tweet of the Russian Embassy in Skopje from 20.10.2018: 

#Russia recognized the Republic of #Macedonia under its Constitutional name before more than 26 years ago and it has not changing its opinion. 

Some of our citizens approved the comment, but Russia, of course, did not fulfill its promise. That was just a marketing trick for our market only and most probably the comment was not published by the Russian Embassy in Athens. The role of Russia there was quite the opposite – it implied encouragement and funding of Greek nationalist politicians such as Panos and Kamenos from the party Independent Greeks (ANEL) so that they could oppose the resolution of the name so that we would not become a NATO member state. This was a classic example of what the Romans meant by “Divide and Rule”. 

Although the Russians indeed recognized the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia, they were not always consistent with its application – both officially and unofficially. Sometimes they said Respublica Macedonia, and sometimes they said Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) or some variation of the name. For example, such was the case with the Russian site on administrative services Госуслуги (Gosuslugi) (image), and there were also cases when both names were listed in the same source (image). An example of this name-related inconsistency could be found in the reporting of the Russian showman Aleksandar Pryanikov, recorded in our country back in 2016, where he calls us FYROM, several times as a matter of fact. 

On its social network accounts, the Russian Embassy in Greece used to call us “Skopya” (examples: here and here) and all that in the same period when the Russians were swearing that they stand resolutely behind the name Republic of Macedonia. To that end, the term Macedonia is present in the posts of those accounts, but in the Greek context, in the sense of the norther region in Greece (example). 

The Russian Embassy in Greece stresses Orthodox and historical links between the Russians and the Greeks, the fact that imperial Russia was helping the Greeks against the Ottomans, sheltering them, and that the Greek Ioannis Kapodistrias (1776 – 1831) even became Foreign Affairs Minister of Russia and Prime-minister of free Greece, thereby quoting the following words of Putin: 

Since the first steps of Greek independence, Russia has always supported the Greek people and the Greek state and will continue to do so in the future. 

In a given period, Greece was one of the hostile Euro-Atlantic countries towards Russia, while they had somewhat of a military cooperation. This was a contribution of the Greek Minister of Defence, the previously mentioned Panos Kamenos. And while that lasted, Russia was putting a completely different act for us. 

The Russian Embassy in Skopje even started to mark the anniversaries of the births or deaths of our national heroes (for example: herehereherehere, and here), although most of them were never helped in their struggle by Russia and they are completely unknown there. This was also bizarre, in terms of the fact that an embassy exists to promote its own country and its history and culture, not those of the host country. It is agreeable for an embassy to congratulate a holiday of the host country, to mention some historical personalities who have linked both countries, but this is tasteless and most probably manipulative for our public. Of course, this was relevant only to our public, therefore, it was not transmitted by the Russian embassies in the neighboring Balkan countries where some other heroes were celebrated… or maybe the same, but with a different description. 

Frankly, it is not unusual for diplomats, politicians, and other public figures to give contradictory statements to different audiences to flirt with the public. Of course that can happen in the West as well. But when that is done by Russia towards the Macedonians, it has a special dimension because some of the people naively see Russia as a brotherly state and an honest supporter which is especially true for the new kids on the block and the pro-Putin inclined nationalists.