Strands of history have a way of reaching from the past and binding us now to ways of thinking. And for an unseemly dispute between Greece and a neighbouring nation, the very name of Macedonia was enough to sour relations and create ill will — bad enough that both the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the Europe Union had cautioned that it needed to be permanently resolved lest it irrevocably sours relations between the two members of the military alliance, and was a significant hurdle in having the northern nation join the European economic and political bloc down the road.
Now, however, both governments in Athens and Skopje have accepted that from now on, what was the Former Yugloslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) — it had adopted the name Republic of Macedonia following the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991 but Greece and others formally rejected that — will henceforth be known as the Republic of North Macedonia.
For nationalists in Greece, the use of the term Macedonia was always contentious, given the ancient land was the birthplace of Alexander the Great — a political and military leader whose rule extended from the Mediterranean Sea to the Himalayas. They fiercely objected to the use of FYROM, and the pair had been locked in a testy dispute for the past 37 years.
The Republic of North Macedonia was agreed between Athens and Skopje, while Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has called on those who opposed the name change to let go of history and move on. Yes, he’s right, and his nation should embrace the historic change.