Macedonia Celebrates 20 Years of IndependenceBulgaria in EU | September 8, 2011, Thursday // 11:50| views
Pictured: the monument of medieval Bulgarian Tsar Samuil opened in July 2011 in Skopje; Tsar Samuil has had his nationality changed by the Macedonian authorities. Photo by BGNES
Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's establishment as an independent state.
In the referendum carried out on September 8 1991, 95% of Macedonia's citizens voted in favor of the country becoming independent.
On January 15, 1992, Bulgaria became the first sovereign nation ever to recognize the independence of Macedonia. It was followed by Turkey, Slovenia, Croatia and Russia.
In the months prior to Thursday's anniversary, the Macedonian government erected statues of Alexander the Great (disguised with the generic name "Warrior on a Horse"), Byzantine Emperor Justinian, medieval Bulgarian ruler Samuil and other historical figures who were active in the region in an effort to showcase what the country perceives as its own "historical heritage".
Since becoming an independent state in 1991, the ex-Yugoslav republic has had a number of protracted historical disputes with neighboring Bulgaria and Greece concerning its attempts to "hijack" parts of their history.
Unlike Greece, which gets enraged by Macedonia's moves toying with the cultural heritage from the Antiquity period and is tangled with Macedonia in the notorious name dispute, Bulgaria's governments traditionally react to propaganda fits by Skopje with disregard, while the general public in Bulgaria accepts them with ridicule.
"Today is a reminder of all that you have accomplished, but also the challenges that remain. Since Macedonia's independence, we have worked on a broad range of political, economic, cultural, military and social issues. We are proud to have supported Macedonia's development and transition over the last 20 years and today we are committed to helping Macedonia strengthen rule of law, improve education, promote media freedom and build greater democratic foundations in a full, inclusive multi-ethnic society," the US Department of State has declared in a press release on Thursday's occasion.
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