«As loud as we can»

                                                                                                                  Panos Kompatsiaris

Some weeks ago, a ‘blasphemous’ provocation against the ‘values of Hellenism’ took place in a Greek military camp.  An official prohibited several soldiers to sing the ‘Famous Macedonia’ (Makedonia Ksakousti), a military march that celebrates the Greekness of Macedonia, a deviant act resulted in a hysterical public outcry. The song is commonly considered as the national anthem of (Greek) Macedonia and is present over and over again in anniversary marches, military camps, but also in state institutions with an educational role, such as schools.  I can recount for instance our teacher of “Religion” in high school making us sing the song “as loud as we can” after the end of his class, with him as a self-appointed conductor waving a wooden stick trying to instill passion and militancy in the choir. The song had to be performed by the fifteen year old students as its g(l)oriness demanded; with a proud, determined and clear voice that gives the sense of unity and coherence to both the performing subjects and their enemies. The song, written after the Balkan wars and the annexation of Thessaloniki to the Greek state in 1912, stresses that freedom for the territory of Macedonia equals Greekness:

Famous Macedonia
the land of Alexander
you drove away the barbarians,
and now you are free!

You are and you’ll be Greek,
the very glory of Greeks,
and we will be looking
you with pride again!

   Macedonians cannot
live enslaved,
even if they lose everything,
they still have their Freedom!

In the flaring reactions against the formation of a nation-state under the name of ‘Macedonia’ after the disintegration of Yugoslavia during the 1990’s, ‘Famous Macedonia’ has been one of the main affective devices mobilized in the effort to secure the ‘sacredness of the Greek past’. These reactions culminated in massive protests organized by the mayor of Thessaloniki and other city officials marking the beginning of an enormous mobilization to consolidate an identity among the Thessalonikians grounded on the ‘uncontested Greekness of Macedonia’.  In the days of the protests, schools and other public institutions were closed so as to involve both students and teachers in this ‘new struggle of Hellenism’. The rationale of this ‘national resurrection’ has been set in the first of these big protests in 1992 by the then mayor of Thessaloniki, Dinos Kosmopoulos, who bellowing in front of a transported crowd sets the basic line of this new struggle: “….the past, this past is sacred, more sacred than our own land, more sacred than our own lives”[i].


The discourse of the ‘uncontested Greekness of Macedonia’ purports to constitute some sort of embodied knowledge, a non-negotiated, naturalized and taken for granted reality, where its questioning almost immediately excludes skeptical subjects  from the ‘national community’.  The agents of questioning are necessarily related with suspicious identities attributed with ‘malicious’ intentions within the Greek public sphere: American agents, conspirators of the New World Order, Turks, Slavs, communists, traitors, Albanians, gays, and generally whoever can constitute a threat to the masculinized and ethnically ‘pure’ national body.

The naturalized character of the uncontested Greekness of Macedonia is most evidently manifested in the most embodied institution of all: language.  While all the other people in the world use the word ‘Macedonia’ in their everyday conversations to describe the Balkan country to the north of Greece, Greek citizens use either the name of its capital Skopje or the more technical term F.Y.R.O.M. to refer to it.


The slogan above “Macedonia is Greece” along with the ‘Vergina sun’ in a building in central Thessaloniki, vandalized with red paint. Above the line reads: “National unity is painted with blood”.

In a TV interview in 2007 when a Greek student was asked how he felt about the claims of Macedonians to self-determination, he answered: “It is as if you are taught that the blue colour is ‘blue’ and then someone comes up to you and tells you, no it is not blue it is red[ii]. Pierre Bourdieu offers the term doxa in order to describe such a “constructed vision of ‘reality’ so naturalized that it appears to be the only vision of reality”[iii]. As the doxa of a particular community constitutes a self-evident category, it becomes apparent only when it is questioned, when an antagonistic discourse challenges it. Bourdieu calls an antagonistic claim that carries a different perspective for looking at a particular discourse against the established doxa, blasphemy or heresy. The agents of the right doxa then, Orthodoxy as Bourdieu calls it, furious that their established ideas about the world are questioned, come to disdain the claim of the blasphemous and reconstitute the new infallibility of doxa. Blasphemy creates a doubtful rupture that needs to be recovered and the blasphemous are ridiculed, caricatured, scorned and generally positioned outside the ‘natural’. The right doxa has to be repeatedly performed so as to cover the doubt and to patch up the rupture that the blasphemous initiate.

The singing of ‘Famous Macedonia’ “as loud as we can” in the Greek army constitutes such a ‘corrective performance’.  When this performance is challenged the right doxa has to urgently re-patch it, by pinpointing the ‘absurdity’ of its cancelation. For example, in reviewing the aforementioned event that took place in the Greek army, a journalist named Velissarios Dragatsis describes how a sergeant in a military camp in northern Greece ordered the conscripts to march while simultaneously singing ‘Famous Macedonia’[iv]. The conscripts according to him not only followed his orders, but were marching and singing so passionately that their “yells could be heard at a big radius around the camp”. However, this idyllic atmosphere was suddenly interrupted by an unexpected event:

“All of a sudden”, Dragatsis writes, “the official of the division appeared running. He looked at the conscripts and whistled three times. They continued their training and stopped only when the official arrived almost shouting at them to immediately stop the military march.”

The author confronts the readers with a blasphemous official who penetrated into the naturalness of the scene in order to set his own ruling. He is running, whistling, shouting and generally making a big fuss about an otherwise normative event. His convulsion against the naturalness that was smoothly unfolding before our eyes makes him seem like a frenzied lunatic. Dragatsis with a sense of wonder and disdain against the unfamiliar event, cites that such “bizarre events destroy the moral values of the military forces and constitute a bad precursor to the evolution of issues of a national kind[…]”.

The ‘normal’ reality, however, eventually prevails over madness. Indeed, in the end, following orders from the provisional Minister of Defence Fragkos Frakoulis and the GES (Hellenic Army General Stuff) a committee will proceed in an investigation in order to “punish those that have caused a stir or are responsible for the incident”. Titling his article “A military official forbids the march ‘Famous Macedonia!’” , Dragatsis adds the exclamation mark so as to demonstrate his astonishment that such a worrying deviation from the natural took place.

In another article on the same incident, which appeared in the blog taxalia.blogspot.comthat comes under the eloquent title ‘sleepless eye over Salonika’-, the official this time is not only an absurd, lunatic figure, but also a fascist for prohibiting the song. The article goes under the title: “A fascist official prohibited the ‘Famous  Macedonia’ from a military camp!”   (adding again an exclamation mark in the end in order to demonstrate his astonishment towards the curious event)[v]. This time the author begins before describing what happened, by recommending the suitable punishment for the wayward official: “He should immediately be withdrawn from the military, as all Nazi officials”. He then goes on: “An ethno-nihilist, fascist military officer who is apparently an admirer of the Nazi-collaborators Skopjans, prohibited the hymn to freedom of Macedonia”. The argument of being a fascist for prohibiting the song implies that singing ‘Famous Macedonia’ is a kind of spontaneous expression on behalf of the soldiers that comes to be repressed, as if it is not imposed on them by the military institution. All the so called ‘Skopjans’ here appear to be timeless Nazi-collaborators, and whoever insults in any way the ‘Greekness of Macedonia’ is a Nazi-collaborator too.

To reinforce his claim that the ‘Skopjans have been and still are Nazis’, the author includes two photographs in his text. The first one goes under the clumsy title “FYROM collaborated with the Nazis”, although anyone with some basic historical knowledge understands that FYROM could not have collaborated with Nazis for the simple reason that FYROM did not exist as a state back then. The second one shows an arbitrarily included swastika carved in marble without any further information. The author here in a rather impatient way aims to create the impression of an almost inherently ‘polluted’ nation that threatens to contaminate ours. Finally, as the agent of logic, the Greek Minister of Defence is cited in this article as well, as ordering an investigation surrounding the outrageous event so as to punish the ones responsible for the prohibition.

In a similar fashion, the discourse of the ‘uncontestable Greekness of Macedonia’ has been brought forward recently by commentators and members of the public in the context of the June 16th elections so as to question the truthfulness of the left wing party Syriza’s intentions to ‘save the country’. Since Syriza is defending the Macedonian minority in Greece and the right for Macedonian self-determination, its legitimacy as a political party is questioned. In numerous blogs, reports and everyday conversations, Syriza was delegitimized by being called ‘agent of the New World Order’, masons, anti-Christians, ethno- traitors, dangerous and profane. As the common saying had it: “Had Syriza been more ‘responsible’ towards the Macedonian issue it would have definitely won the elections”. For the agents of the ‘right doxa’ Syriza is positioned itself against “what goes without saying[vi]. This discursive device not only directs attention to the ‘disrespectfulness’ of Syriza against perceived ‘reality’, but it also makes an effort to reconstruct its doxa anew in the face of Syriza’s ‘unpatriotism’.


According to the Greek cooperative Metexnio this is the ‘notorious’ map in which the young Skopjans are taught in their schools. Metexnio over-identifies with the nationalist normalizing discourse exposing its fearful character.

‘Corrective performances’, however, as of course any form of cultural production, never transmit sings univocally and can have both intentional and unintentional destabilizing effects in relation to the doxa of their own narrative. In publishing the above map, the Greek artistic-prankster cooperative Metexnio[vii] intentionally performs the enemy as a grotesque caricature positioned against “what goes without saying”, here the commonly accepted geographical distribution of nation-states. By ‘revealing’ the conspiracy to eliminate the whole Greek territory in a map taught in ‘Skopjan’ history classes and thus positioning the ‘impossible’ in the in the realm of the possible, Metexnio performs the nationalist language of fear that constructs an all-mighty Other and a constant victimization of one’s own self. While the nation keeps incessantly singing the national anthems “as loud as it can” so as to scare off the ‘enemies’ and reaffirm its discourse, the ‘enemies’ simply erase it from the map altogether. The fear becomes almost real in the face of a nation that constantly machinates to rip us off our enjoyment, in this case by altogether doing away with our ‘holy’ land. The performance of symbolically erasing a nation-state from institutional geographical maps offers another type of enjoyment; that of momentary suspension of the fixity of naturalized identities.

  1. Could this song be the one that got my grandfather in trouble in the early 50’s?

    «One time a group of Greek police (or army?) came to the village and entered the coffee shop where the men played poker, backgammon, etc during the winter months. Naturally, all the Macedonians had to stand and leave their seats to allow the Greek policemen to sit down. Apparently they took all the seats. It was a common occurrence for the police to «show the flag» and to show the Macedonians who was boss. The Greek Captain suggested a «sing-a-long» (yes you heard me). I think it was a new song about Crete (or Cyprus?) that was popular at that time.

    My grandfather suggested instead that they sing a popular «real Greek Macedonian» song about «real Greek Macedonians» being the first to be subjugated by the Turks and the first to suffer, but that one day the Turks would be expelled from Macedonia and that «MACEDONIA WOULD BE A COUNTRY AGAIN». Those were the real lyrics of the song, and when they came to the last line, all the Macedonians sung (in Greek) loudly and with gusto.

    Apparently, the Greeks were not amused and left in a huff and the Macedonians laughed and were congratulating themselves on this minor successful rebellion. The next day the police came and took my grandfather to the police station in the next village. I am not sure if he had to walk, take a donkey, go by bus or by car. Anyway he went and was interrogated for an hour or so.

    The Captain said my grandfather was a traitor and an enemy of Greece. My grandfather protested that he was a true Greek patriot (yeh right!) as can be vouched for by his family. He dared the Captain to prosecute him for singing a famous «real Greek song». The Captain replied that my grandfather should stop being so smart. The Captain did not have to take him to court to smarten him up. The Captain warned my grandfather that if he continued being an asshole, «he would find himself walking with two feet in one shoe»

    • «once and for all»??
      Ha ha ha ha ha ha
      Greeks have been talking about «United Greece» since the late 19th century. Remember, Megali Idea?
      This talking did not «end» the issue. It was the issue.
      What ended the issue and brought peace was the defeat of Megali Idea.

  2. Hi David
    Thanks for this interesting and moving testimony of «social poetics»
    I am not the author of the article, I cannot be sure if this is the same song, but I think it is quite probable

    • I blame all theUS/EU/Nato and allthose pseudo NGOs for the conflict in the Balkans. They point to «ancient tribal hatreds», but never the hypocrisy of their paymasters.

      I am fascinated by the fact that people in the Balkans can live together, intermarry, yet still be at each others throats at the elite political level.. I have relatives married to many Greeks and Bulgarians, a few Serbs and one Albanian (Orthodox).

      Here is a description of how political discussion takes place at the local level.

      Family Tree – A Greek in the Family (Yikes!) and a Greek from Albania (Northern Epirus)

      My grandfather had at least two real Greek friends both of whom were leftists (aka «commies»).

      One of them was married to a distant cousin. He was born in Athens (more likely a small village nearby) and was «half Magir». He met his wife while on army duty in «Northern Greece». They married, lived in «the village» and worked the family farm, and believe it or not, he learned to speak Macedonian like a native. They had children moved to Canada. I did not know that he was «a real Greek» since he spoke Macedonian, as did his children, came to all the Macedonian dances, picnics and the weddings at the Macedonian church.

      The other Greek was from Albania and worked with my grandfather at the same company. He sat at the same «slav lunch table» (Croatians, Poles, Slovak, Ukrainian, etc). There were no other Greeks working there but there were a few Grkomans who shared a table. These Grkomans were «royalists» and this guy could not stand them. Apparently, they also spoke bad Greek, unlike my grandfather.

      Both these Greek friends talked politics over the years with my grandfather and they seemed to come to a consensus as to how things should have worked out. Below is a rough outline as I understood it.

      Not bad for people with a grade six education.

      1. It was a big mistake for Greece to have a German King in the first place (Catholic or Protestant … who cares). They should have gone to a Russia for an Orthodox king if they really wanted one. It was a huge mistake for the Greeks to fight against the fellow the «Orthodox» in the Balkans during the «Macedonian Struggle». This was the fault of those «Bishops under Turkish control» and Melas was their dupe. Turkey was the real enemy and Constantinople was the real goal … even today. It was a mistake to ally with Protestant England against Orthodox Russia after WW2.

      2. If Stalin had not put the boot Tito, the communists in Greece would have won, a Balkan Federation would have become a reality and solved all the problems of the Balkans. Everyone in the Balkans would be free! (with the help God and Stalin!).

      3. The proposal for a «united Macedonia» was a bad idea because too many Magirs in Greek Macedonia, especially in Solun. This cost the communists Greek support during the Greek Civil War. Unless the Magirs could be sent back to Asia Minor, a «united Slav Macedonia» including Pirin would be OK, but minor border changes to include Macedonian speaking villages in the new United Macedonia. (especially our village). This would have given the Republic a huge Macedonian minority.

      4. With Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria about the same size, no country would dominate the Balkan Federation. Rivalry between Serbia and Bulgaria would have meant that the Slavs could never gang up on Greece. Croatians, Macedonians, Slovenians, and Albanians (yikes!) would have been eager to put the screws to any republic that got out of line.

      5. Russia should have helped Greece to re-take Constantinople and to allow the return of Magirs to Asia minor. This would have kept «the Dardanelles» in the hands of the friends of Russia. (naturally no Turks would have been allowed back in the Balkans … screw the Turks).

      6. Epirus should be united and part of Greece. (screw the Albanians … except the Orthodox)

      7. Unification of Cyprus with Greece should have been part of the’Balkan Federation» plan.

      It may sound like these people were living in a «Pan Orthodox Fantasyland» (I think they were) and it may not have worked out that way. However, today we can see that in the Balkans everyone is at each others throats.

      Also, after a century of racism and xenophobia (a Greek word!). Greece has no friends in their fight against «their real enemy – Turkey». Somehow this all works out in favour of the US, which like Britain, has sold out Greece in the past, and will in the future, if the price is right.

  3. s said:

    Macedonians will be still here, even after 300 years.. Greek hysteria is very obvious for independent spectators..

    • This is nothing to be impressed about. Most national/ ethnic groups use several names to describe themselves over time, or even simultaneously. The best example for that are Greeks, who in the 19th century used to call themselves «Romioi». This name was still in use deep in the 20th century (cf. Yannis Ritsos, «Romiossyni»), and is even now.

  4. Milo said:

    I am a little angry with the name FYROM but I am very angry with the Greek occupation of the Aegean part of Macedonia.
    The invaders Greek army after 1912 and the colonists from Turkey who occupied Macedonia after 1922 must leave. Macedonia must become one land in its historical ethnic borders. Every Macedonian knows this. Then we can live happy with our Greek neighbours.

    • Dear Milo.
      Anger and bitterness is understandable. But why is it so important for you if Macedonia -or any other country- is «one land» or several? Do borders matter so much?
      It is quite easy to say that «colonists from Turkey who occupied Macedonia after 1922 must leave». But where are they supposed to go? They are there for almost a century now, and they have no other home. The place where they came from is now Turkey, so they cannot go there, or anywhere else. International treaties have been signed, and people have organised their lives in a certain way for three generations now. What you wish cannot be done without war. Let’s accept what is irreversible -on both sides- and try to build a coexistence on this basis.

  5. Milo said:

    Hi nomadicuniversality
    I like your article because it calls Macedonians by their ethnic name and it accepts only one people can call themselves Macedonians. The colonists in occupied Aegean Macedonia will go. History changes and the colonists will leave the way they came, by treaty and by anything else. Greeks are losing economically and diplomatically and militarily. But Macedonia is more and more strong and Macedonia is winning the name battle and is winning the battle of the land maps and the battle of owning the ancient Macedonians and Alexander the Macedonian. Macedonians sing songs about united ethnic Macedonia and no one can stop that.
    More and more intelligent Greeks like Mr Kompatsiaris and Greek academics and politicians accept that they belong to a nation that is sinking full of guilt because it never existed. Coexistence is good and Greece can grow happy and strong south of Olympus like it was before 1881.

    • Dear Milo,

      As the author of this article I must say that I completely disagree with your militaristic- nationalist rhetoric. Unfortunately, you are essentialy performing what the article was meant to oppose, namely the naturalization of ethinic identities and their closure through singing songs about all sorts of ‘glorious’ national heroes. The article is pointing towards a completely different understanding of national identities based on mutual solidarity, openess and co-existence.


  6. Giannis said:

    It is really sad that articles departing from emancipatory, antinationalistic perspective are abused by the ignorance and the fanaticism of nationalists tryign to use them to promote their racist, biggoted and fascist agendas. The author criticizes Greek nationalism as a Greek citizen, but this does not mean that he supports the nationalists of a different state who try to promote their hate speech and their nationalistic imaginaries. The article’s point Mr Milo, since you did not understand it or tried to distort it to suit you nationalist imaginations, is INTERNATIONALISM and not the promotion of the nationalism of some Macedonians. I ams sure there are people in Macedonia that are internationalist and that would like to puke by the nationalist and militarist rhetorics of people like you.

    • Excellent idea. I will consider it.
      Actually, there is not very much of a «problem» to be solved. I don’t very often call myself a Greek anyway. Only when asked by cops or other state bureaucrats.

  7. Giannis said:

    Ps. Mr Milo, you also mentioned the Greek crisis to defend your militaristic fantasies. I would like to kindly explain to you and to all like minded people that the crisis strucking Greece at the moment is not happening because Greeks are a failed nation state.

    The crisis is a global capitalist crisis and not a Greek crisis.

    You sound like you are sadistically happy about the crisis and what is happening to the Greek people at the moment, but in fact, the crisis, that is equally affecting the lower classes of the Macedonian people is a global, capitalist one, and it concerns mechanisms of profit making, accumulation, exploitation and dispropriation.
    Nationalism in all variations, Greek, Macedonian, German, American, Turkish and other, is a good tool to keep citizenries ignorant and polarized. Nationalism is a good tool for slaves and the perfect way to produce a divide and conquer strategy among proletarians. There are many states with vast lands and really poor people and states with small territories that managed to deal with their citizens problems much more adequatelly. Unless you are not into some business that has a real interest in nationalism (like the military, real estate, industry, politics, mass media, or some publishing house, among other), then you are most likely a proletarian with a complete ignorance of his class identity.
    You need to see the class element behind the fantasies of nationalism and its pseydoknoweldge on essentialist purity.

  8. Milo said:

    Mr Giannis and Mr Panos I want to try and be realistic. Greece is losing militarily because it is the only country that does not have 12km of sea because of Turkey and it has lost half of Cyprus (I want Cyprus united, Cyprus to the Cypriots).

    Most of Macedonia and especially Turkey is very nationalist and growing stronger. Skopje is a now a capital to a united Macedonia with statue heros of a united Macedonia but the ICJ in the Hague found Greece guilty about the NATO veto because Greece is a failed state.

    The reality is when people or countries see Greece so weak they do not think long live the proletarians but they want to take bits of Greece they think belongs to them. And of course Germans and Europeans and Americans want some of Greece because of the debt. You have a crazy big debt you can never pay back, that means you can only pay by selling your country. When one country goes down then another country grows bigger. With respect for your belief I do not see how in the near future internationalism or class or anything can change the reality of debt which is destroying your country. And millions (not all) Macedonians in the world and in Aegean Macedonia see their fantasy come closer of uniting and kicking out the Greeks. It is not my fault. You will never, never find a Macedonian or a European who condemns publicaly our historic ethnic maps of a united Macedonian and this means our fantasy is winning. Even if I agree with your ideas, when million of people think the same it is not fantasy but electoral and lobby power.

  9. Akis said:

    Mr. Milo, your posts are not welcome here.
    You are talking nonsense.
    Greece did not ever «lose» «half of Cyprus», because it never possessed it. Cyprus was never part of Greece.
    Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Iceland have enormous debts as well. Does this mean that they too are going to lose part of their territory?
    Condeming «historic ethnic maps» is pointless. Anybody can make the maps they like, this is harmless. Trying to make reality correspond to this history, is quite a different thing. You will never, never find a European or a citizen of any country or contintent who will endorse the change of borders in the Balkans, or elsewhere.
    It’s about time you wake up and see reality around you. When did any similar thing happen after the 2nd World War? Nobody wants another war and ethnic cleansing in Europe.

  10. Well, excellent article, excellent comments. My 2p worth – the map is a total fabrication. It is not from a Macedonian school book or something like that. Usually there might be some maps of region of Macedonia, but with clear state boundaries.
    Checking Google – http://goo.gl/BDtmQ shows the original map that was used to erase Greece from the map.
    Anyway, I somehow doubt that the process of nation building through «history» is over. Not for Greece, not for Macedonia, not for Serbia, Bulgaria, Albania… It’s a disease that feeds itself. It might be stopped only if use the common heroes for joint celebrations. Mother Teresa with Albanians. Alexander with the Greeks. Sts. Cyril and Methodius with Bulgarians. Even Krale Marko and with Serbs too…

  11. I feel like we are at the end of a game of monopoly. All the countries were obtained by war, money or various kinds of treaties at the beginning of the game, in the middle, some survived and grew stronger while some had to lose territories by selling or trading them, which is basically the same, and now, in the end, some players are at the edge of bankruptcy, some have one small territory, happy to have reached the last round, and only one has a lot of territories, knowing that it is a matter of time to have the whole world… The only thing that stays the same in the game is that every single player thinks that they are the ones who are rolling the dice, therefore are responsible for their own stand in the game. Only one player is right.

  12. takis lakis said:


  13. Nick the Greek said:

    Macedonia is Hellenic


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