Professor of Balkan and Slavic Linguistics
University of Chicagohttp://macedoniaonline.eu/content/view/7136/2/
I went to Athens on 2 June 2009 for the promotion of the first Modern Greek-Macedonian dictionary to be published in Greece (by Zora [dawn], the publishing arm of Vinozhito [Rainbow] the ethnic Macedonian political party in Greece).
The first part of the promotion proper was presented by Riki Van Boeschoeten, a Dutch Hellenist who has been teaching at the University of Volos for the past 10 years. Riki's speech alluded to the same verses in Daniil's Tetraglosson (1802) that I have also cited and that begin "Albanians, Bulgars, Vlachs, and all who now do speak/An alien tongue, rejoice!, prepare to make you Greek!/Give up your barbarian tongues, your customs rude forego/So that as bygone myths your children may them know." and so on.
Then I began my speech, which concentrated on the Greek persecution of the Modern Macedonian language in the twentieth century. The speech was in English, which most but not all of the audience understood. Riki kindly served as my translator. It was a 5-page speech, and at the bottom of page four, just as Riki finished translating "On the one hand, we can note that dialects such as those of Florina and Edhessa in Greece are so close to those of neighboring Bitola and Gevgelija in neighboring Macedonia that calling them separate languages does not have a basis in the linguistic data.
On the other hand, if we accept the argument that the Macedonian dialects of Greece are a separate language or separate languages, then their documentation is all the more urgent, since they are on the very brink of extinction." and before I could begin the next sentence, which was "Either way, it is to be hoped that the Greek government will permit linguists to document these dialects before they disappear without the police harassment that, unfortunately, continues to instill fear in speakers and obstruct researchers." about a dozen thugs dressed in black and wearing the kind of combat helmets that riot police wear burst into the room screaming and yelling.
All but two of them took up positions by the doors so no one could escape. Two large louts were screaming at us on the podium and at the audience "Oli ekso!" [Everybody out], and "Prodhotes!" [Traitors] "Edo einai Ellada" ['Here is Greece' -- the same motto that was used on placards banning the speaking of Macedonian and Vlah that used to be all over 'Greek' Macedonia] and other things I did not catch. One of them ripped the banner off the podium that had the name of the book in Greek and Macedonian. Another ripped out the wires that the TV cameras were attached to. I decided that if they were going to beat me up I would try to get a picture of it and pulled out my camera. I took a picture but wasn't sure it worked so I took another. The bearded thug was about to hit me with a combat helmet when the fat thug stopped him. Apparently the dogs were under orders to bark but not bite. We did not know this at the time, however. They kept screaming and yelling and making menacing gestures, but did not actually come up onto the podium. One of them screamed at me 'sign me this book' in English using the intonation that one would use to scream 'I'm going to smash your head in'. After a few more minutes of screaming and yelling they left, taking the display copy of the dictionary with them. (They did not, however, actually destroy it in our presence.)
After a few minutes of discussion we resumed the promotion and I finished my speech. I got one of the loudest rounds of applause I have ever had. After it was all over, we stayed in the building for quite a while until it was safe to leave. There were riot police stationed outside the building, but they were probably the same people who let the thugs in in the first place. They also got very angry when I photographed them. We later learned that a Greek fascist political party called Hrisi Avgi [Golden Dawn] had had a rally just before our book promotion. The police were present at the rally, and so the thugs could not have come to the Foreign Press Association building, where our promotion was held, without their knowledge. Unfortunately, such incidents can be connected directly to the Greek government's policy toward its ethnic Macedonian minority.