The Sense of Belonging as a Tool for Russian Influence in North Macedonia
One of the simplest ways of influencing a wider circle of people, which has been continuously used by Russia in the Republic of North Macedonia, is to build and nurture the narrative of mutual belonging (in international relations this theory is known as “natural alliance”). Unity and common affiliation are associated with Slavism, religion, language, tradition, and lately more and more with the value system that distinguishes them as countries and peoples from that of the “West”
Author: prof. Mirjana Najcevska, PhD, an expert on the rule of law and human rights
Origin and traditional connection
Although Slavism as a connecting point with Russia is not mentioned so often (as in neighboring Serbia or in the period when antiquisation in Macedonia had not yet gained momentum), it must not be neglected.
Belonging to Slavism is presented as a curse and as a gift, and it is promoted quietly, as opposed to those others from the “West”:
The world of the Slavs is associated with overheated emotions, unbridled passions, suicidal irrationality, Orthodox restraint and explosive mixtures of tears and laughter. The West, on the other hand, is considered sober and tolerant, Protestant rational and civilized. And look, the time has come for the wars of the Slavic everyday life to seem like a banal childish defiance in relation to the Western ones.
Slavism is always present in the texts that celebrate Cyril and Methodius.
The Day of the All-Macedonian and All-Slavic Enlighteners, the Day of the All-Macedonian and All-Slavic Culture and Literacy, the Day of the Thessaloniki Brothers Holy Apostles Cyril and Methodius the Macedonians!
More often than not, communion is implied by the use of the terms “brotherly peoples” and “brotherly relations”. These terms (which are contained in several texts, especially on social networks) promote and support the idea of a traditional connection between Russia and Macedonia, i.e. the Russian and Macedonian people:
HOMELAND MACEDONIA will renew the close and fraternal relations with Russia, unnaturally interrupted by other global interests in the last century and, as stated in the geostrategic program strategy, will incorporate Macedonia in the Eurasian Union of fraternal freedom-loving peoples from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
Thus we will renew the close historical ties between the two fraternal peoples that have their roots in Alexander the Great with the Bodriches (Macedonians) and Rurik who was incorporated in the creation of the Russian state, through the Macedonian and all-Slavic educators St. Clement and Nahum, St. Cyril and Methodius, the participation of the Macedonian volunteer regiment in the Crimean War in the XIX century and the activity of the Macedonian intellectuals and fighters for national freedom in St. Petersburg, Dimitrija Cupovski and Krste Misirkov, and the Miladinovci Brothers.
These seemingly unfavorable expressions of unity and reference to the historical roots of the connection (which can be disputed by historical facts), result in support of the current government in Russia, and in support of the Putin’s current aggression against Ukraine.
Macedonians, on Saturday at 14:30 come in front of the Russian Embassy in Skopje, there will be a rally to express dissatisfaction with the fact that the occupying junta put us on the list of enemies of Russia, under the motto “Your enemy is the North, the Macedonian is your brother!”
Let us all unite and go in front of the Russian Embassy and give support to Russia against the propaganda and Russophobia !
Given that Russian influence is most easily spread among those who see danger in embracing “Western” values and “Western” democracy, the problem of Slavism as the denominator of communion collides with the idea of the ancient origins of today’s Macedonians and direct ties to Alexander the Great.
In order to resolve this contradiction, more extreme “analyzes” appear on some of the portals in which the connection between Macedonia and Russia is connected with the Macedonian origin of the Russians:
To support this claim we will use an excerpt from the book Slavic Origin (Stolen History, Petar Popovski, PhD, pp. 361-362) which clearly states:
“The ancient written document of the Moscow Annals explicitly claims that the Russians, i.e. the Muscovites, who came from the Macedonian territories, spoke the same language as the ancient Macedonians.”
According to this, the Russians come from Macedonia, just as the Russian language has its roots in the Macedonian.
However, on the whole, those who spread the idea of unity and traditional connection between Macedonians and Russians do not engage in resolving this kind of contradiction and illogicalities.
The positive attitude towards Russia is further built by promoting Russia / Putin’s alleged support for the Macedonian identity (again avoiding the explanation of whether it is a Slavic or an identity that originates from the ancient Macedonians):
The Russian Embassy in Skopje, quoting a statement by the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, “literacy came from the Macedonian land” congratulates the Macedonian people on the national holiday, the Day of the All-Slavic educators Saints Cyril and Methodius.
This is further spread in different (pictorial) ways on social networks, emphasizing the importance and with a clear implication for those “others” who contribute to changing the name, language, identity of Macedonia and the Macedonians.
The connection with Russia through religion (as part of a common identity) and some general statements by Putin are made even when these statements have no direct or indirect connection with Macedonia or the Macedonian people.
In this way, the perception is built that there is continuous support of the authorities in Russia (especially Putin personally) for the protection of the identity of the Macedonians and the recognition of the importance and merits of Macedonia for the entire Slavic world.
Russia always unconditionally recognizes the independence and authenticity of the Macedonian language, history, culture and identity, said today the Russian Ambassador Sergey Baznikin during his visit to Kumanovo.
This narrative is continuously expanding and gaining importance, despite the fact that it does not coincide with the reality in which Russia recognizes Macedonia under its new constitutional name North Macedonia, nor the fact that the Russian Church at no time showed intention to recognize the Macedonian Orthodox Church or the absence of significant economic support from Russia.
Trade with Russia is around 2% of the total trade. Foreign direct investments are 0.5%, and foreign currency remittances, which are a significant motivator of the Macedonian economy, i.e. Russian remittances in Macedonia participate with only 0.1%.
It is obvious that this type of texts have been especially spread on social networks in the recent period (since the beginning of Putin’s aggression against Ukraine), regardless of the fact that they were first written / shared much earlier.
Common tradition and values
A particularly striking way of influencing Russia in Macedonia is by claiming that the two peoples/countries have a common tradition and especially a common value system (contrary to the values that, in addition to the messages placed in certain media and social networks, the “western countries” are trying to impose).
Most often, the message is two-sided. It points to a clear commonality of the general value system with Russia and emphasizes the differences in relation to the “Western” countries.
For example, in a column entitled “Sorry, but we cannot believe in the same values, Mrs. Galloway” dedicated to the “double standards” of “Western” democracy against the Russian Federation, there is a sentence in which the Cossacks are suddenly mentioned (probably as an antipode of the Slavs?):
Well, you remember your family leaving for England in 1911, after the Cossacks tried to take (I guess, forcibly abduct) your four-year-old great uncle. And you have to remember, because uprooting every family is a tragedy in itself that I sympathize with it.
It is not uncommon the appearance of the claim that the “West” was not and cannot be a friend of the Slavs. They follow it, but for a short time.
Dostoevsky warns that Russia should be seriously prepared for the future behavior of the Slavs, who will enthusiastically turn to Europe to the point of losing their national individuality, their culture and traditions. He says that they will be infected with the virus of the European institutions, but they will have a long way to go towards Europeanization, slowly losing their identity, and thus their importance as Slavic peoples. Although the people will long have the feeling that Europe has neither been nor can be a true friend, nor can it be expected to help in any greater trouble, they will try to put themselves under its umbrella.
Such texts are not placed in the context of the current situation, the connection of the countries with a predominantly Slavic population with the “West”, the clearly expressed aspiration for unity within the EU and of course the economic aid and support coming from the “West”.
This is followed by a series of analyzes of European values (which collide with those of other, non-Western European values):
Next term is the term European values. This term builds on the term Euro-Atlantic integration and is always used in its context. Their goal is to create an image that in the EU and NATO people live according to European values, and everything outside is without values, uncivilized and, of course, if they wish to be civilized, they need those famous Euro-Atlantic integrations. The first problem is that European values are not limited to the borders of EU and NATO countries. European values are also Glagolitic, Cyrillic, Koneski, Racin, Andrkj,, Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, etc. In addition, Europe, when thinking of the West, did not just produce values. Western European products also include chauvinism, imperialism, racism, fascism and Nazism.
This often ends with the glorification of Russia and especially Putin in his struggle for traditional values.
Vladimir Putin read his annual message as President of the Russian Federation addressed to the Federal Assembly. This year the message was read on the day of the 20th anniversary of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which was adopted on December 12, 1993, by universal suffrage. In his address, Vladimir Putin stressed that Russia will continue to defend traditional values.
The most explicit support for those different values offered by Russia versus the “West” is discussed on the Free World website, which is further transmitted through social networks:
We are convinced that Western civilization, with its liberal economic market model, migration policy and consumer society ideas, leads to the death and destruction of the entire indigenous European population, and only Russia, as the last bastion of traditional values in Europe, is able to ensure a peaceful and a decent life for all Slavic and other European peoples.
This completely ignores the fact that the consumer society, the liberal market and the migration policy are as present in Russia as in other countries.
In some of the media this is done by directly transmitting statements of senior Russian officials, which allude to the closeness of the peoples and the discrepancy between what is meant by public opinion and opinion/position of the current political set in Macedonia, i.e. promoting the idea that the current situation and the “West” orientation is artificially imputed by the governing structures and opposite the governing structures that are influenced by the “West”.
North Macedonia and Montenegro, unfortunately, fell under the influence of the West, failed to form any independent policy in the Ukrainian direction and joined the regime of frontal sanctions. It will inevitably affect them, complicating the already difficult economic situation. Of course, bilateral relations with Russia will suffer. We have warned about all this many times before. It should be repeated that the hostile line of local leaders towards our country does not enjoy public support. Despite the attempts of the West to impose destructive unanimity, the citizens of these countries are able to create an objective picture, to separate the propaganda lie from the facts.
The “new world order”, which should be based on the common Slavic values, is promoted by alleged scientific / expert analyzes that are placed on social networks (which again completely ignore the current political and economic system in Russia):
Russia does not put pressure on Macedonian policy, we want other countries to do the same, said today in Skopje Alexander Dugin, the first adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin and creator of Russia’s all-Slavic strategy, participating on the panel discussion “Macedonia in a strategic alliance with Russia and membership in the Eurasian Economic Union”
In a number of texts this rises to the level of a frightening conflict, which is explained by the hatred of the “West” for everything Slavic, and even with intentions to destroy the Russian media scene: Controlled content with little space for foreign media. According to some media, a biological war is already being waged against all Slavs and biological weapons are being made genetically modified and directed against Slavs.
Coronavirus is deadliest for the Slavs – The famous geopolitical analyst claims that the Russians have evidence of the laboratory origin of the virus
The absurd claim, based on the existence of genetically pure peoples and which overlooks that Ukrainians and Russians are Slavs, develops into a theory based on statistics, designed to unite all of Slavic descent against a common enemy from the “West” :
What is even more terrifying is the list of countries in terms of the number of deaths per million inhabitants in the world. Of the 10 countries with the highest mortality per million inhabitants, as many as 9 are members of the Slavic group of peoples or share a huge number of genes with the Slavic peoples and are countries of Eastern Europe.
If we go a little further than 30 countries in the world with the highest mortality of one million inhabitants of the coronavirus in the world, as many as 19 countries are from Eastern Europe and with a large Slavic population!
The topic continues to be “elaborated” in concrete “examples” of how the Slavs should be destroyed:
Biological weapons developed in Ukraine affect the reproductive system of women and the immunity of certain ethnic groups, the head of Russia’s state space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said on Monday.
These frightening “intentions” of the “West” (despite all their illogicality, utter arbitrariness and unreality in terms of science and especially in terms of the absence of pure ethnic groups) find a place on social networks and in the media and encourage new grouping based of fear, the certainty of belonging on the basis of traditional values and imaginary support.