NPR

For Two Countries, The Dispute Over Macedonia's Name Is Rooted In National Identity

Alexander the Great is central to identity in Greece and Macedonia, which are quarreling over Macedonia's name — and bragging rights to the 4th century B.C. military genius.

To an outsider, this most Balkan of conflicts looks absurd: two countries fighting over a name and a historical icon who lived 25 centuries ago.

But the 26-year-old dispute between two southeastern European neighbors — Greece and Macedonia, over who owns the name "Macedonia" — is seen by both sides as existential and essential to national identity.

Greece, which prizes its ancient history above everything else, is especially sensitive.

On Sunday, more than 140,000 Greeks marched to parliament in Athens during a flag-waving "Macedonia is Greece" rally, chanting that the name "is in our soul."

Though the

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