A new nameless equestrian statue in Skopje has angered some on account of its striking resemblance to Todor Aleksandrov, a controversial figure in Macedonian history.The five-metre statue financed by the Ministry of Culture and erected in the Skopje municipality of Kisela Voda is officially entitled “Macedonian equestrian revolutionary”.
But to many, including Macedonia’s opposition Social Democrats, the statue clearly portrays a controversial senior member of the Ottoman and post-Ottoman era VMRO nationalist organization – whose memory they revile.Official historians have long condemned Todor Aleksadrov as “the biggest traitor to the Macedonian cause” for his pro-Bulgarian views, while others have called him “Head-cutter” for his alleged involvement in many assassinations of other VMRO members and other political and military figures of the time.
But others refer to him as “the soul and the brain of the Macedonian resistance” and as “Macedonia’s Robin Hood”, attributing to him remarkable organizational skills and will.
“The government [led by the VMRO DPMNE party] is continuing its attempt to revise Macedonian history,” complains Tanja Tomic, a Social Democrat legislator.
“While diminishing the heroes of the anti-Fascist war [the Second World War], it puts on a pedestal the biggest traitor to the Macedonian cause,” she added.
The bitter words are a reminder of the deep ideological fissures that still divide Macedonians – especially the sensitive question of the old VMRO organisation and its links to the Kingdom of Bulgaria.
“It is becoming obvious that the opposition has a problem when it comes to celebrating Macedonia’s history and pride,” ruling party spokesperson Aleksandar Bicikliski said.
Meanwhile the statue is causing a lively debate among passers-by in Skopje“They have erected a statue to the biggest traitor,” one middle-aged Kisela Voda resident said, looking at the statue.
“If it is indeed Aleksadrov, it should be removed at once,” another elderly resident told Balkan Insight.
But another elderly woman disagreed: “Why remove him? He has been ignored for so long and he was one of the most deserving people in the Macedonian cause.”
The Ministry of Culture and the municipality on Wednesday told Balkan Insight somewhat contradictory stories.
While the Ministry said in a written reply that the erection of the statue “the complete responsibility of the municipality of Kisela Voda”, the municipality said they had nothing to do with the statue.
“We have nothing to say regarding the look of the statue as it was commissioned and paid for by the Ministry of Culture,” Marijan Spaseski, the municipal spokesperson said, adding that they are not considering removing the statue.
It is not the first time that the opposition Social Democrats have protested against what they see as historical revisionism. Earlier this month they took to the streets to protest against the ruling party’s plans to rename hundreds of streets in the capital. During the first wave of renaming, one bridge in the capital was named after Aleksandorov.In 2008 a local association of Macedonian Bulgarians raised a bust of Aleksandrov in the central town of Veles.
After the local administration refused to provide a place for the bust it was put in the back yard of a local Bulgarian resident, but was soon torn down.