Saturday, April 20, 2019

FYROM no more : April 19, 2019

Macedonia is now officially named North Macedonia because of a name compromise accepted by FYROM and Greece. Greece objected to the use of Macedonia as a country name for several reasons, but also because Greece has a Macedonia of its own in northern part of Greece. Because Greece objected, Macedonia was officially known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or FYROM until February.

It's interesting being back in Skopje after being away for more than seven years. It took me a few days to familiarize myself with the city and its new landmarks.

The landmarks are the result of the Skopje 2014 project of new buildings, new facades, new sculptures, new bridges, new fountains. Skopje 2014 publicly initiated in 2010 continued far beyond 2014. It continued until the Prime Minister of the former ruling party (VMRO DPMNE) lost his position in the 2016 election for parliamentary seats. The VMRO DPMNE Prime Minister who lost his position, fearing a corruption prosecution or a murder plot, fled Macedonia and now resides in Hungary as a result of asylum granted by Viktor Orbán Prime Minister of Hungary.

Public demonstrations leading up to the 2016 parliamentary election were dubbed the "Colorful Revolution" because protestors lobbed pastel paint filled balloons at Skopje 2014 projects. The new Prime Minister from the SDSM political party is the result of a coalition of most political groups except VMRO DPMNE. The election for president is scheduled to be April 21.

Rear of the Archaeological Museum and Constitutional Court building still bears the mark of the "Colorful Revolution"

When we lived in Skopje for one year beginning in January 2012, Skopje 2014 was well underway. People, press, critics were already snarking about the plethora of kitsch filling up the cityscape. Fast forward to today, and the city is even more crowded with someone's idea of how to manufacture a history by building new fake neoclassic/baroque buildings, renovating some old structures with fake neoclassic/baroque facades, and indiscriminately adorning buildings and littering squares with statues.

In 2010, the Skopje 2014 project proposed 40 structures; by 2017 it had grown to 137 structures consisting of 28 new buildings, 6 multi-story garages, 6+ facade makeovers, 34 monuments, 5 squares, 1 ferris wheel, 2 underground garages, 4 bridges, 39 sculptures, 1 triumphal arch, 2 fountains and 9 "other" categories (other includes a city beach) see http://skopje2014.prizma.birn.eu.com/en. The 2010 cost projection was €80 million; by 2017 the continuing Skopje 2014 Uncovered investigation shows that over €678 million has been committed.

Some of the 137 structures have either not been built or not completed. Work has been stopped and hulking half-finished structures line one side of Macedonia Square and elsewhere until a decision is made on how to free up public spaces and improve the aesthetics of Skopje architecture.

The structures discussed below are all within a few meters of each other. Some photos:


Archaeological Museum and Constitutional Court connected to the quay by the possibly structurally unsound "Historical Figures" bridge formerly known as the Eye Bridge.


The Public Prosecutor's Office and Directorate of Financial Police Building connected to the quay by the "Art" Bridge. Why?


"Lydia's Palace," is the thin building between the Archaeological Museum and the Public Prosecutor's Office buildings. While it doesn't have a connecting bridge, it does have a plaque explaining that "Saint Lydia from Macedonia was the first baptized person in Europe and the first Christian on the territory of Europe." Incongruously, this building is occupied by the Agency for Electronic Communications. Flanked by two statues and between the entrance doors are two plaques with the likeness of Mother Teresa and two of her quotes. Many of the Skopje 2014 structures have been slapped with Mother Teresa quotation plaques.



The structure "Independent Macedonia Colonnade" stretches between Lydia's Palace and the Public Prosecutor's Office and Directorate of Financial Police Building. It is populated with nine sculptures that are perhaps the nine muses from Greek/Roman mythology. There are no explainers on this structure. Behind the colonnade is the modernist Opera-Ballet building from the 1970s. The Opera-Ballet is so totally surrounded by Skopje 2014 projects, that one might conclude that the object was to hide its modernist architecture. 


Three stationary pirate ships now clutter the shallow Vardar River in this land-locked country. One is a restaurant, one is a restaurant hotel, and the one near the Holiday Inn is a party boat with a big-screen TV installed on the stern. One is closed and the other two don't seem very busy. 

The closed boat restaurant
An unfinished bridge without name that if ever finished will connected the quay with the National Theater
The rebuilt National Theater


On the other side of the Vardar River and below the Skopje Fortress are City Hall (far left) and the round domed Water Supply and Sewage Building.


New facade and renovation of The Government of the Republic of North Macedonia building

The Government Building contains offices for elected officials and their staffs. I read that of five design choices this neoclassical facade was chosen by the Macedonian people.

The investigator in me emerged at seeing this nonsensical clutter, and I had to know more. North Macedonia is not a wealthy country, and more than one third of of Macedonians are unemployed. I will talk of this no more--maybe.


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