Dear Cyprus, please unite around a different anthem

Part of the border wall separating Greek from Turkish Cyprus. The graffiti sums up what a lot of people think

Part of the border wall separating Greek from Turkish Cyprus. The graffiti sums up what a lot of people think

This week, the leaders of Greek and Turkish Cyprus began talks to unite the country, which has been divided by a wall – literally – since 1974. That’s part of it above.

Will they succeed? Er… fingers crossed! But if they do, can the United Nations please not pick the country’s new national anthem (the Greek part currently uses Greece’s anthem; the Turkish side, Turkey’s)?

In the early 2000s, Kofi Annan put forward this awful tune to be the country’s anthem as part of a unification plan:

It was rejected by voters, along with the rest of the peace deal, presumably for musical as much as political reasons.

The proposed anthem was wordless, something the UN seems to feel is essential if anthems are to help heal decades of trauma. The logic seems to be that uniting a country is hard enough; forcing words upon people – potentially in a language they don’t understand, and filled with symbolism they disagree with – is going too far. Hopefully the music will be inspiring by itself.

The problem is that wordless anthems don’t help. They just leave a vacuum, which people can sing their old divisions over. Bosnia’s anthem? Wordless. Kosovo’s? Wordless. Spain’s? Wordless. You would hardly call those countries good examples of how to avoid ethnic divisions.

For more on wordless anthems, see my book. It has a whole chapter on them.

Why the Greece-Macedonia naming row will never end

Macedonian women!

For the past 25 years, Greece has been trying to get Macedonia to change its name. It’s suggested everything from the Republic of Skopje to the Republic of Slavo-Albanian Macedonia. It’ll accept anything, basically, except Macedonia alone, since that happens to also be the name of a region of northern Greece, the birthplace of Alexander the Great.

It’s one of the strangest political disputes ever, but it’s been in the news a lot over the past week as both countries have said they want to finally come to a solution next year.

Will they manage it? I’d guess ‘no’ for the simple reason that the name is only the tip of the iceberg. If Macedonia does change it, surely Greece will start objecting to a lot of others things too, not least Macedonia’s national anthem?

Below is that song, Today, Over Macedonia.

And here’s some of its lyrics:

Today over Macedonia, is being born
The new sun of liberty
Macedonians are fighting
Fighting for their rights

Later, it starts banging on about “the forests of Macedonia singing new songs” and also oddly starts telling “dear Macedonian motherland” to stop crying. Basically, it mentions Macedonia a lot.

Does it work if you sing “Today over the Republic of Slavo-Albanian Macedonia” instead? Er, no. This row is going to go on and on and on…!