Hero’s Memorial Day Further Inflames North Macedonia-Bulgaria Relations
North Macedonia's government has ordered heightened security on February 4, when the country celebrates 151 years since the birth of its biggest hero, the Ottoman-era revolutionary Goce Delcev.
The decision was taken in the lead-up to the celebration amid mounting tensions between North Macedonia and Bulgaria, who remain locked in a bitter dispute over history and identity. Delcev's disputed identity is one of the pivotal points in this feud.
The celebrations will take place at Delcev's final resting place in a a church in Skopje. Various delegations, including by Bulgarians who see Delcev as their own exclusive hero, are expected to visit the site that day to pay their respects.
The order to step up security comes after Bulgarian MEP Angel Dzhambazki, in a provocative statement, said last week that "Macedonia was and will be Bulgarian", and called on Bulgarians to attend the celebration in Skopje en masse.
This provoked Macedonians on social media to call for Macedonians to gather and not allow that to happen and deter deniers of Macedonian identity from attending the celebrations.
However, despite Monday's suggestion by North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski to ban certain individuals from entering the country during the holiday, indirectly referring to Dzhambazki, the government on Tuesday made no such decision.
Trouble started brewing even before Dzhambazki's latest incendiary remarks.
On January 14, a group of Bulgarians, including Dzhambazki, attended a remembrance in Skopje at the place of death of Mara Buneva, the Bulgarian assassin of the then Serbian state prosecutor Velimir Prelic in 1928, when Serb-led Yugoslavia ruled today's North Macedonia.
North Macedonia authorities, citing the 2017...
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