Fwd: End of book ban ignites debate in Macedonia

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Subject: Fwd: End of book ban ignites debate in Macedonia

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Fwd: End of book ban ignites debate in Macedonia

End of book ban ignites debate in Macedonia
09:06 a.m. Jul 08, 1999 Eastern
By Dina Kyriakidou
SKOPJE, July 8 (Reuters) - Macedonia this week lifted a ban on
Bulgarian books in the latest chapter of a bizarre language dispute
with its Balkan neighbour, but the move triggered a political storm of
opposition protest.
The country's main opposition party, the formerly communist Social
Democratic Alliance (SDA), pressed on Thursday for a censure motion in
parliament against Culture Minister Dimitar Dimitrov, calling the
decision tantamount to treason.
"The book ban should not have been lifted," SDA spokesman Vlado
Buckovski told Reuters. "The Bulgarisation of our culture is the
biggest issue for Macedonia and we want parliament to debate it."
At the heart of the matter lies a row between the two Balkan nations
which has marred relations for nearly a decade.
Bulgaria recognised Macedonia when it split from Yugoslavia in 1991
but for a long time it refused to accept that Macedonian is a separate
language, not a Bulgarian dialect. Macedonians cringed at the notion,
saying their language is a vital part of their national identity.
The dispute was formally resolved in February and relations have
improved greatly since but wariness lingers.
Some Macedonians say they fear Bulgaria, which twice occupied their
country during the two World Wars, still harbours expansionist
aspirations. This is vehemently denied by Sofia.
The SDA does not have the parliamentary strength needed to topple
Dimitrov, who has described the ban as an ideological leftover of the
communist era.
"Books and newspapers in Bulgarian were taken (by Macedonian police)
from Macedonian citizens coming back. Only mathematics or science
books were allowed," he told Reuters in a written statement.
The press welcomed the move, announced by Macedonian Prime Minister
Ljubco Georgievski on Monday, saying it was the final tear in the iron
curtain that separated Macedonia from the West during its 40 years as
part of Yugoslavia.
"It was about time this iron curtain was lifted," said the daily
Dnevnik in its main editorial. "This is a new era in our cultural
relations with Bulgaria."
At the Skopje writers' club cafe, intellectuals sat under a shady tree
debating the issue, with most supporting it as a civilised gesture
that brought Macedonia closer to the West.
But others said that the move should be reciprocated by Bulgaria.
"This is not about linguistic superiority, it's about political
prejudice. We respect them but they don't respect us," said poet and
critic Todor Shalovski, 54.
There appeared to be a confusion on whether a similar ban on
Macedonian literature existed in Bulgaria.
Bulgarian officials said they were not aware of a ban.
"There was never such a law in Bulgaria," a Bulgarian foreign ministry
official who requested anonymity told Reuters. "Nova Makedonija
(newspaper) was always on the news-stand."
But Macedonians travelling to Bulgaria said it was common practice for
their press to be confiscated at the border.
"A few months ago I went to Bulgaria through the Novo Selo border
crossing. The Bulgarian guard took my Nova Makedonija. It's common
practice," said Macedonian Pero Cvetkovski.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.

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