Identity “à la Stip”

by: Vojo Manevski

[dropcap font="arial" fontsize="45"]I[/dropcap]n regards to the identity, we are in a situation like the Jews were before Christ. We are constantly waiting for a Messiah, for a leader of a party to appear who will show us the way, a government that will create new jobs, Europe that will bring us loads of money, and for us not to work…
Macedonia has 4.000 university professors, I don’t know how many doctors of science, and I think that even this scientific space is occupied, while we are rightfully expecting from them a solution to the social problems…I work at a local television station, I live and I was born in a place called Novo Selo. It is one part of Stip, to which the rest of the city had later merged. I don’t know if St. Peter had written about it in letters, or Aminta the Third, or someone else had mentioned it, but it has been existing there for at least 100 or 1500 years…

Because of my age, I go to work early, and in these autumn and winter days the mornings can be gloomy. However, I will tell you what I see as the identity of my fellow citizens. For those who I encounter and sit with every day. (That is why I usually say I don’t have a standpoint, but a sitting point, because what I see, I see it from a position of sitting in old cafes that don’t have those transitional, bar stools, which I find it to be like alpine climbing, and it also doesn’t suit me…)

The first thing I have a problem with in the morning is how to avoid the white stone of the house where Archbishop Mihail was born. It has a writing on it that says “falling-inclined house”, which has been written for about twenty years, and the Archbishop is also probably part of some identity. At least on that street…I pass the bridge, and like through the shadows of the Balkans, I pass by houses on which it is written that they have been built in 1826, 1827, 1828…, and so on. When I became interested as to how these people managed to build houses that look like the “Korbiziev” ones from Krushevo, I found out that those people had been major traders of opium. Meaning, according to modern dictionary, their present identity would be – drug dealers, it’s just that this was 200 years ago…But then again, they also built a Patriarch church.

When I pass by there, the restored house of the Mijalkov family is unavoidable (a bit enlarged indeed, but this too is the identity of this period) or the house where the mother of the former prime minister was born. And right next to it, somehow overhanging, with just stones remaining, the house where Vanco Mihailov was born. And the house of Todor Aleksandrov, of which just some stones are remaining…Some 50 meters away, on the right side from them, is the birth place of the most famous Macedonian outside of Macedonia, although here he is not that well-known. And this being the ethics professor Todor Petrov, otherwise regent of the Bulgarian empire and one of Sartre’s collaborators. A great figure, and his house is not “falling-inclined”, it has actually almost fallen entirely. There is no one to mark it in some way. Some 10 meters further away is the house of Mihailo Apostolski. There is nothing there. No landmark. And this too is part of an identity for which today we want to say that we have inherited…And the house of Cuckov, the founder of the Economic Faculty and of “Tanec” (folklore musical ensemble) also has no landmark…And many others. It’s interesting that my fellow citizens, my neighbours, 90 percent of them, have no idea about this, but they do know that the mother of the former prime minister was born there…We are talking about the identity, right… In a way in which we, in a provincial way, manage to understand.

Why do I say that I want to see my fellow citizens as part of that Macedonia identity? Stip has a very interesting identity, at least as heritage. German field marshal Lewinsky once having been to Stip, wrote” “This oriental small town is comprised of Mohammedans, half Orthodox Christians and Jews”. Today they are 95 Macedonian Christians. History has taken our former fellow citizens. And that is the hereditary identity.

How do I recognize my fellow citizens? Well, there is an old tavern, it’s called “At uncle Zaki”, it is not privatized, because it has been privately owned since the 60s, so it has not been affected by the turbulences. The “MPS” are there. Why MPS? That is how they call themselves, because in the morning they get sent off from home, to take the grandchildren, children, to check if medicine on the positive list have arrived in the pharmacies… It’s interesting that they only drink Turkish coffee and have Turkish delight and water, they read the newspaper. I notice that their shoes are always clean, nicely polished, they don’t make much noise, although the democratic form is the tavern and everyone can be noisy, they are dressed decently, like a European middle class from the seventies, you can see on them blazers from Murska Sobota, perhaps a suit from Varazhdin, well maintained... What is interesting is that they are educated. I am comparing that education with the experience of one time, they have encyclopedia education…You sit down to talk with them, and they talk about some other events, not the modern ones, because we are talking about people who were born mainly in the 50s. And all of them as a leitmotif say “Everything is upside down” they know all the conspiracies in the world. And, of course, everything is upside down because the time in which they reached their peak was not according to the rules that are set nowadays. And almost all of them have a piece of paper in front of them on which it is written “Buy three loaves of bread…”. It is also interesting that there you can also meet the poet Samonikov, you can also run into university professors, who have been retired for a long time, who will immediately tell you “We are talking about the economic policy, and many of you have not read the previously mentioned Emanuel Cuckov”. Or, “We are talking about the democratization in society and the parties, and one Aleksandar Grlickov has written one of the most famous works on the delegation system as the best expression of direct democracy” …All these are people that are part of the identity. But I repeat, a small percentage of people talk about them.

The second generation of my fellow citizens, get out somewhere around 11 -11.30 in the morning, and hang out in one of the pizza, café or coffee shops…, I don’t know how it is called anymore. What is interesting among them is that they are all politically strong-minded, all members of political parties, because they have automatically continued from the Union of Communists to being members of SDSM, or the other ones who have become members of VMRO, for the most part, of course. What I noticed among them is that their political discussions are like the Monday ones, after the major sports events. They don’t hate each other, they joke – we beat you, you didn’t beat us – but they have a good dose of respect for one another. This is the rock and roll generation that is still wearing sneakers because of two reasons. The first one is because when they started going to the promenade it was cute to wear sneakers. And the second one? Because the young people mainly buy expensive sneakers, but don’t play sports, so they are left wearing them, and their parents can also wear them. So when someone gets up to go to the bathroom, you can see some with phosphorus sneakers on them, the ones that glow. It may seem inappropriate, but that is the identity of that generation of my fellow citizens currently, most of them are about to retire, former self-managers, who drink Rakia and turn the first glass according to what they remember from the western movies…And that too is part of our identity! All of them have, when we look at their faces, a little bit of anger, not to mention that you can ask half of them what transition is and they will tell you – an elementary disaster in which they lost their jobs, in which their families had fallen apart…They have gotten used to these new phones, because if they want to hear their children and grandchildren, they have to use skype, that’s just what it’s like nowadays, and it’s very difficult to sit with them, because they are – bitter. However, tolerant…

The third generation are children of the transition, born somewhere after 1975. For them I say that they have very little ideology, and for the morale and remaining things, let the critics speak. For them the view is: “Use every opportunity now!” Without any exception, they are members of political parties, they occupy positions in party headquarters and quite zealously as well. So that someone else does not occupy it, so that they can get a job, a promotion…They don’t think of whether the boss is correct or not…Victims of transition. Whatever is done in society for them is justifiable, because they have a very pretty expression “I have to manage somehow!”. It’s interesting when you talk with them, they usually say that their experience, aged 35-40, tells them: “Show me someone like you, who has an expensive automobile”. And they find it very difficult to respond, because they are witnesses both of the transition in which they grew up in and, unlike the previous rock and roll generations and the ones before them, in my opinion, they have narrow education. They don’t have encyclopedia knowledge, but they do have an incomparable wish to get rich. That’s how they understand the liberal society, postmodern liberalism, that’s how they understand Europe, in my taste with too much formalism. For them it’s important to have master’s degree and PhD…

With this last generation I don’t socialize much, because of the number of my ID card. Those children are carrying televisions sets that they call telephones, they talk on them the entire day, they sit, come around 5-6 in the afternoon, they don’t talk to each other, they probably communicate through the social networks, they drink macchiato, with a must have plastic spoon that they keep in their mouth…And all you can hear from them is “I just don’t relate to this”. They study just for the sake of it, they don’t think about anything else, except for how a friend of theirs receives 2.500 euros working in Germany, and gets up at 11 o’clock in the morning…It was around 11.30 when Pitu Guli had already lost his life…, but, let’s not offend them.

Here we also have the university professors, in Stip there are about 400 of them, and I also have the opportunity to talk with them. I never like it when they usually say that their papers, if they were outside of the country, would cost 15.000 euros, and that they work for 350 euros here…

My impression, at the end of this fifth decade as a person, in regards to the identity is that we are in a situation like the Jews were before Christ. We are constantly waiting for a Messiah, for a leader of a party to appear who will show us the way, a government that will create new jobs, Europe that will bring us loads of money, and for us not to work…I don’t know if the Messiah will come, but I am inviting you to see how we live in the province, how these fellow citizens of mine live, who I just tried to depict.


The article is part of the project “Identity Loss or …?” implemented by CIVIL in cooperation with the Heirich Böll Foundation.

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