Patriotic fervor on the wane?

Mussolini once said that the mob, like a woman, loves strong men. Some 60 years later, when the question of the use of the name Macedonia by the former Yugoslav republic arose, politicians, priests and intellectuals led a million people into the streets in one of the biggest demonstrations of the past 20 years to protest that «Macedonia is Greek.» During the mass frenzy of that time, there were those who saw public opinion as a vehicle for their own political ambitions. Since skeletons in the cupboard don’t disappear but simply gather dust, next Wednesday they will be out in the streets of Thessaloniki again, demanding their say. Of course there is a difference this time in that the rallies are being organized by an ultranationalist fringe group with a limited number of followers. The main reason is that the patriotic faction has lost two of its main supporters in public life – the recently deceased Archbishop Christodoulos, who did not hesitate to mobilize the Church in public affairs, and the former president of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, who had often made statements and policy decisions in support of «patriotic» circles in Greece. What both of those men had in common was that their influence spread almost right across the political spectrum from the extreme right to the extreme left (both within and outside Parliament). The dispute with Skopje is the third issue within the space of six months (after the dispute over the content of a primary school textbook and a proposal to abolish national day parades) that has mobilized patriotic groups, despite the deep divisions within their ranks.

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