Rather than attempting to deconstruct the relationship between history and national identity, the Yugoslav state employed history education for nation-state building in the Republic of Macedonia. Similarly, the newly independent Macedonian state, under the strategic and diplomatic pressures of the 1990s, attempted to employ history to legitimise its sovereignty and independence, and even prove the existence of a distinct ethnic Macedonian people. This task proved arduous in a multi-ethnic, multilinguistic and mutlireligious country, whose past events are interpreted differently by the different ethnic communities, and whose historical heroes are ‘claimed’ by Greece and Bulgaria as their national heroes.155
The first post-independence curriculum aimed at building a national identity founded on Slavism: it presented the past as the linear ‘story’ of the emergence of ‘state institutions and symbols’ associated with the ethnic Macedonian community.156 Textbooks were drafted and published by a government commission, but a local historian argues they mainly contained ‘recycled history lessons’, drawn from previous curricula. 1 57 Moreover, Jordanovski found that the textbooks implanted ‘retrospective national feelings and strivings’ on the inhabitants of the territory of present-day Macedonia158 and Koren found that ‘contemporary borders [were] projected on earlier periods’.159 Thus, Macedonia was presented as unified and ethnically homogeneous throughout history: textbooks ignored that the Turks were a majority of its inhabitants during the Ottoman empire, and that Muslim Albanians have long inhabited the territory of present-day Macedonia. They focused on the history of Greater Macedonia, emphasised the territorial losses from every military conflict and traced the fate of ethnic Macedonians in neighbouring states. They portrayed positively institutions and events conducive to the foundation of an independent Macedonian state, such as the creation of the Macedonian Republic as part of Yugoslavia and the creation of an independent Macedonian Orthodox Church.160 Finally, the curriculum sidelined those facts that deviated from a linear narrative of the past culminating in Macedonian statehood, such as the violent implosion of Yugoslavia and the history of ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia.161 Most of these criticisms of the 1992 curriculum and textbooks are actually wider critiques of a ‘best story’ approach to history education and to the use of the past to foster the construction of a nation-state.