In North Macedonia, disputes over history extend to statues

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The center of Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, a Balkan country born just 33 years ago as an independent state, is flooded with history.

A statue of Alexander the Great looms over the central square. One of his fathers, Philip II of Macedon, stands on a large pedestal above a nearby square. The city is also dotted with bronze, stone and plaster tributes to generations of other heroes from what the country sees as its glorious and very long history.

The problem, however, is that most of the history exposed is claimed by other countries. Modern-day North Macedonia, born out of the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, has no real connection to Alexander the Great, who lived 2,000 years ago down the road in what is now Greece, and many of the other historical figures honored with Statues are Bulgarian.

Slavica Babamova, director of the National Archaeological Museum, has spent her career excavating and exhibiting ancient finds and has no problem focusing on the past. But she said she was troubled by the plethora of statues erected by her country in an attempt to build a state and national identity.

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