Macedonia to Celebrate 20 Years of Independence

Posted September 8th, 2011 at 3:15 am (UTC-5)
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Macedonia is set to celebrate its independence day – and rile neighboring Greece – by officially unveiling a controversial statue in its capital city of Skopje.

Thursday, Macedonia marks 20 years of independence from the former Yugoslavia. As part of the celebrations, the government is showing off its capital city renovation project, known as “Skopje 2014.”

At the heart of the celebration is a 24-meter high statue, located in Skopje's central square, which depicts Alexander the Great on horseback.

Officials in Greece say the statue of Alexander, who ruled the ancient Greek state of Macedon and conquered the Persian empire, is a provocation and an attempt by their neighbor to steal a historical Greek figure.

Macedonia officials deny the allegation, saying they have given the statue a generic name: “Warrior on a Horse.”

Greece claims the former Yugoslav republic's use of the name Macedonia implies territorial ambitions in Greece. Macedonia is the name of a region Greece's northeast.

Greece has blocked Macedonia from joining NATO and the European Union because of the row.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday congratulated Macedonia on its independence day anniversary, saying the U.S. is a “partner and friend.”