North Macedonia: Stamp triggers protests in Croatia and Serbia

Philatelists remember Yugoslavia

The active Working group Yugoslavia sucessor states in the German Association of Philatelists (Arbeitsgemeinschaft or ARGE Jugoslawien Nf. (Nf. = successor states) e.V. im BDPh) recently published the latest issue of its specialist journal „Südost-Philatelie“ (SOPhia Vol. 47 (2021) No. 3, 1-94 No. 146). Again it contains a colourful bouquet of articles on historical, but also current political developments, which can be traced or even reconstructed by means of postage stamps, but also postcards, letters and postmarks.

Philately as detective work and historical research

Some articles clearly show that philately is more than just collecting small stamps, but often requires a lot of detective work and brings to light stories that read as exciting as a detective story. This includes above all the article „Rarity or Ferrarity? The reverse printing pair Prince Milan of Serbia“ by Marjo Peronja.

You don’t have to google the word „ferrarity“ now, it is a neologism playing with the name of the „prime suspect“ of a philatelic curiosity. You will have to get used to German words like „Kehrdruckpaar“ or „Ganzsache“, which are incomprehensible to non-philatelists, when reading this magazine.

Trilingual Stamps

We will perhaps report on one or the other of the many historical insights into the former Yugoslavia contained in the magazine on another occasion.

At this point we would like to present two reports that refer to current political developments in a country about which little is known and experienced. We are talking about North Macedonia, a country surrounded by neighbours who do not make it easy for it to get closer to the EU, but which also has plenty of potential for conflict at home.

The first piece of news is positive: Macedonia has a large Albanian minority. It is estimated that at least 25 % of the population are ethnic Albanians. However, the Albanian language used to play a role in the official sphere only when a certain percentage of Albanians lived in an area. Since the change of government, the status of the Albanian language has been improved. Now, on the stamps of the state of North Macedonia, the state name is reproduced not only in Macedonian but also in Albanian. In addition, the state name is in English, so that there are now three language versions on the stamps.

A stamp upsets two neighbouring states

Actually, another stamp was intended to be positive, focusing on the relations of North Macedonia, which wants to join the EU, with the European Union. To mark the occasion, last year they issued two stamps dedicated to the two states that held the presidency of the Council in 2020. Apart from Germany, this was also Croatia. However, a big and somehow incomprehensible mistake was made with the stamp in question. Instead of Croatia`s today’s national territory, th the outlines of the fascist state „Independent State of Croatia“ , which existed during the Second World War and also extended into the national territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. No wonder, that protests from these states followed.

The government of North Macedonia reacted by dismissing the members of the State Philatelic Council and the head of the Philatelic Office, who were replaced. The stamps were, of course, immediately withdrawn from circulation. However, according to the magazine, a few copies are said to have entered circulation. We fear that these will experience a particular (purely financial) increase in value due to the fact that wealthy collectors, who nevertheless have a very positive opinion of the Croatian state at that time, would like to own this stamp.

This issue of the magazine is again a treasure trove with contributions that could inspire at least a dozen articles on this website. The spectrum ranges from foreign territories with postal sovereignty on the territory of the former Yugoslavia to the strange story of a stamp with an upside-down ruler to the first philatelic traces left by the new state in 1918 and traces of postal censorship in the already mentioned NDH state.

Four and a half decades of Yugoslav philately on one stick

The current issue is number 145, and by reading it you can roughly imagine the wealth of other topics that have been covered in the more than 45 years that this journal and its predecessor have been published. Anyone who is interested can be helped. The complete issues of the association’s journal from 1975-2018 with more than 3000 pages of text are available in electronic version on a USB for just 20 €.

Yugoslavia, as most people have never seen it before, at a bargain price! More information on this on the website of ARGE Jugoslawien.

„Yugoslavia“ becomes „South-East“ in translation

By the way, the magazine itself is not free of curiosities with a political background. While the German and English titles are „Südost-Philatelie“ and „Southeast European Postal History Review“ respectively, the Croatian and Serbian versions speak of „Yugoslav Postal History Review“(Croatian: Časopis za jugoslovensku poštansku povijest; Serbian: Часопис за југословенску поштанску историју).

Yugoslavia philatelic universe

We have already reported (in German language) about the working group in connection with the sheer confusing variety of collecting areas that Yugoslavia forms.

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