Wednesday, 13 December 2017 | News today: 13

Jordan Plevnes: Reforms will emancipate Macedonian scientific and spiritual horizon

French policy to Macedonia cannot be always observed in negative connotation, because it is precisely France that organized the "Macedonian Medieval Treasuries" exhibition, visited by 189 thousand people within three months, says Jordan Plevnes, eminent drama writer, diplomat, UNESCO Ambassador in support of "Dialogue among Civilizations" programme, founder of the University of Audiovisual Arts. Current topics, such as latest events in France, education reforms and the political culture in Macedonia, seemed to be inevitable

At the very beginning of this interview, terrorism in France is an inevitable topic, but not in terms of journalists who were killed, but Your opinion on the society which is largely tied with the (supposedly) Muslim people in Africa – a society which dominated in exploitation of the African territory, even in the recent interventions in Mali and Arabian Spring. Can French society, which lays on freedom, equality and brotherhood, handle all ethnic-religious challenges?

PLEVNES: Terrorism knows no borders. It takes place simultaneously worldwide. All attempts to locate it to Paris and to look for the roots in the former French colonial policy now will be useless. History is faster than the thought, which is both positive and negative. However, “Charlie Hebdo” massacre will be remembered as one of the most exclusive terrorist attacks ever. Bloodshed in a marginalized newspaper which has such small circulation and publishes cartoons – regardless whether they are dedicated to political or religious authority, can neither affect world history flows, nor global power centers’ interests. Of course, Arabian Spring of Nations and the many military interventions in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Mali and in Afghanistan do reflect in Paris as a center in which numerous renaissance ideas of all those nations were born, but also fierce hatred, manifested in various isolated circles, which create terrorism and give religious fanaticism a political connotation. Nothing should come down to a amalgam, since the most sublime idea of all religions is that God requires mercy, not victims. God help Paris and the world, including the Balkans.

Speaking of which, without any effort to generalize terrorism, can it be said that, in spite of everything, “Charlie Hebdo” cartoons were meant to shape public opinion in support of Western world’s actions? Cartoons on Kosovo crisis are such example for the Balkans. I am asking You this because You are UNESCO Ambassador in support of the “Dialogue among Civilizations” programme.

PLEVNES: As a Vice President of UNESCO’s International Association “Dialogue among Civilizations”, I have visited many global crisis hotspots. Some open crises last quite short, some last long – for years, even centuries. Will the Clash of Civilizations Huntington predicted be replaced with a dialogue? Nobody can answer, because history is unpredictable. The great French anthropologist Claude Levis-Straus was asked in his last interview what he thinks of the world’s history. He answered that it has been a fortunate circumstance world’s history has begun without men and it shall end without him. That is a quite pessimistic sentence coming from one the greatest modern erudite minds. As a dramatist who had a chance to see his pieces on all continents and as an Ambassador of the Republic of Macedonia, I have been trying to replace it with the ingenious idea of the the holy brothers of Salonika Cyril and Methodius – that civilization of love and nostalgia for the unity should rule. As we all know, Cyril and Methodius were proclaimed to be Europe’s protectors 11 centuries after their death. When we organized the event “Dialogue among Civilizations” in 2003 in Ohrid with President Boris Trajkovski and when all Balkan leaders attended it, right after the bloody clashes on former Yugoslav territory, the Ohrid message has reached all meridians via UNESCO, but the cruel reality we live in today brings us closer to Straus’ pessimistic views. However, it opens the road to humanism which Saint Clement of Ohrid and his first school of humanism left as a heritage to the Balkan and European spiritual successors. Poet Pablo Neruda says: “My wounds are thy heritage”. Can the wounds of world history be a guide to modern civilization? I keep asking that myself daily, but the answer would not come.

If we compare basic human rights and democracy the West urges, if we take the “Dialogue among Civilizations” into consideration, than how should we – the Macedonians – experience and survive Greece’s molestation of the Republic of Macedonia, Macedonians, Macedonian cultural diversity which is legally supported by international institutions? You were an Ambassador to France, a country which is often perceived as a country which nourishes close ties with Greece and keeps us away from the integration processes.

PLEVNES: This is quite a complex question, but I will respond briefly. First, one of the greatest spirits of modern Greek history, Elias Petropoulos, lived precisely in Paris and he once told a French television that Greece has no monopoly of the name Macedonia. I, along with his wife Mary Koukoules and with my wife Liliana Plevnes, published his book “Why I Don’t Go Back to Greece,”  in Skopje about twenty years ago, with a comprehensive historical and political essay that I wrote as a preface and that book also contains his will expressed in a song that we realized during his funeral  in Paris in 2004. I will convey it in full:

Fools often ask me

Why don’t you go back to Greece

I am Greek, ceirtanly Greek

But, my country breaks my heart

I will never set foot in Athens again

And I say to my wife

When I die here in Paris

Burn my corpse

And throw the ashes into the sewer

That is my will.

His wife Mary Koukoules invited me to give a funeral speech at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, and that was marked by a number of Greek media. Our Ambassador to Athens at the time, Blagoj Handziski, wrote to me: “That day I was proud to be Macedonian Ambassador to Greece.” The French policy towards Macedonia may not always be viewed through a negative connotation because the exhibition “Macedonia’s Medieval Vaults”, which was visited by 189,000 visitors in three months, was organized precisely in France. Top French media as “Le Monde”, “Le Figaro” and “Libération”, published my articles in which I represent Macedonia’s point of view, top Macedonian writers, artists and scientists from different institutions were presented, and the political struggle for emancipation is eternal for everyone, including Macedonia.

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Integration is a daily part of the political struggle in Macedonia, but in a different picture from all democratic societies. Instead of the institutions, the struggle is being waged between those who chose the street and those in the institutions.To what extend is such behavior of the opposition acceptable?

PLEVNES: In France there is a very popular definition of democracy often used by French statesmen, French intellectuals and ordinary mortals, the definition is as follows: “Democracy is the right to a daily coup d’etat”. It also became the title of one of the books of former French President François Mitterrand. In that sense, for history is important to realize the idea of freedom and that every opposition should think how would it act if it were in power and every government should think what would it do from that position if it weren’t in power. It is the problem of a number of European countries, including Macedonia.

You are founder of the University of Audiovisual Arts ESRA. You teach creative writing at universities worldwide. EC reforms of higher education. What is your position on the national exam? Higher education reforms are topical these days. What’s your opinion on the state exam?

PLEVNES: A thought was a major mover in my mission in the establishment of the first University of Audiovisual Arts in Southeast Europe, and that was the thought of Thomas Jefferson who was a two-term president of the United States and then participated in the establishment of the University in his native Virginia. Namely, Jefferson said it was more difficult to establish a university than to be president of the United States. All other universities you mentioned in America and in Europe, where I had the honor to teach creative writing, have excluded the adjectives state and private from their administrative and legal terms. I supported the reforms in higher education, although I know that they will be painful and long, but when they end up, during the time needed to implement them, they will emancipate the Macedonian scientific, research and spiritual horizon to a European and global level.

In terms of culture, creativity, Macedonia this year expects numerous film premieres. It is invested in theater, infrastructure. Your “Eternal House” has opened the new building of the theater in Skopje. And Veles got theater too, various cultural projects are supported. Can you make comparisons primarily to compare how much attention was paid to culture in the past and now in Macedonia, and then to make a comparison with the cultural centers in the world, Moscow, Paris, New York, let’s not list them all …

PLEVNES: It is a fact that in recent years the state invests a lot of money in the Macedonian culture. Great infrastructure facilities of various institutions have been built, because the place of the nations in the world history is determined by their culture. On one occasion the father of Europe, Jean Monnet, said: “If Europe needs to be re-built, we should start from the culture.” If the idea of Macedonia in the world needs to be re-built, we should continue with its presence not only in centers like Moscow, Paris and New York, but also in all major centers such as New Delhi, Beijing, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro …

The University of Audiovisual Arts provides an outstanding contribution to the promotion of Macedonian culture in the world with the South East European Film Festival (SEE), which is organized in Paris and Berlin (www.seeaparis.com), which is a window of the Macedonian and other cultures in South East Europe, which reminds us of the thought of Nicolas Bouvier that the Balkans is the heart of Europe.

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By: Naum Stoilkovski
Photo: Igor Angelovski