Zoran Zaev caused outrage even among some of his most die-hard supporters and promoters of his no-red-lines approach toward Macedonian national history, with his statement for a Greek TV station that Macedonia was appropriating the history of its neighbors in the past.

Media outlets in neighboring countries were visibly triumphant by Zaev’s statement, which confirms some of the most nationalist positions held in the neighborhood – that the Macedonians are an artificial nation without an authentic history – which should give up its national heroes, church, language, culture, and eventually territory. Faced with intense criticism less than two weeks before he is supposed to speak at the annual Ilinden rally in Krusevo, Zaev decided to respond over Facebook. Predictably, he laid the entire blame at the feet of Nikola Gruevski.

I’ve spoken frequently about the abuse of history for political purposes. I did so in the interview with the Greek Alfa TV, when I was asked about the harmful past policies of nationalization and antiquization. I can’t be blamed for something that not I, but Gruevski and his ideological machinery, did for 10 – 11 years. Macedonians did not appropriate someone else’s history, but Gruevski and his political elite of obedient quasi experts did as they went on a media offensive to support their identity engineering, Zaev wrote on Facebok, referring to the decision by the Gruevski Government to promote Macedonian history by building statues of Alexander, Philip and other great Macedonian rulers, clerics, scholars and artists in downtown Skopje, as well as to build or refurbish public buildings from the brutalist style favored in the Communist era into a neo-classical style.

Zaev did a u-turn on these policies, signing treaties with Bulgaria and Greece which give up huge portions of Macedonian history to these countries, on the threat of blocking Macedonia’s EU accession talks. Zaev’s apparent position is that he can appease Balkan nationalists in the neighborhood by making never-ending concessions. The latest in the string of dispute his approach generated includes the fight over Goce Delcev, who Bulgaria wants to see declared as an ethnic Bulgarian in Macedonian history books, a move Zaev and President Stevo Pendarovski apparently agreed to.