A short trip to Skopje during the scorching hot summer of 2021 turned into a second trip that very fall which threw me right into the country’s politics. Two trips that took me deep into a world you never see as a tourist – from the grotesque megalomania on display in Skopje to villages near the Greek border. The common denominator: big money doing serious harm.
Skopje 2014 – Disneyfication of Skopje by Gruevski
In July 2021 I arrived in Skopje as a relatively uninformed tourist and was first amazed by the majestic buildings lining the riverfront. After a while I felt, maybe it is a bit much, too big, over-sized. After a few talks with locals, I learned that “Skopje 2014” was a grotesquely expensive project started and implemented by the former prime minister Gruevski. A monument that made him kind of immortal. Eventually he was chased from the country and now lives in exile in Hungary.
One hundred and 37 amazing structures, including twenty-eight new buildings and five new squares, were constructed as part of the Skopje 2014 project in the Skopje city centre in the period between 2006 and 2017, costing more than €683.000.000. The scheme was announced in a press conference by the then Mayor of Skopje and the Minister of culture, all All of them were the closest allies of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who led the ruling nationalist VMRO-DPMNE political party. Why? It was a narrative based on the idea of ethnic continuity since the times of Ancient Macedonians, and to give the capital the style of a “European metropolis. How do you ciphon off money from €683.000.000? Gruevski’s plastered Skopje with sculptures, large and small. How is able to assess the value of a piece of art, so these monuments are perfectly suited for funneling money from A to B.