Place Names in Multicultural Contexts (in Northern Macedonia)
Bursa Teknik Üniversitesi Sosyoloji Bölümü Bursa/Türkiye
Keywords: Place names, Multi-lingual toponyms, Turkish place names, Ethnic groups, Turks in North Macedonia.
North Macedonia has multilingual variations in place names due to its multi-ethnic society structure, including Macedonians, Albanians and Turks. The capital city, Skopje in Macedonian, has two other pronunciation, Üsküp in Turkish and Shkup in Albanian. Although not banned, the country’s administration insists on the Macedonian version. However, from time to time, there are also persistent demands and pressures to use the Albanian version in place names (toponymy). Although it prefers the Macedonian language and thus monolingual toponymy, North Macedonia has made a number of legislative arrangements for flexibility due to political concerns. The changes have so unsettled the Macedonian people that some have described them as undeniable violence against cultural heritage and an attempt to build a new world based on quasi-human principles. On the contrary, this has further motivated the Albanians who were instrumental in the change. In recent years, among the minority groups in North Macedonia (Albanians, Bosnians, Turks, etc.), it is the Albanians who have been able to demand and receive administrative and economic authority. It can be argued that the Turks, the second largest ethnic minority in the country along with other ethnic minorities, have been overshadowed by the increasing visibility of the Albanian community. This is so evident that in academic studies and inferences on the Turks of the region, they are defined as the minority of the minority. At this point, the main purpose of this study is to shed light on the current situation in North Macedonia, which has a multi-ethnic social structure, and in doing so, to examine the country’s approach to the issue of toponymy (place names).
Field researches, observations and academic researches show that there is a significant Turkish population in North Macedonia and that many Turkish place names are found in various settlements of the country. Especially in the southeastern part of the country, it is understood that Turkish village and town names are frequently encountered. Turks and Yoruks still live in many settlements with Turkish place names such as Başıbos, Çalıklı, Dedeli, Pırnalı, Alikoç, Kocalı, Süpürge, even though most of them are depopulated. This is also an important indicator in terms of revealing both the existence and historical continuity of the Turkish population in the region. The study aims to reveal that despite the large number of Turkish place names, there is no comprehensive academic study and awareness of Turkish toponymy in North Macedonia, and that Turkish toponymy, like the Turkish community, has been ignored.