In Macedonia, skepticism and hope as country set to change its name

* Name dispute dates back to breakup of Yugoslavia

* Nationalists oppose compromise, fear shift to west

* Other hope change will lead to economic benefits

SKOPJE, June 13 (Reuters) - The "Republic of Northern Macedonia" - the proposed new name for the country once part of Yugoslavia - is meant to settle a diplomatic standoff with Greece, but will not satisfy some nationalists on either side of the border.

When it declared independence in 1991, many Greeks felt the country had hijacked their ancient cultural heritage as Macedonia is the birthplace of Alexander the Great as well as the name of a province in northern Greece.

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Macedonians divided by country's name change
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Macedonians divided by country's name change
A barman makes cocktails in a bar in central Skopje, Macedonia, May 31, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
Emilija, who works as a receptionist in a hotel, poses for a for a portrait in on old part of Ohrid, Macedonia, June 4, 2018. Emilija expects "living standard to change for better once the country joins EU and NATO. Greeks come here as tourists and we are friends, I can say only good things about them. It is only politics that is causing trouble between people," she said. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
People gather near the banks of the Vardar river in front of the Museum of Archaeology in central Skopje, Macedonia, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
A man walks on the Stone Bridge over the Vardar river in central Skopje, Macedonia, June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
Supporters of opposition party VMRO-DPMNE carry a big Macedonian flag as they take part in a protest over compromise solution in Macedonia's dispute with Greece over the country's name, in Skopje, Macedonia, June 2, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
A couple sits on a bench in central Skopje, Macedonia, June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
A man closes his eyes as he listens to an orchestra performing at Macedonian Philharmonics hall in central Skopje, Macedonia, June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
A girl imitates the Mother Teresa monument in central Skopje, Macedonia, May 31, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
A Macedonian flag is pictured in front of the "warrior monument" in central Skopje, Macedonia, May 31, 2018. It is widely believed that the statue is a depiction of Philip of Macedon. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
People travel on a bus in the village of Mralino near Skopje, Macedonia, May 31, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
People sit in a bar in Stara Carsija (Old Bazaar) part of central Skopje, Macedonia, June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
People cast shadows as they walk on a street in central Skopje, Macedonia, May 31, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
People walk in front of the "warrior on a horse" monument in central Skopje, Macedonia, June 4, 2018. It is widely believed that the statue depicts Alexander the Great. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
A man holding a child begs for money as he sings religious songs in Stara Carsija (Old Bazaar) part of central Skopje, Macedonia, May 31, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
A boat sails through the Ohrid lake in Ohrid, Macedonia, June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
A couple sits on a bench at the bank of Vardar river in central Skopje, Macedonia, June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
Police officers stand in front of the government building in central Skopje, Macedonia, June 2, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
A man swims in the Ohrid lake in the village of Trpejca, Macedonia, June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
The flooded Church of St. Nicholas in seen in Mavrovo lake Macedonia, June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
Macedonian soldiers patrol at the Macedonia-Greece border near Gevgelija, Macedonia, June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
People visit the Church of St. John the Theologian, Kaneo in Ohrid, Macedonia, June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
Trees are seen near the Church of St. John the Theologian, Kaneo in Ohrid, Macedonia, June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
Macedonian soldiers patrol at the Macedonia-Greece border near Gevgelija, Macedonia, June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
Macedonian soldiers patrol at the Macedonia-Greece border near Gevgelija, Macedonia, June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
A supporter of opposition party VMRO-DPMNE waves a flag and shows his tattoo as he takes part in a protest over compromise solution in Macedonia's dispute with Greece over the country's name, in Skopje, Macedonia, June 2, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
Muharem, who was never employed as he owns two properties which he rents, poses for a portrait in an old part of Skopje called Stara Carsija, Macedonia, May 31, 2018. "It is on politicians to make a deal about the name, not on people. Salaries here are about two hundred euro per month and I don't think this will change if we join NATO. Greeks have to return properties in northern Greece which they took from Macedonians in the past, after that I hope we can make a deal," Muharem said. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
Supporters of opposition party VMRO-DPMNE hold Russian and Macedonian flag as they take part in a protest over compromise solution in Macedonia's dispute with Greece over the country's name, in Skopje, Macedonia, June 2, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
Members of an orchestra perform at Macedonian Philharmonics hall in central Skopje, Macedonia, June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
Petre, who works as a locksmith poses for a for a portrait near the government building in Skopje, Macedonia, June 2, 2018. "I have nothing good to say about Greeks as they are only creating trouble for us," said Petre. "We don't need to join NATO nor EU, this is not in our tradition. As an orthodox Christian only Putin can save us." REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
Slobodan, once an electrician now working on his farm where he plants potatoes, poses for a portrait in the village of Mralino near Skopje, Macedonia, May 31, 2018. "I have no idea about new name and I don't care as I'm not following the politics. During Yugoslavia I served as a solider in Rijeka, Croatia and that period of our life was the best," Slobodan said. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
Marica, a housewife, poses for a portrait in the village of Pestani which sits on the Ohrid lake, Macedonia, June 3, 2018. "We are Macedonians and we are not interested in changing our name. For my whole life I've been called Marica, it would be the same as if someone would force me now to change my name," said Marica. But Greeks are good people, they come here often and I go to Greece once a year. It is only politics that is dividing us. Jobs and good salaries is what we need in Macedonia, NATO can't help us on this." REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
A supporter of opposition party VMRO-DPMNE lights a flare as he takes part in a protest over compromise solution in Macedonia's dispute with Greece over the country's name, in Skopje, Macedonia, June 2, 2018. REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
Maja Canakjevik, a musician and former general manager of, Macedonian Philharmonics, poses for a portrait before a concert in Skopje, Macedonia, June 1, 2018. "Greeks are brotherly nation to us. If there were not so many aggressive politicians who made this problem between us, our cooperation would be much better," she said. "I don't know experiences of countries that recently joined NATO, maybe there will be some kind of a step forward, but these days when looking at the global politics I'm not so sure." REUTERS/Marko Djurica 
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The new name, agreed by politicians from both countries on Tuesday, should end decades of diplomatic conflict and make it easier for Macedonia to join the European Union and NATO.

But the deal still requires ratification by the two national parliaments and a referendum in Macedonia, and not everyone is inclined to vote "yes."

"We are Macedonians and we are not interested in changing our name," said Marica, a housewife from the town of Ohrid.

"For my whole life I've been called Marica, it would be the same as if someone would force me now to change my name."

For a photo essay from Macedonia, click: https://reut.rs/2LLESd2

"The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" joined the United Nations in 1993, but most countries have ignored that provisional name and refer to it simply as Macedonia.

At a protest in Skopje on June 2, people waved Macedonian flags, and the occasional Russian one - indicating their opposition not only to the name change, but also the closer allegiance to the west that is likely to follow.

"I have nothing good to say about Greeks as they are only creating trouble for us," Petre, a locksmith from Skopje, told Reuters.

"We don't need to join NATO or the EU, this is not in our tradition. As an orthodox Christian, only Putin can save us."

Many Macedonians, however, welcomed the rapprochement with Greece.

"Greeks are a brotherly nation to us. If there weren't so many aggressive politicians who made this problem between us, our cooperation would be much better," said Maja Canakjevik, a musician and former general manager of the Macedonian Philharmonic.

Some Macedonians believe EU and NATO membership could help the economy, others have their doubts.

Muharem, who rents out properties in an old quarter of Skopje, said: "Salaries here are about 200 euros ($235) a month, and I don't think this will change if we join NATO." ($1 = 0.8503 euros) (Reporting by Ivana Sekularac Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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