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Skopje Erects Yet Another Controversial Statue

Visitors gather in front of the newly built Memorial House of Mother Teresa in Skopje on January 30, 2009, at the house's opening.

Visitors gather in front of the newly built Memorial House of Mother Teresa in Skopje on January 30, 2009, at the house's opening.

After the diplomatic uproar following the erection of a giant bronze statue of Alexander the Great a year ago, and then of his father, Philip of Macedon, last month, the latest monumental statue to be raised in the Macedonian capital is also of a person claimed by one of its neighbors.

Skopje's Centar district has announced that a 30-meter-tall statue of Mother Teresa, who was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in the city in 1910 when it was known as Uskup and was part of the Ottoman Empire, will be erected in Macedonia Square, near the statue of Alexander.

Her family had come from Shkoder in what is now Albania, however, and both her parents are said to have been born in Kosovo. Both Albania and Kosovo lay claim to Mother Teresa as well, with statues and museums, not to mention roads, airports, and public buildings named in her honor.

Skopje already has a bronze statue of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, and a memorial house on the site where she was baptized was opened in 2009.

The proposed location has also aroused opposition from some residents. "The square already has enough monuments, so they should find another place for Mother Teresa," one local told Balkan Insight.

"It is way too close to Alexander. It makes no aesthetic sense," another pedestrian added.

At least the statue of Mother Teresa will be clothed and won't arouse Macedonians' puritanical instincts, like a nude statue of Prometheus outside the parliament building did recently.

Meanwhile, the Centar district also this week denied reports that it was to be renamed "Alexandria," a move that would probably lead to another round of frenzied name-calling with its neighbor to the south.

With NATO's Chicago summit this spring providing Greece with its latest opportunity to stonewall Macedonia's attempts to join over the issue of the country's name, local media speculated that some members of the district council found the idea attractive.

"These reports are not true and we take them as malicious," the Centar district said in a statement.

-- Dan Wisniewski

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