The right to self-determination was granted to every individual in the world through the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Under the Framework Convention on National Minorities, each person has the right to identify themselves with a minority group (or not), and each group has the right to decide whether it would like to preserve its own group identity, including customs, traditions, language and religion.
Although Macedonians have an independent nation-state, the Republic of Macedonia, hundreds of thousands still reside in neighbouring countries – territories that were once part of geographical Macedonia. Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, and Serbia are home to sizable Macedonian national minorities of diverse religious backgrounds, including Macedonian Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim, however ethnically they self-identify as Macedonian. These populations never migrated to the neighbouring countries, but have always been there for centuries and as a result of different Treaties and creation of borders, they now reside outside of the territory of the Republic of Macedonia.
In order for the governments of Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia to solidify their claim on parts of geographical Macedonia, during and following the Balkan Wars, massive ethnic cleansing, assimilation and discrimination policies were implemented on the local Macedonian ethnic population. As a result, thousands fled their homes for refuge in other countries, many far away, never being able to return. During the Greek Civil War (1944-48), 44,000 children between the ages of 2 and 14 were put on trains, separated from their parents, and sent to destinations such as Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Yugoslavia. Laws were passed in Greece in the early 1980s prohibiting the right of return to these Macedonians, the right to Greek citizenship, and the right to reclaim their private properties; these laws still remain in effect till today.
In Greece, it is a taboo topic to even mention that you are Macedonian or that you come from Macedonia. The Greek government and the Greek Orthodox Church have ensured that Macedonian national identity cannot flourish in Greece, that the Macedonian language (which to them does not exist and only exists as a pseudo-Greek dialect) cannot be spoken publicly, that no Macedonian cultural centers can be formed, and no Macedonian Orthodox Church can be established. The European Court of Human Rights have found Greece in violation of numerous minority rights treaties for their policies on the Macedonian minority, but however, Greece continues to discriminate against Macedonians in Greece, which are estimated to be more than 600,000.