DNA Testing Annihilates Greek Propaganda
By Victor Bivell
Governments are not supposed to tell you who you are. That's a job
for your parents. But in Greece the government does tell you who you
are, and if you disagree you are in big trouble and can be seen as an
enemy of the state. As a person of Macedonian heritage whose family
is from the Greek side of the 1912 modern day border between Greece
and Macedonia, the Greek government gives me two choices for my identity.
I can be Greek and claim direct descendance from the glorious ancient
Greeks; or I can be Macedonian, but if I do that then I am not really
a Macedonian as I have, according to the government, no connection to
the ancient Macedonians and I am really a Slav', a Slavic
speaker' and a Slavophone' whose predecessors came from a swamp
somewhere in the Ukraine or Belarus, supposedly sometime in the sixth
or seventh century. These are my only choices. Just as laughable is
that there are academics, some of them self confessed philhellenes who
hang out at places like Oxford and Cambridge universities, who also
peddle this stuff.
To me, it never rang true. I wondered if it may be true, but I couldn't
bring myself to believe it. Firstly, because I could see that it was
propaganda: a convenient lie by which the Greek government tries to
justify its 1912 invasion of Ottoman Macedonia and its annexation of
about 34,000 square kilometres of some of the best real estate in Europe.
Telling the world that "Macedonia is Greek" hides the Greek
government's massive dispossession of this land from village people
who were born in Macedonia and had never lived any where else. Telling
the world that "Macedonians are Greeks" hides the Greek government's
theft of these people's indigenous Macedonian identity so it can give
it to Greeks, most of whom were transplanted from Turkey to Macedonia
in the 1920s but somehow are now the only true descendants of the ancient
The second reason I couldn't believe it is that there was nothing in
our family history about Slavs, Ukraine or swamps. Growing up, I never
once heard the word Slav' or its derivatives. Our family and relatives
were village people. All I ever heard was "Niesme Makedonsi",
which means "We are Macedonians". That was it. The first time
I remember hearing the world "Slav" was when I was in my early
30s and had just developed an interest in Macedonian affairs. I came
upon it in my reading, where suddenly almost every Greek and some western
academics were so keen for me to see myself as a Slav' that I
felt it was being forced upon me. As I had not come across this alternative
history and identity before, I didn't know what it was or anything about
the huge amount of historical and propaganda baggage it came with. Perhaps
a bit like how the body can reject a transplanted organ, my identity
rejected something that was foreign and seemed alien.
I'm lucky I did, because I have now done a DNA test that shows my instinct
Now in my late 50s, I recently did a DNA test to found out what it
could tell me about my origins. I did a Y-DNA test and an mtDNA test.
The Y-DNA test is for the Y chromosome that is passed from father to
son to son and so on along the paternal line. The testing agency says
that sections on the Y chromosome determine the male's haplogroup, the
origins of his ancestors and their path as they migrated around the
world. The mtDNA test examines the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) that is
passed down from mother to children. It traces the migration path of
your maternal line, your mother's mother's mother and so on.
In their detail, the results were far more than I expected. Yet in
their conclusions they confirmed my belief, based on common sense, that
the Macedonians and other peoples of the Balkans are a mixture of the
many peoples who have lived there. The results said I am 90 per cent
European and 11 per cent Middle Eastern from Asia Minor (the extra 1
per cent is simply rounding.) My European part comprises 66 per cent
Southeastern European, 15 per cent East European and 9 per cent West
and Central European.
Being 66 per cent Southeastern European means I am a native of the
Balkans. The DNA testing firm says Southeastern Europe means the area
that covers Italy, Greece and the Western Balkans from Bulgaria to Croatia.
It includes Macedonia.
If my forebears had been part of a Slav migration then I should have
a much higher percentage of Eastern European than 15 per cent. And if
the Greek government is right then I would have registered 100 per cent
ancestry from Eastern Europe. But I didn't. Science says I am only 15
per cent East European. Science also says I am 9 per cent West and Central
European. But that doesn't get a mention in Greek propaganda.
And there is more to the story. The testing firm says "Present
day populations in the Southeast Europe cluster show some of the highest
rates of genetic relatedness to the second wave of migration into Europe
roughly 11,000 years ago."
What's that? 11,000 years ago? That right. And it looks like I could
be related to them. Thanks to science, I now have a third alternative
identity: not a Greek who pretends to be a direct descendant of the
ancient Greeks, not a Slav from a swamp whose forbears arrived in the
Balkans 1,400 years ago, but a Macedonian whose forbears arrived in
the Balkans possibly 11,000 years ago.
Let's think about what that means. We don't know exactly when my father's
forebear arrived but if we assume it was about 11,000 years ago, that
would be around 440 generations ago if the average is 25 years per generation
and 550 generations ago if the average is 20 years per generation. These
generations are not unlikely given the early marriages and the lack
of contraception in those times.
And these generations didn't keep still. Depending on how they moved
about, 500 or so generations is enough time for my 500 times great grandfather
and me to have relatives who are not just Macedonian but also Greek,
Albanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Croatian and every other nationality in
the Balkans and much of the rest of Europe to boot. It is so many generations
that these relatives could have spread that far and wide even before
the start of the classical period. It makes a mockery of the simplistic
Even more laughable is that Greek historians say the Greeks arrived
in Greece between 4,100 and 3,650 years ago. It will be interesting
to see what genetics says, but meanwhile if the Greek historians are
right then it is the Greeks who are the newcomers, not me. And on their
principle of ownership to the first on the scene, then Greece belongs
to me and my genetic kin, not them.
Unlike the Greek propaganda, science also gives me reason to be proud
of my ancestors. The Y-DNA test said my paternal haplogroup is E-M35.
I did an internet search and found numerous scientific papers that discuss
the relationship between E-M35 migrants and the arrival of neolithic
languages, agriculture and technologies from the Middle East into the
Balkans and Europe.
One paper, titled "Y Haplogroups, Archaeological Cultures and
Language Families: a Review of the Possibility of Multidisciplinary
Comparisons Using the Case of E-M35" by Andrew Lancaster (Journal
of Genetic Genealogy, 2009) was illuminating. It says:
"As shall be shown, there are obvious reasons for considering whether
Y Haplogroup E-M35 male lineages may have been present amongst peoples
who spread the earliest Afroasiatic languages as well as the earliest
technologies associated with farming and pastoralism in the Middle East,
Africa and Europe. This has also been noted in DNA surveys of the last
decade. Initially, what was noted was a seeming link to the European
"Semino et al. (2000) proposed that in Europe, haplogroup "Eu4"
or "Ht-4", equivalent to E-M35, represented "the male
contribution of a demic diffusion of farmers from the Middle East to
"King and Underhill (2002) went further and showed an association
between the distribution of these E-M35 lineages and the distribution
of findings of Neolithic painted pottery and figurines, again focussing
on diffusion from the Middle East into South-eastern Europe."
These researchers have started to sketch out what these early men who
carried the E-M35 variation were like as people. Not only were they
travelers and migrants, they helped to spread language, agriculture
and technology around Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans and Europe.
That sure beats the modern Greeks' story of Slav swamp dwellers stealing
supposedly Greek history as if they had nothing better to do in life.
The mtDNA test said my haplogroup is H15b, which is part of the mitochondrial
haplogroup H. World Heritage Encyclopedia says "Several independent
studies conclude that haplogroup H probably evolved in West Asia c.
25,000 years ago. It was carried to Europe by migrations c. 20-25,000
years ago, and spread with population of the southwest of the continent."
The company that did my DNA test says H now has a significant presence
throughout Europe and accounts for between 30 and 50 per cent of the
population of Western Europe. So it's a big club.
Within the club, H15 is unlikely to be from Europe, and is an uncommon
branch found at low frequencies in Europe and the Near East.
The branch H15b is not well researched at all. The haplogroup.org web
site says H15b is much younger than the beginning of the last ice age.
"The age of H15b and its spread from the Middle East to Europe
may link it to the spread of farming in the late Neolithic. It could
also have come to Europe with later migrations in the Bronze Age."
It says "The woman who founded this line lived between 2,200 and
8,800 years ago (Behar et al 2012b)." In scientific papers, people
with H15b have been studied with "diverse maternal origins in Europe
and the Middle East. In the Middle East, results come from Turkey, Iran,
and Lebanon. In Europe, they come from Greece, Italy, and Denmark. Further,
there are Americans in the United States with European origins."
So as yet there is nothing definite to report. Except we can say that
all the countries mentioned above are a long way from Eastern Europe.
Each of us has four grandparents. So far I have discussed the DNA results
of two of mine, my father's father's paternal line and my mother's mother's
maternal line. However, obtaining mtDNA results for my father's mother
and Y-DNA results for my mother's father is more difficult as I would
need to ask the appropriate cousins to do the tests. But I do not expect
the results to be much different. This is because my heritage is 90
per cent European and 66 per cent Southeastern European. Those numbers
suggest my father's mother's line and my mother's father's line are
also likely to be predominantly European. Still to be explained are
the 15 per cent East European, 11 per cent Asia Minor, and 9 per cent
West and Central European parts of me. Since these numbers are relatively
small, the likely answers are the occasional inter-ethnic marriage and
or marriage to someone with a different mixed ancestry.
The results of the DNA tests put me in a difficult intellectual and
moral dilemma. Who do I believe? Should I believe modern science with
its many thousands of highly trained PhDs and specialists, or should
I believe a bunch of Balkan Johnnies-come-lately who act as if they
are 100 per cent descended from the ancient Greeks and who have been
shamelessly pumping out nationalist propaganda for over 100 years? Yes,
that is a difficult one.
The DNA tests have opened a lot of new questions, but they have also
given me a much stronger sense of certainty about who I am and where
I come from. They have given me a much stronger sense of my Macedonian
identity and heritage. They have also strengthened my European identity
and my world identity. They have widened my appreciation for other nationalities,
especially in the Balkans where nationalism can be dangerously strong.
At a deeper level I can see that we are more related and more connected
than I have so far understood. I see better than ever that I have thousands
of distant genetic relatives throughout the Balkans, including all of
Macedonia's neighbors with whom there has been so much modern political
history. And I better understand that I have an untold number of genetic
relatives around the world. At any time I can log in to the testing
company's database and see the names of many hundreds of these relatives.
Many have provided their email addresses if I want to make contact.
And yes, a good number are in Macedonia and a good number are in Greece.
What these genetic results show is the shallowness and futility of
Greek government propaganda and the needless nature of Balkan nationalism.