Vital statistics of a Macedonian warrior

equestrian statue with warrior

How tall? How heavy?

The latest manifestation of Macedonian national pride has just been erected in a central square of the capital, Skopje. Officially entitled ‘Warrior on a Horse’, it is widely held to represent Alexander the Great on his horse Bucephalus.

The media have splashed the story worldwide. On one level, the statue is one of the tallest in Europe. On a more serious level, the erection is seen by Greece as another ‘provocation’ in its long-running battle with neighbour FYROM (Macedonia to you and me).

The very name Macedonia infuriates Greece, who see this as proof of FYROM’s clandestine intentions to appropriate Greek cultural identity and, according to some, the actual territory of the Greek province of the same name.

This dispute has dragged on for 20 years. We have all lost count of the number of times we have been informed that ‘a solution to the name problem is close’.

It is certainly not my intention to wade into this debate, except to mention that the outside researcher will probably never make sense of its true nuances, on either side. It’s depressing to try to follow any online discussion on the topic, as commenters on all sides inevitably and rapidly degenerate into wilful misrepresentations of accepted history, nationalistic abuse,and hateful, zenophobic propaganda. There are clear examples of this on the RFE/RL web site HERE, or onTopix HERE.

Simple facts mis-reported

No, what has caught my eye over the past few days is the varied reports as to the dimensions, cost and weight of the statue complex. I spent some time online, randomly checking recent articles on the subject – from Macedonian and Greek sources, to Balkans media, to the international arena. Two conclusions became clear, after analysing the first 20 news results: one, I still don’t know how tall the construction really is, I don’t know how much it cost, more how much it weighs; two, it’s amazing to see the extent of copying and pasting of a few agency sources, such as Reuters and Associated Press. And even these two prime sources differ in their reported statistics!

Statue and plinth height

Seven sources state that the combined height is 22 metres, of which 4 say the statue is 12 metres tall on a plinth of 10 metres. One source reverses these figures, and another hedges its bets by citing both combinations in the same article.Two sources state the statue is 11 metres, two more go for 12.5 metres, two plump for 13 mteres, one insists the figure is 14.5 metres. Another two sources insist the entire combination measures 28 metres.

Cost

All sources that mentioned the sculptor agreed on her name (Valentina Stevanovska) and said she’d been working on the statue for 3 years. The cost of the finished product, however, varies significantly – from €4.5 mn to €10.0  mn. Allowing for the fact that the 16 sources I checked that mentioned the cost have, in most cases, not clarified whether they mean the cost of the statue alone, or the statue and plinth combined, there are still variations cited. One source even mentioned €7.0 billion – careless! So, cited costs were (all in Euro millions): 4.5 (1), 5.3 (4), 7.0 (1), 7.5 (2), 9.0 (5), 9.4 (2), 10.0 (1).

Weight

Seven sites thought it worth mentioning the weight of the statue (or, possibly, statue plus plinth?). Here, there was a simple choice: one either accepted 30 tonnes (3 sites) or “over 40 tonnes” (4).

So, who cares?

It struck me (yet again), before I carried out my small survey, that if the media can’t even agree on simple statistics as described above, that if some of them just ‘copy and paste’, they fail to provide the reader with authoritative facts. So, what hope is there of their reporting accurately on the passions raised on all sides by this symbolic statue, with serious and nuanced political issues that affect not only Macedonia and Greece, but the region and the European Union. I’ve already referred to the miserable level of forum debate on the subject. And I am still left searching (in vain) for a reasoned, objective article on this 20-year-long dispute. Unlike a certain Obama, I am not “bored” by the topic, just frustrated in trying to inform myself. And, as they say: “Don’t believe everything you read in the papers!”

Image source: TOL

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