Screen capture of the hate speech tweet by Academician Katica Kulavkova, member of the Macedonian Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

Academician Katica Kulavkova, a member of the Macedonian Academy of Arts and Sciences (MANU) caused uproar on social networks on June 6 by publishing a tweet promoting positions deemed nationalistic and chauvinistic by the public.

Kulavkova (sometimes also written as Kjulavkova) used her Twitter profile to publish a tweet stating “The price of coexistence is paid with [sacrificing our] lives,” which promotes the false narratives spread by nationalist and chauvinist centers of power in North Macedonia. According to these narratives, members of ethnic communities who are not ethnic Macedonians and Christians are to blame for the spread of COVID-19 disease.

Screen capture of the hate speech tweet by Academician Katica Kulavkova, member of the Macedonian Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The term for coexistence used by Kulavkova in the tweet written in Macedonian language is “soživot” (соживот), which has a wider meaning than just coexistence. It refers to centuries-old practice of common life and tolerance among different ethnic and religios communities in the territory of contemporary Republic of North Macedonia, which is in stark contrast to the practice of ethnic cleansing and genocide experienced by neighboring Balkan states due to surge of nationalism during the breakup of former Yugoslavia.

The tweet is structured as a pun, juxtaposing the word “soživot” with the words “so život”, meaning “with life.”

Kulavkova’s tweet was shared 53 times, mainly by anonymous twitter-profiles who are part of the “troll army” that provides support for the right wing populist political party VMRO-DPMNE.

This “troll farm” is part of the propaganda machinery that also includes a range of influential media outlets, with combined Macedonian and Hungarian ownership, which had recently amplified the propaganda blaming Muslims, in particular ethnic Albanians and ethnic Roma, as the main culprits for spread of the novel corona-virus and the recent increase of number of COVID-19 infections.

Many Macedonian citizens reacted in very negative way to this inflammatory tweet. For instance, renowned writer Rumena Bužarovska stated the following on her Facebook profile:

“It would be wonderful if once and for all the academic community and the rest stop considering this person as some sort of public intellectual and provide her legitimacy, enabling her to continue spreading nationalist hate and panic.”

Visit to Katica Kulavkova’s Twitter profile around  three and a half hours  after she published the inflammatory tweet showed that she had deleted it. Immediatelly after she published a new tweet with the following text: “The tweet was personal and has nothing to do with the inter-ethnic Macedonian situation.”

So far, none of the state academic institutions in North Macedonia, including MANU and the state universities, had not issued statements or initiated disciplinary procedures in concrete cases when members of their faculty were spreading hate speech or disinformation.