Macedonia (i/ˌmæsɨˈdoʊniə/ mas-i-DOH-nee-ə; Macedonian: Македонија), officially the Republic of Macedonia (Република Македонија, transliterated: Republika Makedonija [rɛˈpublika makɛˈdɔnija] ( listen)), is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991. It became a member of the United Nations in 1993 but, as a result of a dispute with Greece over its name, it was admitted under the provisional reference of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, sometimes abbreviated as FYROM.
A landlocked country, the Republic of Macedonia is bordered by Kosovo[a] to the northwest, Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south and Albania to the west. It constitutes approximately the northwestern half of the larger geographical region of Macedonia, which also comprises parts of Greece and Bulgaria. The country's capital is Skopje, with 506,926 inhabitants according to a 2002 census. Other cities include Bitola, Kumanovo, Prilep, Tetovo, Ohrid, Veles, Štip, Kočani, Gostivar, Kavadarci and Strumica. It has more than 50 lakes and sixteen mountains higher than 2,000 m (6,562 ft). Macedonia is a member of the UN and the Council of Europe. Since December 2005 it has also been a candidate for joining the European Union and has applied for NATO membership.
The country's name derives from the Greek Μακεδονία (Makedonía), a kingdom (later, region) named after the ancient Macedonians. Their name, Μακεδόνες (Makedónes), derives ultimately from the ancient Greek adjective μακεδνός (makednós), meaning "tall, taper", which shares the same root as the noun μάκρος (mákros), meaning "length" in both ancient and modern Greek. The name is originally believed to have meant either "highlanders" or "the tall ones", possibly referring to the physical character of the ancient Macedonians and/or their mountainous land.
Ancient and Roman period
In antiquity, most of what is now the Republic of Macedonia was inhabited by Paeonians, a Thracian people, whilst the northwest was inhabited by the Dardani and the southwest by tribes known historically as the Enchelae, Pelagones and Lyncestae; the latter two are generally regarded as Molossian tribes of the northwestern Greek group, whilst the former two are considered Illyrian.
In 356 BC Philip II of Macedon absorbed the regions of Upper Macedonia (Lynkestis and Pelagonia) and the southern part of Paeonia (Deuriopus) into the Kingdom of Macedon. Philip's son Alexander the Great conquered the remainder of the region, and incorporated it in his empire, reaching as far north as Scupi, but the city and the surrounding area remained part of Dardania.
The Romans established the Province of Macedonia in 146 BC. By the time of Diocletian, the province had been subdivided between Macedonia Prima and Macedonia Salutaris; most of country's modern boundaries fell within the latter, with the city of Stobi as its capital. Roman expansion brought Scupi area under Roman rule not till the time of Domitian (81-96 AD) and it fell within the Province of Moesia. Whilst Greek remained the dominant language in the south, Latin made significant inroads in Macedonia.
Medieval and Ottoman period
During the 580s, Byzantine literature attests to the Slavs raiding Byzantine territories in the region of Macedonia, aided by Avars or Bulgars. Historical records document that in c.680 a group of Bulgars, Slavs and Byzantines led by a Bulgar called Kuber settled in the region of Keramisian plain, centred on the city of Bitola. Presian's reign apparently coincides with the extension of Bulgarian control over the Slavic tribes in and around Macedonia. The Slavic peoples that settled in the region of Macedonia accepted Christianity as their own religion around the 9th century, during the reign of Tsar Boris I of Bulgaria.
In 1014, Byzantine Emperor Basil II defeated the armies of Tsar Samuil of Bulgaria and within four years the Byzantines restored control over the Balkans (including Macedonia) for the first time since the 7th century. However, by the late 12th century, Byzantine decline saw the region contested by various political entities, including a brief Norman occupation in the 1080s.
In the early 13th century, a revived Bulgarian Empire gained control of the region. Plagued by political difficulties the empire did not last and the region came once again under Byzantine control in early 14th century. In the 14th century, it became part of the Serbian Empire, who saw themselves as liberators of their Slavic kin from Byzantine despotism. Skopje became the capital of Tsar Stefan Dusan's empire.
With Dusan's death, a weak successor appeared and power struggles between nobles divided the Balkans once again. This coincided with the entry of the Ottoman Turks into Europe. The Kingdom of Prilep was one of the short lived states that emerged from the collapse of the Serbian Empire in the 14th century. Gradually all the central Balkans were conquered by the Ottoman Empire and remained under its domination for five centuries.
With the beginning of the Bulgarian National Revival in 18 c. many of the reformers were from this region, including Miladinov Brothers, Rajko Žinzifov, Joakim Krčovski, Kiril Pejčinoviḱ and others. The bishoprics of Skopje, Debar, Bitola, Ohrid, Veles and Strumica voted to join the Bulgarian Exarchate after it was established in 1870.
Several movements whose goals were the establishment of autonomous Macedonia, encompassing the entire region of Macedonia, began to arise in the late 19th century; the earliest of these was the Bulgarian Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Committees, later transformed to SMORO. In 1905 it was renamed as Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (IMARO) and after World War I the organization separated into the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) and the Internal Thracian Revolutionary Organisation (ITRO).
In the early organization the membership was allowed only for Bulgarians, but later it was opened to all inhabitants of European Turkey, regardless of their nationality or religion. The majority of its members however were Macedonian Bulgarians In 1903, IMRO organised the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising against the Ottomans, which after some initial successes, including the forming of the "Krushevo Republic", was crushed with much loss of life. The uprising and the forming of the Krushevo Republic are considered the cornerstone and precursors to the eventual establishment of the Macedonian state.
Kingdoms of Serbia and Yugoslavia
Following the two Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913 and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, most of its European held territories were divided between Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia. The territory of the modern Macedonian state was then named Južna Srbija, "Southern Serbia". After the First World War, Kingdom of Serbia became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In 1929, the Kingdom was officially renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and divided into provinces called banovinas. Southern Serbia, including all of what is now the Republic of Macedonia, became known as the Vardar Banovina of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
The concept of a United Macedonia was used by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) in the interbellum. Its leaders – like Todor Alexandrov, Aleksandar Protogerov, Ivan Mihailov, promoted independence of the Macedonian territory split between Serbia and Greece for the whole population, regardless of religion and ethnicity. The Bulgarian government of Alexander Malinov in 1918 offered to give Pirin Macedonia for that purpose after World War I, but the Great Powers did not adopt this idea, because Serbia and Greece opposed.
IMRO followed by starting an insurgent war in Vardar Banovina, together with Macedonian Youth Secret Revolutionary Organization, which also conducted guerilla attacks against the Serbian administrative and army officials there. In 1923 in Stip a paramilitary organisation called Association against Bulgarian Bandits was formed by Serbian chetniks, IMRO renegades and Macedonian Federative Organization (MFO) members to oppose IMRO and MMTRO.
World War II period
During World War II, Yugoslavia was occupied by the Axis Powers from 1941 to 1945. The Vardar Banovina was divided between Bulgaria and Italian-occupied Albania. Bulgarian Action Committees were established and prepared the region for the new Bulgarian administration and army. The Committees were mosltly formed by former members of IMRO, but some communists like Panko Brashnarov, Strahil Gigov and Metodi Shatorov also participated.
Shatorov as leader of Vardar Macedonia communists switched from Yugoslav Communist Party to Bulgarian Communist Party and refused to start military action against the Bulgarian army. Bulgarian authorities, under German pressure, were responsible for the round-up and deportation of over 7,000 Jews in Skopje and Bitola. Harsh rule by the occupying forces encouraged many Macedonians to support the Communist Partisan resistance movement of Josip Broz Tito after 1943, and the National Liberation War ensued, with German forces being driven out of Macedonia by the end of 1944.
In Vardar Macedonia, after Bulgarian coup d'état of 1944 the Bulgarian troops, surrounded by German forces, fought their way back to the old borders of Bulgaria. Under the leadership of the new Bulgarian pro-Soviet government, four armies, 455,000 strong in total, were mobilized and reorganized. Most of them reentered occupied Yugoslavia in the early October 1944 and moved from Sofia to Niš, Skopje and Pristina with the strategic task of blocking the German forces withdrawing from Greece. Compelled by the Soviet Union with a view towards the creation of a large South Slav Federation, Bulgarian government once again offered to give Pirin Macedonia to such a United Macedonia in 1945.
Socialist Yugoslavia period
In 1944 the Anti-Fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM) proclaimed the People's Republic of Macedonia as part of the People's Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. ASNOM remained an acting government until the end of the war. The Macedonian alphabet was codified by linguists of ASNOM, who based their alphabet on the phonetic alphabet of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić and the principles of Krste Petkov – Misirkov.
The new republic became one of the six republics of the Yugoslav federation. Following the federation's renaming as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1963, the People's Republic of Macedonia was likewise renamed, becoming the Socialist Republic of Macedonia. During the civil war in Greece (1946–1949) Macedonian communist insurgents supported the Greek communists. Many refugees fled to the Socialist Republic of Macedonia from there. The state dropped the "Socialist" from its name in 1991 when it peacefully seceded from Yugoslavia.
Declaration of independence
The country officially celebrates 8 September 1991 as Independence day (Macedonian: Ден на независноста, Den na nezavisnosta), with regard to the referendum endorsing independence from Yugoslavia, albeit legalising participation in future union of the former states of Yugoslavia. The anniversary of the start of the Ilinden Uprising (St. Elijah's Day) on 2 August is also widely celebrated on an official level as the Day of the Republic.
Robert Badinter as the head of the Arbitration Commission of the Peace Conference on Yugoslavia recommended EC recognition in January 1992.
Macedonia remained at peace through the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s. A few very minor changes to its border with Yugoslavia were agreed upon to resolve problems with the demarcation line between the two countries. However, it was seriously destabilised by the Kosovo War in 1999, when an estimated 360,000 ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo took refuge in the country. Although they departed shortly after the war, soon after, Albanian nationalists on both sides of the border took up arms in pursuit of autonomy or independence for the Albanian-populated areas of Macedonia.
A conflict took place between the government and ethnic Albanian insurgents, mostly in the north and west of the country, between February and August 2001. The war ended with the intervention of a NATO ceasefire monitoring force. Under the terms of the Ohrid Agreement, the government agreed to devolve greater political power and cultural recognition to the Albanian minority. The Albanian side agreed to abandon separatist demands and to fully recognise all Macedonian institutions. In addition, according to this accord, the NLA were to disarm and hand over their weapons to a NATO force.
Macedonia has a total area of 25,713 km2 (9,928 sq mi). It lies between latitudes 40° and 43° N, and mostly between longitudes 20° and 23° E (a small area lies east of 23°). Macedonia has some 748 km (465 mi) of boundaries, shared with Serbia (62 km or 39 mi) to the North, Kosovo (159 km or 99 mi) to the northwest, Bulgaria (148 km or 92 mi) to the east, Greece (228 km or 142 mi) to the south, and Albania (151 km or 94 mi) to the west. It is a transit way for shipment of goods from Greece, through the Balkans, towards Eastern, Western and Central Europe and through Bulgaria to the East. It is part of a larger region also known as Macedonia, which also includes a region of northern Greece known by the same name; and the Blagoevgrad province in southwestern Bulgaria.
Macedonia is a landlocked country that is geographically clearly defined by a central valley formed by the Vardar river and framed along its borders by mountain ranges. The terrain is mostly rugged, located between the Šar Mountains and Osogovo, which frame the valley of the Vardar river. Three large lakes — Lake Ohrid, Lake Prespa and Dojran Lake — lie on the southern borders, bisected by the frontiers with Albania and Greece. Ohrid is considered to be one of the oldest lakes and biotopes in the world. The region is seismically active and has been the site of destructive earthquakes in the past, most recently in 1963 when Skopje was heavily damaged by a major earthquake, killing over 1,000.
Macedonia also has scenic mountains. They belong to two different mountain ranges: the first is the Šar Mountains that continues to the West Vardar/Pelagonia group of mountains (Baba Mountain, Nidže, Kozuf and Jakupica), also known as the Dinaric range. The second range is the Osogovo–Belasica mountain chain, also known as the Rhodope range. The mountains belonging to the Šar Mountains and the West Vardar/Pelagonia range are younger and higher than the older mountains that are part of the Osogovo-Belasica mountain group. Mount Korab of the Šar Mountains on the Albanian border, at 2,764 m (9,068 ft), is the tallest mountain in Macedonia.
In the Republic of Macedonia there are 1,100 larger sources of water. The rivers flow into three different basins: the Aegean, the Adriatic and the Black Sea basin.
The Aegean basin is the largest. It covers 87% of the territory of the Republic, which is 22,075 km. sq. Vardar, the largest river in this basin, drains 80% of the territory or 20,459 km. sq. Its valley plays an important part in the economy and the communication system of the country. The project named 'The Vardar Valley' is considered to be crucial for the strategic development of the country.
The river Black Drin forms the Adriatic basin, which covers an area of about 3,320 km. sq., i. e. 13% of the territory. It receives water from Lakes Prespa and Ohrid.
The Black Sea basin is the smallest with only 37 km. sq. It covers the northern side of Mount Skopska Crna Gora. This is the source of the river Binachka Morava, which joins the Morava, and later, the Danube which flows into the Black Sea.
Even though it is a landlocked country, Macedonia has three lakes and around fifty ponds. Lake Ohrid, Lake Prespa and Lake Dojran are the three natural lakes of the country.
The Macedonian word for spa is бања, transliterated as banja. In the country there are 9 spa towns and resorts: Banište, Banja Bansko, Istibanja, Katlanovo, Kežovica, Kosovrasti, Banja Kočani, Kumanovski Banji and Negorci.
Macedonia has a transitional climate from Mediterranean to continental. The summers are hot and dry and the winters are moderately cold. Average annual precipitation varies from 1,700 mm (66.9 in) in the western mountainous area to 500 mm (19.7 in) in the eastern area. There are three main climatic zones in the country: temperate Mediterranean, mountainous and mildly Continental. Along the valleys of the Vardar and Strumica rivers, in the regions of Gevgelija, Valandovo, Dojran, Strumica and Radoviš the climate is temperate Mediterranean. The warmest regions are Demir Kapija and Gevgelija, where the temperature in July and August frequently exceeds 40 °C (104 °F). The mountainous climate is present in the mountainous regions of the country and it is characterised by long and snowy winters and short and cold summers. The spring is colder than the fall. The majority of Macedonia has a moderate continental climate with warm and dry summers and relatively cold and wet winters. There are 30 main and regular weather stations in the country.
The country has 3 national parks:
The flora of Republic of Macedonia is represented with around 210 families, 920 genera, and around 3,700 plant species. The most abundant group are the flowering plants with around 3,200 species, which is followed by mosses (350 species) and ferns (42).
Phytogeographically, Macedonia belongs to the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Digital Map of European Ecological Regions by the European Environment Agency, the territory of the Republic can be subdivided into four ecoregions: the Pindus Mountains mixed forests, Balkan mixed forests, Rhodopes mixed forests and Aegean sclerophyllous and mixed forests.
National Park of Pelister in Bitola is known for the presence of the endemic Macedonian Pine, as well as some 88 species of plants representing almost 30 percent of Macedonian dendroflora. The Macedonian Pine forests on Pelister are divided into two communities; pine forests with ferns and pine forests with junipers. The Macedonian Pine, as a specific conifer species, is a relict of tertiary flora and the five-needle pine Molika, was first noted on Pelister in 1893.
Macedonia's limited forest growth also includes Macedonian Oaks, the sycamore, weeping willows, white willows, alders, poplars, elms, and the common ash. Near the rich pastures on Šar Mountain and Bistra, Mavrovo, is another plant species characteristic of plant life in Macedonia—the poppy. The quality of thick poppy juice is measured worldwide by morphine units; while Chinese opium contains eight such units and is considered to be of high quality, Indian opium contains seven units, and Turkish opium only six, Macedonian opium contains a full 14 morphine units and is one of the best quality opium in the world.
The fauna of Macedonian forests is abundant and includes bears, wild boars, wolves, foxes, squirrels, chamois and deer. The lynx is found, although very rarely, in the mountains of western Macedonia, while deer can be found in the region of Demir Kapija. Forest birds include the blackcap, the grouse, the black grouse, the imperial eagle and the forest owl.
The three artificial lakes of the country represent a separate fauna zone, an indication of long-lasting territorial and temporal isolation. The fauna of Lake Ohrid is a relict of an earlier era and the lake is widely known for its letnica trout, lake whitefish, gudgeon, roach, podust, and pior, as well as for certain species of snails of a genus older than 30 million years; similar species can only be found in Lake Baikal. Lake Ohrid is also noted in zoology texts for the European eel and its baffling reproductive cycle: it comes to Lake Ohrid from the distant Sargasso Sea, thousands of kilometres away, and lurks in the depths of the lake for 10 years. When sexually mature, the eel is driven by unexplained instincts in the autumn to set off back to its point of birth. There it spawns and dies, leaving its offspring to seek out Lake Ohrid to begin the cycle anew.
The shepherd dog of Šar Mountain is known worldwide as Šarplaninec (Yugoslav shepherd). It stands some 60 centimeters tall and is a brave and fierce fighter that may be called upon to fight bears or wolf packs in guarding and defending flocks. The Šarplaninec originates from the shepherd's dog of the ancient Epirotes, the molossus, but the Šarplaninec was recognized as its own breed in 1939 under the name of "Illyrian shepherd" and since 1956 has been known as Šarplaninec.
Macedonia is a parliamentary democracy with an executive government composed of a coalition of parties from the unicameral legislature (Собрание, Sobranie) and an independent judicial branch with a constitutional court. The Assembly is made up of 120 seats and the members are elected every four years. The role of the President of the Republic is mostly ceremonial, with the real power resting in the hands of the President of the Government. The President is the commander-in-chief of the state armed forces and a president of the state Security Council. The President is elected every five years and he or she can be elected twice at most. On the second run of the presidential elections held on 5 April 2009, Gjorge Ivanov was elected as new Macedonian president.
With the passage of a new law and elections held in 2005, local government functions are divided between 78 municipalities (општини, opštini; singular: општина, opština). The capital, Skopje, is governed as a group of ten municipalities collectively referred to as the "City of Skopje". Municipalities in Macedonia are units of local self-government. Neighbouring municipalities may establish co-operative arrangements.
The country's main political divergence is between the largely ethnically based political parties representing the country's ethnic Macedonian majority and Albanian minority. The issue of the power balance between the two communities led to a brief war in 2001, following which a power-sharing agreement was reached. In August 2004, Macedonia's parliament passed legislation redrawing local boundaries and giving greater local autonomy to ethnic Albanians in areas where they predominate.
After a troublesome pre-election campaign, Macedonia saw a relatively calm and democratic change of government in the elections held on 5 July 2006. The elections were marked by a decisive victory of the centre-right party VMRO-DPMNE led by Nikola Gruevski. Gruevski's decision to include the Democratic Party of Albanians in the new government, instead of the Democratic Union for Integration – Party for Democratic Prosperity coalition which won the majority of the Albanian votes, triggered protests throughout the parts of the country with a respective number of Albanian population. However, recently a dialogue was established between the Democratic Union for Integration and the ruling VMRO-DMPNE party as an effort to talk about the disputes between the two parties and to support European and NATO aspirations of the country.
After the early parliamentary elections held in 2008, VMRO-DPMNE and Democratic Union for Integration formed a ruling coalition in Macedonia.
In April 2009, presidential and local elections in the country were carried out peacefully, which was crucial for Macedonian aspirations to join the EU The ruling conservative VMRO-DPMNE party won a victory in the local elections and the candidate supported by the party, Gjorgi Ivanov, was elected as the new Macedonian president.
The Macedonian parliament or Sobranie (Macedonian: Собрание) is the country's legislative body. It makes, proposes and adopts laws. The 120 members are elected for a mandate of four years through a general election. Each Macedonian citizen that is above 18 years can vote for one of the Macedonian political parties. The current president of the Macedonian Parliament is Trajko Veljanovski.
Executive power in Macedonia is exercised by the Government, whose prime minister is the most politically powerful person in the country. The members of the government are chosen by the Prime Minister and there are ministers for each branch of the society. There are ministers for economy, finance, information technology, society, internal affairs, foreign affairs and other areas. The members of the Government are elected for a mandate of four years. The current Prime Minister is Nikola Gruevski who is serving his third consecutive term in office.
Law and courts
Judiciary power is exercised by courts, with the court system being headed by the Judicial Supreme Court, Constitutional Court and the Republican Judicial Council. The assembly appoints the judges.
Macedonia became a member state of the UN on 8 April 1993, eighteen months after its independence from Yugoslavia. It is referred to within the UN as "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", pending a resolution of the long-running dispute with Greece about the country's name.
The major interest of the country is a full integration in the European and the Trans-Atlantic integration processes. Five foreign policy priorities are:
- NATO membership
- Commencing negotiations for full-fledged membership in the European Union
- Lifting the visa regime for Macedonian nationals
- Resolving the naming issue with Greece
- Strengthening the economic and public diplomacy
Macedonia is member of the following international and regional organizations: IMF (since 1992), WHO (since 1993), EBRD (since 1993), Central European Initiative (since 1993), Council of Europe (since 1995), OSCE (since 1995), SECI (since 1996), WTO (since 2003), CEFTA (since 2006), La Francophonie (since 2001).
In 2005, the country was officially recognized as a European Union candidate state.
On the NATO summit held in Bucharest in April 2008, Macedonia failed to gain an invitation to join the organisation because Greece vetoed the move after the dispute over the name issue. The USA had previously expressed support for an invitation, but the summit then decided to extend an invitation only on condition of a resolution of the naming conflict with Greece.
In March 2009 the European Parliament expressed support for Macedonia's EU candidacy and asked the EU Commission to grant the country a date for the start of accession talks by the end of 2009. The parliament also recommended a speedy lifting of the visa regime for Macedonian citizens. However, Macedonia has so far failed to receive a start date for accession talks as a result of the naming dispute. The EU's stance is similar to NATO's in that resolution of the naming dispute is a precondition for the start of accession talks.
In October, 2012 the EU Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle proposed a start of accession negotiations with Macedonia for the fourth time, while the previouse efforts were blocked each time by Greece. At the same time Füle visited Bulgaria in a bid to clarify the state's position with respect to Macedonia. He established that Bulgaria almost has joined Greece in vetoing the accession talks with Macedonia. Bulgarian position was that Sofia cannot grant an EU certificate to Skopje, which is systematically employing an ideology of hate towards Bulgaria.
After the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, the name of Macedonia became the object of a dispute between Greece and the newly independent Republic of Macedonia. In the south, the Republic of Macedonia borders the region of Greek Macedonia, which administratively is split into three peripheries (one of them comprising both Western Thrace and a part of Greek Macedonia). Citing historical and territorial concerns resulting from the ambiguity between the Republic of Macedonia, the adjacent Greek region of Macedonia and the ancient kingdom of Macedon which falls within Greek Macedonia, Greece opposes the use of the name "Macedonia" by the Republic of Macedonia without a geographical qualifier, supporting a compound name (such as "Northern Macedonia") for use by all and for all purposes (erga omnes). As millions of ethnic Greeks identify themselves as Macedonians, unrelated to the Slavic people who are associated with the Republic of Macedonia, Greece further objects to the use of the term "Macedonian" for the neighboring country's largest ethnic group. The Republic of Macedonia is accused of appropriating symbols and figures that are historically considered parts of Greece's culture (such as Vergina Sun, a symbol associated with the ancient kingdom of Macedon, and Alexander the Great), and of promoting the irredentist concept of a United Macedonia, which would include territories of Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, and Serbia.
From 1992 to 1995, the two countries also engaged in a dispute over the Macedonian state's first flag, which incorporated the Vergina Sun symbol. This aspect of the dispute was resolved when the flag was changed under the terms of an interim accord agreed between the two states in October 1995.
The UN adopted the provisional reference "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (Macedonian: Поранешна Југословенска Република Македонија) when the country was admitted to the organization in 1993. Most international organizations, such as the European Union, the European Broadcasting Union, and the International Olympic Committee, adopted the same convention. NATO also uses the reference in official documents but adds an explanation on which member countries recognize the constitutional name. The same reference is also used in any discussion to which Greece is a party
However, most UN member countries have abandoned the provisional reference and have recognised the country as the Republic of Macedonia instead. These include four of the five permanent UN Security Council members—the United States, Russia, United Kingdom and the People's Republic of China; several members of the European Union such as Bulgaria, Poland, and Slovenia; and over 100 other UN members. The UN has set up a negotiating process with a mediator, Matthew Nimetz, and the two disputed parties, Macedonia and Greece, to try to mediate the dispute. Negotiations continue between the two sides but have yet to reach any settlement of the dispute.
Initially the European Community-nominated Arbitration Commission's opinion was that "the use of the name 'Macedonia' cannot therefore imply any territorial claim against another State"; despite the commission's opinion, Greece continued to object to the establishment of relations between the Community and the Republic under its constitutional name.
Since the coming to power in 2006, and especially since Macedonia's non-invitation to NATO in 2008, the VMRO-DPMNE government has pursued a policy of "Antiquisation" ("Antikvizatzija") as a way of putting pressure on Greece as well as for the purposes of domestic identity-building. Statues of Alexander the Great and Philip of Macedon have been built in several cities across the country. Additionally, many pieces of public infrastructure, such as airports, highways, and stadiums have been renamed after Alexander and Philip. These actions are seen as deliberate provocations in neighboring Greece, exacerbating the dispute and further stalling Macedonia's EU and NATO applications. The policy has also attracted criticism domestically, as well as from EU diplomats.
In November 2008, Macedonia instituted proceedings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Greece alleging violations of the 1995 Interim Accord that blocked its accession to NATO. The ICJ was requested to order Greece to observe its obligations within the Accord, which is legally binding for both countries. In 2011 The United Nations' International Court of Justice ruled that Greece violated Article 11 of the 1995 Interim Accord by vetoing Macedonia's bid for NATO membership at the 2008 summit in Bucharest. The court however did not grant Macedonia's request that it instruct Greece to refrain from similar actions in the future, nor has there been to date a change in the EU's stance that Macedonia's accession negotiations cannot begin until the name issue is resolved.
The Republic of Macedonia is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights and the U.N. Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and Convention against Torture, and the Macedonian Constitution guarantees basic human rights to all Macedonian citizens.
There do however continue to be problems with human rights. According to human rights organisations, in 2003 there were suspected extrajudicial executions, threats and intimidation against human rights activists and opposition journalists and allegations of torture by the police.
The country has problems with the human rights of its ethnic minorities. Although Albanians have recently been allowed to study in the Albanian language, before graduating from university they are required to pass a test of their comprehension and use of the Macedonian language.
The Macedonian Armed Forces comprise the army, air force and Special Forces. The government's national defence policy aims to guarantee the preservation of the independence and sovereignty of the state, the integrity of its land area and airspace and its constitutional order. Its main goals remain the development and maintenance of a credible capability to defend the nation's vital interests and development of the Armed Forces in a way that ensures their interoperability with the armed forces of NATO and the European Union member states and their capability to participate in the full range of NATO missions.
The Ministry of Defence develops the defence strategy and works out the assessment of the possible threats and risks. The MOD is also responsible for the defence system, training, readiness of the Armed Forces, the equipment and the development and it proposes the defence budget.
Ranked as the fourth 'best reformatory state' out of 178 countries ranked by the World Bank in 2009, Macedonia has undergone considerable economic reform since independence. The country has developed an open economy with trade accounting for more than 90% of GDP in recent years. Since 1996, Macedonia has witnessed steady, though slow, economic growth with GDP growing by 3.1% in 2005. This figure was projected to rise to an average of 5.2% in the 2006–2010 period. The government has proven successful in its efforts to combat inflation, with an inflation rate of only 3% in 2006 and 2% in 2007, and has implemented policies focused on attracting foreign investment and promoting the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The current government introduced a flat tax system with the intention of making the country more attractive to foreign investment. The flat tax rate was 12% in 2007 and was further lowered to 10% in 2008.
Despite these reforms, as of 2005 Macedonia's unemployment rate was 37.2% and as of 2006 its poverty rate was 22%. Macedonia has one of the highest shares of people struggling financially, with 72% of its citizens stating that they could only manage on their household’s income ‘with difficulty’ or ‘with great difficulty', though Macedonia, along with Croatia, was the only country in the Western Balkans to not report an increase in this statistic. Corruption and a relatively ineffective legal system also act as significant restraints on successful economic development. Macedonia still has one of the lowest per capita GDPs in Europe. Furthermore, the country's grey market is estimated at close to 20% of GDP.
In terms of structure, as of 2005 the service sector constituted by far the largest part of GDP at 57.1%, up from 54.2% in 2000. The industrial sector represents 29.3% of GDP, down from 33.7% in 2000 while agriculture represents only 12.9%, up from 12%. Textiles represent the most significant sector for trade, accounting for more than half of total exports. Other important exports include iron, steel, wine and vegetables.
With a GDP per capita of US$9,157 at purchasing power parity and a Human Development Index of 0.701, Macedonia is less developed and has a considerably smaller economy than most of the former Yugoslav states.
According to Eurostat data, Macedonian PPS GDP per capita stood at 36% of the EU average in 2011.
Some attractions of the country: Black Drim river (top), the village of Galičnik (middle), a mosaic at Heraclea Lyncestis (bottom).
Infrastructure and e-infrastructure
Macedonia (along with Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo) belongs to the less-developed southern region of the former Yugoslavia. It suffered severe economic difficulties after independence, when the Yugoslav internal market collapsed and subsidies from Belgrade ended. In addition, it faced many of the same problems faced by other former socialist East European countries during the transition to a market economy. Its main land and rail exports route, through Serbia, remains unreliable with high transit costs, thereby affecting the export of its formerly highly profitable, early vegetables market to Germany. Macedonia's IT market increased 63.8% year on year in 2007, which is the fastest growing in the Adriatic region.
Trade and investment
The outbreak of the Yugoslav wars and the imposition of sanctions on Serbia and Montenegro caused great damage to the Republic's economy, with Serbia constituting 60% of its markets before the disintegration of Yugoslavia. When Greece imposed a trade embargo on the Republic in 1994–95, the economy was also affected. Some relief was afforded by the end of the Bosnian war in November 1995 and the lifting of the Greek embargo, but the Kosovo War of 1999 and the 2001 Albanian crisis caused further destabilisation.
Since the end of the Greek embargo, Greece has become the country's most important business partner. (See Greek investments in the Republic of Macedonia.) Many Greek companies have bought former state companies in Macedonia, such as the oil refinery Okta, the baking company Zhito Luks, a marble mine in Prilep, textile facilities in Bitola, etc., and employ 20,000 people. However, local cross-border trade between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia sees thousands of Greek shoppers visiting to purchase cheaper domestic products.
Tourism is an important part of the economy of the Republic of Macedonia. The country's large abundance of natural and cultural attractions make it an attractive destination of visitors. It receives about 700,000 tourists annually.
Macedonia's statistical regions exist solely for legal and statistical purposes. The regions are:
In August 2004, the Republic of Macedonia was reorganised into 84 municipalities (opštini; sing. opština); 10 of the municipalities constitute the City of Skopje, a distinct unit of local self-government and the country's capital.
Most of the current municipalities were unaltered or merely amalgamated from the previous 123 municipalities established in September 1996; others were consolidated and their borders changed. Prior to this, local government was organised into 34 administrative districts, communes, or counties (also opštini).
The last census data from 2002 shows a population of 2,022,547 inhabitants. The last official estimate from 2009, without significant change, gives a figure of 2,050,671. According to the last census data the largest ethnic group in the country are the Macedonians. The second largest group are the Albanians who dominated much of the northwestern part of the country. Some unofficial estimates indicate that in the Republic of Macedonia there are possibly up to 260,000 Roma.
|Ethnic groups in the Republic of Macedonia in 2002|
|Kosovo Serbia Bulgaria Greece Albania • Skopje • Bitola • Veles • Štip • Radoviš • Berovo • Strumica • Tetovo • Kumanovo • Kriva Palanka • Prilep • Gostivar • Kičevo • Debar • Struga • Resen • Ohrid • Gevgelija • Bogdanci • Valandovo • Vinica • D. Kapija • D. Hisar • Kavadarci • Kočani • Kratovo • Kruševo • M. Brod • M. Kamenica • Negotino Peh.• Probištip • Sv. Nikole • • Del.|
Orthodox Christianity is the majority faith of the Republic of Macedonia making up 64.7% of the population, the vast majority of which belong to the Macedonian Orthodox Church. Various other Christian denominations account for 0.37% of the population. Muslims comprise 33.3% of the population; Macedonia has the fifth-highest proportion of Muslims in Europe, after those of Turkey (96%), Kosovo (90%), Albania (82%), and Bosnia-Herzegovina (48%). Most Muslims are Albanians, Turks, or Roma, although some are Macedonian Muslims. The remaining 1.63% is recorded as "unspecified" in the 2002 national census.
Altogether, there are 1,842 churches and 580 mosques in the country. The Orthodox and Islamic religious communities have secondary religion schools in Skopje. There is an Orthodox theological college in the capital. The Macedonian Orthodox Church has jurisdiction over 10 provinces (seven in the country and three abroad), has 10 bishops and about 350 priests. A total of 30,000 people are baptised in all the provinces every year.
There is a tension between the Macedonian and Serbian Orthodox Churches which arose from the former's separation and self-declared autocephaly in 1967. However, the Archbishop's Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church, with Decision No. 06/1959, has recognised the autonomy (self-dependence) of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. After the negotiations between the two churches were suspended, the Serbian Orthodox Church recognised a group led by Zoran Vraniškovski (also known as Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, a former Macedonian church bishop, as the Archbishop of Ohrid.
The reaction of the Macedonian Orthodox Church was to cut off all relations with the new Ohrid Archbishopric and to prevent bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church from entering Macedonia. Bishop Jovan was jailed for 18 months for "defaming the Macedonian Orthodox church and harming the religious feelings of local citizens" by distributing Serbian Orthodox church calendars and pamphlets.
The Macedonian Byzantine Catholic Church has approximately 11,000 adherents in Macedonia. The Church was established in 1918, and is made up mostly of converts to Catholicism and their descendants. The Church is of the Byzantine Rite and is in communion with the Roman and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its liturgical worship is performed in Macedonian.
There is a small Protestant community. The most famous Protestant in the country is the late president Boris Trajkovski. He was from the Methodist community, which is the largest and oldest Protestant church in the Republic, dating back to the late 19th century. Since the 1980s the Protestant community has grown, partly through new confidence and partly with outside missionary help.
The Macedonian Jewish community, which numbered some 7,200 people on the eve of World War II, was almost entirely destroyed during the war: only 2% of Macedonian Jews survived the Holocaust. After their liberation and the end of the War, most opted to emigrate to Israel. Today, the country's Jewish community numbers approximately 200 persons, almost all of whom live in Skopje. Most Macedonian Jews are Sephardic – the descendants of 15th century refugees who had fled the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions.
According to the 2002 Census, 46.5% of the children aged 0–4 were Muslim.
The official and most widely spoken language is Macedonian, which belongs to the Eastern branch of the South Slavic language group. In municipalities where ethnic groups are represented with over 20% of the total population, the language of that ethnic group is co-official.
Macedonian is closely related to and mutually intelligible with Standard Bulgarian. It also has some similarities with standard Serbian and the intermediate Torlakian and Shop dialects spoken mostly in southern Serbia and western Bulgaria (and by speakers in the north and east of Macedonia). The standard language was codified in the period following World War II and has accumulated a thriving literary tradition. Although it is the only language explicitly designated as an official national language in the constitution, in municipalities where at least 20% of the population is part of another ethnic minority, those individual languages are used for official purposes in local government, alongside Macedonian.
According to the last census, 1,344,815 Macedonian citizens declared that they spoke Macedonian, 507,989 citizens spoke Albanian, 71,757 citizens spoke Turkish, 38,528 citizens spoke Romani, 6,884 citizens spoke Aromanian, 24,773 citizens spoke Serbian, 8,560 citizens spoke Bosnian and 19,241 citizens spoke other languages.
A wide variety of languages are spoken in Macedonia, reflecting its ethnic diversity. Besides the official national language, Macedonian, minority languages with substantial numbers of speakers are Albanian, Romani, Turkish (including Balkan Gagauz), Serbian/Bosnian and Aromanian (including Megleno-Romanian). There are a few villages of Adyghe speakers and an immigrant Greek community.
The Macedonian education system consists of:
- pre-school education
The higher levels of education can be obtained at one of the five state universities: Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje, St. Clement of Ohrid University of Bitola, Goce Delčev University of Štip, State University of Tetovo and University for Information Science and Technology "St. Paul The Apostle" in Ohrid. There are a number of private university institutions, such as the European University, Slavic University in Sveti Nikole, the South East European University and others.
The United States Agency for International Development has underwritten a project called "Macedonia Connects" which has made Macedonia the first all-broadband wireless country in the world. The Ministry of Education and Sciences reports that 461 schools (primary and secondary) are now connected to the internet. In addition, an Internet Service Provider (On.net), has created a MESH Network to provide WIFI services in the 11 largest cities/towns in the country.
Cinema and media
The history of film making in the republic dates back over 110 years. The first film to be produced on the territory of the present-day the country was made in 1895 by Janaki and Milton Manaki in Bitola. Throughout the past century, the medium of film has depicted the history, culture and everyday life of the Macedonian people. Over the years many Macedonian films have been presented at film festivals around the world and several of these films have won prestigious awards. The first Macedonian feature film was "Frosina", released in 1952. The first feature film in colour was "Miss Stone", a movie about a Protestant missionary in Ottoman Macedonia. It was released in 1958. The highest grossing feature film in the Republic of Macedonia was Bal-Can-Can, having been seen by over 500,000 people in its first year alone.
The oldest newspaper in the country is Nova Makedonija from 1944. Other well known newspaper and magazines are: Utrinski Vesnik, Dnevnik, Vest, Fokus, Večer, Tea Moderna, Makedonsko Sonce, and Koha. Public channel is Macedonian Radio-Television founded in 1993 by the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia. TEKO TV (1989) from Štip is the first private television channel in the country. Other popular private TV's also are: Sitel, Kanal 5, Telma, Alfa TV, Alsat-M and etc.
In 1994 Milco Manchevski's film "Before the Rain" was nominated as Best Foreign Film. Manchevski continues to be the most prominent modern filmmaker in the country having subsequently written and directed "Dust" and "Shadows."
Macedonia has a rich cultural heritage in art, architecture, poetry, and music. It has many ancient, protected religious sites. Poetry, cinema, and music festivals are held annually. Macedonian music styles developed under the strong influence of Byzantine church music. Macedonia has a significant number of preserved Byzantine fresco paintings, mainly from the period between the 11th and 16th centuries. There are several thousands square metres of fresco painting preserved, the major part of which is in very good condition and represent masterworks of the Macedonian School of ecclesiastical painting.
The most important cultural events in the country are the Ohrid Summer festival of classical music and drama, the Struga Poetry Evenings which gather poets from more than 50 countries in the world, International Camera Festival in Bitola, Open Youth Theatre and Skopje Jazz Festival in Skopje etc. The Macedonian Opera opened in 1947 with a performance of Cavalleria rusticana under the direction of Branko Pomorisac. Every year, the May Opera Evenings are held in Skopje for around 20 nights. The first May Opera performance was that of Kiril Makedonski's Tsar Samuil in May 1972.
The main public holidays in the Republic of Macedonia are:
|Date||English name||Macedonian name||Remarks|
|1–2 January||New Year||Нова Година, Nova Godina|
|7 January||Christmas Day (Orthodox)||Прв ден Божик, Prv den Božik|
|March/April||Good Friday (Orthodox)||Велики Петок, Veliki Petok||Ortodox Easter and other Easter dates do not match; see: Date of Easter|
|March/April||Easter Sunday (Orthodox)||Прв ден Велигден, Prv den Veligden||-"-|
|March/April||Easter Monday (Orthodox)||Втор ден Велигден, Vtor den Veligden||-"-|
|1 May||Labour Day||Ден на трудот, Den na trudot|
|24 May||Saints Cyril and Methodius Day||Св. Кирил и Методиј, Ден на сèсловенските просветители; Sv. Kiril i Metodij, Den na sèslovenskite prosvetiteli|
|2 August||Day of the Republic||Ден на Републиката, Den na Republikata||Day when the Republic was established in 1944, also Ilinden uprising in 1903 and victory in Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC.|
|8 September||Independence Day||Ден на независноста, Den na nezavisnosta||Day of independence from Yugoslavia|
|11 October||Revolution Day||Ден на востанието, Den na vostanieto||Beginning of Anti-fascist war during WWII in 1941|
|23 October||Day of the Macedonian Revolutionary Struggle||Ден на македонската револуционерна борба,Den na makedonskata revolucionarna borba||Day when the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) was established in 1893.|
|1 Shawwal||Eid ul-Fitr||Рамазан Бајрам, Ramazan Bajram||moveable, see: Islamic Calendar|
|8 December||Saint Clement of Ohrid Day||Св. Климент Охридски, Sv. Kliment Ohridski|
Besides these, there are several major religious & minorities holidays. (See:Public holidays in the Republic of Macedonia)
Macedonian cuisine is a representative of the cuisine of the Balkans—reflecting Mediterranean (Greek and Turkish) and Middle Eastern influences, and to a lesser extent Italian, German and Eastern European (especially Hungarian) ones. The relatively warm climate in Macedonia provides excellent growth conditions for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits. Thus, Macedonian cuisine is particularly diverse.
Famous for its rich Šopska salad, an appetizer and side dish which accompanies almost every meal, Macedonian cuisine is also noted for the diversity and quality of its dairy products, wines, and local alcoholic beverages, such as rakija. Tavče Gravče and mastika are considered the national dish and drink of the Republic of Macedonia, respectively.
Football is the most popular sport in Macedonia. Macedonia national football team is the national football team of Macedonia and is controlled by the Football Federation of Macedonia. The home stadium of the National team is the Philip II Arena. Apart from football, handball is the most important team sport in the country. 2002 Kometal Skopje won the European Cup EHF Women's Champions League. The European Women's Handball Championship took place in 2008 in Macedonia. The venues in which the tournament took place were located in Skopje and Ohrid. The Macedonian women's national handball team arrived here a seventh place. The Macedonian national basketball team represents the Republic of Macedonia in international basketball. The Macedonian national basketball team is run by the Basketball Federation of Macedonia, the governing body of basketball in Macedonia which was created in 1992 and joined FIBA in 1993. Macedonia has participated in three Eurobaskets since then with its best finish at 4th place in 2011. It plays its home games at the Boris Trajkovski Arena in Skopje. In the summer months The Ohrid Swimming Marathon is an annual event on Lake Ohrid and during the winter months there is skiing in Macedonia's winter sports centres. Macedonia also takes part in the Olympic Games. Participation in the Games is organized by the Macedonian Olympic Committee.
|Institute for Economics and Peace||Global Peace Index||78 out of 144|
|Reporters Without Borders||Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2009||94 out of 175|
|The Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal||Index of Economic Freedom 2010||56 out of 179|
|Transparency International||Corruption Perceptions Index 2009||69 out of 180|
|United Nations Development Programme||Human Development Index 2009||72 out of 182|
^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Serbia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. The latter declared independence on 17 February 2008, while Serbia claims it as part of its own sovereign territory. Its independence is recognised by 94 out of 193 UN member states.
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