Republic of Macedonia
- Population 2.1 million
- Area 25,713 sq km (9,928 sq miles)
- Major languages Macedonian, Albanian
- Major religions Christianity, Islam
- Life expectancy 73 years (men), 77 years (women)
- Currency denar
President: Gjorge Ivanov
Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Professor Gjorgje Ivanov was sworn in as Macedonia’s fourth democratically-elected president on 12 May 2009. He was re-elected in April 2014.
Prime minister: Zoran Zaev
Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Social Democrat party leader Zoran Zaev and his coalition partners representing Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian minority were approved by parliament in May 2017.
SOME KEY DATES IN THE MACEDONIA’S HISTORY
1913 – Ottoman rule in Europe ends after five centuries. Macedonia is partitioned between Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. What is now FYROM is incorporated into Serbia.
1914 – First World War. Macedonia is occupied by Bulgaria.
1918-19 – Macedonia becomes part of Serbia again. The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes is founded, and is renamed Yugoslavia in 1929.
1945 – Establishment of Yugoslav socialist federation, comprising six republics, including Macedonia, with Tito as president.
1980 – Death of Tito, rise of nationalism among federation’s constituent republics.
1991 – Declaration of independence. International recognition is slow because Greece objects to the use of the name Macedonia, the same as one of its own provinces.
2001 – Uprising by ethnic Albanians. Rebel militia engages in skirmishes which bring country to brink of civil war. Peace deal involves greater recognition of ethnic Albanian rights in exchange for rebel pledge to lay down arms.
The flag consists of a gold sun with eight rays on a red field.
LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
Macedonia is a landlocked nation located in southeastern Europe. Macedonia has a total area of 25,333 sq km. Macedonia’s capital city, Skopje, is located in the northwestern part of the country.
Macedonia’s climate features hot summers and cold winters. Fall tends to be dry in the country.
FLORA AND FAUNA
The terrain of Macedonia is rather hilly. Between the hills are deep basins and valleys, populated by European bison, fox, rabbits, brown bears, and deer. Pine trees are common in the higher mountain regions while beech and oak cover some of the lower mountain regions. The Macedonian pine is an ancient native species found most prominently on Mount Pelister near the south-west border. Ducks, turtles, frogs, raccoons, and muskrats inhabit the country’s waterways.
The population of Macedonia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 2,039,000, which placed it at number 139 in population among the 193 nations of the world.
According to the 2002 census, Macedonians comprise about 64.2% of the population. Another 25.2% are ethnic Albanians, mostly living in the west, particularly the northwest. Other groups include Turks (3.9%), Roma (2.7%), Serbs (1.8%), and others (including Bosniaks and Vlachs, 2.2%).
Macedonian is a southern Slavic tongue that was not officially recognized until 1944, and is the primary language of 66.5% of the population.
About 66% of the population are nominally Macedonian Orthodox; another 30% are Muslim, 1% are Roman Catholic, and about 3% belong to various other faiths.
Kiro Gligorov (b.1917) was president of Macedonia from 1991 to 1999. Boris Trajkovski (1956–2004) was president from 1999 to 2004. Trajovski died in a plane crash and was succeeded by Branko Crvenkovski (b.1962).
Mother Teresa (Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, 1910–1997) was from Skopje but left at age 17 to join a convent in Calcutta, India. In 1948, Mother Teresa left the convent to found the Missionaries of Charity. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
Phillip II (382 bc–336 bc) was the father of Alexander the Great. During Philip II’s reign of 359–336 bc, he established a federal system of Greek States.
Macedonian Alexander the Great (356 bc–323 bc) founded an enormous empire that extended from Greece to northern India. Cassandar (353 bc–297 bc) succeeded Alexander the Great, and was king of Macedonia between 316 bc and 297 bc. To consolidate his power, Cassandar murdered Alexander’s mother, widow, and son.
Philip V (237 bc–179 bc) warred against the Romans and tried to rebuild the kingdom.
Tavče gravče is prepared with fresh beans and it can be found in almost all restaurants in Macedonia. It is served in traditional earthenware.
Macedonian’s music has an exceptionally rich musical heritage. Their music has many things in common with the music of neighboring Balkan countries, but maintains its own distinctive sound.
Macedonian girls in traditional folk costumes.
Fresco – painting
Here are a few facts that you might not yet know about Macedonia, but that speak part of the interesting and mysterious character of this country.
1 – There are (supposed) parts of the cross on which Jesus was crucified in the foundations of the monasteries of St. Bogodorica Prechista in Kichevo, and St. Jovan Bigorski and St. Georgij Pobedonosec in Debar.
2 – According to NASA, Kokino is the fourth oldest astronomic observatory in the world; with the oldest three being Abu Simbel, Egypt; Stonehenge, Great Britain; and Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Kokino is located approximately 30 km from the town of Kumanovo, and about 6 km from the Serbian border.
3 – Ohrid Lake is the oldest and one of the deepest lakes in Europe (max depth 288m or 940ft). It is estimated 4 million years old and has 200 endemic species that haven’t been found at any other place in the world. It was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1979.
4 – Mother Theresa of Calcutta was born in Skopje, Macedonia. Even though she was born in Skopje, she was Albanian by ethnicity at the time of her birth in 1910. Today, you can see museum house dedicated to her in the center of the capital city of Skopje.
5 – Macedonia is the only country that got independence from Yugoslavia without shedding a single drop of blood. It remained entirely at peace at the heat of Yugoslav wars in early 1990s and got independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
6 – Another interesting feature about this country is that it has more number of mountains and mountain peaks than any other country in the world. The country has as many as 34 mountain peaks, each with a height of more than 2,000 meters above the sea-level; with Mount Golem Karb being the highest at 2,753 meters above sea-level. Most peaks in Macedonia have never been visited by people.
7 – The Cyrillic alphabet, official in Macedonia, is based on the alphabet developed in the 9th century by two Macedonian (Region) brothers – St Cyril (thus – Cyrillic) and St Methodius. It was taught by their disciples at a monastery in Ohrid, from whence it spread across the eastern Slavic world.
8 – The official name of Macedonia in the United Nations is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM. This is due to a long dispute the country has with Greece regarding their history as the former Kingdom of Macedonia. Even though they’re officially FYROM in the U.N, the government has persuaded more than 130 countries (135 at the time of publication), including the United States, to recognize it as the Republic of Macedonia.
9 – Skopje has suffered quite a few devastating earthquakes throughout history, the biggest ones in 518 and in 1963, leveling most of the city. In addition, the Austro-Hungarian General Piccolomini ordered the city burnt down in the 18th Century.
Alexander the Great statue
10 – Alexander the Great, who was king of the former Kingdom of Macedonia, was the first world-size conqueror who extended his empire across Greece and Persia to India and Egypt. During his time, the Kingdom of Macedonia was the most powerful state in the world; but after his death, the empire fell apart and it became the first Roman province in 146 B.C.
11 – Since becoming an independent nation in 1991, Macedonia has had two flags. Both its first flag and the current flag feature a yellow sun on a red background. The first version was based on a symbol found on ancient tombstones discovered in 1977 in the town of Vergina. However, Vergina is in Greek Macedonia and Greece decided to claim that they owned the copyright to use the symbol in order to force Macedonia to change its flag, Greece blocked trade with the Republic of Macedonia and forced the UN headquarters in New York to take down the Macedonian flag. As a compromise, and to restart trading with their Greek neighbours, Macedonia changed its flag to its current one from 1995.
12 – The country’s name derives from the ancient Greek Kingdom of Macedonia; which was named after the ancient Macedonians. Their name, Μακεδόνες (Makedónes), derives ultimately from the ancient Greek adjective μακεδνός (makednós), meaning “tall, taper”. 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.
13 – The cave Peshna in Makedonski Brod was described by New York Times as looking “exactly like Helm’s Deep from Lord of the Rings”.
Skopje at night, with the Millenium Cross in the background… up in the mountain.
14 – The Millennium Cross is a 66 metre-high cross situated on the top of the Vodno Mountain in Skopje, and it is the biggest cross in the world. It was constructed to serve as a memorial of 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world.
15 – Skopje, Macedonia’s capital city, has a population of just under 700,000 people, about a third of the country’s population.
16 – The building that houses the headquarters for Macedonian Television and Macedonion Radio, the MRT Center, is the tallest building in the country. It is 230 feet high (70 metres).
17 – Macedonia’s national football team was managed by the former Liverpool footballer John Toshack, who also previously managed Real Madrid and Wales. He led Macedonia for four games in 2012.
LANDSCAPE IN MACEDONIA / MILO VAN KOVACEVIC, FLICKR. CC BY 2.0
The diverse landscape of Macedonia contains varied landmarks. Most interesting ones are:
CHURCH OF ST. JOHN AT KANEO / NIKOLOVSKII, FLICKR, CC BY-SA 2.0
- Byzantine churches and monasteries – some of the most interesting landmarks in Macedonia are some old churches which contain valuable frescoes – possible predecessors of European Renaissance.
- Archaeological heritage – these landmarks are rather diverse and belong to various cultures. Intriguing are the discussions around the Kokino megaliths – possible ancient observatory.
STONE TOWN OF KUKLICA / LIDIADESIGN,WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CC BY-SA 3.0
- Devil’s Wall – Eastern. Weird formation – natural stone wall which looks as if it is manmade. This is a 12 m tall and some 2 m wide wall, made from giant stones. Some stones are up to 4 tonnes heavy.
- Matka Canyon – Skopje. Beautiful canyon with important natural and man-made values. Area is rich with endemic species of plants and animals, here are found some 10 caves. Among these caves is one of the world’s deepest underwater caves (Vrelo Cave) and also medieval cave monasteries with frescoes.
- Stone town of Kuklica – Northeastern. Group of interesting stone formations – tall stone pillars and walls. Site of legends.
- Peshna – Southwestern. This cave has enormous entrance room with approximately 30 m high ceiling. At the entrance of the cave are ruins of medieval fortifications. Site of legends.
- Slatinski Izvor – Southwestern. Longest known cave in Macedonia, more than 4 km long. The beautiful cave has formed in Precambrian rocks and is adorned with a wealth of stalactites, draperies and other speleothems.
- Vrelo Cave – Skopje. Interesting cave and spring with two lakes in it. Spring lake is very deep – it has been dived up to the depth of 212 m but it is possible that the cave is some 330 m deep – one of the deepest underwater caves in the world.
- Duvalo – Southwestern. Fumarole – small crater which emits carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Often the yellow deposits of sulphur are seen here – sulphur was mined here in the past.
- St. Naum Springs – Southwestern. Group of powerful springs – discharge of underground stream from the Prespa Lake. Average discharge of the spring is 5.5 m/s.
KORAB FALLS / МАКЕДОНЕЦ, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CC BY-SA 3.0
- Korab Falls – Polog. Seasonal waterfall with a single plunge. The estimated height is 100 – 138 m, this is the tallest plunge in Balkans.
- Smolare Falls – Southeastern. Gorgeous, 39.5 m tall waterfall which falls over a black rock.
LAKE OHRID NEAR TRPEJCA / SILFIRIEL,WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CC BY-SA 3.0
- Begovo Pole – Skopje. Karst field – large mountain meadow with rare plants. Only here is found Macedonian saffron (Colchicum macedonicum). Small streams, which flow through this meadow, disappear in sinkholes.
- Lake Ohrid – Southwestern and Albania, Korçë. Deepest lake in Balkans with unique fauna and flora – many species of fish, molluscs and other organisms are found only in this lake. Most likely the life in this lake has developed for millions of years with limited contacts to other aquatic ecosystems.
- Oriental plane in Ohrid – Southwestern. Enormous tree (Platanus orientalis) with a girth of 18.81 m and height – 18 m. Tree was planted in 868 AD.
MAN MADE LANDMARKS
KOKINO – POSSIBLE PREHISTORIC OBSERVATORY / MARTINDIMITRIEVSKI,WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CC BY-SA 3.0
- Heraclea Lyncestis – Pelagonia. Ruins of ancient Greek and Roman city. Founded in the middle of the 4th century BC. Impressive are the remnants of Roman theatre and basilicas with beautiful mosaics.
- Kokino – Northeastern. Unusual megalithic monument which was created in the Bronze Age. First traces of human occupation in this settlement are from the 19th century BC but most artefacts are from the 16th – 14th century. Site contains two stone platforms with so called „thrones”. This is considered to be an ancient observatory where 12 lunar years with 12 months in each are marked.
- Ohrid ancient theatre – Southwestern. Well preserved remains of a theatre built by Ancient Greeks around 200 BC. It was buried under the soil and accidentally discovered in the 1980ies.
- Stobi – Vardar. Ruins of ancient city which originally was founded by Paeonians, later capital of Roman province of Macedonia Salutaris. Contains remnants of many Roman structures – basilicas, palaces, baths, theater, synagogue.
- Ohrid Old Town – Southwestern. Picturesque town at Lake Ohrid with well preserved old street network and old houses. Most buildings were built in the 18th – 19th century.
REMNANTS OF OLD FORTRESS IN MARKOVI KULI / PRINCE ROY, FLICKR, CC BY 2.0
- Kale Fortress (Skopje Fortress) – Skopje. Massive fortress which rises on the hill above the city. First stone fortress was built here in the 6th century AD, current one – in the 10th – 11th centuries.
- Markovi Kuli – Pelagonia. Group of medieval towers (13th – 14th centuries) which are built on a beautiful natural formation – unusually shaped rocks of granite and gneiss. This cliff has been inhabited since the prehistoric times and in the 9th – 10th century AD here was one of the largest settlements of Slavs on the Balkan Peninsula in this time period.
CAVE CHURCH OF ST. ARCHANGEL MICHAEL IN RADOŽDA / ANITA PALCESKA,WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CC BY-SA 4.0
- Cave church of St. Archangel Michael in Radožda – Southwestern. This medieval cave church was built inside the cave and is adorned with frescoes. Most frescoes are made in the 14h century, one is older – from the 13th century. The older fresco – „Miracle of Hona” – shows innovative techniques for its time.
- Church of St. John at Kaneo – Southwestern. Medieval church in a beautiful setting – on a hill above Lake Ohrid. Architecture of the church is influenced by Armenian architecture, it was built before 1447.
- Gorno Nerezi St. Panteleimon church and mnastery – Skopje. Small church in Byzantine style, built in the 12th century and surrounded by old monastery buildings. Frescoes inside the church are outstanding examples of Comenian Age Byzantine art. Some art scientists consider that these paintings are early predecessors of Renaissance art.
- Kurbinovo Church of St.George – Pelagonia. Small, very old church, most likely built in 1191 in Byzantine style. Church contains beautiful frescoes which are some of the best examples of the Macedonian Renaissance – realistic style in art preceding the Italian Renaissance.
- Ohrid Saint Sophia Church – Southwestern. Very old church, possibly built in the 9th century. Very valuable are the beautiful Byzantine frescoes from the 11th, 12th and 13th century.
TRESKAVEC MONASTERY / MILO VAN KOVACEVIC, FLICKR, CC BY 2.0
- Lesnovo Monastery – Eastern. Well preserved medieval monastery which was founded in 1341. In the caves around the monastery are caves – medieval hermitages. Church is built in Byzantine style and has beautiful Byzantine frescoes. Other monastery buildings are from the early 19th century.
- Ohrid Saint Panteleimon monastery – Southwestern. Most sacred Christian site in the country. This monastery was established in the late 9th – early 10th century. This is the location where Glagolitic alphabet start to spread, here is also a unique collection of more than 800 medieval icons.
- Treskavec Monastery – Pelagonia. Historical monastery in mountains, founded in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 14th century in Byzantine style. Contains rich collection of Byzantine frescoes. Since the fire in 2011 it is in ruins.
SKOPJE AQUEDUCT / MARKOVSKAVESNICKA,FLICKR, CC BY-SA 2.0
OTHER MAN MADE LANDMARKS
- Arabati Baba Tekḱe – Polog. Best preserved Bektashi monastery in Europe, originally built in 1538. Now this is an extensive complex of buildings and gardens.
- Šarena Džamija – Polog. Ornate mosque, originally built in 1438. Site includes gardens and several more buildings. Facade of the structure is covered with paintings – floral pattern. Interior also is adorned with gaudy frescoes.
- Skopje Aqueduct – Skopje. 386 m long fragment (50 arches) of an impressive aqueduct which was in use until the 18th century. It is not known when it was built.