Macedonian Makedonija, officially Republic of Macedonia, Macedonian
Country, Balkan Peninsula, southeastern Europe.
Area: 9,928 sq mi (25,713 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 2,034,000.
Capital: Skopje. About two-thirds of the population are Macedonians, and
about one-fourth are Albanians. Languages: Macedonian, Albanian.
Religions: Christianity (predominantly Eastern Orthodox; also Roman
Catholic), Islam. Currency: denar. Located on a high plateau studded
with mountains, Macedonia is one of the poorest countries in Europe.
Although its importance has diminished recently, agriculture remains
central to the economy, with tobacco, fruit, vegetables, and wine
notable. Sheepherding is also significant. The manufacturing base
includes iron and steel, textiles, and chemicals and chemical products.
Macedonia is a republic with one legislative house; its head of state is
the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. The
Macedonian region has been inhabited since before 7000 bc. Under Roman
rule, part of the region was incorporated into the province of Moesia in
ad 29. It was settled by Slavic tribes by the mid-6th century and was
Christianized during the 9th century. Seized by the Bulgarians in 1185,
it was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from 1371 to 1912. The north and
centre of the region were annexed by Serbia in 1913 and became part of
the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia) in 1918.
When Yugoslavia was partitioned by the Axis Powers in 1941, Yugoslav
Macedonia was occupied principally by Bulgaria. Macedonia once again
became a republic of Yugoslavia in 1946. After Croatia and Slovenia
seceded from Yugoslavia, fear of Serbian dominance prompted Macedonia to
declare its independence in 1991. In deference to Greece, which also has
an area traditionally known as Macedonia, the country joined the United
Nations in 1993 under the name The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
and normalized relations with Greece in 1995. Ethnic strife has
periodically endangered national stability—e.g., in 2001, when
pro-Albanian rebel forces in the north, near the Kosovo border, led
guerrilla attacks on government forces.
Official name1 Republika Makedonija (Macedonian); Republika e
Maqedonisë (Albanian) (Republic of Macedonia)
Form of government unitary multiparty republic with a unicameral
legislature (Assembly )
Head of state President
Head of government Prime Minister
Official languages Macedonian; Albanian
Official religion none
Monetary unit denar (MKD)
Population estimate (2008) 2,039,000
Total area (sq mi) 9,928
Total area (sq km) 25,713
1Member of the United Nations under the name The Former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Macedonian Makedonija, officially Republic of Macedonia, Macedonian
country of the southern Balkans. It is bordered to the north by
Kosovo and Serbia, to the east by Bulgaria, to the south by Greece, and
to the west by Albania. The capital is Skopje.
The republic is located on the part of the southern Balkan Peninsula
traditionally known as Macedonia, which is bounded to the south by the
Aegean Sea and the Aliákmon River; to the west by Lakes Prespa and
Ohrid, the watershed west of the Crni Drim River, and the Šar Mountains;
and to the north by the mountains of the Skopska Crna Gora and the
watershed between the Morava and Vardar river basins. The Pirin
Mountains mark its eastern edge. Since 1913 this geographic and
historical region has been divided among several countries, and only
about two-fifths of its area is occupied by the independent state that
calls itself Macedonia. In this article, the name Macedonia refers to
the present-day state when discussing geography and history since 1913
and to the larger region as described above when used in earlier
Macedonia owes its importance neither to its size nor to its
population but rather to its location across a major junction of
communication routes—in particular, the great north-south route from the
Danube River to the Aegean formed by the valleys of the Morava and
Vardar rivers and the ancient east-west trade routes connecting the
Black Sea and Istanbul with the Adriatic Sea. Although the majority of
the republic’s inhabitants are of Slavic descent and heirs to the
Eastern Orthodox tradition of Christianity, 500 years of incorporation
into the Ottoman Empire have left substantial numbers of other ethnic
groups, including Albanians and Turks. Consequently, Macedonia forms a
complex border zone between major cultural traditions of Europe and
Ottoman control was brought to an end by the Balkan Wars (1912–13),
after which Macedonia was divided among Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia.
Following World War I, the Serbian segment was incorporated into the
Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (renamed Yugoslavia in 1929).
After World War II, the Serbian part of Macedonia became a constituent
republic within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The
collapse of this federation in turn led the Yugoslav republic of
Macedonia to declare its independence on December 19, 1991. Greece
subsequently voiced concerns over the use of the name Macedonia, and the
new republic joined the United Nations under the name The Former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Geologically, Macedonia consists mainly of heavily folded ancient
metamorphic rocks, which in the west have been eroded to reveal older
granites. In the central region are found sedimentary deposits of more
recent age. Traversing the country from north to south is a series of
active fault lines, along which earthquakes frequently occur. The most
severe of these in recent history was a shock of magnitude 9 on the
Richter scale at Debar in 1967. Skopje was largely destroyed by an
earthquake in 1963.
The mobility of the Earth’s crust has also created two tectonic
lakes, Prespa and Ohrid, in the southwest and has resulted in the
formation of several mineral and hot springs.
Macedonia is largely mountainous, with many peaks rising above the
treeline at 6,600 feet (2,000 metres) above sea level. The highest
elevation is at Mount Korab (9,030 feet, or 2,752 metres), on the
Albanian border. Near the Šar Mountains in the northwest, the country is
covered with forest. Where this has been cleared (and often in the past
overgrazed), the thin skeletal soils have been subjected to dramatic
erosion and gullying. There are also several broad and fertile valleys
that provide good potential for agriculture.
The greater part of Macedonia (87 percent of its area) drains
southeastward into the Aegean Sea, via the Vardar River and its
tributaries. Smaller parts of this basin drain into Lake Doiran
(Macedonian: Dojran) and into the Aegean via the Strumica and Struma
rivers. The remaining 13 percent of Macedonian territory drains
northward via the Crni Drim River toward the Adriatic.
The convoluted and fractured geology of the area imposes upon many of
these rivers erratic courses that frequently drive through narrow and
sometimes spectacular gorges. Such formations facilitate the damming of
rivers for electric power generation.
Macedonia stands at the junction of two main climatic zones, the
Mediterranean and the continental. Periodically, air breaks through
mountain barriers to the north and south, bringing dramatically
contrasting weather patterns; one example is the cold northerly wind
known as the vardarac. Overall there is a moderate continental climate:
temperatures average 32° F (0° C) in January and rise to 68°–77° F
(20°–25° C) in July. Annual precipitation is relatively light, between
20 and 28 inches (500 and 700 millimetres). Rainfalls of less than 1
inch in the driest months (July–August) rise to nearly 4 inches in
Because of differences in local aspect and relief, there may be
considerable variation in the climate, with the eastern areas tending to
have milder winters and hotter, drier summers and the western (more
mountainous) regions having more severe winters.
Plant and animal life
The mountainous northwestern parts of Macedonia support large areas
of forest vegetation. On the lower slopes this is principally deciduous
woodland, but conifers grow at elevations as high as 6,600 feet. Some
areas of forest have been cleared to provide rough summer pasture. The
forests support a variety of wildlife, including wild pigs, wolves,
bears, and lynx. The dry and warm summers result in a rich insect life,
with species of grasshopper much in evidence, along with numerous small
Successive waves of migration, as well as economic and political
modernization, have left their mark in a diversity of settlement
patterns. The highlands are still tended by shepherds living in remote
hamlets and mountain refuges. Throughout the agricultural areas, farmers
live as they have for centuries in nucleated villages. Several small
market towns are of great antiquity. In Roman times Bitola was a
commercial centre known as Heraclea Lyncestis. Ohrid became a major
administrative and ecclesiastical centre in the early Middle Ages. The
coming of the Turks in the 14th century promoted the growth of Skopje as
a governmental and military centre and created large agrarian estates,
which were later socialized by the communists and given over to
extensive mechanized cultivation. This latter process has been
responsible for the growth, since 1945, of Kavardarci and Veles.
Industrialization in the second half of the 20th century had a
dramatic impact upon population distribution. The population of Skopje
has been boosted to roughly one-quarter of the population of the
republic, its attractiveness as a pole for migration having been
enhanced both by its location across a transcontinental transportation
route and by its status as the republican capital. Acting as reasonably
effective counterforces to the pull of Skopje are the growth of tourism
around Ohrid and high rates of natural increase among Albanians in the
northwest. Depopulation of the countryside has been particularly marked
east of the Vardar, owing to tardy economic development.
Ethnicity and language
Macedonia has inherited a complex ethnic structure. The largest
group, calling themselves Macedonians (about two-thirds of the
population), are descendants of Slavic tribes that moved into the region
between the 6th and 8th centuries ad. Their language is very closely
related to Bulgarian and is written in the Cyrillic script. Among the
Macedonians, however, are significant minorities of much older settlers.
The most numerous of these (more than one-fifth of the population) are
the Albanians, who claim to be descendants of the ancient Illyrians.
They are concentrated in the northwest, along the borders with Albania
and Kosovo. Albanians form majorities in at least 3 of Macedonia’s 32
municipalities (especially Tetovo and Gostivar) and very significant
minorities in 7 others. Another vestige of old settlement is the Vlachs,
who speak a language closely related to Romanian. The majority of the
Vlachs in the republic live in the old mountain city of Kruševo. The
Turkish minority are mostly scattered across central and western
Macedonia; they are a legacy of the 500-year rule of the Ottoman Empire.
Also associated with this period are Roma (Gypsies) and people who
report their ethnicity as Muslim.
In language, religion, and history, a case could be made for
identifying Macedonian Slavs with Bulgarians and to a lesser extent with
Serbs. Both have had their periods of influence in the region
(especially Serbia after 1918); consequently, there are still
communities of Serbs (especially in Kumanovo and Skopje) and Bulgarians.
The issue of ethnicity is made particularly sensitive by its
tendency to coincide with religious allegiance. The various Slavic
groups are usually Orthodox Christians, whereas Turks and the great
majority of both Albanians and Roma are Muslims. Altogether, more than
one-quarter of the population are of the Islāmic faith.
Historically, the Balkans experienced high rates of natural increase
that declined remarkably in the 20th century in response to
industrialization and urbanization. In Macedonia these processes have
involved the Slavic Christian population to a much greater extent than
the Muslims. Among rural Muslims rates of increase have remained very
high: in the case of Turks and Muslim Slavs they are 2.5 times those of
the Macedonian majority, and among Albanians and Roma they are 3 times
as high. These differentials have been a source of political tension,
although to a lesser extent than they have been in, for example, Kosovo.
Nevertheless, the collapse of the Yugoslav federation in 1991 brought
severe economic and political strains that made ethnicity and religion
subjects of growing anxiety in Macedonia.
Along with the rest of the Balkan Peninsula, Macedonia underwent an
impressive economic transformation after 1945—in this case within the
framework provided by Yugoslavia’s system of “socialist
self-management.” Even so, Macedonia remained the poorest of the
Yugoslav republics and was included throughout the communist period in
the list of regions that merited economic aid from wealthier parts of
the federation. While this status undoubtedly brought much investment,
several projects were located without adequate attention to the supply
of materials or access to markets. A prime example was the choice of
Skopje as the site for a steel industry. Within the Yugoslav framework,
Macedonia built up important capacities in the production of sheet and
strip metal, ferrous alloys, zinc, lead, and copper. Textile fibres and
finished textiles, pharmaceuticals, and construction materials were
among the most successful products of manufacturing industries.
Meanwhile, agriculture remained central to the Macedonian economy,
especially the production of tobacco, rice, fruit, vegetables, and wine.
Tourism became a significant feature during the 1980s.
The private sector
Although socialized production dominated industrial and commercial
life after the communists’ rise to power in 1945, the private sector
remained important in agriculture, craft production, and retail trade.
Seventy percent of agricultural land was held privately, accounting for
50 percent of output. However, privately owned enterprises were
typically traditionalist in structure and outlook, and, even after the
liberalization of the communist system in 1991, they were unable to
develop a dynamic economic role.
Following the onset of the Yugoslav civil war in 1991, the economic
position of Macedonia became very precarious. The republic had
previously depended heavily on Yugoslav rather than foreign markets, and
its participation in Yugoslavia’s export trade was heavily skewed toward
the countries of the former Soviet bloc, which were concurrently
undergoing economic crisis. United Nations sanctions against Serbia
added to these difficulties by throttling the transport of goods through
Macedonia. Also, an acrimonious dispute with Greece over the name of the
republic frustrated Macedonia’s quest for international recognition,
thereby deterring foreign investment and delaying economic reform.
The location of the republic across the Morava-Vardar route from
Belgrade, Serbia, to Thessaloníki, Greece, has endowed it with
reasonably modern road and rail links on a northwest-southeast axis.
However, the historic rail link with Greece through Bitola and other
branch lines are much in need of modernization. Essentially, national
infrastructure needs have been met only where these coincide with
international requirements. For this reason, communications are
particularly poor in the east, which conducts little trade with the
outside. The development of tourism in the Mavrovo-Ohrid area has
ensured new road building in the west, and an airport at Ohrid
supplements facilities at Skopje.
Administration and social conditions
The constitution of 1991 established a republican assembly (called
the Sobranie) consisting of a single chamber of 120 seats competed for
in multiparty elections. There is an explicit separation of powers
between the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive: the prime
minister and cabinet ministers, for example, do not have seats in the
assembly. The executive, under the prime minister, is the most powerful
branch, with the legislature and judiciary acting principally as checks
and balances to the government’s activity. Whereas deputies are elected
by a majority of those voting, the constitution insists that the
president be elected by a majority of those on the electoral register.
The presidency resembles the German rather than the French institution,
the president serving principally as a symbolic head of state.
The republic is divided into 32 opštine (municipalities) to which are
delegated many important social, judicial, and economic functions.
Primary education is universal and compulsory for eight years from
the age of seven. It may be conducted in languages other than Macedonian
where there are large local majorities of other ethnic groups. A further
four years of secondary education are available on a voluntary basis in
specialized schools, which often represent the particular economic
strengths or needs of a locality. There is a single university, in
Skopje, with satellite facilities in other cities.
Great effort has been invested in the support of Macedonian language
and culture, not only through education but also through the theatre and
other arts as well as the media of mass communication. The republic has
its own radio and television service. The small population and the
poverty of the republic make it difficult to sustain diversity in the
field of culture, and the majority of cultural institutions (with the
exception of those intended for ethnic minorities) are located in
Skopje. Macedonia has made its mark on the international cultural scene
with some conspicuous successes, especially the Struga poetry festival
and the plays of Goran Stefanovski.
As described in this article’s introduction, the name Macedonia
is applied both to a region encompassing the present-day Republic of
Macedonia and portions of Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece and to the
republic itself, the boundaries of which have been defined since 1913.
In the following discussion, Macedonia is used generally to describe the
larger region prior to 1913 and the area of the present-day republic
The ancient world
The Macedonian region has been the site of human habitation for
millennia. There is archaeological evidence that the Old European
civilization flourished there between 7000 and 3500 bc. Seminomadic
peoples speaking languages of the Indo-European family then moved into
the Balkan Peninsula. During the 1st millennium bc the Macedonian region
was populated by a mixture of peoples—Dacians, Thracians, Illyrians,
Celts, and Greeks. Although Macedonia is most closely identified
historically with the kingdom of Philip II of Macedon in the middle of
the 4th century bc and the subsequent expansion of that empire by his
son Alexander III (the Great), none of the states established in that
era was very durable; until the arrival of the Romans, the pattern of
politics was a shifting succession of contending city-states and
chiefdoms that occasionally integrated into ephemeral empires.
Nevertheless, this period is important in understanding the present-day
region, as both Greeks and Albanians base their claims to be indigenous
inhabitants of it on the achievements of the Macedonian and Illyrian
At the end of the 3rd century bc, the Romans began to expand into the
Balkan Peninsula in search of metal ores, slaves, and agricultural
produce. The Illyrians were finally subdued in ad 9 (their lands
becoming the province of Illyricum), and the north and east of Macedonia
were incorporated into the province of Moesia in ad 29. A substantial
number of sites bear witness today to the power of Rome, especially
Heraclea Lyncestis (modern Bitola) and Stobi (south of Veles on the
Vardar River). The name Skopje is Roman in origin (Scupi). Many roads
still follow courses laid down by the Romans.
Beginning in the 3rd century, the defenses of the Roman Empire in the
Balkans were probed by Goths, Huns, Bulgars, Avars, and other
seminomadic peoples. Although the region was nominally a part of the
Eastern Empire, control from Constantinople became more and more
intermittent. By the mid-6th century, Slavic tribes had begun to settle
in Macedonia, and, from the 7th to the 13th century, the entire region
was little more than a system of military marches governed uneasily by
the Byzantine state through alliances with local princes.
The medieval states
In that period the foundations were laid for modern competing
claims for control over Macedonia. During the 9th century the Eastern
tradition of Christianity was consolidated in the area. The mission to
the Slavs has come to be associated with Saints Cyril and Methodius,
whose great achievement was the devising of an alphabet based on Greek
letters and adapted to the phonetic peculiarities of the Slavonic
tongue. In its later development as the Cyrillic alphabet, this came to
be a distinctive cultural feature uniting several of the Slavic peoples.
Although the central purpose of the missionaries was to preach the
Gospel to the Slavs in the vernacular, their ecclesiastical connection
with the Greek culture of Constantinople remained a powerful lever to be
worked vigorously during the struggle for Macedonia in the 19th century.
The people who form the majority of the inhabitants of the contemporary
Macedonian republic are clearly not Greeks but Slavs. However, this
ecclesiastical tradition, taken together with the long period during
which the region was associated with the Greek-speaking Byzantine state,
and above all the brief ascendancy of the Macedonian empire (c. 359–321
bc) continue to provide Greeks with a sense that Macedonia is Greek.
Yet, although the inhabitants of the present-day republic are Slavs,
it remains to be determined what kind of Slavs they are. Among the
short-lived states jostling for position with Byzantium were two that
modern Bulgarians claim give them a special stake in Macedonia. Under
the reign of Simeon I (893–927), Bulgaria emerged briefly as the
dominant power in the peninsula, extending its control from the Black
Sea to the Adriatic. Following a revolt of the western provinces, this
first Bulgarian empire fell apart, but it was partially reintegrated by
Samuel (reigned 976–1014), who set up his own capital in Ohrid (not the
traditional Bulgarian capital of Preslav [now known as Veliki Preslav])
and also established a patriarchate there. Although the Byzantine state
reasserted its authority after 1018, a second Bulgarian empire raised
its head in 1185; this included northern and central Macedonia and
lasted until the mid-14th century.
Possible links between Macedonians and Bulgars during the seminomadic
period of the arrival of the Slav peoples in the Balkans are unclear and
probably impossible to determine. Modern Bulgarians have based their
claims to the historical unity of the two peoples principally on two
considerations. First, they emphasize the lack of clear distinctions
between early variants of the old Slavonic languages, explaining later
developments that were peculiar to the Macedonian tongue as reflecting
subsequent Serbianization. Consequently, Macedonian is interpreted as a
dialect of Bulgarian. Bulgarians also point out that, throughout the
rise and fall of the early Bulgarian empires, control over a great part
of Macedonia was a common factor. A supplementary but important point is
the continuing role of Ohrid as a symbolic centre of ecclesiastical life
for both peoples.
During the second half of the 12th century, a more significant rival
to Byzantine power in the Balkans emerged in the Serbian Nemanjić
dynasty. Stefan Nemanja became veliki župan, or “grand chieftain,” of
Raška in 1169, and his successors created a state that, under Stefan
Dušan (reigned 1331–55), incorporated Thessaly, Epirus, Macedonia, all
of modern Albania and Montenegro, a substantial part of Bosnia, and
Serbia as far north as the Danube. Although the cultural heart of the
empire was Raška (the area around modern Novi Pazar) and Kosovo, as the
large number of medieval Orthodox churches in those regions bear
witness, Dušan was crowned emperor in Skopje in 1346. Within half a
century after his death, the Nemanjić state was eclipsed by the
expanding Ottoman Empire; nevertheless, it is to this golden age that
Serbs today trace their own claims to Macedonia.
The Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire originated in a small emirate established in
the second half of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia. By 1354 it
had gained a toehold in Europe, and by 1362 Adrianopole (modern Edirne,
Turkey) had fallen. From this base the power of this Turkic-speaking and
Islamic state steadily expanded. From a military point of view, the most
significant defeat of the Serbian states took place in the Battle of the
Maritsa River at Chernomen in 1371, but it is the defeat in 1389 of a
combined army of Serbs, Albanians, and Hungarians under Lazar at Kosovo
Polje that has been preserved in legend as symbolizing the subordination
of the Balkan Slavs to the “Ottoman yoke.” Constantinople itself did not
fall to the Turks until 1453; but by the end of the 14th century the
Macedonian region had been incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. Thus
began what was in many respects the most stable period of Macedonian
history, lasting until the Turks were ejected from the region in 1913.
Half a millennium of contact with Turkey had a profound impact on
language, food habits, and many aspects of daily living in Macedonia.
Within the empire, administrators, soldiers, merchants, and artisans
moved in pursuit of their professions. Where war, famine, or disease
left regions underpopulated, settlers were moved in from elsewhere with
no regard for any link between ethnicity and territory. By the system
known as devşirme (the notorious “blood tax”), numbers of Christian
children were periodically recruited into the Turkish army and
administration, where they were Islamized and assigned to wherever their
services were required. For all these reasons many Balkan towns acquired
a cosmopolitan atmosphere. This was particularly the case in Macedonia
during the 19th century, when, as the Serbian, Greek, and Bulgarian
states began to assert their independence, many who had become
associated with Turkish rule moved into lands still held by the Sublime
Porte. Whatever distinctive characteristics Macedonians may or may not
have had before the coming of the Turks, it is undoubtedly the case
that, by the outbreak of the Balkan Wars, they (along with the Muslims
of Bosnia) were the European people most closely tied to Ottoman
The economic legacy of Turkish rule is also important. During the
expansionist phase of the empire, Turkish feudalism consisted
principally of the timar system of “tax farming,” whereby local
officeholders raised revenue or supported troops in the sultan’s name
but were not landowners. As the distinctively military aspects of the
Ottoman order declined after the 18th century, these privileges were
gradually transformed in some areas into the çiftlik system, which more
closely resembled proprietorship over land. This process involved the
severing of the peasantry from their traditional rights on the land and
a corresponding creation of large estates farmed on a commercial basis.
The çiftlik thus yielded the paradox of a population that was heavily
influenced by Ottoman culture yet bound into an increasingly oppressive
economic subordination to Turkish landlords.
The independence movement
Conflict and confusion deepened in Macedonia in the closing
decades of the 19th century. As the Turkish empire decayed, Serbia,
Greece, and Bulgaria all looked to benefit territorially from the
approaching carve-up of Macedonia. At the same time, these indigenous
states all became in different ways stalking horses for the aspirations
of the European Great Powers. The weapons employed in this conflict
ranged widely; they included opening schools in an attempt to inculcate
a particular linguistic and confessional identity, controlling
ecclesiastical office, exerting influence over the course of railway
building, diplomatic attempts to secure the ear of the Sublime Porte,
and even financing guerrilla bands.
Partly in response to the intensity of these campaigns of pressure
and even terror, a movement called the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary
Organization (IMRO) was founded in 1893, at Resana (Resen) near Ohrid.
The aim of IMRO was “Macedonia for the Macedonians,” and on August 2
(July 20, Old Style), 1903, it raised the banner of revolt against the
Turks at Kruševo and declared Macedonian independence. The Ilinden, or
St. Elijah’s Day, Uprising was brutally crushed, but the Macedonian
Question thereafter aroused intense international concern. The Great
Powers made several attempts to impose reform on the Porte, including
sending their own officers to supervise the gendarmerie—in effect, the
first international peacekeeping force.
War and partition
In spite of their conflicting interests, Serbia, Montenegro,
Greece, and Bulgaria in 1912 concluded a series of secret bilateral
treaties that had as their explicit intention ejecting the Turks from
Europe. They took advantage of an uprising by the Albanian population to
intervene in October 1912 and, following their defeat of the sultan’s
armies, partitioned the remaining Turkish possessions (including
Macedonia) among them. The Treaty of London (May 1913), which concluded
this First Balkan War, left Bulgaria dissatisfied; but, after that
country’s attempt to enforce a new partition in a Second Balkan War, the
Treaty of Bucharest (August 1913) confirmed a pattern of boundaries that
(with small variations) has remained in force ever since. Although the
region was again engulfed in war in 1914 and Bulgaria occupied large
parts of Macedonia, the partition of 1913 was reconfirmed at the end of
World War I in 1918.
During the interwar years, intensive campaigning took place in all
areas of Macedonia to impose identities on the population that suited
the interests of the controlling states. In an attempt to secure its
status as South Serbia, “Vardar Macedonia” was subjected to an active
colonization program under land-reform legislation. Following the
forcible ejection of Greeks from Turkey during the 1920s, thousands of
Greek settlers were given land in “Aegean Macedonia.” Both Serbia and
Greece took advantage of the displacement by war or expulsion of many
former Turkish landowners.
During that period a link was consolidated between politicized
agricultural labourers (especially tobacco workers) on the large
Macedonian estates and the nascent Communist Party—a link that survived
the proscription of the party in Yugoslavia after 1921. Partly because
of its communist associations, the movement for Macedonian independence
was then sustained largely underground until the outbreak of World War
When war overtook the Balkans again in 1941, the kingdom of
Yugoslavia was again divided, this time between the Axis powers and
their allies. Yugoslav Macedonia was occupied principally by Bulgaria,
the western part being joined to a united Albania under Italian control.
The ethnic complexity of the region, together with its history of
division and manipulation by outsiders, left the local population
demoralized and confused. The need to reconcile communist
internationalism with the desire for national self-determination posed
problems of extreme political sensitivity for resistance groups. In 1945
the area was reincorporated into Yugoslavia, this time under communist
control. In an attempt to correct the mistakes of the first Yugoslavia,
in which a heavily centralized regime had been dominated by the Serbian
dynasty, administration, and armed forces, the second Yugoslavia was
organized as a federation, and Macedonia was established as one of its
six constituent republics.
The consolidation of communist control after the expulsion of the
Axis powers was relatively rapid and effective in Yugoslavia. In Greece,
however, civil war between communist and royalist forces lasted until
1949, when, under international pressure, Yugoslavia agreed to end
support for the Greek guerrillas. Because of the close links between
communism and ethnic Macedonians living in Greece, many Macedonian Slavs
then migrated from there and settled in the new Macedonian republic.
The autonomy of the republic was perhaps more cosmetic than real,
although great efforts were made to boost a sense of cultural identity
among Macedonians. A Macedonian language was codified and disseminated
through education (including the first Macedonian university), the media
of communication, and the arts. An important symbol of the independence
of the Macedonian republic was the creation of an autocephalous
Macedonian Orthodox church. Since the 1890s a great deal of
dissatisfaction had been expressed in Macedonia with the unsympathetic
attitude of the Serbian church, with which Orthodox Macedonians had long
been affiliated. There is little doubt, however, that autocephalous
status would never have been achieved without the vigorous support of
the League of Communists of Yugoslavia. The archbishopric of Ohrid was
restored in 1958, and autocephaly was declared in 1967. Although
national churches are typical in the Orthodox communion, in the case of
the Macedonians it became the root of a great deal of hostility on the
part of neighbouring Orthodox peoples.
Macedonia’s economic development lagged behind that of the
more-developed republics throughout the communist period, yet
Macedonians remained among the most loyal supporters of the Yugoslav
federation, which seemed to offer their best guarantee against claims on
their territory by other countries and against secessionist sentiments
on the part of internal minorities. This loyalty survived the strain
both of the suppression of liberal Marxism and of disputes over
republican autonomy between 1968 and 1974. Macedonian politicians
persistently sought to broker solutions to the final constitutional
crisis and to the breakup of the League of Communists and the Yugoslav
federation itself after 1989.
Although the first multiparty elections, held in November and
December 1990, brought to prominence a nationalist party (also calling
itself IMRO), it was only with great reluctance that the independence of
Macedonia was declared one year later. Greece immediately objected to
the name of the new republic, insisting that “Macedonia” had been used
by Greeks since ancient times and that its appropriation indicated a
revival of claims on Greek Macedonia. The Macedonian republic argued in
turn that Slavs had lived in the area for 14 centuries and had used the
name Macedonia for hundreds of years. As a compromise, Macedonia joined
the United Nations in 1993 under the name The Former Yugoslav Republic
of Macedonia. Further international recognition followed, though the
name remained contentious into the 21st century. After independence,
political life became a matter of delicately balancing the demands of
social-democratic parties (former communists), Macedonian nationalists,
and ethnic minorities (principally Albanians). Ethnic tensions
periodically erupted into violence, notably in 2001, when ethnic
Albanians mounted a major armed insurgency that was finally diffused
after outside mediators brokered peace talks. In addition, NATO deployed
a peacekeeping force in the country for some 18 months.