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The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia


Macedonian Makedonija, officially Republic of Macedonia, Macedonian Republika Makedonija
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 [120])
Head of state President
Head of government Prime Minister
Capital Skopje
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 Republika Makedonija

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 historical contexts.

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 Asia.

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.

The land
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 October–November.

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 lizards.

Settlement patterns
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.

The people
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.

Demographic trends
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.

The economy
Socialist development
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
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.

Cultural life
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 thereafter.

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 states.

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 culture.

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 II.

The republic
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.



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