Macedonia lies in the western Balkans, bordering Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. Large lakes in the southwest attract tourists and provide fishing resources. 


Main languages: Macedonian, Albanian, Romani, Turkish, Serbian

Main religions: Eastern Orthodox Christianity (70%), Islam (mainly Sunni) (29%)

Main ethnic groups, according to the 2002 census, are Macedonians 1,297,981 (64%), Albanians 509,083 (25%), Turks 77,959 (3.9%) and Roma 53,879 (2.66%). Other estimates put the Roma population at 200,000 and Albanians comprising 30-35 per cent.

Macedonians are a Slavic people who speak Macedonian and are mainly Christian Orthodox.

Albanians are the largest minority group. They are mainly Muslim, speak Albanian, and live predominately in western Macedonia. Other minorities include Turks, Roma, Serbs and Vlachs.


In the Middle Ages, geographic Macedonia formed successively a part of the Bulgarian and Serbian empires, and its Slav-speaking population was converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. At the end of the fourteenth century, the region was over-run by the Turks and it remained a part of the Ottoman Empire until the eve of the First World War. Some Eastern Orthodox Slavs converted under Ottoman rule to Islam. During the period of Ottoman rule there was a substantial influx of Albanian-speakers, most of whom embraced Islam.

After the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, northern and central Macedonia were assigned to Serbia, southern Macedonia was apportioned to Greece, and the easternmost part of the region was given to Bulgaria. After the World War I, Bulgaria ceded an additional sliver of territory to the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (after 1929, Yugoslavia). During the inter-war period, the Yugoslav authorities denied the existence of a separate Macedonian identity and embarked upon a policy of assimilation. In 1943 the communist partisans, led by Josip Broz Tito, affirmed the existence of a Macedonian nation and, at the end of the war, Macedonians were given the status of nation and the Socialist Republic of Macedonia was established as one of the country's six republics along its pre-war borders within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY).

After 1945, a Macedonian alphabet, orthography and grammar were devised. A Macedonian Orthodox Church was established in 1967. Although denied recognition both by the Serbian Patriarch and by the wider Orthodox community, the Macedonian Church enjoys substantial support within Macedonia itself.

Ethnic Albanians, concentrated in Kosovo and Macedonia, were the largest nationality without the status of nation in the SFRY. Albanians in Macedonia had some provision to protect their identity through Albanian language education, media and cultural associations. However, Albanians demonstrated for more rights in the 1980s, which in turn met with a rise in Macedonian nationalism.

In 1989, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic took control of half of the seats in the SFRY's rotating presidency.  When Slovenia and Croatia declared independence, Macedonia (along with Bosnia and Hercegovina) faced a choice: remain in a rump federal Yugoslavia dominated by Milosevic, or also declare independence.  In 1991, nearly 70 per cent of Macedonians opted for independence in a referendum. As Belgrade went to war against Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina, Macedonia with its much smaller Serb minority, was spared. 

Ethnic tension between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians continued to be high and, in general, the two communities did not mix.  During the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo, tens of thousands of Kosovo Albanians streamed into Macedonia, and some Macedonian Albanians fought in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).  While Macedonia's Albanian community cared for many of the arrivals, ethnic Macedonians were wary.  Most of the refugees returned to Kosovo after NATO intervention there led to the withdrawal of Serbian forces in June 1999.  Radicalized by war and inspired by the eventual victory over Serbian forces, some Albanian extremists from both sides of the border formed the National Liberation Army and began the violent pursuit of Albanian separatism in Macedonia.  Exclusion of Albanians from many spheres of public life, and specifically the government's refusal to register the Albanian-language university of Tetovo, fuelled tensions. 

These culminated in open conflict in early 2001.  International officials exerted intense pressure to suppress the outbreak of violence.  NATO forces in Kosovo cracked down on militants along the border, a NATO monitoring mission in Macedonia was launched, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) announced that she had jurisdiction over war crimes committed during the conflict (and indeed, indicted a nationalist ethnic Macedonian interior minister), and the US and EU convened negotiations in the south-western town of Ohrid. The conflict ended with the August 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement, which increased Albanian representation and language rights.

Under pressure from Greece, international organizations including the United Nations and European Union have only recognized the Republic of Macedonia under the reference ‘former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' or ‘FYROM', out of concern that the country is usurping the cultural heritage of all historical Macedonia, including the Greek province of that name, and could even stake a territorial claim to Greek land.  Many countries have recognized the ‘Republic of Macedonia' as such, including all of the former Yugoslav republics, China, the UK, and the US.  The EU is divided, with Greece and Cyprus blocking recognition.


The Macedonian constitution includes the principle of equality and prohibits discrimination, including on the grounds of race and ethnic origin. There is no comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. A 2005 law on labour relations prohibits discrimination in employment, including on the basis of race and religion. A Law on Religious Communities and Religious Groups is currently being revised, but the proposals are problematic as they include recognition of one religious community per religious confession. Macedonia has ratified major international human rights treaties, including the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and they take precedence over national legislation.

The Ohrid Framework Agreement, which ended the armed conflict in 2001, provided for a range of legislative and policy measures to ensure equality and minority protection. As a result, constitutional changes were made and legislation introduced or amended. This package of decentralized power, gave official status to a minority language in areas where at least 20 per cent of the population speak it, adopted proportional representation, strengthened education in the Albanian language, and improved participation and employment of minority peoples in public life and state institutions. The Ohrid Framework Agreement led to the ‘double majority' rule, meaning that any parliamentary decisions affecting the rights of communities or local self-government must be passed both by a majority of all MPs and a majority of the total number of votes by MPs from the minority community. At the municipal level, Committees for Inter-ethnic Relations are being established in areas with more than 20 per cent minority population; if given a meaningful role, these could be an important mechanism for participation. A key problem with the Ohrid Framework Agreement is that it focuses on the ethnic Albanian and Macedonian communities, marginalizing smaller minority communities. Whilst comprehensive legislative changes have been made, implementation of the laws, policies and programmes has varied.

Macedonia is a parliamentary democracy, with a single chamber parliament. Participation of minorities, particularly of ethnic Albanians, in parliament and in state institutions has improved since the Ohrid Agreement. Since independence, Macedonia has been governed by multi-ethnic coalitions, with two main Albanian parties split between the governing coalition and opposition. Political life is dominated by ethnic Macedonians and Albanians, leaving out smaller communities. A Committee on Inter-ethnic relations, made up of members of all ethnic groups, has been established and can make proposals to Parliament.

The transition to a market economy resulted in lowered standards of living across Macedonia. Minorities have been especially affected, in part because rural areas neglected by the government, where most minorities live, have felt the greatest blow, and in part due to ongoing discrimination against minorities. The Roma and Turkish communities have been most affected, and suffer widespread poverty, and lack of access to such basic necessities as health care and electricity.

The European Union is Macedonia's main trading partner (more than 50 per cent of Macedonia's trade is with the EU) and donor and has the most political leverage, as Macedonia is a candidate country to the European Union.

The education system has long been one of the major factors in the de facto segregation between ethnic Albanians and ethnic Macedonians due to the insistence of both communities that their children be taught in their first language and resistance to learning each other's language.

The judiciary is influenced by political parties, especially through selection of judges. It further suffers from a judicial backlog, and difficulties with the enforcement of judgments.

Despite government pledges to fight it, corruption continues to be a serious problem in many areas of social, economic and political life. The problem includes such state institutions as the police.  Increased participation of minorities in the police force and establishment of interethnic police units has made the service more effective, but complaints about ethnic bias of the police persist.

A range of measures contained in the Ohrid Framework Agreement aiming to foster tolerance have largely not been implemented, and Macedonian society remains highly segregated.

Current state of minorities and indigenous peoples

Six years of relative calm and gradually improving inter-ethnic relations after the Ohrid Agreement were disrupted in August 2007 when ethnic Albanian militants attacked a police station in predominantly Albanian western Macedonia, along the border to Kosovo.  At the end of the month, Macedonian security forces clashed with ethnic Albanians elsewhere along that border, and limited clashes continued into September 2007.  A former ethnic Albanian parliamentarian announced that due to Macedonian neglect of the western region, he and his supporters were preparing a referendum in the village of Tanusevci that would separate it from Macedonia and join it to Kosovo.  Some regional analysts viewed the rising tensions as a result of sharpening international debate over Kosovo's final status.  The prospect of partition has been raised in those negotiations, and Albanian nationalists have made clear their desire to annex majority-Albanian portions of neighbouring Macedonia and southern Serbia. 

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The True about Macedonia :

The Republic of Macedonia, a new little state in the Balkans, is undoubtedly an European multiethnic region where, just like in a beautiful mosaic, live ethnicities that distinguish from each other by origin, language and culture.

When the slavophonic people reached the Balkans in the 6-th and 7-th centuries, the Traco-Ilirian people in the “Province of Macedonia”, controlled by Rome for about 600 years, and then, for another 200 years, by the Byzantine Empire, had been linguistically homogenized. It was latinophone.

The linguistic Latinization was probably favored not only by the fact that the Roman colonists intermixed with the local people, for so many centuries. If the legend saying that Enea of Troy was the “forefather of the Roman people”, a fast linguistic homogenization of the people in the “Province of Macedonia” was natural. When Eneas and his companions left Troy, they were probably not mute. If so, they brought along with them there home language, which was the same as the language of the Thracians in Macedonia, or related to it. Therefore when 500 years later, the descendents of those Thracian escapees of Troy, became commanders of Macedonia, it was not hard for them to communicate with the autochthons who spoke the same or a similar language. During the hundreds of years that followed, the language of those arrived from Latium and that of the autochthons in Macedonia enriched with new vocabulary and became the Macedo-Latin spoken today by the Arman People.

No wonder why not only Sophia and Athens do not agree with the name of “Macedonian people” and Macedonian language” by which the Bulgarians in the new multiethnic state, the R of Macedonia, want to be known, but neither the Armans nor the Albaniens, beside whom the slavophones settled much later, agree that the newer-comers consider themselves the only owners of the new multiethnic state, claiming that they are more numerous, by using false statistics and through a forced slavicization of over 90% of the names of the Armanmacedonians, and claiming to be of “Macedonian origin and language”, origin and language to which none of the slavophonic tribes in the Balkans have any direct relation.

After Macedonia fell under Ottomans in the year 1371, there came the Thurks to live as turkophones beside the latinophones, albanophones and slavophones. Hundreds of years under the Ottoman Empire these 4 peoples lived together. The old peoples – the latinophones and albanophones controlled the mountains, while the slavophones and turkophones spread in the fields. Along seashores, in small fortresses surrounded by defensive walls lived the Greeks. And this is how the “Old Province Macedonia “ became a real multiethnic mosaic.

As they are sharing the lands of Macedonia, all these peoples can be considered as “Macedonians”, just as in Switzerland all peoples are considered Swiss. But as no people in Switzwrland(72,6% speakers of German, 22% speakers of French, 7% speakers of Italian, 0,4% speakers of Retoroman) monopolizes the name of the state in order to baptize their own language as “Swiss language”, so the Bulgarians(the slavophones)in the R of Macedonia do not have the right to claim monopoly of the name of this new multiethnic state. All ethnicities in Macedonia are Macedonian after the name of the place where they live, but each has its own different language which distinguishes it from the other ethnicities: the Arman(or Macedo-Latin), the Albanian, the Bulgarian(or Macedobulgarian, to distinguish it from the one in Bulgaria, or Slavo-Macedonian, if they like it that way), the Turkish – all these are maternal languages of the peoples that make up the Republic of Macedonia.

Not as of today nor of yesterday did the Armans/Macedolatins – the oldest people of these places – express their wish that all ethnicities with whom they live together have the same rights. They never put up with the tranny of any “lord” who came to rule them, nor did they claim themselves tyrants over others. I would like to point out here the project of the Arman Riga Veleshtinlu made up 200 years ago for a great republic in the Balkans, which guaranteed, by Constitution, equal rights for all peoples of any language, origin or creed.

When in 1903, the people in the European Turkey decided to get rid of the tyranny of the Sultan and make in Crushuva a “multiethnic government” standing for all ethnicities in those places, all who fought for the revolution agreed upon a “multiethnic republic” with the name of Macedonia, for all the people of Macedonia, and not a republic in which the Bulgarians should be the ruling ethnicity while all the others can only have the right “to live beside the Bulgarians”. In other words, the other peoples could only be “tolerated” in the new republic for which they all fought. No! In the government of the year 1903, The Armans(the Latin Macedonians), as a constituent nation of the new state, had 4 important ministries, out of which the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry od Defense – the latter one commanded by Pitu Guli, who together with his companions preferred death instead of slavery which they dit not have the chance and power to get rid of at that time. When Carev – the slavophone elected as president, in one of those 10 days of existence of the new government of Crushova, shouted in the public square: “Long live liberty! Long live Bulgaria! – Pitu Guli drew out his sword and threatened him by the words: “Long live the Republic of Macedonia, as for it – for a country of us all, of all ethnicities in these places – we fought, and not for a country for Bulgarians only!”

Ten years after, in 1913, by the unlucky Peace Act of Bucharest, a small part of Macedonia which was divided amongst the new states of the Balkans was given to the Kingdom of Serbia, which was called “ Southern Serbia”, and Serb was declared its official language.

For the Armans, Serbia, by the signature of Prime Minister Pasici, guaranteed not only schools in Cutsovlach(Arman) language, as they called it in order to distinguish it from Romanian, but also an episcopate under the patronage of the Patriarchy in Bucharest, which was supposed to make sure that the Cutsovlach(Arman) language was to be used in all their churches.

As the first world war started, Serbia shamelessly disregarded all the natural rights of the Armans people and, in order to make them vanish without a trace, it started a forced assimilation by Slavicizing their names. Thus, the Arman name of Martin, a famous painter, became Martinovici.

Later on, when Southern Serbia was occupied by the Bulgarian army(1916-1918) the Armans went through even worse times: deportations, spoliation and extortion of their wealth and properties … and, to increase the number of the Slavs, this time Bulgarians, Matin who became Martinovici, was baptized again, Martinof.

Discontented with their fate, the ethnicities from all over Macedonia, divided again after 1918, sent a delegation to the first “International Congress for the Rights of Nations” which was held in Geneva from September 1-st to 10-th, 1921. The delegation represented the Macedonians of Albanian, Arman, Turc and Bulgarian languages. These were the ethnicities that had more impotant communities at that time in Macedonia. A particular people by the name of Macedon was not known by that time. The Slavs in Macedonia considered themselves Bulgarians. At that congress, in Geneva, the peoples of Macedonia all agreed on a multiethnic state by the name of Macedonia, in which every ethnicity must have equal rights. In his word, the slavophone delegate, the Bulgarian Jouroukof declared: “All ethnicities that make up Macedonia decided that our state be independent. Every ethnicity will have the right to practice its own religion, to speak its own language and to have schools in its own language…To have equality among all ethnicities we decided that a common language of our state be Esperanto”. In the publication number 1/1997 of “Zborlu a Nostru”(pp 41-42) it is given, in French, excerpts from the “Buletin pour l´independence de la Macedoine”(No 3/1921) from which we are given here a fragment of the conference held by the Macedonian Bulgarian delegate to the congress: “Nous, Macedoniens, reclamons hautement le droit de decider nous memes du sort de notre pays. Les divers nationalites macedoniennes don´t la solidarite par le presence de ses delegues, se manifestent devant vous d´une facon aclatante. Veulent vivre en freres a l´exemple du peuple suisse… Nous venons d´exprimer la volonte de tous les macedoniens de créer une seconde Suiisse sur le bord de Vardar…Vive les deux Suisses – celle des Alpes et celle des Balcans ! “.

The European diplomacy ignored the wishes of the ethnical mosaic living in the old Roman Province of Macedonia, and abandoned them by the unlucky diplomatic decision of 1913. The 2-nd world war was under way now, again with the new masters of Sophia and further misfortunes for the Arman people.

When the partisans started their battle for the “liberation” of Yugoslavia, a new hope was born for the Armans, but for a short time. At the congress of the partisans in Yugoslavia(Aug. 2-nd, 1944), the Armans, called to help in this battle of liberation, were promised that after the war they would have the same rights as all the other ethnicities in Yugoslavia. When the first elections were being held, to ensure his success, Tito was able to find both, paper and Latin alphabet, to approach the Armans and take them to his side. At our library in Freiburg, we have a collection of posters archived for posterity. They show the calls to the Armans in Arman language: “dats zborlu a vostru ti frontulu a laolui / give your word(vote) for the front of the people”. After they had given their vote, all the promises made to them were forgotten and neither paper nor Latin aiphabet were found for the misfortunate Armans. Then the time came when Tito told the ones in Sophia that the Slavs in Macedonia are not Serbs, but nor are they Bulgarians. Thus he manufactured one more Slavic people, which called “Macedonians”, after the name of the place where they lived. Tito even found grammarians to make a grammar for this new Bulgarian language to which some Serbian words were added to enrich it. So, the poor Arman painter Martin, was endowed with the many names of Martinovici, Martinof, again Martinovici, and subsequently Martinovski, just as many more Armans whose names end in “ski” have the “good luck” of being taken for “Makedonski” of “Makedonski language” or taken for a small ethnic community members, Vlasi, who are tolerated to live beside the owners of country, the “Makedonskis”. And this is how the Armans were constrained to end up with Slavicized names, to forget their own language and learn from now on two official languages: Serbo-Croatian and Makedonski or Bulgaro-Serbian.

We were also lucky to see communism go down the drain. The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia(FYROM) became independent, and the Armans began breathing some air of freedom, particularly after achieving the “Recommendation of Strasburg” – but the power in the new republic has remained in the hands of the Bulgarians only, who will not understand that if they want to join the great family of the European countries, all ethnicities in R of Macedonia must have the same rights.

The current troubled waters will soon clear up and peace will settle down only if the “owners” of today´s Scopia can understand that the time for a second multiethnic Switzerland, for which all the peoples living in the new European region – Macedonia – hoped and fought together at the beginning of the 20-th century, has arrived. And in order that this equality of rights become reality for all the constituent ethnicities of this second Switzerland of Europe, it may be a good idea that instead of Esperanto language, for which a decision was taken in Geneva in 1921, another language, a neuter language, such as French, could be used as a state language, which is also an international language of today´s United Europe. We remind here that, The Republic of Macedonia has been, since 1999, a member in the International Organisation of Francophones !

Posted by Yiani Mantsu on
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