Macedonia Overview

Македониja "Mak-ye-don-eeya"

Small country 25730 kmsq Macedonia Central European time. currency is Denar. 1 euro is fixed to 60/61. 53-55 to 1 dollar. Can drink tap water in cities; hotel will tell you if not so. (True throughout the Balkans)

Landlocked country bordered on Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, Albania (Five countries haven't recognized Kosovo, not in UN)

Ethnic and Religious makeup

Two million people 2/3 ethnic Macedonian, most rest are Albanian A few percent Serbs, Turks, 70% Orthodox Christians, 28 percent Muslim (Nearly all Sunni, 80% Albanian). Two percent total for Catholics, Protestants, etc Fewer than five hundred Jews. Most killed in Holocaust Last census was 2002 Muslims mostly to the north of Macedonia, most of them ethnic Albanian, plus Bosniacs, Turks. Almost all ethnic Macedonians Christian Independent since 1991. Didn't participate in breakup wars of Yugoslavia: National army stripped Macedonia of weapons ("looted the country"), and there were almost no Serbs, so avoided the conflict About 60,000 Roma population; one 20,000 municipality in Skopje. Only municipality in Europe with Roma leader or majority.

Most mosques are new which means they're funded by Arabic countries. Muslims are not geographically concentrated, whole country is intermixed.

To a significant extent Balkan countries are failing to develop a coherent national identity that includes minorities.

Veles and Perun were pagan Slavic gods. Visna is word for Spring, goddess of Spring, fields


Biggest city, political and cultural capital. 700k citizens in Skopje metro, during work week up to 1 million (out of 2 million total Macedonian population). Skopje at end of trip.

Terrain and Economy

Country is mostly mountainous Fertile land, main industry is agricultural. Anything that can be grown in mild continental or (in south) Mediterranean is grown here. Peppers, Pears, grapes, cherries, vegetables. Warm summers up to 40C, generally mild winters but this winter was terrible (-20C), snowed for Easter.

Eat with the seasons: in winter you eat pickled vegetables, cabbages, etc Ivar, a paste of red peppers and eggplant Most common exported good are wine and tobacco Landscape in south is like a 60s Western movie field Prices of cigarettes are rising, laws that discourage smoking, smoking is on the decline but currently widespread. Can smoke indoors in an apartment building but not in any public venue

Some mining: Iron, Zinc, Nickel. Mines are currently reopening.

Parliament and president, 4 year election cycle, President on 5 year cycle directly elected, two terms max. Most of power in hands of Prime Minister. President largely ceremonial, but is commander in chief. Usually the plurality party makes the government; currently though the party that's a few seats short of the leading party has the leading coalition


Mandatory education to 18, four years high school, free and compulsory. (Most of the Balkans it's not mandatory: the Roma minority in particular drops out) No home schooling, but there are private secondary schools, very expensive.

University is not free but affordable. Five Public universities cost 400 euros per year plus say 200 for books etc. Top students get 50% scholarships. Ten private universities, 1000-3000 euros tuition. Public universities more valued: higher tuition pays for a cakewalk

Each grade ("generation") is divided into classes of ~20 students; all students in a class take the same courses and stay together for all years of school. (The teachers come to the room the students stay put). In Macedonia, you have a choice of Albanian, Macedonian or Turkish. This of course means that the different ethnicities are socially separated and that it's possible to graduate never learning Macedonian.


It is terrible. High unemployment low economic station Officially 25% unemployed most of them young people but there's a grey economy Average monthly salary is 350 euros for all people

A lot of economic migrants especially young people. Population stagnation for 25 years More than a million Macedonians live abroad, in Germany, US, Canada, Australia. Earn money and send back remittances, or look to make their bundle and then come back.

Ethnic Conflict

150-200k Albanian refugees came into the country In 2001 radicals among the refugees started military conflict Ethnically, linguistically, religiously separate Macedonian army against the Kosovo liberation army, paramilitary group with Kosovoan ethnically Albanian leaders. Trying to make single ethnically Albanian state. US supported the rebels. US generally supports Albanians. If that changed, there would be huge trouble: revenge against Albania and Kosovo. (Albania, though Muslim, is very secular)

A few words in Macedonian

  • Hello Zdravo
  • Good day Dobar den
  • Thank you: blagodaram or fala
  • Cheers: Na zdravje or zhiveli
  • Goodbye: Ciao
  • Please te molam
  • Where is the the toilet? Kade e toaletot
  • How much does it cost? kolku chini
  • Hm. Expensive. Skapo
  • Can it be cheaper Mozhe poeftino
  • Yes Da
  • No Ne
  • A/C Klima

Bargaining is OK

About the name

Officially the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" Macedonia is divided into three parts: Greece, Serbia, Bulgarian Rep of Macedonia was just the Serbian part. Greece insisted that the country couldn't be called Macedonia No real desire among Greek or Bulgarian Macedonians to be part of Macedonia. In Greece in the fifties it was illegal to speak Slavic languages even in home

Background: History of Macedonia


In 1000s-1BC Balkans populated by Illyrians, Macedonians, Thracians. But so many people's have migrated and warred back and forth that everything is ethnically all mixed up.

First kings of Macedonia 800 BC. Peak of power in 4th c BC under Philip II and then Alexander the Great

Philip II reformed the army, instituted Phalanx, murdered at his daughters' wedding; succeeded by Alexander.

From 336-326 Alexander conquered Egypt, Middle East all the way to India. Died at 33yo, kingdom was divided among his generals: Asia, Balkans, Egypt. Ptolemy in Egypt founded dynasty that lasted through Cleopatra; others continuation much more short-lived to say the least.

Balkan Macedonia persisted to 2d c BC, when the Roman republic comes in and conquers in three wars.

In 395CE at the split Macedonia remained part of Byzantine empire. In period of great migrations in 5-6th c, Slavs settled in Balkans In 9-10th c, was ruled by the Bulgarian empire under Samuel, who we know from Bulgarian history was a great opposer of Byzantine empire.

In 13-14th c, part of the medieval Serbian empire, After death of Dushan in 14th c, kingdom divided into four parts. Vukašin and then Marko ruled region from city of Prilep Marcum signed a deal with Ottomans to become a client kingdom. Despite that Many Herculean legends about Marko. Sagas and epic poems about him and his horse Sharat

14th c beginning of Ottoman expansion in Europe. Founded in 1299 by Osman Gandi. At the beginning Ottomans were hired mercenaries by Byzantine empire; they took over empire. In 14th c two great battles with the united Christian forces. River Maritza and Kosovo battles, Ottomans won both, took over most of Balkans. Marco ruled until 1385 but as an Ottoman vassal.

1395-1912 under Ottoman rule. Uprisings but none successful. In 1903 was last great uprising -- Ilinden uprising began of feast of St Elias Center was town of Krushevo, for ten days was the republic of Krushevo, first republic in Balkans. No foreign support and it crumbled.

In 1912, coalition of European Russian and Balkan countries supported war for independence from Ottoman. Macedonia split into three pieces, 50% to Serbia, 40% to Greece, 10% to Bulgaria. These were artificial divisions, Macedonians were distinct minorities in each country. Forced assimilation in Greece, where there was no connection (Slavs vs Greeks)

In WWI conscripted into the national armies. Serbia and Bulgaria were on opposite sides so cousin fought cousin.

After WWI, Kingdom of Serbs Croats and Slovenes; later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. King ran away before start of fighting in WWII, Macedonia broke away

After WWII became one of six parts of Yugoslavia 1991 September 8 referendum became independent

From 1946-49 Greek civil war. Greek Macedonians sided with the losing side, suffered greatly. Many emigrated. When Rep of Macedonia became a thing, Greece felt threatened that the Greek Macedonia might want to leave. Greece vetoed their entry into NATO, hindered EU membership

Philip KromerComment