Land of Slavonic Alphabet
and an Abundance of Culture
Macedonia is a land-locked nation in southeastern
Europe, with mountain chains that separate it from Bulgaria,
Greece, Albania, and Kosovo and Serbia. Due in part to its
isolation, the country has developed an abundance of culture
of all kinds.
Slavonic alphabet was born there, Macedonian architects, builders
and mosaic designers created great masterpieces during the
late Middle Ages. The country’s many historical sites
include those at Stobi (Gradsko), Heraclea Lyncestis (Bitola),
Lychnidos (Ohrid) and Scupi (Skopje). At the site of Vinicko
Kale (near Vinica), there is a wealth of terracotta icons,
while the Basilica Mosaic in Heraclea Lyncestis is one of
the most famous mosaics of antiquity. The country has many
remains from Roman times and the early Christian period.
Macedonian cities have many beautiful churches,
featuring priceless frescoes and icons. In the city of Ohrid,
there are more than 30 churches, including the Church of St.
Sophia, the former Cathedral of the Archbishop of Ohrid, built
in the 10th and 11th centuries.
The country’s cities feature monuments
of Islamic culture, including mosques, bazaars and baths.
Dating back to the 14th century, Skopje features an Old Bazaar,
Covered Marketplace (Bezisten), the Kursumli An Caravanserai,
Daut Pasha Baths and the Mustahpa Pasha Mosque. Another important
monument is the Painted Mosque (Sarena dzamija) in Tetovo.
Macedonia has 19 museums, including several
that feature natural history, social and historical sciences.
More than 1,000 employees in 92 institutions work in culture
and education, while nearly 1,100 actors, directors, musicians
and other artists are active in Macedonian theatres, opera
and ballet companies and music ensembles. Eleven distribute
and present films, while a large number of writers, painters,
directors, musicians and other artists work for public radio
and television companies and the press.
Macedonian literature has roots in the rich
heritage of Slavonic history and in the distinguished schools
of the Macedonian monasteries. Nineteenth century writers
of note include Dimitar and Konstantin Miladinov, Grigor Prlicev
and Rajko Zinzifov. Early 20th century writers include Vojdan
Cernodrinski, Nikola Kirov-Majski and Atanas Razdolov. The
poet Kosta Racin, with Beli Mugri (White Dawns), published
in 1939, is considered the founder of modern Macedonian literature.
Postwar Macedonian poets, prose writers and
playwrights include Blaze Koneski, Aco Sopov, Slavko Janevski,
Vlado Maleski and Kole Casule. Blaze Koneski is a member of
the academies of arts and sciences of several countries and
has received international awards.
Numerous other Macedonian writers have emerged
from the 1950’s to the present including Gane Todorovski,
Mateja Matevski, Dimitar Solev, Ante Popovski, Boris Visinski,
Simon Drakul, Zivko Cingo, Petre M. Andreevski, Radovan Pavlovski,
Bogomil Guzel, Jovan Koteski, Vlada Urosevik, Petar T. Boskovski
and Mihail Rendzov.
by Macedonian writers have been translated into many languages,
while anthologies of Macedonian poetry and prose have been
published in Italy, France, United States, Russia, Hungary,
Poland, United Kingdom, Germany, China, Sweden, Japan, the
Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece, Ukraine, Malaysia and other
There are 13 active professional theatres in Macedonia., while
the country’s National Theatre (Drama, Opera and Ballet
companies), Drama Theatre, Theatre of the Nationalities (Albanian
and Turkish Drama companies) and other theatre companies employ
nearly 900 professional actors, singers, ballet dancers, directors,
playwrights, set and costume designers. There is a professional
theatre for children and three amateur theatres.
Macedonia has an exceptionally rich musical
heritage. The Composer's Association of Macedonia has members.
The Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra was established in 1944.
And there are six active chamber and other music ensembles,
three professional and 20 amateur choirs. The professional
ensemble ‘Tanec performs Macedonian folklore and songs’
while 10 other folklore ensembles are active on a semi-professional
Folk music is one of the most cherished areas
of Macedonian culture and several folk festivals take place
each year. The oldest is Folkfest, held in Valandovo. There
is also a Festival of Old Town Songs in Ohrid, while the Ilinden
Days of Folk Song in Bitola. Mak-Fest in Stip and the Skopje
Festival are the two best-known festivals of popular music
in Macedonia. The pop group 'Leb i Sol' with original music
using traditional folk themes and rhythms is widely known.
Macedonia's monasteries and churches hold works by great masters
of medieval fresco and icon painting, this artistic tradition
continues through the work of painters, graphic artists and
Creators of modern Macedonian painting include
Lazar Licenovski, Nikola Martinoski, Dimitar Pandilov, Vangel
Kodzoman, Borka Lazeski, Dimitar Kondovski and Petar Mazev..
One hundred of Vasko Taskovski's works were exhibited in Paris
public in 1992. Vangel Naumovski, classified by art historians
as a naive artist, is well-known for his Ohridska Porta Gallery.
Dimo Todorovski is considered the founder of modern Macedonian
In 1905, in Bitola, Milton and Janaki Manaki
shot the first film in Macedonia and in the Balkans. Each
year, Bitola is the host of the Manaki Festival of Cinecamera.
In 1994, director Milcho Manchevski won the
Golden Lion of the 1994 Venice Film Festival for “Before
the Rain.” The film, screened at 30 international festivals,
was nominated by The American Film Academy as the Best Foreign
Language Film Award. In recent years, international productions
have been shot in Macedonia.
Macedonia hosts several important cultural
events. The Ohrid Summer Festival was first held in 1961 in
the 20th century church of St. Sophia, with its exceptional
acoustics. The Festival is international in character, with
celebrated participants from 44 countries. It features 40
music events and 12 plays. In the last 35 years, there have
been 1,150 performances, featuring 30,000 local and foreign
artists and performers. The annual number of visitors is 20,000.
The Struga Poetry Evenings, started in 1961,
features 5,000 poets, writers and literary critics from more
than 50 countries. The Golden Wreath international award is
granted each year to one prominent poet..
The Balkan Festival of Folk Song and Dance
in Ohrid has presented original songs and dances from folk
culture for more than 30 years. The links between Balkan and
European and non European cultures help to build bridges of
cultural cooperation. About 1,200 ensembles with 42,000 members
have taken part in the festival. Ensembles from Balkan countries,
the former Yugoslav republics, European and non-European countries
participate in this Festival, which is associated with UNESCO.
The World Cartoon Gallery features a permanent
exhibition and organizes an annual exhibition of cartoon,
playing a major role in the worldwide recognition of Macedonian
cartoonists. The Skopje International Jazz Festival features
renowned jazz groups from around the world.
The Republic of Macedonia occupies the western
half of the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia. Historic Macedonia
was defeated by Rome and became a Roman province in 148 B.C.
After the Roman Empire was divided in A.D. 395, Macedonia
was intermittently ruled by the Byzantine Empire until Turkey
took possession of the land in 1371. The Ottoman Turks dominated
Macedonia for the next five centuries, until 1913.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, there
was a constant struggle by the Balkan powers to possess Macedonia
for its economic wealth and strategic military corridors.
The Treaty of San Tefano in 1878, ending the Russo-Turkish
War, gave the largest part of Macedonia to Bulgaria. Bulgaria
lost much of its Macedonian territory when it was defeated
by the Greeks and Serbs in the Second Balkan War of 1913.
Most of Macedonia went to Serbia, and the remainder was divided
between Greece and Bulgaria.
In 1918, Serbia, which included much of Macedonia,
joined with Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro to form the
Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, which was renamed
Yugoslavia in 1929. Bulgaria joined the Axis powers in World
War II and occupied parts of Yugoslavia, including Macedonia,
in 1941. During the occupation of their country, Macedonian
resistance fighters fought a guerrilla war against the invading
This guerrilla war became known in Macedonia
as “NOB,” translating roughly as “People’s
Liberation Struggle.” On July 7, 2004, at the Commemoration
of the 60th Anniversary of Antifascist Assembly of People’s
Liberation of Macedonia, the country’s Ministry of Culture
funded the restoration of four monuments of culture dedicated
to the People’s Liberation Struggle (NOB). It was at
the NOB Gathering Area that George Olsen P.E., an emissary
for our embassy in Macedonia, gathered the soil for Gary Simpson’s
Common Ground 191 project.
The Yugoslavian federation was reestablished
after the defeat of Germany in 1945, and in 1946, the government
removed the Vardar territory of Macedonia from Serbian control
and made it an autonomous Yugoslavian republic. Later, when
President Tito recognized the Macedonian people as a separate
nation, Macedonia's distinct culture and language were able
to flourish, no longer suppressed by outside rule.
On Sept. 8, 1991, Macedonia declared its independence
from Yugoslavia and asked for recognition from the European
Union nations. It became a member of the United Nations in
1993 under the provisional name of the Former Yugoslav Republic
of Macedonia (FYROM) because Greece vociferously protested
Macedonia's right to the name, which is also the name of a
large northern province of Greece.
Tensions between ethnic Albanians and Macedonians
continued to rise during the Kosovo crisis, during which more
than 140,000 refugees streamed into the country from neighboring
Kosovo. Most of the refugees returned to Kosovo in 2000.
The long-simmering resentment of Macedonia's
ethnic Albanians erupted into violence in March 2001, prompting
the government to send troops into the heavily Albanian western
section of the country. The rebels sought greater autonomy
within Macedonia. In Aug. 2001, after six months of fighting,
the rebels and the Macedonian government signed a peace agreement
that allowed a British-led NATO force to enter the country
and disarm the guerrillas. In Nov. 2001, Macedonia's parliament
agreed to constitutional amendments giving broader rights
to its Albanian minority. Albanian became one of the country's
two official languages.
In Sept. 2002 elections, a center-left coalition
ousted the governing coalition, which had been embroiled in
previous years' guerrilla insurgency. Branko Crvenkovski of
the Together for Macedonia coalition became the new prime
In Feb. 2004, President Boris Trajkovski was
killed in a plane crash. Prime Minister Crvenkovski was elected
president. In August 2004, parliament approved legislation
redrawing internal borders and giving ethnic Albanians more
local autonomy in regions where Albanians predominate.
Macedonians make up 66% of Macedonia's population
of 2 million, Albanians 23%, and Turks, Vlach, and Serbs,
the rest (1994 census).
is the capital of Macedonia with more than 600,000 inhabitants.
the official language of the country, is also spoken by Macedonian
minorities in Greece, Bulgaria, and Albania, and by the Macedonian
Diaspora around the world. The word for “Peace”
in Macedonian is “MIR” (spelled in Macedonia Cyrillic
are of Eastern Orthodox Christian and Muslim faith, while
some are Roman Catholic or Protestant.
The State symbol is a golden sun symbolizing
the freedom of the country and its people.
is also the legendary land of Alexander the Great.