The Republic of Macedonia (Република Македонија — Republika Makedonija), is a country in the Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. A landlocked country, it has borders with Kosovo to the northwest, Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, and Albania to the west. It constitutes approximately the northwestern third of the larger geographical region of Macedonia, which also comprises the neighboring parts of northern Greece and smaller portions of southwestern Bulgaria and southeastern Albania. The country’s geography is defined primarily by mountains, valleys, and rivers. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991. It became a member of the United Nations in 1993, but, as a result of an ongoing dispute with Greece over the use of the name “Macedonia”, was admitted under the provisional description the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (sometimes unofficially abbreviated as FYROM and FYR Macedonia), a term that is also used by international organizations such as the European Union, the Council of Europe and NATO. The capital and largest city, Skopje, is home to roughly a quarter of the nation’s 2.06 million inhabitants. The majority of the residents are ethnic Macedonians, a South Slavic people. Albanians form a significant minority at around 25 percent, followed by Turks, Romani, Serbs, and others. Although one of the poorest countries in Europe, Macedonia has made significant progress in developing an open, market based economy.
The country’s name derives from the Greek Μακεδονία (Makedonía), a kingdom (later, region) named after the ancient Macedonians. Their name, Μακεδόνες (Makedónes), derives ultimately from the ancient Greek adjective μακεδνός (makednós), meaning “tall, taper”, which shares the same root as the adjective μακρός (makrós), meaning “long, tall, high” in ancient Greek. The name is originally believed to have meant either “highlanders” or “the tall ones”, possibly descriptive of the people.
Macedonia’s history dates back to antiquity, beginning with the kingdom of Paeonia, a Thracian polity located immediately north of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia. Paeonia was inhabited by the Paeonians, a Thracian people, whilst the northwest was inhabited by the Dardani and the southwest by tribes known historically as the Enchelae, Pelagones and Lyncestae; the latter two are generally regarded as Molossian tribes of the northwestern Greek group, whilst the former two are considered Illyrian.
In the late sixth century BCE, the area was incorporated by the Achaemenid Persians under Darius the Great who conquered the Paeoniansinto, the Persian Achaemenid Empire. Following the loss in the Second Persian invasion of Greece in 479 BC, the Persians eventually withdrew from their European territories, including from what is today the Republic of Macedonia.
The Romans conquered the region in the second century BCE and made it part of the much larger province of Macedonia. In 356 BC, Philip II of Macedon absorbed the regions of Upper Macedonia (Lynkestis and Pelagonia) and the southern part of Paeonia (Deuriopus) into the kingdom of Macedon. Philip’s son Alexander the Great conquered the remainder of the region, and incorporated it in his empire, reaching as far north as Scupi, but the city and the surrounding area remained part of Dardania.
The Romans established the Province of Macedonia in 146 BC. By the time of Diocletian, the province had been subdivided between Macedonia Prima (“first Macedonia”) on the south, encompassing most of the kingdom of Macedon, and Macedonia Salutaris (known also as Macedonia Secunda, “second Macedonia”) on the north, encompassing partially Dardania and the whole of Paeonia; most of the country’s modern boundaries fell within the latter, with the city of Stobi as its capital. Roman expansion brought the Scupi area under Roman rule in the time of Domitian (81–96 AD), and it fell within the Province of Moesia. Whilst Greek remained the dominant language in the eastern part of the Roman empire, Latin spread to some extent in Macedonia.
Slavic peoples settled in the Balkan region including Macedonia by the late sixth century AD. During the 580s, Byzantine literature attests to the Slavs raiding Byzantine territories in the region of Macedonia, later aided by Bulgars. Historical records document that in c. 680 a group of Bulgars, Slavs and Byzantines led by a Bulgar called Kuber settled in the region of the Keramisian plain, centered on the city of Bitola. Presian’s reign apparently coincides with the extension of Bulgarian control over the Slavic tribes in and around Macedonia. The Slavic peoples that settled in the region of Macedonia converted to Christianity around the 9th century during the reign of Tsar Boris I of Bulgaria.
In 1014, the Byzantine Emperor Basil II defeated the armies of Tsar Samuil of Bulgaria, and within four years the Byzantines restored control over the Balkans (including Macedonia) for the first time since the seventh century. However, by the late 12th century, Byzantine decline saw the region contested by various political entities, including a brief Norman occupation in the 1080s.
In the early thirteenth century, a revived Bulgarian Empire gained control of the region. Plagued by political difficulties, the empire did not last, and the region came once again under Byzantine control in the early fourteenth century. In the fourteenth century, it became part of the Serbian Empire, who saw themselves as liberators of their Slavic kin from Byzantine despotism. Skopje became the capital of Tsar Stefan Dusan’s empire.
Following Dusan’s death, a weak successor appeared, and power struggles between nobles divided the Balkans once again. These events coincided with the entry of the Ottoman Turks into Europe. The Kingdom of Prilep was one of the short-lived states that emerged from the collapse of the Serbian Empire in the fourteenth century. Gradually, all of the central Balkans were conquered by the Ottoman Empire and remained under its domination for five centuries.
With the beginning of the Bulgarian National Revival in the eighteenth century, many of the reformers were from this region, including the Miladinov Brothers, Rajko Žinzifov, Joakim Krčovski, Kiril Pejčinoviḱ and others. The bishoprics of Skopje, Debar, Bitola, Ohrid, Veles and Strumica voted to join the Bulgarian Exarchate after it was established in 1870.
Several movements whose goals were the establishment of an autonomous Macedonia, which would encompass the entire region of Macedonia, began to arise in the late nineteenth century; the earliest of these was the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, later becoming Secret Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (SMARO). In 1905, it was renamed the Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (IMARO), and after World War I the organisation separated into the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) and the Internal Thracian Revolutionary Organisation (ITRO).
In the early years of the organization, membership was open to only Bulgarians, but later it was opened to all inhabitants of European Turkey, regardless of their nationality or religion. The majority of its members, however, were Macedonian Bulgarians. In 1903, IMRO organised the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising against the Ottomans, which after some initial successes, including the forming of the “Kruševo Republic”, was crushed with much loss of life. The uprising and the forming of the Krushevo Republic are considered the cornerstone and precursors to the eventual establishment of the Macedonian state.
Following the two Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913 and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, most of its European-held territories were divided between Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia. The territory of the modern Macedonian state was annexed by Serbia and named Južna Srbija, “Southern Serbia”. Following the partition, an anti-Bulgarian campaign was carried out in the areas under Serbian and Greek control. As many as 641 Bulgarian schools and 761 churches were closed by the Serbs, while Exarchist clergy and teachers were expelled. The use of Bulgarian (including all Macedonian dialects) was proscribed.
In the fall of 1915, Bulgaria joined the Central Powers in the First World War and gained control over most of the territory of the present-day Republic of Macedonia. After the end of the First World War, the area returned to Serbian control as part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and saw a reintroduction of the anti-Bulgarian measures of the first occupation (1913–1915): Bulgarian teachers and clergy were expelled, Bulgarian language signs and books removed, and all Bulgarian organisations dissolved.
The Serbian government pursued a policy of forced Serbianization in the region, which included systematic repression of Bulgarian activists, altering family surnames, internal colonization, forced labor, and intense propaganda. To aid the implementation of this policy, some 50,000 Serbian army and gendermerie were stationed in Macedonia. By 1940, about 280 Serbian colonies (comprising 4,200 families) were established as part of the government’s internal colonization program (initial plans envisaged 50,000 families settling in Macedonia).
In 1929, the Kingdom was officially renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and divided into provinces called banovinas. Southern Serbia, including all of what is now the Republic of Macedonia, became known as the Vardar Banovina of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
The concept of a United Macedonia was used by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) in the interbellum. Its leaders — including Todor Alexandrov, Aleksandar Protogerov, and Ivan Mihailov — promoted independence of the Macedonian territory split between Serbia and Greece for the whole population, regardless of religion and ethnicity. The Bulgarian government of Alexander Malinov in 1918 offered to give Pirin Macedonia for that purpose after World War I, but the Great Powers did not adopt this idea because Serbia and Greece opposed it. In 1924, the Communist International suggested that all Balkan communist parties adopt a platform of a “united Macedonia” but the suggestion was rejected by the Bulgarian and Greek communists.
IMRO followed by starting an insurgent war in Vardar Banovina, together with Macedonian Youth Secret Revolutionary Organization, which also conducted guerilla attacks against the Serbian administrative and army officials there. In 1923 in Stip, a paramilitary organisation called Association against Bulgarian Bandits was formed by Serbian chetniks, IMRO renegades and Macedonian Federative Organization (MFO) members to oppose IMRO and MMTRO.
The Macedonist ideas increased during the interbellum, in Yugoslav Vardar Macedonia, and among the left diaspora in Bulgaria, and were supported by the Comintern. In 1934, it issued a special resolution in which for the first time directions were provided for recognizing the existence of a separate Macedonian nation and Macedonian language.
During World War II, Yugoslavia was occupied by the Axis Powers from 1941 to 1945. The Vardar Banovina was divided between Bulgaria and Italian-occupied Albania. Bulgarian Action Committees were established to prepare the region for the new Bulgarian administration and army. The Committees were mostly formed by former members of IMRO, but some communists such as Panko Brashnarov, Strahil Gigov and Metodi Shatorov also participated.
As leader of the Vardar Macedonia communists, Shatorov switched from the Yugoslav Communist Party to the Bulgarian Communist Party and refused to start military action against the Bulgarian army. The Bulgarian authorities, under German pressure, were responsible for the round-up and deportation of over 7,000 Jews in Skopje and Bitola. Harsh rule by the occupying forces encouraged many Macedonians to support the Communist Partisan resistance movement of Josip Broz Tito after 1943, and the National Liberation War ensued, with German forces being driven out of Macedonia by the end of 1944.
In Vardar Macedonia, after the Bulgarian coup d’état of 1944, the Bulgarian troops, surrounded by German forces, fought their way back to the old borders of Bulgaria. Under the leadership of the new Bulgarian pro-Soviet government, four armies, 455,000 strong in total, were mobilized and reorganized. Most of them re-entered occupied Yugoslavia in early October 1944 and moved from Sofia to Niš, Skopje and Pristina with the strategic task of blocking the German forces withdrawing from Greece. Compelled by the Soviet Union with a view towards the creation of a large South Slav Federation, the Bulgarian government once again offered to give Pirin Macedonia to such a United Macedonia in 1945.
In 1944 the Anti-Fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM) proclaimed the People’s Republic of Macedonia as part of the People’s Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. ASNOM remained an acting government until the end of the war. The Macedonian alphabet was codified by linguists of ASNOM, who based their alphabet on the phonetic alphabet of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić and the principles of Krste Petkov Misirkov.
The new republic became one of the six republics of the Yugoslav federation. Following the federation’s renaming as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1963, the People’s Republic of Macedonia was likewise renamed, becoming the Socialist Republic of Macedonia. During the civil war in Greece (1946–1949), Macedonian communist insurgents supported the Greek communists. Many refugees fled to the Socialist Republic of Macedonia from there. The state dropped the “Socialist” from its name in 1991 when it peacefully seceded from Yugoslavia.
The country officially celebrates September 8, 1991, as Independence day (Ден на независноста, — Den na nezavisnosta), with regard to the referendum endorsing independence from Yugoslavia, albeit legalizing participation in future union of the former states of Yugoslavia. The anniversary of the start of the Ilinden Uprising (St. Elijah’s Day) on August 2 is also widely celebrated on an official level as the Day of the Republic.
Macedonia remained at peace through the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s. A few very minor changes to its border with Yugoslavia were agreed upon to resolve problems with the demarcation line between the two countries. However, it was seriously destabilized by the Kosovo War in 1999, when an estimated 360,000 ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo took refuge in the country. Although they departed shortly after the war, Albanian nationalists on both sides of the border took up arms soon after in pursuit of autonomy or independence for the Albanian-populated areas of Macedonia.
After the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, the name of Macedonia became the object of a dispute between Greece and the newly independent Republic of Macedonia. In the south, the Republic of Macedonia borders the region of Greek Macedonia, which administratively is split into three peripheries (one of them comprising both Western Thrace and a part of Greek Macedonia). Citing historical and territorial concerns resulting from the ambiguity between the Republic of Macedonia, the adjacent Greek region of Macedonia and the ancient kingdom of Macedon which falls within Greek Macedonia, Greece opposes the use of the name “Macedonia” by the Republic of Macedonia without a geographical qualifier, supporting a compound name (such as “Northern Macedonia”) for use by all and for all purposes (erga omnes). As millions of ethnic Greeks identify themselves as Macedonians, unrelated to the Slavic people who are associated with the Republic of Macedonia, Greece further objects to the use of the term “Macedonian” for the neighboring country’s largest ethnic group. The Republic of Macedonia is accused of appropriating symbols and figures that are historically considered parts of Greece’s culture (such as Vergina Sun, a symbol associated with the ancient kingdom of Macedon, and Alexander the Great), and of promoting the irredentist concept of a United Macedonia, which would include territories of Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, and Serbia.
The UN adopted the provisional reference “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (Поранешна Југословенска Република Македонија) when the country was admitted to the organisation in 1993. Most international organisations, such as the European Union, the European Broadcasting Union, and the International Olympic Committee, adopted the same convention. NATO also uses the reference in official documents but adds an explanation on which member countries recognize the constitutional name. The same reference is also used in any discussion to which Greece is a party
However, most UN member countries have abandoned the provisional reference and have recognized the country as the Republic of Macedonia instead. These include four of the five permanent UN Security Council members: the United States, Russia, United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China; several members of the European Union such as Bulgaria, Poland, and Slovenia; and over 100 other UN members. The UN has set up a negotiating process with a mediator, Matthew Nimetz, and the two parties to the dispute, Macedonia and Greece, to try to mediate the dispute. Negotiations continue between the two sides but have yet to reach any settlement of the dispute.
Initially the European Community-nominated Arbitration Commission’s opinion was that “the use of the name ‘Macedonia’ cannot therefore imply any territorial claim against another State”; despite the commission’s opinion, Greece continued to object to the establishment of relations between the Community and the Republic under its constitutional name.
Since the coming to power in 2006, and especially since Macedonia’s non-invitation to NATO in 2008, the VMRO-DPMNE government has pursued a policy of “Antiquization” (“Antikvizatzija“) as a way of putting pressure on Greece as well as for the purposes of domestic identity-building. Statues of Alexander the Great and Philip of Macedon have been built in several cities across the country. Additionally, many pieces of public infrastructure, such as airports, highways, and stadiums have been renamed after Alexander and Philip. These actions are seen as deliberate provocations in neighboring Greece, exacerbating the dispute and further stalling Macedonia’s EU and NATO applications. The policy has also attracted criticism domestically, as well as from EU diplomats.
In November 2008, Macedonia instituted proceedings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Greece alleging violations of the 1995 Interim Accord that blocked its accession to NATO. The ICJ was requested to order Greece to observe its obligations within the Accord, which is legally binding for both countries. In 2011, The United Nations’ International Court of Justice ruled that Greece violated Article 11 of the 1995 Interim Accord by vetoing Macedonia’s bid for NATO membership at the 2008 summit in Bucharest. The court, however, did not consider it necessary to grant Macedonia’s request that it instruct Greece to refrain from similar actions in the future since “[a]s a general rule, there is no reason to suppose that a State whose act or conduct has been declared wrongful by the Court will repeat that act or conduct in the future, since its good faith must be presumed”; nor has there been to date a change in the EU’s stance that Macedonia’s accession negotiations cannot begin until the name issue is resolved.
Scott #291 is a 12-denar lithographed stamp issued on June 4, 2004, in a multi-year series of definitives featuring handicrafts. Perforated 13½x13½, the multicolored stamp on unwatermarked paper features an alabastron from the twelfth century BC, An alabastron (from Greek ἀλάβαστρον) is a small type of pottery or glass vessel used in the ancient world for holding oil, especially perfume or massage oils. They originated around the eleventh century BC in ancient Egypt as containers carved from alabaster — hence the name — but spread via ancient Greece to other parts of the classical world.
Most types of alabastron have a narrow body with a rounded end, a narrow neck and a broad, splayed mouth. They were often left without handles, but some types were equipped with ear-shaped projections or lugs into which holes were punched. Strings were then put through these holes for easy mobility. The design of the first Egyptian alabastra was inspired by the palm tree, with a columnar shape, a palm capital and a stand. Later designs were made from glass decorated with various patterns, such as scallops, festoons or abstract patterns of rings or zigzags.
Around the seventh century BC, alabastra spread to Greece and became an important element of ancient Greek pottery. Alabastra also appeared in many other places in the ancient world, notably Assyria, Syria and Palestine, all having presumably been inspired by or exported from Greece or Egypt.