|The lands governed by the Republic of Macedonia were previously the southernmost part of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. Its current borders were fixed shortly after World War II when the Anti-Fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia declared the People’s Republic of Macedonia as a separate nation within Yugoslavia.
Over the centuries the territory which today forms the Republic of Macedonia was ruled by a number of different states and former empires.
The first recorded state on the territory of the Republic of Macedonia was the Thraco-Illyrian kingdom of Paionia, which covered the Axius River valley and the surrounding areas. Philip II of Macedon took over the southernmost regions of Paeonia in 336 BC and founded the city of Heraclea Lyncestis, near what is now Bitola. Philip’s son Alexander the Great conquered the remainder of Paeonia, which then became part of his empire. Subsequently the territory was conquered by Rome and became part of two Roman provinces. The greater part was within Macedonia Salutaris, but the northern border regions, inhabited by the Dardani, became a part of Moesia Superior. By 400 AD the Paeonians had lost their identity, and Paeonia was merely a geographic term.
The Medieval period
In the late 6th century AD, as Byzantine control over the area disintegrated, the region was increasingly settled by various Slavic tribes from the north, such as Draguvites, Bersites, Sagudates, Smoleanoi and Strymonoi. During this decay in Byzantine power, some of the pre-Slavic inhabitants retreated to fortified Greek cities along the Aegean Sea, others took refuge in mountains, whilst many others were assimilated by the Slavs. These people were a large mix of indigenous Balkaners (Greeks, Illyrians and Thracians as well as “Roman” settlers and foederati that had settled the area over the preceding centuries; sharing a sense of Graeco-Roman identity (by was of language and customs). The Slavs of Byzantine Macedonia organised themselves in autonomous rural societies called by the Greeks “Σκλαβινίαι” (Sklaviniai). The Byzantine emperors would aim to Hellenise and incorporate the Sklaviniai into the socio-economic rule of Byzantium. While Byzantine achieved this with the Slavs of the Thracian theme, the emperors had to resort to military expeditions to pacify the Sklaviniai of Macedonia, often repeatedly. These expeditions reached their peak with Justinian II, and Byzantine accounts report that as many as 200,000 from Macedonia to central Anatolia, forcing them to pay tribute and serve in the imperial army. Whilst many of the Slavs in Macedonia had to acknowledge Byzantine authority, the majority remained ethnically independent, and continued to form the demographic majority in the region as a whole. Rather than forming a unified Slavic state, they continued to live as separate tribes. Circa 850 AD, the First Bulgarian Empire expanded into the region of Macedonia. John Fine suggests that Bulgaria’s expansion into Macedonia was smooth, since Byzantine authority in the area was nominal, and most of the Slavic tribes of Macedonia willingly joined (the predominantly Slavic) Bulgarian confederacy
The Slavic peoples of Macedonia accepted Christianity as their own religion around the 9th century, during the reign of prince Boris I of Bulgaria. The creators of the Glagolitic alphabet, the Byzantine Greek monks Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, under the guidance of the Patriarchate at Constantinople, were promoters of Christianity and initiated Slavic literacy among the Slavic people. They were based in Thessaloniki, where Slavic was spoken universally as a second language after Greek, and used the Macedonian dialect spoken in the hinterland of Thessaloniki as the basis for what would become the universal Old Slavonic. Their work was accepted in early medieval Bulgaria and continued by St. Clement of Ohrid, creator of Cyrillic alphabet and St. Naum of Ohrid as founders of the Ohrid Literary School.
In 1014, Emperor Basil II finally defeated the armies of Tsar Samuil and by 1018 the Byzantines restored control over Macedonia (and all of the Balkans) for the first time since the 600s. However, by the late 12th century, inevitable Byzantine decline saw the region become contested by various political entities, including a brief Norman occupation in the 1080s. In the early 13th century, a revived Bulgarian Empire gained control of the region. Plagued by political difficulties the empire did not last and the wider geographical Macedonia region fell once again under Byzantine control. In the 14th 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.
However, with Dusan’s death, a weak successor and power struggles between nobles divided the Balkans once again. This coincided with the entry of the Ottoman Turks into Europe. With no major Balkan power left to defend Christianity, the entire Balkans fell to Turkish rule – which would remain so for five centuries.
The National Awakening
Ottoman rule over the region was considered harsh. One of the earliest uprisings against Ottoman rule came in 1689 with Karposh’s Rebellion. Several movements whose goals were the establishment of autonomous Macedonia, encompassing the entire region of Macedonia, began to arise in the late 1800s; the earliest of these was the Bulgarian Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Committees, later transformed to SMORO. In 1905 it was renamed as IMORO and after World War I the organization separated into the IMRO and the ITRO. The early organization did not proclaim any ethnic identities; it was officially open to “…uniting all the disgruntled elements in Macedonia and the Adrianople region, regardless of their nationality…”. The majority of its members were however Slavic/Bulgarian-speakers. In 1903, IMRO organised the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising against the Ottomans, which after some initial successes, including the forming of the Krushevo 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 Republic of Macedonia.
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 present-day Republic of Macedonia was then named Južna Srbija, “Southern Serbia”. After the First World War, Serbia became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In 1929, the Kingdom was officially renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and divided into provinces called banovinas. So-called “Southern Serbia” (Vardar Macedonia), including all of what is now the Republic of Macedonia, became known as the Vardar Banovina of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
In 1941, Yugoslavia was occupied by the Axis Powers and the Vardar Banovina was divided between Bulgaria and Italian-occupied Albania. Local recruits and volunteers formed the Bulgarian 5th Army, based in Skopje, which was responsible for the round-up and deportation of over 7,000 Jews in Skopje and Bitola. Harsh rule by the occupying forces encouraged some to support the Communist Partisan resistance movement of Josip Broz Tito.
Macedonia in Yugoslavia
After the end of the Second World War, when Tito became Yugoslavia’s president, the People’s Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was established. The People’s Republic of Macedonia 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. It dropped the “Socialist” from its name in 1991 when it peacefully seceded from Yugoslavia.
Declaration of independence
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 legalising participation in future union of the former states of Yugoslavia. The anniversary of the start of the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising (St. Elijah’s Day) on August 2 is also widely celebrated on an official level.
Robert Badinter as a head of Arbitration Commission of the Peace Conference on the former Yugoslavia recommended EU recognition in January 1992
The Republic of 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 destabilised 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, soon after, Albanian radicals on both sides of the border took up arms in pursuit of autonomy or independence for the Albanian-populated areas of the Republic.
Macedonian civil conflict
The civil war was fought between government and ethnic Albanian rebels, mostly in the north and west of the country, between March and June 2001. This war ended with the intervention of a NATO ceasefire monitoring force. In the Ohrid Agreement, the government agreed to devolve greater political power and cultural recognition to the Albanian minority. The Albanian side agreed to surrender separatist demands and to fully recognise all Macedonian institutions. In addition, according to this accord, the NLA were to disarm and hand over their weapons to a NATO force. In 2005, the country was officially recognised as a European Union candidate state, under the reference “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.