Macedonia: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Country In Turmoil

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Macedonia

Introduction Macedonia gained its independence peacefully from Yugoslavia in 1991, but Greece’s objection to the new state’s use of what it considered a Hellenic name and symbols delayed international recognition, which occurred under the provisional designation of “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” In 1995, Greece lifted a 20-month trade embargo and the two countries agreed to normalize relations. The United States began referring to Macedonia by its constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia, in 2004 and negotiations continue between Greece and Macedonia to resolve the name issue. Some ethnic Albanians, angered by perceived political and economic inequities, launched an insurgency in 2001 that eventually won the support of the majority of Macedonia’s Albanian population and led to the internationally-brokered Framework Agreement, which ended the fighting by establishing a set of new laws enhancing the rights of minorities. Fully implementating the Framework Agreement and stimulating economic growth and development continue to be challenges for Macedonia, although progress has been made on both fronts over the past several years.
History 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.

Pre-History

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[8]. 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[9]. 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.[10] 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…”.[12] The majority of its members were however Slavic/Bulgarian-speakers.[12] 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.

Serbian occupation

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”.

Geography Location: Southeastern Europe, north of Greece
Geographic coordinates: 41 50 N, 22 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 25,333 sq km
land: 24,856 sq km
water: 477 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Vermont
Land boundaries: total: 766 km
border countries: Albania 151 km, Bulgaria 148 km, Greece 246 km, Kosovo 159 km, Serbia 62 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: warm, dry summers and autumns; relatively cold winters with heavy snowfall
Terrain: mountainous territory covered with deep basins and valleys; three large lakes, each divided by a frontier line; country bisected by the Vardar River
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Vardar River 50 m
highest point: Golem Korab (Maja e Korabit) 2,764 m
Natural resources: low-grade iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, chromite, manganese, nickel, tungsten, gold, silver, asbestos, gypsum, timber, arable land
Land use: arable land: 22.01%
permanent crops: 1.79%
other: 76.2% (2005)
Irrigated land: 550 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 6.4 cu km (2001)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 2.27
per capita: 1,118 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: high seismic risks
Environment – current issues: air pollution from metallurgical plants
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: landlocked; major transportation corridor from Western and Central Europe to Aegean Sea and Southern Europe to Western Europe
Politics The Republic of Macedonia is a parliamentary democracy with an executive government composed of a coalition of parties from the unicameral legislature (Собрание, Sobranie) and an independent judicial branch with a constitutional court. The Assembly is made up of 120 seats and the members are elected every four years. The role of the President of the Republic is mostly ceremonial, with the real power resting in the hands of the President of the Government. The President is the commander-in-chief of the state armed forces and a president of the state Security Council. The President of the Republic is elected every five years and he or she can be elected twice at most. The current President is Branko Crvenkovski.

With the passage of a new law and elections held in 2005, local government functions are divided between 78 municipalities (општини, opštini; singular: општина, opština). The capital, Skopje, is governed as a group of ten municipalities collectively referred to as the “City of Skopje”. Municipalities in the Republic of Macedonia are units of local self-government. Neighbouring municipalities may establish co-operative arrangements. The country’s main political divergence is between the largely ethnically-based political parties representing the country’s ethnic Macedonian majority and Albanian minority. The issue of the power balance between the two communities led to a brief war in 2001, following which a power-sharing agreement was reached. In August 2004, the Republic’s parliament passed legislation redrawing local boundaries and giving greater local autonomy to ethnic Albanians in areas where they predominate.

After a troublesome pre-election campaign, the country saw a relatively calm and democratic change of government in the elections held on 5 July 2006. The elections were marked by a decisive victory of the centre-right party VMRO-DPMNE led by Nikola Gruevski. Gruevski’s decision to include the Democratic Party of Albanians in the new government, instead of the Democratic Union for Integration – Party for Democratic Prosperity coalition which won the majority of the Albanian votes, triggered protests throughout the parts of the country with a respective number of Albanian population. However, recently a dialogue was established between the Democratic Union for Integration and the ruling VMRO-DMPNE party as an effort to talk about the disputes between the two parties and to support European and NATO aspirations of the country.

People Population: 2,061,315 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 19.5% (male 207,954/female 193,428)
15-64 years: 69.3% (male 719,708/female 708,033)
65 years and over: 11.3% (male 101,036/female 131,156) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 34.8 years
male: 33.8 years
female: 35.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.262% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 12 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 8.81 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.57 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.77 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 9.27 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 9.45 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 9.08 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.45 years
male: 71.95 years
female: 77.13 years

Greek Spat Exposes Putin’s Waning Clout in European Backyard

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT AND BLOOMBERG NEWS)

 

Greek Spat Exposes Putin’s Waning Clout in European Backyard

Monday, 13 August, 2018 – 08:30
When Greece, traditionally among Russia’s closest friends in Europe, expelled two Russian diplomats last month for trying to wreck a deal with the neighboring Republic of Macedonia, it exposed Moscow’s deepening frustration at President Vladimir Putin’s loss of influence in a key strategic region.

Russia’s being squeezed out of the Balkans by the expansion of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, leaving the Kremlin with diminishing clout in southeastern Europe. There’s little chance of reversing that trend, according to four people in Moscow familiar with its Balkans policy.

“NATO membership of course is bad for us,” said Leonid Reshetnikov, a former head of Russian foreign intelligence who also served as an agent in Greece and the Balkans. “What can we do? They are clearing this territory” of rival influences, he said.

Russia’s deep historical and cultural ties to the Balkans made the region a preserve of pro-Moscow sentiment that ensured warmer relations than with much of the rest of Europe. Now Balkan states are becoming bound in with the West as they gravitate toward the EU and NATO.

Even amid divisions within the EU and questions raised by President Donald Trump about the US commitment to its NATO allies, the blocs still exert a strong pull in the region with their promises of rising trade and living standards, strengthened rule of law and security guarantees. Russia’s shrinking geopolitical reach is a historic setback for Putin, even as the Kremlin leader’s global power appears to be on the march, from Syria to meddling in US politics.

“Russia is acting pretty passively,’’ said Alexander Dugin, a nationalist thinker and one-time Kremlin adviser who promotes a vision of Russian dominance across Europe and Eurasia. “It needs a plan of action.”

Greek Expulsions

Greece expelled the Russian envoys after accusing them of bribing officials in an attempt to block the accord that settles a dispute over the Republic of Macedonia’s name and allows it to start talks on NATO membership. Russia’s foreign ministry accused Athens of joining in “dirty provocations,” prompting a Greek demand that “the constant disrespect for Greece must stop.”

Russia on Monday summoned the Greek ambassador to inform him that the foreign ministry was retaliating with reciprocal diplomatic measures in response to the expulsions.

Under the deal with Athens, the Republic of Macedonia will become the Republic of North Macedonia after Greece objected that the former Yugoslav republic’s title implied a territorial claim on its province with the same name.

‘Derail It’

Greece is “fully determined” to ratify the agreement, said Costas Douzinas, a member of the ruling Syriza party and head of the parliamentary committee on defense and foreign relations. “If the Russians continue to attempt to derail it, the reaction will be strong.”

Even the pro-Russian Independent Greeks party, the junior coalition partner in Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government, accuses Moscow of meddling, even as it opposes the accord. There’s “first-hand information that there was Russian interference in Greek matters,” the party’s vice president, Panos Sgouridis, said by phone. “It’s crucial that Greece’s national sovereignty is protected.”

The Republic of Macedonia plans to hold a referendum on Sept. 30. The deal is opposed by President Gjorge Ivanov, while Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has accused unnamed Greek businessmen sympathetic to Russia of inciting protests against it.

Last month, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a consortium of investigative reporters, cited the Republic of Macedonia’s Interior Ministry documents as saying that Greek-Russian billionaire Ivan Savvidis paid 300,000 euros to opponents of the accord. A representative for Savvidis denied the claim.
‘Enemies of Russia’

The former Yugoslav republic “will be in NATO,” said Frants Klintsevich, a member of the defense and security committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament. Moscow views the expansion of the alliance as reinforcing “the circle of enemies around Russia,” he said.

The tensions follow accusations by Montenegro that Russia was behind a failed coup attempt during 2016 parliamentary elections in a bid to derail its entry into the U.S.-led military alliance last year. Two Russian intelligence officers are among 14 people charged with the plot by Montenegrin prosecutors. Russia denies any involvement.

Konstantin Malofeev, a wealthy Russian businessman and Putin ally, who’s been sanctioned by the EU for backing insurgents in eastern Ukraine and has cultivated links to far-right parties in Europe, warned ominously of a backlash in Greece. A June opinion poll in Greece showed almost 70 percent of Greeks opposed the agreement with the Republic of Macedonia.
Serbia Shift

Russia’s sometimes heavy-handed efforts to stem the West’s growing influence have provoked alarm, particularly after the 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine. Moscow’s fear is that it may be left without partners in the region.

Albania and Croatia are NATO members, while Bosnia and Herzegovina says it wants to join, though Bosnian Serbs with ties to Russia threaten to block any attempt. Even Russia’s closest regional ally, Serbia, has joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace cooperation program. Meanwhile, the EU has dangled the prospect of membership as early as 2025 for Serbia and five other Balkans states.

Ranged against Russia are the US and its European allies.

US Vice President Mike Pence spoke by phone to Tsipras and Zaev on July 5. He later tweeted that “successful implementation’’ of the agreement “will open the door to European integration’’ for the Republic of Macedonia. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said July 30 that it’s in the EU’s “strategic interest” to expand into the western Balkans.

“It will be a very big blow” for Russia if Serbia, which NATO forces bombed in 1999 during the Kosovo crisis, eventually joins the alliance, said Nikita Bondarev, a Balkans expert from the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, which advises the Kremlin. “We will become almost friendless in southeastern Europe.”

(Bloomberg)