Macedonia - language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion, agriculture, climate

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Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Macedonian Republika Makedonija), country in southeastern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. A former constituent republic of Yugoslavia, it declared its independence in November 1991. After independence, the country, whose government calls it the Republic of Macedonia, became involved in a dispute with Greece over its name and other issues. In April 1993 the United Nations (UN) admitted the republic under the temporary name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) until a settlement with Greece could be reached. Skopje is the capital and largest city.


The FYROM has an area of 25,713 sq km (9,928 sq mi). It is bounded on the north by Serbia, on the east by Bulgaria, on the south by Greece, and on the west by Albania. It is completely landlocked. The FYROM’s terrain is punctuated by deep valleys and rugged mountains and hills. Many of the mountain ranges rise to heights of 2,100 to 2,700 m (7,000 to 9,000 ft). The Rhodope Mountains dominate the republic’s eastern half. Mount Korab, on the Albanian border, is the highest point in the republic at 2,764 m (9,068 ft). The Babuna Mountains are in the center of the country. They separate the fertile Bitola Plain in the south from the Skopje Plain in the north and the fertile steppe (treeless grassy plain) of the southeast.

The republic’s three largest lakes are Lakes Ohrid, Prespa, and Doiran. Lakes Ohrid and Prespa are in the southwestern corner of the country, straddling the borders with Albania and Greece. Lake Doiran is in the southeast, on the border with Greece. The longest river in the FYROM is the Vardar River, which bisects the republic as it travels from its origin in the northwest. The Vardar flows into Greece, where it is called the Axiós, and drains into the Aegean Sea. Not one of the rivers is navigable, and many are torrents that dry up during the summer dry season. A hydroelectric power system in the Mavrovo Valley along the upper course of the Radika River in the west provides electricity to Greece and the FYROM.

The steppeland of the republic has a modified Aegean climate, with hot summers and short, cold winters. The mountainous regions are characterized by hot, dry summers and autumns and cold winters with heavy snowfall. The valleys and basins record milder temperatures throughout the year. Skopje receives a large amount of rain. The average annual precipitation for the region around Skopje is about 700 mm (28 in), with much heavier precipitation at the higher elevations. At Skopje the mean January temperature is -1°C (30°F), and the mean July temperature is 23°C (74°F).

Forests of beech, pine, and oak, located primarily along the country’s western side, cover 35 percent of the territory. The FYROM possesses a variety of natural resources, including zinc, lead, manganese, nickel, chromium, copper, iron ore, and tungsten. Mineral and thermal springs are also common.

The FYROM is located in an area of high seismic activity. Skopje suffered a devastating earthquake in 1963.

The FYROM has environmental problems typical of the region, including air and water pollution—especially around Skopje—and disappearing forests. Of particular concern is air pollution from metallurgical plants.


The FYROM had an estimated population of 2,066,718 in 2009, with an average population density of 83 persons per sq km (215 per sq mi). Some 60 percent of the population lives in urban areas, mainly in the five largest cities: the capital Skopje, Bitola, Prilep, Kumanovo, and Tetovo.

The FYROM has one of the most complex ethnic populations in Europe. In a census taken under international control in 1994, Macedonian Slavs made up 67 percent of the population. These Macedonian Slavs are traditionally Orthodox Christians and speak a South Slavic language called Macedonian. This language is closely related to Bulgarian. Neighboring Bulgaria does not recognize Macedonian as a separate language. The Orthodox Christians who are Macedonian Slavs belong to the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

The census taken in 1994 showed that 23 percent of the population of the FYROM consisted of ethnic Albanians, the same stock as the ethnic Albanians of neighboring Albania and the Kosovo province of Serbia. Macedonian Albanians speak Albanian and are overwhelmingly Muslim. They claim that they make up even more than the 23 percent of the population shown in the 1994 census. The ethnic Albanian population is concentrated in western FYROM, bordering Kosovo and Albania. Three-fourths of the population in Tetovo was ethnic Albanian. Tensions between the ethnic Albanian and the majority Macedonian Slav population have increased since the FYROM gained independence in 1991. Other minority groups include Turks (4 percent), Roma or Gypsies (2 percent), and Serbs (2 percent).

While the overall population growth rate of the FYROM is relatively low (0.3 percent in 2009), the ethnic Albanians have a growth rate substantially higher than that of the Macedonian Slavs. In the 1990s this difference produced an increase in the ethnic Albanian population relative to that of the Macedonian Slavs.

Education is free and compulsory from age 7 through 14. The literacy rate is almost 90 percent. In 2002–2003, virtually all eligible children were enrolled in elementary schools. However, only 52 percent of eligible young men and 48 percent of eligible young women were enrolled in secondary schools. There are presently three officially accredited universities, beginning with the University of Skopje (founded in 1949), and followed by the University of Bitola (1979). Ethnic Albanian authorities in Tetovo proclaimed the founding of an Albanian-language university there in 1995, but the university was refused recognition by the government due to objections over the use of Albanian as a language of instruction in higher learning. Following a decade of controversy and compromise, Tetovo University finally received official status as a state institution in 2004.

Way of Life in Macedonia

Since 1945 what is today the FYROM has undergone a transition from an overwhelmingly agricultural society, with more than 90 percent of the people living in rural areas, to a mixed industrial-agricultural society, with only 40 percent of the population living in rural areas. While traditional families were large, the new urban families are small, especially among the population that is not ethnic Albanian. The society is traditionally patriarchal, with Orthodox Christianity exerting a strong influence among the non-Muslim population. Traditional clothing is colorful, with rich embroidery, but folk costumes are no longer worn by many people, who dress instead like other southern Europeans. Traditional foods have much in common with those elsewhere in the Balkans, favoring breads and roasted meats. The republic produces excellent fruits and vegetables and is famous for its peppers. The wines are very good and are being increasingly produced for export.

Cultural Life in Macedonia

As might be expected in a country with such a diverse population, the cultural life of the FYROM is rich. Folk music draws on Byzantine traditions as well as those associated with the Muslim cultures of the Middle East. Current popular music groups have drawn on this mixed heritage to produce strikingly original music. Many of the Orthodox Christian monasteries and churches are decorated with beautiful frescoes and other works of art. In 1995 a FYROM film, Before the Rain, gained recognition in the United States and was a finalist for an Academy Award in the best foreign-language film category. An internationally renowned gathering of poets is held every year in Struga, on the shores of Lake Ohrid.


Of the six republics of the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia was one of the least developed economically. In 1991 its gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was about one-third that of Slovenia, the richest of the republics. GDP, which measures the value of goods and services produced in a country, fell by more than 30 percent from 1991 to 1995. The independent republic saw its first economic growth in 1996. Unemployment has been a dominant problem, with the unemployment rate topping 33 percent in 1995 and rising to 40 percent in 1998. In 1998 continued growth and a government program to create jobs began to reduce the number of unemployed workers. In 2007 the GDP was $7.7 billion.

When the FYROM was part of post-World War II Yugoslavia, its economy was controlled by the state, which effectively owned most enterprises. These enterprises did not have to be profitable and often were managed inefficiently. After independence the country had to make the transition from a modified socialist economy to a free-market economy under particularly unfavorable circumstances. In the first half of the 1990s the economy suffered from a trade embargo imposed by Greece. International economic sanctions placed on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now the separate countries of Serbia and Montenegro) by the United Nations (UN) beginning in 1992 took away an important market, especially for the republic’s agricultural products. In 1994 and 1995 Greece imposed a blockade on the FYROM, deepening the country’s economic slump. An underground gray economy, which comprises businesses that operate outside the tax and social security systems and that disregard government regulations, grew in the FYROM during that period. At the end of the 1990s the gray economy remained large. It was estimated that in 1998 the gray economy accounted for fully one-half of the republic’s GDP.

Nevertheless, the FYROM’s economic transition was successful in some ways. Inflation, which was 1,691 percent in 1992, had dropped to 1.3 percent in mid-1998. Many firms were transferred from government control to private control. Transferring firms to private ownership so that they could operate on the basis of supply and demand was an important step in creating a free-market economy in the FYROM. The pace of such structural change was slow until the late 1990s because the process was dominated by insider privatization; that is, many firms were sold to their former managers. However, laws passed in the late 1990s to discourage insider privatization helped speed structural change. A major increase in foreign investment in FYROM firms in 1998 reinforced the trend.

Industry, including manufacturing, mining, and construction, was the largest sector of the economy as the Yugoslav period came to an end. Industry employed 40 percent of the republic’s labor force in 1990 and generated 36 percent of the GDP in 1992. During the early 1990s the contribution of industry to the GDP fell while the contribution of services increased. It seemed, at first sight, as if the FYROM were already making a transition to a successful post-industrial society. However, in reality, the structural changes in the economy reflected the collapse of industry rather than any major growth in services. The economic recovery of 1998 was based largely on recovery in the industries that had been developed by the post-World War II Yugoslav regime: iron, steel, and other metals; chemicals; tobacco; textiles; and machinery. In 2007 industry accounted for 30 percent of GDP. Agriculture, forestry, and fishing accounted for 12 percent, and services accounted for 59 percent.

Important agricultural products in the FYROM include wheat; corn, or maize; barley; tobacco; and fruits and vegetables. Dairy farming is also important. Coal is mined and various metals are mined or processed in the FYROM. These include chromium, lead, zinc, and alloys of iron and nickel. Major manufactured goods are food products, textiles and clothing, machinery, chemicals, iron and steel, and tobacco products.

In 1992 the FYROM established a national bank and introduced its own currency, the denar (44.7 denars equal U.S.$1; 2007 average). The banking system that existed just before independence included several commercial banks that operated like those in Western countries. However, many of these banks were insolvent because the government had forced them to loan money to enterprises that could not repay the loans. After independence the national bank launched a program to strengthen the commercial banks. The program yielded good results, dramatically decreasing the share of bad loans from 1992 to 1998. The national bank successfully tamed inflation in the late 1990s.

In 2007 the value of the FYROM’s imports was $5.2 billion, compared to exports worth $3.3 billion. The main exports are basic manufactures (especially iron and steel), machinery and transportation equipment, food and beverages, and tobacco. The chief imports are fuels, chemicals, and machinery and equipment. Principal purchasers of the country’s exports are Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Russia; chief suppliers of imports are Germany, Bulgaria, Italy, and Austria.

Coal is the republic’s main source of energy, with power plants that burn fossil fuels producing 76 percent of the country’s electricity in 2006. Most was generated by a coal-fired power plant at Bitola.

The FYROM’s transportation network is not well developed. At the end of the 1990s international investment was helping to pay for the construction of modern road and rail networks. The chief airports are at Skopje and Ohrid.

The communications system is small. In 2005 there were 262 telephone mainlines for every 1,000 people. For the same number of people there were 206 radios and 280 televisions. The government owns all broadcasting stations. The republic has 10 daily newspapers. The broadcast media and the press are generally free.


The constitution of the FYROM was adopted in November 1991 and amended the next month. The amendments state explicitly that the republic has no territorial claims against neighboring states and that it will not interfere in the affairs of other states. These clarifications were made to address concerns raised by the government of Greece, the neighboring region of which is also called Macedonia. The constitution heavily emphasizes formal guarantees of fundamental rights and freedoms. Every citizen 18 years of age or older has the right to vote.

The president of the republic is the head of state. The president is elected by direct popular vote to a term of five years. No person may serve more than two terms as president. The president appoints the prime minister, subject to approval by the parliament. The prime minister and a cabinet of ministers chosen by the prime minister make up the government, which handles day-to-day government operations.

The parliament, or Sobranje, is a single-chamber legislature with 120 members. The members are elected by direct popular vote for terms of four years. The parliament creates laws and develops policy.

The Supreme Court is the highest court. A hierarchy of regular courts exists, at the trial and appeals levels, to handle legal cases. Judges for all these courts are appointed for life by a seven-member Judicial Council, which is appointed by the parliament. The Constitutional Court decides constitutional questions and may annul laws that are inconsistent with the constitution. The Constitutional Court consists of nine judges, elected by the parliament, but the president may nominate two members. Judges of the Constitutional Court serve nine-year terms and may not be reappointed.

For purposes of local government, the country is divided into 34 communes. Each commune has a directly elected assembly.

The ruling party is the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE). Other political parties include the former Communist party, now called the Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDAM), and the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party of Macedonian National Unity (IMRO-DPMNU). Formerly a strongly nationalist party, the IMRO-DPMNU deemphasized its nationalist rhetoric in 1998 and adopted a more conciliatory position toward ethnic Albanians. The largest ethnic Albanian party is the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), formed in 2002 by former members of the ethnic Albanian insurgent group the National Liberation Army (NLA). Other significant ethnic Albanian parties are the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) and the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP). The Democratic Alternative (DA) is a multiethnic liberal party.

Males are conscripted for nine months of military service. The FYROM military is very small, with 10,890 active-duty troops in 2006, mainly in the army. The republic has a very small air force and some air defense units. There are also about 7,500 special police officers.

The FYROM is a member of the Partnership for Peace program of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The FYROM is also a member of the United Nations (UN), the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).


The history of the territory and people of the FYROM was part of the history of the larger region of Macedonia until the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), when the region was divided among Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria. Macedonia had been a province of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 500 years, but by the early 20th century the declining empire was losing its grip on the region. In the 19th century the empire lost one after another of its Balkan possessions, and by the end of that century only Macedonia, Albania, and Thrace remained under Ottoman control. After the Congress of Berlin (1878) had created a virtually independent Bulgaria, which became completely independent in 1908, and enlarged Greece and Serbia to the borders of Ottoman Macedonia, these three states began competing for the allegiance of the Macedonian population by supporting rival schools, national churches, and armed bands. The people of Macedonia increasingly identified themselves as Greeks or Bulgarians, or as members of a separate (Slavic) Macedonian nation. An armed terrorist group, founded in 1893 and best known as the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), provoked local uprisings. The IMRO hoped that Ottoman reprisals would provoke the great powers of Europe to intervene and liberate Macedonia. The IMRO was itself split into factions, some seeking autonomy as a step toward union with Bulgaria and others seeking an independent Macedonia.

In 1912 Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia agreed to partition Macedonia and, together with Montenegro, attacked and defeated the Ottoman Empire in the First Balkan War. Then the victors quarreled over their shares of Macedonia, prompting the Second Balkan War (1913). In that conflict, Serbia and Greece, joined by Romania and the Ottoman Empire, quickly defeated Bulgaria. Greece acquired southern or Aegean Macedonia, and Serbia took northern or Vardar Macedonia. Bulgaria was left with a small piece of eastern Macedonia, known as Pirin Macedonia, and an enduring grudge nurtured by the conviction that all Macedonian Slavs were actually or potentially Bulgarians. Serbs called their share of Macedonia South Serbia and tried to force the population to accept a Serbian identity. In 1915, during World War I (1914-1918), Bulgarians returned as initially welcome, but later resented, occupiers. At the end of the war, with Bulgaria among the defeated Central Powers, Vardar Macedonia, slightly enlarged at Bulgaria’s expense, was again South Serbia and part of the new Serb-dominated Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, later renamed Yugoslavia. Serbs were sent as colonists. Efforts to give the native population a Serbian identity resumed as did the IMRO’s terrorist activities, which included the assassination of King Aleksandar I of Yugoslavia in 1934.

World War II

Germany and its Axis allies, including Bulgaria, invaded and dismembered Yugoslavia in April 1941, during World War II. Vardar Macedonia was again under initially welcome Bulgarian occupation. However, a growing number of Vardar Macedonians began to perceive Bulgarians, like Serbs, as oppressors more than liberators. Many Vardar Macedonians seem to have concluded that they were a separate people, neither Bulgarian nor Serb. By 1944 these people, as well as Communists previously drawn to the Bulgarian rather than Yugoslav party, were increasingly ready to join the Communist-led Partisans, a Yugoslav resistance movement organized and headed by Josip Broz Tito. Tito proclaimed in November 1943 that Macedonians made up a nation and therefore were entitled to an autonomous republic of their own in a postwar Yugoslavia.

Tito’s Yugoslavia

By May 1945 the Axis had been defeated, and the Partisans had won a parallel civil war against domestic Axis collaborators, the Croatian Ustaše, and a rival resistance movement, the Serb royalist Četniks, as well as others opposed to Communist Partisan rule. Tito reestablished Yugoslavia as a federal state of six republics, including Yugoslav Macedonia, to serve as semiautonomous homelands for Yugoslavia’s officially recognized nations. Tito planned to reunify historic Macedonia by adding Bulgarian and Greek Macedonia to the Yugoslav republic, and Bulgaria’s new Communist government and most Greek Communist Party leaders initially accepted Tito’s plan. However, that plan was doomed when Yugoslavia was estranged in 1948 from the Communist bloc of Eastern European countries led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and when the Greek Communists lost the civil war in Greece in 1949.

From 1945 to 1991 the People’s (later Socialist) Republic of Macedonia was a part of Tito’s Yugoslavia. At first a faithful copy of the rigid Communist dictatorship in the USSR, Yugoslavia changed after Tito’s break with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1948. In the 1950s there was a gradual process of decentralization in which more and more power was transferred to the six republics and their own Communist leaderships. During this time there was also an easing of repression and abandonment of collectivized agriculture. The government introduced experiments in economic liberalization such as market socialism and workers’ self-management. In the 1960s prominent Macedonian Slav politicians Kiro Gligorov and Krste Crvenkovski joined leading Croatian and Slovene Communists who successfully pushed for reforms that liberalized Yugoslavia’s economic and political systems. Tito halted the liberalization process in 1971 and 1972.

Tito’s death in 1980 coincided with the onset of an enduring economic crisis that, by 1985, had lowered production and living standards to 1965 levels. Yugoslav Macedonia, the second poorest republic after Bosnia and Herzegovina, was among the hardest hit. Tito’s successors, leaders of republics with conflicting economic interests and national aspirations, could not agree on effective remedies. Acceptance of the institutions and eventually even the structure of Tito’s Yugoslavia declined everywhere, especially in Slovenia and Croatia. Of the six republics, Yugoslav Macedonia was the slowest to embrace the idea of changing the way Yugoslavia was constituted. Like the Slovenes and Croats, the Macedonian Slavs were resistant in the late 1980s when Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević asserted Serbian nationalism and attempted to reassert centralized party and state control over Yugoslavia under Serb domination. However, while Slovenia and Croatia considered secession, most Macedonian Slavs feared having to establish an independent but weak republic surrounded by states with historic claims to all or some of its territory.

In 1990 all of Yugoslavia’s republics, catching the tide away from Communist dictatorship sweeping Eastern Europe, held competitive multiparty parliamentary elections that were won by nationalist parties. In Yugoslav Macedonia’s prolonged and inconclusive elections in November and December 1990 a militantly nationalist party with an old name, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party of Macedonian National Unity (IMRO-DPMNU), won a plurality of seats (37 of 120) in the Sobranje, or parliament. Both the reorganized Communist party and the republic’s major ethnic Albanian party won significant numbers of seats. In January 1991 the Sobranje elected the veteran “reform-Communist” Kiro Gligorov as president. In March, after prolonged negotiations, the Sobranje finally approved a prime minister and cabinet consisting mostly of individuals who belonged to no party.

Independent Republic

In June 1991 Slovenia and Croatia declared independence. Unwilling to remain in a Serb-dominated rump Yugoslavia, Macedonian Slavs voted overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum in September 1991. (The Albanian and Serb minorities boycotted the referendum.) In November 1991 the republic joined Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina in applying to the European Community (now the European Union [EU]) for recognition as independent states. In the spring of 1992 Gligorov negotiated the peaceful withdrawal of the Yugoslav army, and Yugoslav Macedonia became the only Yugoslav republic to achieve independence without war (see Yugoslav Succession, Wars of). In April 1992 Serbia and Montenegro formed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), which they claimed was the successor state to Yugoslavia.

The Struggle for Recognition

What soon became known as the FYROM struggled to gain recognition by the EU and most other states, and it found membership in the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations repeatedly delayed by Greece’s objections to its name. Greece asserted that “Macedonia” was historically and exclusively a Greek name and that its use by Greece’s northern neighbor implied a territorial claim to the Greek region of Macedonia. As a result of international pressure, the Sobranje amended the constitution in December 1991 to state that it had no territorial aspirations in Greece or any other country. But Greece, which also objected to the republic’s use of Alexander the Great’s 16-pointed Star of Vergina on its flag, was not satisfied. In April 1993 the country was admitted to the United Nations under the temporary name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Other international bodies and countries also adopted this approach, but the dispute with Greece continued. In February 1994 Greece imposed an economic blockade, severely crippling the FYROM’s fragile economy. In the first half of 1993 the UN sent 1,000 peacekeeping troops (including about 500 U.S. soldiers) to the republic in order to prevent the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina from spreading there.

Economic problems and the struggle for international recognition contributed to the fall of the nonparty government in the summer of 1992. A four-party coalition formed the new government, with Branko Crvenkovski, the leader of the Communist party now renamed the Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDAM), as the new prime minister. Parliamentary elections in the fall of 1994 gave a three-party Alliance for Macedonia, led by the SDAM, 95 of the 120 seats in the Sobranje. The Liberal Party and the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP) were the other parties in the coalition. The IMRO-DPMNU and the Democratic Party boycotted the second round of elections after a poor showing in the first round and were therefore not represented in the new Sobranje. Crvenkovski was again named prime minister. At the same time, Gligorov won reelection as president, by popular vote, with a 52-percent majority.

The Greek blockade was not lifted until September 1995, when the foreign ministers of Greece and the FYROM signed an interim accord on mutual relations. The two countries confirmed their border and agreed to establish diplomatic relations. Greece pledged to lift its embargo and to consent to the FYROM’s entrance into a number of international organizations. For its part, the FYROM agreed to remove the controversial Star of Vergina from its flag and to repeal articles of its constitution that Greece found objectionable. Negotiations were to continue regarding the issue of the republic’s name.

On October 3, 1995, Gligorov suffered grave head and other injuries in a car-bomb attack in Skopje, but he recovered sufficiently to return to office in January 1996. (The attackers and motive have not been identified.) A brief power struggle between the leaders of the SDAM and the Liberal Party led to the collapse of the coalition government, and in February the Sobranje endorsed a new government. The new government included no members of the Liberal Party and reasserted the dominance of the SDAM in the FYROM’s ruling coalition. The Socialist Party of Macedonia replaced the Liberal Party in the new coalition. In 1996 the FYROM and the FRY officially recognized each other.

Internal Tensions

Relations between the FYROM government and the country’s large Albanian minority have been a persistent internal problem. Concentrated on the FYROM’s borders with Albania and the Serbian province of Kosovo (administered by UN), where 90 percent of the population is ethnic Albanian, the FYROM’s Albanians resent and resist what they regard as inferior status and discrimination. A law enacted in 1992 requires 15 years of residency for citizenship, disqualifying many ethnic Albanians who moved between Kosovo (administered by UN) and the FYROM, and the government has tried to suppress an Albanian-language university in Tetovo. However, the ethnic Albanian parties have had a high profile in the Sobranje, and at least one of these parties has participated in most of the governments formed since the FYROM’s independence, moderating unrest in the Albanian community.

Before parliamentary elections in November 1998 the IMRO-DPMNU and its leader, Ljubco Georgievski, deemphasized their previous nationalist stance and presented themselves as conciliatory moderates who stood for good relations with ethnic Albanians. The IMRO-DPMNU made an electoral alliance with the Democratic Alternative (DA), a multiethnic liberal party headed by Vasil Tupurkovski, who had been Macedonia’s representative in Yugoslavia’s collective presidency from 1989 to 1991. The new alliance won 59 of the 120 seats in the Sobranje, and Georgievski was appointed prime minister in November. The Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) was then invited to join the government, giving the ruling coalition an absolute majority of 69 seats.

Crisis in Kosovo

Meanwhile, in March 1998 violence broke out between Serbian police and ethnic Albanian separatists in the neighboring Serbian province of Kosovo. In the wake of the violence, Gligorov appealed to extend the mission of the UN troops posted along the FYROM’s border with Serbia beyond the scheduled end date of September. In July the UN voted to add about 300 troops and extend the mission to February 1999. The UN withdrew the troops in March 1999. China, a member of the UN Security Council, had vetoed another extension of the mission after the FYROM extended diplomatic recognition to Taiwan earlier that year.

In March 1999 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began a campaign of air strikes against the FRY after the Yugoslav government refused to accept an international peace plan for Kosovo. Serbian police and Yugoslav army forces intensified assaults on ethnic Albanian villages in Kosovo, forcing many Albanians to flee to Albania, Montenegro, and the FYROM. By early June, when the Yugoslav government finally accepted an international peace plan for Kosovo, the FYROM had received about 245,000 refugees from the troubled province, according to UN estimates. Under the terms of the plan, an international peacekeeping force occupied Kosovo to help ensure the refugees’ safe return and allow the UN to establish an international protectorate over the province.

Gligorov did not stand for reelection as president in November 1999. He was succeeded by Boris Trajkovsky, a member of the IMRO-DPMNU.

Interethnic Conflict

In February 2001 a group of ethnic Albanian insurgents operating from Kosovo attacked FYROM police and army units near Tetovo, in the northeast. Many observers feared that the attacks might spark a new interethnic war in the Balkans. The Albanian group, which called itself the National Liberation Army (NLA), was soon bombarding Tetovo with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. In late March, President Trajkovksy, with the political backing of NATO and the European Union (EU), ordered an attack on NLA strongholds along the Kosovo border. As the FYROM forces pushed the NLA back into Kosovo, NATO troops occupying Kosovo attempted to seal the border to prevent infiltration and arms smuggling by the NLA. The NLA resisted efforts to rout them from FYROM territory, and the fighting continued.

In the spring and summer of 2001 representatives of NATO and the EU made several attempts to stem the escalating violence. By late summer the NLA controlled a large swath of territory in the northern and western FYROM. In August the rebels disbanded after political leaders representing Macedonian Slavs and ethnic Albanians signed a Western-backed peace agreement that granted ethnic Albanians greater political and cultural rights. The agreement, signed at the lakeside resort of Ohrid, authorized the deployment of a NATO task force in the FYROM to collect weapons surrendered by the Albanian insurgents. Following a general amnesty granted in early 2002, some of the former NLA rebels moved into mainstream politics by forming a new ethnic Albanian political party, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI).

Recent Developments

In the September 2002 parliamentary elections, voters swept aside the ruling IMRO-DPMNU-led coalition in a contest seen as a crucial test of the Western-backed peace agreement. The IMRO-DPMNU took just 30 seats in the 120-seat Sobranje after running a campaign of nationalist rhetoric directed against ethnic Albanians. The election was carried convincingly by the center-left Together for Macedonia coalition, a group of parties led by the Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDAM). The coalition, which drew its support largely from members of the Macedonian Slav majority, claimed 59 seats in the Sobranje. Among the ethnic Albanian community, the newly formed DUI claimed 16 seats, at the expense of the other ethnic Albanian parties. The vote, deemed fair and mostly peaceful by international observers, won praise from Western governments as a step toward peace and stability in the region.

Following the elections, the Together for Macedonia coalition invited the DUI to enter negotiations to form a new government, despite vigorous objections from the IMRO-DPMNU and the Democratic Alternative (DA) that the coalition was caving in to ethnic Albanian “terrorists.” However, both sets of victors remained deeply suspicious of each other and the negotiations proceeded slowly. By mid-October 2002 the parties had agreed on the formation of a new government, with SDAM leader Branko Crvenkovski serving as the prime minister. The DUI claimed several ministries in the cabinet of the new government, but Ali Ahmeti, former head of the disbanded NLA and leader of the DUI, remained outside the government in an effort to avoid antagonizing Macedonian Slavs.

In February 2004 President Boris Trajkovski, the man credited with bringing political stability to the country, was killed in an airplane crash in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Just before his untimely death he had approved the country’s formal application to join the European Union (EU). The election to find his successor was concluded in April 2004 when the prime minister, Branko Crvenkovski, won the second round of the campaign against Sasko Kedev by securing nearly 63 percent of the vote. Shortly afterwards, parliament approved Hari Kostov as prime minister, but he resigned the post in November 2004. His term in office was dominated by the issue of redrawing the country’s internal borders to give greater autonomy, in heavily populated Albanian regions, to the Albanian populace. A referendum confirmed the plans in August. Crvenkovski offered the prime ministership to Vlado Buckovski in November, and he was sworn in the following month.

Buckovski stepped down after the 2006 elections, held in July, in which his Social Democratic Alliance secured only 32 of the 120 seats. Significant electoral gains were made by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), which won 44 seats. Its leader, Nikola Gruevski, set about building a ruling coalition. As prime minister Gruevski pledged to prepare the country for entry into the EU, after the EU decided in December 2005 to grant FYROM candidate status.

In the 2008 parliamentary elections Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE increased its parliamentary representation to 63 seats. It formed a coalition government with the DUI, and Gruevski remained the prime minister. The Social Democrats and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) boycotted the parliamentary session that confirmed the new government in July, claiming that the arrest on corruption charges of the Social Democrats’ deputy leader was an attempt to intimidate the party and that the June elections had been marred by fraud. In runoff elections for the largely ceremonial post of president in April 2009, the VMRO-DPMNE’s candidate, Gjorge Ivanov, easily defeated the candidate of the Social Democrats.

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