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Republic of Macedonia

Republic of Macedonia

Republic (2002 pop. 2,022,547), 9,930 sq mi (25,720 sq km), SE Europe. It is bordered by Serbia and Montenegro on the north, Albania on the west, Greece on the south, and Bulgaria on the east. The capital and largest city is Skopje. The other main cities are Tetovo, Bitola (Bitolj), and Prilep. 1

A predominately mountainous and landlocked country with deep river valleys, Macedonia is drained by the Vadar River, which runs through the center of the country, and its tributaries, including the Bregalnica, the Crna Reka, and the Treska rivers. Almost 40% of the country is forested, with a concentration of wooded areas in its western section. The climate is generally cold and snowy in the winter and hot and dry in the summer. Many earthquakes have been recorded in Macedonia. 2
Ethnic Macedonians constitute nearly two thirds of the population. The largest minority is Albanian, representing one fourth of the population and living largely in W Macedonia. There are smaller groups of Serbs, Turks, Greeks, Bulgarians, and other groups. About 65% of the people belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, while 30% are Muslims and about 5% are non-Orthodox Christians. The predominant language is Macedonian, which is related to Bulgarian; Albanian is widely spoken by that minority. 3

The poorest of the former Yugoslavian republics, Macedonia has a mostly agricultural economy. Grains, tobacco, and cotton are grown, and sheep and goats are raised. Iron, copper, and lead are mined. Manufacturing includes chemicals, steel, machinery, and textiles. 4
The emerging democracy is governed under the constitution of 1991, as amended in 2001. It has a 120-seat unicameral legislature, the Sobranie, whose members are elected for four-year terms by both single-seat constituencies and proportional representation. The executive consists of an elected president, aided by a council of ministers and a prime minister. Administratively, the country is divided into 123 municipalities. 5

For Macedonian history prior to independence, see Macedon, Macedonia, region, and Yugoslavia. 6
After the elections of 1990 that put in place Yugoslav Macedonias first non-Communist government, the Yugoslavian federation began to disintegrate. Macedonia declared its independence in Sept., 1991. However, the new nations sovereignty was not immediately recognized by the international community, largely due to Greek protests over the name Macedonia. Greece, fearing future territorial claims, wanted to further the distinction between Macedonia and Greek Macedonia. There were also tensions with Bulgaria, which recognized the new nation but had historically regarded the area as Bulgarian. 7
In 1993, Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations under the provisional name of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). The United States recognized the new nation under the provisional name in 1994. Greece, however, imposed an economic blockade on the landlocked country, which already was suffering from international sanctions imposed on its biggest trading partner, Serb-dominated Yugoslavia. Greece lifted the sanctions in 1995, after Macedonia had agreed to certain conditions, including a modification of its flag and a renunciation of any territorial claims against Greece. By the end of the decade, relations with Greece and Bulgaria had improved significantly, and in 2001 Yugoslavia (now Serbia and Montenegro) and Macedonia signed an agreement demarcating their border. 8
In 1994, Kiro Gligorov was reelected president in an election boycotted by the nationalist opposition. In Oct., 1995, he was gravely injured in an assassination attempt. In June, 1996, the parliament suspended the constitution and repudiated opposition calls for a referendum on holding new elections. Following elections held in 1998, a center-right coalition government was formed that included members of the Albanian minority. In the presidential election in late 1999, the center-right candidate, Boris Trajkovski, won, but the result was tainted by fraud in some areas and was denounced by his opponent. The election was partially rerun in December, and vote-rigging again occurred, but it appeared irrelevant to the outcome, as it occurred in areas strongly supportive of Trajkovski. 9
Macedonia has been shaken by tensions between ethnic Macedonians and the Albanian minority, which were aggravated by the influx of Kosovar Albanian refugees in 1999 (see Kosovo). Isolated incidents of violence in 1999 and 2000 became sustained battling between Macedonian forces and Albanian rebels in 2001. Although the fighting was limited, it threatened to polarize further the nations two main ethnic groups. 10
An accord ending the fighting was brokered by the European Union and the United States and signed in Aug., 2001. It called for NATO troops to disarm the Albanian rebels and for the parliament to establish Albanian as a semiofficial language and guarantee the political, cultural, and religious rights of ethnic Albanians. The rebels were disarmed, the constitution subsequently amended (although some Macedonian Slav politicians opposed the changes), and an amnesty enacted for ethnic Albanian guerrillas. 11
Elections in Sept., 2002, resulted in a near majority in parliament for the Slav-dominated center-left Together for Macedonia coalition and a sizable vote for the Democrat Union for Integration, an Albanian party dominated by the disarmed rebels. A coalition goverment including both groups was formed, and Social Democrat Branko Crvenkovski became prime minister. In Mar., 2003, European Union forces were deployed as peacekeepers in Macedonia, replacing the NATO force. President Trajkovski was killed in a plane crash in Feb., 2004. In April Prime Minister Crvenkovski was elected to succeed him, and Hari Kostov became prime minister in June. Legislation redrawing municipal boundaries and giving more power to local councils, actions that were regarded as favoring ethnic Albanians, sparked riots in July but was passed the next month. In Nov., 2004, a referendum on overturning the laws failed when too few Macedonians voted; the government had called for a boycott of the vote. Kostov subsequently resigned, asserting that minority rights issues were overshadowing needed reforms; Vlado Buckovski succeeded him as prime minister in December.

2011, Sigismund III Column


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