Throughout its history, the present-day territory of Macedonia has been a crossroads for both traders and conquerors moving between the European continent and Asia Minor. Each of these transiting powers left its mark upon the region, giving rise to a rich and varied cultural and historical tradition.
The ancient territory of Macedon included, in addition to the areas of the present-day Macedonia, large parts of present-day northern Greece and southwestern Bulgaria. This ancient kingdom reached its height during the reign of Alexander III ("the Great"), who extended Macedon's influence over most of Asia Minor, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and even parts of India. After Alexander's death in 323 BC, the Macedon Empire gradually declined, until it was conquered in 168 BC and made a province by the Romans in 148 BC.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the territory of Macedonia fell under the control of the Byzantine Empire in the 6th and 7th centuries. It was during this period that large groups of Slavic people migrated to the Balkan region. The Serbs, Bulgarians, and Byzantines fought for control of Macedonia until the late 14th century, when the territory was conquered by the Ottoman Turks; it remained under Turkish rule until 1912.
After more than four centuries of rule, Ottoman power in the region began to wane, and by the middle of the 19th century, Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia were competing for influence in the territory. During this time, a nationalist movement emerged and grew in Macedonia. The latter half of the 19th century was marked by sporadic nationalist uprisings, culminating in the Ilinden Uprising of August 2, 1903. Macedonian revolutionaries liberated the town of Krushevo and established the short-lived Republic of Krushevo, which was put down by Ottoman forces after 10 days. Following Ottoman Turkey's defeat by the allied Balkan countries--Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece--during the First Balkan War in autumn 1912, the same allies fought the Second Balkan War over the division of Macedonia. The August 1913 Treaty of Bucharest ended this conflict by dividing the territory between Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles sanctioned partitioning Macedonia between The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Bulgaria, and Greece. In the wake of the First World War, Vardarian Macedonia (the present day area of Macedonia) was incorporated into the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.
Throughout much of the Second World War, Bulgaria and Italy occupied Macedonia. Many people joined partisan movements during this time and succeeded in liberating the region in 1944. Following the war, Macedonia became one of the constituent republics of the new Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under Marshall Tito. During this period, Macedonian culture and language flourished.
As communism fell throughout eastern Europe in the late 20th century, Macedonia followed its other federation partners and declared its independence from Yugoslavia in late 1991. The new Macedonian constitution took effect November 20, 1991, and called for a system of government based on a parliamentary democracy. The first democratically elected coalition government was led by Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and included the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP). Kiro Gligorov became the first President of an independent Macedonia.
Macedonia was the only republic of the former Yugoslavia whose secession in 1991 was not clouded by ethnic or other armed conflict. During the Yugoslav period, Macedonian ethnic identity exhibited itself, in that most of Macedonia's Slavic population identified themselves as Macedonians, while several minority groups, in particular ethnic Albanians, sought to retain their own distinct political culture and language. Although interethnic tensions simmered under Yugoslav authority and during the first decade of its independence, the country avoided ethnically motivated conflict until several years after independence.
In February 1994, Greece imposed a trade embargo on Macedonia due to disputes over the use of the name "Macedonia" and other issues. Greece and Macedonia signed an interim accord in October 1995 ending the embargo and opening the way to diplomatic recognition and increased trade. After signing the agreement with Greece, Macedonia joined the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP). Athens and Skopje began talks on the name issue in New York under UN auspices in December 1995, opening liaison offices in respective capitals January 1996. These talks continue.
The stability of the young state was gravely tested during the 1999 Kosovo crisis, when Macedonia temporarily hosted about 360,000 refugees from the violence and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, as Serb atrocities against Kosovar Albanians and other minority groups caused a mass exodus. The refugee influx put significant stress on Macedonia's weak social infrastructure. With the help of NATO and the international community, Macedonia ultimately was able to accommodate the influx. Following the resolution of the conflict, the overwhelming majority of refugees returned to Kosovo. The Macedonian Government demonstrated a strong commitment to regional stability as an essential partner during the Kosovo crisis.
In November 1998 parliamentary elections, the SDSM lost its majority. A new coalition government emerged under the leadership of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE). The initial coalition included the ethnic Albanian Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).
Kiro Gligorov, the first President of an independent Macedonia, also was the first President of a former Yugoslav republic to relinquish office. His presidency ended in November 1999 after 8 years in office, in accordance with the terms of the Macedonian constitution. Gligorov was succeeded by former Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Trajkovski (VMRO), who defeated Tito Petkovski (SDSM) in a second-round run-off election for the presidency November 14, 1999. Trajkovski's election was confirmed by a December 5, 1999 partial re-vote in 230 polling stations, which the Macedonian Supreme Court mandated due to election irregularities.
Ethnic minority grievances rapidly began to gain political currency in late 2000, leading many in the ethnic Albanian community in Macedonia to question their minority protection under, and participation in, the government. Tensions erupted into open hostilities in Macedonia in February 2001, when a group of ethnic Albanians near the Kosovo border carried out armed provocations that soon escalated into an insurgency. Purporting to fight for greater civil rights for ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, the group seized territory and launched attacks against government forces. Many observers ascribed other motives to the so-called National Liberation Army (NLA), including support for criminality and the assertion of political control over affected areas. The insurgency spread through northern and western Macedonia during the first half of 2001. Under international mediation, a cease-fire was brokered in July 2001, and the government coalition was expanded in July 2001 to include the major opposition parties.
The expanded coalition of ruling ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political leaders, with facilitation by U.S. and European Union (EU) diplomats, negotiated and then signed the Ohrid Framework Agreement in August 2001, which brought an end to the fighting. The agreement called for implementation of constitutional and legislative changes, which lay the foundation for improved civil rights for minority groups. The Macedonian parliament adopted the constitutional changes outlined in the accord in November 2001. The grand coalition disbanded following signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement and the passage of new constitutional amendments. Efforts are currently underway to implement remaining provisions in the Ohrid Framework Agreement with international assistance. A coalition led by Prime Minister Georgievski, including DPA and several smaller parties, finished out the parliamentary term.
In September 2002 elections, an SDSM-led pre-election coalition won half of the 120 seats in parliament. Branko Crvenkovski was elected Prime Minister in coalition with the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) party and the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP).
On February 26, 2004 President Trajkovski died in a plane crash. Presidential elections were held April 14 and 28, 2004. Then-Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski won the election and was inaugurated President on May 12, 2004. The parliament elected Hari Kostov, former Interior Minister, as Prime Minister June 2, 2004.
In the wake of the 2001 insurgency in Macedonia, at the government's request, NATO deployed Task Forces "Essential Harvest," then "Amber Fox," and later "Allied Harmony" in Macedonia in confidence-building tasks and protection for Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors in the former conflict area. Task Force Essential Harvest collected more than 4,000 weapons from the National Liberation Army (NLA) in a confidence-building effort to restore stability within Macedonia. "Amber Fox" (June through December 2002) and its smaller successor "Allied Harmony" (January to March 2003) worked with Macedonian security forces to ensure the safety of international monitors overseeing Framework Agreement implementation in Macedonia. On March 31, 2003, the EU (EUFOR) took over this role from NATO with the launch of "Operation Concordia," which ended December 15, 2003. At the Macedonian Government's request, the EU established a Police Advisory Mission in Macedonia in December 2003 to assist the country's police reforms.
Macedonia continues to play an indispensable role as the Kosovo Force's (KFOR) rear area, hosting the logistical supply line for KFOR troops in Kosovo. As part of these efforts, Macedonia hosts about 150 NATO troops, including U.S. troops, in support of NATO operations in Kosovo and assisting Macedonia's efforts to reform its military to meet NATO standards. Due to improvements in the security
situation and U.S. KFOR drawdowns in Kosovo, the United States closed its Camp Able Sentry base in Macedonia in December 2002. Close U.S.-Macedonian bilateral defense cooperation continues.
More To Explore