Opstina Sopiste, Republic of Macedonia

History of the Republic of Macedonia

This article is about the history of the Southeast European country. For an overview of the wider Macedonian region see Macedonia.

Medieval period

South Slavic tribes settled in the territory of the present-day Republic of Macedonia in the 6th century. The Slavic settlements were referred to by Byzantine Greek historians as "Sklavines". The Sklavines participated in several assaults against the Byzantine Empire - alone or aided by Bulgars or Avars. Around 680 AD the Bulgar group, led by khan Kuber (who belonged to the same clan as the Danubian Bulgarian khan Asparukh), settled in the Pelagonian plain, and launched campaigns to the region of Thessaloniki.

In the late 7th century Justinian II organized a massive expeditions against the Sklaviniai of the Greek peninsula, in which he reportedly captured over 110,000 Slavs and transferred them to Cappadocia. By the time of Constans II (who also organized campaigns against the Slavs), the significant number of the Slavs of Macedonia were captured and transferred to central Asia Minor where they were forced to recognize the authority of the Byzantine emperor and serve in its ranks.

There are no Byzantine records of "Sklavines" after 836/837 as the Slavs of Macedonia were assimilated into the First Bulgarian Empire. Slavic influence in the region strengthened along with the rise of this state, which incorporated entire region to its domain in 837 AD. Saints Cyril and Methodius, Byzantine Greeks, born in Thessaloniki, were the creators of the first Slavic Glagolitic alphabet and Old Church Slavonic language, and also apostles-christianizators of the Slavic world. Their cultural heritage was acquired and developed in medieval Bulgaria, where after 885 the region of Ohrid became significant ecclesiastical center with the nomination of the Saint Clement of Ohrid for "first archbishop in Bulgarian language" with residence in this region. In conjunction with another disciple of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Saint Naum, he created a flourishing Bulgarian cultural center around Ohrid, where over 3000 pupils were taught in the Glagolitic and Cyrillic alphabet in what is now called Ohrid Literary School.

At the end of the 10th century much of what is now Republic of Macedonia became the political and cultural center of the First Bulgarian Empire under tsar Samuil, while the Byzantine emperor Basil II conquered the eastern part of the empire (what is now Bulgaria), including the capital of Preslav, in 972. A new capital was established at Ohrid, which also became the seat of the Bulgarian Patriarchate. From then on, the Bulgarian culture became an integral part of the Slav culture as a whole. After several decades of almost incessant fighting, Bulgaria came under Byzantine rule in 1018. The whole of Macedonia was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire as Theme of Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Patriarchate was reduced in rank to an archbishopric.

In the 13th and 14th century Byzantine control was punctuated by periods of Bulgarian and Serbian rule. For example Konstantin Asen, former nobleman from Skopje ruled as tsar of Bulgaria from 1257 to 1277. Later Skopje became a capital of the Serbian Empire under Stefan Dušan, and after the dissolution of the empire, the area became a domain of independent local Serbian rulers from the Mrnjavčević and Dragaš houses. The domain of the Mrnjavčević house included western parts of the present-day Republic of Macedonia and domains of the Dragaš house included eastern parts. The capital of the state of Mrnjavčević house was Prilep. There are only two known rulers from the Mrnjavčević house - king Vukašin Mrnjavčević and his son, king Marko. King Marko became a vassal of the Ottoman Empire and later died in the Battle of Rovine.

Ottoman period

Conquered by the Ottoman army in the first half of the 15th century, the region remained a part of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 500 years, during which it gained a substantial Turkish minority, especially in the religious sense of Muslim; many of those Muslims became so through forced conversions. During the Ottoman rule, Skopje and Monastir (Bitola) were capitals of separate Ottoman provinces (eyalets).

The valley of the river Vardar, which was later to become the central area of the Republic of Macedonia, was ruled by the Ottoman Empire prior to the First Balkan War of 1912, with the exception of the brief period in 1878 when it was liberated from Ottoman rule after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, becoming part of Bulgaria. In 1903, a short-lived Kruševo Republic was proclaimed in the south-western part of present-day Republic of Macedonia by the rebels of the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising. This first modern-day republic in the Balkans lasted for only 10 days - August 3rd to August 13th, and was headed by president Nikola Karev.

1912-1944

The region was captured by Serbia during First Balkan War of 1912 and was subsequently annexed to Serbia in the post-war peace treaties. It had no administrative autonomy and was called Južna Srbija ("Southern Serbia") or Stara Srbija ("Old Serbia").

After the First World War, the Kingdom of Serbia joined the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In 1929, the kingdom was officially renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and was divided into provinces called banovinas. The territory of Vardar Banovina had Skopje as its capital and it included what eventually became the modern Republic of Macedonia.

During World War II, the Vardar Banovina was occupied between 1941 and 1944 by Italian-ruled Albania, which annexed the Albanian-populated western regions, and pro-German Bulgaria, which occupied the remainder. The occupying powers persecuted those inhabitants of the province who opposed the regime; this prompted some of them to join the Communist resistance movement of Josip Broz Tito. However, the Bulgarian army was partially recruited from the local population, which formed as much as 40% of the soldiers in certain battalions.

1944-1949

Following World War II, Yugoslavia was reconstituted as a federal state under the leadership of Tito's Yugoslav Communist Party. When the former Vardar province was established in 1944, most of its territory was transferred into a separate republic while the northernmost parts of the province remained with Serbia. In 1946, the new republic was granted federal status as an autonomous "People's Republic of Macedonia" within the new Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In the 1963 Constitution of Yugoslavia it was slightly renamed, to bring it in line with the other Yugoslav republics, as the Socialist Republic of Macedonia.

Greece was concerned by the initiatives of the Yugoslav government, as they were seen as pretext for future territorial claims against the Greek province of "Northern Greece" which formed the bulk of historical Macedonia and was also officially called 'Macedonia'. The Yugoslav authorities also promoted the development of the Macedonians' ethnic identity and Macedonian language. The Macedonian language was codified in 1944 (Keith 2003), from the Slavic dialect spoken around Veles. This further angered both Greece and Bulgaria, because of the possible territorial claims of the new states to the Greek and Bulgarian parts of the region of Macedonia received after the Balkan Wars.

During the Greek Civil War (1944-1949), many Macedonians (regardless of ethnicity) participated in the ELAS resistance movement organized by the Greek Communist Party. ELAS and Yugoslavia were on good terms until 1949, when they split due to Tito's lack of allegiance to Stalin (cf. Cominform). After the end of the war, the ELAS fighters who took refuge in southern Yugoslavia and Bulgaria were not all permitted to return to Greece: only those who considered themselves Greeks were allowed, whereas those who considered themselves Bulgarians or Macedonians were barred. These events also contributed to the bad state of Yugoslav-Greek relations in Macedonia.

Road to Republic

On September 8, 1991, the Socialist Republic of Macedonia held a referendum that established its independence from Yugoslavia, under the name of the Republic of Macedonia. The question of the referendum was formulated as "Would you support independent Macedonia with the right to enter future union of sovereign states of Yugoslavia?" (In Macedonian: Дали сте за самостојна Македонија со право да стапи во иден сојуз на суверени држави на Југославија). Bulgaria was the first country to recognized the new state under its constitutional name. However, international recognition of the new country was delayed by Greece's objection to the use of what it considered a Hellenic name and national symbols, as well as controversial clauses in the Republic's constitution. To compromise, the United Nations recognised the state under the name of "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" in 1993

Greece was still dissatisfied and it imposed a trade blockade in February 1994. The sanctions were lifted in September 1995 after Macedonia changed its flag and aspects of its constitution that were perceived as granting it the right to intervene in the affairs of other countries. The two neighbours immediately went ahead with normalizing their relations, but the state's name remains a source of local and international controversy. The usage of each name remains controversial to supporters of the other.

After the state was admitted to the United Nations under the temporary reference "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", other international organisations adopted the same convention. More than half of the UN's member states have recognised the country as the Republic of Macedonia, including the United States of America while the rest use the temporary reference "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" or, or have not established any diplomatic relations with Macedonia.

In 1999, the Kosovo War led to 340,000 Albanian refugees from Kosovo fleeing into the Macedonia, greatly disrupting normal life in the region and threatening to upset the balance between Macedonians and Albanians. Refugee camps were set up in Macedonia. Meanwhile, Athens rallied behind Skopje and allowed Greek Macedonia to be used as a transit corridor for NATO forces moving to the region ahead of a possible invasion of Serbia. Thessaloniki became the main depot for humanitarian aid to the region. The Republic itself did not become involved in the conflict.

In the event, the Serbian government under president Slobodan Milošević capitulated and the refugees were allowed home under UN protection. However, the war increased tensions and relations between ethnic Macedonians and Albanian Macedonians became strained. On the positive side, Athens and Ankara presented a united front of 'non-involvement'. In Greece, there was a strong reaction against NATO and the United States but the small anti-war political parties lost, rather than gained, support.

2000s

see: 2001 Macedonia conflict
In the spring of 2001, ethnic Albanian insurgents calling themselves the National Liberation Army (some of whom were former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army) took up arms in the west of the Republic of Macedonia. They demanded that the constitution be rewritten to enshrine certain ethnic Albanian interests such as language rights. The guerillas received support from Albanians in NATO-controlled Kosovo and ethnic Albanian guerrillas in the demilitarized zone between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia. The fighting was concentrated in and around Tetovo, the fifth largest city in the republic.

After a joint NATO-Serb crackdown on Albanian guerillas in Kosovo, European Union (EU) officials were able to negotiate a cease-fire in June. The government would give ethnic Albanians greater civil rights, and the guerilla groups would voluntarily relinquish their weapons to NATO monitors. This agreement was a success, and in August 2001 3,500 NATO soldiers conducted "Operations Essential Harvest" to retrieve the arms. Directly after the operation finished in September, the NLA officially dissolved itself. Ethnic relations have since improved significantly, although hardliners on both sides have been a continued cause for concern and some low level violence continues particularly directed against police.

On February 26, 2004, President Boris Trajkovski died in a plane crash on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The results of the official investigation revealed that the cause of the plane accident was procedural mistakes by the crew, committed during the approach to land at Mostar airport.

In March 2004, the Republic of Macedonia submitted an application for membership of the EU. On December 17 2005, EU Presidency conclusions listed the Republic of Macedonia as an accession candidate. It is expected that the EU will announce in late 2006 the date for commencement of EU accession negotiations.

In August 2005, Poland became the 112th country, out of 191 total members of UN, to recognize Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name. A permanent agreement between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia's name has not yet been reached. The latest publicized proposal was 'Republika Makedonija-Skopje' (with that spelling), but was rejected by the Republic of Macedonia. The UN mediator Matthew Nimetz proposed another form several months afterwards, proposing that the name “Republika Makedonija” should be used by the countries that have recognized the country under that name and that Greece should use the formula “Republika Makedonija – Skopje”, while the international institutions and organizations should use the name “Republika Makedonia” in Latin alphabet transcription, but this form was rejected by Greece.

See also

References

Notes

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