Skopje (Скопје, ; Shkup, or Shkupi) is the capital and largest city in the Republic of Macedonia, with more than a quarter of the population of the country, as well as its political, cultural, economic, and academic centre. It was known from the Roman period under the name Scupi. The city developed rapidly after World War II, but this trend was interrupted in 1963 when it was hit by a disastrous earthquake. Today Skopje is a modern city with a wide range of cultural monuments.
Skopje is located at , on the upper course of the Vardar River and is located on a major north-south Balkan route between Belgrade and Athens. It has 506,926 inhabitants (2002 census), and is a major centre for metal-processing, chemical, timber, textile, leather, and printing industries. Industrial development of the city has been accompanied by development of the trade, logistics, and banking sectors, as well as an emphasis on the fields of culture and sport. Since the 1990s the city is emerging as a major transportation and logistics hub in Southeast Europe as the intersection of the two main European transport corridors - Corridor VIII (East-West) and Corridor X (North-South). This significance of the city has been enhanced by the construction of new highways on the two transversals, the new Skopje ring road, and the ongoing extension and modernization of Skopje Alexander the Great Airport.
The site of modern Skopje has been inhabited since at least 3500 BC; remains of Neolithic settlements have been found within the old Kale fortress that overlooks the modern city centre. The settlement appears to have been founded around the by the Paionians, a people that inhabited the region. In the 3th century BC, Skopje and the surrounding area was invaded by the Dardani.Scupi came under Roman rule after the general Quintus Caecilius Metellus defeated Andriscus of Macedon in 148 BC, being at first part of the Roman province of Macedonia, established in 146 BC. The northward expansion of the empire in the course of the 1st century BC lead to the creation of the province of Moesia in Augustus's times, into which Scupi was incorporated. After the division of the province by Domitian in 86 AD, Scupi was elevated to colonia status, and became a seat of government within the new province of Moesia superior. From 395 AD, it passed into the hands of the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire.
The first known bishop of the city is Perigorius, present at the Council of Sardica (343). Scupi was probably a metropolitan see about the middle of the 5th century (Latin: Archidioecesis Scopiensis).
The Byzantine Emperor Justinian I was born near Skupi, at Tauresium, in 483. In 518, Skupi was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake. Justinian came to the aid of its inhabitants by founding a new settlement called Justiniana Prima north from the site of Skupi. However, Justiniana and the remnants of Skupi were destroyed by invading Slavic peoples at the end of the 7th century. The Slavs renamed the site as Skopje but were eventually pushed out by the Byzantines.
During much of the early medieval period, the town was contested between the Byzantines and the Bulgarian Empire. From 972 to 992 it was the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire. After that, it was a capital of Byzantine administrative region (katepanat) Bulgaria after the fall the First Bulgarian Empire in 1018. Skopje was a thriving trading settlement but fell into decline after being hit by another devastating earthquake at the end of the 11th century. It was a capital of the estate of the Bulgarian feudal lord, later Emperor Konstantin Asen in the middle of 13th century. The town was taken by the Serbs in 1282. In 1346 it was named the capital of the Serbian Empire of Stefan Dušan.
In 1392, three years after the Serbian defeat in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, Skopje was captured by the Ottoman Empire. For the next five hundred years it was known by the Turkish name Üsküb or Üsküp. Ottoman Üsküb was the capital of the Vilayet of Kosovo (district of Kosovo), which occupied a much greater area than the modern region of Kosovo
The city's character changed markedly during this period. The Ottomans imported Islam and built many mosques and other typically Ottoman buildings, such as hamams (baths) and travelers' inns, some of which still exist today. Many Sephardi Jews expelled from Spain also settled in the city, adding to its ethnic variety. The medieval city was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1555, but it soon recovered and prospered. By the 17th century, its population was put at between 30,000-60,000. The Turkish writer Dulgar Dede visited Üsküb during this period and wrote: "I travelled for many years across that country of Rumelia and I saw a many beautiful cities and I was amazed at Allah's blessings, but not one impressed and delighted as much as the heavenly city of Skopje across which passes the Vardar River."
In 1689, however, Skopje was burned by the Austrian general Engelberto d'Ugo Piccolomini ostensibly to eradicate an outbreak of cholera, but quite possibly to avenge the Ottomans' 1683 attack on Vienna.
The city's fortunes waned over the next 200 years and its population shrank to only about 10,000 people by the middle of the 19th century. It revived after 1873 with the building of the railway from Belgrade to Thessaloniki, which passed through Skopje.
By 1905, Skopje had a population of approximately 32,000, which was composed of a mixture of ethnic and religious groups. In 1910, the Roman Catholic nun , Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, later to become famous as Mother Teresa, was born in Skopje.
The city became a major centre of rebellion against the weakening Ottoman Empire, and in 1903 it was a key player in the unsuccessful Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising against Ottoman rule. The Ottomans were shortly expelled from the city in August 12, 1912 by the local Slavic population. Several months later the city was captured by the Serbs at the beginning of First Balkan War.
In 1913, the allies in the First Balkan War fell out with each other and launched the Second Balkan War over the division of the spoils. Serbia retained control of Skopje, with the Vardar valley being incorporated into Serbia. This lasted until October 1915, when Bulgaria joined the Central Powers and seized much of Serbian-ruled Macedonia. The city was occupied by Serbia at end of the World War I in 1918, when it became part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1929). Between 1941–1944 the city was under Bulgarian occupation. One month after the communists took power in Sofia and the Bulgarian army was sent to fight the Germans to the west front, Skopje was seized by Yugoslavian troops, and then joined Yugoslavia in 1944, when it became the capital of the newly established People's Republic of Macedonia. Following the wars, Skopje and the rest of Vardar Macedonia was incorporated into Tito's Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Skopje grew rapidly during united Yugoslavia and became a major industrial centre for the south-central Balkans region.
On 26 July 1963, Skopje was struck by another major earthquake, measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale, which killed over 1,000 people and made another 120,000 homeless. Eighty percent of the city was destroyed by the earthquake, and numerous cultural monuments were seriously damaged. The losses from the quake amounted to a massive 150% of Macedonia's GNP at the time and 15% of Yugoslavia's GNP. A major international relief effort saw the city rebuilt quickly, though much of its old neo-classical charm was lost in the process. The new master plan of the city was created by the then leading Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. However, his architectural and urban designs were only partially implemented. The ruins of the old Skopje train station which was destroyed in the earthquake remain today as a memorial to the victims along with an adjacent museum.
Skopje has been officially the capital of the Republic of Macedonia since 1945, in 1991 becoming the capital of a fully independent state. Skopje is the political, administrative, and commercial center of the country. Home of the public Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje founded in 1949 and five other private universities.
Skopje is located in the northern part of Macedonia, in the Skopje statistical region. The Vardar River flows through the city and the rest of the country, passing the border into Greece and flowing into the Aegean Sea. Skopje is located at an elevation of 255 meters above sea level. The city's land area is 1,854 km² (715.8 sq mi).
Skopje is an administrative division within the Republic of Macedonia constituted of 10 municipalities. As a such administrative unit Skopje is the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. It is part of Skopje statistical region (Скопски регион).
According to the 2002 census, the population of Skopje was 506,926 people. The main ethnic groups are Macedonians - 338,358, who make 66.75% of the population, followed by Albanians - 103,891 (20.49%), Roma - 23,475 (4.63%), Serbs - 14,298 (2.82%), Turks - 8,595 (1.70%), Bosniaks - 7,585 (1.50%) and Aromanians (Vlachs) - 2,557 (0.50%) and others - 8,167 (1.61%)
97.5% of the population over the age of 10 is literate.
This fortress is situated in a hill above the city and there were settlements that existed before the Turks created the extensive castle walls that survived until today. The present fortress was originally built by the Byzantines in the 6th century. It is supposed that the stone blocks used in this construction were taken from the destroyed city of Skupi nearby. After the 1963 earthquake, Kale’s circular, rectangular and square towers were conserved and restored. Today this fortress is the one of the best sightseeing spots in Skopje.
The Skopje Jazz Festival is one of the most important jazz events in Southeast Europe held annually ever since 1981. The artists` profiles include fusion, acid jazz, latin jazz, smooth jazz, and avant-garde jazz, which brings a great variety and richness to this festival. Ray Charles, Tito Puente, Gotan Project, Al di Meola, Youssou N'Dour, just to name few, have taken part at this festival. The Skopje Jazz Festival is part of the European Jazz Network and The European Forum of World Wide Festivals. It is held in October.
Some notable people born in Skopje or its surroundings are:
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