Northern Macedonia

Northern Macedonia is a republic in southeastern Europe, in the Balkan Peninsula. The country borders Kosovo in the northwest, Serbia in the north, Bulgaria in the east, Greece in the south and Albania in the west. Northern Macedonia makes up the western half of the Macedonia landscape, which also includes parts of Greece and Bulgaria.

Northern Macedonia is a mountainous inland state with more than 50 lakes. The country has always had a great impact on trade and transport between the Aegean and the Danube area. The country was a sub-republic in Yugoslavia in 1945–1992.

The Republic was at odds with neighboring Greece over the use of the name Macedonia. In June 2018, the Greek and Macedonian Prime Minister signed an agreement for Macedonia to change its name to Northern Macedonia to end the conflict. The Republic changed its formal name on February 12, 2019. Due to the discrepancies with Greece, the Republic’s formal name was in international organizations for a period of FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), but orally most commonly referred to as Macedonia only.

Northern Macedonia

The name is after the landscape of Macedonia, in ancient times with the meaning ‘the highs’, ‘the highlands’, which indicates the Macedonian physicality and / or their mountainous land.

Northern Macedonia’s national anthem is ‘Denes nad Makedonija’, (‘Today over Macedonia’).

Geography and environment

Landscape on the river Ohrid in northern Macedonia

Northern Macedonia consists of the valley around the river Vardar in the northwest and its tributaries, and the mountain ranges around it. The highest mountain ranges are the Šar mountains in the northwest; here is the country’s highest mountain Golem Korab (alb. Maja e Korabit), 2754 meters above sea level, on the border with Albania. The Osogovo Mountain forms a border with Bulgaria in the northeast. The borders to Albania and Greece are partly over the large lakes Ohrid, Prespa and Dojran. The area is seismically active, especially in the north; Skopje was hit by a powerful earthquake in 1963.

It is hot and dry in summer and autumn while winters are moderately cold with lots of snow. Macedonia is in a transitional zone between Mediterranean and continental climates.

Northern Macedonia’s limited forest cover includes low-lying forests including bark, maple, oak, mana box and horse chestnut. Pine and beech forests are found in upland areas. Above the tree line are subalpine meadows and ants. There are about 3200 species of flower plants.

There are 86 species of mammals, including brown bears, wolves, lynx and hides in remote areas, while red fox, deer, deer, wild boar, badger and otter are more numerous. Sarplaninac is a dog breed from the Sar mountain. About 210 species of birds nest, among other things, with large populations of wetland birds in and near the lakes. In the mountains there are, among other things, goose vultures, donkey vultures and king eagles. There are 35 species of reptiles, 17 amphibian species and 17 species of freshwater fish.

People and society

According to countryaah, Macedonians are the largest population group with 66.5 percent, Albanians make up 25.1 percent, Turks 3.9 percent, Roma 2.7 percent and Serbs 1.8 percent.

Life expectancy at birth is 78.2 years for women and 73.8 years for men.

69.3 percent of Northern Macedonia’s residents belong to the Macedonian Orthodox Church, while 0.4 percent belong to other Christian churches. 33.3 per cent, mainly the Albanian population, profess to Islam.

Macedonian is the official language. It is native to 66.5 percent of the population and is written in Cyrillic letters. The largest minority languages ​​are Albanian (25.1 percent), Turkish (3.5 percent), Romanian (1.9 percent) and Serbian (1.2 percent).

State and politics

Skopje is the capital of Northern Macedonia

Northern Macedonia is a unified state parliamentary democracy. The country’s head of state is a president who is elected for five years in direct elections and can be re-elected once. The president is the commander-in-chief of Northern Macedonia’s armed forces and heads the country’s security council, but otherwise has the most symbolic duties. The National Assembly (‘Sobranie’) has one chamber with 120 members elected for four years at a time.

Northern Macedonia is divided into eight administrative regions with 84 municipalities; ten of these are the capital Skopje, which has local autonomy.

The defense consists of army, air force and semi-military police forces. Six months of first-time service is mandatory.

Northern Macedonia joined the UN in 1993. The country is also a member of the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, from 1995) and the Council of Europe.

On February 6, 2019, the ambassadors of NATO’s member states signed a protocol on Northern Macedonia’s membership in the defense alliance. On March 27, 2020, Northern Macedonia was accepted as NATO’s 30th member state.


In ancient times, most of today’s northern Macedonia was inhabited by pioneers, a Thracian people. In 356 BCE. the country was absorbed by the Kingdom of Macedonia. The Romans created the province of Macedonia in 146 BCE.

In the 580s, slaves possibly ravaged Byzantine territories in Macedonia. The area became Byzantine in 1018. In the 13th century, the Bulgarian empire took control of it, but it came under Byzantine rule again in the early 1300s and was part of the Ottoman Empire for 500 years.

Towards the end of the 19th century, movements arose to create a separate state in the Macedonia region. The land was divided between Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia after the Balkan War in 1912–1913. The Serbian-controlled part entered Yugoslavia in 1918.

During World War II, Northern Macedonia was divided between Bulgaria and the Italian-occupied Albania. The borders were largely set after the war and Yugoslavia established the Land of the People’s Republic of Macedonia. In 1963, this name changed to the Socialist Republic of Macedonia; the word ‘socialist’ was coined when Macedonia left Yugoslavia in 1991 without waging war. On September 8, 1991, by a referendum, a majority voted for independence.

In the 2000s, there was ethnic conflict between Slavic-speaking Macedonians and the Albanian minority. The conflict escalated after 360,000 Albanian refugees joined the Kosovo war. In 2001, the Ohrid agreement provided a peaceful solution between Macedonians and Albanians.

Economy and business

Northern Macedonia’s gross domestic product (GDP) had zero growth in 2017, while in 2016 there was an increase of 2.9 per cent. Of the former Yugoslav republics, only Kosovo has a lower per capita GDP. The unemployment rate is 22.4 per cent.

Agriculture contributes 10.9 per cent of the country’s GDP and employs 16.2 per cent of the working population. It is largely dependent on artificial irrigation. Among other things, wheat, cotton, sugar beet, maize, fruit, tobacco, vegetables and grapes are grown. The livestock (sheep, cattle) are large.

The mineral deposits are rich; it’s including coal, lead, copper, zinc, iron ore, silver and gold. 83.5 percent of the electricity demand is covered by coal and hydropower.

The industry contributes 26.6 per cent of GDP and employs 29.2 per cent of the working population. The most important is iron and steel production as well as textile and food production.

The number of foreign tourists increased from 586,000 in 2010 to 1.1 million in 2018.

Knowledge and culture

There is free 8-year primary school for children aged 7-15. There are several types of 4-year high schools. There are 5 state universities and several private university institutions.

In northern Macedonia, about 12 daily newspapers and 6 weekly newspapers are published.

The state-owned broadcasting company Makedonska Radio Televizija (MRT) has several radio and television channels. In addition, there are a number of smaller radio and television channels and three large privately owned TV stations.

The Macedonian written language was established in 1944. Prosal literature became prevalent later than poetry. The most original contemporary author is Živko Čingo (1935-1987) with short stories about life in a village, prose and plays.

The most important filmmaker is Milčo Mančevski (1959-). He got the Golden Lion for 1994 with ‘Before the Rain’.

In northern Macedonia there are many interesting Byzantine-style churches and monasteries. The frescoes of St. Djordji Church in Kurbinovo from the 1100s and ‘The multicolored mosque’ in Tetovo from 1495 are examples. The woodcarving art had a great time in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Central modern painters include Vangel Naumovski (1924–2006) and Nikola Martinovski (1903–1973). Dimo Todorovski (1910-1983) is considered the founder of modern Macedonian sculpture.

Northern Macedonia has a rich musical heritage represented, among others, by the instrumental form ‘skaros’ with free rhythm and dance with complex rhythms and metric patterns. The Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1944 and the Macedonian Opera opened in 1947. An internationally known rock group is ‘Leb i Sol’.

Annual theater festivals are held in Skopje and Kočani. In Prilep, the international music festival “Asterisks” for children is held every year in October.

Football is the most widespread sport in front of handball and basketball.

Picture from inside the colorful mosque in northern Macedonia