Macedonia Modern History

By | January 31, 2023

North Macedonia is a country located in Southern Europe. With the capital city of Skopje, North Macedonia has a population of 2,022,558 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. Northern Macedonia proclaimed its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, under the name of Macedonia. Soon there was a conflict between the two dominant groups, Macedonia and Albanians, and in the early 2000s, armed clashes erupted. After mediation from NATO, the violence was halted by the so-called Ohrid agreement in 2001. Gradually, the sharpest line of conflict came between Macedonian nationalists and the reformed Communist Party.

In 1990, the upheaval and democratization in communist Eastern Europe also reached Yugoslavia and the Republic of Macedonia. Nationalist movements emerged with demands for democratic reforms. This led to the leadership of Yugoslavia allowing multi-party systems and in 1990, for the first time, multi-party was held in the six sub-republics.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Macedonia. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

In Macedonia, a group of intellectual nationalist party formed VMRO-DPMNE (see Political system), which wanted “one of all three parts of Macedonia”, ie also the Macedonian parts of northern Greece and western Bulgaria. VMRO-DPMNE became the largest party in the 1990 elections but did not get its own majority. The second largest was the former Communist Party, which has now changed its name to Macedonia’s Social Democratic Alliance (SDSM). The Albanian Democratic Success Party (PDP) came third. Check best-medical-schools for more information about Macedonia.

Independence after referendum

Former Communist leader Kiro Gligorov was named president in January 1991 and in March a government was formed by independent academics and experts. When Slovenia and Croatia left Yugoslavia in June of that year, Macedonia could choose to become part of “rest Yugoslavia”, dominated by Serbia, or to become independent. In September, a majority of the population voted for sovereignty, but Albanians and Serbs boycotted the referendum.

In November 1991, Macedonia declared itself independent. When the outside world hesitated to recognize the new state, the government resigned in July 1992, after losing a vote of confidence in Parliament. It was succeeded in September by a coalition of left-wing forces and liberals led by the SDSM, which also included the Albanian PDP. In 1994, the first presidential election was held after independence and Kiro Gligorov gained renewed confidence.

The collapse of Yugoslavia led to tensions in Macedonia. Nationalism within the Albanian minority increased, as did the contradictions between Albanians and Macedonians. At the same time, nationalist forces in neighboring countries saw a chance to question Macedonia’s status as a nation. Many Bulgarians and Greeks regard Macedonia as an “artificial state” created by Tito after the Second World War, and claim that there is no Macedonian national identity. The Macedonian language is regarded in Bulgaria as a Bulgarian dialect and Slavic Macedonians as a kind of Bulgarian, while Greece claims a historical right to the name Macedonia. Serbian nationalists call Macedonia “Southern Serbia”.

Tensions between Albanians and Macedonians continued to grow during the 1990s. The large Albanian minority felt discriminated against and demanded to be recognized as a state-carrying people, equal to the Macedonians. One concern was the development of the Albanian-dominated province of Kosovo in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). Many Macedonians feared that any independence for Kosovo would inspire the Albanians in Macedonia to work for a Great Banana, which, in addition to Kosovo and Albania, would also include Albanian-dominated parts of Macedonia.

Assassination attempt on the president

President Gligorov’s main task was to try to preserve the fragile coexistence between Macedonians and Albanians. He managed to reasonably meet the demands of the Albanians, while managing to steer the country away from confrontation with neighboring states. In 1995, he was bombed, probably by Macedonian nationalists, but survived.

In the summer of 1997, unrest broke out. The radical Albanian mayor of Gostivar had hoisted the Albanian flag at the town hall, which angered the Macedonians. Then the so-called flag law was passed, which prohibited Albanians in Macedonia from raising the Albanian flag other than at private parties and cultural and sporting events.

After the 1998 parliamentary elections, SDSM, which ruled the country for six years, was given over to a conservative coalition led by VMRO-DPMNE. New Prime Minister became the 32-year-old VMRO-DPMNE leader Ljubčo Georgievski. The new government launched a rigorous austerity program that will lead to clear economic growth.

Struggles and refugee streams

Eventually, contradictions arose both within the VMRO – DPMNE (an outbreak of the party also took place in 2004) and between the parties in the government coalition. During the presidential election in the fall of 1999, the government candidate Boris Trajkovski, himself a member of the VMRO, won thanks to the support of the Albanians.

In the spring of 2001, fighting broke out at the border with Kosovo in the north between the Albanian guerrilla National Liberation Army (in English abbreviated NLA; in Albanian: Ushtria Çlirimtare Kombëtare, UÇK) and Macedonian government troops. According to the government in Skopje, UÇK consisted to some extent of Albanians from Kosovo whose goal was to create a Great Banana. The guerrilla denied that it wanted to change Macedonia’s borders. It purportedly struggled to strengthen the position of Albanians in the country.

During the spring, periods of fighting between the army and the UÇK were interspersed with ceasefire and peace negotiations. But relations between the Slavic Macedonians and the Albanians were steadily deteriorating and representatives of the EU, the defense alliance NATO and the United States worked hard to prevent outright civil war. Around 100,000 refugees, mostly Albanians, left the war zones and crossed the border into Kosovo.

Ohrid Agreement

Eventually, the parties reached an agreement after mediation from NATO. On August 13, 2001, the parties signed a peace agreement in the city of Ohrid. This could happen despite severe contradictions and strong suspicion between Macedonians and Albanians and despite serious crimes against the ceasefire.

Despite protests by many Macedonians, Parliament adopted the framework of the peace agreement in September 2001. As part of the agreement, UÇK dissolved while introducing general amnesty. In November, Parliament was able to adopt a revised constitution. Through it, Albanian was partially recognized as an official language alongside Macedonian. The Constitution also provided for the establishment of an ethnically mixed police force and for better access to public sector work by Albanians.

Albanians and Macedonians co-rule

In September 2002, parliamentary elections were held. An Alliance dominated by SDSM won and SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski became new Prime Minister. A majority of Albanians voted for the newly formed Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) led by former guerrilla leader Ali Ahmeti. Despite some violent incidents, the election was largely calm, but there was still some concern that new ethnic unrest would break out, as Crvenkovski chose to form a government with BDI. However, it was hoped that the election would rather help to strengthen the ongoing peace process.

In February 2004, President Trajkovski died in an air crash. That led to an early presidential election in April. Winner became Prime Minister Crvenkovski, who was succeeded as head of government by the politically independent economist Hari Kostov. However, he resigned already in November after not being heard for economic reform. Former Defense Minister Vlado Bučkovski from SDSM was appointed new Prime Minister.

Important municipal law is adopted

In July 2006, parliamentary elections were held again. The election campaign was characterized by repeated violence, mainly between supporters of the two largest Albanian parties. But since representatives of the EU and the US, for example, threatened that the country’s chances of membership in NATO and the EU were at stake, the election could be carried out without more serious incidents.

The parliamentary elections led to a shift in power, with VMRO – DPMNE under former Finance Minister Nikola Gruevski receiving the most votes. Gruevski chose to form a coalition government with, among others, the Albanian Democratic Party (PDSH), whose leader Arben Xhaferi was proposed to be the one to help Gruevski implement all remaining parts of the Ohrid agreement (see above). The largest Albanian party, BDI, ended up outside the government, which led to violent protests from this.

As an important part of the Ohrid agreement, in the summer of 2004, a law was passed that reduced the number of municipalities from 123 to 84, mainly by merging rural areas populated by ethnic Albanians with urban areas where ethnic Macedonians predominated. This would mean increased influence on local issues such as education and health care for the Albanians, who after the merger came to control 16 municipalities. It was also a success for them as Albanians became the official language alongside Macedonian in municipalities with at least 20 percent Albanians.

However, the municipal audit was very controversial and contributed to postponing the local elections, which should have been held in September 2004, until March 2005.

The naming dispute stops NATO membership

At the NATO summit in spring 2008, Macedonia had hoped, like Albania and Croatia, to be invited to join the defense alliance. The hopes, however, came to shame – as in the matter of EU membership – because of the dispute with the NATO member Greece. The government of Macedonia also worked its way into domestic politics, when PDSH left the coalition as a result of dissatisfaction with the situation of the Albanian minority. In essence, however, the dismissal was seen as a protest that the government did not immediately recognize the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Serbia in February 2008 by the Albanian-dominated province of Kosovo.

New elections to Parliament were announced in June 2008, and it was characterized by violence and electoral fraud. Threats to voters were reported, and in some districts the election had to be redone. The problems were greatest when the Albanian parties PDSH and BDI competed for the voters. In the recent election, a partial alliance led by VMRO-DPMNE again won. This time, Gruevski chose a government collaboration with BDI, which remains the largest Albanian party.

The 2009 presidential election was a new success for VMRO-DPMNE, whose candidate Ǵorge (Gjorge) Ivanov won over SDSM’s Ljubomir Frčkovski in the second round.

In the fall of 2010, a serious conflict arose between the government and the opposition after the tax authorities and the police resorted to several media suspected of tax crimes. The opposition, which considered that the reason for the raids was, in fact, that the media had taken a government-critical stance, launched a boycott of Parliament’s work in January 2011. After a deadlock, the government agreed to the opposition’s demand for re-election and dissolved Parliament in April.

The re-election was held in June 2011 after a tough electoral movement. The ruling VMRO-DPMNE lost a lot of voter support but remained the biggest and could continue to co-govern with BDI.

Nationalist projects are criticized

In the same month, a disputed statue of Alexander the Great (see Older History) was inaugurated in central Skopje. It was part of the government’s program for renovating and decorating the capital, Skopje 2014, which included a number of new public buildings, a triumphal arch and several statues of prominent Macedonians, all in neoclassical style. The opposition criticized Skopje in 2014 for being too expensive, while the Albanians saw the project as an expression of Macedonian nationalism. In addition, it led to deteriorating relations with Greece, which believes that Alexander the Great belongs to Greek history.

At the end of 2012, a bitter conflict over the state budget led to such turmoil in Parliament that the opposition members were thrown out, and the budget was adopted by a wide margin. The opposition encouraged widespread street protests in the major cities, demanded new elections and launched a boycott of Parliament.

Ahead of the 2014 presidential election, a split occurred within the government when incumbent President Ivanov ran for re-election: BDI considered Ivanov to be too faithful to VMRO-DPMNE, despite the fact that the president should formally stand over party politics. As a result, new elections were again announced to Parliament.

In the second round of the presidential election, Ivanov won over Socialist Party candidate Stevo Pendarovski. The contemporary parliamentary elections were also a success for the government parties, while SDSM lost ground. SDSM leader Zoran Zaev called the elections a cheat election, claiming that the voting lists contained lots of people who did not exist. In addition, the government completely controlled the media, which made it difficult for others to reach out with their election messages. SDSM therefore chose to continue boycotting Parliament’s work.

Macedonia Modern History