Macedonia (Macedonian: Македонија, Makedonija
), officially known as the Republic of Macedonia (Macedonian: Република Македонија, Republika Makedonija
) and also known as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Macedonian: поранешна Југословенска Република Македонија, Poranešna Jugoslovenska Republika Makedonija
), is a tiny Slavic nation nestled in the middle of the Balkan Peninsula. The national language, Macedonian, is very closely related to Bulgarian, to the point where they are mutually intelligible and is sometimes considered the same language (most certainly not in Macedonia, however). The capital is Skopje.
"Macedonia", the ethnic homeland of Macedonians, was historically a much larger region which was divided up in 1913 among nations who'd taken advantage of the weakness of the Ottoman Empire: the southern part went to Greece, the northeastern part went to Bulgaria, and the northwestern part — the part that makes up the present-day Republic of Macedonia — became the southern half of Serbia. This Serbian region later became the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, as a constituent republic of Yugoslavia
. When Yugoslavia broke up, this constituent republic became the independent Republic of Macedonia.
In fact, the complex mix of nationalities and ethnicities in the area led to the French culinary term Macedoine
meaning a mixture (mostly mixed vegetables).
However, the newly independent Macedonia found itself at odds with Greece, due to Greece's northern region (the territory annexed in 1913) having the same name. Greece felt that, due to its cultural and historic importance, the name should be considered exclusively Greek. Macedonia, on the other hand, felt that it was within its rights to call itself whatever it pleased and refused to even acknowledge the dispute. The ancient Kingdom of Macedon from which the name is drawn had borders which encompassed the entirety of both
the modern republic and the modern Greek region. As a result, the neighbors have had a rocky relationship, which has led to incidents such as the rejection of Macedonia from joining NATO and the European Union, as joining either group requires unanimous approval of the current members. Because of Greece's pressure, Macedonia is a member of the United Nations under the name "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (as well as the Olympic Games
, where it marches in with the "F" entries) and Greece itself only recognises Macedonia under that name or the name "Macedonia-Skopje", just to make the point.
Notably, the country avoided any bloodshed during the breakup of Yugoslavia
, the only one of the republics to do so. There was, however, a series of skirmishes between the Macedonian police and armed forces vs. local Albanian separatists in 2001. The conflict left some 100-300 dead and ended with a compromise that promised to improve the rights of local Albanians.
Historically, their greatest claim to fame is Alexander the Great
, who conquered much of the known world in the 4th millennium B.C.; his father, Phillip II, had conquered most of Greece. To this day, Macedonians and Greeks have a bit of a rivalry over who can properly
lay claim to Alexander the Great. Macedon was at the time considered to be part of the Greek world. Alexander was also born in a town which is today
part of Greece and not Macedonia but wasn't at the time, which complicates issues. It's nothing too serious, but it's worth knowing. Aristotle
was also born in the Kingdom of Macedon, but few people call him anything but a Greek.
The Macedonian flag
Red and gold originate from the country's past coats-of-arms. At the center is an eight-rayed sun, symbolizing liberty. Originally the sun was in the form of the Vergina Sun
, a symbol found on the tomb of King Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great
. This move caused controversy with Greece, as it claims the Slavs are misappropriating Grecian symbols.