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World > Europe > Macedonia > Historical Highlights (Notes)

Macedonia - Historical Highlights (Notes)


HISTORY
Throughout its history, the present-day territory of Macedonia has been a crossroads for both traders and conquerors moving between the European continent and Asia Minor. Each of these transiting powers left its mark upon the region, giving rise to a rich and varied cultural and historical tradition.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the territory of Macedonia fell under the control of the Byzantine Empire in the 6th and 7th centuries. It was during this period that large groups of Slavic people migrated to the Balkan region. The Ottoman Turks conquered the territory in the 15th century; it remained under Ottoman Turkish rule until 1912.

After more than four centuries of rule, Ottoman power in the region began to wane, and by the middle of the 19th century, Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia were competing for influence in the territory. During this time, a nationalist movement emerged and grew in Macedonia. The latter half of the 19th century, and continuing into the early part of the 20th century, was marked by sporadic nationalist uprisings, culminating in the Ilinden Uprising of August 2, 1903. Macedonian revolutionaries liberated the town of Krushevo and established the short-lived Republic of Krushevo, which was put down by Ottoman forces after 10 days. Following Ottoman Turkey's defeat by the allied Balkan countries--Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece--during the First Balkan War in autumn 1912, the same allies fought the Second Balkan War over the division of Macedonia. The August 1913 Treaty of Bucharest ended this conflict by dividing the territory between Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles sanctioned partitioning Macedonia between The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Bulgaria, and Greece. In the wake of the First World War, Vardar Macedonia (the present day area of the Republic of Macedonia) was incorporated into the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.

Throughout much of the Second World War, Bulgaria and Italy occupied Macedonia. Many people joined partisan movements during this time and succeeded in liberating the region in late 1944. Following the war, Macedonia became one of the constituent republics of the new Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under Marshall Tito. During this period, Macedonian culture and language flourished.

As communism fell throughout Eastern Europe in the late 20th century, Macedonia followed its other federation partners and declared its independence from Yugoslavia in late 1991. Macedonia was the only republic of the former Yugoslavia whose secession in 1991 was not clouded by ethnic or other armed conflict, although the ethnic Albanian population declined to participate in the referendum on independence. The new Macedonian constitution took effect November 20, 1991 and called for a system of government based on a parliamentary democracy. The first democratically elected coalition government was led by Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and included the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP). Kiro Gligorov became the first President of an independent Macedonia.

President Gligorov was the first president of a former Yugoslav republic to relinquish office. In accordance with the terms of the Macedonian constitution, his presidency ended in November 1999 after 8 years in office, which included surviving a car bombing assassination attempt in 1995. He was succeeded by former Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Trajkovski (VMRO-DPMNE), who defeated Tito Petkovski (SDSM) in a second-round run-off election for the presidency on November 14, 1999. Trajkovski's election was confirmed by a December 5, 1999 partial re-vote in 230 polling stations, which the Macedonian Supreme Court mandated due to election irregularities.

In November 1998 parliamentary elections, the SDSM lost its majority. A new coalition government emerged under the leadership of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE). The initial coalition included the ethnic Albanian Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

During the Yugoslav period, Macedonian ethnic identity was evident in that most of Macedonia's Slavic population identified themselves as Macedonians, while several minority groups, in particular ethnic Albanians, retained their own distinct political culture and language. Although interethnic tensions simmered under Yugoslav authority and during the first decade of its independence, the country avoided ethnically motivated conflict until several years after independence. Ethnic minority grievances, which had erupted on occasion (1995 and 1997), rapidly began to gain political currency in late 2000, leading many in the ethnic Albanian community in Macedonia to question their minority protection under, and participation in, the government. Tensions erupted into open hostilities in Macedonia in February 2001, when a group of ethnic Albanians near the Kosovo border carried out armed provocations that soon escalated into an insurgency. Purporting to fight for greater civil rights for ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, the group seized territory and launched attacks against government forces. Many observers ascribed other motives to the so-called National Liberation Army (NLA), including support for criminality and the assertion of political control over affected areas. The insurgency spread through northern and western Macedonia during the first half of 2001. Under international mediation, a cease-fire was brokered in July 2001, and the government coalition was expanded in July 2001 to form a grand coalition which included the major opposition parties.

The expanded coalition of ruling ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political leaders, with facilitation by U.S. and European Union (EU) diplomats, negotiated and then signed the Ohrid Framework Agreement in August 2001, which brought an end to the fighting. The agreement called for implementation of constitutional and legislative changes, which lay the foundation for improved civil rights for minority groups. The Macedonian parliament adopted the constitutional changes outlined in the accord in November 2001. The grand coalition disbanded following the signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement and the passage of new constitutional amendments. A coalition led by Prime Minister Georgievski, including DPA and several smaller parties, completed its parliamentary term.

In September 2002 elections, an SDSM-led pre-election coalition won half of the 120 seats in parliament. Branko Crvenkovski was elected Prime Minister in coalition with the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) party and the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP).

On February 26, 2004 President Trajkovski died in a plane crash in Bosnia. Presidential elections were held April 14 and 28, 2004. Then-Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski won the second round and was inaugurated President on May 12, 2004. The parliament confirmed Hari Kostov, former Interior Minister, as Prime Minister June 2, 2004. Prime Minister Kostov resigned November 15, 2004. On December 17, 2004, former Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski was confirmed by parliament as Prime Minister, maintaining the coalition with the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) and the Liberal-Democratic (LDP) parties.

With international assistance, the SDSM-DUI-LDP governing coalition completed the legislative implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which is a precondition for Macedonia?s integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. A November 7, 2004 referendum opposing completion of this process failed, freeing the way for the government to complete Framework Agreement implementation.

Local elections were held in March-April 2005 under a new territorial reorganization plan that consolidated the overall number of Macedonia?s municipalities and created a number of ethnically-mixed municipalities in which ethnic Albanian populations were dominant. The process of decentralization began in the new municipalities in July 2005 and is continuing.

The July 2006 parliamentary elections resulted in a VMRO-DPMNE-led government assuming power, in coalition with DPA, NSDP, and several smaller parties. The new government, which was confirmed in office by a parliamentary vote on August 26, 2006, stated its commitment to completing Framework Agreement implementation and reaffirmed its commitment to pursuing NATO and EU membership.


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