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Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of the Balkan peninsula in south-eastern Europe, with an area of around 67,000 sq.km. and a population of 4.65 million. The territory corresponds to the basins of (from west to east) the Aliakmon[?], Axios[?] and Strimon[?] rivers (of which the Vardar drains by far the largest area) and the plains around Thessaloniki and Serrai.

The region is divided between the present-day republics of Greece, with roughly half of the area and population; the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M.), with around 40%; and Bulgaria, with rather less than a tenth. The Greek part is sometimes referred to as Aegean Macedonia (in Greece called Makedonia[?]), the F.Y.R.O.M. as Vardar Macedonia and the Bulgarian part as Pirin Macedonia[?].

History of Macedonia

In the 7th century BC the kingdom of Macedon emerged in what is now the Greek part of Macedonia and the neighbouring Bitola district in the south of today's F.Y.R.O.M. Under its kings Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great, Macedon extended its power in the 4th century BC over not only Greece but also the Persian Empire, including Egypt and lands as far east as the fringes of India.

Alexander's conquests produced a lasting extension of Greek culture and thought, but his empire broke up on his death, and Macedonian independence came to an end with defeat at the hands of the rising power of Rome (197 and 168 BC), the second of which resulted in the deposition of the Macedonian dynasty, and annexation to Rome (146 BC).

With the division of the Roman Empire into west and east (395 AD), Macedonia came under the rule of Rome's Byzantine successors. While the Byzantine state's prevailing Greek culture flourished in the south, however, northern Macedonia was settled from around 600 by Slavs from the north-east. In the 13th and 14th century Byzantine control was punctuated by periods of Bulgarian and Serbian rule in the north.

Conquered by the Ottoman Turkish army in the first half of the 15th century, Macedonia remained a part of the Ottoman Empire for nearly half a millennium, during which it gained a substantial Turkish minority. Thessaloniki became the home of a large Jewish population following Spain's expulsions of Jews after 1492.

After the revival of Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian statehood in the 19th century, Macedonia became a focus of the national ambitions of all three governments, leading to the creation in the 1890s and 1900s of rival armed groups who divided their efforts between fighting the Turks and one another. Diplomatic intervention by the European powers led to plans for an autonomous Macedonia under Ottoman rule.

However, burying their differences for a short time in 1912-13, Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria divided Macedonia among themselves during the First Balkan War[?]. Bulgaria's agreed share was reduced by her allies on the grounds that they had conquered the territory while the Bulgarian army was invading neighbouring Thrace. The subsequent Second Balkan War[?] left Bulgaria only with the Struma valley.

World War I and its aftermath led in the 1920s to the exchange between Greece and Turkey of most of Macedonia's Turkish minority and the Greek inhabitants of Thrace and Anatolia, as a result of which Aegean Macedonia experienced a large addition to its population and became overwhelmingly Greek in ethnic composition.

Incorporated with the rest of Serbia into the State (subsequently Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) (later Yugoslavia) in 1918, Vardar Macedonia became a republic of the Yugoslav federation in 1946 with its capital at Skopje, seceeding in September 1991 as an independent state. Greek government opposition to its initial name of "Macedonia" led in 1995 to the adoption of the style "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" by the United Nations.

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