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Republic of Macedonia

The Republic of Macedonia is an independent state on the Balkan peninsula in south-eastern Europe, with an area of 25,713 sq. km. and a population of just over two million. Its capital and principal city is Skopje (population 600,000). The UN uses the temporary reference Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M.), but the country is also widely recognized under its constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia.

Some 1.4 million of the republic's inhabitants speak Macedonian, a south Slavic language and related to Old Slavonic[?]. Prior to the Kosovo war of 1999, Albanian and Turkish were each spoken by about 250,000. There are an estimated 120,000 Romany speakers.

The republic contains roughly 38% of the area and nearly 44% of the population of the geographical region known as Macedonia, the remainder of which is divided between neighbouring Greece (with about half of the total) and Bulgaria (with under a tenth).

After 45 years as a republic of the Yugoslav federation, Macedonia was proclaimed independent on September 17, 1991. The Greek government, however, raised objections concerning:

  • The name: Macedonia was claimed by Greece to be a Greek name, already in use for the Greek province of Macedonia.
  • The flag "Vergina Sun": the sixteen-ray star that was to appear on the flag was a symbol of the ancient state of Macedon, to which Greece claimed to be the sole heir.
  • A reference in the constitution about reuniting the three parts of the historical province of Macedonia which today belong to the F.Y.R.O.M., Greece and Bulgaria.

As a result the United Nations recognised the state under the temporary reference of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; the country's flag now represents an eight-ray sun and not the former star; and the reference in its constitution was changed so as not to reflect any territorial claims.

Macedonia remained at peace through the violent nationality conflicts which convulsed the former Yugoslavia's western republics of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia in 1991-1995, but the influx of an estimated 360,000 ethnic Albanian refugees from neighbouring Kosovo in 1999 threatened to destabilise the republic.

A brief civil war in March 2001 involving Albanian rebels in the west of the country ended with the intervention of a small NATO ceasefire monitoring force and government undertakings to concede greater rights to the Albanian minority.

From the CIA World Factbook 2000 / 2001. Some Wikification.

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