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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe

 

North Macedonia (FYROM)
1993 - Present Day

The modern landlocked republic of North Macedonia (Severna Makedonija) is a creation of the gradual disintegration of Yugoslavia, the joint kingdom of Balkan states which had Belgrade at its heart. During its collapse, this southernmost region became known to the world as the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' or FYROM, to distinguish it from the already-extant region of Macedonia in north-eastern Greece. The two regions abut one another, with Albania to the west of North Macedonia, Serbia and the autonomous region of Kosovo to the north, and Bulgaria to the east.

In the ancient world, the territory which forms North Macedonia lay within the hazy boundary which separated the Illyrian tribes to the north from the Greek states to the south. It was a group which became identified as the Macedonians which claimed areas of the sparsely-populated northern mountain area of ancient Greece, between the east and west coasts, sandwiched by the Epirotes and Thracians. The Paeonians to their north were almost wholly within modern North Macedonia's borders. Legendarily and culturally the Macedonians have always been counted as being of Hellenic stock, but their initial kingdom was close to the coast of the Aegean, well within modern Greece's borders. That expanded rapidly in the fifth century, taking in areas of North Macedonia and eventually ending in the formation of a powerful kingdom that was able to launch Alexander the Great into his conquest of the Persian empire.

Subsequently the region was part of the Roman empire and its successor, the Byzantine empire. During this latter period the Balkans were subjected to Slavic invasions in the sixth and seventh centuries AD. One of the main tribes involved in this, the Antes (Antae), eventually settled areas of Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and northern Greece. Today's North Macedonians are largely ethnic Southern Slavs of the Macedonian group, although the country also has a twenty-five percent Albanian population. The Ottoman invasion of the Balkans in the fifteenth century signalled the start of centuries of occupation which were only ended through nationalist uprisings and wars towards the end of the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth. Between being freed - by the wars of 1912 and 1913 - and 1991 North Macedonia largely remained part of Yugoslavia (despite Bulgaria's best intentions during both world wars) until declaring independence.

The subject of what to name the newly-independent state has been a thorny one. With its capital at Skopje, its largest city, it opted simply for 'Macedonia', which ensured that Greece remained locked in dispute with it, arguing that its name could imply territorial claims over the Greek province of Macedonia and an appropriation of ancient Greek culture and civilisation. For the most part the world knew it as FYROM. In 2018 the Greek prime minister was able to sign a highly contentious accord which agreed on the use of 'North Macedonia', while also lifting objections to the state joining the European Union and Nato. The name change came into effect in 2019.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from A History of Thessaly: From the Earliest Historical Times to the Accession of Philip V of Macedonia, Ronald Grubb Kent ((Press of the New Era Printing Company, 1904, available via the Internet Archive), from The Ottoman Empire: A Historical Encyclopaedia, Mehrdad Kia (two volumes), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from Europe Before History, Kristian Kristiansen, from A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith (Ed), from An Historical Geography of Europe, Norman J G Pounds (Abridged Version), and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and Macedonia agrees to name change (The Week), and Republic of North Macedonia born amid mass protests (The Week), and Foreign Secretary statement on the Republic of North Macedonia (UK Gov.uk), and North Macedonia joins NATO as 30th Ally (Nato).)

1991

Yugoslavia's Macedonia region declares independence from the crumbling state following an internal referendum. Greece objects to the name that is subsequently adopted for the region - the 'Republic of Macedonia' - as well as its flag on the grounds that both imply territorial claims to the neighbouring Greek province of Macedonia. The argument will rumble on for over two decades, although relations are normalised in 1995.

North Macedonian (FYROM) independence referendum, 1991
The independence referendum in 1991 by Yugoslavia's southern province of Macedonia confirmed the province's desire to remove itself and create the independent republic of Macedonia (usually FYROM to the rest of the world)

Macedonia is henceforth known to the world as the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' (FYROM). It is largely left in peace by Yugoslavia during the bitter Balkan warfare of the 1990s.

1998 - 1999

The Kosovo War is triggered due to intensive Serbianisation of ethnic Albanian territory within the federal republic of Yugoslavia. With casualty numbers increasing rapidly and thousands of Kosovans pouring into FYROM (destabilising it) and Albania, Nato intervenes, using its air superiority to push back Serbian troops. The war ends in the Kumanovo Treaty which sees Yugoslav Serb forces withdraw and a Nato peace-keeping force being assembled to police and protect the Kosovan autonomous region.

2001

Albanian elements - both native minority and external insurgents - in the north and west of FYROM come into conflict with the government between February and August. A Nato monitoring force is sent to the region following a ceasefire. The outcome is largely favourable for both sides, with the government granting increased regional autonomy to the ethnic Albanians while they agree to recognise all Macedonian institutions.

2003

To all intents and purposes, the Yugoslav state is terminated when the 'Union of Serbia and Montenegro' replaces it as an acceptance that Serbia has certainly lost its former dominance over the other constituent parts of the kingdom. The EU-brokered deal that forms the union is intended to stabilise the region by settling Montenegrin demands for independence from Serbia and also to prevent further changes to Balkan borders.

Statue of Alexander the Great in North Macedonia
In the early 2010s FYROM underwent a phase of building statues and renaming airports and the like to honour Alexander the Great and his father, Philip II of Macedonia, which drew widespread condemnation but seemingly provoked the discussions that were needed in order to make progress

2018

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) agrees to change its name in July 2018, bringing to an end the long dispute with neighbouring Greece. It will now be known as Severna Makedonija, or the republic of North Macedonia, providing a sufficient difference from the neighbouring Greek province of Macedonia to be acceptable to Greece itself. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras survives a vote of no confidence to sign the accompanying accord with North Macedonia.

2019 -2020

The political process behind the formal acceptance of a renaming of the state has to overcome a few potential stumbling blocks before it is finally, formally, agreed on 12 February 2019. Now known as North Macedonia, the state becomes the thirtieth member of Nato in March 2020. However, accession into the European Union is vetoed by Bulgaria, which has yet to resolve its issues with the state which are linked to Bulgarian occupations of North Macedonia during both world wars.