Ancient and Roman period
The Republic of Macedonia approximately correlates to the ancient kingdom of Paeonia, which was situated directly north of Macedonia. The Paeonians, a Thracian people, inhabited Paeonia, while the Dardani inhabited the northwest and tribes known historically as the Enchelae, Pelagones, and Lyncestae inhabited the southwest; the latter two are generally regarded as Molossian tribes of the northwestern Greek group, while the former two are considered Illyrian.
The Achaemenid Persians, led by Darius the Great, defeated the Paeonians in the late sixth century BC, integrating what is now the Republic of Macedonia into their extensive holdings. Following their defeat in the Second Persian invasion of Greece in 479 BC, the Persians retreated from their European holdings, including what is now the Republic of Macedonia.
Philip II of Macedon incorporated the territories of Upper Macedonia (Lynkestis and Pelagonia) and the southern portion of Paeonia (Deuriopus) into the kingdom of Macedonia in 356 BC. The rest of the province was captured and integrated into Alexander the Great’s empire, extending as far north as Scupi, while the city and surrounding territory remained part of Dardania.
In 146 BC, the Romans created the Province of Macedonia. By the time of Diocletian, the province had been divided into Macedonia Prima (“first Macedonia”) on the south, encompassing most of the kingdom of Macedon, and Macedonia Salutaris (also known as Macedonia Secunda, “second Macedonia”) on the north, encompassing partially Dardania and the entire Paeonia; most of the country’s modern boundaries fell within the latter, with the city of Stobi forming part of the former. Domitian’s (81–96 AD) reign brought the Scupi region under Roman control, and it became part of the Province of Moesia. While Greek remained the dominant language in the eastern Roman empire, Latin spread to a degree in Macedonia.
Medieval and Ottoman period
By the late sixth century AD, Slavic peoples had established throughout the Balkan area, including Macedonia. Byzantine literature from the 580s attests to Slav raids on Byzantine territory in the area of Macedonia, subsequently assisted by Bulgars. According to historical sources, in 680, a group of Bulgars, Slavs, and Byzantines headed by a Bulgar named Kuber arrived on the Keramisian plain, centered on the city of Bitola. Presian’s rule seems to correspond with the expansion of Bulgarian authority over Slavic tribes in and surrounding Macedonia. During the reign of Tsar Boris I of Bulgaria, the Slavic peoples that lived in the area of Macedonia converted to Christianity during the 9th century.
Byzantine Emperor Basil II defeated the troops of Bulgarian Tsar Samuil in 1014, and the Byzantines regained control of the Balkans (including Macedonia) within four years for the first time since the 7th century. However, by the late 12th century, the area was disputed by numerous political groups, including a short Norman conquest in the 1080s, as a result of Byzantine collapse.
A resurrected Bulgarian Empire took control of the area in the early 13th century. The empire did not endure, since it was plagued by political problems, and the area fell back under Byzantine authority in the early 14th century. It became a part of the Serbian Empire in the 14th century, which regarded itself as liberators of their Slavic kin from Byzantine tyranny. Skopje was designated as the capital of Tsar Stefan Dusan’s kingdom.
Following Dusan’s death, a weak successor arose, and power conflicts among nobles once again split the Balkans. These events occurred concurrently with the Ottoman Turks’ invasion into Europe. The Kingdom of Prilep was one of the brief-lived kingdoms that arose after the fall of the Serbian Empire in the 14th century. The Ottoman Empire gradually captured all of the central Balkans and ruled over them for five centuries.
With the beginning of the Bulgarian National Revival in the 18th century, many of the reformers were from this region, including the Miladinov Brothers, Rajko Žinzifov, Joakim Krčovski, Kiril Pejčinoviḱ and others. The bishoprics of Skopje, Debar, Bitola, Ohrid, Veles and Strumica voted to join the Bulgarian Exarchateafter it was established in 1870.
Several movements whose goals were the establishment of an autonomous Macedonia, which would encompass the entire region of Macedonia, began to arise in the late 19th century; the earliest of these was the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, later becoming Secret Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (SMARO). In 1905 it was renamed the Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (IMARO), and after World War I the organisation separated into the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) and the Internal Thracian Revolutionary Organisation (ITRO).
In the early years of the organisation, membership was open to only Bulgarians, but later it was opened to all inhabitants of European Turkey, regardless of their nationality or religion. The majority of its members, however, were Macedonian Bulgarians. In 1903, IMRO organised the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising against the Ottomans, which after some initial successes, including the forming of the “Kruševo Republic”, was crushed with much loss of life. The uprising and the forming of the Krushevo Republic are considered the cornerstone and precursors to the eventual establishment of the Macedonian state.
Kingdoms of Serbia and Yugoslavia
Following the Ottoman Empire’s collapse in 1912 and 1913, the majority of its European-held lands were split among Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia. Serbia acquired the area of the current Macedonian state and renamed it Juna Srbija, or “Southern Serbia.” Following the split, an anti-Bulgarian campaign was launched in regions controlled by Serbia and Greece. The Serbs shuttered 641 Bulgarian schools and 761 churches, while expelling Exarchist clergy and instructors. Bulgarian (including all Macedonian dialects) was forbidden.
Bulgaria joined the Central Powers in the First World War in the autumn of 1915, gaining control of the majority of the area that is now the Republic of Macedonia. Following the end of World War I, the area was returned to Serbian control as part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, and the anti-Bulgarian measures of the first occupation (1913–1915) were reintroduced: Bulgarian teachers and clergy were expelled, Bulgarian language signs and books were removed, and all Bulgarian organizations were dissolved.
The Serbian government implemented a program of forcible Serbianisation in the area, which included systematic persecution of Bulgarian activists, changing family surnames, internal colonisation, forced labor, and intensive propaganda. 50,000 Serbian army and gendermerie troops were stationed in Macedonia to assist in the execution of this strategy. As part of the government’s internal colonisation policy, about 280 Serbian colonies (consisting of 4,200 households) were created by 1940. (initial plans envisaged 50,000 families settling in Macedonia).
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was formally renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929, and it was split into provinces known as banovinas. Southern Serbia, encompassing all of what is now the Republic of Macedonia, became known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia’s Vardar Banovina.
During the interbellum period, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) used the idea of a United Macedonia. Its founders, notably Todor Alexandrov, Aleksandar Protogerov, and Ivan Mihailov, advocated for the independence of the Macedonian region divided between Serbia and Greece for all citizens, regardless of religion or race. The Bulgarian government of Alexander Malinov offered Pirin Macedonia for that purpose after World War I in 1918, but the Great Powers declined since Serbia and Greece opposed it. The Communist International proposed in 1924 that all Balkan communist parties embrace a platform of a “united Macedonia,” but the Bulgarian and Greek communists rejected the proposal.
Following that, IMRO launched an insurgency in Vardar Banovina in collaboration with the Macedonian Youth Secret Revolutionary Organization, which also carried out guerrilla assaults against Serbian administrative and military authorities there. To fight IMRO and MMTRO, Serbian chetniks, IMRO renegades, and Macedonian Federative Organization (MFO) members established the Association against Bulgarian Bandits in Stip in 1923.
During the interbellum period, Macedonist views grew in Yugoslav Vardar Macedonia and among the Bulgarian left diaspora, and were backed by the Comintern. It produced a special resolution in 1934 that, for the first time, established guidelines for acknowledging the existence of a distinct Macedonian people and language.
World War II period
From 1941 until 1945, Yugoslavia was occupied by the Axis powers during World War II. Bulgaria and Italian-occupied Albania shared the Vardar Banovina. Bulgarian Action Committees were formed in order to prepare the area for the arrival of the new Bulgarian government and troops. Former IMRO members constituted the majority of the Committees, although communists like as Panko Brashnarov, Strahil Gigov, and Metodi Shatorov also took part.
Shatorov, as head of the communists in Vardar Macedonia, moved from the Yugoslav Communist Party to the Bulgarian Communist Party and declined to launch armed action against the Bulgarian army. Under German coercion, Bulgarian authorities were responsible for rounding up and deporting approximately 7,000 Jews in Skopje and Bitola. After 1943, harsh control by the occupying troops prompted many Macedonians to assist Josip Broz Tito’s Communist Partisan resistance organization, and the National Liberation War followed, with German forces being pushed out of Macedonia by the end of 1944.
Following the Bulgarian coup d’état of 1944, Bulgarian soldiers battled their way back to Bulgaria’s former boundaries in Vardar Macedonia, besieged by German forces. Four armies, totaling 455,000 soldiers, were mobilized and reorganized under the direction of Bulgaria’s new pro-Soviet government. The majority of them returned to occupied Yugoslavia in early October 1944, moving from Sofia to Ni, Skopje, and Pristina with the strategic goal of preventing German troops from retreating from Greece. In 1945, the Bulgarian government was compelled by the Soviet Union to cede Pirin Macedonia to such a United Macedonia in order to create a broad South Slavic Federation.
Socialist Yugoslavia period
The Anti-Fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM) established the People’s Republic of Macedonia as a constituent republic of the People’s Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1944. Until the conclusion of the conflict, ASNOM served as an acting government. The Macedonian alphabet was defined by ASNOM linguists, who based their alphabet on Vuk Stefanovi Karadi’s phonetic alphabet and the ideas of Krste Petkov Misirkov.
The new republic became one of the Yugoslav federation’s six republics. The People’s Republic of Macedonia was renamed the Socialist Republic of Macedonia when the federation was renamed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1963. During Greece’s civil war (1946–1949), Macedonian communist rebels backed the Greek communists. From there, many people went to the Socialist Republic of Macedonia. When it peacefully seceded from Yugoslavia in 1991, the state deleted the “Socialist” from its name.
Declaration of independence
The nation officially observes 8 September 1991 as Independence Day (Macedonian: ен нa неависноста, Den na nezavisnosta), commemorating the referendum that endorsed independence from Yugoslavia, although legalizing participation in future union of the former Yugoslav republics. On an official level, the anniversary of the commencement of the Ilinden Uprising (St. Elijah’s Day) on 2 August is also popularly commemorated as the Day of the Republic.
In January 1992, Robert Badinter, the chairman of the Peace Conference on Yugoslavia’s Arbitration Commission, requested EC recognition.
Throughout the early 1990s Yugoslav conflicts, Macedonia remained at peace. To address issues with the demarcation line between the two nations, a few minor modifications to its boundary with Yugoslavia were agreed upon. The Kosovo War in 1999, however, severely destabilized the nation, with an estimated 360,000 ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo seeking shelter in the country. Although they left immediately after the conflict, Albanian nationalists on both sides of the border quickly took up weapons in favor of autonomy or independence for Macedonia’s Albanian-populated regions.
Between February and August 2001, a war erupted between the government and ethnic Albanian rebels, mostly in the country’s north and west. The conflict was brought to a conclusion by the involvement of a NATO ceasefire monitoring mission. The government promised to give the Albanian minority more political authority and cultural recognition under the provisions of the Ohrid Agreement. The Albanian side decided to drop its separatist aspirations and completely recognize all Macedonian institutions. Furthermore, the NLA was required by this agreement to disarm and give up their weapons to a NATO force.