Macedonia has a total land area of 25,713 km2 (9,928 sq mi). It is located between latitudes 40° and 43° N, and mostly between longitudes 20° and 23° E (with a tiny portion east of 23°). Macedonia shares 748 kilometers (465 miles) of borders with Serbia (62 kilometers or 39 miles) to the north, Kosovo (159 kilometers or 99 miles) to the northwest, Bulgaria (148 kilometers or 92 miles) to the east, Greece (228 kilometers or 142 miles) to the south, and Albania (151 kilometers or 94 miles) to the west. It is a route for products to be sent from Greece via the Balkans to Eastern, Western, and Central Europe, as well as through Bulgaria to the east. It is part of the Macedonia area, which also contains Macedonia (Greece) and the Blagoevgrad province in southern Bulgaria.
Macedonia is a landlocked nation that is physically characterized by a core valley created by the Vardar river and bordered by mountain ranges along its borders. The topography is mainly rocky, and it is situated between the Ar Mountains and Osogovo, which frame the Vardar River basin. Three major lakes — Lake Ohrid, Lake Prespa, and Dojran Lake — are located on the country’s southern boundaries, which are divided by the borders with Albania and Greece. Ohrid is said to be one of the world’s oldest lakes and biotopes. The area is seismically active and has been the scene of devastating earthquakes in the past, most notably in 1963, when a massive earthquake severely devastated Skopje, killing over 1,000 people.
Macedonia also offers beautiful mountains. They are part of two mountain ranges: the ar Mountains, which extends to the West Vardar/Pelagonia group of mountains (Baba Mountain, Nide, Kozuf, and Jakupica), also known as the Dinaric range. The Osogovo–Belasica mountain chain, commonly known as the Rhodope range, is the second range. The mountains of the Ar Mountains and the West Vardar/Pelagonia range are younger and higher in elevation than the older mountains of the Osogovo-Belasica mountain range. Mount Korab of the Ar Mountains near the Albanian border is Macedonia’s highest peak, standing at 2,764 m (9,068 ft).
There are 1,100 major water springs in the Republic of Macedonia. The rivers discharge into three basins: the Aegean, the Adriatic, and the Black Sea.
The biggest is the Aegean basin. It encompasses 87 percent of the Republic’s total land area of 22,075 square kilometers (8,523 sq mi). Vardar, the basin’s biggest river, drains 80 percent of its area, or 20,459 square kilometers (7,899 sq mi). Its valley is vital to the country’s economy and communication infrastructure. The ‘The Vardar Valley’ initiative is seen as critical to the country’s strategic growth.
The Adriatic basin is formed by the river Black Drin and spans about 3,320 km2 (1,282 sq mi), or 13% of the land. It gets its water from the lakes of Prespa and Ohrid.
With a surface area of just 37 km2, the Black Sea basin is the smallest (14 sq mi). It encompasses the mountain’s northern flank, Mount Skopska Crna Gora. This is the headwaters of the river Binachka Morava, which flows into the Morava and, subsequently, the Danube, which flows into the Black Sea.
Macedonia contains about fifty ponds as well as three natural lakes, Lake Ohrid, Lake Prespa, and Lake Dojran.
Banite, Banja Bansko, Istibanja, Katlanovo, Keovica, Kosovrasti, Banja Koani, Kumanovski Banji, and Negorci are the nine spa towns and resorts in Macedonia.
Macedonia has a climate that ranges from Mediterranean to continental. Summers are hot and dry, while winters are somewhat chilly. The average annual precipitation ranges from 1,700 mm (66.9 in) in the west to 500 mm (19.7 in) in the east. The nation has three major climate zones: temperate Mediterranean, mountainous, and slightly continental. The climate is moderate Mediterranean in the valleys of the Vardar and Strumica rivers, in the districts of Gevgelija, Valandovo, Dojran, Strumica, and Radovi. The hottest areas are Demir Kapija and Gevgelija, where temperatures regularly reach 40 °C (104 °F) in July and August. The mountainous climate is found in the country’s mountainous areas, and it is distinguished by long, snowy winters and short, chilly summers. The spring season is cooler than the autumn season. The bulk of Macedonia has a mild continental climate, with warm and dry summers and cold and rainy winters. The nation has thirty major and regular weather stations.
The most recent census data from 2002 indicates a population of 2,022,547 people. The most recent official estimate from 2009, with no major changes, is 2,050,671. Macedonians are the country’s biggest ethnic group, according to the most recent census statistics. The Albanians, who controlled most of the country’s northern region, are the second biggest group. Following them, Turks are the country’s third largest ethnic group, with an official census figure of about 80,000 and unofficial estimates ranging between 170,000 and 200,000. According to unofficial estimates, there may be up to 260,000 Romani in the Republic of Macedonia.
Eastern Orthodoxy is the Republic of Macedonia’s dominant religion, accounting for 58.9 percent of the population, the overwhelming majority of whom are members of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. Other Christian denominations make up 0.4 percent of the population. Muslims account for 39.3% of the population. Macedonia has the fifth-highest percentage of Muslims in Europe, behind only Kosovo (96%), Turkey (90%), Albania (59%), and Bosnia and Herzegovina (59%). (51 percent ). The majority of Muslims are Albanians, Turks, or Romani, with just a few Macedonian Muslims. According to a 2010 Pew Research estimate, the remaining 1.4 percent are “unaffiliated.”
At the end of 2011, there were 1,842 churches and 580 mosques in the nation. In Skopje, secondary religion schools are run by the Orthodox and Islamic religious groups. In the capital, there is an Orthodox theological institution. The Macedonian Orthodox Church has authority over ten provinces (seven inside Macedonia and three overseas), ten bishops, and about 350 priests. Every year, 30,000 individuals are baptized throughout all provinces.
There is a schism between the Macedonian and Serbian Orthodox Churches that stems from the former’s independence and self-declared autocephaly in 1967. Following the suspension of talks between the two churches, the Serbian Orthodox Church recognized a party headed by Zoran Vranikovski (also known as Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid), a former Macedonian church bishop, as the Archbishop of Ohrid.
The Macedonian Orthodox Church responded by cutting all ties with the new Ohrid Archbishopric and barring Serbian Orthodox Church bishops from visiting Macedonia. By distributing Serbian Orthodox church calendars and leaflets, Bishop Jovan was sentenced to 18 months in prison for “defaming the Macedonian Orthodox church and hurting the religious emotions of local people.”
In Macedonia, the Macedonian Byzantine Catholic Church has about 11,000 members. The Church was founded in 1918 and is mostly composed of Catholic converts and their descendants. The Byzantine Rite Church is in communion with the Roman and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its liturgical service is conducted entirely in Macedonian.
There is a tiny Protestant community in the area. The late president Boris Trajkovski was the most well-known Protestant in the nation. He belonged to the Methodist community, which is the Republic’s biggest and oldest Protestant church, going back to the late 1800s. Since the 1980s, the Protestant community has expanded, thanks in part to increased confidence and in part to foreign missionary assistance.
The Macedonian Jewish community, which totaled about 7,200 individuals on the eve of World War II, was almost completely annihilated during the war: just 2% of Macedonian Jews survived the Holocaust. Most chose to move to Israel after their liberation and the conclusion of the war. The country’s Jewish population now counts about 200 people, nearly all of whom reside in Skopje. The majority of Macedonian Jews are Sephardic, descended from 15th-century exiles fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions.
According to the 2002 Census, 46.5 percent of children aged 0–4 belonged to a Muslim family.
Macedonia has experienced significant economic reform since independence, ranking as the fourth “best reformatory state” out of 178 nations evaluated by the World Bank in 2009. In recent years, the nation has established an open economy, with commerce accounting for more than 90% of GDP. Macedonia has had consistent, though modest, economic development since 1996, with GDP increasing by 3.1 percent in 2005. This percentage was expected to increase to an average of 5.2 percent between 2006 and 2010. With an inflation rate of just 3% in 2006 and 2% in 2007, the government has proved effective in its attempts to fight inflation, and has adopted policies aimed at attracting foreign investment and encouraging the growth of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). The present administration implemented a flat tax structure in order to make the nation more appealing to foreign investment. In 2007, the flat tax rate was 12 percent, then it was reduced to 10% in 2008.
Despite these changes, Macedonia’s unemployment rate was 37.2 percent in 2005, and its poverty rate was 22 percent in 2006. However, thanks to a variety of employment initiatives as well as a successful process of recruiting multinational companies, the country’s unemployment rate fell to 27.3 percent in the first quarter of 2015, according to the Macedonian State Statistical Office. The government’s foreign direct investment policies and efforts have resulted in the establishment of local subsidiaries of several world-leading manufacturing companies, particularly those in the automotive industry, including: Johnson Controls Inc., Van Hool NV, Johnson Matthey plc, Lear Corp., Visteon Corp., Kostal GmbH, Gentherm Inc., Dräxlmaier Group, Kromberg & Schubert, Marquardt GmbH, and others.
Macedonia has one of the highest proportions of people in financial difficulty, with 72 percent of its citizens stating that they could only manage on their household income “with difficulty” or “with great difficulty,” though Macedonia, along with Croatia, was the only Western Balkan country to not report an increase in this statistic. Corruption and an inefficient judicial system are also major impediments to sustainable economic growth. Macedonia nevertheless has one of Europe’s lowest per capita GDPs. Furthermore, the country’s grey market is estimated to be worth close to 20% of GDP.
In terms of GDP structure, the manufacturing sector, comprising mining and construction, accounted for 21.4 percent of GDP in 2013, up from 21.1 percent in 2012. In 2013, commerce, transportation, and lodging accounted for 18.2 percent of GDP, up from 16.7 percent in 2012, while agriculture accounted for 9.6 percent, up from 9.1 percent the previous year.
In terms of international trade, “chemicals and associated goods” contributed 21.4 percent of the country’s exports in 2014, followed by “machinery and transport equipment” at 21.1 percent. In 2014, the main import sectors in Macedonia were “manufactured goods classified chiefly by material,” accounting for 34.2 percent of total imports, “machinery and transport equipment,” accounting for 18.7 percent, and “mineral fuels, lubricants, and related materials,” accounting for 14.4 percent of total imports. Even yet, the EU accounted for 68.8 percent of Macedonia’s international commerce in 2014, making it the country’s biggest economic partner by far (23.3 percent with Germany, 7.9 percent with the UK, 7.3 percent with Greece, 6.2 percent with Italy, etc.). In 2014, Western Balkan nations accounted for almost 12% of total foreign trade.
Macedonia is less developed and has a much smaller economy than the majority of the former Yugoslav republics, with a GDP per capita of US$9,157 at purchasing power parity and a Human Development Index of 0.701.
According to Eurostat statistics, Macedonia’s PPS GDP per capita in 2014 was 36% of the EU average.
Tourism contributes significantly to the Republic of Macedonia’s economy. The country’s wealth of natural and cultural attractions make it a popular tourist destination. It gets about 700,000 visitors each year.