About Macedonia

Republic of Macedonia is an oft-overlooked gem of a country, which was once the southern-most republic in the federation of Yugoslavia (the official reference used under the United Nations is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which is another story altogether, see below). Macedonia was the only republic to peacefully break away from Yugoslavia, in 1991, and has been trying to rebuild its economy and independence ever since.

A small nation of around 2 million people, it is a multi-ethnic and culturally rich place. While the majority of the population is ethnically Macedonian, about 23% of the country consists of Albanians, and a smaller proportion identify as Roma, Vlach, Turkish, Serbian, or Bosniak.

Macedonians are often proud of the fact that the Cyrillic alphabet, which Macedonian still utilizes as its official script, was invented by two Macedonians from the city of Ohrid, Saints Kyril and Methodij. In the Macedonian language, "Macedonia" is written "Македонија."
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The "Name Issue"

Ever since Macedonia broke away from Yugoslavia it has been in a row with Greece over its name, which refers to the country as FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). This is in part because Greece claims that the name Macedonia implies territorial claims to the Greek region of Macedonia. Macedonians claim that because they are ethnically  Macedonian, changing the name of their country would change who they are as a people. If they are not Macedonians, who are they? There are ongoing discussions between the two countries, mediated by the UN, but so far no compromise has been found, and the issue continues to stall Macedonia's entrance into NATO and the EU.

Recommended websites to learn more about Macedonia:

Macedonia Loves You

Macedonia Timeless

Wikipedia Entry on Macedonia

Balkan Insight (online news, English Language)

Recommended books:

Hidden Macedonia - Christopher Deliso (2007) - A fascinating travel narrative about the very region this bike tour will visit! Deliso is an American who resides in Macedonia, so provides fascinating insight.
Balkan Ghosts - Robert Kaplan (2005) - This book covers the recent history of the entire Balkan region, and gives a comprehensive view of the foundation of the current political, economic, and socio-cultural issues that affect this area.