The upper part of the Vardar valley has at all times constituted an important cultural link between the Mediterranean world and the interior of the Balkan Peninsula. However, the older phases of the Stone Age are poorly known. The Neolithic began with the appearance of the starčeviculture, later succeeded by the wine culture. Bronze age finds with, among other things, Mycenaean objects indicate contacts with the Aegean area.
The Iron Age is best known through investigations of often extensive burial fields with small ridges and a rich inventory of metal jewelry. A strong Greek influence is evident in the very rich Illyrian princes of the latter part of the Iron Age.
The Illyrian and Thracian tribes inhabiting the region date from the 6th century BC. in conflict with the northern Greek kingdom of Macedonia in the south. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Macedonia. During King Philip II , this kingdom extended its borders to include the southern part of present-day Northern Macedonia, and most of the country was Hellenized. The area was incorporated in the Roman province of Macedonia 148 BC After Diocletian’s provincial reform about 300 AD it was part of the province of Moesia superior, with Scupi (Skopje) as its central location.
In the 400s and 500s, Slavic tribes immigrated to the area, which in the Middle Ages belonged to the Byzantine Empire, and to various Serbian and Bulgarian empires, before it came to the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 1300s. As this weakened during the 19th century, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece began to contend for influence in the area; see Macedonian question and maps Bulgaria (History).
Part of Yugoslavia
After the Balkan Wars 1912–13, the Macedonian area was divided between Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. As part of a hard-fought assimilation policy, the newly formed Yugoslav state sent Serbian colonists to “their” part of Macedonia, which was called Southern Serbia. The Bulgarian-inspired VMRO’s terrorist activities against authorities came primarily to the civilian population. Possibly remaining probulgar sentiments in present-day Northern Macedonia disappeared during World War II, after Bulgaria occupied the area and started a Bulgarian policy.
With the promise of Tito’s partisans on their own republic in post-war Yugoslavia, a liberation movement was organized, and on August 2, 1944, Macedonia was proclaimed its own republic. Because the republic depended on federal grants, it often stood on the part of the central power and the Serbs.
Independence and change of name
However, after Slovenia and Croatia broke out of the Yugoslav Federation, Macedonia declared itself independent following a referendum in 1991. Due to Greek opposition, especially to the country’s name that the Greeks saw as theirs, international recognition was delayed. In the spring of 1993, the country could be elected to the UN under the provisional name FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).
During the first period of independence, the country had major economic problems, which were exacerbated by the Republic’s vulnerable position. As a result of participation in the UN blockade against Yugoslavia (that is, from 1992 Serbia and Montenegro) and because of the Greek trade embargo against the former Macedonia (February 1994 – September 1995), the country became economically isolated. The Greek embargo was lifted since Macedonia agreed, among other things, to replace the symbolic Virginia star on its national flag with a historically more neutral sun symbol. UN-led negotiations on the name issue were constantly going on between Greece and Macedonia without a definitive solution being reached. The conflict quickly escalated when NATO and EU member Greece 2008 vetoed a Macedonian membership in the two organizations as long as the name issue was unresolved.
However, it took until 2018, after a change of power in Skopje, before a real breakthrough took place. Against the promise that Greece would no longer prevent EU and NATO membership, Macedonia agreed to change its name to Northern Macedonia. However, the agreement, signed by the new Social Democratic government, was heavily criticized by mainly Slav-Macedonian Conservative and Nationalist VMRO-DPMNE (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party of Macedonian National Unity). In an attempt to halt the process, the opposition called for a boycott of the referendum held in September 2018. In this, 91 percent supported the name change proposal but voter turnout was only 37 percent, which meant the result of the referendum was not valid. Instead, the constitutional amendments needed for a change of name were approved by Parliament. On February 12, 2019, the country formally changed its name to Northern Macedonia.
In domestic politics, the country has been characterized by ethnic tension between the Slavic Macedonians and the large Albanian population (about a quarter of the population), who have long felt discriminated against. In the context of the conflict between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo in 1998–99, the situation in present-day Northern Macedonia, which received large numbers of refugees, also became increasingly labile. The escalating tensions eventually led to a confrontation between Macedonian forces and the Albanian National Liberation Army (UÇK). However, international intervention prevented the conflict from degenerating into a real civil war and caused the parties to conclude the so-called Ohrid agreement in May 2001, an agreement that gives the Albanian people increased rights. However, a deep mistrust remains between the two groups, who in most places live individually; see alsothe Yugoslav war (Macedonia conflict).