I attended a lunch time lecture at the Smithsonian on Macedonia. Not sure why, but it just seemed like the thing to do. The lecturer was an art historian who is from there, but who now lives here. She had 60 minutes, but took 75, and that was rushing. This is the first time she gave a lecture on Macedonia, and tried to both retell its history, and take us on a tour. Most of the pictures, she said, she got off Flickr.
Macedonia was, of course, the southernmost province of Yugoslavia, and has been independent since 1991. Historic Macedonia, however, covers a portion of northern Greece larger than today’s Republic, as well as smaller parts of Bulgaria and Albania. The Greeks believe that true Macedonia is within Greece and has convinced the UN to admit Macedonia only under the name of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Imagine my surprise, therefore, to learn that our sizable audience included representatives of both the Greek and the Macedonian embassies.
Macedonia was of a piece when it was part of the Ottoman Empire, but was split up after the Balkan revolt against Turkey, by the Treaty of London in 1913. But the boundaries were not made clear by the treaty, leading to more struggle, and the current configuration. The population of Macedonia is only 64% Macedonian. It is 25% Albanian (in the north and west), and has many other ethnic groups (Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians, Gypsies, and more). The Macedonian Salad (a medley of fruit) was so-named because of the mixture in the population of Macedonia.
It is the size of Vermont. It has beautiful mountain vistas. It has a number of old medieval cities, with both Turkish and European sections. It is largely Orthodox Christian. Its churches are of Byzantine design, with a wide variety of very well done frescoes. Its cities have cafes and a lot of street life. It looks like a very interesting, and relatively laid back, place to visit.