The Republic of Macedonia1, recognised by most states and international organizations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), is an independent state on the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe. It is often called simply Macedonia, although this can cause confusion with the Greek region of Macedonia and the wider geographical region. The Republic of Macedonia is a portion of the geographical region of Macedonia, containing roughly 38 percent of the area and about 44 percent of the population of the wider region.
The lands governed by the Republic of Macedonia were previously the southernmost part of Yugoslavia. Its current borders were fixed shortly after World War II when socialist Yugoslavia established the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, controversially recognising the Macedonian Slavs as a separate nation within Yugoslavia. Renamed as the Republic of Macedonia in 1991, it seceded peacefully from Yugoslavia without any further territorial changes. However, since then the country has been embroiled in a prolonged political dispute with Greece concerning its use of the name "Macedonia".
Main article: History of the Republic of Macedonia
The lands governed by the Republic of Macedonia were part of a number of ancient states and former empires; ancient Macedon (which established the name of the whole Macedonian region), Paionia, the Roman and Byzantine empires as well as medieval Serbian and Bulgarian states. In the 14th century the region was conquered by the Ottoman Empire.
Following the two Balkan wars in 1912 and 1913 and the dissolution of the Ottomans, it became part of Serbia and was known as Južna Srbija ("Southern Serbia"). After the First World War Serbia joined the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In 1929, the kingdom was officially renamed Yugoslavia and divided into provinces called "banovinas". The territory of the modern Republic of Macedonia became the Province of Vardar (Vardarska banovina).
In 1941, Yugoslavia was occupied by the Axis powers. The Banate of Vardar was divided between Bulgaria and Italian-occupied Albania. Harsh rule by the occupying forces encouraged many Macedonian Slavs to support the resistance movement of Josip Broz Tito, who became Yugoslavia's president when the war ended. After the end of the Second World War, People's Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was established, in which People's Republic of Macedonia within Yugoslavia controversially became one of the six republics of the Yugoslav federation. Following the federation's renaming to Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1963, the People's Republic of Macedonia was likewise renamed Socialist Republic of Macedonia. The republic renamed itself the Republic of Macedonia in 1991 and peacefully seceded from Yugoslavia. It came into conflict with Greece over its official name soon after its declaration of independence, and as of 2005 the dispute still persists.
The Republic of Macedonia remained at peace through the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s but was significantly disrupted by the Kosovo War in 1999, when an estimated 360,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo were took refuge in the country. They returned quickly following the war but soon after, Albanian radicals on both sides of the border took up arms in pursuit of autonomy or independence for the Albanian-populated areas of the Republic. A short war was fought between government and ethnic Albanian rebels, mostly in the north and west of the country, in March-June 2001. It ended with the intervention of a small NATO ceasefire monitoring force and government undertakings to devolve greater political power and cultural recognition to the Albanian minority.
Main article: Politics of the Republic of Macedonia
The Republic of Macedonia is a parliamentary democracy with an executive government composed of a coalition of parties from the unicameral legislature (Собрание, Sobranie), and an independent judicial branch with a constitutional court.
Local government functions are divided between 123 municipalities (opštini, singular - opština). The capital, Skopje, is governed as a group of seven municipalities collectively referred to as "Greater Skopje".
The Republic is a member of a number of international organisations such as the United Nations and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It is seeking to join NATO and the European Union, although its accession to both is not likely to take place for some time.
Within the Republic of Macedonia, the main political divergence is between the largely ethnically-based political parties representing the country's Macedonian Slav majority and large Albanian minority (over 25 %). The issue of the power balance between the two communities led to a brief war in 2001, following which a power-sharing agreement was reached.
The Republic of Macedonia has generally amicable relations with the outside world, but since its independence in 1991 it has been embroiled in a dispute with Greece over the country's official name, national symbols and constitution. The Greek government objected to the Republic's use of the name "Macedonia" on the grounds that it was a Greek name already in use by Greek Macedonia; that its flag, depicting the Vergina Sun, was a misappropriation of a symbol of the ancient state of Macedon that Greece considers Hellenic; and that the Republic's constitution included clauses that Greece interpreted as presaging potential territorial claims.
As a compromise, the United Nations recognized the Republic in 1993 under the temporary name of "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM). After the state was admitted to the United Nations under the FYROM name, other international organisations adopted the same convention, including the European Union, the European Broadcasting Union, NATO and the International Olympic Committee, among others. The Greek government also uses the FYROM designation but many Greeks use the metonym Skopje (the name of the country's capital) to refer to the entire country; this has not caught on outside Greece. The issues of the flag and constitution were resolved in 1995 but the naming issue remains unresolved. While most countries continue to refer to the country as FYROM, around 20 states (including the United States, Russia, and the People's Republic of China) recognise it as the Republic of Macedonia rather than FYROM. Given the long name, the state is often referred to as Macedonia by non-Greeks despite the ambiguity of the term with the wider geographical region of Macedonia. The dispute continues to excite passions in both quarters but in practice the two countries deal pragmatically with each other. Economic relations and cooperation resumed since 1995 to such an extent that Greece is now considered one of the republic's most important foreign economic partners and investors .
Main article: Geography of the Republic of Macedonia
Map of the Republic of Macedonia
The Republic of Macedonia encompasses only a part of the geographical region of Macedonia: the remainder is divided between neighbouring Greece (with about half of the total) and Bulgaria (with under a tenth).
The terrain is mostly rugged, located between the Šar and Rhodope mountains around the valley of Vardar.
The region is seismically active and has been subject to destructive earthquakes in the past, most recently in 1963 when Skopje was heavily damaged by a major earthquake.
The Republic's biggest city by far is Skopje, the capital, with an estimated 600,000 inhabitants. After Skopje, the largest cities are Bitola, Kumanovo, Prilep and Tetovo, with populations ranging from about 50,000-100,000 people.
Main article: Economy of the Republic of Macedonia
The Republic was the poorest area of the former Yugoslavia. Its economy suffered from the same problems faced by other former socialist East European countries. With the combined effects of its post-independence move to an open market economy and the collapse of the internal Yugoslav economy arose various economic and political problems with a great number of its main trade partners. Additionally due to the negative impact of the Yugoslav wars, the Kosovo war , the following UN-mandated sanctions against Serbia (which accounted for 60% of its markets prior to the disintegration of Yugoslavia) , the 1994-1995 economic trade embargo imposed by Greece  and the 2001 Albanian crisis , economic difficulties persisted until early 2002. It has since made a sluggish recovery, though the extent of the unemployment and gray market continue to be of grave concern. Its per capita GDP remains one of the lowest in Europe.
Main article: Demographics of the Republic of Macedonia
The mother tongue of some 1.4 million of the state's inhabitants, the Macedonian Slavs, is Macedonian, a south Slavic language which is mostly mutually intelligible with Bulgarian. (It is sometimes disputed whether Macedonian constitutes a distinct language or a dialect of Bulgarian.) Albanian is spoken by around 500,000 people and Turkish by 80,000. The majority of the population are Eastern Orthodox members of the Macedonian Orthodox Church at 55%, while 43% are Muslims, and 1% other religions. There are an estimated 120,000 Romany speakers.
Main article: Culture of the Republic of Macedonia
Official government sites
Other, unofficial web sites
¹ The title of this article is not meant to imply an official position on this naming dispute. See United Nations Resolution 817 (1993)