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Serbs are one of the constitutional peoples of the Republic of Macedonia. The territory of today's Republic of Macedonia was part of the medieval Serbian Empire. Today, about 36,000 Serbs live in the country (according to the 2002 census), largely in the north. A fine example of medieval Serbian ecclesiastical architecture is found in the church of Staro Nagoričane.


Human Rights Watch

The Macedonian Serbs have no problems with the Macedonian people, rather with the government of Macedonia as well as minor discrimination from the Albanians. Many Serbs have been denied citizenship and the lack of education in the Serbian language are the case of unstability.[1]



The Serbian presence in the Republic of Macedonia

Serbs have existed on the territory of Vardar Macedonia/today's Republic of Macedonia for about the last fourteen centuries. They are mentioned in the historical records as an ethnic group living around the river Vardar, later to be resettled in Asia Minor. While remains of these Serbs probably left socio-cultural and anthropological traces in the lands of geographic Macedonia which alternated between Byzantine and Bulgarian domination, it may be assumed they slowly disappeared in the mass of local Slavs, which intermingled with Bulgars.

The permanent ethnic establishment of Serbs south of the Shara mountain chain, on the plains of Polog, and in Byzantine dominated places like Skoplje and later Serres (Slavic: Ser) began with the expansion of Serbian King Milutin in 1282. With the victory over the Bulgarian army near Velbazhd (today's Kyustendil, Republic of Bulgaria) in 1331, the Morava and upper Vardar basins were secured for the Serbian state.

The advantage of the formation of ethnic consciousness within the Slavs in the upper Vardar region, which included the elimination of vestiges of Bulgarian consciousness and their replacement with a Serbian one were undoubtedly supported due to the more compact character of the newly altered Serbian political space. General similarity of ethnographic character and vigorous settlement of Serbs from more northern areas into the main centers of late medieval Serbia as well as rural areas characterized by arable land were also a contributing factor. Artistic activity and ecclesiastical unity were made concrete by the construction or re-construction of hundreds of Christian temples and monasteries in newly conquered Vardar Macedonia.

Serbian sources from the period of 1282 to 1392, including the elaborate Dušan's Code do not make mention of the Macedonian ethnos, just like Bulgarian, Byzantine and other documents. It would appear that in the eyes of the Serbian colonists from the North, the Slavic population of the Vardar region was accepted as Serbian, although undoubtedly many of them, especially in Eastern Geographic Macedonia had all the characteristics of the Bulgarian Slavs.

De-serbisation of Geographic Macedonia during the Turkocracy

The Ottoman invasion of Serbia was challenged at the river Marica in 1371 by Serbian Macedonia-stationed noblemen Vukašin and Uglješa, both of whom led armies from their statelets, at the river Maritsa (southeastern part of the Republic of Bulgaria) which ended in Serbian defeat (the place was named Sirf-Sindughi-"Serbian Defeat" by the invading Turks).

This defeat, which culminated with the fall of Skoplje (Skopje) in 1392, Trnovo in 1393, in combination with the consequences of Serbian defeat at Kosovo Polje in 1389 led to large influx of Turks and Islam. The Turks converted Christian Serbs and Bulgarians who later became known as Torbeshi and Pomaks. In the middle of the 17th century, grand vizier Mehmed Köprülü successfully converted peoples of the Danube region, notably the Serbs of Debar (Dibra) in Western Macedonia[2].

Serbs in Geographic Macedonia under Turkocracy

ethnic Serb settlements (enclaves) in Ottoman Rumelia, 18th Century.

Serb presence in Rumelia[3]:

  • Ovche Polje
  • Debar
  • Struga
  • Eastern shore of Lake Ohrid
  • Valleys of Prespa and Resan
  • Novo Selo, Roskovica, Drenovica (Albania)
  • Najichevo
  • Bitola
  • Tetovo (minority)
  • Salonica (sporadically)

Serbs in Macedonia maintained a separate ethnic existence. Often under repression by the Ottoman regime, they managed to preserve their ethnic name, customs (e.g. Krsna Slava) and most of their language which was in some aspects transitory in relationship to the language of Bulgarians situated in Central, Southern and Eastern parts of Macedonia. There is much evidence of the continuity of Serbs in Western and Northern parts of Macedonia, including the regions of Skoplje and the plains of Polog.

The great movement of Serbs in the 17th century after the collapse of Austrian-led campaign also de-populated parts of Northern Vardar Macedonia (today's Republic of Macedonia). Vast numbers of Serbs from Macedonia left to accede into Hapsburg service in the Military Frontier and Vojvodina. The refuges took part and adapted themselves as an integral part of Serbians in Vojvodina, Hungary and Austria.

The educational patronage and propagandistic activity of the newly-founded Serbian state, in whose formation many prominent individuals from Macedonia gave their contribution, reversed some acculturisation processes in mostly Bulgarian and to a lesser effect Greek direction, but as the Macedonia became a Macciavelian ground for propaganda, various absurd forms of ethic conversion, helped by the propaganda of all south Balkan states soon made a the situation largely chaotic, promoting Serbian geographer Jovan Cvijić to exclaim that "nationality for the Macedonian Slavs is understood like a political party affiliation".

This prompted the appearance of the feeble and over-estimated in the later historiography of Communist Yugoslavia Macedonian nationalism. The most characteristic hallmark of the period after the Balkan Congress in 1878 until the 1941 was the development of a strong and elaborate national liberation struggle of Macedonian Bulgars, bitterly opposed to any Serb and Greek influence in the wider Macedonian region, which was to be based as ethnically Bulgarian area in the borders of Bulgarian Exarchate (established 1870). Serbian answer was start of a guerrilla campaign, led by local men and Serbs from other areas-the so-called "Chetnik" movement. Men like Jovan Stojković Babunski, Micko Krstić, Jovan Dolgač, Gligor Sokolović, Vasilije Trbić confronted Turkish, Albanian and Bulgarian (VMRO-led) military formations together with their squads called "Četa"-mobile volunteer units strongly armed with personal weapons.

The Young Turks Revolution of 1908 created slightly better conditions for the expression of Serbian cultural life in Geographic Macedonia. Serbian publishing of books, religious calendars, newspapers briefly flourished. The "Assembly of Ottoman Serbs" was held in Skoplje and Serbs had their deputies in the Ottoman parliament.

Liberation of Old Serbia and Vardar Macedonia

During the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) Serbia liberated all of the southern Serbs by occupying Vardar Macedonia, much at the grievances of well-structured exponents of the Greater Bulgarian idea present among native inhabitants of Macedonia. The period from 1913-1914 is a period of turmoil and the central government in Belgrade implemented plenty of unpopular measures, most of which were found to be oppressive to the Bulgarian majority in Vardar Macedonia.

Since World War II

120,000 Serbs were forced into exile by Tito forces after they have opted for Serbian rather than Macedonian identity in 1944.[4] The population of Serbs in Macedonia which did not lend itself to Macedonization, representing compact population in the region of Skopska Crna Gora and having significant presence in Kumanovo, Skoplje, Tetovo, and surroundings was artificially separated from Yugoslav Serbia.

Immediately after the liberation from the occupying forces, in 1945, the requests to become a part of the newly formed federal unit of Serbia came from some regions of Macedonia in spite of the terror of the new Macedonian government. The typical example was the plea of the rural population in the Vratnica municipality, Tetovo district. In a letter to the minister for Serbia in the Government of the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia the inhabitants of these villages stated: "We, the Serbs from the Vratnica municipality have never felt otherwise but as Serbs, the same as our ancestors, and it has been so for centuries. Because of that we suffered extremely during the occupation both in the last World War and in this one that ended recently. During the occupation in this war, 41 Serbs were executed by firing squads, some were Interned and there was not a single Serb between the age of 15 and 66 that was not beaten and molested to exhaustion." The inhabitants in the Vratnica municipality also complained about the new Macedonian officials and listed the main reasons such as: "In our district the administrative authorities are mostly constituted of the persons who were Fascist collaborators, the persons who welcomed the German army with delight, the persons who held religious service of thanksgiving when the German armada was victorious though the Germans never requested such things from the city dwellers." Even an example is given: during the occupation the village representative in the Vratnica municipality was Andra Hristov from Tetovo (in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia he was a clerk in the Tetovo district court, but then his surname was Serbian - Ristić), who is now said to be " official of the people's administration authorities in Skopje. (See and the old Yugoslav Archives).

The post-war years were characterized by the loss of national institutions like the proclamation of the Macedonian Orthodox Church in 1958-1967 period and loss of several educational institutions in the Serbian language.

Today's number of Serbs, according to the 2002 census in the Republic of Macedonia, is 35,939.

Rayahs/Mixed people of Macedonia

According to Edmund Spencer[5]:

"The inhabitants are for the most part composed of Rayahs, a mixed race of Greeks, Bulgarians and Serbians, who, it cannot be doubted, would join to the man their brethren in faith of Serbia and Upper Moesia. It must therefore be evident that the great danger to be apprehended to the rule of the Osmanli in these provinces, is the successful inroad of the Serbian nationality into Macedonia; with this people they have the tradition of right, and their former greatness, aided by the powerful ties of race and creed"

Documented presence of Serbs in Macedonia

German/Austrian view from 1892
French view from 1898
Serbian view 1900s
American view 1922

During the medieval Serbian Empire and Serbian rule of Macedonia, the notable people were Serbs, Greeks, Vlachs (Aromanians), Arvanites (Albanians) and Bulgarians.

in the 19th century, several German and Austrian ethnografists showed a cluster of Serb people in the areas surrounding Bitola towards Albania. Serbian ethnografists claimed a larger Serb presence in north of Ohrid and Prilep. Bulgarians researches show a major Serb presence in Ohrid. American researches show clusters of Serbs, ranging from Serbian border down to the Greek border.

Ottoman census of Hilmi Pasha in 1906 show a minority of Serbs spread over Macedonia, forming 1.39% or 13,150 of the population.

Muslims (Turks and Albanians) 423,000 (41.71%)
Greeks 259,000 (27.30%)
Bulgarians 178,000 (18.81%)
Serbs 13,150 (1.39%)
Others 73,000 (7.72%)

Settlement in Macedonia

In the 2002 census 35,939 Serbs were counted this was down from 42,755 in 1991. The Serbs of the Republic of Macedonia are generally concentrated along the northern borderland which border Serbia. They form substantial populations in Kumanovo and Skopje. Although there is another large concentration in south-eastern Gevgelija and Dojran regions. The population with the highest percentage of Serbs is the Čučer-Sandevo municipality with 2426 Serbs or roughly 28.6% of the population.

Municipality Population Percentage
Kumanovo municipality 9,062 8.6%
Aerodrom municipality 3,085 4.3%
Čučer-Sandevo municipality 2,426 28.6%
Karpoš municipality 2,184 3.7%
Gazi Baba municipality 2,097 2.9%
Centar municipality 2,037 4.5%
Gjorče Petrov municipality 1,730 4.2%
Kisela Voda municipality 1,426 2.5%
Butel municipality 1,033 2.9%
Staro Nagoričane municipality 926 19.1%
Ilinden municipality 912 5.7%
Valandovo municipality 630 5.4%
Negotino municipality 627 3.3%
Čair municipality 621 1%
Rosoman municipality 409 9.9%
Dojran municipality 277 8%

Notable individuals

See also


  1. ^,M1
  2. ^ E.J. Brill's first encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936 by M. Th Houtsma
  3. ^ karl Oestreich, "Makedonien" Geographische Zeltschrift, 1904, Vol, 1, p.252 Franz Bradashka, "Die Slaven in der Turkel" Mitteilungen aus Justus Peters' geographischer Anstalt, Vol. XV, 1869, p.458 Anton Tuma von Waldkampf, Griechenland, Makedonien und Sudalbanien, Leipzig, 1897, pp.214-15.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Travels in European Turkey", vol. II , London, 1851, pp. 30

External links


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