Slav Macedonians - Orientation

Identification. The name "Macedonia" has been used since 1944 to indicate the Yugoslav republic that has its Capital at Skopje. The name itself is a controversial misapplication of the name used for the ancient Hellenic kingdom of Philip of Macedonia and Alexander the Great, which included much of the area today occupied by that Yugoslav Republic as well as the Greek province of that name. The Slavic inhabitants of the republic are called Macedonians, although names such as Slav Macedonians are used to distinguish them from the Greek Macedonians who live in the northern Greek province of Macedonia.

Location. Macedonia, the geographical region, stretches from 42°20′ to 40°00′ N and from 20°30′ to 24°50′ E. In the north it is bounded by the Šar and Črna mountains, on the east by the Rhodope Massif and the Nestos (Mesta) River, on the south by the Vistritsa River and the Aegean Sea, and in the west by the Pindus Range, Lake Dhrid, and Albania. Within these boundaries the area of Macedonia is approximately 64,500 square kilometers (25,000 square miles), roughly the size of West Virginia. Of this area about 34,965 square kilometers lie within the borders of Greece, 6,575 square kilometers within Bulgaria, 1,036 square kilometers within Albania, and about 22,015 square kilometers within what used to be Yugoslavia. The Slav Macedonians are Primarily limited to the latter region, or Vardar Macedonia, a mountainous forested land of breathtaking beauty. The landscape is characterized by precipitous cliffs and narrow valleys, and it is dissected by the Vardar River and its tributaries.

Demography. Census figures originating from the Socialist Republic of Macedonia over the past few decades have met with heavy criticism, especially from the Albanian minority of the former republic. Of the roughly 1.9 million people (1981) living in the republic, it is estimated that no more than 1.2 million are Slav Macedonians, with the balance of the Population consisting of Albanians, Vlachs, Gypsies, and a number of other, smaller minorities. The government at Skopje repeatedly has been accused of inflating the numbers of Slav Macedonians at the expense of Albanians, who claim to represent more than 30 percent of the population rather than the officially recognized 17 percent. This, if true, would bring the population of Slav Macedonians to about one million. Although there are no hard numbers on the Slav Macedonians living abroad, it is possible that there might be as many as a quarter of a million, most of whom live in Australia, Germany, Canada, and the United States.

Linguistic Affiliation. The official language in use at Skopje is called "Macedonian," and it was created soon after World War II under the supervision of the Communist Government of Marshal Tito. This new language is based on a Slavic dialect spoken in the areas of Prilep and Titov Veleš. Because the dialect was inadequate as an official language, it was enriched with vocabulary borrowed from several other languages, mainly Serbian and Bulgarian. By the end of the 1940s, this "Macedonian" language had become the language used in all levels of education, the mass media, and literature. The various dialects traditionally spoken by the Slavs of Macedonia are closely related to Bulgarian, belonging to the Macedono-Bulgarian Subgroup of the Southern Branch of Slavic languages. Despite the existence of an official Language, the Slav dialects are still in use today, especially in the rural areas. Old Church Slavonic, the liturgical language of Slav Orthodoxy during the Middle Ages, was based on a Slav dialect of Macedonia, although its grammar and vocabulary seem to have included a number of Old Bulgarian features.

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