During the Middle Ages the sociopolitical organization of Slav Macedonians centered on the zadruga, in which the elders acted as heads. Each zadruga had its roots in a single Nuclear family (ranging in size from a group of father, mother, and one or more married sons to a group of eighty members). The segments of zadruga were always closer to each other than to any other agnatic group, owning contiguous plots of land and houses. It was the responsibility of the zadruga to provide the dowry and divide property among the male members. The need for self-reliance reinforced the power of the zadruga, which often was the epicenter around which villages grew. There existed a loose federation of clans whose chiefs were autocratic and elected by open ballot. Successive occupations by other people weakened this system of self-governance, although even today the extended patrilocal family is of great importance to the Slav Macedonians. With the advent of communism after World War II the Slav Macedonians were formed into a socialist republic, thus participating in the former Yugoslav federation of six republics and two autonomous regions.
Conflict . Under Ottoman oppression the institution of brigandage grew in importance among Slav Macedonians. Guerrilla bands known as hayduks were formed to settle scores with Ottomans by attacking caravans and plundering feudal estates. The hayduks consisted mostly of displaced peasants whose fame grew among the oppressed populace, reaching mythic proportions and instituting them as national heroes. At the turn of the century, guerrilla bands from Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece fought not only against the Turks but also against each other over the future of Macedonia. The most recent conflict consists of the Macedonian claims on the Greek city of Thessaloniki and their newly proclaimed independence, which, as of mid-1992, has been recognized only by Bulgaria and Turkey.