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MACEDONIA declared its independence from Yugoslavia in November 1991. The FYROM or Vardar Macedonia is one of the three parts of Macedonia’s ancient, historical kingdom, which also included Aegean Macedonia in Greece and Pirin Macedonia in Bulgaria. Vardar Macedonia only came into being as a republic of Yugoslavia, in 1946, following the victory of the communist forces of Josip Broz Tito.

Its status disputed at the time, and this has contin­ued to be the case. This controversy has been the cause of ongoing dif­ficulties for the FYROM, mainly in gaining much needed international recognition since the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. The government of the FYROM has put into place several measures to encourage eco­nomic growth. It is hoped that having now gained further international recognition, particularly from its neigh­bours since 1996, the country’s economic situation will start to improve.

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A landlocked country, Macedonia shares its borders with Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, and Kosovo. The characteristic topographical features of the country are steep-sided, rugged hills and mountains dissected by deep valleys.

There are numerous rivers and streams, the largest and most important of which is the Vardar. The Vardar river rises in the northwest and flows in a southeasterly direction, dividing the country into two halves. It continues through Greece (as the River Axiós) and eventually empties into the Aegean Sea.

The FYROM’s capital, Skopje, is located at the Vardar river’s head in the northwestern territory. There are many freshwater lakes throughout the FYROM, and these include Lake Ohrid (Ohridsko Jezero) and Lake Prespa (Prespansko Jezero).

About 35 percent of the country is forested, with both coniferous and deciduous trees being well represented and providing valuable timber resources.

The country is in a seismically active region, and the capital, Skopje, suffered a severe and destructive earthquake in 1963. A little over half the people live in the cities, particularly in Skopje.

A continental climate prevails, with hot, dry summers, bitterly cold winters, and a great deal of snow, especially at higher levels. The conditions are less extreme at lower levels and in the valley bottoms. Agriculture is an essential part of the economy, with the other main activity being coal mining.

Some of the country’s natural resources include chromium, lead, zinc, nickel, iron ore, and timber. Some manufacturing, construction, and service industries, and forestry and freshwater fishing are also carried out. Tourism is a further contributor to the economy and is now starting to revive, having been badly affected by fighting in the region in the early 1990s.

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Macedonia lies inland in the middle of the Balkan Peninsula. About 80 percent of its territory is mountainous, with large and high massifs giving way to extensive valleys and plains. Low passes or deep ravines connect the valleys. There are some interior highlands in the north-central region and the southwest corner of Macedonia. Macedonia is on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate. A fault line extends in a north-to-south direction in east-central Macedonia. This structural seam in the earth’s crust periodically shifts, causing earth tremors and occasional destructive earthquakes. In 1963, an earthquake destroyed much of Skopje, killing 1,066 people.

Macedonia is a landlocked nation. The nearest open water bodies are the Adriatic Sea, which lies on the far side of Albania to the west, and the Aegean Sea, which lies beyond Greece to the southeast. Both of these seas are extensions of the larger Mediterranean Sea.

Did you know about Macedonia?

Macedonia has historically been used to describe a region that includes parts of modern Greece, Bulgaria, and the current Republic of Macedonia. The ancient kingdom based there ruled Greece for centuries and produced its most famous conqueror, Alexander the Great. When the nation known as Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia (now Serbia and Montenegro) in 1991 and took “Republic of Macedonia” for its name, Greece’s government objected. Macedonia is a Greek name and an important part of Greek history and culture, which the new country could not rightfully claim. Due to the ongoing controversy, many countries refer to the Republic of Macedonia as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or other names.

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