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  1. 1. Macedonia. The word evokes imagesof ancient civilizations, with men in togasand sandals bearing spears and shields. Italso evokes modern European history—theemergence and realignment of nations as theOttoman Empire waned.The geographic region of Macedonia, anatural crossroads, has through thecenturiesbeen contested by kingdoms and empires.Today, major portions of historicalMacedonialie within neighboring countries.The Republic of Macedonia is seekingto build upon deep traditions of tolerance,learning and peaceful development. Thediverse mix of cultures, religions, languagesand geography makes this countryappealing tomany Americans.Macedonia’s history and culture producedebate within the Balkan region. ManyBulgarians do notview the Macedonian language as distinctfrom Bulgarian; many Serbians dismiss theindependence of theMacedonian Orthodox Church; and—mostcontentious of all—Greece objects to thecountry’s name.The dispute with Greece over Macedonia’sconstitutional name has hindered itsinclusion into Euro-Atlantic institutions. Ever since the countrydeclared independence in 1991, Greece hasobjected to
  2. 2. the use of “Macedonia,” resulting in thepostponement of Macedonia’s inclusion in theNorth AtlanticTreaty Organization and European Unionaccession talks. Macedonia continues to bereferred to in theUnited Nations and other internationalorganizations as the former YugoslavRepublic of Macedonia,or FYROM. The United States has officiallyused Republic of Macedonia since 2004.Inter-ethnic StridesMacedonia escaped the war thataccompanied the dissolution of theYugoslavian Federation andremained at peace through the establishmentof its independence in 1991. Between Marchand August2001, though, an internal conflict eruptedbetween ethnic Albanians and thegovernment. Internationalmediation ended the fighting, with the OhridFramework Agreement providing guidelinesfor broaderpolitical and cultural pluralism, diversityand respect for minorities. The United Statesis among theguarantors of the agreement and continuesto aid in its fulfillment.Ethnic Macedonians, who are predominantlyOrthodox Christian, make up close to two-thirds of
  3. 3. the country’s population. Ethnic Albanians,who are predominantly Muslim, make up aquarter andRoma, Turks, Serbs, Vlachs and others makeup smaller percentages. Though inter-ethnictensionspersist, progress is being made. Sinceindependence, every government has been acoalition of ethnicMacedonian and ethnic Albanian politicalparties, including ministers of severalethnicities.Top: Hundreds of churcheswere built around Lake Ohrid.Above: In the fall, the smell ofroasted red peppers meansresidents are preparing ajvar,a tasty spread used on freshbread. Left: This intricateceiling is a highlight of the16th-century Painted Mosquein Tetovo, the largest primarilyAlbanian city in Macedonia.April 2010 State Magazine 23Above: In the old Turkish marketplace,visitors can try local cuisine such askebab chinia or pick up beautiful silverand gold filigree from local artisans.Right: Ambassador Philip Reekeraddresses alumni of exchange andtraining programs at a reception in theatrium of the new chancery.24 State Magazine April 2010
  4. 4. PHOTOGRAPHS: MIKE FRITZ; (TOP):ZORAN JOVANOVSKIThe United States actively promotesstronger relationships among all the peopleof Macedonia.One recent example was a Day ofRemembrance for 9/11, when the U.S.Embassy in Skopje partneredwith the Skopje Red Cross to hold an inter-faith blood and food drive. Several hundredethnicMacedonians, ethnic Albanians and membersof other communities came together todonate blood,food and money to aid those in need.Strategic PartnershipSince Macedonia’s independence in 1991, theUnited States and Macedonia have had astrongbilateral relationship. Macedonia has beena steadfast security partner, sendingsoldiers to Iraq andAfghanistan. Many of them have receivedmedals for their distinguished service in boththeaters.The United States has provided more than abillion dollars to support Macedonia’stransition to afree-market democracy, build civil societyand aid progress toward full Euro-Atlanticintegration. Theassistance has mostly focused onstimulating economic development, improvingeducation, modernizing
  5. 5. the military and strengthening rule of law.More than 1,000 Macedonians haveattended training, exchange or studyprograms in the UnitedStates in the last 18 years. Several hundredof them celebrated the partnership at aNovember 2009alumni reception. Together, Macedonia andthe United States are cultivating theleaders of todayand tomorrow.Another aspect of bilateral cooperation isworking to preserve Macedonia’s richcultural heritage.Hundreds of 14th- to 16th-centurymonasteries, mosques, Turkish baths andchurches are filled withintricate woodwork, frescoes andarchitecture. The U.S. Embassy in Skopje hasused the Ambassador’sFund for Cultural Preservation to helprestore such structures throughout thecountry.Recently, the embassyalso received a largegrant to team with theMacedonian Ministryof Culture to preserveand restore the architectureand frescoes of the13th-century PeribleptosChurch in Ohrid.The embassy’s moveto new grounds in April2009 underscored the
  6. 6. United States’ enduringcommitment to theyoung country. Today,Ambassador PhilipReeker leads a missionof more than 300 localand U.S. staff representingsix agencies anddepartments.Top: Participants in the embassysponsored“Go Pink” walk againstbreast cancer cross Skopje’s mostfamous landmark—the 15th-centuryStone Bridge that connects the newand old parts of the city. Above:A rainbow arcs across one of thepicturesque vineyards that produceexcellent table grapes and wines.Many wineries are open for tasting.Right: The city of Struga, on theshores of Lake Ohrid, hosts a poetryfestival featuring poets from aroundthe world. They do readings onbridges that cross the River Drim.*Post of the MonthApril 2010 State Magazine 25Source: Country Background NotesAegean SeaAegean SeaALBANIABULGARIAGREECE
  7. 7. SERBIAKOSOVOBerovoBosavaDelcevoGostivarKicevoKriva PalankaKumanovoRadovisRzanicaniStipStrumicaBitolaPrilepTetovoVelesSkopjeLakeOhridLakePrespaLakeDoiranAegean At a Glance >>> MacedoniaCapital: SkopjeGovernment type: parliamentarydemocracyArea: 25,713 sq. km.
  8. 8. Comparative area: slightly largerthan VermontPopulation: 2 millionLanguages: Macedonian, Albanian, Roma,Turkishand SerbianEthnic groups: Macedonian, Albanian,Turkish, Roma and SerbGDP – per capita: $9,000Export commodities: food, beverages,tobacco, textiles, iron and steelExport partners: Serbia, Montenegro,Germany and GreeceImport partners: Germany, Greece andBulgariaImport commodities: machinery/equipment,automobiles, chemicals, fuels and foodproductsCurrency (code): Macedonian denar (MKD)Internet country code: .mkThe Pearl of the BalkansMacedonia’s diverse terrain matches its richhistory. Its national parks showcase thecountry’sbeauty. Waterfalls, gorges, canyons,mountains, skislopes and fields of wildflowers can be seenfrom
  9. 9. well-marked trails. Unmarked paths can beevenmore exciting, leading to hidden ruins ofcenturiespast, monasteries, wineries and berrypatches.Under sapphire blue skies, sheep bells ringover thehills and shepherds carry intricately carvedstaffs.Spectacular sunsets are mirrored in LakeOhrid,the Pearl of the Balkans, and a UNESCOWorldHeritage site. The New York Times listedLakeOhrid as one of “The 31 Places to Go in2010.”Surrounded by the mountains of MacedoniaandAlbania, the lake is sprinkled with blue-bottomedboats, while cobblestone streets, ancientmonasteries,an amphitheater and fortress beckontravelersto step back in time.Visitors can view archeology in actionthroughoutMacedonia. In Heraclea and Stobi, hundredsof workers with wheelbarrows, shovels andpicksunearth 7th- to 4th-century B.C. artifacts,mosaics
  10. 10. and buildings. Visitors walk down the samestreetsfounded by Philip II and later used by theRomans.Life in SkopjeLife in Skopje, a city of some 600,000inhabitants,is laid-back and safe. The embassy’sdirect-hire employees and their familiesenjoy awelcoming atmosphere. They can ride bikesalongthe Vardar River and stroll throughGradski Park.Mount Vodno, with its 74-meter lightedcross,towers over Skopje and is a 20-minute drivefromembassy neighborhoods. Vodno’s trailsconnect thesummit to Lake Matka, a manmade lakecuttinginto the steep Trska Valley ravine. Rockclimbers,hikers and boaters weave throughevergreens,caves, secluded monasteries and ruins.Throughout Skopje, open-air markets teemwith local produce. Pyramids of tomatoesandred peppers, mountains of cabbage and vatsof fresh cheese and olives fill bazaars inevery
  11. 11. neighborhood. The call to prayer echoesthroughcobblestone streets as merchants ofleather, filigreeand baklava beckon customers. Kale, theremainsof a fortress dating from Neolithic times andreestablished by various rulers since, loomsoverthe city center, while the 15th-century stonebridgeconnects the old Turkish town to the modernEuropean center. The sounds of the latest“worldmusic” thump into the morning hours from thetrendiest nightclubs.This cacophony of old and new is modern-dayMacedonia, with a grip on history and itseyes tothe future. sThe author is the wife of RyanRowlands, publicaffairs officer at the U.S. Embassy inSkopje.
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