School and Education in Northern Macedonia

In Northern Macedonia, 8-year primary school is free and compulsory for anyone aged 7-15. In 2000, approx. 93 percent of children in primary school. There are different types of 4-year high schools, and more than 80 percent of young people go to high school. The Constitution guarantees teaching in the mother tongue, and there are schools with both Albanian and Serbian as the language of instruction.

There are universities in Skopje (founded 1949) and in Bitola (1979). In 2001, a private, Albanian-language university opened in Tetovo, which from 2004 is state.

With the outbreak of World War I, Bulgaria saw an opportunity to recapture its Macedonian positions. Sofia therefore allied with the Axis powers of Austria-Hungary, Germany and Turkey to occupy the Serbian part of Macedonia and parts of Serbia. The victories (England, France, etc.) decided not to change the border between Greece and Macedonia, and the republic was now included in the new Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian kingdom.

In the interwar period, the dominance of the Serbian dynasty intensified the ethnic conflicts in Yugoslavia. King Alexander assumed dictatorial powers in 1929, and in 1934 was assassinated in Marseilles by Croatian nationalists. As Yugoslavia was therefore occupied by Germany at the start of World War II, it was internally divided and was unable to provide sufficient resistance to the occupying power.

Macedonia Country Flag

The Yugoslav patriotic struggle intensified in subsequent years. First and foremost because of the guerrilla struggle waged by the League of Yugoslav Communists, who took power in May 1945 and later proclaimed the establishment of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. Slavic Macedonia was included in this new state as one of its 6 republics.

In 1947, Yugoslavia recognized that Macedonia was one of the least developed areas of the country. The federal government therefore began to transfer resources to industrial projects – primarily in the steel, chemical and textile industries.

In 1989, the federal government made an addition to the Macedonian constitution, eliminating any reference to the minorities. In January 1990, an extraordinary congress in the League of Yugoslav Communists decided to introduce multi-party government and remove the reference in the Constitution to the leadership role of the league. Still, Congress rejected a proposal to grant greater autonomy to the league’s divisions in individual republics. After the congress, these divisions in Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia left the league and renamed the Democratic Renewal Party.

During the open war between the detachment republics of Croatia and Slovenia and the federal army of Yugoslavia, Macedonia held a referendum on September 8, 1991, which gave a majority vote for the republic to disband from the federation. All the political parties in the republic – except for the small Albanian minority – supported the independence.

While several countries recognized Croatia and Slovenia at the beginning of 1992, Greece put obstacles in recognition of Macedonia, as they felt that Greece was historically entitled to this concept – and territory. For Athens, the Macedonian Republic was an artificial size created by Yugoslavia, while Greece was still under Nazi occupation, and the proclamation of an independent Macedonian state was a threat to the Greeks for subsequent territorial demands on Saloniki.