After the collapse of Yugoslavia, her historical the region of Macedonia became an independent state, more precisely, its main part (98% of this territory coincides with the lands of the historical Vardar Macedonia, about 2% is part of Serbia).
Historical Region of Macedonia
Macedonia was declared an independent state on September 17, 1991, and already in January 1992, local Albanians held a referendum on the autonomy of eight regions of this country. At that time (according to the 1991 census), the ethnic composition of this republic was as follows: Macedonians (65,1%), Albanians (21,7%), Turks (3,8%), Romanians (2,6%), Serbs (2,1%), Muslim-Bosnians (1,5%). According to the 1994 census, the number of Albanians increased to 22,9% (442 people). They lived mainly in the northwestern, northern and some central regions of the country and made up the majority of the population of the communities of Tetovo, Gostivar, Debar, Strugi and Kichevo.
In 1992, the Macedonian government, concerned about the situation in Kosovo, asked the UN to send in a peacekeeping force. This request was granted, but in 1998 the situation in the country deteriorated sharply: 1884 terrorist attacks were organized, in which about 300 people died. On May 24 of this year, units of the internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Yugoslavia found a mass grave of Serbs and Albanians loyal to them killed by separatists near the city of Presevo. In 1999, the UN peacekeeping forces gave way here to NATO troops. The already difficult situation was aggravated by the arrival of Muslim refugees from Kosovo in Macedonia. As of May 17, 1999, there were 229 Kosovar Albanians in Macedonia (more than 300% of the country's total population), in the second half of this year their number increased to 11.
1998-1999 some Macedonian Albanians fought in Kosovo, gaining combat experience and establishing ties with the commanders of the army of this unrecognized state. On the model of the Kosovo Liberation Army, Macedonia created its own armed formations (National Liberation Army - PLA). Their commander was Ali Ahmeti, who later became the head of the Democratic Union for Integration Party.
Macedonia in the XNUMXst century
In late 2000, Albanian militants began to attack Macedonian police officers and soldiers. The rebels, on the one hand, wanted proportional participation in all state structures, but on the other hand, they advocated Albanian autonomy in the area of the city of Tetovo and even for the unification of all Balkan territories inhabited by Albanians into a single Great Albania. The Kosovo Liberation Army also rendered assistance to the Macedonian Albanians.
On January 22, 2001, they attacked a police station in the village of Tirs near the town of Tetovo. Finally, in March, after 5 days of attacks on government offices in the vicinity of Tetovo, the Macedonian army carried out a military operation, displacing PLA troops in Kosovo.
On April 28, Albanian militants near the village of Bliz Tetovo fired grenade launchers and mortars at soldiers of the Wolves detachment of the Macedonian security forces patrolling the Kosovo-Macedonian border: 8 Macedonian soldiers were killed and 8 more were injured.
Aftermath of an attack by Albanian militants on April 28, 2001
And in early May, the so-called "113th PLA brigade" entered the country from Kosovo, occupying several villages north of Kumanovo. "Liberators" captured about a thousand local residents, whom they were going to use as human shields. As a result of stubborn battles, the Macedonian army managed to defeat the Albanians and destroy the commander of the "brigade" - the Kosovar Albanian Fadil Nimani.
Fighting clashes between the Macedonian army and the PLA in 2001 on the map
On June 6, 2001, in the midst of the fighting, a terrorist who drove up to the parliament building in Skopje in a car with Bulgarian (Sofia) license plates fired at the office of Macedonian President Boris Traikovsky (at that time the leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia Branko Crvenkovsky was also here). None of them were hurt.
The denouement came on June 25, when the Macedonian army, which surrounded the village of Arachinovo, which had been captured by the Albanians, was stopped by the order of the president: the rebels left on the buses provided to them, accompanied by representatives of the EU and NATO, taking with them weapon, as well as wounded and killed militants.
On the same evening, a crowd of Macedonians outraged by Troikovsky's "betrayal" (numbering several thousand people) stormed the parliament building, where at that time Traikovsky and other top leaders of Macedonia were negotiating with the leaders of the Albanian parties. This assault was attended by some police officers and soldiers who arrived from Arachinovo, who demanded to explain why they had been ordered to release the doomed militants from the village. The President had to be evacuated. The reason for this incomprehensible order became known later. In 2002, Glenn Nye, a former State Department official at the US Embassy in Macedonia, said that during the events of June 2001 he saved 26 American citizens trapped in Arachinovo. It soon became clear that these were employees of the reputable American private military company Military Professional Resources Incorporated. In August 1995, its "specialists" took part in Operation "Tempest", during which the Croatian army captured the territory of Serbian Krajina. And in 2008, MPRI employees took part in the training of Georgian military personnel and the reorganization of the army of this country according to NATO standards.
Currently, the successor to MPRI is the PMC Engility.
Private military companies (including MPRI) were described in the article “Private military companies: respectable business of respectable gentlemen».
On July 5, 2001, the Macedonian government and the Albanian leaders signed a "General Agreement" on a ceasefire, which was violated 139 times by PLA militants until the end of August.
On August 10, 600 Macedonian Albanians from the PLA and an unspecified number of Kosovo Defense Corps fighters entered Macedonia from the Kosovar city of Krivinek. Further events were named "Battle of Radusha": with the help aviation this attack was repulsed.
A detachment of the National Liberation Army marching through the village of Radusha, September 2001
Finally, on August 13, the Ohrid ceasefire agreement was concluded: the Macedonian government agreed to amend the constitution, abolishing the recognition of the Macedonians as the titular nation and guaranteeing the Albanian language official status in areas of compact Albanian residence. These agreements were approved by the Macedonian Parliament on November 16, 2001. But the parties managed to come to a final agreement only in January 2002.
These agreements brought to the country only a “bad peace” instead of a “good war”: interethnic clashes are still not uncommon, especially in July 2014, when the Albanians smashed the country's capital, Skopje, for several days. So they protested against the condemnation of fellow tribesmen found guilty of the shooting of a group of Macedonians on the eve of Easter 2012.
Riots in Skopje, 4 July 2014
The authorities of modern Greece, where already in the XX century great efforts were made to Hellenize South Macedonia, after the collapse of Yugoslavia for a long time refused to call the northern part of this historical territory Macedonia, insisting on the name "Central Balkan Republic". Somehow, the neighbors managed to come to a compromise, so the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" appeared on the map of Europe, under this name the country joined the UN in 1993. And only recently (from February 12, 2019) this former republic was named "North Macedonia".
North Macedonia on the map
Currently, 67% of the inhabitants of North Macedonia profess Orthodoxy, 30% are Muslims (at the time of the collapse of socialist Yugoslavia, 21% of the population of this republic declared their adherence to Islam).
Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija (Republic of Kosovo)
Before the Ottoman conquest, the lands of Kosovo were the core of the Serbian state; it was here, from the 1767th century until 1912, near the town of Pec that the throne of the Serbian patriarch was located. Here, not far from Pristina, there is a place that has a truly sacred meaning for the Serbian people - the Kosovo field, walking along which in XNUMX during the Second Balkan War, some Serbian soldiers took off their shoes, while others "fell on their knees and kissed the ground":
Kosovo field on the map of the unrecognized state of Kosovo
In 1945, Tito allowed the Albanians who settled there during World War II to stay in Kosovo. They appeared here under the following circumstances: the soldiers of the infamous volunteer Albanian SS division "Skanderbeg" (about it - in another article) expelled about 10 thousand Slavic families from Kosovo, and 72 thousand Albanians from the northern regions of this country were settled on the "liberated" lands ... Since Yugoslavia suffered significant human losses during World War II, declaring these settlers citizens of the country seemed a sensible decision. However, further events showed that this was a terrible mistake by the Yugoslav authorities, and the first riots associated with the actions of the Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija took place already in 1981.
Muslim Slavs in Kosovo and Metohija
In the south of Kosovo and in Metohija, there lived compact groups of Muslim Slavs: the Gorans, Podgoryans, Sredans and Rafans, living in the south of Kosovo and Metohija.
The smallest group of Muslims in Macedonia are Podgorians - there are only about 3 thousand of them. These are the descendants of Montenegrin Muslims who moved here after World War II to live next to their fellow believers. This group of the population is rapidly Albanizing, and it is believed that soon they will finally merge with the Albanians. Their neighbors, the middle inhabitants, who are also called zhuplians, live in the Sredskaya Zhupa region. The Gorani territory is located in the south of Kosovo. Unlike the Arnautashes (that is, the Albanized descendants of a part of the Muslim Serbs of Kosovo) and their neighbors, the Opols, they retained the language they call Balkan-Slavic (Bulgarian-Macedonian-Serbian), however, with numerous borrowings of Turkish, Albanian and even Arabic words.
However, Albanian historians consider the Goranians to be Illyrians, the Bulgarians - the Bulgarians, the Macedonian - the Macedonians. During the population censuses, these people themselves call themselves Goranians, Boshniks, Serbs, and some even Turks and Albanians. Culturally, the Goranians are close to the Macedonian torbeshes, the Bulgarian Pomaks and the Bosnian Slavs who converted to Islam - Bosnians (while the Bosnians are people living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of nationality).
In the city of Orahovac and its environs live Rafchane - the descendants of the Albanized Slavs, many of whom now consider themselves Albanians, but speak the Prizren-South Moravian dialect of the Serbian language.
Kosovo as part of the Yugoslav Republic of Serbia
Kosovo and Vojvodina became the "Socialist Autonomous Regions" within Serbia.
In 1974, Kosovo increased its status, in fact, having received the rights of a republic - right up to its own constitution, the right to form the highest authorities and delegations of representatives to the Union legislative and governing bodies. The new constitution of Yugoslavia, which came into force on September 28, 1990, declared the priority of republican laws over regional ones, leaving Kosovo territorial and cultural autonomy. The Kosovar Albanians responded by announcing the creation of an independent state, of which Ibrahim Rugova was elected president, and in 1996 the Kosovo Liberation Army was also created.
War in Kosovo and Operation Allied Force
In 1998, a war broke out here, causing a flood of refugees from both sides.
On March 24, 1999, without UN sanction, the NATO military operation, code-named "Allied Force", began, during which many military and civilian targets in Serbia were bombed. It lasted 78 days, over 1000 aircraft were involved (5 aircraft, 16 unmanned aerial vehicles and 2 helicopters were lost). In total, 38 thousand sorties were made, a total of about one and a half thousand settlements were attacked, 3 thousand cruise missiles and 80 thousand tons of bombs were used, including cluster and depleted uranium bombs. Enterprises of the military-industrial complex and military infrastructure, oil refineries, oil storage facilities were completely destroyed, 40 thousand residential buildings, 422 schools, 48 hospitals, 82 bridges (including all bridges across the Danube), about 100 various monuments were destroyed.
Bombing map of Yugoslavia, 1999
The total material damage was about $ 100 billion. More than two thousand people became victims of the bombing, about 7 thousand were injured.
The main ground group of NATO forces (12 thousand people under the command of British General Michael David Jackson) during this operation was deployed in Macedonia. It was the British who were supposed to take control of the Slatina airport in Pristina, but approached it 4 hours later than a battalion of Russian paratroopers (200 soldiers and officers, 8 armored personnel carriers, commander - S. Pavlov, the reconnaissance group was commanded by Yunus-bek Yevkurov) the famous "throw" from Bosnia (600 km).
The path of Russian paratroopers from the Bosnian base of Uglevik to Pristina
Column of Russian paratroopers on the march to Pristina
Jackson then refused to comply with the order of the American General Wesley Clark (commander of the combined forces of NATO) to blockade the airport and deliver "mistaken" strikes, answering him:
I'm not going to start a third world war.
Michael David Jackson
The authorities of Yugoslavia were forced to withdraw troops from the territory of Kosovo, having actually lost control over it.
After the end of the NATO operation in Kosovo, about 1000 more people were killed. About 350 thousand people became refugees (200 thousand of them are Serbs and Montenegrins), about 100 churches and monasteries were destroyed or damaged.
On February 17, 2008, the Kosovo parliament declared independence, which was recognized by 104 countries of the world (including Macedonia). 60 states still consider Kosovo an autonomous region within Serbia (including Russia, China, India, Israel).
In the next article we will talk about the Ottoman period in the history of Albania.