Macedonia

Macedonia (mæsɨˈdoʊniə/ mas-i-DOH-nee-ə; Macedonian: Македонија), officially the Republic of Macedonia (Република Македонија, transliterated: Republika Makedonija [rɛˈpublika makɛˈdɔnija]), is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991. It became a member of the United Nations in 1993 but, as a result of a dispute with Greece over its name, it was admitted under the provisional reference of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, sometimes abbreviated as FYROM.

A landlocked country, the Republic of Macedonia is bordered by Kosovo to the northwest, Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south and Albania to the west. It constitutes approximately the northwestern half of the larger geographical region of Macedonia, which also comprises parts of Greece and Bulgaria. The country's capital is Skopje, with 506,926 inhabitants according to a 2002 census. Other cities include Bitola, Kumanovo, Prilep, Tetovo, Ohrid, Veles, Štip, Kočani, Gostivar, Kavadarci and Strumica. It has more than 50 lakes and sixteen mountains higher than 2,000 m (6,562 ft). Macedonia is a member of the UN and the Council of Europe. Since December 2005 it has also been a candidate for joining the European Union and has applied for NATO membership.

In August 2004, the Republic of Macedonia was reorganised into 84 municipalities (opštini; sing. opština); 10 of the municipalities constitute the City of Skopje, a distinct unit of local self-government and the country's capital.

The last census data from 2002 shows a population of 2,022,547 inhabitants. The last official estimate from 2009, without significant change, gives a figure of 2,050,671. According to the last census data the largest ethnic group in the country are the Macedonians. The second largest group are the Albanians who dominated much of the northwestern part of the country. Some unofficial estimates indicate that in the Republic of Macedonia there are possibly up to 260,000 Roma.

The country's name derives from the Greek Μακεδονία (Makedonía), a kingdom (later, region) named after the ancient Macedonians. Their name, Μακεδόνες (Makedónes), derives ultimately from the ancient Greek adjective μακεδνός (makednós), meaning "tall, taper", which shares the same root as the noun μάκρος (mákros), meaning "length" in both ancient and modern Greek. The name is originally believed to have meant either "highlanders" or "the tall ones", possibly referring to the physical character of the ancient Macedonians and/or their mountainous land.

Macedonia has a rich cultural heritage in art, architecture, poetry, and music. It has many ancient, protected religious sites. Poetry, cinema, and music festivals are held annually. Macedonian music styles developed under the strong influence of Byzantine church music. Macedonia has a significant number of preserved Byzantine fresco paintings, mainly from the period between the 11th and 16th centuries. There are several thousands square metres of fresco painting preserved, the major part of which is in very good condition and represent masterworks of the Macedonian School of ecclesiastical painting.

Tourism is an important part of the economy of the Republic of Macedonia. The country's large abundance of natural and cultural attractions make it an attractive destination of visitors. It receives about 700,000 tourists annually.

Macedonian cuisine is a representative of the cuisine of the Balkans—reflecting Mediterranean (Greek and Turkish) and Middle Eastern influences, and to a lesser extent Italian, German and Eastern European (especially Hungarian) ones. The relatively warm climate in Macedonia provides excellent growth conditions for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits. Thus, Macedonian cuisine is particularly diverse.

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