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Alternate meanings: Macedon, Macedonia (Greece), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, places named Macedonia

Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of the Balkan peninsula in south-eastern Europe, with an area of around 67,000 square kilometres and a population of 4.65 million. The territory corresponds to the basins of (from west to east) the Aliakmon, Axios and Strimon rivers (of which the Vardar drains by far the largest area) and the plains around Thessaloniki and Serrai.

The region is divided between the present-day republics of Greece, with roughly half of the area and population; the Republic of Macedonia, with around 40%; and Bulgaria, with less than a tenth. The Greek part is sometimes referred to as "Makedonia" or "Aegean Macedonia", the Republic of Macedonia as "Vardarska banovina" and the Bulgarian part as Pirin Macedonia. Due to a naming dispute, the Republic of Macedonia is formally known by the United Nations, other international organizations, and all states except Turkey, Northern Cyprus, and the People's Republic of China as "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM). In practice, however, the use of "FYROM" has fallen out of favour and the country's name is usually rendered colloquially as "Macedonia".

History of Macedonia

In the 7th century BC the kingdom of Macedon emerged in what is now the Greek part of Macedonia and the neighbouring Bitola district in the south of today's Republic of Macedonia. Under its kings Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great, Macedon extended its power in the 4th century BC over not only Greece but also the Persian Empire, including Egypt and lands as far east as the fringes of India.

Alexander's conquests produced a lasting extension of Greek culture and thought, but his empire broke up on his death, and Macedonian independence came to an end with defeat at the hands of the rising power of Rome (197 and 168 BC), The deposition of the Macedonian dynasty was deposed, and Macedon was annexed as a Roman province in 146 BC.

With the division of the Roman Empire into west and east in 395 AD, Macedonia came under the rule of Rome's Byzantine successors. While the Byzantine state's prevailing Greek culture flourished in the south, however, northern Macedonia was settled from around 600 AD by Slavs from the north-east. In the 13th and 14th century Byzantine control was punctuated by periods of Bulgarian and Serbian rule in the north.

Conquered by the Ottoman army in the first half of the 15th century, Macedonia remained a part of the Ottoman Empire for nearly half a millennium, during which it gained a substantial Turkish minority. Thessaloniki became the home of a large Jewish population following Spain's expulsions of Jews after 1492.

After the revival of Greek, Serbian, and Bulgarian statehood in the 19th century, Macedonia became a focus of the national ambitions of all three governments, leading to the creation in the 1890s and 1900s of rival armed groups who divided their efforts between fighting the Turks and one another. Diplomatic intervention by the European powers led to plans for an autonomous Macedonia under Ottoman rule.

However, burying their differences for a short time in 1912-13, Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria divided Macedonia among themselves during the First Balkan War. Bulgaria's agreed share was reduced by her allies on the grounds that they had conquered the territory while the Bulgarian army was invading neighbouring Thrace. The subsequent Second Balkan War left Bulgaria only with the Struma valley.

World War I and its aftermath led in the 1920s to the exchange between Greece and Turkey of most of Macedonia's Turkish minority and the Greek inhabitants of Thrace and Anatolia, as a result of which Aegean Macedonia experienced a large addition to its population and became overwhelmingly Greek in ethnic composition.

Incorporated with the rest of Serbia into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia) in 1918, Vardar Macedonia became a republic of the Yugoslav federation in 1946 with its capital at Skopje. Greek nationalist sentiment was offended at this use of the word Macedonia, but while the Yugoslav state remained intact there was no action Greece could take.

In 1991, Vardar Macedonia seceded from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence as the Republic of Macedonia. Its first government was formed by the Macedonian nationalist party VMRO, which had a long history of making claims for a "greater Macedonia" including Greek territory. The Greek government objected to the use of the name Macedonia, and also to the use of symbols such as the Star of Vergina. Greece imposed an economic blockade on the new state and also blocked European Union recognition and economic aid.

As a result, the new state was admitted into the UN in 1993 under the temporary reference, "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"."

In 1995 Greece and the Republic of Macedonia came to an agreement whereby Macedonia agreed to remove any territorial claims to the greater Macedonia region from its constitution and to drop the Star of Vergina from its flag. Slavic-speaking Macedonians in Greece continue to complain of discrimination by the Greek authorities.

See also: History of the Republic of Macedonia

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