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1945-1990 - Socialist Macedonia

Following the war, Macedonia became one of the constituent republics of the new Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under Marshall Tito. In 1946, the Serbian portion of Macedonia was renamed the People's Republic of Macedonia as a component of the newly proclaimed Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia’s ambitions at that time included the incorporation of the Macedonian territories of Greece and Bulgaria into a Yugoslav or South Slav Federation,19 to which end Yugoslavia undertook both diplomatic and military efforts. Yugoslavia actively supported the armed insurgency in Greece and urged Greek Macedonians to join its ranks.

At the Paris Peace Conference of 1946, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union and Bulgaria advocated the annexation of certain provinces of northern Greece. A year later, at secret meetings in Bled and Euxinograd, Yugoslav and Bulgarian leaders agreed on the foundations of a future federation in the Balkans; it was expected that an outcome to the Civil War favourable to the insurgents would open the way for Greek Macedonia’s incorporation in a united Macedonian entity within the planned federation under Yugoslav auspices. The Stalin-Tito feud in 1948 and the victory of the Greek government over the insurgency in 1949 frustrated these plans.

During this period, Macedonian culture and language flourished. After World War II, the Yugoslav government recognized Macedonian nationhood and established a separate republic, energetically nurturing Macedonian national consciousness and the Macedonian language. The first standardized Macedonian grammar was published in 1948. Federal support for Macedonian cultural institutions, including a university in Skopje, furthered the program of national recognition. In 1967 Belgrade underscored the Macedonians' ethnic individuality by supporting the independence of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, which for years afterward enjoyed a more favored position than any of Yugoslavia's other churches.

Beginning in the 1960s the Yugoslav government gave the Macedonians the nominal status of a separate "nation," to forestall Greek and Bulgarian claims. In 1963 the People’s Republic of Macedonia was renamed the “Socialist Republic of Macedonia” and the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia was renamed the “Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia”. The renaming gave rise to renewed Greek concerns over possible territorial claims by Yugoslavia to the Greek region of Macedonia. The Greek government viewed these measures as the continuation of unfriendly acts. Yugoslavia, as a Non-Aligned State in the Cold War, did not however wish to fall into open conflict with Greece, and the Yugoslav federal government in Belgrade restrained expansionist aspirations in Skopje.

In 1981 Yugoslav statistics showed about 1.3 million ethnic Macedonians in Yugoslavia, 250,000 in Pirin Macedonia (southwestern Bulgaria), and over 300,000 in Aegean Macedonia (northern Greece); Macedonians made up 6 percent of Yugoslavia's total population, 67 percent of Macedonia's, and .5 percent of Serbia's.

The issue of Macedonian nationality caused friction between Yugoslavia and neighboring Bulgaria and Greece, which contained large Macedonian minorities. Throughout the postwar period, the Yugoslav press propagandized against Bulgarian expansionist policies toward Macedonia and the failure to recognize Macedonians as a separate nationality in Bulgaria. Although the Bulgarian press reciprocated much more strongly after the 1989 change of government in Bulgaria, the two governments showed little desire to magnify an issue that had been at the center of the Balkan Wars before World War I.

In the mid-1980s, as a way of stirring unrest in the Balkans, the Yugoslav press strongly criticized the Greek government for failing to recognize the Macedonian Orthodox Church. But relations with Greece were generally warm in the 1980s, and Yugoslavia backed the Greeks against the Turks on the Cyprus issue early in the decade. For diplomatic reasons, the Yugoslav government did not permit Macedonian nationalist writers to protest Greek discrimination against Macedonians until the 1980s.

Next to Kosovo, Macedonia was the most economically deprived region of Yugoslavia. For example, in the late 1980s average personal income per social sector worker in Macedonia was half that of a similar worker in Slovenia. Especially in Kosovo and Macedonia, poor economic and social conditions exacerbated longstanding ethnic animosities and periodically ignited uprisings that threatened civil war. Like Kosovo, it was dependent on the richer republics for financial support throughout the postwar period. For the first forty years after World War II, political life remained placid and under the firm control of the local party. But with the explosion of nationalist feeling elsewhere in Yugoslavia in the late 1980s, the presence of substantial Albanian and Turkish minorities began to complicate regional politics. Strikes and protests against economic conditions began in 1987. After that time, ethnic tensions mounted between Albanians and Macedonians, especially in the Albanian ghettos of Skopje, the capital city. Symbolic acts by Macedonian authorities worsened the situation.

In 1989 the Macedonian assembly ratified a constitutional amendment deleting "Albanian and Turkish minorities" from the definition of the republic in the 1974 republican constitution. This move, which paralleled the Serbian constitutional limitation of autonomy in its provinces, drew criticism domestically and in other republics for its nationalist overtones. Macedonia also had a centuries-long ethnic dispute with neighboring Bulgaria and Greece over the identity and treatment of Macedonian minorities in those countries. This was the only such situation among the Yugoslav republics, and it added an independent quality to the cause of Macedonian nationalism.

As a small republic with voting power equal to all other republics, Macedonia was pressured and manipulated by both Serbia and Slovenia in the late 1980s. Consequently, its position in that conflict was inconsistent. During the late 1980s, Macedonian policy concentrated alternately on allegiance to Serbia and Macedonian nationalism, depending on which of two factions prevailed in the local political establishment. In 1990 the top Macedonian policymakers still strongly supported a united Yugoslavia and opposed legalization of rival parties. However, these policies were increasingly challenged by an independent political faction led by Vasil Tupurkovski, Macedonian representative to the Presidency of Yugoslavia. In 1990 Tupurkovski's faction moved toward formation of a separate party advocating political reform.

As communism fell throughout Eastern Europe in the late 20th century, Macedonia followed its other federation partners and declared its independence from Yugoslavia in late 1991. Macedonia was the only republic of the former Yugoslavia whose secession in 1991 was not clouded by ethnic or other armed conflict, although the ethnic Albanian population declined to participate in the referendum on independence.

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Page last modified: 20-11-2012 16:22:32 ZULU