Last week I was in Northern Bulgaria looking at an old map of the country. In it the southern border with Macedonia lay somewhere between Sofia and Pernik – placing our house firmly on the Macedonian side along with most of the South-West of the country. Even now, in the villages, if there is a loud noise such as fireworks or a hunter shooting in the woods, the locals will say “The Macedonians are Coming!”, like the contstant threat of Winter in Game of Thrones.
That said, I am ashamed to say I know nothing of this country I am now visiting, with its long and troubled history.
First let’s start with a few little know facts – or at least little known to me:
Mother Teresa of Calcutta was born in Skopje in 1911 before going on to complete here life’s work in Christ on the india Sub-continent. Skopje is very proud of this link to one of the most widely-known figures in recent history, and has adorned the city with various plaques quoting some of her words.
The people of Skopje seem to have a penchant for statues! They are everywhere, and there is nothing sublte about the scale of many of them. The river area and bridges are decorated liberally with statues of various worthies of distant and recent note. The Opera house has Greek-like muses in a row out front. The tops of various buildings have yet nore figures arrayed, and then of course there is the enourmous Alexander The Great Fountain.
Now, I was aware of this next ‘fact’ as I preached on it quite recently: It is said the first European Christian church was established in Macedonia when Lydia and her household were baptised after St Paul was called to Macedonia in a vision (Act16:9).
The Greeks are not happy with this country’s name so even now after its recent independence and acceptance in to NATO the official name is ‘Former Yugoslav Repuplic of Macedonia’, which is usually abbreviated to FYROM.
Phillip II of Macedon and his Son Alexander the Great put this country on the map in 4thC BC, but over the millenia it has been ruled by Thracians, Romans, Ottomans, Bulgarians and Communism. In the 18thC, after the Bulgarian National Revival there was renewed interest in Macedonian nationalism with various movements established to acheive independence. Of course these were largely unsuccessful and the 20thC saw a very turbulant period in its history as it was absorbed into what was to become Yugoslavia – and politically bound together with Serbia and the other balkan states.
Since its much sought after independence in 1991, this country has worked hard to estabslish itself and re-assert its place in Europe. It joined NATO in 1993, and is currently working towards accession to the European Union.