Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Macedonia (Makedonija)

Capital : Skopje

Size: 9800 sq m Popn: 2 174 000


In ancient times, this was a much larger area than modern Macedonia, covering a land area of about 26 000 miles, stretching from the eastern Adriatic Coast to Epirus in the west. To the north, it was bordered by Moesia, to the south with Thessaly, to the east with Thrace with a narrow coastal strip reaching to the Hellespont. The original inhabitants were probably Germano-Celtic but after centuries of invasion they became mingled with people of Thracian, Illyrian Phrygian and Dorian Greek origin. The Greek migrants, including the family of Alexander the Great's tutor, Aristotle, were expelled by Philip II.

The area had been divided into several small nations which were rarely at peace with each other but was united under one king by the mid C4th BC. Macedon became the major power in the region after the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC and went on to conquer Persia, much of Asia and Egypt under Philip II and his son Alexander III (the Great), spreading Hellenic culture throughout the Mediterranean and Asia. Alexander died leaving no adult son and without officially naming his heir and his empire was divided by power struggles between his generals. The last king of Macedonia itself, Perseus, was defeated by the Roman Aemilius Paullus in 167 BC.

Macedonia, like Greece, became part of the Roman Empire after the battle of Pydna in 168 BC. Rome tried to convert it into a self-governing republic but this was not successful and in 146 BC it became part of the Roman Empire. It was divided into two provinces: 'Macedonia Prima' (Aegean Macedonia) and 'Macedonia Salutaris' (Vardar and Pirin Macedonia). Latin was the official language and Christianity was established. After the fall of Rome in the C6th, an ethnic group which had once inhabited Macedonia, the Paeones, now called Slavs, captured most of the area from the East Romans. Macedonia remained independent from Byzantium (which was ruled by a Macedonian dynasty from 867) and the nomadic Bulgars of the steppes conquered the country in the C7th. In the mid C9th, Macedonian became the main spoken, literary and administrative language of Macedonia, being systematically recorded by the Slav saints Cyril and Methodius.

In 1014, the Byzantine Emperor Basil II defeated Tsar Samuilo of Macedonia and incorporated it into his territory but the language and culture were retained. After the fall of the East Roman Empire in the early C13th, Macedonia was subject to various foreign invasions, including Serbia in the C14th and the Ottoman Turkish Empire 1355. The Balkan peninsula, or 'Rumelia', became part of the Ottoman Empire. At the beginning of the C20th, Macedonia was still an Ottoman province, divided between the vilayets of Solun, Bitola and Kosovo. The 1905 census recorded over 3 million inhabitants, mostly Macedonian but with Turkish, Albanian, Romi, Vlach, Jewish and Greek minorities.

Turkey lost Macedonia after the First Balkan War and when the Second Balkan War ended in 1913, Macedonia was divided between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria. It was united in 1918 as part of what was to become Yugoslavia but nationalists continued to demand autonomy. Macedonia was occupied by Bulgaria in 1941-44 and the second Yugoslavia was founded after further Balkan conflict in 1945-6 as the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia. There were six republics: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Montenegro, and two autonomous regions, Kosovo and Vojvodina. The Yugoslav leader, Josip Broz Tito, a Croatian, recognised the Republic of Macedonia as having a separate language and culture. Although the communist state continued to exist after Tito's death in 1980 but tensions increased between ethnic Macedonians and the Serb-dominated government of Yugoslavia. Macedonia voted to secede in the referendum of 1991 and declared its independence in 1992, adopting a new constitution. Greece has encouraged EC leaders not to recognise the republic unless it chooses a different name as it considers 'Macedonia' to imply a territorial claim on the northern Greek province of the same name (Greek 'Makedhonia').

Between 1923-6, most of the Turks and Bulgarians amongst the Aegean Macedonians were resettled in Turkey and Bulgaria, leaving about 1 million ethnic Macedonians in Greece. A policy of 'hellenization' was adopted by the Greek government with Macedonians being forced to take Greek first names and surnames and the banning of the Macedonians' language, schools, churches, media and culture. Many Greeks were moved to the region from Turkey and the Macedonians found themselves in the minority. Many emigrated to Australia, Canada and America and harsh treatment of the Macedonians in Greece continued throughout the 1930s. The repression increased after the Greek Civil War of 1946-9 because they had supported the Greek communists who had offered them autonomy and recognition of their human rights. There was further emigration, including the evacuation of Macedonian children to the Eastern bloc. In December 1982 an act was passed by the Papandreou government which allowed Greeks who had fled during the civil war to return but this did not include Macedonians, even those born in Greece. Estimates of the number of Macedonians still in Greece vary between 80,000 and one million as many are frightened to acknowledge their origins.

The modern Macedonian language belongs to the Slavic family and Ancient Macedonian, which was used for written records, was an Indo-European language with links to Thracian and Illyrian. The first written form of Macedonian was Old Church Slavic.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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