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Macedonia, Former Yugoslav Republic Of

Macedonia, Former Yugoslav Republic Of

  • Area: 9,781 sq mi (25,333 sq km) / World Rank: 148
  • Location: Northern and Western Hemispheres, southeastern Europe, south of Yugoslavia, west of Bulgaria, north of Greece, and east of Albania.
  • Coordinates: 41°50′N, 22°00′E
  • Borders: 465 mi (748 km) / Albania, 94 mi (151 km); Bulgaria, 92 mi (148 km); Greece, 142 mi (228 km); Yugoslavia, 137 mi (221 km)
  • Coastline: None
  • Territorial Seas: None
  • Highest Point: Golem Korab, 9,032 ft (2,753 m)
  • Lowest Point: Vardar River, 164 ft (50 m)
  • Longest Distances: Approximately 109 mi (175 km) N-S; approximately 134 mi (216 km) E-W
  • Longest River: Vardar River, 241 mi (388 km).
  • Largest Lake: Lake Ohrid, 134 sq mi (348 sq km)
  • Natural Hazards: Earthquakes
  • Population: 2,046,209 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 141
  • Capital City: Skopje, in north central Macedonia.
  • Largest City: Skopje, 448,600 (2002 estimate)


The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM; Macedonia) lies inland in the middle of the Balkan Peninsula. The nearest open water is the Adriatic Sea, on the far side of Albania to the west, and the Aegean Sea beyond Greece to the southeast. About 80 percent of its territory is mountainous, with large and high massifs giving way to some extensive flat valleys and plains. The valleys are interconnected by low passes or deep ravines. There are some interior highlands in the north central region and southwest corner of Macedonia.

Macedonia is on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate. A thrust fault line extends in a north to south direction in east central Macedonia. The structural seam in the Earth's crust periodically shifts, causing earth tremors and occasional destructive earthquakes. In 1963, an earthquake destroyed much of Skopje and killed 1,066 people.

The name Macedonia has historically been used to describe a region that includes parts of modern Greece, Bulgaria, and the FYROM. The ancient kingdom that was based there ruled Greece for centuries, and produced its most famous conqueror, Alexander the Great. When the FYROM declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and took Republic of Macedonia for its name, Greece objected. To them, Macedonia is a Greek name and an important part of Greek history and culture, which the new country could not rightfully claim. Due to the ongoing controversy, many countries refer to the Republic of Macedonia as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or other names.



The FYROM is mostly covered by mountains; the average altitude of the country is about 2,800 ft (850 m). The mountains are a complicated mass, with ridges running in many different directions, and no truly dominant range. Some of the highest ranges are the Jakupica, in central FYROM; Korab in the west; Plackovica in the east; and Kožuf and Nidže in the south. There are 34 mountain peaks exceeding 6,560 ft (2,000 m) above sea level, ranging from Mount Belasica (6,657 ft / 2,029 m) to Golem Korab (9,032 ft / 2,753 m), the highest peak in Macedonia. Along the northern border with the Kosovo region of Yugoslavia, Šar Planina, at 50 mi (80 km) long and 6-12 mi (10-20 km) wide, is the largest natural massif in Macedonia, reaching a peak of 9,012 ft (2,747 m).

There are dozens of glacial caves within the mountains, some of which feature water. One of these is Djonovica (located between Gostivar and Kicevo), which extends about 2,000 ft (600 m) underground.

Valleys and Canyons

Macedonia has 19 separate lowland areas, covering about 2,970 sq mi (7,690 sq km), with around 1,900 sq mi (4,900 sq km) of valley basin lowlands. Macedonia's canyons link the lowlands. There are 114 separate canyons in Macedonia totaling 185 mi (297 km), ranging from the 1.4-mi (2.3-km) Boshavica River to the 26.4-mi (42.5-km) Radika canyon. The Derven, Taor, and Demir Kapija canyons are on the Vardar River. Demir Kapija has nearly vertical sides and several small caves.

Population Centers – Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Name Population Name Population
Skopje (capital) 545,228 Bitola 108,203
Tetovo 172,171 Gostivar 108,181
Kisela Voda 146,746 Gazi Baba 100,259
Kumanovo 127,814 Prilep 94,183
Karpoch 127,462 Strumica 91,047
SOURCE : State Statistical Office, Macedonia.



Macedonia has 53 natural and artificial lakes. The three largest lakes are of tectonic origin: Ohrid, Prespa, and Dojran. Lake Ohrid is in southwestern corner of Macedonia, covering 134 sq mi (348 sq km), of which 89 sq mi (230 sq km) are within Macedonia's borders; the rest is within Albania. Lake Ohrid is some 18.9 mi (30.4 km) long and 9 mi (14.5 km) wide, with its surface 2,280 ft (695 m) above sea level. The clarity of the water extends some 70 ft (21.5 m) down, and the lake's maximum depth is 942 ft (287 m). Lake Prespa is the second largest lake in Macedonia, with a surface area of 106 sq mi (274 sq km), but only 68 sq mi (177 sq km) are within Macedonian territory; Greece and Albania share the rest. At 2,799 ft (853 m) above sea level, the water in Lake Prespa gradually percolates through the porous limestone and ends up in the lower Lake Ohrid, not far to the northwest.

Macedonia also has 25 glacial mountain lakes, known as oci, or mountain "eyes." Additionally, there are numerous mineral springs. The Katlanovo Spa outside Skopje is fed by several springs and has been utilized for its therapeutic 115°F (46°C) waters since the Roman era. There are 15 artificial lakes, the largest of which is Mavrovo. Formed in 1953, Lake Mavrovo covers about 5.3 sq mi (13.7 sq km).


Macedonia's rivers flow into one of three basins: the Aegean, Adriatic, or Black Sea. The Vardar River enters from Yugoslavia in the north and flows southeast across the country for 187 mi (301km) before crossing into Greece, eventually emptying into the Aegean. The Vardar is the most important river in the country, draining 80 percent of its territory. Within Macedonia, the Vardar has 37 tributaries, including the Bregalnica and the Crna. The Strumica, in southeast FYROM, is the only other river of note flowing into the Aegean.

The Crni Drim River drains the westernmost 13 percent of Macedonia. It flows north out of Lake Ohrid and into Albania before turning west and draining into the Adriatic Sea. Less than 0.2% of the country is drained by the Binacka Morava River, which has its source in Macedonia. The Binacka Morava only flows a few miles through FYROM before crossing into Yugoslavia and eventually emptying into the Danube River and the Black Sea.


The FYROM is landlocked.



FYROM's climate is a blend of continental and Mediterranean, with very cold winters and hot summers. The average annual temperature for the country is 52.7°F (11.5°C). Maximum summer temperatures in the lowlands can reach 104°F (40°C), and the coldest winter temperatures can drop to around –22°F (–30°C).


Due to the influence of the Mediterranean, rainfall is moderate in the Vardar River valley. Annual rainfall is scattered throughout the year and only averages about 20–28 in (500–700 mm).

Forests and Jungles

Macedonia has four national parks (Galicica, Mavrovo, Pelister, and Jasen), which have a total area of about 272,000 acres (110,000 hectares). The high mountains are covered mostly with pine trees. Lower mountains have a canopy of beech and oak trees. The Macedonian Pine is an ancient native species found in the forests on Mount Pelister near Lake Prespa.


The population of the FYROM is concentrated in the lowlands. About 42 percent of the country's population lives in the Vardar River valley of central Macedonia. Another 39 percent lives in western Macedonia. Only 19 percent lives in the east. The capital of Skopje is by far the largest city; most of the towns have fewer than 15,000 inhabitants.


Iron ore is mined near Kicevo; zinc, lead, and copper are also mined. There are deposits of iron and nickel in the Vardar River valley area, and well as discoveries of molybdenum, tungsten, mercury, and gold. Macedonia also has marble and stone quarries near Prilep, Gostivar, and Tetovo. Wood and lumber production are centered in Bitola.


Brân, Zoë. After Yugoslavia. Oakland, Calif.: Lonely Planet, 2001.

Georgieva, Valentina, and Sasha Konechni. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Macedonia. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1998.

Government of the Republic of Macedonia. (Accessed July 10, 2002).

Pettifer, James, ed. The New Macedonia Question. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Scekic, Jovan, ed. This Was Skopje. Beograd: Federal Secretariat for Information, 1963.

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