26 interesting facts about North Macedonia

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The most interesting facts about North Macedonia, from the “Balkan Elvis” to the birthplace of Mother Teresa.

Interesting facts about North Macedonia include Lake Ohrid
Interesting facts about North Macedonia include Lake Ohrid (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of North Macedonia
Population: 2.1 million
Area: 25,713 sq km
Capital city: Skopje
Major languages: Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, Romani
Major religions: Macedonian Orthodox, Muslim, Christian
Time zone: UTC+1 (Central European Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about North Macedonia

1. North Macedonia is a landlocked country in Southeastern Europe bordering Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo and Serbia.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

2. North Macedonia has been inhabited for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence suggests Neolithic civilisations existed there from as early as 7000 BC.
– Source: Britannica

3. North Macedonia was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1453 to 1913.
– Source: Britannica

A map of North Macedonia and its bordering countries
Map of North Macedonia (Shutterstock)

4. In 1913, after 460 years of Ottoman rule, Macedonia was partitioned between Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. What is now North Macedonia was incorporated into Serbia.
– Source: BBC News

5. From 1945 to 1991, North Macedonia was part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It became a fully independent state on September 8th 1991.
– Source: BBC News, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

6. The North Macedonian flag is made up of a red background with a golden circle and golden rays extending to the edges. The starburst design has long been associated with Alexander the Great.
– Source: Britannica

The North Macedonian flag
The North Macedonian flag (Shutterstock)

7. In 2019, after 30 years of disputing the name with Greece, the country officially changed its name from Macedonia to North Macedonia. The Greek province of Macedonia, bordering North Macedonia, had long been associated with Alexander the Great and Greece had argued that North Macedonia’s insistence on being called Macedonia implied “territorial ambitions against the Greek region”.
– Source: The Guardian

8. The dispute stems from the Greek-born general, Alexander the Great, who presided over a huge empire which included modern-day North Macedonia and across Greece and Persia to India and Egypt.
– Source: The History Channel, The Economist

9. During that time, the country’s official name was the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or FYRM as recognised by the United Nations.
– Source: UNHCR

A road entering to the Republic of Vevčani
The Republic of Vevčani (Shutterstock)

10. North Macedonia is home to the self-proclaimed Republic of Vevčani. The micronation proclaimed itself an independent country in 1991 but it is not formally recognised by any countries.
– Source: New York Times

11. Nicknamed the “Macedonian Stonehenge”, the megalithic observatory of Kokino is over 4,000 years old. It is listed by NASA as the fourth oldest ancient observatory in the world after Abu Simbel in Egypt, Stonehenge in Britain and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
– Source: CNN, UNESCO

12. One of the most famous landmarks in Skopje is the “Warrior on a Horse” statue believed to depict Alexander the Great. It is 28m (92ft) high, weighs 30,000kg and cost an estimated €9.4 million (around $10 million).
– Source: Deseret News

The Warrior on a Horse statue in Skopje
The Warrior on a Horse statue in Skopje (Shutterstock)

13. The 1979 Nobel Prize for Peace winner Mother Teresa was born in modern-day North Macedonia in 1910, though she was Albanian by ethnicity at the time of her birth. Mother Teresa was canonized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta in 2016.
– Source: Britannica

14. In 2018, a baby was born in Liverpool, UK, that shared the same birthday as his North Macedonian father and grandfather. The chances of a baby sharing the same birth date as two preceding generations are one in 130,000.
– Source: BBC News

15. North Macedonia is home to one of the world’s largest crosses. The 66m (217ft)-high Millennium Cross sits on top of Mt Vodno.
– Source: Lonely Planet

The Millennium Cross against a blue sky
The Millennium Cross (Shutterstock)

16. North Macedonia takes its name from the ancient kingdom of Macedon that existed from the 7th to 2nd century BC.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

17. Skopje takes its name from the ancient title Scupi. It is the Latin designation for the Greco-Roman fortress town that was first established there.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

18. North Macedonia is home to one of Europe’s deepest and oldest bodies of freshwater. The UNESCO-listed Lake Ohrid is 34km long, 300m deep and three million years old. 
– Source: Lonely Planet, UNESCO

A church near the waters of Lake Ohrid
Lake Ohrid (Shutterstock)

19. North Macedonia has one other UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe which it shares with 17 other countries.
– Source: UNESCO

20. Toše Proeski, dubbed the “Balkan Elvis” was one of the country’s most successful pop stars. Proeski represented his country at the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest. He died in 2007, at the age of 26, in a car crash.
– Source: The Guardian, National Public Radio (NPR)

21. The Kuklica Rock Formations in North Macedonia are said to depict a wedding party. Legend has it, the 30 million-year-old natural formations were formed when a man could not decide which of two women to marry, so he decided to marry both at different times of the same day. After arriving early, the second bride was so upset she turned the whole party to stone.
– Source: Lonely Planet

The Kuklica Rock Formations in North Macedonia
The Kuklica Rock Formations (Shutterstock)

22. Unlike its neighbouring countries, North Macedonia managed to remain peaceful during the break-up of Yugoslavia.
– Source: Brittania

23. The North Macedonian town of Struga is home to the world’s oldest international poetry festival, the Struga Poetry Evenings (SPE). The SPE began in 1961 and has awarded its most prestigious award, the Golden Wreath, to some of the world’s most eminent poets.
– Source: Versopolis, UNECSO

24. Another well-known North Macedonian landmark is the Painted Mosque. First built in the 15th century under Ottoman rule, the mosque is known for its multicoloured facade made up of a patchwork of rectangular panels.
– Source: Lonely Planet

The Painted Mosque seen from the outside
The Painted Mosque (Shutterstock)

25. North Macedonians are the fourth the heaviest smokers in the world, smoking, on average, 2,784.93 cigarettes per person per year.
– Source: The Tobacco Atlas

26. North Macedonia is the second-least developed country in Europe, after Moldova. Overall, it is the 82nd most developed country in the world.
– Source: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about North Macedonia using primary sources. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.