Saturday, September 22, 2012

Republic of Macedonia: 22 years later

This months cover, original photo by
Matej Bogdanovski, digital augmentation by K.K.W
After Yugoslavia: 22 years later. By K.K.W.

In a way, its hard to believe that 22 years have pasted since a small country in southeastern Europe declared independence from Yugoslavia, for an uncertain future. A future that has some, longing for a past that seemed like better days.  
Photo courtesy of "City of Skopje" FB page.
Post-card of Skopje, image courtesy of Matej Bogdanovski.
It was 1991 (a very strange time), the final year of the "cold-war", The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics collapsed into 15 sovereign republics. A solar eclipse of record totality occurred, and "Super Nintendo" is released in the United States of America. 

Aside form tensions within Yugoslavia and the vaulting ambitions of powerful individuals, external forces played their part to bring about present day Macedonia. One major element was NSDD (national Security Decision Directive) 133 - issued March 14 1984 under president Reagan, calling for expanded efforts to promote the destabilizing of Yugoslavia, and the implementing of "free market" policies. Now 22 years later, the republic has come a long way. However, this depends on who you are, what level of the society you live on, your politics, and a lot of luck.    
Rally @ the center of Skopje, with the recently added Alexander The Great
statue (part of the much debated, disliked & loved "Skopje 2014" project)
Photo courtesy of "City of Skopje" FB page.
For starters, although four out five of the permanent members of the U.N Security Council, several members of the European Union and over 100 other U.N members has recognized the republics name, Greece still refuses to (helping to block their E.U membership. Yes, even in serious economic chaos Greece still has "pull like that"). Membership in the E.U would have many political/economic benefits and clear-up the "Visa regime" for its nationals.

Macedonia's current governmental body the VMRO-DPMNE began (since 2006) a program of 'Antiquisation' - Antikvizatzija, some would say as a way of putting pressure on Greece, and purposes of identity building. Wanting to show admiration and respect for the countries ancient rulers/heros (Alexander The Great & his father Philip II), the Government has erected statues of them in several cities and renamed many of their public infrastructure's them. 

While this is understandable to many, the policy has attracted serious criticism domestically, abroad and from E.U diplomats. The government, I think would do well to focus on its present day individual in the art, music, and film scene who the rest of the world would find more interesting and identify strongly with. The nations contemporary cultural scene is the key to its future, not just statues of past individuals, or relics from an era long gone. 

Another major government project is "Skopje 2014", which consists of archaic civic buildings, new statues from various artists mainly in the city center, and in other parts as well. On the one side its a good thing which will upgrade the city, has created jobs for many, and make it more like other major European centers. However its the choice in architectural design, for some of the buildings, that has many in and outside of Macedonia concerned, to say the least. Aside from this, some feel the exorbitant amount of money being spent on this is simply not in the countries best interest (given the high unemployment, & so many living at a minimal basis, there might be some wisdom in this).

By 2012 estimates an official unemployment rate of 29.1% but may be overstated based on a "grey market" at 20-45% of the GDP (estimated figures may be lower) and a rather large trade deficit ( With the countries strong banking and trade ties, conservative fiscal policies and a sound financial system, some stability has been maintained. If the government could find a way to lower the high transit cost, and fix the unreliability of its land and rail routes through Serbia, they would see large profits from their fruit/vegetable market to Germany and elsewhere in Europe. In addition to this Macedonia's IT market is one of the best in the Adriatic region, showing strong growth. This is part of the key to a better economic future. Macedonia is one of the most scenic and beautiful places to visit in Southeastern Europe. Bitola, Kumanova, Prilep, Kratovo, Ohrid, Prespa, the Korab, The old bazaar, its amazing orthodox churches and Ottoman architecture. Not to mention one of the best nightlife scenes in the area.

One of the nations most valuable assets is it contemporary cultural scene, what will help improve its economy and gain E.U status and resolve the issue of its name with Greece (when the world admires your culture, all else is easy). Macedonian films have been presented at film-festivals around the world, several have won prestigious awards. 

"Frosina", released in 1952 is an amazing film to behold, along with "Miss Stone", "Bal-Can-Can" and "Before The Rain" (which was nominated for best foreign film). Most recently "Skopje Remixed" (2012), is a stunning film from its growing post-contemporary culture scene. An amazing vignette of stories from different directors (Jane Altiparmakov being one of the best), set in modern Skopje with stunning cinematography, writing, and great cast of actors. Macedonia's art, music, & film scene is some of the best in Europe, and when its backed by the ministry of culture or not you can expect something wonderful and thought provoking (Please see previous posts for this year & last year).           

Photo by Meglena Visinska
Photo by Matej Bogdanovski
Photo by Matej Bogdanovski
Photo by Matej Bogdanovski

Nov 2011 special post cover #1
Original photo by Harald Schenker,
with Tanja Stoimenovska.
If you would like to know more, please see previous posts for the last year & 2011, or: "Art is the reason, art is the way". Giordano Libero 1.6 Road Bike 56cm - Road & Touring Bikes (Google Affiliate Ad)"Men's 7-Speed Touring Cruiser" (Google Affiliate Ad)GUESS Trench Coat, BLACK (MEDIUM) (Google Affiliate Ad)The North Face Apex Bionic Soft Shell Jacket - Men's - Black In Size: (Google Affiliate Ad)

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