LOCATION, SIZE AND EXTENT
Macedonia is a landlocked country located in southeastern Europe. Macedonia has a total area of 25,333 sq km (9,781 sq mi). Macedonia shares boundaries with Serbia to the n, Bulgaria to the e, Greece to the s, and Albania to the w, and has a total boundary length of 766 km (476 mi). Macedonia’s capital city, Skopje, is located in the northwestern part of the country.
The topography of Macedonia features a mountainous landscape covered with deep basins and valleys. There are two large lakes, each divided by a frontier line. Approximately 24% of Macedonia’s land is arable. Natural resources include chromium, lead, zinc, manganese, tungsten, nickel, low-grade iron ore, asbestos, sulfur, and timber. Located above a thrust fault line of the Eurasian Tectonic Plate, the nation experiences frequent tremors and occasional severe earthquakes. In 1963, 6.0 magnitude quake at Skopje caused the death of about 1,100 people and destroyed much of the city.
Macedonia’s climate features hot summers and cold winters. Fall tends to be dry in the country. In July the average temperature is between 20 and 23°c (68 and 73°f). The average temperature in January is between -20 and 0°c (-4 and 32°f). Rainfall averages 51 cm (20 in) a year. Snowfalls can be heavy in winter.
FLORA AND FAUNA
The terrain of Macedonia is rather hilly. Between the hills are deep basins and valleys, populated by European bison, fox, rabbits, brown bears, and deer. Pine trees are common in the higher mountain regions while beech and oak cover some of the lower mountain regions. The Macedonian pine is an ancient native species found most prominently on Mount Pelister near the south-west border. Ducks, turtles, frogs, raccoons, and muskrats inhabit the country’s waterways. As of 2002, there were at least 78 species of mammals, 109 species of birds, and over 3,500 species of plants throughout the country.
Air pollution from metallurgical plants is a problem in Macedonia, as in the other former Yugoslav republics. In 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 11.2 million metric tons. All urban dwellers have access to safe drinking water. Earthquakes are a natural hazard. Forest and woodland cover 35% of the nation’s land area. As of 2003, approximately 7.1% of Macedonia’s total land area was protected, including one World Heritage Site and one Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included nine types of mammals, nine species of birds, two types of reptiles, four species of fish, and five species of invertebrates. Threatened species include the field adder, Apollo butterfly, and noble crayfish. One species of mollusk has become extinct.
The population of Macedonia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 2,039,000, which placed it at number 139 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 11% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 20% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 100 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–10 was expected to be 0.4%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 2,120,000. The population density was 79 per sq km (205 per sq mi), with lowland regions being the most populated. The UN estimated that 59% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.73%. The capital city, Skopje, had a population of 447,000 in that year. Most towns have fewer than 15,000 residents.
According to the 2002 census, Macedonians comprise about 64.2% of the population. Another 25.2% are ethnic Albanians, mostly living in the west, particularly the northwest. Other groups include Turks (3.9%), Roma (2.7%), Serbs (1.8%), and others (including Bosniaks and Vlachs, 2.2%).
Macedonian is a southern Slavic tongue that was not officially recognized until 1944, and is the primary language of 66.5% of the population. Bulgarians claim it is merely a dialect of their own language. As in Bulgarian, there are virtually no declensions and the definite article is suffixed. Also as in Bulgarian—and unlike any other Slavic language—an indefinite article exists as a separate word. It is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, but with two special characters—r and k. Minority languages are officially recognized at the local level. Albanian is spoken by about 25.1% of the population, Turkish by about 3.5%, Roma by 1.9%, Serbian by 1.2%, and various other languages by 1.8%.
About 66% of the population are nominally Macedonian Orthodox; another 30% are Muslim, 1% are Roman Catholic, and about 3% belong to various other faiths. The other faiths are mostly various Protestant denominations. Islam is commonly practiced among ethnic Albanians living primarily in the western part of the country and in the capital of Skopje. The Roman Catholic community is centered in Skopje, as is a small Jewish community.