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Macedonian Painting

A painting by Macedonian artist Blaze Krstanoski

 Cultural Wealth |  Archives and Museums

The following is an excerpt from the Makedonski Icelenuchki Almanac '97 1

Cultural Wealth

Macedonia is a treasury of cultural wealth. The Slavonic alphabet wers often refer to Macedonia as a magical country for archaeology - there are many historical sites, including those at Stobi (Gradsko), Heraclea Lyncestis (Bitola), Lychnidos (Ohrid) and Scupi (Skopje). In the site of Vinicko Kale (near Vinica), the discovery of terracotta icons aroused great interest among historians and archaeologists. The Basilica Mosaic in Heraclea Lyncestis is one of the most famous mosaics of antiquity. There are many remains from Roman times and the early Christian period.

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| Cyril and Methody, and Clement and Naum played an important part in the spread of Christianity. Macedonian builders and mosaic masters shone like a bright star in the dark period of European culture prior to the Renaissance.

Scholars and writg src="assumption.jpg" hspace=5 align=right width=385 height=181 alt="'Assumption' painting by Jovan Zograph - 1601">Macedonian cities have an imposing number of churches. The famous architects and fresco-painters worked on numerous churches, and in Ohrid alone their number exceeds 30. Lake Ohrid and the town of Ohrid are under the protectin of UNESCO. Several churches, the most renowned among which is St. Pantelejmon, bear witness to the times of the educator St. Clement. The churches and other cultural monuments built between the 11th and 12th cenbturies are characterized by unique architecture and priceless frescoes and icons, famous throughout the world.

Ohrid was the cradle of Slavonic literacy, which the brothers Cyril and Methody and later their students spread to other Slav peoples starting from the 9th century. One of the best known historical monunments is the Church of St. Sophia, the former Cathedral of the Archbishopric of Ohrid. It was built in the 10th and 11th centuries. Invaluable frescoes from the 11th and 14th centuries have been uncovered.

From the Turkish period, there are monuments of Islamic culture such as mosques, bazaars and baths. In the 14th century, Skopje was described as being an important trading centre with its Old Bazaar, Covered Marketplace (Bezisten), the Kursumli An Caravanserai, Daut Pasha Baths and the Mustahpa Pasha Mosque. Another important monument of Islamic culture in Macedonia is the Painted Mosque (Sarena dzamija) in Tetovo.

A large number of monuments have been erected following the liberation. One of the most interesting is the monument devoted to the Ilinden Uprising in Krusevo. Many memorials have also been built, such as those in Prilep, Kumanova, Veles and Stip, renowned for their beauty and expressiveness.

In 1990, work on the cathedral of St. Clement of Ohrid in Skopje was completed. Macedonian construction companies built this church according to the best national traditions and Macedonian painters painted its frescoes and icons which remain as a legacy for the future.

Network and Institutions

Culture and the arts have a developed and relatively well-organized network of institutions. Nearly 4,000 specialists in various areas are employed in more than 200 such institutions. There are over 450 experts wroking in the 19 museums of natural history, social and historical sciences and of a general character, and the two art galleries. The archive materials are taken care of by about 100 archivists, historians and other specialists. About 400 archaeologists, conservators and other experts empoloyed in ten instistutions are responsible for the protection of the Macedonian clutural heritage. There are over 1,000 employees in 92 institutions working in the area of culture and education. You will find nearly 1,100 actors, directors, musicians and other artists active in Macedonian theatres, the opera and ballet companies and various music ensembles. There are 11 organizations with about 200 employees taking care of the distribution and presentation of films. A large number of writers, painters, directors, musicians and other artists work for the public radio and television company and press.

Literature and Publishing

Traditional Macedonian DressMacedonian literature has its roots in the rich heritage of Slavonic literacy and the distinguished literary schools of the Macedonian monasteries. Its more recent development has been marked by the work of Dimitar and Konstantin Miladinov, Grigor Prlicev, Rajko Zinzifov and other authors from the period of the Macedonian Revival in the middle of the 19th century. In the early 20th century their work was further developed by Vojdan Cernodrinski, Nikola Kirov-Majski and Atanas Razdolov. The poet Kosta Racin, with his collection entitled Beli Mugri (White Dawns) published in 1939, is considered to be the founder of modern Macedonian literature.

The first postwar generation of Macedonian poets, prose writers and playwrights included Blaze Koneski, Aco Sopov, Slavko Janevski, Vlado Maleski and Kole Casule. Among them, on the grounds of his achievements in literature, the codification and development of the Macedonian literary language and in the affirmation of Macedonian Studies in the world, we must single out the figure of Blaze Koneski, a member of the academies of arts and sciences of several countires and laureate of many outstanding international awards for literature.

From this generation also came the founders of the Writer's Association of Macedonia, established in 1947. This Association and the new association, Independent Writers of Macedonia - which emerged in 1994 - number over 300 active members.

The new generation of Macedonian writers which appeared in the early 1950's, encompassing among others Gane Todorovski, Mateja Matevski, Dimitar Solev, Ante Popovski, Boris Visinski and Simon Drakul, is still very active today. They were followed by a wider group of talented authors, from which we can single out Zivko Cingo, Petre M. Andreevski, Radovan Pavlovski, Bogomil Guzel, Jovan Koteski, Vlada Urosevik, Petar T. Boskovski and Mihail Rendzov.

After Vasil Iljoski and Risto Krle, Macedonian drama has recently achieved new heights with the works of Goran Stefanovski and Jordan Plevnes.

TepelakWorks by Macedonian writers have been translated into many languages of the world. Anthologies of Macedonian poetry and prose have been published in Italy, France, United States, Russia, Hungary, Poland, United Kingdom, Germany, China, Sweden, Japan, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece, Ukraine, Malaysia and many other countries.

The constant growth of Macedonian literature has also been connected with the development of publishing. Although it covers a relatively small linguistic area, there is virtually no important world author who has not been translated into Macedonian. All significant works of world literature have already been published or are in the process of being translated and published.

In the period 1986-1990 on average over 700 books and booklets as well as 74 periodicals were published each year in Macedonia, but the number of copies steadily dropped. In 1990 it was 1,683,000 printed books and booklets.

It is interesting that the past five years have seen the emergence of a large number of private publishers.


There are 13 active professional theatres in Macedonia. In the 1993/94 season they held 1,596 performances, attended by more than 330,000 people.

The Macedonian National Theatre (Drama, Opera and Ballet companies), the Drama Theatre, the Theatre of the Nationalities (Albanian and Turkish Drama companies) and the other theatre companies comprise about 870 professional actors, singers, ballet dancers, directors, playwrights, set and costume designers, etc. There is also a professional theatre for children and three amateur theatres.

For over thirty years now a traditional festival of Macedonian professional theatres has been taking place in Prilep in honour of Vojdan Cernodrinski, the founder of the modern Macedonian theatre. Each year a festival of amateur and experimental Macedonian theatre companies is held in Kocani.


Macedonia has an exceptionally rich musical heritage. The numerous studies, among which we can single out the most recent work by Sotir Golabovski, Octoechos, on the tradition of Macedonian spiritual and church singing, are a significant contributiojn to Macedonian and Balkan cultural history.

Traditional Macedonian KitchenThe Composer's Association of Macedonia today has 60 composers as members. After the founding generation of modern Maceodnian classical music, consisting of Trajko prokopiev, Todor Skalovski, Stefan Gajdov and Zivko Firfov, came the work of Kiril Makedonski, Gligor Smokvarski, Vlastimir Nikolovski, Toma Prosev, Tomislav Zografski, Mihailo Nikolovski, Ljubomir Brangolica and Risto Avramovski.

The Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra, established in 1944, is the oldest cultural institution in the field of music. There are also six active chamber and other music ensembles, three professional and about twenty amateur choirs. The richness of Macedonian folklore and songs is represented by the professional ensemble 'Tanec', and there are ten other folklore ensembles which are active on a semi-professional basis. Each year about 50,000 people attend the concerts of the Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra and the various folk dance ensembles and other cultural and artistic associations.

In addition to the concerts held as part of the Ohrid Summer Festival, an annual festival of classical music named Interfest was established in Bitola a few years ago.

Folk music is one of the most cherished areas of Macedonian culture, and several folk festivals take place each year. The oldest is Folkfest, held in Valandovo, and it is interesting to note that most festivals have further showings among Macedonian expatriates in Australia and Canada. The Festival of Old Town Songs in Ohrid and the Ilinden Days of Folk Song in Bitola are events which nourish traditional Macedonian songs.

Mak-Fest in Stip and the Skopje Festival are the two best-known festivals of popular music in Macedonia.

The pop group 'Leb i Sol', with its original music which uses traditional folk themes and rhythms, has been active for over twenty years and become widely known beyond the frontiers of Macedonia.


Macedonia's monasteries and churches hold works created by some of the greatest masters of medievel fresco and icon painting, and this artistic tradition has continued through the work of many painters, graphic artists and sculptors.

The founders of modern Macedonian painting included Lazar Licenovski, Nikola Martinoski, Dimitar Pandilov and Vangel Kodzoman. They were succeeded by an exceptionally talented and fruitful generation, consisting of Borka Lazeski, Dimitar Kondovski, Petar Mazev and many others who are still active. Vasko Taskovski's work was presented to the Paris public in 1992 with an imposing exhibition and auction of about 100 works. Vangel Naumovski, who was long classified by art historians as a Naive artist, is well-known for his Ohridska Porta Gallery, as well as for the original world of his paintings.

In addition to Dimo Todorovski, who is considered to be the founder of modern Macedonian sculpture, the works of Petar Hadzi Boskov, Boro Mitrikeski and Tome Serafimovski are also outstanding.

The Museum of Contempory Art and the Art Gallery in the Daut Pasha Baths are considered the best galleries.

In 1993 there were 413 exhibitions attracting about 240,000 visitors. There were also 12 artists' colonies with some 120 participants, of whom 40 were foreign painters and sculptors.


Listen to the song Devet Vrakje Zhelezni (Nine Iron Doors) from the Before the Rain soundtrack.

In 1905, in Bitola, the brothers Milton and Janaki Manaki shot the first filmed sequences, which marked the beginning of film art not only in Macedonia but also in the Balkans. In honour of this important event, each year Bitola is the host of the Manaki Festival of Cinecamera, the only one of its kind in the world.

Before the RainIn Macedonia the centenary of the cinema was marked in an impressive way. The young director responsible for this was Milcho Manchevski, who won the Golden Lion of the 1994 Venice Film Festival for his first feature film Before the Rain. The film was screened at some thirty international festivals, where it also won other accolades. The American Film Academy nominated it for the Best Foreign Language Film Award for the year 1994.

The first Macedonian feature film, 'Frosina' was made in 1952, and a few years later the first colour and cinemascope film entitled 'Miss Stone' appeared. The films 'Black Seed' by Kiril Cenevski as well as 'Happy New 1949' and 'Tattooing' Stole Popov were shown at several international festivals.

Following the great success of Before the Rain, Macedonia is trying to consolidate its production and make at least two or three feature films a year with domestic funds. In recent years international co-productions have begun to be made in Macedonia. The director Manchevski has already signed contracts for shooting films during the next five years. There is a hope of resurrecting the prominent Vardar Film school of animated films.

The Films Archives (Cinematheque) of Macedonia has developed fruitful research and publishing activities. This, and the organization of symposia devoted to film and modern society, has brought significant international recognition.

International Cultural Events

Macedonia organizes and hosts several important cultural events which enjoy high esteem in the world.

The Ohrid Summer Festival was established as an expression of the growing potential in the fields of music and drama in Macedonia. The first concert took place in 1961 in the 20th century church of St. Sophia, with its exceptional acoustics.

The main feature of the Festival is its international character. It has confirmed its status as a representative stage for the highest achievements fo Maceodnian and world culture. There ahve been participants from 44 countries from all continents, among whom there have been many celebrated world musicians who have left their artistic mark on the second half of the 20th century.

The Festival is held each year from July 12 to August 20. The number of performances is about 40 music events and 12 plays. In the last 35 years there have been about 1,150 performances in which 30,000 local and foreign artists and performers ahve taken part. The average annual number of visitors is about 20,000.

The Struga Poetry Evenings, which started in 1961, is a major poetic event in the world. So far more than 5,000 poets, writers and literary critics from over 50 countries have taken part. The highest acknowledgement of the Struga Poetry Evenings is the Golden Wreath international award, which each year is granted to one prominent poet of the world.

Macedonian Dance GroupThe Balkan Festival of Folk Song and Dance in Ohrid has presented numeroius original songs and dances from folk culture for more than 30 years. The links between the cultures of the Balkan peoples and those of Europe have greatly affirmed the important role of this festival in the building of bridges of cultural cooperation. About 1,200 ensembles with 42,000 members have so far taken part in the festival.

Besides ensembles from all the Balkan countries and the former Yugoslav republics, a large number of European and non-European countries have participated in it. The Balkan Festival has for more than 20 years been a member of CIOFF and other cultural educational associations of UNESCO.

The Skopje International Jazz Festival has become a highly prestigious music event. Many of the most renowned jazz groups and names in the world of jazz have taken part in the festival, and in concept and atmosphere, participants and critics consider it one of the most successful jazz festivals around the world.

The World Cartoon Gallery is the only event of this kind in the world. In addition to its permanent exhibition, each year it organizes an exhibition of cartoons on a specific subject. It has played a major role in the recognition of Macedonian cartoonists who have earned important awards at competitions and shows throughout the world.

Archives and Museums

There are eleven archival institutions operating in Macedonia. The number of registered archive items is 5,552, while there are 490 personal and family holdings and 105 collections.

Of great importance for the development of the archives are the agreements the Archives of Macedonia have signed with the corresponding state archives of Turkey related to the period of rule of the Ottoman Empire in this region, and also with the archives of Russia, Bulgaria and Albania.

The second important element concerning new investigations and knowledge of Macedonia's history is that some other archive holdings, primarily those connected with the Versailles (1919) and Paris Peace Conferences (1946) as well as the archives of the Great Powers, have passed their security term of non-availability. Macedonian archivists and historians could rarely research such archives in the past or did so only indirectly.

There are 21 museums in Skopje and 14 in other towns. They have nearly 36,000 exhibits as a whole and receive between 300,000 and 400,000 visitors each year.


  1. Makedonski Icelenuchki Almanac '97, Matitsa na Icelenitsite od Makedonija; Skopje, 1997; p.68-76

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