Official name: The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Area: 25,333 square kilometers (9,781 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Golem Korab (2,753 meters/9,032 feet)
Lowest point on land: Vardar River (50 meters/164 feet)
Hemispheres: Northern and Western
Time zone: 1 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 175 kilometers (109 miles) from north to south; 216 kilometers (134 miles) from east to west
Land boundaries: 748 kilometers (465 miles) total boundary length; Albania 151 kilometers (94 miles); Bulgaria 148 kilometers (92 miles); Greece 228 kilometers (142 miles); Serbia and Montenegro 221 kilometers (137 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
Macedonia is a landlocked country on the Balkan h2ninsula of southern Europe. It shares borders with Serbia and Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece, and Albania. With a total area of about 25,333 square kilometers (9,781 square miles), the country is slightly larger than the state of Vermont. Macedonia is administratively divided into 123 municipalities.
Macedonia has no outside territories or dependencies.
Macedonia's climate is a blend of continental and Mediterranean, with very cold winters and hot summers. The average annual temperature for the country is 12°C (53°F). Maximum summer temperatures in the lowlands can reach 40°C (104°F), and the coldest winter temperatures can drop to around 30°C below zero (22°F below zero).
Due to the influence of the Mediterranean Sea, which lies south of the Balkan Peninsula, rainfall is moderate in the Vardar River valley. Annual rainfall is scattered throughout the year and only averages about 50 to 70 centimeters (20 to 28 inches).
Macedonia lies inland in the middle of the Balkan Peninsula. About 80 percent of its territory is mountainous, with large and high massifs giving way to extensive valleys and plains. Low passes or deep ravines connect the valleys with one another. There are some interior highlands in the north-central region and in the southwest corner of Macedonia.
Macedonia is on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate. A fault line extends in a north-to-south direction in east-central Macedonia. This structural seam in the earth's crust periodically shifts, causing earth tremors and occasional destructive earthquakes. In 1963, an earthquake destroyed much of Skopje, killing 1,066 people.
Macedonia is a landlocked nation. The nearest open bodies of water are the Adriatic Sea, which lies on the far side of Albania to the west, and the Aegean Sea, which lies beyond Greece to the southeast. Both of these seas are extensions of the larger Mediterranean Sea.
Macedonia has fifty-three natural and artificial lakes. The three largest lakes are of tectonic origin: Ohrid, Prespa, and Dojran. Lake Ohrid is in the southwestern corner of Macedonia, covering 348 square kilometers (134 square miles). Only 230 square kilometers (89 square miles) of this lake lie within Macedonia's borders; the rest is within Albania. Lake Ohrid is some 30.4 kilometers (18.9 miles) long and 14.5 kilometers (9 miles) wide, with its surface 695 meters (2,280 feet) above sea level. The clarity of the water extends some 21.5 meters (70 feet) down and the lake's maximum depth is 287 meters (942 feet). Lake Prespa is the second-largest lake in Macedonia; of its total surface area of 274 square kilometers (106 square miles), only 177 square kilometers (68 square miles) lies within Macedonian territory. Greece and Albania share the rest of this lake. At 853 meters (2,799 feet) above sea level, the water in Lake Prespa gradually seeps through the porous limestone and ends up in Lake Ohrid, not far to the northwest.
Macedonia also has twenty-five 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 famous since the Roman era for its therapeutic 46°C (115°F) waters.
Macedonia's rivers flow into one of three basins: the Aegean Sea, the Adriatic Sea, or the Black Sea. The Vardar River, which has a total length of 388 kilometers (241 miles), enters from Serbia and Montenegro in the north and flows southeast across Macedonia for 301 kilometers (187 miles), before crossing into Greece and eventually emptying into the Aegean. The Vardar is the longest and most important river in the country, draining 80 percent of its territory. Within Macedonia, the Vardar has thirty-seven tributaries, including the Bregalnica and the Crna. The Strumica in the southeast 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 percent of the country is drained by the Binacka Morava River, which has its source in Macedonia. The Binacka Morava flows only a few miles through the country before crossing into Yugoslavia, eventually emptying into the Danube River and the Black Sea.
There are no desert regions in Macedonia.
Macedonia has nineteen separate lowland areas, covering a total area of about 7,690 square kilometers (2,970 square miles). Valley basin lowlands comprise about 4,900 square kilometers (1,900 square miles).
Most of Macedonia is mountainous; the average altitude of the country is about 850 meters (2,800 feet). The mountain systems 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 Macedonia; Korab in the west; Plačkovica in the east; and Kožuf and Nidže in the south. Thirty-four mountain peaks exceed 2,000 meters (6,560 feet), ranging from Mount Belasica (2,029 meters/6,657 feet) to Golem Korab (2,753 meters/9,032 feet), which is the highest peak in Macedonia. Along the northern border with the Kosovo region of Serbia and Montenegro, Šar Planina, at 80 kilometers (50 miles) long and between 10 and 20 kilometers (6 and 12 miles) wide, is the largest natural massif in Macedonia, reaching a peak of 2,747 meters (9,012 feet).
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.
Macedonia's canyons link the lowlands. There are 114 separate canyons in Macedonia totaling 297 kilometers (185 miles) in length, ranging from the 2.3-kilometer-(1.4-mile-) long Boshavica River canyon to the 42.5-kilometer- (26.4-mile-) long Radika canyon. The Derven, Taor, and Demir Kapija canyons are situated on the Vardar River. Demir Kapija has nearly vertical sides and several small caves.
There are dozens of glacial caves within the mountains, some of which feature water. One of these is Djonovica (located between Gostivar and Kičevo), which extends about 600 meters (2,000 feet) underground.
There are no plateau regions in Macedonia.
There are about fifteen artificial lakes in Macedonia. One of the largest is Mavrovo. Formed in 1953, Lake Mavrovo covers about 13.7 square kilometers (5.3 square miles). It is a reservoir on the Radika River that is linked to three hydropower plants. The lake is now part of Mavrovo National Park and has become a popular tourist spot.
The name Macedonia has historically been used to describe a region that includes parts of modern Greece, Bulgaria, and the current Republic of Macedonia. The ancient kingdom that was based there ruled Greece for centuries and produced its most famous conqueror, Alexander the Great. When the nation now known as Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia (now Serbia and Montenegro) in 1991 and took "Republic of Macedonia" for its name, the government of 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 by other names.
Brân, Zoë. After Yugoslavia . Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 2001.
Georgieva, Valentina, and Sasha Konechni. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Macedonia . Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1998.
Pettifer, James, ed. The New Macedonia Question . New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.