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Skopje History, Macedonia

The capital of Macedonia, Skopje, is a city placed right in the heart of the Balkans (see the Skopie Travel Guide for general information about Skopje). Across its six millennia of existence, Skopje has witnessed the raise and the fall of Europe’s greatest empires, and most of these powers managed to occupy Skopje for a longer or shorter period of time.

Skopje History – Skopje in Antiquity

The archeological discoveries indicate that the first settlement on the site of modern Skopje was built by people from the Neolithic. The Dardans, a Traco-Ilyrian tribe, were the first to be mentioned by ancient historians as inhabitants of Skopje. When Romans conquered Macedonia, Skopje became a Roman colony (Roman city served by a garrison). Due to the presence of Roman colonists and solders, Skopje was Latinized, and gained municipal rights. Being situated on some major routes, Skopje was among the first cities in the region to be Christianized. By 313, it already had an Episcopal seat. Skopje’s period of calm and economic growth ended with the arrival of the barbarian tribes: the Avars, the Goths and the Huns. In the 6th century AD, Skopje was devastated by a great earthquake, but had a fast recovery, with the help of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. However, when the emperor died, its protectorate was over and Skopje was invaded by the Slavic tribes, which began another chapter in Skopje history.

Skopje History – Skopje under Slavic and Ottoman Rule

The Slavs renamed the town Skopje and transformed it into the capital of the Bulgarian Empire (972-992), a rank that was later taken by Sofia. By the mid 15th century, Skopje was again a capital, this time of the Serbian Empire. The Serbian rule didn’t last long: in 1389, Skopje became a part of the Ottoman Empire. Under the Ottoman regime, Skopje became a flourishing, cosmopolitan medieval city, and many mosques and buildings were constructed. Skopje freed itself from the Ottoman rule only in 1912, just to be immediately conquered by Serbs.

Skopje History – Skopje in the 20th Century

With a short period during the World War II when it was occupied by Bulgarians, Skopje remained a part of Serbia, and later the Yugoslavian Republic. A 6.1 Richter scale earthquake hit the city in 1963, destroying more than 80% of its buildings. Reconstruction plans were drawn by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, and Skopje’s history entered the era of massive industrialization, typical for any communist city. In 1991, with the collapse of Soviet Union, Macedonia became an independent republic, and Skopje regained its status of capital. Today, Skopje concentrates a lot on the country’s economy, education and institutions.

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