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The Process of inter-ethnic integration in Macedonia and Obstacles

Author: İmer Mislimi – 2012


 The Republic of Macedonia is one of the countries in the Balkan region that has a cosmopolit population. The population consists of various ethnic groups (Macedonian, Albanian, Turks, Romanian and others). In this multi ethnic strucutre inter ethnic integration is becoming an important issue for Macedonia. Because among various ethnic groups in Macedonia the lack of communication is the most important problem. There are also many major obstacles that affect the inter ethnic relation and causes disintegration among various group in Macedonia. These are the educational system of Macedonia and the media in Macedonia. The aim of the current educational system of Macedonia is to improve the sense of multiculturalism, developing tolerance and cooperation among students. But, the educational system isn’t able to achieve these aims. This is because the separation of schools is still countinuing and monolingual schools are increasing every year. Most parents do not prefer sending their children to schools where they are a minority. Also curriculum is an obstacle. There are still many books that contain nationalistic discourse and stereotypes. The revision of the curriculum has not been completed yet. The media in Macedonia is another negative factor for integration. Because media is a source that spreads stereotypes through manipulating communities.

The aim of this study is to present the main problem called ‘’ interethnic integration’’ which affects stability and public security in Macedonia, its results and consequences with the purpose to recommend a policy which Macedonia should take in order to  achieve inter ethnic integration. The methodology includes international organizations reports, official Macedonian documents, media coverage as well as interviews and personal interviews.

General overview of Macedonia

The Republic of Macedonia is a multiethnic country. Its population of 2.2 million is composed of a variety of national and ethnic groups, the most numerous being Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Roma, Serbs and Vlachs. All citizens of Macedonia are equal under the law.[1]This cosmopolite population structure of Macedonia may seem to be a solid soil for intensive inter-cultural and inter-ethnic communication, but on the contrary there are many issues among ethnic groups. .  After the declaration of independence in 1991, inter-ethnic  issues were increasing rapidly among the various groups in Macedonia. In fact, minor ethnic groups were dissatisfied in the first decade of the independence of Macedonia, the  dissatisfaction was due to the constitutional structure of the republic of Macedonia. This culminated into an ethnic conflict in 2001, which played an important role in shaping inter-ethnic development. Until the ethnic conflict, there were no serious issues among ethnic groups. After, the independence of Macedonia, ethnic minorities – mostly Albanians- were struggling to gain more rights and having a voice in the administration. For example, The first decade of independence of Macedonia .., ‘’Albanian political leaders rejected the 1991 constitution of the newly declared Republic of Macedonia on the grounds that it relegated the Albanians to the status of second- class citizen by treating them as a minority, which in turn went against the Albanian community’s perception of itself as constituting not a minority but a part of another, Albanian, majority.’’[2]The ethnic conflict in 2001, went on for seven months, this became the turning point of inter-ethnic relations. When asked about communications between students from different ethnic groups in the past, the parents from different ethnicities said there had never been such problems. They claimed that politics had changed since Macedonia’s independence and people had been encouraged by politicians to think badly of one another. Most of them think that the conflict in 2001 is the factor of disintegration while there was an atmosphere of dialogue among different ethnic groups. After this event, division emerged and ties were severed among ethnic groups. Both division and miscommunication gave way to prejudice and also made it more difficult to have good inter-ethnic integrations in Macedonia.  There are two main reasons that affect poor inter ethnic integration and pave the way for stereotypes. The first one is the educational system of Macedonia and the second one is the media. The education system of Macedonia will be analyzed by its group of schools, curriculum and teachers.

1_) The Eductional system of Macedonia

In multi ethnic countries, the relations between different ethnic groups, the so called inter ethnic relations have great significance in the process of providing stability, peace and inter-ethnic integration. In the process of enhancing inter-ethnic relations, education plays an essential role. The current educational system of Macedonia provides multilingual education. This educational system is based on the amendment VIII which was replaced by article 48 of the Macedonian republic. According to Amendment VIII ’’… members of communities have the right to teach in their language in primary and secondary education, as determined by law. In schools where education is carried out in another language, the Macedonian language is also studied.’’[3] The constitution allows primary and secondary education in ethnic community language, curriculum exists in Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish and Serbian. Albanian students can attend an Albanian university ( Tetovo State )  Education, and pedagogy and unit in the state university of Skopje.[4] The educational system of Macedonia is the key player in building a healthy multi-ethnic society. But, unfortunately, the present situation of Macedonia regarding these questions: multi ethnic integration, breaking stereotypes and prejudices is a really pat positions meaning.[5] The consequences of the new system is the rise in separation of schools, students and classes along ethnic lines.  As it can be seen, this type of education system makes it more difficult to provide inter-ethnic relations.

 1.1_) The effects of separation of schools

There are many malfunctions in the Macedonian educational system. The first one is division of schools. As I mentioned above, legally minorities have the right to take education in their language. Parents would prefer to enroll their children into a monolingual rather than mixed school. This preference causes to decrease in number of mixed schools. Because, parents do not send their children to a school where another ethnic group is the majority. ‘’Parents are also guilty because they fear that their children are not safe in an environment which includes ‘’others’’ and they pass on these fears to the children’’[6]      Therefore, in monolingual schools students do not have interaction with other students from different groups and they do not have friends or classmates from different ethnic groups. Also in mixed schools interaction among students from different ethnic groups are limited. Interaction is occasional and in most cases limited to sports and computer games.[7] An Albanian student says ‘’ We do sports. But we do not go out together – that is not an interaction, but an activity- one against the other ‘’[8]. This statement is an appropriate explanation to see the level of interaction between them. The existence of monolingual schools and the lack of joint activities among students in mixed schools pave way for  disintegration among students. Because this separate environment isn’t able to provide opportunity to students to know each other. It clears way for them to be offensive towards other students and being under the influence of prejudices.

1.2_) Curricula

The second one is curriculum. As the most important root to educate students in tolerance and preparedness for life in a multi ethnic society, curriculum is essential for establishing interethnic relation and interethnic integration. One of the principles of the current framework for primary education is related to multiculturalism in education. The main goal of this framework is to establish child friendly schools where children will not witness discrimination and where respect for differences will be nurtured. In this direction, the text books are being revised by the ministry of education. But despite the works done towards this there are many books that include stereotypes and nationalistic discourses, these can affect students negatively towards other students. We could for example Macedonian, Albanian text books as example to illustrate the effects of the text books on students. there are two example books in Macedonia that contain nationalistic discourse.  For example, pupils in grade 3 are given a poem entitled  ‘A Book is for Reading’, by Makedonka Jancevska, which includes the lines: …”You have a country, a fatherland / Grow strong to defend it…Flowers are for loving / Cousins are for defending.”[9]

On the other hand, there are also some text books in Albanian that include nationalistic discourses. For example; In the poem ‘Slavery’, the author connects the love for the fatherland with the desire for freedom. ‘’  “Dear fatherland/I love you the way you are But when I see you free/I will love you even more…”[10] in a similar way, an Albanian poet writes: ‘’ “Fatherland! You are very dear to me. You are my mother, sister and my brother. You are more important to me than everything that surrounds us. You are the best that exists in this world…”[11]

We can find many books which include nationalistic discourses and stereotypes. But, the examples that are given are enough.


1.3_) Teachers

As usual, assimilation is a phobia to minorities.  Teachers are another factor in this case. Teachers have their ideology and thoughts which are formed by their family, environment and education. Most teachers use nationalistic speech in the class. In this way, they are aiming to form nationalist minds. ‘’ There are some teachers that spread prejudices in front of students. For instance, languages and history teachers speak against Macedonians, Albanians, Turks or Romanians. When the child or student listens to his teachers’ statement about other communities, they accept their teachers’ nationalistic view easily’’[12].    There are also many students which are minority in the school a suffer due to  these kind of teachers. This is because, teachers affect their students and encourage them to be offensive towards other students. According to a pupil in a mixed school ‘’ There are teachers who  do not want us and when anything negative happens at school the teacher blames it on us only in front of the other students. ‘’[13] As it can be seen, division of schools and curriculum are not the only obstacles in the process of developing awareness towards the meaning of peace, tolerance and cooperation between students. Also Teachers have a big negative influence.  Especially the students who are minorities in mixed schools, they are under pressure. The consequence of such teachers’ behavior, is that it provides prejudices and an unsecured area. Because, the students in such an environment tend to fight each other.

2_) Media in Macedonia

Another main negative factor in the process of inter-ethnic integration is Macedonian media. Macedonia has more than hundred media outlets, including private nationwide television broadcasters and the public MRTV, local and regional television stations, radio stations and daily news papers. Media in Macedonia consisted by 77 TV broadcasting licenses, 16 national satellites, 10 regional and 47 local TV channels. On the other hand, there are 77 radio stations broadcasting 77 programs. Also there are newspapers, broadcasting both in Macedonian and Albanian languages. Dnevnik, Vest Utrinski Vesnik, Vecer and Nova Makedonia are leading Macedonian languages newspapers. Lajm, zhurnal plus, Koha and Fakti are leading Albanian language newspaper.  Considering marker size, most medias in Macedonia are not economically viable and they depend on government subsidies, campaigns or other business interests of their owner.[14] According to a media worker, economic sustainability and pressure from various groups are negative factors that weaken the influence of media. Because of that, media is not able to act freely and always feels under pressure. ‘’ The Media is a tool for some groups in Macedonia. They mostly use it for personal interest….’’ As a powerful tool media that can influence communities, could be an obstacle in this case.

Table 1‘’ A double murder was recorded today in Gostivar, where two teenagers suffered. This ugly act was thought to have been done for completely banal reasons and surprising that it was committed by a police officer who was not duty.’’ Zhurnal (28 february 2012 ) 

We can take the last murder in Gostivar as an example to show the negativity of medias. While looking at the medias’ attitude regarding the murder that occurred in Gostivar, we can observe great differences in the way they each related the issue.. We can take the Zhurnal and Sitel’s broadcasting about the murder in Gostivar as examples. As we can see in table1[15], Zhurnal newspaper states that the murder occurred due to banal reasons. It also mentions that while it occurred the policeman was off duty.

Table 2”     From what we learned, the police officer is stationed in Mazdracha. He was not on duty at the time he committed the crime. According to preliminary information, police yesterday went to the garden to take the child. When arrived Vardar Quay Street, adjacent furniture showroom “Montenegro”, stopped in order to park the car. Then between him and the other four Gostivar caused controversy around the parking lot, which soon led to a fight. At that point the officer, probably with the intention to defend himself, drew his gun and began shooting, first in the air and then on four people, with two of them fatally shot. The Boys Village still gave signs of life were placed in a vehicle to be taken to hospital but by pochinale.Policijata Gostivar, along with representatives of the late Court inspected the site of the double murder.           Sitel  (28-02-2012) 

Vest newspaper which is  in Macedonian language related the murder differently (Table.2)[16]. According to the news the murder was caused by parking issues. While the  policeman and civilians were arguing about the parking issue, the policeman shot first in the air and then the 4 civilians. The media in Macedonian language related the police’s action as self defence. Contrary, to the Albanian media which said it was due to banal reasons and not due to an important reason and also stated that the policeman was off duty.

The Difference between news, broadcasting from different media confuses the community. This is because there is one story but different narrations.

The ethnic groups in Macedonia; have right to have media such as TV channels, radio stations, newspapers ect.. Thus, everyone takes daily news on their media and they take information from certain perspective. According to many researches young people from different ethnic groups do not know other languages local languages. This is the reason why they do not following other media which is broadcasting in different language. ‘’ I don not prefer reading and following other media which broadcasting in other local languages. Because I know that they do not reflect the truth.’’[17] Because of that, taking information and following daily news from certain media makes people having stereotypes. In this way; people can be manipulated easily..


The disorganizations of both media and the educational system of Macedonia makes it hard to achieve interethnic integration and develop interethnic relations between various groups in Macedonia.

Despite works towards the amelioration in the Macedonian educational system things such as the revision of  the curriculum and the development of multiculturalism. current education system of Macedonia still have negative influences on promoting interethnic relation and integration among students. The major obstacle is separated schools. The environment of monolingual schools and mixed schools are not able to provide interaction between students. This situation is due to the lack of opportunity to make friends with students from  different ethnic groups in monolingual schools while for students studying in m,xed schools it is due to the limited communication among students of various groups and the lack of joint activiesThe next step which has to be taken is the regulation of the curriculum. In the process of analyzing the text books, there are many text books that provide stereo types and nationalistic discourses rather than encouraging the multiculturalism and acceptances of differences. Especially, these text books are being used by primary schools. The pupil in early ages they could be under the influences of stereotypes. Offensive discourses are dominated by war description and protecting the mother land.

As I mentioned above, teachers are negative another factor, that influence students badly. Many students are suffered from this situation and they are unsatisfied. According to student, this type of teacher make them to feel unsecured. Because of that, they would prefer to study where they are majority in the school rather than studying other school where other communities are majority. Also parent think like that. The preferences of student and parent cause increasing monolingual schools in Macedonia. But, it is really difficult to take teachers’ actions and speeches under control. This is because these actions are individual

The effect of media in Macedonia is un-ignorable.  The medias are divided along ethnic lines in Macedonia. Leading medias are Albanian and Macedonian. Most people follow the media which broadcasts in their language. According to many interviews with people from different groups, they do not trust other medias. They think that other medias will always try to manipulate them. Because of that, having mistrust towards the media pave way to stereo types. Moreover, in this way people are being easily manipulated. We can see the effects of media in the process of murdering in Gostivar. Because media have represented the murdering in a different way.


Educational System of Macedonia

  • The mixed schools would have been supported rather than bilingual schools. Because, In monolingual schools students can not establish friendship with other student.
  • In the mixed schools an atmosphere which lets students from different ethnic groups interact should be provided. For example, joint activities among students.
  • Integrated schools could be the most appropriate solution promoting the inter ethnic relation and inter ethnic integration among students
  • The curriculum needs to be revised more carefully. There are many nationalistic discourses and stereotypes in the books. These have to be removed from books.
  • On the other hand, the context of the text book must be formed to improve inter-ethnic relation and understand other communities.
  • Establishing a complaint mechanism for the teachers that spread prejudices through speech and action is becoming more important. With this students can get advantages to stay away from such teachers’ pressure.


  • Media executives and workers must be training bout interethnic relation and promoting mutual desk
  • Media companies could employed workers from various groups.


MACEDONİA : TEN YEAR AFTER THE CONFLİCT. Europe Report N°212 , Internatıonal Crisis group, 2011.—%20Ten%20Years%20after%20the%20Conflict.pdf

Violeta Petroska-Beska, Mirjana Najcevska, Nikolina Kenig, Safet Ballazhi, and Ana Tomovska. STUDY ON MULTICULTURALISM AND INTER-ETHNIC RELATION IN EDUCATION. Skopje: UNICEF Country Office, 2009.

Interview with ljubica Grozdanovska conducted by sam sagacıtı






Veton Zekoli, Project manager at Nansen Dialogue Centre

Gonul Bayrakta, Director of Primary school

Erdem ahmet, journalist

no name – with a pupil 6 grade in Primary school.

no name – With a pupil 8 grade in primary school



[3]  Ohri framework egreement

[4]  MACEDONİA : TEN YEAR AFTER THE CONFLİCT. Europe Report N°212 , Internatıonal Crisis group, 2011.—%20Ten%20Years%20after%20the%20Conflict.pdf p.17

[5] Interview with Veton  Zekoli

[6] Interview with ljubica Grozdanovska conducted by sam sagacıtı


[8] age

[9] Age page 36

[10] Age page 40

[11] Age page 40

[12] İnterview with veton zekoli

[13] İnterview with pupils study in a mixed school 6th c


[15] Taken from Zhurnal web sıte.,

[16] Taken from vest news paper web site,

[17] İnterview with a person


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