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Macedonians in Albania

  • Profile

    The 2011 population census recorded 5,512 self-declared Macedonians in Albania, comprising 0.20 percent of the country’s population. The Macedonian minority was recognized only after the Second World War. It resides in the Prespa and Golloborda (or Golo Brdo in Macedonian) areas, and in the village of Vërnik. These areas are adjacent to the territory of North Macedonia. The areas where Macedonians live are extremely poor, and many survive as day labourers in the Republic of North Macedonia. Macedonians in the Prespa region are Eastern Orthodox Christian, and those in Golloborda are predominantly Muslim.

    Historical context

    The part of Macedonia known as Mala Prespa was given to Albania by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Albania is the only neighbouring country that recognizes the status of the Macedonian ethnic minority but restricts it to the region of Mala Prespa. Teaching in Macedonian has taken place in this region since 1945 in elementary education, for which textbooks have been issued by the state. It is expected that the right to education in a mother tongue, according to international standards, will also be extended to pupils of Macedonian ethnic affiliation in other parts of Albania. The introduction of education in Macedonian in secondary education is also expected. In 2022, the governments of Albania and North Macedonia signed a number of cooperation agreements, including in the field of education.

    There are several organized and active associations of Macedonians in Albania, but the opportunities for strengthened political representation are small because the state does not financially support their organization. It was as late as 1993 that the first newspaper in Macedonian, the journal Mir (Peace), appeared.

    Current issues

    The four Macedonian organizations in Albania, Mir (Peace), Gora, MED (Macedonian Aegean Society) and Prespa, boycotted the 2001 census in Albania, because there was no option for Macedonian in the census list. In 2003, the Association of Macedonians in Albania (consisting of the four organizations) conducted their own census of the number of Macedonians in Albania. It estimated a population of between 120,000 and 350,000, while the Albanian state only officially recognizes 5,000. The census that took place in 2023 should hopefully provide updated and more accurate figures for Albania’s Macedonian minority population.

    In its 2005 report the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) recorded complaints by ethnic Macedonians that not all sections of their community had access to mother tongue education. This was due to the fact that they live outside areas previously categorized as ‘minority zones’ during the communist era. ECRI notes that, under Albanian law, minority-language schools are only established if a sufficient number of parents must request such a school and they must be recognized as belonging to that ethnicity. The Albanian authorities indicated to ECRI that they check the civil registry in order to determine ethnicity. However, members of minority groups living outside of areas previously categorized as ‘minority zones’ have difficulties registering their ethnic belonging in the civil registry.

    ECRI furthermore recommended that the Albanian authorities ensure that people are not denied the possibility of having their ethnic identity officially recognized simply due to their geographic location in the country outside of areas previously categorized as minority zones.

    In 2005 most Macedonian organizations united into the political party Macedonian Alliance for European Prosperity, which participated in the 2007 elections.

    Along with Albania’s other minorities, Macedonians have benefitted from the 2017 Law on Protection of National Minorities. Actual implementation through the necessary secondary legislation has been delayed. For instance, in areas where minorities have traditionally resided or constitute at least 20 per cent of the local population, local municipal councils are authorized to put up signs in the relevant minority language; however, the bylaw for getting such processes started has yet to be adopted. Bilingual signage is currently only being used in three municipalities: Dropuli, Finiq (where ethnic Greeks are in the majority) and Pustec (where ethnic Macedonians constitute the majority). Macedonian minority representatives have complained that there are many other municipalities where their population size meets the 20 per cent threshold; they also say that the current bilingual signs in Pustec are outdated. Bilingual signs are important as they support the preservation of cultural heritage and provide vital acknowledgement of the long history and presence of minorities – in this case Albania’s Macedonian community.

Updated February 2024

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