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Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Macedonia

Ethnicity

Most people living in Macedonia today are Macedonian, although nearly a quarter of the population is ethnically Albanian and smaller minorities exist as well. Macedonians today (not to be confused with ancient Macedonians, who were more closely related to the ethnic Greeks) are ethnically Southern Slavs, most closely related to the Bulgarians, in fact some would argue are ethnically identical to the Bulgarians (although the Macedonians don't believe this is entirely accurate). The Macedonians also have small traces of Greek and Romanian as well.

Language

Most of the country's ethnic Macedonians speak Macedonian, while most of the ethnic Albanians speak Albanian, both of which are official languages. Macedonian is a language in the southern Slavic family that is almost identical to Bulgarian, although slight differences do exist; Macedonian is written in the Cyrillic script. Albanian is a very unique language with no close linguistic relatives that is written in the Latin alphabet.

English and other popular international languages are uncommonly spoken in Macedonia, although they are being taught in greater numbers. With each year more young people are gaining a basic understanding of English.

Religion

The religious divide in Macedonia is fairly consistent with the ethnic and linguistic divide as most Macedonians are Christian Orthodox, but most Albanians are Muslims.

Orthodoxy is a Christian religion that claims to be the most loyal to the Christian faith and religion as it was described by Jesus and the Gospels in the New Testament. Christianity, including Orthodoxy, was founded after the death of Jesus in about 30-33 AD; various branches of Orthodoxy were officially recognized by governments long before Catholicism was recognized in the Roman Empire.

Orthodoxy and Catholicism have many of the same beliefs; both believe that there is a single God who created everything and a savior, the son of God, Jesus Christ who is the forgiver of sins. However, Orthodoxy is decentralized so each bishop oversees their local country or region, giving each orthodox country a different leader. In this way, no bishop has more power than any other, meaning the tenants and interpretations of the faith remain relatively unchanged. These beliefs are based on the teachings of the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, in particular the life and teachings of Jesus, which is found in the gospels (in the New Testament).

Islam (the name of the religion, whose followers are called Muslims) is a monotheistic religion, whose holy book is called the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the word of God spoken through the prophet Muhammad from 609-632 CE (Common Era is preferred over AD (Anno Domini or "year of the Lord") since the Islamic world doesn't believe Jesus was the messiah). Islam believes Muhammad was the last prophet sent to earth by God, the last in a long line of prophets, which includes Moses, Abraham, and Jesus among others.

Muslims follow five pillars of their faith: testimony, prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage. These pillars, and other tenants of their faith, can give great structure to their lives as some foods, like pork, are forbidden and every Muslim is expected to pray five times a day. However, the level of participation in each of these pillars and to what degree Islam influences an individual's life varies from person to person and community to community.

This page was last updated: May, 2014