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Skopje, Macadonia (FYROM)
Skopje is the capital and largest city in FYROM, with more than a quarter of the population of the country, as well as the political, cultural, economical and academic centre of the country. It was known from the Roman period on under the name Scupi. The city developed rapidly after the Second World War, but this trend was interrupted in 1963 when it was hit by a disastrous earthquake. Today Skopje is a modern city with a range of cultural monuments.
Skopje is located at 42°0'N 21°26'E, on the upper course of the Vardar River and is located on a major north-south Balkan route between Central Europe and Athens. It has 506,926 inhabitants (2002 census). It is a major centre for the metal-processing, chemical, timber, textile, leather, and printing industries but has suffered many closures since 1991. Industrial development of the city has been accompanied by developments of the trade and banking sectors, as well as an emphasis on the fields of culture and sport.
The site of modern Skopje has been inhabited since at least 3500 BC; remains of Neolithic settlements have been found within the old Kale fortress that overlooks the modern city centre. Skopje was known to the ancient Greeks as Skopia, a name given to a settlement to the northwest of the city centre in the area of the modern suburb of Zloku?ani. The settlement appears to have been founded around the 3rd century BC by the Dardanians, a people on the fringes of the Kingdom of Macedon.
Skupi came under Roman rule after the general Quintus Caecilius Metellus defeated Andriscus of Macedon in 148 BC, being at first part of the Roman province of Macedonia, established in 146 BC. The northward expansion of the empire in the course of the 1st century BC lead to the creation of the province of Moesia in Augustus's times, into which Scupi was incorporated. After the division of the province by Domitian in 86 AD, Scupi was elevated to colony and became a seat of government within the new province of Moesia superior. From 395 AD, it passed into the hands of the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire.
The first known bishop of the city is Perigorius, present at the Council of Sardica (343). Scupi was probably a metropolitan see about the middle of the 5th century (Latin: Archidioecesis Scopiensis). , three years after the Serbian defeat in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, Skopje was captured by the Ottoman Empire. For the next five hundred years it was known by the Turkish name Üsküb or Üsküp. Ottoman Üsküb was the capital of the Vilayet of Kosovo (district of Kosovo), which occupied a much greater area than the modern region of Kosovo.
The city's character changed markedly during this period. The Ottomans imported Islam and built many mosques and other typically Ottoman buildings, such as hammans (baths) and travellers' inns, some of which still exist today. Many Sephardi Jews expelled from Spain also settled in the city, adding to its ethnic variety. The medieval city was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1555, but it soon recovered and prospered. By the 17th century, its population was put at between 30,000-60,000. The Turkish writer Dulgar Dede visited Üsküb during this period and wrote: "I travelled for many years across that country of Rumelia and I saw a many beautiful cities and I was amazed at Allah's blessings, but not one impressed and delighted as much as the heavenly city of Skopje across which passes the Vardar River."
In 1689, however, Skopje was burned by the Austrian general Engelberto d'Ugo Piccolomini – ostensibly to eradicate an outbreak of cholera, but quite possibly to revenge the Ottomans' 1683 attack on Vienna.
The city's fortunes waned over the next 200 years and its population shrank to only about 10,000 people by the middle of the 19th century. It revived after 1873 with the building of the railway from Belgrade to Thessaloniki, which passed through Skopje.
There were no attempts to establish a separate Macedonian church before 1959. The population continued to be counted as Bulgarian and Serbian, depending on their ethnicity. By 1905, Skopje had a population of approximately 32,000, which was comprised of a mixture of ethnic groups, including Albanians, Bulgarians, Roma, Serbs and Turks. The city was the seat of a Greek Orthodox archbishop, an archbishop of the Roman Catholic faith, and a Bulgarian Orthodox bishop. In 1910, the Roman Catholic nun, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, later to become famous as Mother Teresa, was born in Skopje.
The city became a major centre of rebellion against the weakening Ottoman Empire, and in 1903 it was a key player in the unsuccessful Ilinden Rising against Ottoman rule. The Ottomans were expelled from the city in August 12, 1912 by the joint effort of Macedonian and Albanian forces. Several months later the city was captured by the Serbs at the beginning of First Balkan War.
In 1913, the allies in the First Balkan War fell out with each other and launched the Second Balkan War over the division of the spoils. Serbia retained control of Skopje, with the Vardar valley being incorporated into Serbia. This lasted until October 1915, when Bulgaria joined the Central Powers and seized much of Serbian-ruled Macedonia. The city was occupied by Serbia at end of the World War I in 1918, when it became part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1929). During World War II Skopje was liberated by Macedonian and Yugoslav troops, and then joined Yugoslavia in 1944, when tt became the capital of the newly established People's Republic of Macedonia. Following the wars, Skopje and the rest of Yugoslav Macedonia was incorporated into Tito's Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
On 26 July 1963, Skopje was struck by another major earthquake, measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale, which killed over 1,000 people and made another 120,000 homeless. Eighty percent of the city was destroyed by the earthquake, and numerous cultural monuments were seriously damaged. The losses from the quake amounted to a massive 150% of Macedonia's GNP at the time and 15% of Yugoslavia's GNP. A major international relief effort saw the city rebuilt quickly, though much of its old Ottoman aspect was lost in the process. The ruins of the old Skopje train station which was destroyed in the earthquake remain today as a memorial to the victims along with an adjacent museum.
Under Yugoslav rule Skopje grew rapidly and became a major industrial centre for the southern Balkans region and south eastern Europe. In 1991 the Yugoslav federation broke up and Skopje became the capital of the independent Republic of Macedonia. Greece objected to the use of the name Macedonia by the new state, and imposed an economic blockade on the country, which severely damaged Macedonia's economy by closing its access to the sea through Thessaloniki (Solun). The blockade was lifted in 1995 following an agreement between the two governments on the name issue which still hasn't been resolved.
The church of Saint Panteleimon in Nerezi near Skopje is a superb example of the Comnenian art on the all-Byzantine level. Commissioned by several members of the royal Comnenus family, the church was not finished until 1164. Nerezi is famous for its frescoes, representing a pinnacle of the 12th-century trend of intimacy and spirituality. They are often compared with similarly delicate works by Giotto, who worked 140 years later. These murals underwent serious 19th-century overpainting but were restored lately.
A ancient Roman aqueduct survives to the north of the city. One of stone bridges connecting both side of Vardar River dates back to the reign of Stefan Dušan. This bridge is not to be confused with the more famous Stone Bridge in the city square built under the patronage of Sultan Mehmed III the Conqueror between 1451 and 1469, today featured as the emblem of the city of Skopje. Within Skopje, there are notable buildings from the Ottoman rule such as the Kuršumli Han (medieval Turkish inn) and several mosques.
Of these mosques Mustapha Pasha's Mosque is undoubtedly one of the must beautiful buildings of Islamic religious architecture in Skopje. Located on a hill facing Fort Kale, this mosque dominates the whole surroundings and was built in the last decade of the 15th century when the military spahi system of Osmanli Turkish feudalism had reached the peak of its development. It is an endowment of Mustapha-pasha, an eminent figure in the Turkish state during the rule of Sultan Baiazid II and Sultan Selim I. The year of Mustapha Pasha's death is engraved on the entrance of his mausoluem, which is located by the mosque. It shows him to have died in 1519. The mausoleum and the mosque were both badly damaged in Skopje's 1963 earthquake and restoration and conservation work was started in 1968. The interior of the mosque, like that of the porch, is mostly decorated with stylized plants. On the walls of the praying space are calligraphic inscriptions (lehve) with the names of Allah, Mohammed and his followers (Ebubekira, Ali, Osman and Omer) and quotations from the Qu'ran. The painted decorations are more recent, mainly from 1933 when the mosque was renovated. This can be seen from intense blue and black colour of the ornaments, which are often a confusing mass of colour.
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