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Travel Macedonia - January 15, 2006

January 15 2006

On Macedonia, more precisely, about the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as it has been on the international official documents, in Russia knows, unfortunately, a little bit. Moreover, there are several reasons.

Macedonia - one of the smallest countries in the Balkans, marked on the political map of the world's only serial number. There are no direct flights from Russia to get through Bulgaria or Serbia. Long border with Albania, which in recent years have repeatedly violated by Islamic extremists, the proximity of the flaming war, the Serbian province of Kosovo, does not add enthusiasm to potential tourists from Russia.

Political sympathies of the leadership of Macedonia, as well as many other new states in Eastern Europe, unconditionally given to the West, and it certainly has a certain effect on our relationship.

Life in this country is not easy, as well as the difficult path of statecraft. There are difficulties even with the use of constitutional name. When, after the breakup of Yugoslavia was proclaimed political independence of the Republic of Macedonia, the name of the new state became a stumbling block between the Macedonians and Greeks, as Epirskaya region in northern Greece has historically also called Macedonia. For this reason, it is still not recognized by the entire international community.

In Roman times Macedonia was remote northern province, then part of the Byzantine Empire, Bulgarian Empire, Serbian kingdom. Over three centuries, the Turks held sway here. After the Second World War, Macedonia became a member of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Each of these periods has left its imprint on the life of the region.

As a result of the last census 65% of the 2 million population of Macedonia, Orthodox, 33% - Muslims, mostly Albanians. While on an official level are the claims about the absence of interethnic and interreligious conflict, their symptoms are evident. At household level, the division is expressed most notably, international marriages - a rarity. In 2001, it resulted in a massive armed conflict in the course of which was destroyed by the Orthodox church and a mosque was seriously damaged. However, centuries of coexistence on this land of Christians and Muslims - the objective reality that can not be ignored. Their peaceful coexistence is possible, if it does not become a bargaining chip in the hands of politicians, and vice versa - it unites in solving common problems.

Poignant example of this is a joint Orthodox and Muslims worship the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary in a convent in Kicevo, through the prayers in front of which receive healing from infertility. In the temple where the icon, there is even a special chapel for Muslims who come to worship of the Orthodox shrine. Incidentally, at one time shiigumeniey Kichevskogo monastery was a Russian nun, a spokeswoman for the first wave of emigration.

Complex canonical status of the Orthodox Church of Macedonia, more than forty years ago, the self-proclaimed autocephalous a major obstacle to inter-contacts. Liturgical life of the clergy with the Serbian Orthodox Church, and therefore with the rest of the Local Churches, interrupted. However, the overall millennial Orthodox roots of our people, they belong to the common Slavic family, encourages the hope to look to every step towards convergence.

July this year in the Republic of Macedonia, was first held patriarchal charity program "Voices of Orthodox Russia" was organized by the International Foundation for Unity of Orthodox Peoples. For six days the inhabitants of the Balkan country became acquainted with Russian sacred choral and folk music performed by three teams: the choir of the Moscow Theological Schools running Abbot Nicephorus (Kirzina), Chamber Choir "Classical" International Foundation for Unity of Orthodox Peoples and the Chamber Choir of the Moscow State Musical College named Gnesin.

Along with them came and we - the journalists of the Moscow Orthodox publications. How the Russian choral performances were reported in the media about this already written many publications. Macedonians looked familiar with the Russian spiritual and musical culture, with its young and talented support. But the recognition was mutual. That's how we opened geographically distant and so close in spirit to the country in the southern Balkans and would like to tell.


The city's name, which in the mouths of natives rather sounds like Mean, occurs, as explained to us by the words "the Assembly" - a collection, in this case - a collection of dwellings. The city, founded in ancient times, surrounded by low but steep mountains covered with pine forest, the house rises to their very bottom. Skopje quite clearly divided into Old and New Town. The new part is built up by modern high-rise buildings, even skyscrapers for Moscow standards are not met. In this part there are government agencies, diplomatic mission, including the Russian embassy, banks and shopping malls. It is noteworthy that the working day in most of them begins with eight in the morning, but many are already one o'clock and ends. In the summer, at least, this is a very rational decision - in the midday heat business activity falls, the city empties and only elevated blinds on the windows of apartment houses indicate the presence of their inhabitants. Green in Skopje and a little from the scorching July heat nowhere to hide - partly rescue the traveler just scattered around the city are numerous fountains in the icy jets that can cool the hot face.

The streets come alive only in the evening. From dusk until late night Macedonians indulge favorite pastime - a leisurely conversation over a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or a stack of very strong grape brandy. Most of these conversations going on in the vast, cluttered with flowers loggias, which are an obligatory attribute of any home - and the urban high-rises and a modest farmhouse. Those who allow plenty, filled with tables of numerous street cafes and restaurants. Macedonians are true Christian tradition - on Sundays does not work at anything but the same cafes and restaurants.

Narrow cobbled streets and squat houses of the old part of town - no wonder the bazaar remind districts of Middle Eastern cities. Macedonian historians argue that the "upper town", and the bazaar is located in the highest part of Skopje, around a thousand years. Over three centuries, the Turks settled here, and now this place is densely populated by the Albanian community, which constitutes at least 20 percent of the five hundred thousandth of the population of Skopje. Turkey's heritage - an abundance of mosques, a total of nineteen in the city despite the fact that the existing Orthodox churches little more than a dozen. Virtually anywhere in the Old City can be seen several minarets, at one point we counted them once seven pieces. Turkish architecture has left its indelible imprint on the historic center and its main attractions. Even the National Gallery of Macedonia is situated in the Turkish baths of the XV century.Inside, they certainly were reconstructed, but from the outside to keep the original appearance. The characteristic cluster of eleven round gray domes that resemble a turtle shell form, has become a hallmark of this tourist object.

The predominance of the Muslim element in the Old Town there is everywhere: in the external appearance of houses, with tightly closed windows, completely devoid of the traditional European colorful flower border, in the laconic signs besschislennyh shops - "We Mustafa", "Y Abdullah" in the windows of which even the women Mannequins dressed in hijabs, in the absence of the streets, despite tridtsatigradusnuyu heat, men in shorts and open shirts. However, here in Old Town is the oldest active Orthodox churches - the ancient "Sveti Spas" with magnificent carved iconostasis and the baroque Church of St. Demetrius the Great Martyr. The temple on the site is from the XIII century, and in the XIX century, has rebuilt and served the cathedral for the Metropolitans Skopskih.

Along with the minarets of the entire city can see a huge cross erected on the hill above the town in honor of the 2000 anniversary of the birth of Christ. The height of the cross, mounted in metal, reminiscent of electric poles - 76 meters. When darkness fell on him breaking out hundreds of light bulbs. The same lights mounted on minarets, but due to location, glowing outline Cross dominates them. Crosses, smaller size, installed on many mountain tops of Macedonia. They both indicate the boundaries that separate one area from another.

While we wandered around the city heat began to subside, summer day smoothly flowing into the evening. Signifying his attack, almost simultaneously from all the minarets have brought melancholy, repeatedly reinforced the speakers, the song the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer.

Grand opening concert "Voices of Orthodox Russia" was held, at the insistence of the host country, in the Cathedral of Skopje in the name of St. Clement of Ohrid. St. Clement as his staff and spostniki, coming Slavic pervouchiteley followers of Cyril and Methodius - saints Naum, Sava, Gorazd, Angelyar very revered in Macedonia. There is not one of the monastery in the paintings which were not present to the pictures of these saints, their names are inhabitants of monasteries very often get in the profession.

The cathedral was consecrated in Skopje in 1990, when noted the 1150 anniversary of the birth of St. Clement of Ohrid. Appearance of the temple is unusual for the eyes: in the section he is in the form of the cross, but the original roof in the form of a spherical dome and a detached bell tower visually very similar to a mosque with a minaret. But inside is amazing pilgrim huge four-tiered iconostasis with large icons, where the figures of saints with great skill written on a gold background. The traditional image of Russia in Kyoto on the wooden walls are missing, but along which there are tables on which the expanded set of icons of different sizes, mostly paper. Most often they meet the faces of St. Clement, Martyr Paraskeva, Martyr Demetrius, whom the Macedonians especially revered. There are practices which the pilgrims from Russia are unlikely to find understanding. For example, among the believers is common practice, prayed and shove coins and bank notes rolled over the icon, and sometimes laying on top. In the cathedral in Skopje, I have seen the Virgin Mary icon, even on the face (!) Which lay the coin.

Interest in the concert of Russian choir from the Macedonians was obvious - before it starts in the temple literally was packed. Two hundred seats on folding chairs, arranged in the center of the cathedral, for everyone is not enough: stasidii along the walls, the space of two side chapels, choirs were filled with students, and some of them have stood the entire evening on his feet. The townspeople took the fight with wooden foot honorary ktitorskih stasidy, located near the cathedral solea, which became a makeshift stage. Not all happy with the situation - an elderly overweight women, squeezed on a low wooden steps next to me, angrily repeated: "Do not you could find a place in the city more than the church?". Understand the Macedonian language was not hard, its formation was a major influence Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian, which, for the serious Russian language barrier does not form. It is noteworthy that neither here nor in other cities, the locals just did not notice us foreigners. Often they come to us, emotionally, gesturing, commenting on what is happening and then a lot of embarrassed to discover in an attentive listener foreigner.

Young Artists from Russia, students greeted warmly at the end of the program with our hour and a half choruses arranged a standing ovation. During the six days that same was repeated several times.

Late in the evening return to hotel. The road climbs up the hill, below transition livayas lights, is an evening town, and high above them, separated by rolling mountain mountains floating in the air like a big glowing cross ...

One of the major Christian sites around the capital of Macedonia is the monastery of Saint Panteleimon, like a swallow's nest stuck to the side of the mountain. From this place offers a picturesque view of the valley in which the city spread. The monastery was founded in XI century Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus. To the same period are the only paintings of the monastery church, fragments of which survived until today. Now it is used as a museum. In the visitors' book at the entrance, we almost immediately ran into an enthusiastic record left by our compatriots - Russian painter and architect of the abbot of Antipas Kharitonov Yu.

In the afternoon we head for the Index, a large town about seventy miles from the capital, where he held the second concert program. Lingered on one of the stops, I fell behind a van with reporters. And as it turned out, not in vain. Remainder of the trip had to travel by bus, which traveled choir MDAiS. Evening came the eleventh of July, and in all the churches of our homeland is starting to sound-the presence evening festive thanksgiving in honor of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul. While a few thousand miles from home, it seemed, it remains only to put up with lack of participation in the celebration. From these thoughts I brought the voice of sitting in front of Abbot Nicephorus: "Brethren, while we go, let's celebrated all-night vigil." Just a couple of minutes, enough to singers shook off the dreamy slumber, there was a shout: "Glory to the holy and life-creating and undivided Trinity ...».

What was the service! Outside the windows the bus sped rapidly yellowing fields, vineyards stretching to the horizon, cozy white houses with tiled roofs. On the other side of the highway gaped deep dip, followed by rose gray masses of the Balkan mountains, with wide crevices, overgrown with forest. That's one of them, almost at the bottom of the dip flashed a tiny white house with a tiled roof, and a little farther to the side of the highway we passed a pointer: "Monastery of St. Jovan Bagaslova" with an arrow pointing down.

here inside the bus, poured a familiar melody prednachinatelnogo psalm, neatly and consistently heard voices of famous choir of Russia. During the service was interrupted just once, when the bend appeared a column of military vehicles with an inscription KEYFOR on board. We had left a couple of minutes, but enough to see how each of the hatch armored soldiers peered warily into the helmet and flak jacket, a contraction in the hands of guns, gun aimed towards the mountains. "The Germans" identified one of the seminarians. Later on we were told that peacekeepers from Kosovo often come to rest on the hard life in Macedonia in the Ohrid lake, reputed to be particularly popular resort. And then on the road between the fields and peaceful villages in all looking pretty disturbing chill, maybe for the first time we felt the closeness of a bleeding wound in the Balkans.

To be continued.

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See also:

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