Macedonia (Macedonian: Македонија),
officially the Republic of
Macedonia, is a country located in the central Balkan
peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia,
from which it declared independence in 1991.
The country's capital is Skopje,
with 506,926 inhabitants according to a 2002 census. Other cities include Bitola,
Kumanovo, Prilep, Tetovo, Ohrid, Veles, Štip, Kočani, Gostivar and Strumica.
Macedonia has a total area of 25,713 km2 (9,928 sq mi). It is a landlocked country
and has more than 50 lakes and sixteen mountains higher than 2,000 m
(6,562 ft). Three large lakes — Lake Ohrid, Lake Prespa and Dojran Lake — lie on the southern borders, bisected by
the frontiers with Albania and Greece. Ohrid is considered to be one of the
oldest lakes and biotopes in the world. Macedonia also has scenic
mountains. They belong to two different mountain ranges: the first is the Šar Mountains that continues to the West
Vardar/Pelagonia group of mountains (Baba Mountain, Nidže, Kozuf and Jakupica), also known as
the Dinaric range. The second range is the Osogovo–Belasica mountain chain, also known as the Rhodope range.
Macedonia has a transitional climate from
Mediterranean to continental. The summers are hot and dry and the winters are
moderately cold. The flora of Republic of Macedonia is represented with
around 210 families, 920 genera, and around 3,700 plant species. The most abundant group are the flowering plants with around 3,200 species, which is followed by mosses (350 species) and ferns (42). According to the World Wide Fund for
Nature(WWF) and Digital Map of European Ecological Regions by the European Environment
Agency, the territory of the Republic can be subdivided into four ecoregions: the Pindus Mountains mixed forests, Balkan mixed forests, Rhodopes mixed forests and Aegean sclerophyllous and mixed forests.
The fauna of Macedonian forests is abundant and
includes bears, wild boars, wolves, foxes, squirrels, chamois and deer. The
lynx is found, although very rarely, in the mountains of western Macedonia,
while deer can be found in the region of Demir Kapija. Forest birds include the
blackcap, the grouse, the black grouse, the imperial eagle and the forest owl. The fauna of Lake
Ohrid is a relict of an earlier era and the lake is widely known for its
letnica trout, lake whitefish, gudgeon, roach, podust, and pior,
as well as for certain species of snails of a genus older than 30 million
years; similar species can only be found in Lake Baikal.
Macedonia is a parliamentary
democracy with an executive government composed of a coalition of parties from the unicameral legislature (Parliament) and an independent judicial branch with a constitutional court.
Macedonia is a member of the UN and the Council of Europe. Since December 2005 it has also been a candidate for
joining the European Union and
has applied for NATO membership.