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Macedonia - Culture

Macedonia Culture

Of Macedonia's present population, 66% are Macedonian Slavs who bear no relation whatsoever to the Greek-speaking Macedonians of antiquity. Many ethnographers consider the Macedonians ethnic Bulgarians, and the official position of the Bulgarian government is that Macedonians are Bulgarians, a view that only a minority of Macedonians support. Ethnic Albanians make up one of the largest minority groups. The 50,000 Macedonians living in northern Greece are subject to assimilatory pressures by the Greek government, which calls them 'Slavophone Greeks'.

Macedonian is a South Slavic language divided into western and eastern dialects. The Macedonian literary language is based on the central dialects of Veles, Prilep and Bitola. Macedonian shares all the characteristics that separate Bulgarian from the other Slavic languages, evidence that it's closely related to Bulgarian. The Cyrillic alphabet, predominant in Macedonia, is based on the alphabet developed by two Thessaloniki brothers, St Cyril and St Methodius, in the 9th century. It was taught by their disciples at a monastery in Ohrid, from whence it spread across the eastern Slavic world. Street names are printed in Cyrillic script only; road signs use both Cyrillic and Latin scripts.

In Macedonian folk music, the drone of the gajda (bagpipes) and chords of the tambura (two-stringed lute) provide a background for the kaval (flute) and tapan (a huge cylindrical drum). The most famous and popular Macedonian folk dance is called Teskoto (The Hard One). It is a male dance for which music is provided by the tapan and the zurla (large pipes). It starts very slowly and gets progressively faster. This dance symbolises the national awakening of the Macedonian people and is performed with dancers dressed in traditional Macedonian costumes.

Turkish-style grilled mincemeat is available almost everywhere, and there are self-service cafeterias in most towns for the less adventurous. Balkan burek (cheese or meat pie) and yoghurt make for a cheap breakfast. Watch for Macedonian gravce na tavce (beans in a skillet) and Ohrid trout.

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