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Despite living in the same city and divided only by a river, ethnic violence continues to remain a danger in this small country in the heart of Europe [Al Jazeera]
Al Jazeera World

Macedonia: A River Divides

Exploring simmering tensions between the country’s Slavic-speaking majority and its ethnic Albanian minority.

Filmmaker: Mohamed Kenawi

The Vardar River runs through the centre of Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, a landlocked country in the heart of the Balkans.

The river is the border between two worlds – one inhabited mainly by Macedonia’s Slavic-speaking majority, and the other mainly by the ethnic Albanian minority. In bold terms, one side is Christian and Muslim; one ‘westernised’ and the other more oriental.

Gazmend Emini, 29, a Muslim of Albanian origin who was born in Skopje, says: “Macedonian society is divided by cultural traditions, political and religion .… This all creates difficulties of integration within our community.”

Such a division in a city at the heart of Europe is surprising, yet very real.

As journalist Petar Arsovski puts it: “It’s hard to confirm the origins of the Macedonian people. Ask 10 people they will give you 10 different answers. We are not sure if we’re descendants of Alexander the Great. Some think we descend from Gotse Delchev, who led the revolution against the Ottoman.”

Earlier this year Macedonia witnessed its worst outbreak of communal violence since the country verged on civil war in 2001. Dozens were wounded in two weeks of clashes between ethnic Macedonian and Albanian youths.

Today, the country remains one of Europe’s poorest countries, with high unemployment rates, and remains potentially volatile.

Age-old tensions remain raw and ever-present in this former Yugoslav republic, which has bid to join the EU.

Macedonia: A River Divides explores the fault lines between the two communities who live across the river from each other in the same city, and shows how ethnic violence continues to remain a danger in this small country in the heart of Europe.


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