Skopje | history & culture

Skopje | history & cultureSkopje | history & culture

"Skopje and it’s surroundings have a wealthy historical and cultural life. It has been populated since the pre-historic period. The entire valley of Skopje has been inhabited since at least 3.500 BC."

Skopje in antiquity

Remains of Neolithic settlements have been found within the old Kale fortress that overlooks the modern city centre, as well as at Tumba Madzari (the statue of the Goddes Mother) and Govrlevo (the statue of Adam from Govrlevo or Adam from Macedonia, which is more than 6.000 years old) archelogical site.

Skopje was mentioned for the first time by the Greek geographer Claudius Ptolomeius, under its ancient name Scupi in the 3rd century BC. It was located at the confluence of the rivers Lepenec and Vardar. According to the scientists, in the ancient times Scupi was taken the Trybals and later in was controlled by the Dardans, who were an Illyrian tribe. In the year 148 BC, the Romans came to the Balkans, conquered Scupi and settled the Roman army here. Scupi was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 518 AD, the first of the three disastrous earthquakes that leveled this city. In his chronicle Comes Marcelinius described this tragedy:

"... In just a moment 24 towns were destroyed. Scupi, the capital of Dardania, was leveled completely as if it had been sacked by the most terrible conquerors. A crack of 30 miles long and 12 feet wide appeared, gushing hot stream."

Early middle ages (Byzantines and Slavs) in Skopje

During the Byzantine Emperor Justinijan 1st, the Skopje valley got a new city center called Justinijana Prima, after it's founder the Emperor Justinijan, whose family was from the Taor village (in Skopje surroundings). During Justinijan 1st, Slavs started to invade these areas. The tribe Beregeziti (also known as Berziti) was later recognized as rulers in the Skopje region.

During the period of the medieval Macedonian state lead by Samoil (976-1018), Skopje retained its prestige although it was neither capital nor administrative centre. During the reign of Samoil, Skopje was commanded by a Roman who returned from Constantinople. Later on in 1004, during a battle between Samoil's soldiers and the Byzantine, he betrayed the city to the Byzantine Emperor Vasilius 2nd.

In 1040 there was the rebellion of Petar Deljan, nephew of the Emperor Samoil, who fought very bravely for Skopje and he even succeeded in returning the city, but only for a short period. The next rebellion was in 1072, led by Georgi Vojteh. But his success only lasted for a short period also. In 1081 Skopje got a new master. The Normans, led by Robert Guiscard, arrived via Durres (city in Albania) and attacked and sacked Skopje.

In 1093 the tribal head of the Serbs, Vukan, interrupted the domination of the Normans for a short period, and then the Norman Duke Boemund Tarenian again subjected the whole of Polog valley, including Skopje. Many conquerors followed him in the streets of this city. The first of them was the Bulgarian Emperor Kaloyan (1204). Three years later the master of Prosek, Dobromir Strez, arrived in Skopje and remained until 1215. After him, again the Bulgarians, Byzantines, the Serbs. The fate of Skopje was similar to the fate of Macedonia: constantly to change masters.

Middle ages and the Ottomans in Skopje

Once again in its rich history Skopje became a capital, this time of the mighty Serbian state of Dusan Stefan. Dusan was crowned Emperor in Skopje in 1346. Another important event took place in 1349: Dusan's Legal Code was proclaimed.

On January 19th 1392 Skopje fell under the Turks and very soon became Uskub. Up to 1453 Skopje was a throne of the Turkish sultans and later it developed in a significant craftsmen and commercial centre. Data show that already in 1469 it had a market place with many shops and a caravan-serai visited by many merchants and other travelers. Skopje was stricken by a new catastrophe in 1555. Another earthquake ruined many houses. Some historians say that in the period between 15th and 17th centuries Skopje was one of the richest towns in the Balkans and describe it as a large city.

After the Karpos rebellion was pushed off and the leader killed in Skopje, the Austrian general Picolomini captured on October 25th, 1689 and later decided to burn down Skopje, due to a cholera epidemic. Up until the half of the 19th century, Skopje could not recover back.

A new chapter in the history of Skopje was the construction of the Salonica-Skopje railway in 1873, on the other bank of the river (then in a peripheral part). Skopje then became a modern railway town, confirming its importance as a traffic centre.

Skopje during the Balkan and World wars and after

After the Second Balkan war, on October 12th 1912, the Turks were driven away from the city, but the Serbian army remained. During the First World war (1914-1918), Skopje was occupied by the Bulgarian, German and Austrian armies. Terror and crimes increased in violence. In the period between the World wars, Skopje has expanded on the other bank of the Vardar river. The area from the Stone Bridge to the Railway Station became urban.

The city became a seat of a larger district in southern Yugoslavia, Vardarska Banovina, (Vardar Macedonia, parts of Kosovo and Metohija and southeastern Serbia). During the Second World War (1941-1945), Skopje became one of the first victim-cities, it was bombed by Fascist planes on April 6th, 1941 and the next day was captured by Bulgarian army. They spread terror over the Macedonians, forcing them to use Bulgarian names and speaking Macedonian was strictly forbidden. About 7,200 Jews were deported from Skopje and Macedonia on March 11th, 1943. The day to remember was November 13th, 1944, the liberation of Skopje. Immediately after the liberation, the Second Session of the Antifascist Assembly of National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM) was held in Skopje. This session in Skopje, laid down the broad principles if the Macedonian Republic within the Yugoslav federal system.