A map of North Macedonia The landlocked country of North Macedonia (its official name since February 2019, following an agreement with Greece which had disputed its previous name, "Macedonia") lies in the heart of the Balkan peninsula. Until 1991 it was one of several republics that made up Yugoslavia. Running through the middle of the country is the green, fertile valley of the River Vardar. These lowland plains have the richest farmland. On either side of the Vardar, the land rises steeply to rugged mountain ranges. In the southeastern corner lie two large lakes, Ohrid and Prespa. North Macedonia has a continental climate; summers are warm and dry while winters can be very cold, especially in the mountains.
About two-thirds of the population are ethnic Macedonians, a Slavic people. Their language, Macedonian, is similar to Bulgarian and Serbian; speakers of each can understand one another quite easily. Albanians, who live mainly in the northwest, are the country’s second largest ethnic group. There have long been tensions between Macedonian Slavs and ethnic Albanians. In 2001, Albanians revolted against the Macedonian government, demanding equal rights with Macedonians; the protests almost sparked a civil war. Macedonians traditionally follow Orthodox Christianity, a religion practised throughout Eastern Europe and Russia. The Albanian population is largely Muslim.
In 2019, Macedonia became known as North Macedonia. The change was made because Greece had strongly objected to the country’s use of the name Macedonia. A large part of Greece once made up the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia, and a region in northern Greece is still called Macedonia today.
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