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People, Language & Religion


According to the 1994 estimates, Macedonians comprise about 66% of the population. Another 23% are ethnic Albanians, mostly living in the west, particularly the northwest. Other groups include Turks (4%), Roma (Gypsies, 3%), Serbs (2%), and others (2%).


The official and most widely spoken language is Macedonian, which belongs to the Eastern branch of the South Slavic language group. Macedonian is closely related to and mutually intelligible with Standard Bulgarian. It also has some similarities with standard Serbian and the intermediate Torlakian and Shop dialects spoken mostly in southern Serbia and western Bulgaria (and by speakers in the north and east of Macedonia). The standard language was codified in the period following World War II and has accumulated a thriving literary tradition. Although it is the only language explicitly designated as an official national language in the constitution, in municipalities where at least 20% of the population is part of another ethnic minority, those individual languages are used for official purposes in local government, alongside Macedonian.

A wide variety of languages are spoken in Macedonia, reflecting its ethnic diversity. Besides the official national language Macedonian, minority languages with substantial numbers of speakers are: Albanian, Romani, Turkish (including Balkan Gagauz), Serbian/Bosnian and Aromanian (including Megleno-Romanian). There are also smaller minorities of Adyghe and Greek speakers.


The majority (64.7%) of the population belongs to the Macedonian Orthodox Church. It declared autocephaly in 1968, though that is still not recognised by the Serbian and other Eastern Orthodox Churches, although the Archbishop's Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church has recognised the autonomy of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

Muslims comprise 33.3% of the population and other Christian denominations comprise 0.37%. The remainder (1.63%) is recorded as "unspecified" in the 2002 national census. Most of the native Albanians, Turks and Bosniaks are Muslims, as are a minority of the country's ethnic Macedonian population, known as Macedonian Muslims.

Altogether, there are more than 1200 churches and 400 mosques in the country. The Orthodox and Islamic religious communities have secondary religion schools in Skopje. There is an Orthodox theological college in the capital. Macedonia has the largest proportion of Muslims of any country in Europe after Turkey, Albania and Bosnia & Herzegovina.





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