UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Visit of Dr Arbër Ademi, the Minister of Science and Education of the Republic of North Macedonia

22 January 2020

On 21 January, the School hosted a visit of Dr Arbër Ademi, the Minister of Science and Education of the Republic of North Macedonia, who was accompanied by Her Excellency Aleksandra Miovska, the Ambassador of North Macedonia to the UK.

Minister_North Macedonia

On 21 January, the School's Director, Prof Diane P. Koenker, together with Suzana Tamamović and Zora Kostandinova from UCL SSEES Library and Ana Zavrsnik, Macedonian short courses teacher, hosted a visit of Dr Arbër Ademi, the Minister of Science and Education of the Republic of North Macedonia, who was accompanied by Her Excellency Aleksandra Miovska, the Ambassador of North Macedonia to the UK.  The highlight of their visit was a generous donation of a collection of books published in the Republic of North Macedonia. This gift has enriched our collection, whose growth has been somewhat disadvantaged by the absence of reliable distribution networks within the country. The Library is hoping to continue and to deepen cooperation with publishing bodies and education institutions that will reflect local trends in the country, and provide resources for current and future students of the region.

The donated books can be classified in three clusters: editions of archival documents, history and literature.  We highlight several books to illustrate the variety of the donation from historical sources, literature and popular culture. We do so through the several key historical periods and trajectories of Ottoman, Yugoslav and the independent Republic of Macedonia, to North Macedonia.

Particularly interesting are the four volumes of Turkish Documents for the History of Macedonia: Census from the XIX Century (Turski dokumenti za istorijata na Makedonija popisi vo XIX vek, Skopje, 2015-2019) prepared by the State Archives of the Republic of North Macedonia. The original archival documents are kept in the Ottoman State Archives in Istanbul, Turkey. In these volumes, you can find the census returns for villages in the capital Skopje, and several bigger cities like Štip in the east of the country, Bitola in the southwest and Prilep in the north. These censuses offer a glimpse into the demographic, economic and social history of Ottoman Macedonia. What the documents reveal, for example, is the ratio of urban to rural population, property ownership and people’s professions.  An interesting detail highlighted by the editors is that the village population was wealthier than the urban population, due to land ownership and higher earnings from agriculture. This was important for people’s mobility and the process of urbanization, as those wealthy enough from rural areas would migrate to the cities. Besides the Christian and Muslim populations, the censuses also cover the Jewish and Roma communities.

Next, of interest to the curious numismatics would be the catalogue of the Ottoman Coin Production in Skopje (Skopskata osmanliska monetarnica, Skopje, 2008).  Several towns in current day North Macedonia supported the Ottoman monetary system through coin production, most notably Kratovo, a city in the north of the country, Ohrid in the southwest and the capital Skopje. The printed catalogue presents 52 out of the 62 coins that are part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Macedonia in Skopje. The catalogue contains the year of production of each coin, the name of the Ottoman ruler in whose name the coins were made, as well as their main architectural enterprises at the time, which they sponsored.  

Moving towards the early twentieth century, in the book Turkish-Yugoslav Central Bureau for Opium (Tursko - Jugoslovensko centralno biro za opium, Skopje, 2017) we learn that as a crop, opium was introduced to Macedonia in the early nineteenth century from Anatolia. Internationally, Macedonian opium was well known and valued for its high quantity of morphium which was used by the pharmaceutical industry, most notably in the United States, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland. In the collection of archival documents and correspondence, the book showcases the politics of trade, such as between the West and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia 1918-1941 – of which post-Ottoman Macedonia was a constituent part – and the new Turkish Republic. It is an interesting case, and well known to historians of that period, detailing how the region was an active agent to economic high and low tides, such as the opium trade fuelled on one hand. On the other hand, what is also manifest is how smaller regions such as Vardar Macedonia – as the annexed part of historic Macedonia, by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was then officially referred to – was used as a periphery and colony to the economic interests of greater countries.

The collection would be incomplete without the edited volume of academic articles about The Name Issue Revisited (Skopje 2012), published by the Macedonian Information Centre. Here, in English the reader and students of one of the most dominant media topics in the post-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1991-2018) can read about the long and painstaking negotiations on Macedonia’s constitutional name with Greece. The articles range from the contexts of International Law through identity, language and the historical contexts to which the dispute was often rolled back. The latter touches on painful periods of history for both countries: that of the Greek Civil War (1943-1949).

In recent years, North Macedonia has seen a small renaissance in its younger generation of fiction writers. We welcome the fiction work of Rumena Buzarova, a writer as well as a literary translator from English into Macedonian. We are also delighted to receive novels and essays of older and well-known writers such as Mitko Mađunkov and Olivera Nikolova.  

Of importance to students of Macedonian language are the books Macedonian language for foreigners (Makedonski jazik za stranci, Skopje, 2019) in 4 volumes, as well as Do you speak Macedonian? (Zboruvate li makedonski?, Skopje, 2016).  Recently, UCL SSEES introduced evening language courses in Macedonian, and the Library is happy to provide extra resources to students who will nurture and cultivate this significant addition to our academic culture. We definitely have the books in Macedonian, to satisfy at least some demand in the field.

Last but not least, beyond the Macedonian question, the most popular addition to our collection, voted by our UCL SSEES Library staff, is the cookbook The Best of Macedonian Cuisine (Najdobroto od makedonskata kujna, Skopje, 2019). Looking at the food selected by the author, other than the beautifully presented appetizing ajvar, kiflički, tavče na gravče, burek, we couldn’t help but notice that with most of our Slavic and Eastern European heritage, food is indeed a language that binds us all.