Get Ready To Update Your Maps Because There's A New Country In Europe

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is dead. Long live North Macedonia.

Most of you reading this are probably too young to remember a time when there was a country called "Yugoslavia" — it broke apart after the fall of the Soviet Union.

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And you're definitely too young to remember a time when the map looked like this, when the Macedonian Empire, shown here in purple, stretched across a huge part of Europe and Asia.

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This map depicts 323 BCE, so if you do remember it, please report to your nearest university history department ASAP.

That's all thanks to this guy, Alexander the Great*, who conquered all of that territory by the time he was 32. (He died not long after and the empire slowly dissolved, but that's neither here nor there.)

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*This is actually Colin Farrell, playing Alexander in the 2004 eponymous film directed by Oliver Stone, but please grant us this leeway.

Modern-day Greeks absolutely LOVE Alexander. He's their boy. Their dude. Their guy.

Alexandros Avramidis / Reuters

There's a modern-day province in Greece known as Macedonia, where people consider themselves Macedonians and it's all very important to them.

This all matters because when Yugoslavia broke apart, one of the countries to emerge from it was this lil' guy, which wanted to be known as the Republic of Macedonia.

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Like most countries in the Balkans, it had an extremely convoluted history, with ownership of the territory changing hands several times over the centuries and various ethnic groups in charge or oppressed depending on the time you're looking at. This latest incarnation was officially accepted as an independent country by the United Nations back in 1993.

That didn't sit well at all with Greece, who rejected the country calling itself "Macedonia" almost immediately.

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Part of the problem, in Greece's eyes, was that using the name suggested that the new country wanted to take over some parts that Greece viewed as territory belonging to the old Macedonian empire, including spots in Albania, Greece, and Bulgaria

They also disagreed with the idea that the Slavic Macedonians had any real connection to the Greek Macedonians and any claim otherwise was just plain wrong to them.

It wasn't until 1995 that the two came to an interim agreement under UN auspices that the country would be referred to as "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," or FYROM, until they worked out a more permanent solution.

Cheda Nenkovic / Associated Press

But in the meantime, that hasn't stopped Greece from keeping the FYROM out of every international organization it could until the naming dispute ended.

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Macedonia has been poised to enter both the European Union and NATO for years, but since those organizations work on the principle of unanimity for the most part, Greece has a veto option. And boy has it threatened to use it.

The two sides have tried to negotiate a compromise over the years, usually involving Greece demanding some kind of modifier to the name "Macedonia" — or rejecting the name altogether for "Skopje," the name of the capital city — and the FYROM rejecting it.

Among the names debated:

• "Constitutional Republic of Macedonia"

• "Democratic Republic of Macedonia"

• "Independent Republic of Macedonia"

• "New Republic of Macedonia"

• "Republic of Upper Macedonia"

• "Republic of New Macedonia"

• "Republic of Northern Macedonia"

• "Republic of Upper Macedonia"

• "Republic of Vardar Macedonia"

• "Republic of Macedonia (Skopje)"

Last year, Zoran Zaev became the new prime minister of the FYROM, vowing to move quickly to resolve the naming dispute after almost a decade of nationalist government dragging its feet.

Robert Atanasovski / AFP / Getty Images

Finally, on Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced that the two countries had reached a deal, ending more than a quarter century's worth of disputes.

Stoyan Nenov / Reuters

Zaev confirmed the news in a press conference and series of tweets, officially declaring that his country's new name in English would be the Republic of North Macedonia.

Достоинствено и географски прецизно име - Република Северна Македонија (со превод, на сите јазици). Македонски, Macedonian, без фусноти. Националноста е македонска / граѓани на Република Северна Македонија. На англиски: Macedonian / Citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia.

But, fair warning, this all could still collapse! The new North Macedonia still needs to clear the name change via referendum — and Greece won't ratify the agreement until the name is official on North Macedonia's end.

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Complicating things further: Macedonia's president has said that he won't sign off on the deal once parliament passes it. If he doesn't, the measure would have to go back to parliament for a second vote, which he'd then be obliged to sign.

So we could still be in for a fight of Alexandrian proportions. But for today, at least, welcome to the world, North Macedonia!


The correct shortened version of North Macedonia's old name is "FYROM." A previous version of this article mistakenly spelled it "FRYOM."