History on Hand – guide in the permanent exhibition

“History on hand” is an inclusive guide through the permanent exhibition created as part of the Open Museums – Project to improve accessibility and inclusion of blind and partially sighted people. The guide offers an overview of the museum’s permanent exhibition through a description of 13 time periods and 13 selected exhibits in written, Braille and audio form.

Author of the texts: Danijela Trajkova-Krstikj, MA, curator

Project implementer: NI Museum of the Macedonian Struggle – Skopje in partnership with the State School for Children and Youth with Visual Impairment Dimitar Vlahov – Skopje and the National Union of the Blind of the Republic of Macedonia

Project coordinator: Maja Minoska-Pavlovska, MA (text adaptation on English language)

Supported by the Balkan Museum Network through the small grants program.

Graditude to the Visually Impaired Children’s Project (USAID, Lions Macedonia, University of Southeast Europe) for assistance in printing and adapting the materials to Braille.

About our permanent exhibition

The historical narrative of the permanent exhibition at the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Independence serves as a testimony to the ongoing revolutionary struggle of the Macedonian people. It symbolizes the idea of establishing an independent state. Freedom and human rights have always been and will continue to be fundamental ideals and ultimate goals of any revolutionary, national liberation movement. These movements are motivated and primarily focused on achieving human liberation. On the other hand, the museum objects reveal lesser-known facts and possess incredible power to evoke the past. By delving into tradition and concentrating on the daily lives of individuals, we aim to shed light on bygone eras. This includes exploring historical periods, ways of life, customs, traditional crafts, fashion, clothing, decoration, and the influences of both Oriental and Western European cultures. Our journey will comparatively span from the nation’s beginnings to its present-day state, encompassing numerous local and global historical events. These events are conceptually presented in the 13 sections of the museum.


Meet the movement of the Hayduks

The beginnings of the Macedonian struggle for freedom are closely linked to the Hayduks movement, which represented an unorganized yet massive armed resistance by the Christian population in Macedonia against Ottoman rule. This movement emerged in the distant 16th century and reached its peak in the latter half of the 19th century. The forerunners of the Macedonian Revolutionary Movement operated individually or in groups as Hayduks, armed with weapons to counter the violence perpetrated by Ottoman authorities. The most commonly used weapon among the Hayduks was the kubura (derived from the Turkish word "kubur," meaning a small antique firearm loaded with gunpowder). The weapons and warfare equipment showcased in the museum's permanent exhibition date back from the late 14th century to the second half of the 20th century. By examining the intricate details of these weapons, visitors can indirectly gain insight into historical processes and events, including traditional crafts and industrial advancements. Weapons are broadly categorized into two groups: those of Eastern and Western origin, and those that are either cold (non-firearm) or firearms. The subset of cold weapons can be further divided into instruments for close combat or for striking from a distance. This category includes axes, halberds, maces, flails, yataghans, sabers, bayonets, spears, and knives. The firearms group encompasses kuburs, pistols, revolvers, rifles, semi-automatic firearms, and machine guns. To ensure the proper functioning of firearms, regular cleaning and maintenance are essential. The military equipment category encompasses items such as the arbiya, bullet boxes, and bullet belts. During the Ottoman period from the 17th to the 19th centuries, the most renowned centers for arms trade and production in Macedonia were Debar, Skopje, and Tetovo.

A flintlock, type: kubura

The kubura is crafted from metal, brown wood, and yellow brass. Its front features a smooth metal tube adorned with floral and geometric motifs. This specific sample has a shorter tube, although it’s typically longer. The wooden base plate wraps around the tube at the bottom, adorned with decorative brass fittings on its front side. Just beneath this plate, there’s a wooden arbiya securely held by two metal shackles. The arbiya was used for cleaning and maintaining the tube. The mechanism is designed with an outer paw, and two movable parts are located on top, between which the firing clip is positioned. The trigger, made of decorated brass, is situated below the mechanism. Towards the rear, the weapon holder terminates in a semi-curved shape, culminating in a pointed apple-like element. This latter feature is distinctive of flint guns and Western-style kubura firearms. Particularly in Debar, Skopje, and Tetovo, this type of weapon was commonly referred to as “debarka”, “zhutelija”, or “shilka.” The weapon holder at the end usually tapers to a pointed tip. The complete length of the kubura measures 43 cm, and based on its characteristics, it’s indicative of Western origin.


Changes in the Ottoman Empire

The late 18th and early 19th centuries marked a period of apparent decline in the power of the Ottoman Empire, which brought about the looming threat of internal deterioration. A significant turning point was the issuance of the Gulhane Hatysherif decree, which initiated a series of reforms known as Tanzimat (1839 - 1876). The term "Gulhane" translates to "Castle," a reference to the location where this decree was proclaimed in 1839 at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. This decree, for the first time in the Ottoman Empire, officially recognized the equality of all citizens before the law, irrespective of their religion, nationality, or social status. Another crucial reform was the Hatihumayun (Turkish: Hatt-i Hümayun), enacted in 1856, which promised comprehensive new changes of an administrative, legal, educational, and economic nature. While these reforms may not have led to sweeping transformations, they laid the foundation for a transformation in the state system, providing a glimpse of the principles that underpin a modern state.

Wooden furniture set

Traditional furniture serves as a visible testament to the cultural heritage of the Macedonian people across history. Ethnological research confirms that the interior design of townhouses was influenced by both traditional lifestyles and the cultural nuances of Oriental and European influences. In this section, we present a collection of city furniture—a table and six chairs—meticulously crafted from wood with intricate shallow carvings. These furniture pieces vividly showcase the expertise and artistry of skilled craftsmen. Both the table and chairs exhibit a hexagonal shape, boasting a rich dark brown hue. 

With six legs and two tiers, they share common characteristics. The chair’s seat is also hexagonal, adorned with intricate plant motifs and geometric patterns. At the center of the seat, a hexagonal rosette is elegantly displayed, encircled by a six-pointed star. Six diamond-shaped images radiate outward from the star’s points. The seat’s decoration concludes with a belt embellished with gracefully curving lines. Between each pair of legs, there are six decorative flower motifs. The lower tier of the chair echoes these same decorative features, all meticulously crafted through shallow carving techniques.The upper level, the table and stools span a width of 58 cm and a height of 70 cm. The lower level measures 50 cm in width and 35 cm in height. These exquisite pieces of furniture provide a tangible connection to the past and are a testament to the enduring craftsmanship of their creators.

From Hayduks to Rebels

During the latter half of the 19th century, the concept of a Macedonian nation and its quest for freedom began to take shape. This movement was driven by intellectuals educated both within Ottoman Macedonia and abroad, hayduk leaders seasoned in battles, and volunteers who had fought in conflicts against the Ottoman Empire. The Great Eastern Crisis, spanning from 1875 to 1881, encompassed a series of legal actions, preliminary agreements, and ratified treaties that laid the foundation for the emergence of new nation-states in the Balkans. This period brought to the forefront the "Eastern Question," addressing both the survival of the Ottoman Empire and broader geopolitical issues. The Berlin Treaty of 1878 played a pivotal role, highlighting the Macedonian question and proposing partial administrative autonomy for regions like Macedonia, Albania, and Epirus within European Turkey. Amidst these intricate circumstances and against the backdrop of other uprisings and conflicts, events like the Razlog Uprising (1876) and the Macedonian Kresna Uprising (1878) unfolded. The Kresna Uprising notably established the first governing body of insurgents, known as the Headquarters of the insurgents. A document titled "Rules of the Macedonian Uprising Committee" or "Provisional Rules of the Macedonian Uprising" was drafted by the insurgents, outlining their objectives, tactics, weaponry, strategies, morale, unity, and penalties for non-compliance. While these uprisings didn't achieve their goals, they marked the outset of the organized Macedonian national liberation movement.

Wooden Container Churn with Stirring Handle

The immersive portrayal of this phase of Macedonian history also introduces items from the traditional Macedonian household. In the realm of household items, wooden containers take precedence, particularly in rural settings. These containers, crafted from various woods such as beech, oak, walnut, linden, pear, cherry, poplar, pine, and fir, were primarily made using carving and whittling techniques. Some were fashioned using bending methods, involving boiling or steaming the wood to facilitate bending. Crafting barrels was another familiar practice, entailing arranging multiple planks in a circular manner and connecting them. 

In function, traditional wooden containers fall into two main categories: those used within homes and those employed in agricultural activities. Among home cookware, milk and dairy dishes hold a prominent place. The featured churn, constructed from wood and adorned with a brown hue, is used for stirring and churning milk to produce “matenica,” a type of yogurt and fat (butter). The churn is closely associated with shepherds and plays a role in Saint George’s customs, safeguarding sheep and milk while fostering increased fertility and lactation. Saint George’s celebrations vary across different parts of Macedonia. In the Delchevo region, the churn is taken out of the house on the first day of the festivities, adorned with a variety of herbs and greens, before the “first” milk is stirred.

Crafted in a conical shape, the churn is constructed from elongated boards arranged in a circular fashion, secured with metal rings. A longer wooden board at the top functions as a handle. The churn features an integral stirring handle, a long stick with a wooden plate at the bottom featuring several holes. Through vertical motions of the stirring handle, the milk is churned and separated from its fat content. This churn stands at a height of 88 cm, with a diameter of 62 cm, and a 12 cm long handle.

Development of Cultural, Educational, and Literary Activities

The pursuit of freedom was intricately connected to the struggle for religious and educational liberation of the Macedonian population within the Ottoman Empire. Towards the end of the 19th century, key figures in the Macedonian revivalist movement, authors of textbooks, and advocates for the restoration of the abolished Ohrid Archbishopric (1767) played vital roles. Their contributions to the broader fight for Macedonian freedom were exceptional, as the essential pillars of a nation – language, tradition, education, and culture – were shaped by their endeavors. Many of these cultural activists were also active participants in the organized Macedonian revolutionary movement and the Macedonian revolutionary organization.

The Book “On Macedonian Matters”

The significance of the book “On Macedonian Matters,” authored by Krste Petkov Misirkov, cannot be overstated, as it serves as the cornerstone of the Macedonian literary language. Within its pages, the author candidly and lucidly presents his perspectives on the Macedonian question, national consciousness, and, most importantly, the Macedonian language, spelling, and alphabet. Misirkov asserts that the establishment of a distinct Macedonian literary language epitomizes the unwavering determination of the Macedonian people to attain their freedom. He emphasizes that the central dialects spoken in the region spanning Veles, Prilep, Bitola, and Ohrid should serve as the foundation for the development of the Macedonian language. Remarkably, this recommendation was employed 42 years later in the formalization of the modern Macedonian language. Published in 1903 at the printing house of the “Liberal Club” in Sofia, the book stands as a pivotal piece in history. It measures 20 cm in height and 14.5 cm in width, comprising 135 pages divided into a preface and five chapters. Through Misirkov’s insights, this book set in motion the evolution of the Macedonian literary language, leaving an indelible mark on the cultural and educational landscape.

The Struggle for Freedom Gets its Organization

As the late 19th century unfolded, the visible efforts of uprisings and the resurgence of Macedonian intelligentsia, particularly in education, paved the way for a widespread liberation movement spanning the entirety of Macedonia. This movement culminated in the establishment of its own organized entity – the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (MRO), founded during a meeting on October 23, 1893, in Salonika. The constitution of the MRO was formalized on January 5, 1894, just ahead of the religious holiday Epiphany. The MRO adopted a stance to advocate for the political autonomy of Macedonia within the Ottoman Empire through a comprehensive uprising, seen as a transitional step towards the eventual creation of an independent Macedonian state. Widely embraced by all sectors of Macedonian society, the organization gradually evolved into the pivotal force driving the struggle for the Macedonian population's free development and the transformation of the Ottoman Empire's state and social structure. This pivotal moment marks the inception of a novel, well-organized, continuous, planned, and directed revolutionary national liberation movement.

Wooden Case

Within this section lies a wooden case, a common fixture in past Macedonian households. These traditional cases, found both in rural and urban settings, served a myriad of functions. They often stored linen clothing, money, valuables, and sometimes even food. A bridal case, for instance, not only offers insight into historical and cultural contexts but can also reveal tales of love, memories, and the hopes of our forebears. In bygone days, a young woman would spend years assembling her dowry, including her bridal gown, which represented her sole personal possession and would accompany her into her new family and married life. Various types of cases exist, each with unique characteristics. For example, a village bridal case typically features beech wood construction, forming a square shape supported by four legs, and a simple flat lid. In contrast, an urban bridal case might incorporate a mix of wood, textile, leather, and square metal, often without legs. 

The showcased wooden casket, originating from the late 19th century, was utilized for storing clothing. Dominated by hues of green, red, and yellow, its front is adorned with colorful floral motifs, while the lid and two narrow sides showcase semicircular wavy lines in geometric patterns. Frequently, inscriptions like initials, owners’ names, or marriage years are found on the front. This particular piece bears the year 1888 in red. A flat lid, equipped with a metal closure mechanism, seals the top. The case takes on a rectangular shape, measuring 92 cm in length and 39 cm in width. It serves as a tangible link to the past, a testament to the intricate blend of functionality and aesthetics in traditional Macedonian homes.

1903 and the Ilinden Uprising

The unwavering determination of the Macedonian population to realize its ideals – the overthrow of Ottoman rule and the pursuit of political and national freedom leading to the establishment of an independent state – became unequivocal on August 2, 1903, with the commencement of the Ilinden Uprising. Across the revolutionary district of Bitola, rebels asserted their influence in places like Demir Hisar, Kichevo, Ohrid, Kostur, and Lerin, liberating numerous villages. Particularly significant was the success of the insurgency in Krushevo, where a Provisional People's Government was instituted. This government featured a 60-member Council and a six-member Provisional Government, gaining recognition from the local population. This epochal development is recognized by historians as the Krushevo Republic, marking the first republic in the Balkans. The uprising across the Bitola Revolutionary District, although substantial, was quelled by August 10th and 11th. By September 1903, Ottoman authorities had regained control over most of the vilayet. In light of the intense repression endured by the population, the central headquarters decided to demobilize the rebel forces. However, the revolutionary districts of Salonika, Strumica, and Skopje continued to strategize uprising actions similar to partisan tactics. The Serbian Revolutionary District also initiated insurgent actions on September 27, 1903. To bolster anti-Ottoman efforts, the Odrin territory, located outside of Macedonia, was designated as a distinct revolutionary district within the MRO. The uprising began in this area on August 19, 1903. The uprising was preceded by other heroic feats, including those of the young Macedonian group called Gemidji (Sailors), whose actions in Salonika drew the attention of both Ottoman and European public. The events of the 1903 uprising are indelibly etched in the collective memory of the Macedonian people, particularly the tragic fate of Goce Delchev, the preeminent Macedonian revolutionary, and other revered and unsung heroes who perished in armed clashes with the Ottoman forces.

A Cherry Tree Cannon

The cherry tree cannon, hewn from a cherry tree itself, is closely intertwined with the Ilinden Uprising. From a military standpoint, this cannon might lack distinctive significance, yet it retains immense moral value, bearing witness to the valor, resilience, and resolve of the insurgents. It stands as a symbol of Macedonia’s unyielding struggle for freedom and independence.

Revolutionary Nikola Karev commissioned the cannon, its design crafted by Todor Hristov. Villagers from the village of Selci felled two sizable cherry trees, shaping them into seven logs. Ultimately, three cannons emerged from these logs, measuring 150 cm in length and weighing approximately 20 kg each. The cannonballs were often fashioned from wild almond and wild cherry, known for their exceptional hardness when dried. The logs were meticulously carved and externally fortified with metal rings. To prevent cracking, the wood underwent a lengthy process of soaking in oil or poppy tar, followed by sun exposure for drying, a procedure undertaken when time permitted. Nails, minuscule metal fragments, gunpowder, wicks, cannonballs, iron balls, and even hand grenades constituted the armament for these cannons. The explosives inside the grenades comprised a mixture of 2/3 potassium chlorate and 1/3 sulfur. The original cannon is preserved at the Military Museum in Istanbul. This cherry tree cannon serves as an embodiment of the Ilinden Uprising’s courage and aspiration for freedom.


After the Ilinden Uprising

The Ilinden Uprising was brutally quelled by Ottoman soldiers, leaving Macedonia in a state of profound turmoil. The living conditions within the region remained intricate and deeply distressing due to the repressive actions taken by Ottoman authorities. This included an escalated presence of armed units from neighboring countries, primarily focused on either redirecting or taking control of the activities of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) within Macedonia. Concurrently, the Organization grappled with internal ideological conflicts related to its organizational structure, management, and strategic approach to waging the war for the ultimate objective: attaining freedom and establishing a sovereign Macedonian state. This period of Macedonian history is punctuated by significant events and individuals within the Organization, marked by tragic battles, the assassination of notable leaders and soldiers, as well as instances of betrayal and intrigue.

A Boat

Amid the contextual portrayal of this era in Macedonian history, an exhibited boat stands as a testament to the instrumental role it played for the revolutionaries. The boat served as a versatile means of transport, facilitating fishing, the movement of wheat, wood, grapes, letters, and passengers. It also found use in leisure activities, weddings, fairs, and religious festivities. The boat can be perceived as a symbol of uncertainty, particularly when considering an allegorical notion tied to the lives of the famous group of young individuals known as “Gemidjii” from Veles. One interpretation of the term “gemidji” which means sailors suggests that it refers to a group of individuals who bid farewell to life and cast their boat into the restless sea, embarking on a one-way journey with no possibility of return. In this exhibition, the boat is presented alongside the notable Macedonian hayduk and revolutionary, Apostol Petkov Terziev. Constructed from wood with a light grey hue, the boat comprises three primary sections. The front segment, safeguarded on both sides, stands at a height of 1m and 20 cm, and spans a width of 70 cm. This part is elevated compared to the rear. The boat’s length measures 3m and 20 cm, while its width spans 1m and 10 cm. The back boasts a semicircular design, situated 1m and 10 cm lower than the front portion. Wooden seats adorn both the front and back. Positioned on the sides are two oars, each measuring 2m and 50 cm in length. This boat symbolizes not only transportation but also encapsulates the spirit of an era marked by upheaval and the pursuit of liberty.

The End of Ottoman Rule in Macedonia

The phase of the Young Turk Revolution (1908 – 1912) marked the culmination of Ottoman rule in Macedonia. The Young Turk movement drew inspiration from the revolutionary movements of the European bourgeoisie, particularly the ideals of the French Revolution, encapsulated in their famous motto "Freedom, equality, fraternity." Under the guidance of the Committee of Union and Progress, the Young Turks Revolution officially commenced on July 3, 1908, in Resen. This transformative period led to the establishment of a constitutional parliamentary system that championed freedom (huriet). The proclamation of Huriet took place in Salonika and Skopje on July 24, 1908. During this phase, a faction of Macedonian revolutionaries embraced the prospect of collaborating with the Young Turks, optimistic that the newly restructured democratic state would address critical matters such as agriculture, social issues, education, religion, and more, ensuring equal civil rights for Macedonians and Turks alike. By participating in the Young Turks Revolution and supporting their governance, the Macedonian Revolutionary forces aspired for political autonomy for Macedonia. The movement eventually secured fundamental rights for oppressed nations, including the rights to basic education, press freedom, speech, and equality guaranteed for "all Osmanlii" before the law. However, in 1909, merely a year later, the counter-revolution wrested control.

The Fez

Dress codes, from a sociocultural standpoint, can be perceived as markers of identity. The fez, a cylindrical hat adorned with a cloth often in red, stands as a prime example. A central tassel, secured at the top, embellishes the fez, its length and material signifying the wearer’s status. The origins of the fez are unclear, with different theories that it originates from Ancient Greece, Tunisia, Morocco or Turkey. The name comes from the Moroccon city of Fez, due to it being the source of the crimson berry once used to dye the felt. A version of the fez was used as an arming cap worn by the soldiers of the Ottoman Empire. The standard fez, typically red, eventually became an official emblem of urban attire by the 1830s. Women also embraced the fez, often adorning it with diverse jewelry, embroidery, and scarves. As democratic principles took root in the formation of the modern Turkish state, the fez met its end in 1924.

The fez, characterized by its cylindrical shape, is enveloped in red cloth. A black tassel is situated in the center, secured at the top. The dimensions of the fez are 20 cm in shape, while the length of the lace measures 17 cm. This artifact not only captures a unique fashion statement but also encapsulates the changing tides of an era.

The Period of the Balkan Wars

The First and Second Balkan Wars stand as pivotal moments in the history of Macedonia and its people. The First Balkan War formally commenced on October 9, 1912, with Montenegro launching an attack against the Ottoman armed forces. Subsequently, Bulgaria, Greece, and later Serbia, joined on October 18, 1912, marking the true onset of the Balkan Wars. Warfare activities were concentrated around Skadar in North Albania, Novi Pazar, Kosovo, central parts of Albania, and Epirus. The most significant battles unfolded in Macedonia and Thrace. Ostensibly launched to liberate oppressed Orthodox populations from Turkish rule, the war was fundamentally a struggle for the division of Macedonia. The London Peace Treaty in May 1913 marked the conclusion of the First Balkan War, albeit only temporarily. On June 29, 1913, the Bulgarian army initiated the Second Balkan War by attacking Serbian and Greek forces. Serbia, Greece, Montenegro, Romania, and Turkey joined the fray. The pivotal battle at the river Bregalnica raged from June 30 to July 9, 1913, between Serbian and Bulgarian forces, with Serbia emerging as the victor. Battles unfolded in Dojran, Strumica, Gevgelija, and Kukush. The consequences of these two Balkan wars were profound, reshaping the Balkan borders permanently. The Bucharest Peace Agreement on August 10, 1913, ratified the partitioning of Macedonia between Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, and Serbia, with the central region falling under Serbian jurisdiction.

The Newspaper “The Macedonian Voice”

The aftermath of the Balkan wars, the new territorial delineations, the disregard for the Macedonian identity, and the endeavors to address the Macedonian issue can be explored through documents, memoranda, appeals, and newspapers from that era. Notably, the Macedonian colony in Saint Petersburg was particularly active in these pursuits. The colony presented two memoranda, one to the London Conference of the Great Powers on March 1, 1913, and the other to the authorities of the Balkan states on June 7, 1913. These documents reflected the intellectual voices of the Macedonian people, echoing their centuries-long aspirations for freedom and independence.

“The Macedonian Voice” (Makedonski golos in Russian) newspaper from the Saint Petersburg Colony in Russia served as the organ of advocates for an independent Macedonia. The newspaper was published once or twice a month between June 9, 1913, and November 20, 1914, yielding a total of 11 issues. “Macedonian Voice” stands as a paramount printed record of the national ideal for Macedonia’s freedom and independence during the Balkan Wars and the early phase of World War I.

Chupovski served as the publisher, with Kuleznev as the Editor-in-Chief, while Archangelski oversaw the final two issues. The newspaper measures 22.5 cm in height and 14.5 cm in width, encapsulating a pivotal period in the Macedonian struggle for recognition and self-determination.

The First World War

In late July 1914, merely 10 months after the culmination of the Second Balkan War, an unprecedented conflict erupted known as the Great War. The direct catalyst for the outbreak of World War I was the assassination of Austrian heir Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, carried out by the nationalist group Young Bosnia. The conflict pitched the Central Powers, mainly Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey, against the Allies, primarily including France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, and later the United States from 1917. Ultimately, the Central Powers were defeated. The war was notable for its staggering toll of slaughter, devastation, and destruction. During the First World War, the Macedonian populace found themselves entangled in military engagements occurring along the Macedonian front, alternatively referred to as the Salonika Front or the South Front, spanning from October 1915 to September 1918. This front extended from the Adriatic Sea through landmarks like Ohrid, Galichica Mountain, Prespa Lake, and the mountain ranges of Baba, Nidze, and Belasica Mountains, eventually reaching the Mesta River and the Orphan Gulf in the Aegean Sea. Macedonians were mobilized into military units from Balkan nations on opposing sides, thus subjecting Macedonia once again to military devastation and partition. The culmination of World War I materialized through the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1919, convened in the Parisian suburb of Versailles. This treaty effectively ratified the Bucharest Peace Agreement, except for minor adjustments in the Strumica region, which was now incorporated into the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, formerly a part of Bulgaria.

The Helmet

World War I, often referred to as the trench war, was characterized by novel military tactics. This era saw the debut of groundbreaking weaponry like tanks and poisonous chemical agents. Aircraft, while not technologically advanced, were employed in warfare for the first time. The period witnessed mass production of hand grenades, automatic weapons, and the introduction of submarines, alongside refinements to existing armaments. This weapon evolution concurrently spurred the development of military gear, categorized into protective equipment for soldiers and safeguards for weapons.

The showcased museum artifact is a military helmet, elliptically shaped and crafted from dark-grey metal, with interior leather components. It features a raised edge atop, secured by four central screws. The Latin inscription “Ubique cou fas et gloria ducund”  or in English Where Right and Glory Lead, adorns the center of the helmet, conveying the soldier’s dedication to duty and honor. The emblem on the front showcases a cannon and crown. Produced during the First World War for the British Army, this helmet measures 31 cm in length.

The Interwar Period

The Interwar Period Despite division, lack of recognition, and occupation, the pursuit of freedom and statehood remained the driving force for the Macedonian people. The Macedonian revolutionaries, amidst incredibly adverse conditions, persisted in their struggle to ultimately resolve the Macedonian question. Within the new historical context, various Macedonian organizations, fraternities, groups, and individuals acted both within Macedonia and abroad, each with distinct programs, methods, actions, and strategies for resistance. Some of these political and revolutionary entities adhered to the ideological and political framework of the original Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, while others came under the influence of different ideologies.

Ilinden Organization Membership Card

One of the organizations that played a significant role in maintaining Ilinden traditions among the Macedonian diaspora in Bulgaria and the Macedonian populace in Pirin Macedonia in the years following World War I was the Ilinden organization. Established in 1921, this cultural and educational group prioritized the propagation of Ilinden revolutionary heritage. A notable event was the Ilinden celebration in 1923, and particularly the ceremonial transfer of Goce Delchev’s remains. Ultimately, on October 11, 1946, as per his personal wish, Goce Delchev was laid to rest in a liberated Macedonia.

This Ilinden organization membership card, issued in Sofia and numbered N 829, bears a photograph of Mr. B. Dimitrov from a village near Salonika. The front features a red stamp, bearing the signatures of President Dimitar Nikolov and the organization’s secretary. The card’s latter half contains the Constitution and an ethnology-geographical map of Ottoman Macedonia. The identification card showcases a robust red emblem with the word “ILINDEN” in yellow lettering, encompassing the circular section adorned with gold decoration that reads “August 2, 1903.


People’s Liberation War and the Establishment of the Macedonian State

The antifascist and People's Liberation Struggle of the Macedonian people from 1941 to 1945 represented a continuation of the National Liberation Struggle. Guided by Ilinden traditions, young Macedonian revolutionaries persevered in their pursuit of national and political freedom, as well as the realization of Macedonian statehood. Across all three divided parts of Macedonia, the majority of Macedonians rallied in support of the antifascist alliance, recognizing in the fight against fascism a historic opportunity to fulfill their centuries-long aspiration for an independent state. The uprising against fascist occupiers took place on October 11, 1941, when the Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia for Macedonia decided to initiate armed actions in Prilep and Kumanovo. Though historiography confirming that sabotage and armed actions transpired earlier, between June and September 1941. Commencing as partisan actions with a smaller contingent of fighters, the conflict evolved to feature the establishment of significant military units. On August 18, 1943, the Headquarters of the Second Operative Zone of Slavej Mountain issued an order to form the first battalion "Mirche Acev," comprising about 200 fighters from partisan units including "Damjan Gruev" in the Prespa-Bitola region, "Dimitar Vlahov" in Veles, "Gjorce Petrov" in Prilep, and new recruits from Debarca. This battalion represented the initial substantial formation of the National Liberation Army in Macedonia during the war. In just 41 years from the Ilinden Uprising to ASNOM, the Macedonian people achieved their long-standing aspiration for an independent state on a portion of Macedonian territory. Following the conclusion of the National Liberation and Anti-Fascist War in Macedonia and Yugoslavia (1941-1945), the federal state of Macedonia was included in the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia. A pivotal moment in the establishment of Macedonia's statehood was the First Session of ASNOM (Anti-Fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia), held on August 2, 1944, at the "St. Prohor Pcinjski" monastery on Ilinden. The museum's permanent exhibit authentically recreates the ambiance of this momentous historical event. The session yielded nine acts: seven decisions, one declaration, and one rule-book. Four of these acts carried constitutional and state-legal significance, including: The Decision of ASNOM as the Supreme Legislative and Executive Body, as well as the Highest Authority of State Power in Democratic Macedonia. ASNOM's Declaration on Fundamental Human Rights for Citizens of Democratic Macedonia. The approval of decisions, orders, and duties by the Headquarters of the National Liberation Squad (NLS) and Partisan Units (PU) of Macedonia, along with the Initiative Board of Macedonia. The registration of the Macedonian language as the official language of the Macedonian state.

Digitally Presented Manually Written Records

These manual records contain minutes from all meetings held by the ASNOM Presidium between 1944 and 1945. These documents offer insight into the processes of state formation and the establishment of government bodies. The signatures of the Presidium’s leaders, president, members, and secretary conclude each record. These digitally presented records encompass 88 handwritten pages.

The Era of the Modern Macedonian State

The epoch of the modern Macedonian state within the Yugoslav federation, spanning from 1945 to the 1990s, is rife with historical paradoxes. On one hand, the Macedonian state facilitated the national progress of the Macedonian populace, while on the other, it enforced rigorous ideological oversight over societal trends—ranging from economic to cultural—that were meticulously designed, guided, and dictated by the sole ruling entity, the Communist Party. Amid Macedonia's robust economic and industrial advancement, coupled with the maturation of its state institutions, the region experienced persistent pressures and suppression of progressive notions advocating for greater autonomy of the Macedonian state within the Yugoslav federation.

Terrain Vehicle “Zastava AR 55”

In 1940, the Zastava factory manufactured Chevrolet trucks for the Yugoslav Army’s requirements. In 1954, the factory obtained a license from the Italian firm Fiat, and shortly thereafter, production commenced on the initial model cars, the Jeep AR-55 1400 BJ and 1100 B.

Within the permanent exhibit, a military variant of the “Zastava AR 55,” colloquially referred to as the “Kampanyola,” is showcased. This off-road vehicle features three doors and two front seats, with the rear section designated for transporting soldiers or military equipment. The vehicle’s color is green. The “AR” designation signifies “Scout Car,” while the “55” denotes the year of manufacture. The vehicle measures 148 cm in width and 195 cm in height.


Each narrative possesses its own conclusion, and ours culminates within the halls of the NI Museum of the Macedonian Struggle. Beneath a symbolic sun rendered through splendid stained glass, the museum features the Declaration of Sovereignty of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, proclaiming the state's independence, territorial integrity, and the Macedonian people's right to self-determination and separation. This declaration was endorsed by the Assembly during the meeting on January 25, 1991. This pivotal document signifies the onset of an array of statements advanced by newly established Macedonian democratic institutions during the formative stages of the contemporary Macedonian state. Notably displayed is the Declaration commemorating the plebiscite's citizens' fervor for an autonomous and independent Macedonian state, commencing on September 17, 1991, as well as the Declaration of International Recognition on December 19, 1991. This transformative process unequivocally verifies and embodies the constitution of the Macedonian Republic as a sovereign, democratic, and lawful state, grounded in the sovereignty of the Macedonian people and citizens, while championing the principles of the rule of law, social equity, and impartial opportunities for personal and communal progress.

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