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The Youngest State in Europe
The first session of the Anti-fascist Assembly of the National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM) was held on August 2, 1944, at the monastery of Prohor Pchinski. The 116 delegates from throughout Vardar Macedonia made decisions whereby Macedonia was constituted as a state-the youngest state in Europe-in the waning years of World War II. Thus, ASNOM became and remained the only champion of the Macedonian people's sovereignty. Centuries after the fall of Samuil's kingdom, the unbroken desire of the Macedonian people to live in their own, Macedonian state was realized.
The Macedonian Flag
The most important decision at the First Session of ASNOM was the decision to proclaim ASNOM the supreme legislative and executive body representing the Macedonian people, and the pinnacle of state authority in Macedonia. It incorporated initial guidelines on constituting the Macedonian state, creating the "constitutional, legal document, upon the basis of which the Macedonian federal state is to be established and built." The decision also provided for constituting the people's administration,"the government of the new state, the functions of which were, for the time being, to be performed by the Presidium of ASNOM". Furthermore, in structuring executive authority, this document provided for the formation of "a required number of departments for the various branches of state administration" which were to perform the function of ministries until a government was established.
This initial constitution for Macedonia was further supplemented by ASNOM with a definition of essential and guaranteed civil rights. The Declaration on Citizens' Rights stated that all citizens of Macedonia "are equal before the law, irrespective of their nationality, sex, race and religion." The Declaration also guaranteed the rights of ethnic minorities "to a free national life." The minorities are further mentioned in the ASNOM Manifesto, wherein the freedom and equality of all nationalities in Macedonia is proclaimed."
The Declaration on Citizens' Rights guarantees "security of the individual and of property," as well as "the right to ownership and creditable initiative in economic life." By this Declaration, the new Macedonian state guaranteed the basic human rights of all its citizens: the freedoms of religion, conscience, speech, press, assembly and association. According to the Declaration, the electoral process "in democratic Macedonia is exercised by the voters through secret ballot on the basis of general, direct and personal right." The right to vote and to run for office is granted to every citizen above the age of 18, with the exception of "mentally retarded persons, as well as those persons accused of actions against the interests of the people's liberation war [World War II]."
One of the essential decisions made at the First Session of the Anti-fascist Assembly of the National Liberation of Macedonia was the decision to introduce the Macedonian language as an official language in the new Macedonian state. This decision "supplemented and polished the national-political physiognomy and character of the young Macedonian state", representing a confirmation of the principle of self-determination for the Macedonian people. Faced by past suppression of the Macedonian language by foreign governments and propaganda, ASNOM sanctioned its use in the new state by law. Of the First Session of ASNOM, Blazhe Koneski says that "from the discussions on language and orthography an initiative was born to define 'temporary rules' for the Macedonian literary language, with no particular obligation. They served as a basis for discussions on language and orthography held in October 1944 in Gorno Vranovci, when three reports were presented on that issue." Koneski notes that the standardization of the Macedonian literary language "was completed by the adoption of the alphabet [May 3, 1945] and orthography [July 7, 1945] at the proposal of the Language and Orthography Commission. This act marked the realization of all past efforts to create a common Macedonian language. It also marked the beginning of its free development as a fully-formed language."
The Macedonian literary language was codified on the basis of the central dialects (dialects of an area bounded by Titov Veles, Prilep, Bitola and Kichevo) of the western Macedonian group of dialects, those least influenced by the languages of the neighboring peoples. Particularly characteristic of the Macedonian literary language are the following features:
- in multisyllabic words the accent falls on the third syllable from the end;
- the replacement of tj and kt by } (as in sve}a, candle), dj by | (me|a, boundary), u by a (maka, difficulty), the vocal l by ol (volk, wolf), h by v (grev, sin);
- the use of the triple article in nouns and - i.e., volkov, volkon, volkot; this wolf, that wolf, the wolf;
- participles of the type zaspan (asleep), umren (dead), padnat (fallen); and
- structures with the verb imam (to have)-i.e., "ja imam pozdraveno" means "I have greeted her".
The orthography of the Macedonian literary language is built on a phonetic basis, and the Macedonian alphabet consists of 31 letters: a, b, v, g, d, |, e, `, z, y, i, j, k, l, q, m, n, w, o, p, r, s, t, }, u, f, h, c, ~, x, {.
Another key document ratified at the First Session of ASNOM was the ASNOM Manifesto to the Macedonian people. After summarizing the history of the Macedonian struggle for freedom, it stressed that "the first Macedonian People's Assembly proclaims before the entire world its just and firm wish TO UNITE THE ENTIRE MACEDONIAN PEOPLE on the principles of the right to self-determination. This will put an end to the slavery of the Macedonian people in all its parts and conditions will be created for sincere solidarity and peace among the Balkan peoples." [Capitalization as per the Manifesto.]

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The majority of European societies, among them the Slavic peoples, developed at a time when tribal structures were in the process of evolving into feudalism. The nations themselves represent a kind of global "social ensemble," a higher level of social organization than the family, tribe or clan. As tribal communities disintegrated, the population within larger territorial communities became more closely linked, their differences gradually decreasing and new kinds of cultural, linguistic, social-psychological and economic community formed. Under such circumstances, the nation as a phenomenon was formed in the establishment of the first state organizations.
Unity of interests, awareness that similar interests were held and tribal affiliations were interwoven in this early period: they are thus both a condition and an expression of the national community through culture, language, geographic position, religious faith and the common ethnic origin of the people. Even when some people did not have all these characteristics, the determination of belonging to an ethnic community and awareness of its unity remain its essential features.
After their settlement in the Balkans, the Macedonian Slavs twice formed large tribal unions: in 616 A.D. under the leadership of Hatzon and in 675 under the leadership of Prebond. These represented the basis for establishing a (not yet fully developed) political community; but it was no less developed than the tribal unions of the Serbs and Croats in the 9th and 10th centuries. Living on a territory almost fully incorporated within neighboring states and broadly influenced by neighboring peoples-not to mention the continual struggles against and between these enemies-the Macedonian Slavs could not be formed otherwise but as a people with characteristics which confirmed its individuality.
The basic "mass" of the Macedonian people are the Slavs. However, in settling on a territory where other peoples had lived, a territory constant war and invasion, it was practically impossible for other tribes and peoples not to become a part of the emerging Macedonian nation. The most numerous were the Ancient Macedonians, who had inhabited the majority of the territory which wave after wave of Slavs had begun to settle on. As early as 1871, Dimitar Makedonski, a well-known textbook writer of the last century, said: "The earth had not opened its mouth to swallow them" , referring thereby to the Ancient Macedonians and their presence in the Balkans for nearly a millenium before the Macedonian Slavs migrated to the region.
Ever since the 18th century, the Macedonian Slavs were well on their way to establishing their own state. Their settlement in the Balkans, especially in its inland territories, reduced Byzantine authority and allowed the newcomers from the north to seize additional territory; a cyclical process which encouraged continued expansion. Soon, in the newly-established Macedonian sclavenes, or clan-tribal communities, Byzantine authority became formal at best and "it in fact did not exist." The sclavenes were transformed into territories of the Macedonian Slavs. The best indication of the increasing independence of these communities-each possessing its own territory, army and homogeneous population with Macedonian Slavs constituting the basic mass-is the example of Achamir, ruler of the Velezitia sclavene, who was independent and oppressive to such a degree that he had even began to interfere in the dynastic fights for the Byzantine throne in the late 8th century A.D.
In the course of past centuries, since coming of the Slavs to the Balkans, the Macedonian people mainly lived "an independent political, economic and cultural life." It certainly had had its effect on constituting its individuality, especially during the time of Samuil's Empire, when all the conditions existed for it to be constituted as a nation: the existence of a state and political community, the use of Slavonic as a state language, the presence of Prespa and Ohrid as capitals of the new state and of Ohrid as a spiritual and cultural center, the creation of an independent national church and the proclamation of Ohrid as the seat of the Archbishopric of Ohrid.
The history of the terms "Macedonia" and "Macedonian" through the centuries, even under conditions of foreign rule, is one in which the Macedonians have been subjected to actions by conquerors which could be considered tantamount to national and cultural genocide. Yet Macedonia, rich in cultural and historical traditions, free from any complexes and proud of its past, has taken an active part in the history of the Balkans and Europe, although delayed in comparison to other European peoples.
On September 8, 1991, when the disintegration of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was clear, a nation-wide referendum was held in the Republic of Macedonia: out of the 1,074,855 citizens who went to the polls, 1,021,981 (68.32 percent) of the total number of registered voters went to the polls to consider forming an independent, sovereign and autonomous Republic of Macedonia-and 95.08 percent voted "Aye!" On November 17 of that same year, the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia passed the Constitution of the Republic, constituting Macedonia as a sovereign, independent, civil and democratic state. Looking back, the roots of the Republic of Macedonia can be seen in the Republic of Krushevo and the ASNOM conference; and today's sovereign Republic of Macedonia was constituted as a national state of the Macedonian people, while ensuring the full civil equality of all nationalities living therein.

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