Skopje (Shkup; Skoplje; Usküb), Macedonia

Reference work entry


Skopje is the capital of the Republic of Macedonia and lies on the Vardar River in the north of the country. With a recorded history from the fourth century BC, the city has had many conquerors and has been devastated on numerous occasions by natural disaster. Only around 20% of Skopje remained standing after an earthquake in 1963.


Skopje, or Scupi as it was called in Latin, was settled by an Illyrian tribe, though whether it was the Peonis or Dardans is disputed. It subsequently came under Roman control and the Emperor Diocletian made it the capital of the Dardania region in the fourth century AD. The town was destroyed by an earthquake in 518 but was soon prospering again under the guidance of the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian. The name Skopje first came into use in 625 when Slavs stormed the city.

Skopje fell into Serbian hands for the first time in 1189 but in Jan. 1392, following their successful invasion of Macedonia, Turkey seized it and made it their provincial capital. The city became a major trade hub but went into decline after it was razed by Austrian forces in the late seventeenth century in a bid to eradicate cholera. There were numerous uprisings against the Turkish powers, the most serious of which was the seventeenth century Karposh uprising. None, however, were successful and it was not until 1913, during the Balkan Wars, that Turkish power was replaced by Serbian rule.

When the new Yugoslav state was born in 1918, Skopje was integrated. Nazi and then Bulgarian troops occupied the city during World War II but it was liberated in 1944. The following year it was declared the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. In 1963 the city was devastated by an earthquake that killed over 1,000 and left around 125,000 people homeless. Financial assistance poured in from around the world and most of the city was completely redesigned and rebuilt. It now has distinct industrial and residential areas along with a number of satellite zones. The Japanese civic planner, Kenzo Tanga, was among the most prominent of Skopje’s designers.

Modern City

The city’s major commercial region is on the Vardar’s right bank. Industries include metal work, chemicals, electrical machinery, textiles and foodstuffs. It is also an important trade centre for local cotton, tobacco, meat and grain. Skopje Airport is Macedonia’s largest and the city lies on the major road and rail routes between Belgrade and Athens.

Places of Interest

A number of ancient monuments and buildings still exist including the sixth century Kale Fortress, the large fifteenth century Turkish Daud Pasha Baths, the sixteenth century Kurshumli-An district and Clock Tower and the main bridge over the Vardar, originally constructed by the Romans and rebuilt by the Turks. Skopje is the birthplace of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, who would become better known as the Nobel Peace Prize-winner, Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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