Gligorov, Kiro (Macedonia)
Kiro Gligorov became president of the Republic of Macedonia following free elections after the collapse of Yugoslavia. From the end of World War II until the mid-1970s he held various finance posts in the Yugoslav administration when he was an advocate of free market principles. During the late 1970s and much of the 1980s he was in the political wilderness but gained popular support in Macedonia during the Yugoslav crisis of 1989–90 for his pro-democracy views. He survived an attempt on his life in 1995.
Gligorov was born on 3 May 1917 in Shtip, now in the Republic of Macedonia. He attended Belgrade University and was active in student politics until his graduation in 1938. He then worked as a banker until World War II, during which time he devoted himself to various anti-fascist and pro-national liberation groups. Macedonia was briefly declared a republic in 1944 but was subsequently integrated into the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Gligorov became a Macedonian representative in the Yugoslav parliament and held a number of positions within government over the following years. He was Assistant General Secretary to the Government between 1945–47, Assistant Minister of Finance between 1952–53, Deputy Director of the Federal Institute for Economic Planning between 1953–55, Secretary of the Federal Executive Council for Economic Issues between 1955–62, Federal Secretary of Finance between 1962–67 and Vice President of the Federal Executive Council from 1967 to 1969. Although his hopes for a free market were never realized under Tito, he was a prominent member of the Institute for International Politics and Economy and the Institute for Social Sciences.
During the 1970s Gligorov served as a member of the Yugoslav presidency and as President of the Yugoslav Parliament. His political career subsequently went into decline and he was largely absent from the political scene in the 1980s. However, he was in the government of Ante Marković in the late 1980s when he once again promoted his belief in free market principles. When the Yugoslavian crisis of 1989–90 erupted he called for multi-party elections.
In the election of Jan. 1991 he was elected president of the Republic of Macedonia. In a referendum to decide on independence from Yugoslavia on 8 Sept. 1991 about 75% of voters supported the proposal.
A new constitution was promulgated on 17 Nov. 1991 allowing Macedonia to leave the Yugoslav Federation peacefully. Gligorov succeeded in steering clear of the war between the Serbs and Croats while negotiating the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops from the country in early 1992. Macedonia was accepted into the United Nations on 13 April 1993 and UN troops entered the country shortly afterwards to monitor its troublesome border near Kosovo.
Relations with neighbouring Greece deteriorated when the Greek government opposed the use of the name Macedonia, arguing that it was offensive to the inhabitants of the Macedonia area within Greece. When the Republic of Macedonia established diplomatic ties with a number of EU countries in late 1993 and with the USA in early 1994, Greece responded by imposing an economic embargo. Macedonia agreed to revise its flag design and to talks over its name with the result that the embargo was lifted in Nov. 1995.
Meanwhile, following an election in Oct. 1994, Gligorov secured another term as President. This was despite sour relations with Greece, general unrest and a weak economy stretched to breaking point by an influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the wars between former Yugoslav states. He also had to oversee controversial reforms that allowed for better representation for Macedonia’s substantial Albanian minority. On 3 Oct. 1995 unknown assailants tried to assassinate Gligorov. A car bomb killed his chauffeur but Gligorov survived. Stojan Andov stood in for him as president until Jan. 1996.
Macedonia’s economy suffered further setbacks when the UN declared sanctions against Serbia, thus weakening Macedonia’s principal trade partner. As the Kosovo conflict escalated in 1999, the country received another huge wave of Albanian refugees, creating yet more economic, political and social problems. Parliamentary elections held in 1998 returned a coalition of right-wing parties and at the presidential elections of Nov. 1999 Gligorov lost to nationalist Boris Trajkovski.
Gligorov withdrew from politics in 1999 but remained active during his retirement, publishing a number of books and establishing the Gligorov Foundation—a think tank concerned with the development of multi-ethnic societies. In 2005 he became the first recipient of the Order of the Republic of Macedonia.
Gligorov died peacefully on 1 Jan. 2012. In accordance with his request he was not given a state funeral.