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5. Arts and Nation-building

Arts and culture were particularly supported by the government of socialist Macedonia, which had to build a ‘national’ art scene from the scratch. In a few years, institutions for teaching, promoting and staging art were built. Concomitant to the creation of a cultural infrastructure, artists also established their own associations, which operated on a national scale.

5.1 National Associations of Artists

  • Association of Macedonian Composers (Macedonian acronym: SOKOM), founded on June 6, 1950. It had emerged from the former Association of Macedonian Musicians. It publishes the journal “Makedonska muzika (“Macedonian Music”), since 1997 called only "Musika". The Association of Macedonian Composers has also been running the Office for Music Copyrights Protection (ZAMP) since 1950, in 1969 together with the Association of Composers of Light Music (pop and rock composers).
  • Association of Macedonian Conductors, established in 2001.
  • Association of Music Performers, emerging from the Association of Macedonian Musicians.
  • Association of Artists of Macedonia (DLUM), founded in Prilep on November 10, 1944 and organizing the painters. It gained officially recognition in 1946.
  • Association of Applied Artists of Macedonia (DLUPUM), founded on April 16, 1950.
  • Macedonian Architects' Association established in1954 as the Macedonian Union of Architects' Associations. From 1980-1999 it was called the Macedonian Union of Architects, being renamed into is current name in 1999.
  • Photo Association of Macedonia, organizing the photographers of the Republic, established on March 12, 1950.

5.2 Art Institutions and Festivals

Fine Arts

  • Secondary Art School, founded in 1950 by the resolution of the government to join two schools: the school for wood-carving in Ohrid and school for public art in Skopje.
  • The National Art Gallery "Daut Pashin Amam" opened its permanent exhibition on August 2, 1951.
  • The first exhibition of Macedonian artistic photography was also opened in 1951, in the town of Veles.
  • Contemporary Art Museum was established in Skopje on February 12, 1964.
  • The Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Skopje was initiated on May 31, 1980.
  • There are regular festivals for fine arts, such as the “Autumn Painters Exhibition” (since 1946), the “Spring Painters Exhibitions” (since 1957) and the Biennial of Macedonian Architecture (BIMAS, established in 1981).
  • In 2000theMacedonian Centre of Photography was established.


  • The National Theater in Skopje opened in 1946.
  • The Faculty for Dramatic Art in Skopje was established in 1969 within the High School for Music. Since 1981 it operates as an independent institution.
  • In 1998 the “Multimedia” centre for performing arts was established.


  • The Macedonian Radio Symphony Orchestra was founded on November 24, 1944, and the Radio Choir in 1945.
  • The Macedonian Opera and Ballet in Skopje was established on January 1, 1948. The first Macedonian Opera “Goce” by composer Kiril Makedonski was performed on May 24, 1954. The first Macedonian ballet "Macedon's Story", composed by Gligor Smokvarski in 1952, was first put on stage on June 21, 1953.
  • The Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra was established on May 20, 1950, and gave it first concert three years later.
  • The Association of the Music and Ballet Teachers of Macedonia was founded in 1957.
  • The Culture and Art Office, which organizes concerts, musical and other cultural events, was founded in 1957.
  • The Macedonian Radio Television Big Band was established 1961 with the purpose to perform Macedonian pop and jazz music.
  • The “Ohrid Summer Festival” was established on August 4, 1961.
  • In 1962 the first “Ohrid Festival of Folk Songs and Amateur Dance Ensembles” took place, in which ensembles from all Yugoslav republics participated. In 1968 it became an international festival under the name “Balkan Festival of Traditional Songs and Dances”.
  • Musical Youth of Macedoniafounded in Skopje on January 31, 1964. In 1986 the National Youth ´Chamber Orchestra was organized under the umbrella of this organization.
  • The Faculty of Music at the University of Skopje was established in 1966.
  • The State Festival for Folk Songs and Dances called the “Ilinden Days” in Bitola, was established on July 7, 1968 as an organization, The first festival actually took place July 30 – August 8, 1971. Since 2004 this festival is organized by the Centre for Culture in Bitola. One of its aims is to initiate dance activities among the Macedonian Diaspora.
  • In 1972, the Youth Cultural Center Skopje (MKC) was founded, to which in 1981 the Mandolin Youth Orchestra was attached.
  • The “May Opera Evenings” festival was in September 1972 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Macedonian Opera house in Skopje.
  • Since 1972, the Youth Female Choir exists.
  • The “Tetovo Choral Echo” festival was initiated on November 6, 1973 as biannual competition for choral music.
  • In the village of Dolneni the “National Festival for Traditional Folk Music Instruments and Songs ‘Pece Atanasovski’” takes place annually since 1974.
  • The organization of “Struga Music Autumn” as a manifestation of medieval music, musicology, ethno-musicology and musical pedagogy, began in 1972, the first actual event taking place in 1975.
  • The “Day of Macedonian Music”, which is a festival of contemporary Macedonian music of various genres, was established in 1977.
  • The first “Skopje JAZZ Festival” took place in 1982; it has become an international highly valued Jazz festival.
  • The “Folk Festival Valandovo” as a festival of authentic folk Macedonian songs was established in 1985. After 1990 it was joined by similar festivals, such as for patriotic songs (“Goce Fest”, “Trimeri”) in Strumica, for humoristic songs (“Tumba Fest”) in Kumanovo, the festivals “Tetovski filigrani”, “Ohridski Trubaduri”, “Serenada” (in Bitola), “Tetovski folk fest”, “The Song of The Summer” in Ohrid, etc.
  • The folk festival “Istibansko zdravo živo” in the village of Istibanje, municipality of Radoviš, was established in 1985.
  • The “Makfest”, the first festival of Macedonian pop and rock music, was established in 1986.
  • The Bitola Opera House was established in 2006. The town of Bitola also hosts the “Interfest” festival for classical.

As concerns the organization of concerts, the Macedonian Concert Agency, established in 1981, played an important role. In 1991 it became part of the Culture an Information Centre, but in 1997 these two institutions were separated again. It is also noteworthy that Macedonian first participated in the Eurovision Song-Contest in 1998.


  • The Association of Film Workers in Macedonia was established on May 21, 1950.
  • The Macedonia Film Distribution agency was established in 1952, the same year the first Macedonian feature film “Frosina” was screened (screenplay by Vlado Maleski, director Voislav Nanović).
  • The Bureau for Cultural and Educational Films ‘Vardar Film, which was the first educational institution for film in Macedonia, was founded on February 8, 1956.
  • The Academic Cinema Club of Film Amateurs was created on January 7, 1959.
  • The International Amateur Film Festival in Skopje was established in July 1968.
  • The Cinematheque of Macedonia opened in 1976.
  • The International Film Festival “Manaki Brothers” in Skopje took first place in 1979.

The first major international award for a Macedonian film was the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for Milčo Mančevski’s film “Before The Rain” in 1994.


The minorities in Macedonia have established their own cultural associations and events. For example, in 2001 the Association of Albanian Music and Ballet Teachers was founded. The Kenge Jeho Festival of Albanian Traditional Songs, Dance and Music in Struga and the “Shara Sings” Festival of Albanian Folk Music in Tetovo are among the most important Albanian cultural events. Turkish culture is staged at the “Hid bah şen” festival in the village of Čalakli, established in 1991.