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Coordinates: 41°31′N 20°32′E / 41.517°N 20.533°E / 41.517; 20.533
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Дебaр (Macedonian)
Dibra (Albanian)
From the top, View over Debar, Skanderbeg Monument, Hünkar Mosque
View of Debar
Flag of Dibër Municipality[1]
Official seal of Debar
Debar is located in North Macedonia
Location within North Macedonia
Coordinates: 41°31′N 20°32′E / 41.517°N 20.533°E / 41.517; 20.533
Country North Macedonia
Region Southwestern
Municipality Debar
 • MayorHekuran Duka (DUI)
 • Total14,561
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
WebsiteOfficial Website

Debar (Macedonian: Дебaр [ˈdɛbar] ; Albanian: Dibër/Dibra or Dibra e Madhe) is a city in the western part of North Macedonia, near the border with Albania, off the road from Struga to Gostivar. It is the seat of Debar Municipality. Debar has an ethnic Albanian majority of 74% and is North Macedonia's only city where ethnic Macedonians do not rank first or second demographically. The official languages are Macedonian and Albanian.


The name of the city in Macedonian is Debar (Дебар). In Albanian; Dibër/Dibra or Dibra e Madhe (meaning "Great Dibra", in contrast to the other Dibër in Albania). In Serbian Debar (Дебар), in Bulgarian Debǎr (Дебър), in Turkish Debre or Debre-i Bala, in Greek, Dívrē (Δίβρη) or Dívra (Δίβρα), in Ancient Greek Dēvoros, Δήβορος and in Roman times as Deborus.[2]


Lake Debar

Debar is surrounded by the Dešat, Stogovo, Jablanica and Bistra mountains.

It is located 625 meters above sea level, next to Lake Debar, the Black Drin River and its smaller break-off river, Radika.


Saint Jovan Bigorski Monastery near Debar.
The mosque of Debar.

The Byzantine emperor Basil II knew of its existence, historian Anna Komnena recorded the name as Devré in the Alexiad, and Feliks Petančić referred to it as Dibri in 1502.[3]

During the period from the 12th, to early 14th century, Debar was ruled by the Albanian noble Gropa family. In the latter half of the 14th century until the first half of the 15th century it was ruled by the Principality of Kastrioti, an Albanian medieval principality ruled by the Kastrioti noble family and later from 1443 by the Albanian state, League of Lezhë. Debar fell under the rule of the Ottoman Empire when local ruler Gjon Kastrioti died shortly after his four children were taken hostage.[3]

It was conquered by the Ottomans in 1395 and subsequently became the seat of the Sanjak of Dibra.

In 1440 Skanderbeg was appointed as its sanjakbey.[4][5]

During the Ottoman-Albanian wars between 1443-1479 the Dibër region was the borderline between the Ottomans and the League of Lezhë led by Skanderbeg and became an area of continuous conflict. There were two major battles near Debar, on 29 June 1444 The Battle of Torvioll and on 27 September 1446 The Battle of Otonetë both ending with the defeat of the Ottoman armies and Albanian victories.

An Ottoman army division was also stationed within the town.[6]

It was first a sanjak centre in Scutari Vilayet before 1877, and afterwards in Manastir Vilayet between 1877-1912 as Debre or Debre-i Bala ("Upper Debre" in Ottoman Turkish, as contrasted with Debre-i Zir, which was Peshkopi's Turkish name).

Debar was significantly involved in the national Albanian movement and on 1 November 1878 the Albanian leaders of the city participated in founding the League of Prizren.

In 1907 the Congress of Dibra was held in the town, which made Albanian an official language within the Ottoman Empire. The congress allowed that Albanian be taught in schools legally for the first time within the Empire.[7]

Balli Kombëtar forces in Debar

Following the capture of the town of Debar by Serbia, many of its Albanian inhabitants fled to Turkey, the rest went to Tirana.[8] Of those that ended up in Istanbul, some of their number migrated to Albania, mainly to Tirana where the Dibran community formed an important segment of the capital city's population from 1920 onward and for some years thereafter.[8]

It was occupied by Kingdom of Bulgaria between 1915 and 1918.

From 1929 to 1941, Debar was part of the Vardar Banovina of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Debar was annexed, along with most of Western North Macedonia, into the Italian-controlled Kingdom of Albania on 17 April 1941, following the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia during the Second World War. Albania was officially a protectorate of Italy and therefore public administration duties were passed to Albanian authorities. Albanian language schools, radio stations and newspapers were established in Debar. When Italy capitulated in September 1943, Debar passed into German hands. In 1944, after a two-month struggle for the city between the communist Albanian National Liberation Front and German forces holding the city, including the SS Skanderbeg division, the communists led by Haxhi Lleshi finally secured Debar on 30 August 1944.[9]

After the cessation of hostilities with the end of WW2 and the establishment of communism in both Albania and Yugoslavia, Debar passed back into Yugoslav hands.


In the late Ottoman period, Debre (Debar) was a town with 20,000 inhabitants, 420 shops, 9 mosques, 10 madrasas, 5 tekkes, 11 government run primary schools, 1 secondary school, 3 Christian primary schools and 1 church.In the early 19th century, when Debar rebelled against the Turkish Sultan, the French traveller, publicist, and scientist Ami Boue observed that Debar had 64 shops and 4,200 residents. [6]

According to the statistics of the Bulgarian ethnographer Vasil Kanchov in 1900 the population of Debar was 15,500 consisting of 10,500 Albanians, 4,500 Bulgarians, and 500 Romani.[10]

According to the last census data from 2002, the city of Debar has a population of 14,561, made up of

City of Debar population according to ethnic group 1948-2021[12]
census 1948 census 1953 census 1961 census 1971 census 1981 census 1994 census 2002 census 2021
Number % Number % Number % Number % Number % Number % Number % Number %
Albanians .. .. 4,122 74.7 4,507 71.3 6,681 75.7 8,625 70.7 9,400 70.5 10,768 74.0 8,194 69.8
Turks .. .. 53 1.0 195 3.1 367 4.2 573 4.7 1,175 8.8 1,415 9.7 911 7.8
Roma .. .. 83 1.5 0 0.0 0 0.0 1,030 8.5 1,103 8.3 1,079 7.4 1,140 9.7
Macedonians .. .. 1,110 20.1 1,009 16.0 1,276 14.5 1,106 9.1 1,431 10.7 1,054 7.3 419 3.6
Vlachs .. .. 2 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 1 0.0 2 0.0 2 0.0
Serbs .. .. 87 1.6 57 0.9 105 1.2 37 0.3 34 0.3 22 0.2 4 0.0
Bosniaks .. .. 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 2 0.0 5 0.0
Others .. .. 63 1.2 555 8.8 394 4.5 830 6.8 196 1.5 219 1.5 146 1.2
Persons for whom data are taken from administrative sources 914 7.8
Total 4,698 5,520 6,323 8,823 12,201 13,340 14,561 11,735


Statue of Skanderbeg in Debar

Some of the best craftsman, woodcarving masters and builders came from the Debar region and were recognized for their skills in creating detailed and impressive woodcarvings, painting beautiful icons and building unique architecture. In fact, Debar was one of the then famous three woodcarving schools in the region, the other two being Samokov and Bansko. Their work can be seen in many churches and cultural buildings throughout the Balkan Peninsula. The Mijak School of woodcarving became noted for its artistic excellence, and an amazing example that can be seen today by tourists is the iconostasis in the nearby Monastery of Saint Jovan Bigorski, near the town of Debar.[13] The monastery was rebuilt in the 19th century and is situated on the slopes of Mount Bistra, above the banks of the River Radika. The monastery was built on the remains of an older church dating from 1021.

Another important religious monument is the monastery of Saint Gjorgi in the village of Rajcica in the immediate vicinity of Debar. The monastery was recently built.

Grigor Parlichev was given the title Second Homer in 1860 in Athens for his poem The Serdar. Based on a folk poem, it deals with the exploits and heroic death of Kuzman Kapidan, a famous hero and protector of Christian people in the Debar region in their struggle with bandits.

Some of the oldest and richest Albanian epics still exist in the Debar regions and are part of the Albanian mythological heritage.

Debar is also known for its pizza consumption. As of 2018, Debar had one pizzeria for every 3,000 residents, and emigrants from the town had opened approximately 50 pizza restaurants in the United States.[14]


Local football club Korabi plays in the Macedonian Second League (West Division).

International relations[edit]

Partner towns[edit]

Partner towns of Debar:

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "Debar (Municipality, North Macedonia)". www.crwflags.com.
  2. ^ Stephano, Carolo (1633). Dictionarium historicum, geographicum, poeticum. p. 783.
  3. ^ a b Evans, Thammy (2014). Macedonia. Bradt Travel Guides Ltd, IDC House, The Vale, Chalfront St Peter, Bucks SL9 9RZ, England: The Globe Pequot Press Inc. p. 260. ISBN 978-1-84162-395-5. Retrieved 31 December 2015.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  4. ^ Zhelyazkova, Antonina. "Albanian identities". Archived from the original on 15 May 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2011. In 1440, he was promoted to sancakbey of Debar
  5. ^ Hösch, Peter (1972). The Balkans: a short history from Greek times to the present day, Volume 1972, Part 2. Crane, Russak. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-8448-0072-1. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  6. ^ a b Gawrych, George (2006). The Crescent and the Eagle: Ottoman rule, Islam and the Albanians, 1874–1913. London: IB Tauris. pp. 35–36. ISBN 9781845112875.
  7. ^ Torte, Rexhep (4 August 2009). "Përfundoi shënimi i 100-vjetorit të Kongresit të Dibrës". Albaniapress. Archived from the original on 2 January 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  8. ^ a b Clayer, Nathalie (2005). "The Albanian students of the Mekteb-i Mülkiye: Social networks and trends of thought". In Özdalga, Elisabeth (ed.). Late Ottoman Society: The Intellectual Legacy. Routledge. pp. 306–307. ISBN 9780415341646.
  9. ^ Magaš, Branka (1993). The destruction of Yugoslavia: tracking the break-up 1980-92. Verso. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-86091-593-5. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  10. ^ В. Кѫнчовъ, Македония. Етнография и статистика. (I изд. Бълг. Книжовно Д-во, София, 1900; II фототипно изд. "Проф. М. Дринов", София, 1996), ISBN 954430424X, стр. 210
  11. ^ Macedonian Census (2002), Book 5 - Total population according to the Ethnic Affiliation, Mother Tongue and Religion, The State Statistical Office, Skopje, 2002, p. 89.
  12. ^ Censuses of population 1948 - 2002 Archived 14 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Janko Petrovski; Aleksandar Dautovski; Angelikija Anakijeva (2004). Undying creativity: a pictorial journey through Macedonia. MacedoniaDirect. pp. 71–. ISBN 978-9989-2343-0-9.
  14. ^ Feldman, Amy. "Pizza Unchained: Tech Startup Slice Helps Local Pizzerias Get Online And Fight Back Against Domino's". Forbes. Archived from the original on 12 April 2018. Retrieved 12 April 2018.

General references[edit]

  • The History of Byzantine State by G. Ostrogorsky
  • The Serdar by G. Prlicev

External links[edit]

Media related to Debar at Wikimedia Commons

41°31′N 20°32′E / 41.517°N 20.533°E / 41.517; 20.533