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For the social concept, see debarment.

Debar with Debar Lake to the left
Debar with Debar Lake to the left
Flag of DebarDibër
DebarDibër is located in Republic of Macedonia
Location within Macedonia
Coordinates: 41°31′N 20°32′E / 41.517°N 20.533°E / 41.517; 20.533
Country  Macedonia
Municipality Debar Municipality
 • Mayor Ruzhdi Lata (DUI)
Population (2002)
 • Total 14,561
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 1250

Debar (Macedonian: Дебaр [ˈdɛːbar]; Albanian: Dibër, Turkish: Debre) is a city in the western part of the Republic of Macedonia, near the border with Albania, on the road from Struga to Gostivar. It is the seat of Debar Municipality. Debar has an ethnic Albanian majority and is the Republic of Macedonia's only city in which ethnic Macedonians do not rank first or second demographically.


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.


According to the last census data from 2002, the city of Debar has a population of 14,561, made up of 10,768 (74.0%) Albanians, 1,415 (9.7%) Turks, 1,079 (7.2%) Romani, 1,054 (7.2%) Macedonians, and 245 (1.7%) others.[1]

City of Debar population according to ethnic group 1948-2002[2]
census 1948 census 1953 census 1961 census 1971 census 1981 census 1994 census 2002
Number  % Number  % Number  % Number  % Number  % Number  % Number  %
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
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
Turks .. .. 53 1.0 195 3.1 367 4.2 573 4.7 1,175 8.8 1,415 9.7
Romani .. .. 83 1.5 0 0.0 0 0.0 1,030 8.5 1,103 8.3 1,079 7.4
Vlachs .. .. 2 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 1 0.0 2 0.0
Serbs .. .. 87 1.6 57 0.9 105 1.2 37 0.3 34 0.3 22 0.2
Bosnians .. .. 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 2 0.0
Others .. .. 63 1.2 555 8.8 394 4.5 830 6.8 196 1.5 219 1.5
Total 4,698 5,520 6,323 8,823 12,201 13,340 14,561


The name of the city in Macedonian is Debar (Дебар). In Albanian; Dibër/Dibra or Dibra e Madhe (meaning: Big 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, Divrē (Δίβρη) or Divra (Δίβρα) and in Roman times as Deborus [3]


Monastery of Saint Jovan Bigorski Monastery near Debar.

The first recorded document mentioning Debar is the map of Ptolemy, dating around the middle of the 2nd century, in which it is called Deborus. The Byzantine emperor Basil II knew of its existence, and Felix Petancic referred to it as Dibri in 1502.

The city was subsequently conquered by the First Bulgarian Empire, but lost to the Byzantines under Tsar Samuil by the early 11th century, as Bulgaria was subjugated.

Bohemond and his Norman army took the city in 1107. In the 13th and 14th century, the city changed hands between the Despotate of Epirus, the Second Bulgarian Empire, the Byzantine Empire and Serbia.

The city was under the rule of the short-lived Principality of Prilep of Prince Marko (r. 1371 – 1395), a successor state of the Serbian Empire (1346–1371) where the father of Prince Marko, Župan Vukašin Mrnjavčević (co-ruler of King Stefan Uroš V) held the region. The principality and region came under Ottoman Turkish rule in 1395.[4]

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.[5][6]

During the Ottoman-Albanian wars between 1443-1479 the Debar 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 June 29, 1444 and on September 27, 1446, both ending with the defeat of the Ottoman armies.

According to the Ottoman census of the reconquered area in 1466/67 the vilayet of Upper Debar in which the village of Rahovnik (the forerunner of present day city) stood, had 61 villages (of which 16 were abandoned) with 429 households and approximately 2000 souls. The majority of people were recorded as Serbs, then Slavs, then as Albanians and some as Vlach. A hundred years later, in the 1582 census, Rahovnik has 336 households, of which 131 Muslim, grouped in several mahale.[7]

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. 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 November 1, 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.[8]

By the end of the century, the town had 15,500 residents, but after World War I, this number started to decline.

During the First Balkan War of 1912-1913, the city was annexed by the Kingdom of Serbia. In September 1913 local Albanian and Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization leaders rebelled against the Kingdom of Serbia.

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

Debar was annexed, along with most of Western Macedonia, into the Italian-controlled Kingdom of Albania on 17 April 1941, following the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia during the Second World War. Greater 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 August 30, 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.


Statue of Skenderbeg 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.[10] 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.

Notable people from Debar[edit]


  1. ^ Macedonian census, language and religion
  2. ^ Censuses of population 1948 - 2002
  3. ^ as mentioned on page 783 in book titled Dictionarium historicum, geographicum, poeticum by Carolo Stephano.
  4. ^ J.VA Fine, The late mediaeval Balkans, p.380
  5. ^ Zhelyazkova, Antonina. "Albanian identities". Archived from the original on April 3, 2011. Retrieved April 3, 2011. In 1440, he was promoted to sancakbey of Debar 
  6. ^ 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 April 4, 2011. 
  7. ^ G. Palikruševa, A. Stojanovski, Debarska oblast u šezdesetim godinama XV veka (na osnovu jednog savremenog turskog izvora), Simpoziumi per Skenderbeun. Simpozijum o Skenderbegu (9-12 maj 1968), Priština, pp. 182-189
  8. ^ Torte, Rexhep (4 gusht 2009). "Përfundoi shënimi i 100-vjetorit të Kongresit të Dibrës". Albaniapress.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  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. ^ Janko Petrovski; Aleksandar Dautovski; Angelikija Anakijeva (2004). Undying creativity: a pictorial journey through Macedonia. MacedoniaDirect. pp. 71–. ISBN 978-9989-2343-0-9. 

General references[edit]

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

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