Geographical distribution of the Macedonian language

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The Macedonian language is spoken throughout the Balkan Peninsula, Europe and the rest of the world. The actual number of Macedonian speakers is hard to determine as it is a controversial topic. A 1964 estimate of the emigrant population put the number of Macedonian speakers outside of the Balkans at roughly 580,000 people.[1]

Republic of Macedonia[edit]

Dialects of the Macedonian language.

The Macedonian language is the most widespread language used in the Republic of Macedonia. It was codified in 1944 and since then has been taught in schools across the republic. It is the primary language used by ethnic Macedonians and a secondary language of the various ethnic groups. It is the mother language of 70% of all inhabitants of the Republic of Macedonia.[2]


The Macedonian language is spoken in the eastern border regions with Macedonia. It is the primary language in the Pustec district and other populations can be found in Mala Prespa and Golo Brdo.

The Macedonian language is taught and spoken amongst the Macedonian minority in Albania. It is the primary school language and it used for some official purposes. There is one Macedonian radio station and news-journal in circulation.


Thousands of ethnic Macedonians migrated to Serbia in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of them still prefer using their native language. In 2002, 25,847 people declared themselves as ethnic Macedonians. Large concentrations of Macedonian speakers can be found in Pančevo, Jabuka, Novi Sad and Belgrade. 14,355 people declared Macedonian to be their mother language.[3] Currently there is no specific program to educate students in Macedonian. Yet there are attempts to introduce Macedonian language classes into areas where there is a significant minority.[4]


There is debate as to whether the language of the Gorani people in Kosovo is closer to Macedonian, Bulgarian or Serbian. They identify it as Našinski. Recently the Government of Kosovo began to teach the Macedonian language after it acquired Macedonian language textbooks and grammar books for the Gorani population.[5]


Distribution of the Macedonian language according to the 1980 Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups

After World War II the Bulgarian Communist Party was compelled by Joseph Stalin to accept the formation of Macedonian, Thracian and Dobrujan nations in order to include those new separate states in a Balkan communist federation.[6][7][8] From 1947-1958 Bulgaria was forced to declare Macedonian the official language of Pirin Macedonia.[7][8] Macedonian language newspapers were published and book houses were set up. Many teachers from the Socialist Republic of Macedonia were sent to Bulgaria to teach the Macedonian language. According to many scholars this was done despite the unwillingness of the local population to co-operate.[9] After 1958 when the pressure from Moscow decreased, the campaign was abandoned and Sofia turned back to the view that the Macedonian language did not exist and that the Slavic population in Blagoevgrad province (Pirin Macedonia) was Bulgarian. All Macedonian language printing stopped and the language was no longer taught in Bulgaria.

The existence of a Macedonian language and Macedonian ethos is highly disputed in Bulgaria. Most Bulgarians do not recognize the Macedonian language as a separate language and assert that it is a dialect of Bulgarian. There are two dialects in Bulgaria which are considered Macedonian in Macedonia: the Maleševo-Pirin (widely spoken in most of Blagoevgrad Province in Bulgaria and Delčevo region in the Republic of Macedonia) and the Ser-Drama-Lagadin-Nevrokop ones. Some linguists consider these dialects to be transitional between modern Bulgarian and Macedonian.[citation needed]

According to the 2011 Bulgarian census, 1404 persons in Bulgaria and 561 in Blagoevgrad Province declared Macedonian as their native language.[10]


The Macedonian language is spoken in the Greek region of Macedonia. In Greece the language is often called "Slav-Macedonian", "Macedonian Slavic" or "Slavic". An estimated 180,000[11] - 250,000[12] people speak the Macedonian language in Greece.

The Macedonian language is most widespread in the Florina, Kastoria, Edessa, Serres and Kilkis regions.[13] Approximately 77 villages speak the Maceodnian language in the Kastoria area, and 70-72 in the Florina prefecture.[13] however, these villages are of medium to small sizes, and some of them are deserted due to immigration or the civil war. The actual speakers of all these villages in Kastoria and Florina is unknown. The same can be said for the other regions in Greece, so the estimation today is that the actual speakers are over 180 thousand people, compared to the up to 250 thousand before the war. The stunning differences are partly the result of immigration to USA or Australia and other countries, but also of the outcome of the last war, were the majority of the Slav-Macedonians were members of the side, that eventually lost the civil war.

There are many dialects native to the Greek region of Macedonia. They are the Lerin Dialect, Lower Prespa dialect, Maleševo-Pirin dialect, Nestram-Kostenar dialect, Kostur dialect, Korča dialect, Solun-Voden dialect and the Ser-Drama-Lagadin-Nevrokop dialect.

Rest of the Balkans[edit]

An estimated 20,000 speakers of the Macedonian language live throughout the rest of the Balkans. Many are recent immigrants to the region.


2007 figures indicate that there are 74,162 Macedonians (possibly including Macedonian citizens of different ethnicities and languages) in Italy.[citation needed]


There are approximately 61,000 Macedonians in Switzerland.[citation needed]

United States[edit]

Official sources in the Republic of Macedonia estimate up to 200,000 have knowledge of the language.[14] The largest concentrations of Macedonian speakers in the United States are in the states of Michigan (mostly in Detroit), northern New Jersey and southern New York, and Ohio.


Macedonian has approx. 150,000 native speakers in Canada.[14]


The Macedonian language has had a long history in Australia. From the pečalbari/seasonal workers to the mass migrations of ethnic Macedonians from Greece and the Republic of Macedonia.

The 1976 census reported that 16,691 people spoke the Macedonian language at home. By 1986 this number had risen significantly to 45,610. The 1991 census reported 64,428 people speaking the language at home. The language continued to increase in use with 71,371 speakers in 1996 and 71,994 speakers in 2001.[15] The first actual decline in language usage occurred in 2006 when only 67,831 people declared they spoke the Macedonian language at home. In 2001 it was the 9th most spoken language at home in Australia other than English.

In 2001 the largest concentration of speakers were in Melbourne:30,831, Sydney:19,980, Wollongong:7,420, Perth:5,772 and Newcastle:2,095. Other concentrations include Geelong, Queanbeyan, Shepparton, Richmond and Brisbane.

It is possible to choose the Macedonian language as a study option in the New South Wales Higher School Certificate[16] and the Victorian VCE.[17] The language is also offered at Macquarie University.[18]


  1. ^ Topolinjska, Z. (1998), "In place of a foreword: facts about the Republic of Macedonia and the Macedonian language", International Journal of the Sociology of Language (no. 131): 1-11
  2. ^ CIA - The World Factbook 2002 - Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 24, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2009. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ » Balkan News - Kosovo: Prishtina-Skopje railway line back into operation Global Geopolitics News: Intelligence, News, and Analysis from Global Geopolitics Net
  6. ^ v, Joseph. The Communist Party of Bulgaria; Origins and Development, 1883-1936. Columbia University Press. p. 126. 
  7. ^ a b A. Cook, Bernard (2001). Europe Since 1945: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. p. 810. ISBN 0-8153-4058-3. 
  8. ^ a b Coenen-Huther, Jacques (1996). Bulgaria at the Crossroads. Nova Publishers. p. 166. ISBN 1-56072-305-X. 
  9. ^ Ангелов, Веселин. Хроника на едно национално предателство, София 1999, p. 298-302
  10. ^ 2011 population census in the Republic of Bulgaria; Population by location, age and mother tongue (in Bulgarian)
  11. ^ ethnologue
  12. ^ Poulton, Hugh (1995). Who are the Macedonians?. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 167. ISBN 1-85065-238-4. 
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ 2006 Census Table : Australia
  16. ^ HSC Syllabuses - M - Board of Studies NSW
  17. ^ Macedonian Index - Studies - VCE - VCAA
  18. ^ Macquarie University 2008 Handbook: European Languages