Vratnica (Macedonian: Вратница) is a small village and community located in the Jegunovce Municipality of North Macedonia. Vratnica lies in the north-west, and is 22 km away from the city of Tetovo and 5 km away from Jažince - the border crossing point with Kosovo. Prior to 2003 Vratnica was the centre of the now disestablished Vratnica municipality.
The most probable origin of Vratnica's name comes from the word 'vratnica', which means a small door or gate in Macedonian and other Slavic dialects. This would suggest that Vratnica was thought of as a gateway (vrata - in Macedonian and Serbian) between Kaçanik and Polog valley. Other theories suggest that because of population movements, Vratnica got its name (to return/to come back = se vraća/се враќа, in English/Macedonian, vratiti se in Serbian) when the ethnic Macedonian community that migrated back from Kosovo to this part formed a community in the 15th century (assuming that the theory of migration is true). Another theory suggests that Vratnica is some sort of gateway. Another less-probable theory suggests that the western side of Ljuboten, a mountain peak above Vratnica, looks like a neck (vrat, shija - Shija Ljubotenska, in Macedonian and Serbian).
The original name of the village 'Moravce' could be due to the migration of the first inhabitants (mid-10th century), from the river Morava, or the Slavic tribe 'Moravians' that settled eastern Serbia from central Europe. When they moved to Shar Mountain they named their village based on the region they migrated from; hence, Morava area. Due to the Austro-Turkish war of the late 17th century (1689~), the inhabitants of the former village 'Moravce' participated as volunteers in the war against the Turks. As a result, the village was destroyed by Turks and the inhabitants fled north into Kosovo and elsewhere in the Polog valley. They settled in abandoned Serb homes that were left vacant due to the great migration of 1690. The area settled by Moravcani was mainly in the southeastern part of Kosovo. Due to the exodus, the Turks were quick to realize they had less population to work fields, so they openly called back people to return to their former villages and would not face retribution for partaking in the war against them. As a result, some families originating from 'Moravce' came back to their former village on Shar mountain, and were recognized by surrounding villages as 'the returnees' (vratili se). When they began expanding the old village of Moravce from the upper to lower part of Shar Mountain, they became known as 'Vratnichani' or simply the village 'Vratnica'.
Vratnica was mentioned for the first time in Ottoman defters (tax registry and land cadastre) dating back to the 15th century. It was recorded that there were about 59 families living in Vratnica. In the defter labeled 4 for the years 1467/68 the number of houses had increased to 66, while in 1545 there is a record of 76 houses, and in 1568 there were 84 houses registered.
The village underwent migrations and settlement until the 18th century, and in the 20th century, there was extensive chain migration to the United States. In 1914/1916, the total population of Vratnica was 1,131 with 131 houses; in 1948, there were 1,299 inhabitants and 197 houses; in 1953, there were 1,387 inhabitants and 214 houses; in 1961, the respective numbers were 1,384 and 227; in 1968, 1,240 and 225; and, in 1971, 1,082 inhabitants and 266 houses.
The village of Moravce is also important for Vratnica history, as it was located on the northwest, 800 meters above present day Vratnica. Due to the oppression of the Ottoman Turks, Moravce inhabitants were forced to search for better living conditions. They directed their steps to the north, towards Kosovo and middle Serbia, but Vratnicans were forced to leave those regions as well. They eventually came back and formed modern Vratnica with the ones that stayed at the native land.
Vratnichani speak on 'Vratnica' dialect, which is part of the western subgroup of the northern group of dialects of the Macedonian language. Serbian linguistics refer to it as a sub-dialect of Serbia's southeastern 'Torlak' dialects called 'Prizrenski/Timochki'. It draws its grammar origin from today's Macedonian language, but incorporates both Macedonian, Serbian and old Slavonic words (Example: 'rabotam'=to work, 'golemo'=big, 'astal'=table, 'das'=rain and 'prajem'=to make). The accent is related closest to southeastern Serbian ekavica, and when some southern Macedonians hear the speech they refer to it as sounding more like Serbian. This is due to Vratnica falling in the 'transitional dialectal zone'; where the speech takes characteristics from Macedonian, Bulgarian and southeastern Serbian. Many archaic words found in the village are also found in Macedonians in today's northern Greek villages (Example: 'furna' = bakery,'sukalo' = rolling pin and 'tache'=like that(oddly only spoken in a few villages in Polog)). This may be in part because the original Slavic-speakers that settled in northern Greece gradually moved northwards over the centuries bringing their native speech with them. Vratnica has many archaic words (Old Church Slavonic) that 'may have' originated from northern Greek Macedonia, and spread north into today's North Macedonia, southeastern Kosovo and southeastern Serbia.
The South Slavic-speaking community is divided between Macedonian and Serbian ethnic identification, although the majority identify as ethnic Macedonians, as indicated in the most recent censuses. Most of the Vratnicani who consider themselves to be Serbian reside in the United States; however, there are still many Vratnicani in the United States who are Macedonian. All practice Orthodox traditions.
According to the Macedonian census 2002, the ethnic groups in the village are:
Notable people of Vratnican descent.
- Kiro Popovski, lawyer and politician
- Ane Mihailovich, footballer
- Sasho Cirovski, football coach
- Slavko Milosavlevski, sociologist
- Ed Jovanovski, NHL hockey player
- Valentina Dimovski, Doctor of Audiology, artist
- Traditional Mayday Tournament "VRATNICA" - (May 1). One of the biggest sport events in the Polog region. The tournament includes football and streetball (basketball) competition. In the past handball was also played.
- Enciklopedija na selata vo republika makedonija, Panov, Mitko. Skopje 1998. Pg. 61.
- Vratnica.info - Vratnica Fresh News, Articles, Information and Photos
- Vratnica @ Twitter - Latest short news from Vratnica area.
- Vratnica United - Bringing Vratnica People Together - Website dedicated to Vratnica and its people. Info, photos, news, events, lifestyle...
- VratnicaUSA.com - Website for people from Vratnica that live in the United States.
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