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FYR of Macedonia/ 5.3 Sector specific legislation  

5.3.3 Cultural heritage

There are 11 200 buildings registered as part of the immovable cultural heritage (4 421 archaeological sites; 1 726 churches and monasteries with over 150 000 square metres of mural fresco paintings; etc.) and 500 000 museum pieces. Institutional responsibility for cultural heritage (by types) rests with the institutes for the protection of cultural monuments (immovable cultural heritage) and museums, libraries and the national cinématheque (moveable cultural heritage). The process of revalorisation of the cultural heritage is in process for several years.

The first institution for protection of cultural heritage was founded in 1949 in Skopje as a Central institute for protection of cultural monuments and natural rarities (today known as the National Conservation Centre).

Until 2004 there were 7 institutes (together with public museums, as one legal entity) responsible for the protection of immovable cultural heritage (1 national and 6 with regional scope), including conservation and restoration. These institutes are legally obliged to register the monuments designated as cultural heritage. As a result of their work, 11 200 immovable objects from different periods have been recorded. The period of time required to complete the validation process is quite slow in comparison to the speed at which objects are recorded (proportion 10:1). In the period 1991-1997 the share of the protection of the immovable cultural heritage in the total budget for culture ranged from 8 to 13%. In contrast to this, in the period until 1991, the percentage of protection funds used to be as much as 35%.

In 2004, the new Law for Protection of Cultural Heritage was adopted by the Parliament.  It defines public services in this field and all available legal mechanisms to ensure the protection of cultural heritage (immovable and movable). Cultural heritage may be publicly or privately owned and may be exported only in exceptional cases with permission by the Minister of Culture. Private owners have an obligation to care and maintain cultural heritage and property and to provide access for scientific and cultural research purposes and in some cases to provide access to the general public. According to this law the newly established Cultural Heritage Protection Office is the main responsible body in this field. The government appoints the director of this Department. The institutes for protection of cultural heritage have to separate from the public museums and transform into national conservation centres.

In 2005 the Ministry of Culture supported the protection of cultural heritage with 6.96% of the budget (86 500 000 MKD = 1 395 161 EUR). 69.09% of that budget was spent for protection and conservation of immovable heritage, 3.61% for conservation of frescoes, 1.72% for conservation of icons etc. In 2012 the budget for the protection of cultural heritage was approximately 4 million EUR and in 2013 was 3.6 million EUR.

There are 3 national parks: Galichica (since 1958), Mavrovo (1949) and Pelister (1948).

Museums are mainly responsible for the protection of moveable cultural heritage. To a certain extent, the National and University Library (for medieval manuscripts) and the National Cinématheque (for films) also play a role.

Table 8:    Museums in Macedonia, 2012




Public (national and local)




Subject of work

General national


Specialised national


General local


Specialised local






Source:    State Statistic Office, Culture and Public Informing, 2012.

In 2014 the new Archaeological Museum was opened. With 6 000 square metres, it presents over 6 000 exhibits.

According to the latest data, the total number of museum pieces stored in Macedonian museums is 620 590 (inventoried and not-inventoried); most are archaeological artefacts and zoological museum pieces. Of these, the most important are the archaeological artefacts that have been collected and preserved in Macedonian museums. The majority are housed in the museums in Skopje – about 33 000, allocated as follows: 21 000 in the Museum of Macedonia, 12 000 in the Museum of the City of Skopje, 15 000 at Stobi Archaeological Museum, more than 13 000 in Ohrid, etc. As for other kinds of moveable heritage, 22 855 icons have been recorded, nearly 450 medieval Slavic manuscripts in Macedonia and 698 abroad (it is estimated that a few thousand are housed in foreign libraries, museums, archives and private collections), over 4 500 oriental manuscripts, tens of thousands of ethnological pieces, about a hundred thousand pieces of film and photographic material, etc.

Recently some experts have argued that Macedonian museums are poorly managed, with limited opening hours (09.00 - 17.00) and unattractive programmes.

Table 9:    Exhibits by type of collection, 2012

Type of inventoried exhibits



179 746


38 237


56 574


15 135








129 713


9 088



Inventoried exhibits – total

430 642

Uninventoried exhibits

189 948

Exhibits on display

30 434

Source:    State Statistic Office, Culture and Public Informing, 2012.

There is no official museum policy document yet, but the key issues and priorities have been stated in the National Programme for Culture 2004-2008:

  • establishing sustainable conditions for the museums, national and local, according to world standards,
  • encouraging projects and activities to attract visitors to the museums and developing marketing models,
  • supporting archaeological investigations for cultural, scientific and tourist purposes,
  • publishing catalogues of the public museum collections, and
  • supporting the development of new forms of activities.

There is no national museum association or formal network, but some of the museums are members of ICOM.

In 2004, the Law on Museums was adopted by the Parliament. It defines public services in this field, the work, types (national, local and private) and organisation of the museums etc. It specifies certain rules for founding a museum: financial means, building and equipment, highly educated staff etc. The Minister of Culture decides whether these rules are met. The law also defines the responsibility of the government to cover the insurance costs for certain foreign exhibitions. The law also established the National Council for Museums.

In 2005 the Ministry of Culture supported 217 museum projects (59 archaeological, 59 ethnological, 44 historical, 16 natural history, 19 arts, etc.).

It is important to underline that in the past four years several new museums have been opened: Museum on Water in Ohrid, Memorial House of Mother Theresa, Museum of Macedonian Struggle (both in Skopje) and the Memorial House of Tose Proevski in Krusevo, etc. However, there has been a lot of public argument surrounding the work on the museums. Contrary to the Law on Museums, all the work, even on the permanent displays in the museums, has been carried out by the Ministry of Culture, without appointing any managing or professional staff in the museums. On the other hand, some of the museums are controversial in form, especially the Memorial house of Tose Proeski (pop star recently deceased), or the Memorial House of Mother Theresa.

Chapter published: 06-10-2015

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