There are approximately 11 200 buildings registered as part of the immovable cultural heritage (4 260 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 were 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%. However, as the Minister of Culture recently has stated, only 17.5% of the immovable heritage have been revalorised.
There are 3 national parks: Galichica (since 1958), Mavrovo (1949) and Pelister (1948).
In 2004, the Ministry of Culture established a Directorate for Protection of Cultural Heritage Office (DPCH) as a constituent part of the Ministry (with 66 employees), operating as a legal entity.
Organisational structure DPCH:
Table 3: DPCH – 2016 – 2018 budget
|Cultural Heritage Protection Office||2016||2017||2018|
|Salaries, goods, services, transfers, capital expenses||45 552 000||48 066 000||49 550 000|
|Activities||155 587 000||149 294 000||133 200 000|
|Total in MKD||201 139 000||197 306 000||191 550 000|
|Total in EUR||3 297 360||3 234 524||3 140 163|
Source: Ministry of Finance, Budget 2016/17/18
Cultural heritage protection and archaeological excavations have been the government’s top priority from 2006 onwards. The budget for archaeological excavations, especially in 2006-2009, tripled compared to the years before, but is declining since then.
There is special legislation on the protection of archival material and its handling, librarianship, and the preservation of films and film material of historic, artistic and other cultural significance.
In July 2013, the director of the DPCH and the chief inspector for protection of cultural heritage were arrested as part of the so called “Falanga 2” process for issuing permits for illegal archaeological excavations and facilitating illicit trafficking. In June 2014 the director was sentenced to three years in prison, and the chief inspector to five years.
In 2013, the DPCH established a National Information System for Cultural Heritage. This portal provided an overview of the North Macedonian immovable, movable and intangible cultural heritage. Its purpose was to present data on heritage to the general public.
In 2017, the National Council for Cultural Heritage was constituted within the Ministry of Culture. It consists of 11 members and the president of the Council is the Minister of Culture.
Several burning major issues for cultural heritage policies have been present for years:
- new strategy for protection of cultural heritage and a new law on protection of the cultural heritage;
- new law on protection of cultural heritage;
- revision of the National Registry of Cultural Heritage (especially for the illegal entries made during the notorious project “Skopje 2014”);
- revalorisation of the cultural heritage;
- addressing illegal archaeological excavations and illicit trafficking of cultural heritage, etc.
These issues, and many more, were also underlined in the Analysis prepared by the Working group for the protection of cultural heritage in 2017/2018 but none of it has been put into practice.
A draft of a new National Strategy for Protection of Cultural Heritage (2021-2025) is under public debate.
For the first time, in the 2021 budget for protection of cultural heritage there is a fund for protection of cultural heritage in danger.
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 4: Museums in Macedonia, 2018
Source: Ministry of Culture
There is no official museum policy document yet, but the key issues and priorities have been stated in the National Strategy for Cultural Development 2018-2022:
- necessary changes to the Law on Museums,
- review of the status (national and local) of museums and decentralisation of the museum network,
- analysis of the space conditions in the major museums,
- analysis of the permanent displays, etc.
However, so far nothing has been put into practice.
There is no national museum association or formal network, but some of the museums are members of ICOM.
It is important to underline that in the period 2008-2014 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 had been a lot of public argument surrounding the work of these museums. Contrary to the Law on Museums, all the work, even on the permanent displays in the museums, had 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.