North Macedonia

Country reports


Expert author: Zlatko Teodosievski
Last update: November 17th 2021


February to April 2020

The situation in the cultural sector in North Macedonia is more or less the same as the rest of Europe, at least with the complete lockdown. On February 28th 2020, following the Government’s recommendation, all major public cultural events were canceled until March 6th. However, with the increase of the local transmission of COVID-19, this measure was prolonged until March 13th (including sporting events etc.) and on March 10th all schools (primary and secondary) and universities were also closed. On March 13th the measures were taken one step further and all cultural institutions (cinemas, museums etc.) were completely closed to visitors. Finally, an emergency situation was declared in the whole country. This resulted not only in a shutdown of the institutions, but also reduced staff in them.

Following the development of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government is introducing necessary measures on a daily basis, especially security and economic measures, but culture was somehow never mentioned in this context. Even stranger, if you take a look at the website of the Ministry of Culture (, the situation for culture is completely “normal”; there is no COVID-19 pandemic, everything is like it was and there is no need for any special measures! Although there were lonely voices – mine also, several times – in favour of some “first aid” or necessary course of action by the Government in the cultural sector, nothing is happening so far, not even an effort to make approximate assessments of possible damages.

However, the so called independent cultural sector (or at least part of it), together with the Syndicate of Cultural Workers, have filed an Initiative with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Culture and the Mayor of Skopje for special measures to help the independent cultural sector in the time of COVID-19 crisis. The Initiative suggests 3 basic measures: 1. A special six month fund of monthly subventions for the independent sector; 2. Urgent overdue payment of the grants for 2019 and 3. Urgent payment of at least 70% of the grants for 2020 etc. Following the Initiative, a meeting with the Minister of Culture was held on March 24th 2021. The Minister agreed to urgently pay the debt for 2019 and to fasten all the arrangements for 2020 grants, but as for measure no. 1, the Law on Culture does not allow monthly payments to the independent cultural sector. He suggested this issue could be discussed with the Government. However, I think that the Minister in times like this (having in mind especially the proclaimed emergency situation) has the power to suggest such a measure and even to propose necessary changes to the Law on Culture.

The “dilemma” whether the Law on Culture allowed monthly financial support to the independent cultural sector was successfully solved by the Government’s decision (from the beginning of April) to include self-employed artists (140) in the monthly financial support plan with a minimal salary (14.500 denar) for April and May. (This measure follows the Government’s decision for a general deduction from the salaries of all state/local appointed or elected officials to a minimal salary for at least two months). The Government is also considering other measures to help the independent cultural sector, artists and cultural workers under temporary contracts, film workers etc.

The City of Skopje has also introduced certain measures to help culture in these “corona times”, i.e.: postponing non-priority capital projects; advance payments for independent sector projects; community open space concerts that can be watched from terraces during the curfew hours; logistic and psychological support from volunteers for older (70+) artists and cultural workers; defining a post-crisis cultural strategy etc.

May 2020 – October 2021

The situation with COVID-19 in North Macedonia since the last update (April 2020) hasn’t changed much compared with the rest of European countries. Pandemic waves (second, third etc.) are coming and going away. Government’s recommendations are more or less evolving according to the percentage of vaccinated people (which is very low, less than 30%) and the number of newly infected cases, the daily number of deceased which is still high etc. However, the National plan for COVID-19 vaccination was delivered very late (on February 5th,, 2021), the vaccines were also purchased very late (February/March 2021), the process of immunization wasn’t introduced until April etc. Throughout 2020 – except for short intervals – cultural institutions were closed to the public, with none or radically reduced programmes, especially the international projects.

A major development in the work of the cultural institutions was the introduction of Protocol No. 47 for libraries, museums, galleries and exhibition spaces. It imposed mandatory rules for the institutions as organizers of events and the public: use of protection face masks, keeping a physical distance, intensive disinfection of premises, reduction in the number of visitors (15 visitors per 100 sq.m. at a time; this measure was changed in October 2021 allowing up to 50% of the available space for audiences), special controls in front of the box office and the entrance of the institution etc. Special measures were also set for the film industry.

Starting from September 2021, as in most other public spaces (restaurants, cafeterias, city malls…), valid vaccination certificates was introduced for visiting programmes in the cultural institutions.

The overall, general side effect of this pandemic on the cultural institutions in North Macedonia is the radical reduction of their programmes and the drastic decrease in public attendance. Macedonian cultural institutions have always had a “problem” with a small but more or less constant number of visitors, but the pandemic has pushed it to the very limit.