Everyday life on the Macedonian front Everyday life on the Macedonian front

Everyday life on the Macedonian front

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Visit the Macedonian Front

Short History WW1 Short History WW1

Short History WW1

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Discover the Macedonian Front

The civilian population in Macedonia during the First World War


For the population in Macedonia (Macedonians, Turks, Greeks, Vlachs, Roma, Bulgarians, Albanians, etc.), the First World War was a continuation of previous wars and of the destruction they caused. For years, they were confronted with the dangers of the conflicts of various armed troops, and then of the first and second Balkan wars. The presence of military units and of violence were not unknown in their lives. However, during the First World War, due to increases in stationed armies, logistical requirements and military action, the effects on the local population increased.

One of the first measures taken, affecting farmers in Macedonia, was the requisition of their food, equipment and livestock. Of course, the military commands on both sides of the front had a central food collection and redistribution system, but it was unable to meet all needs. As a result, soldiers often bought food from the local population (usually quite expensive), but the number of requisition cases or simply food theft was high. In such extraordinary conditions, the peasants did not have sufficient means to feed their families. Hence the emergence of famine in some villages near the Front area. In addition, villagers were often forced to abandon their homes to foreign soldiers and (especially) officers. The family members had to take care of the uninvited guests: prepare food, clean and do the practical work. But relationships weren't always negative. Some journals and officer's memoirs contain descriptions of interesting new acquaintances. The picture is quite different during military actions. The local population was in the whirlwind of war, often caught between the two warring parties. The bombardments of cities in the region have caused extensive destruction and loss of life. After the long bombardment of Bitola, the city became one of the symbols of the destruction caused by the First World War. In Dojran, the bombardment of the city caused a major fire that caused extensive damage, including wind and flammable building materials. There are also cases of collateral damage, such as the village of Mrzenci, partially damaged by bombs hitting the opponent's ball. Villagers have also suffered from the atrocities perpetrated by various paramilitary groups. In order to obtain more precise information on the opposite side, the two military commands have sometimes sent paramilitary groups of local origin. However, it has been shown that these groups are much more interested in looting and killing civilians than in military actions. Because of these difficult living conditions, there have been cases where villagers have simply fled with their families, leaving their belongings. However, civilian life is not always so black and white. In many cases, farmers took initiatives and became active, albeit temporarily, in the war. They have been involved in sabotage, intelligence for either army, sometimes stealing military units or earning a living by selling products at much higher prices. Each individual has coped with these complicated events as best she could. Finally, to conclude, the period of the First World War was one of the most difficult for the life of the local population in Macedonia.

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Infectious diseases in Macedonia


The war began where the assassination took place: in the Balkans. However, the start of the war was preceded by a series of serious political accusations between the European powers, culminating in diplomatic tensions three weeks before Franz Ferdinand's assassination. The period between the Sarajevo bombing and the outbreak of war is called the July crisis. In Austria-Hungary, the declaration of war on Serbia was only a matter of time. However, Vienna was not ready to declare war on Serbia immediately after being weakened by the Balkan wars, but also because there were different views on when and how Serbia should be punished.

Finally, Austria-Hungary's response to the attack in Sarajevo was sent on 23 July as an ultimatum, imposing a 48-hour deadline. The ultimatum was rejected by the Serbian government. This justified the declaration of war by Austria-Hungary on 28 July. Meanwhile, Russia was openly supporting Serbia. Russia had in mind that they would win in the case of a war against Germany, because they would have to fight on two fronts. On the other hand, the conflict between Germany and Russia and the weakening of German positions in Europe represented an interest for France. Taking this into account, Russia began a secret mobilisation of its armies on 24 July. On 31 July, Germany sent an ultimatum to Russia expiring within 12 hours in which it demanded that the Russian mobilisation be lifted. In the absence of a response, Germany declared war on Russia on the 1 of August. In addition, France mobilised its army. On 3 August, Germany declares war on France. Great Britain, still neutral at that time, mainly because of the civil war in Ireland, could not accept the domination of Germany. After the German invasion of Belgium and the rejection of the British ultimatum on 4 August, England declared war on Germany. Within a week, most of Europe was at war. In the following months and years, other European countries joined one of the belligerent alliances. In October 1914, the Ottoman Empire took the side of the central powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary, and the same month, in 1915, Bulgaria followed the same path. That same year, Italy decided to join the Entente. In 1916, Romania and, in 1917, Greece and the United States also joined the Entente. The war also spread to Asia and in the Pacific, where New Zealand and Japan invaded and conquered the German colonies, and in Africa for the same purpose.

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The photos

The written and visual content on this platform (current and historical) is provided to the public for general informational, scientific and educational purposes. All published content is the property of its respective authors.

The Manaki photos

The Manaki photos - The photos are in the property of the National archive of the Republic of Macedonia, department in Bitola. The photos are edited by the Macedonian Centre for photography.

The original photos are in the property of the European association for local democracy – ALDA.  Photographer: Zoran Shekerov



Since its independence in 1991, the name of the country as inscribed in the Macedonian Constitution is "Republic of Macedonia". Nevertheless, and for the purposes of recognition by international organisations and their Member States, the country has agreed to use the designation "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". It is under this name that the French Republic has recognised this State. On this website, for convenience of language, "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" is referred to as the "Republic of Macedonia" or "Macedonia". This does not represent the position of France or Normandy.

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