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Bitola (Municipality, Macedonia)


Last modified: 2006-08-19 by ivan sache
Keywords: bitola | bistrica | kukurechani | chapari | sun: 8 rays (yellow) | sun: 13 rays (yellow) |
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[Flag of Bitola]

Flag of Bitola - Image by Jovan Jonovski, 23 March 2006

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Presentation of Bitola

The municipality of Bitola (95,385 inhabitants; 787.95 sq. km.) is made of the town of Bitola and the 65 settlements of Barešani, Bistrica, Bratin Dol, Brusnik, Bukovo, Belušina, Gabalavce, Gopeš, Gorno Egri, Gorno Orizari, Graešinka, Dihovo, Dolenci, Dobro Egri, Dobro Orizari, Dragarino, Dragožani, Dragoš, Drevenik, Đavato, Žabeni, Zpokukjani, Kažani, Kanino, Karamani, Kišava, Kravari, Krkpino, Kremenica, Krstoar, Kukurečani, Lavci, Lažec, Lera, Lisolaj, Logovardi, Lopatica, Magarevo, Malovište, Metimir, Medžitpija, Nižepole, Novo Zmirnovo, Oblakovo, Oleveni, Optičari, Orehovo, Ostrec, Poeševo, Porodin, Ramna, Raštani, Rotino, Svinište, Sekirani, Snegovo, Sredno Egri, Srpči, Staro Zmirnovo, Streževo, Trn, Trnovo, Capari, Crnobuki and Crnovec.

The town of Bitola (86,176 inhabitants, therefore the second biggest town of the country after Skopje) is located in the south-west of Macedonia, close to the border with Greece. The city was built at an elevation of 580-660 a.s.l. on the banks of the river Dragor in the Pelagonia valley, which is surrounded by the Baba and Nidzhe mountains. The Baba mountains and their highest point, Pelister (2,601 m) were made the first national park in former Yugoslavia in 1948.
The city of Heraclea Lyncestis was built by King Philip II of Macedonia in 359 BC around an acropolis set up on the top of a hill. Macedonia, conquered in 168 BC, became a Roman province in 148 BC; Heraclea was made the capital city of one of the four districts set up by Rome, with a permanent regent and garrison. The city was used as a supply depot by Caesar during the Civil Wars and later granted the title of colony: in the beginning of the third century AD, it was known as Septima Aurelia Heraclea. Located on the Via Egnatia, which connected the Adriatic and Aegean coasts, Heraclea was a flourishing city with several big monuments (forum, theater...) mostly built under the Antonian emperors. When the Barbarians started to threat the city, it was surrounded with walls. The Christian religion was established very early in Heraclea, which had two basilicas. In the late VIth century-early VIIth century, the Avars and the Slavs invaded the region, causing the decline of Heraclea.
In the second half of the VIth century, the Slavic Dragoviti tribe settled around the today's site of Bitola, closed to Heraclea. They moved again southwards and abandoned the area to the Brsjaci tribe. The Christian religion thrived and there were some 70 churches and monasteries in Bitola. The Macedonian writer Cepenko called Bitola "The Holy Mountain of Macedonia". Bitola was then part of a kingdom ruled by Samoil; his son Gavril Radomir built a castle in Bitola, where he exerted his power. The Byzantine historian Jovan Skulica (XIth century) describes in his "Short History" the invasion of Pelagonia and the destruction of Gavrilo's castle in Bitola by Emperor Basil II (963-1025). Basil II's "Gramota", dated 1019, prescribes the rights of the Archbishop of Ohrid and lists the local bishoprics, including Bitola. In the western sources, Bitola was still known as Heraclea and the Bishopric of Bitola as Pelagonia. In the XIVth century, Bitola was a trade city, that had developed links with all the main economic centers of the Balkan (Constantinople, Salonica, Dubrovnik...)
In 1382-1383, the Ottomans conquered Bitola, Evronos Bey was appointed Governor of the city by Sultan Murat I (1359-1389), and Bitola was transformed in a military headquarter. The Turks settled near river Dragor, where they built mosques, monasteries, schools and baths. A Turkish census dated 1468 gives for the city a population of 2,345, with six Muslim boroughs and one Christian. The input of Jews expelled from Portugal and Spain (1481-1528) significantly contributed to the economic development of the city, that lived from agriculture, weapon and armor manufacturing and cotton. Craftsmen's guilds (esnafi) were set up as it occurred in most Ottoman cities at that time, and trade relationships were established with several cities. Most historical buildings still visible in Bitola were built in the XVIth century: Isak Celebi mosque (1516), Hadzi Bey (1521), Jeni mosque (1558), Gazi Hajdar (1562)... In the next century, Bitola remained aside from the decline of the Ottoman Empire.
In the beginning of the XIXth century, industrialization and modern capitalism were introduced in Bitola. The Ottoman feudal administrative system was suppressed in 1830. The next year, Bitola became the capital city of the Vilayet of Rumelia and therefore of European Turkey and a garrison of 30,000 was then stationed in the city. Economical connections with London, Vienna, Belgrade, Salonica, Constantinople, Alexandria... were maintained by the great trader's families (Ikonomot, Robevi, Geras, Danabash, Rizovi...), who progressively transformed Bitola in a modern European city. At the end of the XIXth century, the city had 17 boroughs and some 30 special markets (for horses, sheep, grains, cream, jam...) and craftmen's gatherings. In 1851, Austria opened a consulate in Bitola, followed by Britain (1851), France (1854), Russia (1861), Greece (1865), Serbia (1888), Romania (1895), Italy (1895) and Bulgaria (1897). Bitola was then known as "The City of the Consulates". Bitola progressively turned from an Ottoman traders' city to a modern European city, and emancipation ideals started to spread among its inhabitants.
A committee of the VMRO (Interior Macedonian Revolutionary Organization) was located in Bitola and significantly contributed to the set up of the Ilinden Uprising against the Ottomans in 1903. The uprising was suppressed after ten days but proved that the Ottoman Empire was weaker and weaker. Gorgi Sugarev (1876-1905), from Bitola, took part to the Ilinden events and carried on the fight against the Ottomans; he committed suicide in the village of Paralovo to avoid being captured. His brother in arms Dimce Mogilceto (1879-1908) did the same near the village of Nospal. Dame Gruev (1871-1906) was the organizer of the resistance in the region of Bitola; he was killed in a battle with the Ottomans. Aleksandar Turundjev (1872-1905), executed in public in Bitola, is considered as one of the main Macedonian heroes and is recalled by several folk songs.
The local population supported the Young Turks revolt in 1908 and the city was liberated from the Turkish rule the same year. The city was severely damaged during the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), especially in the battle of Bitola fought between the Serbs and Turks. In 1913, the treaty of Bucarest split Macedonia into four parts and Bitola was allocated to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. During the First World war, the city was seized by Bulgaria in 1915 and taken over by the Franco-Serbian forces in November 1916. In the next two years, Bitola and the neighbouring villages were continuously bombed by the German-Bulgarian troops during a 675 day blockade. The population of the city was divided by one half.
Bitola was the first city in the former Yugoslavia that was attacked during the Second World War, being bombed by Italian planes on 5 November 1940. Fascist Italy attacked Yugoslavia in April 1941 and Yugoslavia capitulated after a few seeks. Macedonia was split again among Bulgaria, Germany, Italy and Albania. Bitola became the administrative center of the Bulgarian sector. In the beginning of 1942, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and the Communist Party of Macedonia started the partisan's fight. Several inhabitants of Bitola joined the Macedonian battalion Mirche Acev and attacked the Bulgarian forces in 1943-1944 around Bitola. In 1942, 3,864 Jews from Bitola were deported by the Germans. Bitola was liberated on 4 November 1944.


Ivan Sache, 10 June 2006

Flag of Bitola

The municipal flag of Bitola was adopted by the Municipal Council on 21 March 2006. It is white with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.

Valentin Popovski & Jovan Jonovski, 23 March 2006

Former municipality of Bistrica

[Flag of Bistrica]

Flag of Bistrica - Image by Ivan Sache, 29 January 2002

There are several places called Bistrica all over the Slavic world (the name means approximately "clear spring"), for instance Bistrica ob Sotli in Slovenia, Marija Bistrica and Zlatar Bistrica in Croatia, Banská Bystrica in Slovakia, and Bystrice in Czech Republic.
The small town of Bistrica (5,779 inhabitants in 1994), located south of Bitola, was incorporated into the municipality of Bitola in 2004.

The flag of Bistrica is in proportion 3:5, red with the Macedonian national flag, also in proportion 3:5, in canton.

Source: Macedonian Ministry of Local Self-Government website (page no longer online)

Željko Heimer & Ivan Sache, 10 June 2006

Former municipality of Kukurečani

[Flag of Kukurecani]

Flag of Kukurečani - Image by Ivan Sache, 16 February 2002
The image is only a tentative one. The emblem placed in the flag on the source website seems to be different of the emblem shown isolated on the same website.

The municipality of Kukurečani (2,859 inhabitants in 1994), located some 10 km north of Bitola, was incorporated into the municipality of Bitola in 2004.

The flag of Kukurečani is in proportion 1:2, horizontally divided yellow-red, with the municipal emblem in the middle.
The emblem shows a sun in which cereal spikes replace the rays. There are scrolls above and below the sun.
The emblem might be canting, since the place name is derived from the Macedonian word for maize. The inscription on the scrolls of the emblem reads ОПШТИНА (Municipality) above and the name of the city below.

Source: Macedonian Ministry of Local Self-Government website (page no longer online)

Željko Heimer & Ivan Sache, 10 June 2006

Former municipality of Capari

[Flag of Capari]

Flag of Capari - Image by Ivan Sache, 3 February 2002

The municipality of Capari (1,793 inhabitants in 1994), located 15 km west of Bitola, was incorporated into the municipality of Bitola in 2004.

The flag of Capari is in proportion 1:2, with seven red-black-red-black-red-black-red stripes and a red canton charged with the municipal shield.
The inscription in Cyrillic in the chief of the shield reads ОПШТИНА ЦАПАРІ, Municipality of Capari.

Source: Macedonian Ministry of Local Self-Government website (page no longer online)

Željko Heimer & Ivan Sache, 10 June 2006