Skopje is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Macedonia. It lies on the upper course of the Vardar river and is located on a major north-south Balkan route between Belgrade and Athens. Skopje was founded as an Illyrian city. In the 4th century AD it became a Roman post called Scupi. It was taken by the Serbs in 1189 and by Ottoman Turks in 1392. In 1913, during the Balkan Wars, the city came under Serbian control, and in 1918 it became part of Yugoslavia.
Skopje was struck by a devistating earthquake in 1963. Some of the houses built immediately after the tragic event are shown in the forefront. Skopje was rebuilt since then and the new residential quarters bear little resemblance with old Skopje.
Many international architects participated in it reconstruction. According to the idea of the Japanese urban planner Kenzo Tanga, the center was given a "city wall" of high-rise buildings, while the banks of the Vardar were laid out as pleasant tree-lined promenades. The ancient trading quarter (charshija) has been completely renovated, but has preserved all the notable features of its original architecture. In this setting the old buildings of cultural and historical interest are seen to even better advantage. They include the Kale Fortress raised in the 6th century (its present appearance dates from the Turkish period), Daut-pasha's baths (15th c., now the Art Gallery), and Mustafa-pasha's mosque (15th c.).
The stone bridge over the Vardar gives access to the old part of the city of Skopje with its many cultural and historical monuments. Built by the Turks on the site of a Roman bridge, it has eleven arches and bears a plaque in middle stating that it was restored by Sultan Murat II (first half of the 15th century).
The 19th-century iconostasis of the church of the Holi Saviour (Sveti Spas) (17th c.) in Skopje, carved in walnut, combines a profusion of plant and animal motifs with the figures of saints in local costumes. This realistic high-relief carving is the work of skilful craftsmen of the Debar area, who included their own figures in one corner of the iconostasis. The iconostasis at Holi Saviour church is one of the finest samples of traditional woodcarving which can be found on the territory of the Republic of Macedonia along with the iconostasis of St. John Bigorski Monastery. On the slopes of nearby Mt. Vodna stands the famous church of St. Panteleimon from 1164, decorated with frescoes of exceptional artistic value.
Currently, the population of Skopje is about half a million people. It is the administrative and political center of the Republic of Macedonia. Industries in the city include iron and steel works, electrical machinery, chemicals, textiles, carpets, and foodstuffs. Skopje is a trading center for the cotton, tobacco, grains, and livestock produced in the surrounding region as well. Besides the Belgrade-Athens highway and railway routes, the city also has the largest airport in the Republic of Macedonia.