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Bitola (Municipality, North Macedonia)


Last modified: 2019-05-07 by ivan sache
Keywords: bitola | bistrica | kukurečani | capari |
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Flag of Bitola, horizontal and vertical versions - Images by Jovan Jonovski, 8 January 2010

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Presentation of Bitola

The municipality of Bitola (95,385 inhabitants; 787.95 sq. km., municipal website) 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 North Macedonia, close to the border with Greece. The town was built at an elevation of 580-660 a.s.l. on the banks of 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 of one of the four districts set up by Rome, with a permanent regent and garrison. The town was used as a supply depot by Caesar during the Civil Wars and later granted the title of colony: in the beginning of the 3rd 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 town with several big monuments (forum, theater...) mostly built under the Antonian emperors. When the Barbarians started to threat the town, it was surrounded with walls. The Christian religion was established very early in Heraclea, which had two basilicas. In the late 6th century-early 7th century, the Avars and the Slavs invaded the region, causing the decline of Heraclea.
In the second half of the 6th 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 (11th 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 14th century, Bitola was a trade town, which had developed links with all the main economic centers of the Balkan (Constantinople, Salonica, A HREF="hr-du-du.html">Dubrovnik...)

In 1382-1383, the Ottomans conquered Bitola; Evronos Bey was appointed Governor of the town 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 town a population of 2,345, with six Muslim and one Christian boroughs. The input of Jews expelled from Portugal and Spain (1481-1528) significantly contributed to the economic development of the town, which lived from agriculture, weapon and armor manufacturing and cotton. Craftsmen's guilds (esnafi) were set up as it occurred in most Ottoman towns at that time, and trade relationships were established with several towns. Most historical buildings still visible in Bitola were built in the 16th 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 19th 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 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 town. At the end of the 19th century, the town 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 Town of the Consulates". Bitola progressively turned from an Ottoman traders' town to a modern European town, 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 town was liberated from the Turkish rule the same year. The town 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 town 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 town was divided by one half.
Bitola was the first town 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 weeks. 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 symbols are prescribed in the Municipal Statutes, adopted on 18 July 2005, as follows.

Article 7.
The municipality shall have a flag and arms prescribed by a Decision of the Municipal Council.

The municipal flag of Bitola (video, 29 December 2008), adopted by the Municipal Council on 21 March 2006, is white with the municipal coat of arms in the center.

Valentin Popovski, Jovan Jonovski & Ivan Sache, 8 January 2010

Former municipalities



Flag of Bistrica - Image by Mello Luchtenberg & António Martins, 16 September 2006

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, once shown on the wbesite of the Ministry of Local Self-Government, is in proportions 1:2, red with the national flag, in proportions 3:5, in canton.

Željko Heimer & Ivan Sache, 10 June 2006



Flag of Kukurečani - Image by Mello Luchtenberg & António Martins, 11 November 2006

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, once shown on the wbesite of the Ministry of Local Self-Government, is in proportions 1:2, horizontally divided yellow-red, with the municipal emblem in the center.
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 town below.

Željko Heimer & Ivan Sache, 10 June 2006

Former municipality of Capari


Flag of Capari - Image by Mello Luchtenberg & António Martins, 1 October 2006

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, once shown on the wbesite of the Ministry of Local Self-Government, is in proportions 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.

The mountain shown on the municipal shield is the Pelister, whereas the tree is the Molika pine (Pinus peuce Griseb.) aka Macedonian pine or Balkan pine, a five-needled pine tree endemic to some parts of the Balkan. The triangular building on the coat of arms is Hotel Molika (website), "the Pearl of Pelister National Park".

Željko Heimer & Ivan Sache, 1 October 2006

University "St. Kliment Ohridski"

University "St. Kliment Ohridski" (St. Clement of Ohrid) was founded in 1979 in Bitola. Today it has nine faculties and one higher vocational school. The structure of the University also consists of three scientific institutes. It caters about 13,000 students.
The flag of the University is a rectangular golden flag with the university emblem, which was designed by Simeon Siljanovski.

Valentin Poposki, 29 November 2008