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Skopje Macedonia – Riot Squads and Large Scale Political Rallies ‘r Us

Political rally in downtown Skopje, Macedonia.

Political rally in downtown Skopje, Macedonia*.

As a smart and careful traveller, I always make sure to investigate potential riots and large scale political gatherings in any foreign land. In my first 48 hours in Skopje, capital city of Macedonia, I got to check out both. After reading this article, some people may think Skopje is a hotbed of citizens rioting and spending their Saturday nights attending political rallies. Objectively, is that the truth?

Well, objectivity is such a fickle thing. No matter how this photo series is presented, someone is bound to get upset. This isn’t a new thing on Yomadic, I almost felt like an official apology was necessary before clicking publish on my Croatian and Serbian articles. I’m sure many people now believe that those two Balkan nations are just hives of extreme corruption, filled with decaying concrete communist architecture. Indeed.

Of course there is more to Skopje than just smoking, drinking yoghurt, and watching the occasional riot or political rally. After being here for just a couple of days, I’ve already seen a major road close down due to a face-off between protesters and riot police, and a huge political gathering in the center of the city. So are these photos any less objective than showing a series featuring grassy fields, well groomed wildlife, snow capped mountains, and beautifully preserved historic architecture? You may draw your own conclusions.


Skopje is amazing, and I don’t use that term lightly. Local architectural ranges from baroque to brutal, and from Disneyland-esque to Las Vegas-esque. Located in the valley of a mountain range, Skopje’s neighbourhoods include the largest Gypsy (Roma) community in the world, and the Ottoman influenced old town on the doorstep of the city center. In both places, you’ll find some of the nicest meat filled pasties you will ever eat. It’s genuinely surprising how many layers there are to what is seemingly just a small Macedonian city.

As usual, a week just doesn’t seem enough. But that’s all I booked in Skopje, in my little downtown communist-era shoe box dream-apartment. Soon, I’ll give a thorough wrap-up of the city. In the meantime, if you want to know more about Skopje, and Macedonia, check out the article over on the Blond Gypsy.

For now, I’ll just leave these photos here.


Potential riot. Skopje, Macedonia.

Potential riot – the moment where protesters reached the police line. Skopje, Macedonia.

time to get wild in downtown Skopje

Saturday night, means it’s time to get wild in downtown Skopje.

lovely Macedonian lady, Skopje

She’s a lovely lady once you get to know her. Skopje, Macedonia.

red beret skopje macedonia

I wouldn’t mess with him. Skopje, Macedonia.

Due to potential rioting, the Kale Fortress of Skopje was closed

Due to potential rioting, the Kale Fortress of Skopje was closed.

Macedonian riot squad stands ready

However, Macedonian riot squads stand ready to direct tourists to the Skopje Museum of Contemporary Art.

Macedonian man has his hat blown away by musician in downtown Skopje.

Macedonian man has his hat blown away by musician in downtown Skopje.

Feeling the rhythm of Skopje, Macedonia.

Feeling the rhythm of Skopje, Macedonia.

Macedonians love to smoke.

Macedonians love to smoke. Cigarettes. Skopje Macedonia.

smoking in Macedonia

We don’t like smoking, oh no, we love it. Skopje, Macedonia.

Macedonian man lighting a cigarette.

Macedonian man lighting a cigarette.

Riot in Skopje

Riot squad commence formation, this is not a drill. Skopje, Macedonia.

dancing and smoking a cigarette in downtown Skopje.

Macedonian man, dancing and smoking a cigarette in downtown Skopje.

Macedonian political rally

Approximately 90,000 people attended this political rally, lasting until after midnight in Skopje, Macedonia.

political rally in Skopje, Macedonia.

People heading in to the political rally, downtown Skopje, Macedonia.

In the name of objectivity, I’ll add this: the riot didn’t occur as the protesters had the good sense to see they were clearly outnumbered by riot police, the downtown political rally was attended by 90,000 and was peaceful, people have been incredibly friendly here in Skopje, and Macedonia does not report official statistics regarding smoking prevalence.

Skopje, wow. Just wow.


PS, don’t miss next post on incredible Macedonia. Pop your email address in here, and have it automatically delivered to your inbox.

PPS, Skopje is pronounced “Skorp-yeah”.

* there is this whole thing about the name of this country. It’s Macedonia, versus the Republic of Macedonia, versus the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). I’m going to call it “Macedonia”. I’m from Australia, and you can call my country whatever you want.


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17 Responses to Skopje Macedonia – Riot Squads and Large Scale Political Rallies ‘r Us

  1. Laurence Zankowski Mar 11, 2013 at 10:52 pm #


    If this is what is coming off your x-pro-1 as jpegs… Wow, wow! My god…and in weird street lights.

    Be well


    • Nate Robert Mar 12, 2013 at 7:08 am #

      Yep. JPG’s, terrible dull street lights at night time, and at ISO 2500 (no noise reduction or sharpening applied at all, this is how the camera captured the photos). Amazing what can be achieved without a flash these days. Modern camera’s are incredible!

  2. Sam Mar 11, 2013 at 11:52 pm #

    Insightful article, great pictures and funny commentary. Really enjoying the posts!

    • Nate Robert Mar 12, 2013 at 7:09 am #

      Cheers Sam. You’re in Perth? (going on your email address)… my home town.

      • Sam Mar 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

        Sure am! Been following you for a while, since back when you were checking out abandoned buildings and it’s been quite interesting to watch your development (if you don’t mind me calling it that) into a travel photoblogger. Big respect Nate.

  3. Larissa Mar 12, 2013 at 12:05 am #

    Awesome photos and thanks for the mention! Definitely did not see this side of Skopje at all while I was there, but even if I had, for sure wouldn’t have been able to capture it the way you have.

    Not entirely sure what is going on there right now and I am sure you’ll break it down in your next post, but I’m guessing the political rally had something to do with the upcoming elections. And riot squads a result of Albanian protests I read about last week.

    Spot on about all the different layers which I think is what hooked me about the place most. Have been trying to think of what else I can recommend to you but I think you’ll find everything you’re meant to. You’re intuitive like that :)

    P.S. Don’t bother checking back on the fortress, I heard it’s been closed for years.

    • Nate Robert Mar 12, 2013 at 7:11 am #

      Hey Larissa, I know how you feel about Skopje, and now I’ve seen it first hand, I can see why. Just so much to this place, I’m hooked as well. As for what’s going on in Skopje, I’m not 100% certain, but it was quite the welcoming party!

      (also, thanks for the fortress tip)

  4. Paul Mar 12, 2013 at 6:08 am #

    Good luck getting into the fortress. That things is like a fortress…

    Great post as always. Looking forward to the wrap-up.

    • Nate Robert Mar 12, 2013 at 7:13 am #

      Cheers Paul, and thanks for the dad-joke as well…

  5. Jemma Mar 14, 2013 at 7:19 am #

    I haven’t thought about potential riots on a foreign land – that’s a good point! :)
    We really need to know about the latest news even if we’re on vacation if we don’t want to be troubled with rallying people.
    Are you the one who took the above photos? I salute you for having the courage to take photos of rallies.

    • Nate Robert Mar 14, 2013 at 8:15 am #

      Hi Gemma, yes, I take all the photos. Really, it’s not as much courage as you would think – the rally was trouble free. The riot could have been worse, but as it turned out it was all OK.

  6. funkigreendog Mar 17, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    Wow…these images are something else. Especially love the first shot, and the one where the older man is getting his hat blown off by the musician. That’s a brilliant capture.

    These photos bring back memories of some of the old NSL crowds (old soccer league!) in Australia.

    • Nate Robert Mar 17, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

      Hey P, cheers mate. There’s another post coming very shortly…another weekend brings another rally in Skopje…

  7. Andrea Mar 28, 2013 at 5:31 am #

    I expect there to be more and more scenes like this all across Europe as the recession deepens…shame that the people are in strife but pretty awesome to experience events like this for you…

    • Nate Robert Mar 28, 2013 at 5:46 am #

      You’re absolutely right Andrea. Although, in these Balkan nations the people are very resilient, and by and large seem to be very happy.


  1. Skopje, Macedonia - Another Weekend And I Join Another Political Rally - Mar 17, 2013

    […] thanks to local Macedonian website off.net.mk for picking up my last story on the Skopje almost-riots […]

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