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Town of Krushevo Recreates Macedonia’s Past August 3, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia.
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Town of Krushevo Recreates Macedonia’s Past

Marina Stojanovska for Southeast European Times*

Like a time machine, Krushevo takes you back to 1903, when Macedonians began a revolution on August 2nd — or Ilinden Day, the country’s national holiday — standing up to the mighty Ottoman Empire to form the first Balkan republic.

Krushevo, the birthplace of singer Toshe Proeski, is the highest point in the Balkans at 1,350m above sea level and home to about 10,000 people. Despite its natural beauty and rich history, it had been largely bypassed by tourists.

Last year, a group of enthusiasts led by Ranko Petrovic and Ljupco Karov started Ethno town Krushevo — a programme promoting Macedonia’s cultural-historical heritage and alternative tourism.

It proved a considerable success, gaining support from Macedonia’s Ministry of Culture as well as international organisations like UNESCO and the Italian Co-operation Programme.

Again this year, Krushevo organised a re-enactment of the 1903 revolution where the locals — and increasingly visitors — wear authentic clothes, produce and sell Macedonian crafts and traditional foods and recreate revolutionary battles.

In a show of support, several government ministers participated in the programme, as did EU Ambassador to Macedonia Erwan Fouere, who was dressed as a Macedonian freedom fighter (komita) for the occasion.

“We create history together … This ethno-project is wonderful in promoting tourism and traditions,” Fouere said, adding the EU continues to support Macedonia’s Union membership bid.

Culture Minister Elizabeta Kamcevska Milevska echoed those views, saying she is satisfied with the nurturing of Macedonia’s old customs, traditions, crafts and architecture.

“The ministry will continue its support for the event in order to return Krushevo’s old shine as a tourist destination,” she said.

This year’s programme began on July 17 as locals and visitors gathered in front of the revolution’s Makedonium Museum for a reading of the revolution’s manifesto.

Visitors can stroll through town, observe craftsmen making works of art in wood and iron, and taste traditional Macedonian and Turkish foods, including Macedonian cookies and lokum.

Italian and American visitors are showing particular interest in the newly opened exhibit at Krushevo’s Home of Culture, showcasing Macedonian needlework and quilts.

Organisers are working to make the event interactive. Visitors can communicate with residents dressed in authentic clothes, practicing the etiquette of a bygone era. Characters include a Nikola Karev lookalike — the republic’s president — and revolutionary leaders Dame Gruev and Pitu Guli.

On August 2, residents re-enacted the public uprising and the Ottoman attack on Krushevo as depicted in books and pictures of the time. Through narrow, steep alleys, the town stretches to the nearby hills where the Ottoman soldiers march while Macedonian komiti are readied in the woods. Other re-enacted events include the organisation of the republic, summoning of the assembly and electing the president.

The event has a forward-looking component too. Students at the Architecture faculty at St Cyril and Methodious University organised a workshop “Architecture, Traditions, Memory”.
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The event aims to mobilise the population of Krushevo and revive tourism.

The event’s co-founder, Petrovic, told SETimes that the event means the world to Krushevo. “The festivities [promote] an atmosphere for developing small business; many houses are renovated, and even other business branches. We are very satisfied for now, but there is plenty more to be done,” he said as he sat down with SETimes correspondent Marina Stojanovska.

SETimes: What’s the goal of the “Ethno town Krushevo”?

Ranko Petrovic: This event has set a goal: to mobilise the population of Krushevo to present the historical values and revive tourism. The power of Krushevo is in its historic meaning, and the influence is greater with the involvement of different traditional clothing worn by citizens, imitating various classes of people from the time, which looks like history repeating itself all over again.

SETimes: Are you satisfied with the development of this project, keeping in mind it is a year old?

Petrovic: The first year was in a way promotional, with the sole purpose of showing the town’s citizens that through this interactive representation of history, Krushevo will have the opportunity to develop tourism, and to shake off… the transitional apathy and running out of perspective. [Those] who are now involved have smiles on their faces, think of a better future; they feel that with these festivities [comes] an atmosphere for development of the smaller businesses. Many houses are renovated.

We are very satisfied for now, but there is plenty more to be done, because our goal is for at least half of the citizens to be dressed in traditional clothing, and the same for tourists, who can either rent or purchase it. Then the whole project would become self-sustainable and completely implemented.

SETimes: Do you think that that you will accomplish the goal, which is attracting as many tourists as possible and popularising the town?

Petrovic:
The road to success is inevitable, maybe not now, but in a few years when all the stages are finished, such as opening new restaurants, renovating private accommodation blocks, organisation of the hotels, sport activities and other activities. During the last year, the price of real estate increased, as did interest in investments, which proves we’re on the right track.

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