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Macedonia – one of the most culturally active countries

The region of Macedonia is one of the most culturally active in Europe. For the last few centuries, the region was determined by the neighbouring states, leaving no room for the local people to establish their own country. It was only in the 20th century that the Macedonian people were able to establish their own state.

Ancient times 

Humans were settling in these regions since the Neolithic period. Soon after, the region was occupied by the Greeks and was influenced by their culture but, in turn, also influenced Greek politics. With the rise of Alexander the Great, a Macedonian, the region experienced its first peak, which made the ancient kingdom of Macedonia prosperous. Three wars between the Roman Empire and the small country however took away Macedonia’s cultural independence and made it part of the Roman Empire. 

The Middle Ages 

Macedonia, especially Thessaloniki, was a centre of ancient and medieval Christianity. It is here that the Bulgarian and Serbian orthodoxy originated and developed. Through the centuries of the Middle Ages, Macedonia was ruled by numerous rulers, for it was not unified, but a very fragmented region: Bulgarians, Serbs, small principalities and later also Crusaders dominated the country. In 1371, however, the Ottomans conquered Macedonia and stayed for more than 500 years. 

Modern Era

Under the Ottomans there was no unified region of Macedonia. The country tried to free itself from the rule of the Ottomans after 1829, the year that the southern Greek states managed to found their own state. Macedonia, however, remained dependent. In 1906, the resistance in Macedonia restarted with the reform of the Young Turk movement and a few years later, the independence movements in the Balkans led to the Balkan Wars of 1912/13. The Ottoman Empire lost all its possessions in Europe as a result of these wars. Macedonia became part of the Kingdom of Serbia and in 1929 of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia were it remained until the civil war. 


With the collapse of Yugoslavia, Macedonia declared its independence. In 1991 the state was officially recognized. The young republic had numerous social and economic problems to solve, partly to fight with the effects of the Yugoslav civil war. In 2000, there were massive ethnic clashes between Serbs, Albanians and Bulgarians. Even after 2011, there were renewed riots, which showed that the country was still in search of a stable democracy. Although numerous social problems have been resolved in the twenty years following independence, the country still faces major economic problems.

Text written in July 2019.

Short bio of the volunteer:

Rebecca, 25 years old, from Germany and no longer “the new one” in the Madeira Heritage voluntary program. Experienced and educated in social psychology, but still not able to read people’s minds. Passionate about (classical) music, interculturality, and other people.


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth, and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing to a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3 (KA3) which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.

We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.