Government and citizens engage in a host of activities and projects to celebrate Turkish and Macedonian culture.
By Klaudija Lutovska for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 07/10/2013
The Ataturk Memorial House in Kodzadzik near Debar, Macedonia, is renovated and will open by year's end. [Klaudija Lutovska/SETimes]
Macedonia and Turkey are undertaking several cultural projects and activities that are deepening the ties between the two countries and peoples.
Recently, the Turkish municipalities Adalar and Karsiyaka presented the Macedonian city of Veles with a new central park.
"They gave this present to Veles to mark the Macedonian-Turkish fraternity. Because of the ties to Macedonia of the father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, we will place a monument of Ataturk in the park," Veles Mayor Slavco Cadiev told SETimes.
About 3,000 inhabitants in Karsiyaka have origins in Veles, and they -- together with Adalar -- initiated sister-city relations with Veles in 2011.
Cadiev said the city has made great efforts to support the cultural activities of the Turkish community in Macedonia.
"The Veles municipality's cultural programme includes 'Days Dedicated to Kemal Ataturk' organised by the citizen association Yeni Hayat," he said.
Similarly, the citizen association Kupurlu -- Veles' old name -- operates in Istanbul and maintains close ties with the Yeni Hyatt Association.
Folk groups from Veles and Karsiyaka visit each other's international annual folk festivals.
Macedonia and Turkey regulate their cultural relations with bilateral agreements and a protocol for co-operation in culture is signed every three years since 1995.
"The culture ministry has regularly supported projects in its annual programmes that deepen co-operation with the Republic of Turkey," Elizabeta Kanceska-Milevska, Macedonia culture minister, told SETimes.
The ministry as well as the national conservation centre are finishing the renovation of Ataturk's family house in Kodzadzik near Debar, a project funded in part by the Turkish Co-operation and Development Agency.
"The reconstruction is made on the basis of an old photograph, possessed by Ataturk family's last living descendant, a woman who lives in Debar," Gjurdjica Lekovska, conservator at the National Conservation Centre, told SETimes.
Lekovska said two adjacent structures are rebuilt on the original foundations -- one belonging to Ataturk's father Ali Riza, and the other being the family house.
"The family house will show the history of Kodzadzik where Ataturk was born, with a section showing his ancestors. Ataturk will be presented as soldier and statesman," Lekovska said.
The city of Bitola turned Mektebi Askeri Adadi, the military high school where Ataturk was educated, into the Institute and Museum of Bitola. In 1998, Macedonia and Turkey agreed to invest in creating the 120-square-metre area to create an Ataturk memorial room in the museum and placed a statue of Ataturk there.
The first museum presentations date back in 1978 with the exhibition of photographs, documents and facsimiles documenting Ataturk's life and activities, but recently the interest is growing, according to Liljana Hristovska, director of the Institute and Museum of Bitola.
"The number of Turkish visitors grew by 30 percent annually in the last several years," Hristovska told SETimes.
More recently, Macedonia and Turkey plan to exchange cultural centres.
"An agreement to establish the cultural centres and specify their activities was signed, which is a result of the many activities in both countries that have deepened and advanced bilateral relations. The agreement is now being ratified in the Macedonian parliament," Kanceska Milevska said.
Moreover, the Macedonian government has established several projects that promote the cultural values of its Turkish minority, she said.
"One of them foresees construction of a new Turkish theatre, a first for the Turkish community in Macedonia. The project will start in 2014. Another project is the creation of an anthology of contemporary Turkish poetry."
Joint projects are under way protecting cultural heritage, especially Ottoman-era monuments.
Macedonians and especially Turks said they are looking forward to all the cultural activities, but especially the opening of Ataturk's house.
"The figure of Ataturk is deeply wrought in the collective memory and the generations identify with this period of their history," Sabaetin Sezair, a teacher in Kodzadzik, told SETimes.
What can Macedonia and Turkey do to further deepen cultural ties? Share your opinion in the comments space.