Vevčani, Republic of
In a self organized referendum in 1996, 99 percent of the population of Vevčani voted for the “independent republic of Vevčani” and thereby declared independence from Macedonia.
The inhabitants were proud of their independence that helped them keep peace, while the rest of the region was in war. “We look radical, but we just want to make sure that nobody manipulates us,” said Nenad Batkovski, the self declared consul of Vevčani in Skopje. Macedonia has ignored the claim of the inhabitants of Vevčani. For outsiders it is difficult to say whether Vevčani is an independent country or not. The inhabitants claim to have weapons and munitions ready, just in case….
In 1997 mayor Vasil Radinovski was arrested. After a hunger strike and protests of the inhabitants he was released. “Our Muslim neighbours live in peace with Vevčani. They come to trade and for the healthy springs” says Vasil Radinoski. Vevčani is now flourishing, compared to other “ghost villages” in Macedonia. “Macedonia can learn a lot from us; real democracy is based on freedom, not on ethnicity” says Vasil Radinovski.
To emphasize its independence, Vevčani has its own flag, its own coat of arms, its own passport and its own money, the Ličnik. The Ličnik is named after the saint of Vevčani, Saint Spas, which the inhabitants call Ličnik (beautiful). Tourists can buy the Ličnik as a souvenir. It is not an official currency, to avoid problems with Macedonia. The banknotes are issued in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 Ličnik.
A dispute arose when the Struga authorities decided to use the Vevchani water system, built by the villagers through their own labour and finances. The reason? To supply a nearby group of newly built “dachas” owned by eminent Macedonian Republican functionaries. The villagers, fearful of the impact on their irrigation needs, started a program of civil resistance to prevent pipes being laid across their land. Branka Magaš poignantly describes what next occurred during Aug 1987:
THE AUTHORITIES RESPONDED BY SENDING IN A SQUAD OF SPECIALLY TRAINED RIOT POLICE: ARMED WITH DOGS AND ELECTRIC PRODS, THEY ATTACKED THE INHABITANTS, INCLUDING SMALL CHILDREN IN THEIR MOTHERS' ARMS. SEVERAL ENDED UP IN HOSPITAL. WHILE THE PIPES WERE BEING LAID, THE YOUTH OF VEVCHANI ORGANIZED A HUNGER STRIKE.