Safeguarding intangible cultural heritage falls under the overall responsibility of the Ministry of Culture (MOC). Under it, the Cultural Heritage Protection Office (CHPO) is the lead implementing organization for cultural heritage as a whole, including intangible cultural heritage. The MOC has also authorized four scholarly institutes and the Museum of Macedonia for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. Six NGOs are also actively involved, including the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM). Work has been conducted since 2004 to harmonize legislation that directly or indirectly concerns intangible cultural heritage, covering more than four policy strategies, eleven laws and several dozen by-laws. However, there is as yet no specific strategy or law exclusively for intangible cultural heritage. Currently, there is no dedicated institution for training in intangible cultural heritage management although the Cultural Heritage Protection Office plays a central role in training and in coordinating educational programmes related to safeguarding cultural heritage.
Systematic institutional research of traditional culture has been conducted for more than sixty years and the resulting documentation is stored in seven specialized archives. A Mapping Project of intangible cultural heritage elements was conducted in 2012-2015 by the National Committee of the ICTM. Some institutions already have active programmes for digitalization and, after the introduction of the official State Strategy for the digitalization of cultural heritage in 2010, institutions supported by the State have tried to establish and improve the systematic approach towards the digitalization of the cultural heritage recorded. All the aforementioned institutions including museums, local institutions and associations hold data on intangible cultural heritage. All governmental institutions make their data accessible to the public and it is available to visitors with prior notification, but few databases are available online. Bearers often keep organized data for their own elements and participate in gathering documentation, including photographs and videos.
The National registry of cultural heritage, established under the auspices of the CHPO, is considered as the inventory also dedicated to intangible cultural heritage. Its format is as a public book, which includes the main book (with separate parts for immovable, movable, intangible and cultural heritage of special significance) and additional registries. Intangible cultural heritage is listed under ’Part three’ of the main book. In addition, there may be photographs, video and audio recordings and other documentation accompanying the entry. The National Register of cultural heritage has so far registered eighty-eight intangible cultural heritage elements in different categories. As yet, no element is inscribed in the Registry under the category of ‘cultural heritage in danger’. Proposals for inclusion should be submitted by a competent authorized institution for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, but local community or other relevant civil organizations, and sometimes individuals, can also make proposals on their own initiative. These are scrutinized by the Valorisation Commission, which makes recommendations to the National Council for Cultural Heritage (NCCH). If ownership or copyright issues emerge, information for the Act of Protection is also delivered to the competent body of the State administration to register the right to ownership. The Register is updated whenever the NCCH or the Government officially declare a cultural good for inscription. Legally established NGOs and civil society organizations (CSOs) and individuals can also participate in this process, and bearers usually cooperate with experts involved in researching a particular element when it is submitted for entry into the Register. Cultural communities provide the relevant information, data and documentation relating to a historical overview of how the tradition has been passed on, the risks that might cause it to be depleted or die out and their ideas for safeguarding it. They are also directly involved in exchanges of information with the Ministry of Culture.
Safeguarding measures aimed at the identification, evaluation and inscription of intangible cultural heritage began in 2007, before which heritage protection was dominated by physical heritage. The Law for Protection of Cultural Heritage contains fifteen by-laws that address aspects of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage (documentation, preventing negative impacts caused by over-commercialization, the inclusion of intangible cultural heritage in non-formal and formal education, the inclusion of intangible cultural heritage in new types of management and stimulating creative industries). An Annual Call for funds is held for inscribed elements and bearers may make direct applications; each year, many NGOs, CSOs and, sometimes, individuals are supported. The MOC cooperates intensively with the bearers in supporting local events and festivities, larger traditional culture festivals and sometimes public performances of traditional rituals, performing arts and crafts. The Department for Intangible Cultural Heritage has held a media campaign to promote intangible cultural heritage and the 2003 Convention and collaborated with other governmental agencies directly or indirectly involved in its safeguarding. Intangible cultural heritage is also increasingly included in local government programmes and projects. The Ministry of Tourism financially supports programmes for village sustainability through its Rural Development Strategy, while the Ministry of the Economy supports craftspersons by presenting traditional crafts, providing training workshops, courses and seminars, linking production and knowledge and improving conditions in workshops.
Research institutes, universities and educational institutions also study intangible cultural heritage and its role in contemporary society with funding from the MOC for basic documentation and valorization or promotion projects. Scientific research into specific elements is also undertaken to document their current state. The National Committee of ICTM also conducts research and prepares advanced scientific studies of elements found in both urban and rural areas which are regarded as national symbols. Some research activities have also been conducted by NGOs, including comparative research and the documentation of traditional views and practices.
To facilitate access to information relating to intangible cultural heritage, the MOC supports workshops, exhibitions, classes, performances and the production of audio-visual recordings and other related materials, together with the local authorities. Jointly, they support various cultural events and festivals. For every element of intangible cultural heritage (inscribed or not), the bearers decide which aspects should be presented to the public and which kept private. In addition, various awareness-raising programmes take place during exhibitions and festivals, as side programmes. Educational curricula in high schools now include various domains of intangible cultural heritage. The publication ‘Cultural heritage and the youth’ (2012) was distributed to kindergardens and elementary schools as part of the project for the promotion of intangible cultural heritage among youth.
Non-formal means of knowledge transfer are always highly popular, such as handicrafts and folk music and folk dance courses by different informal schools, which are led by prominent musicians, craftspersons or dancers. Elements of intangible cultural heritage are transmitted within the framework of the family or the local community and, in particular, through cultural associations and societies. At the local level, special workshops, courses and other activities are organized to transmit knowledge to younger people. Local museums throughout the country also play an important part in informal education and awareness raising concerning the value of intangible cultural heritage and work with pre-school and school children, providing free tickets for events such as workshops and holding small design competitions or exhibitions of children’s paintings inspired by elements of intangible cultural heritage. Open and private universities also organize campaigns and non-formal educational workshops to raise the awareness of the participants and the wider public about the responsibility held by bearers and the entire community towards intangible cultural heritage. A capacity-building workshop in intangible cultural heritage management was held in April 2016, with the support of the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe (a category 2 centre under the auspices of UNESCO) and hosted by the National Committee of ICTM.
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, the country participates in various working meetings of international experts on intangible cultural heritage, especially in the South-Eastern European region. As a result of intensive bilateral and regional cooperation, it was involved in preparing two multinational files. Regional cooperation has been achieved through the participation of national officials and experts in annual meetings of the South-Eastern Europe Network established by the UNESCO Regional Bureau in Venice (2007-2016) and, in 2013, a national representative was nominated to the General Assembly of the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe (Sofia category 2 centre). Since 2016, the country has also been part of the ICH Forum of the group 16+1 (sixteen Central and Southeast European Countries plus China) which aims to foster international and trans-regional cooperation.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has two elements inscribed on the Representative List, namely the Feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs in Štip (inscribed in 2013) and Kopachkata, a social dance from the village of Dramche, Pijanec (inscribed in 2014), both of which are covered by the current report. In addition to that, an element was inscribed on the Urgent Safeguarding List in 2015.