In Macedonia, language is the most politically salient identity marker and linguistic cleavages largely coincide with ethnic differences. As Chap. 3 explained, the codification of a Macedonian language was essential to the construction of an ethnic Macedonian collective identity. Albanian nationalism also employed language as an overarching marker of belonging.112 Thus, after Macedonia’s independence, ‘the struggle over language rights constitute[d] efforts to legitimise the [Albanian] minority group itself and to alter its relationship to the [Macedonian] state’.113 This struggle also affected education policy through long-standing debates over instruction in the mother tongue.
In Yugoslavia, children were taught in different classes depending on the language of instruction. 1 14 The 1991 constitution of independent Macedonia granted the right to mother tongue education, and the state provided primary and secondary education in Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish and Serbian. However, this right was severely restricted in practice.115
If most of the reforms included in the Ohrid Agreement were in the making before 2001, this was certainly not the case for linguistic reforms, which were implemented only because of the National Liberation Army (NLA) demands during the 2001 conflict.116 As Chap. 3 explained, linguistic reforms reflected the new power relations between the ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian communities in the context of the newly established consociation.