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History of the city of Bitola
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Prehistory
The Bitola area is very rich in monuments from the prehistoric period. Two important ones are Veluška Tumba, and Bara Tumba near the village of Porodin. From the Copper Age there are the settlements of Tumba near the village of Crnobuki, Shuplevec near the village of Suvodol and Visok Rid near the village of Bukri. The Bronze Age is represented by the settlements of Tumba near the village of Kanino and the settlement with the same name near the village of Karamani.
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Ancient and early Byzantine periods
There are important metal artifacts from the ancient period, from the necropolis of Crkvishte near the village of Beranci. A golden earring dating from the 4th century BC is depicted on the obverse of the Macedonian 10 denars banknote, issued in 1996.
Heraclea Lyncestis (Greek: Ηράκλεια Λυγκηστίς - City of Hercules upon the Land of the Lynx) was an important settlement from the Hellenistic period till the early Middle Ages. It was founded by Philip II of Macedon by the middle of the 4th century BC, and named after the Greek demigod Heracles, whom Philip considered his ancestor. As an important strategic point it became a prosperous city. The Romans conquered this part of Macedon in 148 BC and destroyed the political power of the city. The prosperity continued mainly due to the Roman Via Egnatia road which passed near the city. Several monuments from the Roman times remain in Heraclea, including a portico, thermae (baths), an amphitheater and a number of basilicas. The theatre was once capable to house around 3,000 people.
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In the early Byzantine period (4th to 6th centuries AD) Heraclea was an important episcopal centre. Some of its bishops have been noted in the acts of the Church Councils as bishop Evagrius of Heraclea in the Acts of the Sardica Council from 343 AD. A Small and a Great (Large) basilica, the bishop's residence, a Funeral basilica near the necropolis are some of the remains of this period. Three naves in the Great Basilica are covered with mosaics of very rich floral and figurative iconography; these well preserved mosaics are often regarded as fine examples of the early Christian art period. Other bishops from Heraclea are known between 4th and 6th century AD. The city was sacked by Ostrogothic forces, commanded by Theodoric the Great in 472 AD and, despite a large gift to him from the city's bishop, it was sacked again in 479 AD.
It was restored in the late 5th and early 6th century. In the late 6th century the city suffered successive attacks by Slavic tribes and was gradually abandoned.
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Arrival of the Slavs
In the 6th and 7th century AD the region around Monastiri experienced a demographic shift as more and more Slavic tribes settled in the area. In place of the deserted theater, several houses were built during that time. The Slavs also built a defence fortress around their settlement. Monastiri was conquered and remained part of the First Bulgarian Empire from late 8th to early 11th century. The spreading of Christianity was assisted by St. Clement of Ohrid and Naum of Preslav in the 9th and early 10th century. Many monasteries and churches were built in the city.
In the 10th century, Monastiri was under the rule of tsar Samuil of Bulgaria. He built a castle in the town, later used by his successor Gavril Radomir of Bulgaria. The town is mentioned in several medieval sources. John Skylitzes's 11th century chronicle mentions that Emperor Basil II burned Gavril's castles in Monastiri, when passing through and ravaging Pelagonia. The second chrysobull (1019) of Basil II mentioned that the Bishop of Monastiri depended on the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid. During the reign of Samuil, the city was an important centre in the Bulgarian state and the seat of the Monasir Bishopric. In many medieval sources, especially Western, the name Pelagonia was synonymous with the Monastir Bishopric, and in some of them Monastiri was known under the name of Heraclea due to the church tradition, namely the turning of Heraclea Bishopric into Pelagonian Metropolitan's Diocese. In 1015, tsar Gavril Radomir was killed by his cousin Ivan Vladislav, who declared himself tsar and rebuilt the city fortress. To celebrate the occasion, a stone inscription written in the Cyrillic alphabet was set in the fortress where the Slavic name of the city is mentioned: Bitol.
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Following battles with tsar Ivan Vladislav, Byzantine emperor Basil II recaptured Monastiri in 1015. The town is mentioned as an episcopal centre in 1019, in a record by Basil II. Two important uprisings against Byzantine rule took place in the Monastiri area in 1040 and 1072. After the Bulgarian state was restored in late 11th century, Bitola was incorporated under the rule of tsar Kaloyan of Bulgaria. It was conquered again by Byzantium at the end of the 13th century, but became part of Serbia in the first half of the 14th century, after the conquests of Stefan Dushan.
As a military, political and cultural center, Monastiri played a very important role in the life of the medieval society in the region, prior to the Ottoman conquest in mid-14th century. On the eve of the Ottoman conquest, Monastiri (Monastir in Ottoman Turkish) experienced a great boom, having well-established trading links all over the Balkan Peninsula, especially with big economic centers like Constantinople, Thessalonica, Ragusa and Tarnovo. Caravans of various goods moved to and from Monastir.
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Ottoman rule
From 1382 to 1912, Manastır (now Bitola) was part of the Ottoman Empire. Strong battles took place near the city during the arrival of Turkish forces. Turkish rule was completely established after the death of Prince Marko in 1395. For several centuries, Turks were a majority in this city, while the villages were populated mostly with Slavs. Evliya Çelebi says in his Book of Travels that the city had 70 mosques, several coffee-tea rooms, a bazaar (market) with iron gates and 900 shops. Manastır became a sanjak centre in the Rumeli eyalet (Ottoman province).
After the Austro-Ottoman wars, the trade development and the overall thriving of the city was stifled. But in late 19th century, it again it became the second-biggest city in the wider southern Balkan region after Salonica. The city is also known as "city of consuls", because 12 diplomatic consuls resided here during the period 1878–1913.
In 1864, Manastır became the center of Monastir eyalet which included the sanjaks of Debre, Serfiçe, Elbasan, Manastır (Bitola), Görice and towns of Kırcaova, Pirlepe, Florina, Kesriye and Grevena.
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There is opposing ethnographic data from that period, but it appears that no specific ethnic or religious group could claim an absolute majority of the population. According to the 1911 Ottoman census, Greeks were the largest Christian population in the vilayet, with 740,000 Greeks, 517,000 Bulgarians and 1,061,000 Muslims in the vilayets of Selanik (Thessaloniki) and Manastır. However it should be noted that basis of Ottoman censuses was the millet system. People were assigned to ethicity according which religion they belonged. So all Sunni Muslims were categorised as Turks, all members of Greek Orthodox church as Greeks although it included vaste majority of Aromanians and certain number of Macedonian Slavs, while rest being divided between Bulgarian and Serb Orthodox churches. (Also see "Jewish community" below.) But the Ottoman register of Bedel-I Askeriye Tax of 1873 says the Manastır vilayet had about 150 000 Bulgarian men (heads of households), 40 000 Muslim and only 700 Greek. Ottoman population data from 1901 counts 566 000 Slavs, 363 000 Turks and 260 000 Greeks in the Thessaloniki and Manastır vilayets.
In 1894, Manastır was connected with Selanik by train. The first motion picture made in the Balkans was recorded by the Aromanian Manakis brothers in Manastır in 1903. In their honour, the annual Manaki Brothers International Film Camera Festival is held in modern Bitola. The Manastır congress of 1908 which defined the modern Albanian alphabet was held in the city.
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Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising
The Bitola region was a stronghold of the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising. The uprising was started as decided in 1903 in Thessaloniki by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO). Gotse Delchev opposed the timing of the uprising, saying that the people were not ready. He was killed on 4 May 1903 near Banitza village (today in Greece). The uprising in the Bitola region was planned in Smilevo village in May 1903. The battles were fought in the villages of Bistrica, Rakovo, Buf, Skocivir, Paralovo, Brod, Novaci, Smilevo, Gjavato, Capari and others. Smilevo was defended by 600 rebels led by Dame Gruev and Georgi Sugarev, but when they were defeated, villages were burned.

Balkan wars
In 1912, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece fought the Ottomans in the First Balkan War. According to the Treaty of Bucharest, 1913, the region of Macedonia was divided in 3 parts among Greeks, Serbs and Bulgarians. Bitola was to be in Bulgaria, according to a pre-war alliance agreement between Bulgaria and Serbia. But the Serbian army entered the city and refused to hand it to Bulgaria. From that moment, the city started to lose its importance and the population started rapidly decreasing, emigrating for Bulgaria and the New World.
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World War I
During World War I Bitola was on the Thessaloniki front line. In 1915 Bulgarian forces took the city and the Serb forces were forced to either surrender or try a dangerous escape through the Albanian mountains. In 1916, Bitola was occupied by the Allied Powers which entered the city from the South fighting the Bulgarian army. Bitola was divided into French, Russian, Italian and Serbian regions, under the command of French general Maurice Sarrail. Until Bulgaria's surrender in late autumn 1918, Bitola remained a front line city and was almost every day bombarded by airplanes and battery and suffered almost total destruction.

Between the two World Wars
After the end of World War I (1918) Bitola was included in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later called the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The city became a neglected border town, just 14 kilometres from Greece. Bitola's decline continued throughout this period, together with the general decline in Vardarska Banovina (Vardar Banovina), which remained one of the poorest regions in Yugoslavia.
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World War II
During the World War II (1941-1945), the Germans and later Bulgarians took control of the city. But in September 1944, Bulgaria switched sides in the war and withdrew from Yugoslavia, and Bitola was freed by Macedonian Pro-Titoist Partisans. On 4 November, the 7th Macedonian Liberation Brigade entered Bitola victoriously. After the end of the war, a Macedonian state was established for the first time in modern history, within Yugoslavia. This had cost about 25.000 human lives. In 1945, the first Gymnasium (named "Josip Broz Tito") to use the Macedonian language, was opened in Bitola.