The Mariovo region is a combination of hills and mountains, situated in the southern part of the Republic of N. Macedonia. The region is surrounded by high mountain ranges and the Crna River divides it into two sub-regions called Small and New Mariovo (from the left side) and Big or Old Mariovo (from the right).
In administrative terms, the Mariovo region belongs to the municipalities Novaci, Kavadarci and Prilep, and in the past there were more than forty settlements.
The organized life in Mariovo has had certain continuity since prehistoric times till nowadays. As a totally isolated and hidden mountain region aside of the more important roads, the region of Mariovo was very little exposed to ethical and cultural changes. The Neolithic findings on some places confirm the existence of the prehistoric settlements. In the ancient period, the space belonged to the Macedonian region of Pelagonija. There are data in Mariovo about the Illyrians and Thracians, which were later assimilated with the migration of the South Slavonic Brsjak tribes.
During the Byzantium time in 1019, the region might be read as “Merihova”, when together with the neighbouring region Moglena constituted the Moglena episcopacy.
Although Mariovo through the history belonged under different authorities (Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia and Turkey) due to the closeness of the bigger urban centres, it was more formal because of its objectiveness and geographical autonomous.
Even today, there is a living legend in Mariovo about Princess Marija, also known as Mara Sultanija, who was the daughter of some Christian ruler.
Marija was known afar by her beauty and in an arranged marriage she was given to be the sultan’s wife. She was educated and intelligent, the sultan immediately fell in love with her and she was his favourite in the harem. When Maria grew older, she wished to return back to her previous religion.
Because the sultan loved her a lot, he approved that, yet as a Christian she could not stay in his harem. He allowed her to choose where she would want to continue living her life. Maria first went to the monastery Treskavec near Prilep, where she was rudely rejected from the abbotof the monastery. She ran away, but soon returned back with an army and ordered them to kill all the monks and burn down the monastery. Then she headed towards the village Vitolishte, which she chose to be her new home and built the monastery Chebren on Crna River.
The sultan signed an edict and gave the whole region to Marija, and since then the region becomes Marija’s land or “Mariovo”. This is just one of the legends connected to Princess Marija, as there is some historical overlapping which makes the story true to believe.
The fact is that during the Ottoman rule, the Mariovo region had a special status of the autonomous province “Has”, and as a result the region remained to be a clean and compact Slavonic region with small cultural and other influences, where the old Slavonic names of different localities are kept. The region was severely damaged during the First World War when it was on the front line itself and part of the villages were thoroughly destroyed.
Mariovo achieved its biggest economic development in the period after the Second World War, up to the 1970s when the process for mass immigrations from the villages started.
Today, Mariovo is one of the rarest inhabited regions on the Balkans.