Bitola (formerly Monastir) is a large and ancient city on the edge of the Pelagonian plain with a current population of about 75,000. It was part of the Ottoman Empire between 1382 and 1912, and suffered severe damage during the conflicts of the 20th century, particularly during the First World War. Nevertheless its traditional trading places the Stara Carsijo (Old Bazaar) and Bezisten (covered market) still flourish. The city was once a thriving place of interaction between the Ottoman Empire and the countries of western Europe, and was known as the ‘city of the consuls’ because so many countries maintained consulates there.
Bitola’s history is reflected in its municipal museum, founded in 1934, which has subsequently been housed in several different buildings. It is now located in a former military academy where Kemel Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey once studied. One of its galleries is devoted to Ataturk’s career. The region around Bitola is rich in archaeological remains from a variety of ancient civilisations, which are exhibited in the museum. Other displays reflect the trades and crafts of city and its region, textiles, carpets, embroidery, the making of jewellery and mining, and domestic displays illustrate the material culture of the 19th century.