The Mijaks (Macedonian: Мијаци, Mijaci) are a sub-group of ethnic Macedonians who primarily live in the Mijačija area, comprising of the Reka and Mala Reka regions, along the Radika river. They are most notable for their unique style of building and the extent to which old traditions and customs are kept alive by Mijaks.
After their conversion to Christianity in the 7th they established permanent settlements along the river Radika. These settlements developed into todays villages and towns of the regions. Their area of settlement roughly corresponds with the Reka and Mala Reka regions of today.
This population soon became skilled woodworkers and icon painters. The Mijaks have traditionally occupied the Reka region. The area including the Bistra mountain and Radika region has been termed "Mijačija" (Macedonian: Мијачија).
The most well known Mijak villages are Lazaropole and Galicnik. Other major Mijak villages are Selce, Tresonče, Rosoki, Sušica, Gari and Osoj. However the majoriy of these villages are uninhabitated as the majority of the inhabitants left during the 20th century. Large Mijak concentrations can still be found in certain villages around Debar and Bitola. The villages Oreše, Paparadište and Melnica in the Veles region were populated by Mijaci during the Turkish occupation of Macedonia. The village of Smilevo, in the Bitola region, is also considered to be a Mijak village, in regards to its architecture and history. The north-western quarter of Kruševo was populated by Mijaks.
The Mijaks are well know for the extent to which old customs are preserved in their every day life. However the act of "Pečalba" or seasonal work, was a deeply entrenched tradition of the Mijaks. Males in their 20s would often leave the village for months, or even years, at a time in order to work in more prosperous regions and creat wealth for the family. It can be attributed to this that most of the Mijak villages are deserted or sparsely populated. Mijaks had mastered the craft of woodcarving, and for many years a wood carving school operated in the Mala Reka region. They were responsible for the intricate wood carving which is found inside the Saint Jovan Bigorski Monastery, which is considered to the be best in Macedonia.
Mijak architecture has become a defining factor in the culture of the Mijaks. The Mijaks were skilled masons and it suggested that they helped the Aromanians construct Kruševo in the 18th century. Apart from some masons from the Kriva Palanka region, they were the most proficient in all of Macedonia. The Saint Jovan Bigorski Monastery is built in the Mijak style.
The Mijaks traditionally speak the "Galičnik-Lazaropole" dialect and Reka dialect. Typical characteristics of the "Mijački govor" (Macedonian: Мијачки говор), Mijak Speech, include:
reduced use of the phenome "dž" to only "ž";
the Big Yus is prounounced as a "o" and not an "a" as in Standard Macedonian;
use of the phenome "ž" or "žd" in place of the standard Macedonian "gj";
use of the suffix "-t" or "-d" for third person singular;