The town of Stip is sometimes referred to as the Macedonian Manchester. For decades it has been the centre of the country's textile industry. With 48,000 inhabitants it is the largest town in eastern Macedonia. The area is known country-wide for its pizza-like pastry, pastrmajlija.
Thanks to the rapid development of the clothing sector in recent years, Stip has gone from a situation of large scale unemployment to labour shortages. A bright spot in Macedonia's generally sluggish economy, Stip can be seen as a model for the development of a thriving private sector.
Stip already became a hub of regional trade in the 19th century, while it was still under Ottoman rule. Trade with Thessalonica, in which the town's Jewish community played an active role, contributed to the town's growth. From 1797, when its population is thought to have been between 3,000 and 4,000, Stip grew rapidly, reaching a population of 20,900 by 1899. The town was ethnically diverse at the time, with 10,900 Macedonians, 8,700 Turks, 800 Jews and 500 Roma (CRPM).
Events in the 20th century changed Stip's multiethnic character. During the Second World War, while the town was under Bulgarian occupation, almost the entire Jewish population was deported to the concentration camp Treblinka. Today Stip only has one Jewish family (CRPM). Several thousand Turks left Stip during the 1950s when socialist Yugoslavia reached an agreement on emigration of Turks (in practice often also Albanians) to Turkey. According to the census of 2002 87 percent of Stip's inhabitants are now ethnic-Macedonians. There are still 1,272 Turks, 2,195 Roma and 2,074 Vlachs.
Stip's post-war industrialisation left its mark on the town's appearance. Most of the houses and apartment buildings date back to the early Socialist era (1950-1975), though there is some evidence of the town's older history: the town has a 14th century monastery and is overlooked by a medieval fortress on Isar hill. The old Ottoman covered bazaar, the Bezisten, stands next to Stip's largest hotel