It is not the only monument there, however, and also not the only one causing controversy with neighbouring states. The monument of the Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great, who was born in the 480s near Skopje, rubs shoulders with Dame Gruev and Gotse Delchev, the leaders of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation, or VMRO, who at the turn of the 20th Century fought for the liberation of the Bulgarians (or Macedonians – depending on which side of the border you are standing) from the Ottomans.
More prominent figures of Bulgarian history are scattered around. King Samuil (here called Samoil) is on Macedonia Square. On the river bank are the so-called Thessaloniki boatmen who, in 1903, staged a series of terrorist attacks to attract European attention to the Ottoman oppression of the Macedonians (or Bulgarians). On the opposite bank stand the statues of saints Cyril and Methodius, creators of the first Slavic alphabet, and their disciples who brought it to Bulgaria. Even the statue in front of the parliament is controversial, as Nikola Karev is considered by many to be a Bulgarian.
Local heroes are also commemorated, such as the politician Metodi Chento and Macedonian and Albanian youths who died in the internal conflict of 2001.
The result is overwhelming to such an extent that the solemn statue of Skanderbeg is dwarfed and humbled by the size and number of these new arrivals.
The most charming of all the statues in Skopje, however, have nothing to do with politics, propaganda, history or quarrels with neighbouring states. They are not even the products of Skopje 2014. They appeared several years before the disputed project and represent Skopje characters. Between the gigantic statues in the central area are hidden life size figures of bronze girls diving into the Vardar, Botero-style musicians, beggars, and gossiping beauties with generous necklines and short skirts.
Truth to tell, these statues and the hospitable publicans in the charshia with their juicy chevapi and soft zholta rakiya are better incarnations of the spirit and vitality of Skopje citizens than even the grandest and tallest statue of a heroic pre-AD horseman.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers