Ethnic animosity has been simmering between Macedonia's two largest ethnic communities for a decade, since an armed rebellion by ethnic Albanians was brought to an end with the help of Western diplomacy.
In March, violence erupted in the capital, Skopje, after two ethnic Albanians were killed in the western town of Gostivar by an off-duty police officer during an apparent argument over a parking space.
On April 13, fears of ethnic conflict were stoked further by the discovery of five slain Macedonian fishermen beside a lake at the village of Smiljkovci north of Skopje. Four of the victims were in their late teens or early 20s. The fifth was a man in his 40s.
Authorities have not announced a motive for the killings nor named any suspects. But speculation about the gangland-style executions has focused on tensions with ethnic Albanians.
Skopje resident Violeta Mitreska tells RFE/RL she hopes such speculation does not bring a return to the ethnic violence seen in Macedonia a decade ago.
But not all temperaments are so cool in the former Yugoslav republic. On April 16, hundreds of angry young Macedonian Slavs marched in Skopje to protest the Smiljkovci killings. They chanted nationalist slogans and blamed ethnic Albanians for the killings.
Riot police later clashed with the stone-throwing demonstrators and prevented them from marching across a bridge to a mainly Albanian neighborhood in the capital. The police action won praise from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Meanwhile, fearing ethnic conflict could escalate out of control, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov has issued calls for restraint and a speedy investigation into the Smiljkovci killings.
Macedonia's interior minister, Gordana Jankulovska, also warned that speculation about who carried out the Smiljkovci killings could fuel ethnic tensions.
"The Ministry of Interior appeals to all citizens to restrain from speculation and not to encourage the fueling of passions or to encourage interethnic intolerance," Jankulovska said.
Macedonian political analyst Jove Kekenovski says the two communities should have developed peaceful coexistence by now. But instead, he says, poverty and unemployment have contributed to social frustration and rising tension.