Boris Trajkovski was only 43 when he was elected President of Macedonia in November 1999.
Mr Trajkovski became Macedonian president in 1999
He is seen as a new-generation leader with a Western outlook and an ability to build contacts with foreign diplomats and politicians.
Western governments see him as the man best able to ensure stability in Macedonia.
Mr Trajkovski, who died in a plane crash in Bosnia-Hercegovina on 26 February 2004, was born in Strumica, Macedonia, on 25 June 1956.
He spoke English and had a law degree from St Cyril and Methodius University, in Skopje.
Mr Trajkovski, a Methodist, also studied theology in the US,
where he gave up communism.
He specialised in commercial and employment law, and went on to head the legal department of a construction company.
In 1997, Mr Trajkovski became chief-of-office in a Skopje local government administration, and in January 1999 he was appointed Macedonia's deputy minister of foreign affairs.
During the Kosovo crisis later that year, he accused Nato of paying too little attention to the ethnic tensions brewing in Macedonia, and the influx of 300,000 ethnic Albanian refugees.
In presidential elections that year, he won in the second round, thanks to a last-minute swing of support from ethnic Albanians - who make up between a quarter and a third of Macedonia's population of two million.
Trajkovski played a key role in restoring peace
There had to be a partial re-run two weeks later in the predominantly ethnic Albanian region of western Macedonia after complaints of alleged irregularities, but Mr Trajkovski's victory was confirmed.
In the aftermath of the war in Kosovo, as the world feared that the conflict could spread to Macedonia, Mr Trajkovski insisted that only a peaceful solution based on a multi-ethnic democratic state could work.
His more tolerant, inclusive approach played an important part in negotiating an end to the six-month-long conflict between ethnic Albanian fighters and Macedonian security forces in 2001.
Mr Trajkovski helped push through an EU-brokered peace deal that August, under which Albanian fighters handed over their weapons to Nato in exchange for greater constitutional rights.
Despite criticism from nationalists within Mr Trajkovski's own party, the relevant changes to the constitution were ratified by parliament and new laws were introduced, paving the way for general elections.
Mr Trajkovski pledged to lead the country towards membership of the EU and Nato which, he believed, offer the best hope of lasting stability.
Only days before his death he signed Macedonia's formal application to join the EU, which was due to be submitted to the EU's Irish presidency in Dublin on Thursday.