Slavophone refugees to Greece

By: | Post date: 2010-06-09 | Comments: 12 Comments
Posted in categories: Culture, History, Modern Greek
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To check further on Kızderbent, I got hold of the 2001 book Γλωσσική Ετερότητα στη Ελλάδα [Linguistic Otherness in Greek], to see what it said about Trakatroukika. The book is a transcription of a series of panels on linguistic minorities in Greece. Most sessions passed without incident, except for the Vlach session (which the organisers unwisely held in situ in Thessaly, instead of in Athens).

The session on “Slavic dialects of Greece” includes a four page presentation by Leonidas Empirikos (son of the surrealist writer), reporting on a survey he did with Lambros Baltsiotis on the geographical distribution of Slavonic in present-day Greece. Trakatroukika is mentioned on p. 155. I give the citation here, because Kızderbent turns out not to be the only settlement of Slavonic speaking refugees to Greece:

I should also note that this is a large contiguous region [where Slavonic is spoken]; by that I mean that it is a continuous population of rural origin, to this day. A survey of Slavophony in Greece would not be complete without mentioning at least five special cases:

  1. The Slavonic-speaking Muslims of Western Thrace, who were not subject to the population exchanges and are called Pomaks;
  2. A few people in some of the Nestus villages of Stavroupoli, Xanthi;
  3. The “Trakatroukides” with refugee origins (Slavonic-speakers from Nicomedia in Asia Minor, settled here and there in various regions of Greek Macedonia and Western Thrace);
  4. The few Slavonic-speaking Patriarchists from Eastern Thrace who chose to settle in Greece;
  5. Slavonic-speaking Patriarchist refugees, mainly from Strumica (who settled in Kilkis), but also from Petrich, Startsevo and Nevrokop [= Gotse Delchev] (who settled in Eastern Macedonia, from New Petritsi/Veterna to Drama, Iraklia and Prosotsani).

View Greek Slavophone refugees in a larger map

The last couple of populations need explanation. Modern Bulgarian nationalism started out as an assertion of ecclesiastical independence, with the establishment of an autonomous Bulgarian Exarchate within the Orthodox church. Identity in the Ottoman Empire was credal under the Millet system, and the local bishop administered the Orthodox Christians; if Bulgarians wanted to not be Greek under that framework, they had to have their own bishops. This led to contention between Exarchists, aligned with the newly autonomous Bulgarian church, and Patriarchists, remaining loyal to the Greek Patriarch.

Linguistic or ethnic identity did not necessarily align with credal identity—as in so many instances in the Ottoman Empire; so people could speak Bulgarian (or Macedonian Slavonic—or for that matter Aromanian), but be Patriarchists. I don’t know of reverse cases, native speakers of Greek being Exarchists, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. After all, not all the Greek-speakers of Eastern Rumelia left for Greece in 1919, either.

The dispute between Exarchists and Patriarchists turned violent in Macedonia, culminating in the guerilla conflict that Greeks call the Macedonian Struggle. But from Shishmanov’s survey, the dispute had also spread to Asia Minor, with several villages reported as containing Grecomans (the Exarchist disparagement for Patriarchists: the term is intended to mean “wannabe Greeks”). We would in fact expect the dispute to have spread anywhere in the Ottoman Empire where Slavonic-speaking populations had a Greek clergy. There was no force field between Sofia and Nicomedia, to prevent people coming across to convince the locals they were Bulgarians, and not just Christians.

I think that’s the subtext to surprise at Kızderbent that I perceive from the Bulgarian Wikipedia. Bulgarian researchers found out about the other Asia Minor villages in the 1860s, and went over to encourage their Bulgarian national sentiment; Kızderbent was known about in the West fifty years earlier, and a Bulgarian national sentiment does not seem to have taken root.

(Greeks reading this should not get too smug: blogger Doctor has posted at Sarantakos’ blog reports from Greek officials in Eastern Thrace, annoyed that they too had to work on the locals’ national sentiment, and convince the locals they were Greeks and not just Christians.)

So when time came for the population exchanges with Bulgaria and Turkey (and the preceding violence in Turkey), the criterion for who chose to go to Greece was not linguistic but ecclesiastical. Patriarchists, who were derided as wannabe Greeks, wanted to be Greeks, and chose to go to Greece. That applied to Bulgaria—Empirikos’ fifth group. It also applied to settlers from Bulgaria and Macedonia in Turkey: Eastern Thrace, Empirikos’ fourth group, but also the Trakatroukides, Empirikos’ third group. From Shishmanov’s survey, several other Bulgarian villages of Bithynia chose Greece as well, though they don’t appear to have got attention.

I don’t know anything about Empirikos’ second group, btw, but populations did move around in the Ottoman Empire; there’s a village of Albanian Christians in Serres prefecture (Koimisi, in Irakleia municipality), for example, who are refugees from Eastern Thrace—like Empirikos’ fourth group. So the Stavroupoli Bulgarians would have moved there from elsewhere in the Bulgaro-Macedonian continuum.


  • kankardam says:

    I recently came across in this site. May you reply me if you know which are the villages where there are slavophone refugees from East Thrace in Aegean Macedonia and West Thrace? Someone do you know?

    • Sorry for the delay!

      I’m afraid I can’t help you: I have read through the book I cited, and the recent Slavic settlements in Greece are a parenthetical mention in a panel proceedings that did focus on native Slavophone populations. (Participants in fact did complain that there was no attention being paid to Eastern Macedonia, but the settlements there, whether native or recent migrations, are few and scattered, unlike in Western Macedonia.)

      But Leonidas Embirikos is a walking encyclopaedia of Slavophone Greece (I’ve seen him in action); he’d certainly know, and he may well have published on the subject. If you can, try getting in touch with him.

  • Ένας Χασάπης από τα παλιά says:

    Quite obviously – what a faux pas.

  • All three dates in the first paragraph of the previous posting are wrong by 100 years – the events concerned all happened in the 19th century.
    Bonus dormitat carnifex…

  • Ένας Χασάπης από τα παλιά says:

    Actually the church became autocephalous a few years after independence (not during the Kapodistria era) at the insistence of Otto (the Bavarian 1st King of the modern Greek state) or should I say his viceroys (he was considered a tad too young) in 1933. It led to the Patriarch declaring the Greek church schesmatic (I pressume with the required anathemas involved) and it was not until 1950 that relations were restored and the autocephaly of the church was recognized. At the same time rules were set in place to allow for autocephaly, declare nationalism – in the ecclesiastical sphere called ethnophyleticism – as a heresy (1972) and disallow for two different orthodox churches to share jurisdiction over the same eparchy. A good review of the history of the Greek Church (in Greek) can be found in Wikipedia:
    The 1833 unilateral move was not unopposed – the disquiet of the population to the break with Constantinople and the foreign influences they were perceiving in the newly independent church allowed for popular support for Papoulakos some years later (google for "Παπουλάκος εξέγερση").

    The eparchies of some of the new terrritories (Crete being excluded) are on permanet "loan" to the Church of Greece. They do not officially report to the EP – administratively they are one with the rest of the church in Greece – but it is him that they mention in their prayers as their head. And when it comes to new bishops being elected, the Patriarch has to review the list of candidates for their bishropics – which led to the rather major (by ecclesiastical standards) crisis of 2004.

    Crete is semi-autonomous under the Patriarch and the Dodecanesse are directly under him. Also from 1908 to 1922 the Greek Orthodox Churches of America were under the church of Greece and not the EP.

  • John Cowan says:

    Oops, an editing error made me leave out the obvious point that the Greek Church itself became autocephalous when Greece became independent; the New Territories, however, officially report to the EP even though they are administered by the Greeks.

  • John Cowan says:

    If you look at the history of autocephaly in the Orthodox Church, it has everything to do with political independence. Bulgaria has been independent of the Empire (Roman or Ottoman) on three separate occasions, and in each case autocephaly either preceded or followed; when Bulgaria was reconquered, the Bulgarian church as well as state was folded back into Constantinople's domain. Similar patterns are found elsewhere: the autocephaly of Finland, for example, reflects its political independence from Russia, and the Oriental Orthodox ('monophysite') Church of Eritrea became autocephalous about when Eritrea did.

    Things are otherwise in North America and Australia. The Orthodox Church in America is de facto autocephalous, being the descendant of that part of the Moscow Patriarchate in Alaska when the U.S. bought the territory, and separated for good by the Communist takeover. But the bulk of North American Orthodox, including Greeks and Ukrainians, are actually part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, not the Greek Patriarchate or any of the three competing Ukrainian Patriarchates. Similar story in Australia.

    In Africa, the EP decided to avoid a similar mess by assigning all Orthodox churches whatsoever to the Patriarchate of Alexandria, which only has a bare existence, since most of it went either 'monophysite' or Muslim a looooong time ago, and therefore was not a bureaucratic threat. Since Orthodoxy in Africa is thin on the ground anyway, everyone can live with this — so far.

  • opoudjis says:

    Ευχαριστώ για τα σχόλια· δεν ξέρω αν έχω πολλά να προσθέσω, είναι πάντως πολύ χρήσιμα τα στοιχεία σας. // Thank you for your comments; I don't know that I have much to add, but your data is quite useful.

  • Anonymous says:

    as for the 4th group, there's the case of the so called Gallipoli Serbs. They came to Greece after the population exchange, yet they chose to go and locate at Pehcevo in the then Serbia so as to work as miners (I think). I don't know if they were bilingual in Greek, but they were speaking a Slavic dialect, which Serbian linguists have studied trying to illustrate its archaic Serbian character.

  • "I don't know of reverse cases, native speakers of Greek being Exarchists, but I wouldn't rule anything out."

    Αν θυμάμαι καλά, ο Βασδραβέλλης (αλλά σε ποιο βιβλίο του;) αναφέρει την περίπτωση μιας ελληνόφωνης αλλά βουλγαρίζουσας οικογένειας Ρόμπη ("Ρόμπη, όχι καν Ρόμπεφ ή Ρόμπε") από το Μοναστήρι.

  • Anonymous says:

    *αναφέρις = αναφέρεις

    για λοιπα ορθογραφικά, συντακτικά κλπ κράξτε ελεύθερα…

  • Anonymous says:

    Αυτό με τους βλάχους ξέχασα να το γράψω στο προηγούμενο ποστ, το λέω γιατί περίμενα πως θα το σχολιάσεις – είναι αρκετά ευαίσθητοι σ'αυτά τα θέματα. Έχει πλάκα πάντως γιατί μαζεύεται κάθε καρυδιάς καρύδι σ'αυτά τα συνέδρια, π.χ. (μη Έλληνες) Αρμάνοι από τη Γαλλία που πιστεύουν πως είναι καιρός να καταλάβουν οι Αρμάνοι της Ελλάδας πως είναι εθνική μειονότητα (εντάξει, έμμεσα το λένε) ή άτομα της ΟΑΚΚΕ που δείχνουν την υποστήριξή τους προς τη "Μακεδονία" και τους εν Ελλάδι "εθνικά Μακεδόνες" (= με τη λογική τους συχνά όλοι οι σλαβόφωνοι ανεξαρτήτως εθνικής συνείδησης).

    Το δεύτερο γκρουπ του Εμπειρίκου ήταν (είναι) αν δεν κάνω λάθος κυρίως ντόπιοι που παρέμειναν πατριαρχικοί στους οποίους προστέθηκαν επιπλέον πατριαρχικοί βουλγαρόφωνοι από τις γειτονικές χώρες. Γιατί τους αναφέρις λες και ο Εμπειρίκος μιλάει μόνο για μετακινήσεις σλαβόφωνων πληθυσμών; Αφού αναφέρει και τους Πομάκους που είναι ντόπιοι.

    Μια και ανέφερες τους αλβανόφωνους της Θράκης νομίζω (αχ η γαμ…εμμ καταραμένη μνήμη) πως η μετακίνηση που έφερε τους αλβανόφωνους στην Ανατολική Θράκη είχε ως αποτέλεσμα και την αλβανοφωνία της Μαντρίτσας στη Βουλγαρία (κάποιοι απ'αυτούς στη συνέχεια ήρθαν Ελλάδα όπως και οι ανατολικοθρακιώτες συγγενείς τους, που ήδη το γνωρίζεις) καθώς και μερικών οικισμών στην Ουκρανία. Βλέπε (και άκου) εδώ για τις κοινότητες αυτές, Ως πρώην γλωσσολόγος μπορείς να μας πεις αν όντως τους έφερε το ίδιο κύμα. 😛

    Τώρα, τα περί απόκτησης "εθνικής συνείδησης" και όχι ύπαρξης της από ακαθόριστους αλλά αρκετά παλαιούς χρόνους σύμφωνα με τις επιταγές της εθνικής ιστορίας (παντού δηλαδή, βλέπω πως το άρθρο για το βουλγαρικού εθνικισμό έχει τίτλο national *awakening*, επιβεβαιώνοντας με) είναι γνωστά αλλά ας μη πάρουμε και 100% τοις μετρητοίς τα λόγια των συχνά "είμαι πιο εθνικά ευαισθητοποιημένος από δαύτους" υπεύθυνων..

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