Ververidis’ account of the Trakatroukides

By: | Post date: 2010-05-21 | Comments: 2 Comments
Posted in categories: Culture, History, Linguistics, Modern Greek
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A Trakatroukis, Nikolaos I. Ververidis, has written three non-academic books on the Trakatroukides/Rokatzides and Kızderbent:

  • Οικογένειες Κιζδερβενιωτών Μικράς Ασίας: Families of Kizderveniotes of Asia Minor
  • Η έξοδος των Κιζδερβενιωτών της Μικράς Ασίας: The Exodus of the Kizderveniotes of Asia Minor
  • Οι Ροκατζήδες: The Rokatzides

Based on the last book, Ekaterini Asteriou-Kavazi has written summaries in the periodical of the Prosotsani Municipality Music and Dance Troup, Ηώς (Drama Prefecture), serialised over four issues (page 9 of each): #28, Aug 2005; #28, Oct 2005; #30, Dec 2005; #31, Feb 2006.

This is one source of information on the village available online; in the next post, I will report what Shishmanov says from the Bulgarian side (which is mostly about the early documented accounts of the village). The brief notes about the language are the point here. I summarise, with some reactions from Butcher of Yore; our reactions are italicised.

  • #28: In the 1919 census, 650 families, 2700–2800 inhabitants. On the road from Constantinople to Bagdad. Agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, silkworm: the village was affluent, with two- and three-storey houses. 300 km2 of farmland. Refugees from the Russian–Turkish War settled the village lands from the Caucasus, Rumelia, and Bosnia: 11 villages of 50 to 100 families each; this restricted the extent of the village. (Question: did the refugees nearby accelerate the shift to Turkish in the village? The places cited don’t seem to explain a shift to Greek identity. Indeed they may have reinforced Slavonic language unless the refugees spoke Turkish.)
  • #29: Sunday bazaar at the village, with sellers and buyers coming in from the nearby Greek, Turkish, and Armenian villages. Silkworm merchants came on 1 June–10 July, both Christian and Muslim. Animals sold for Constantinople markets: Ankara goats, Kürokli (?) Kurdish sheep. Dowry in clothing and bedspreads, prepared over a long time. Transport by cart and mule.
  • #30: Entertainments: wrestling with medals to the victors, with participation from neighbouring villages—”even Turks”. (Oil wrestling is a popular Turkish sport.) Men and women danced separately, and never held hands in the dance. (Many Greek dances are single-sex, worth investigating further.) Instruments: violin, clarinet, drum; dances: syrtos, zeibekikos (Wikipedia: Turkish and Greek variants), karsilamas, tsifteteli (Only the first is specific to the Balkans, the rest originate in Turkey). Their songs were not in Greek or Trakatroukika, only in Turkish. (Not uncommon in language shift: the Tsakonians mostly sang in standard Greek, I think the Cappadocian Greeks sang in Turkish. Was there any recollection of their original Slavonic songs?)
  • Foods: varú: trahanas, katsamáki: corn flour, ifká: wheat flour. Molasses (πετμέζι in article, Standard Greek πετιμέζι, pekmez) and retséli, grape must boiled with pumpkin. Meat only during major feast days and weddings. (Not unusual at the time even for a rich village.) Large church of St Paraskevi, small chapel of SS Constantine & Helen.
  • Village set on fire by the Kemalist troops on 11 September 1920. (The Kızderbent villages were directly targetted in the hostilities. From a 1920 report from the Patriarchate of Constantinople: “In September, the village of Kiz Dervent , having being sacked, was set on fire. Its inhabitants ran off to the hills; many died, while the survivors took refuge in Kios and the district of Yalova.”)

The excerpt in #31 goes into the language and origins of the village:

  • Language: 40% “Arabo–Perso–Turkish”, 40% “Serbo–Russo–Bulgarian”, 15% “Greek”, 5% “Arvanitika”.

    If I can presume to translate: the vocabulary was evenly mixed between Bulgarian (or Macedonian Slavonic) and Ottoman Turkish. There was some Greek vocabulary (which does not necessarily prove native Greek speakers, given Greek’s role as the language of the church and culture). There was a small component of Albanian vocabulary, which would be consistent with the village being settled from Ohrid, and Albanian words having being borrowed into the Slavonic of Ohrid.

  • “The pronunciation was more like Arvanitika and Slavic.”

    I don’t know what either accent sounds like. It’s not inconsistent with a Bulgarian (or Macedonian Slavonic) substrate.

  • “The Turks and Greeks of the region, because of the idiosyncrasy of their language, caled them Trakatroukides.”

    This claim by Ververidis comes up a lot online, but it doesn’t explain why “bang bang” (quite possibly a Turkish onomapotpoeia, as TAK explained) relates to an unusual language. TAK speculated that their occasional slavicisms struck their interlocutors like fireworks—which is a Greek idiom. But the Slavic wouldn’t have been occasional enough to make a bang; it pervaded their language. I suspect it’s more to do with the accent—what Turkish spoken with a Slavic accent would have sounded like to native speakers of Turkish.

  • Many Greek words for church terms: καμπάνα, σήμαντρο, παγκάρι, προσκυνητάρι, δίσκος, μανουάλι, νάρθηκας, γυναικωνίτης, ιερό βήμα, ιερό Ευαγγέλιο, Απόστολος, ωρολόγιο, ευχολόγιο, ψαλτήριο, μοναστήριο, άγιασμα, οκτώηχος “bell, wooden bell, bench (for candles), shrine, collection plate, candelabra, narthex (church antechamber), women’s section of church, holy pulpit, Holy Gospel, Acts of Apostles, Horologion (Book of Hours), Euchologion, Psalter, monastery, holy water, Ochtoechos (Byzantine modes)”—

    The author is a priest, which explains why he has taken so much interest in church vocabulary, and the Kızderbent villagers had Greek church services; that was the decision point on whether they were considered Greek or Bulgarian. Church terminology does not prove anyone in the village natively spoke Greek of course, and if Greek was restricted to the church, it proves the opposite—just as the Greek in scientific English merely proves scientists used to have a classical education, and Norwegian terms like slalom in skiing English merely proves that Norwegians invented skiing.
    To add to that though, I doubt many of the terms could fairly be said even to have belonged to vernacular Greek, as opposed to Greek specific to the Church. Narthex? Euchologion? Vital terms of the trade for a churchman, sure, but how many villagers in Greece in 1850 could tell you what they were?

  • The list goes on, in a less churchy direction: φυλλάδιο, πινακωτή, μασιά, προστιά, μαγκάλι, ευχαριστώ “pamphlet, bread peel, fire tongs, trivet, brazier, thank you”, place names: Μεσινοπόταμος “Mid-River” (Mesinadere), Καλοπόταμος “Good River” (Kaladere).

    • μασιά and μαγκάλι are Standard Greek, but are still loans from Turkish: maşa, mangal
    • There is a disproportionate presence of Greek in terms around cooking; is it just cooking? It’s not an indication of an elite language, but if it’s concentrated in one domain, it’s still suspect. It is the strongest indication of Greek, but it’s just two words, really, “bread peel” and “trivet”. (“Pamphlet” again points to Greek being a language of education, not necessarily of everyday use.)
    • “thank you” does stand out as a common word; but Standard Bulgarian has formulaic borrowings from Greek as well: сполати σπολλάτη “congratulations!” < εἰς πολλὰ ἔτη “many years!”—not to mention елате ελάτε “come on!” The borrowing does prove Greek was a language of prestige to the settlers of Kızderbent, much like many a language has borrowed French merci. Butcher of Yore retorts that such a word would be used by urban populations before percolating to rural populations. If the villagers came from Ohrid, it’s not impossible that there were Greek-speaking of Hellenised settlers among them, to account for this. My own suspicion is if there were substantial numbers, we’d be seeing more Greek words than this.
    • Placenames are very useful in language history because they stick around after the language has died out in a region (and among transplants from a region). The placenames suggest the settlers had been in contact with Greeks, but again not necessarily that they spoke Greek: they could easily have been old Greek placenames of the region around Ohrid (or wherever), and were brought across with the settlers.

  • and the “Souliote” word básko, meaning “elder brother”.

    The Souliotes were a mostly or entirely Albanian-speaking group in North-West Greece, whose inhabitants identified as Greek: this is merely a polite way of saying “Albanian word” (In Standard Albanian bashko is “to unite”, and bashkë is “together”; is the -o Slavonic?) As I’ve already speculated, one borrowed kinship term does not prove Albanian-speakers came to Kızderbent, but that the ancestors of the Kızderbent settlers had been in contact with Albanian-speakers—which makes sense if they came from Ohrid.

Ververidis’ account of the village’s origin is that it was settled around 1500 by thirty families from Ohrid and Monastir. The villagers protected the route from Bagdad to Istanbul, where tax revenues went through. (The myth around the name is that a maiden was killed on one such mission.) For their service protecting public moneys, they were rewarded by the Sultan with tax immunity, which encouraged “Greek-speakers, Turkish-speakers, Armenian-speakers and Bulgarian-speakers” to settle there. That suggests a Slavonic-speaking core with accretions which may still explain the bits of non-ecclesiastical Greek—Greek was as prestigious in Bithynia as in Ohrid. The Armenian vocabulary for the moment is still AWOL.


  • Nikos Mastrakoulis says:

    It is pure speculation, but I suspect that the "trakatroukika" name might derive from (or at least have been infuenced by) "θρακοτούρκικα" or, perhaps more plausibly, "trakya türkçe".

    And yes, I do realize that 7 years since the post is a very long time for a comment! 🙂

  • gbaloglou says:

    trak-trouk like bar-bar 🙂

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