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Representations, Social practices, Performances

Licensed under Creative Commons Αttribution-ShareAlike Greece 3.0.

Please visit the conference website at:

ISBN: 978-960-8096-05-9

e-book production: Paris Aslanidis

Thessaloniki 2013

Representations, Social practices, Performances


Introduction 6
Fotini Tsibiridou & Nikitas Palantzas

1. Opening Talk Conference “Myth About the Other” 17

Marietta van Attekum

2. The Social Production of Difference in the Global Hierarchy of Value: 19

Stereotypes and Transnational Experience in Greece and the Balkans
Michael Herzfeld

3. The Other Town: How the Greeks and the Turks perceive mythical 31
Hercules Millas

4. The Fanariote myth in Bulgarian historiography 40

Raymond Detrez

5. The Hellenicity of the linguistic Other in Greece 56

Peter Mackridge

6. Aspects of Greek “Myths” related to the Albanians during the Age of 66

Lambros Baltsiotis & Elias G. Skoulidas

7. Fear and Desire: Foreign women in Bulgarian National Mythology 75

Nikolay Aretov

8. Macedon: Communicating the Reality or Myth? An Interrogation by the 83

Provisions of Franklin Rudolf Ankersmit’s Theory on Aesthetic Political
Gjiorgji Kallinski

9. The Representation of the National Self and the Balkan People in 92

Turkey’s New Textbooks
Kenan Çayir

10. Pupils’ perceptions of the Balkan ‘‘other’’ 105

Chrysa Tamisoglou

11. The Question of the Other in the reminiscences of former pupils of the 115
Bulgarian secondary schools in Thessaloniki and Edirne
Lyubomir Georgiev

12. “If on a cold winter night a foreigner...”: Researching the perceptions 123
of student kindergarten teachers about the ethnic Balkan “Other”
Kostas Magos
13. Baba Noel and Yeni yil ağaç - Symbols of the myth of Christmas in 138
schools of the Muslim minority
Aristidis Sgatzos

14. Challenging the Bektashi tradition in the Greek Thrace: 144

Anthropological and historical encounters
Fotini Tsibiridou & Giorgos Mavrommatis

15. “Nahni wa xfendik” (We and the Others): Negotiation of multiple 161
identities in the Maronite Community of Cyprus
Maria Koumarianou

16. On Muslims, Turks and migrants: perceptions of Islam in Greece and 177
the challenge of migration
Venetia Evergeti & Panos Hatziprokopiou

17. A Muslim Saint or a Conqueror: Myths and the Religious Other 189
Evgenia Troeva

18. Being Albanian in Greece or elsewhere: negotiation of the (national) 197

self in a migratory context
Ifigenia Kokkali

19. Markers of self-identity and the image of the Other in the context of 210
labour mobility in Western Macedonia
Petko Hristov

20. The immigrant self-perception, social status and the myths influence. A 221
comparison study of the Albanian immigrant in Greece and Italy
Zenelaga Brunilda, Kërpaçi Kalie & Sotirofski Kseanela

21. Paradoxes of ‘‘Otherness’’ in Greek Asylum Practice 234

Eftihia Voutira

22. “Brothers” becoming “Others”. The Greeks of Albania in Greece after 245
Vassilis Nitsiakos

23. Balkan cinema in Thessaloniki International Film Festival 251

Dimitris Kerkinos

24. When the Dreams Come True (Bollywood Music and Dance in 256
Ivanka Vlaeva

25. ‘‘The Making of Balkan Wars’’ Virtually Articulating a Critique of 266

Balkan Mythologies
Anna Apostolidou

26. “İlk ve en önemli çevreci”: Environmentalism and Secularism in 278

contemporary Istanbul
Aimilia Voulvouli

27. Singing or crying: dealing with the fear of ethnic, national, and 285
engendered otherness in Macedonia, Greece
Marica Rombou-Levidi

28. Non-European ‘‘Others’’? A study on the stereotypical representations 296

of Eastern Turks by citizens of Istanbul
Nikitas Palantzas

29. The “national body”: Language and sexuality in the Balkan national 305
Costas Canakis

30. The Balkan case of “otherness” in the political discourse 321

Ana Chupeska

The Program of the Conference 325


Fotini Tsibiridou
University of Macedonia
Nikitas Palantzas
Hellenic American Educational Foundation, Athens

1. The Balkans Narrate: The Myths, Histories and Texts

The lyrics of the Greek song writer Savvopoulos say, ‘‘These are the Balkans and
that’s no joking matter’’, condensing in one sentence of cultural intimacy (Herzfeld
1997), substances, i.e. stereotypes, contradictive notions and intangible threats for
those who attempt to approach historically and socio-culturally the region without
having any personal experience from it. Geopolitical complexity, polyvalent human
landscape, nationalist conflicts and a sense of incompleteness related to the European
Acquis, compose the puzzle of the basic difficulties found in any of the
aforementioned approaches. In an attempt to avoid the traps of Balkanisms1, which
are entailed in such top-down analyses and derive from ‘‘innocent researchers’’2, we
shift our attention toward the everyday life of people. The latter cannot be
admeasured by positivist calculations and rationalist explanations, nor can it be
perceived through the distorting lenses of orientalistic representations. However, this
everyday life continues to attract field researchers and wayfarers due to reputation,
exoticism and exclusion of the territory from the European Acquis. This everyday life
that remains not so much unexplored but unpublicized demands the enlisting of field
disciplines, which focus on the significance of experience, as this is constituted
corporeally and interactively by the multiple agents of the spectacle that is the both
the ordinary people and the political elites.
Field researchers in the Balkan area acquire a leading role, mainly because
they become the diligent observers of everyday habits, customs, behaviours, but also
of the predominant incongruity that ‘‘everything around is changing, yet all remain
the same’’ (lyrics from another Greek song-writer Manolis Rasoulis). It is another
‘‘truth’’ of cultural intimacy that is being expressed through the use of social poetics.
In order to record the idioms of cultural intimacy that are valid within the Balkan
space, direct prescriptive discourse and sociological categories seem to be inadequate
conceptual tools. Perhaps it is time to bring forward those ambiguous discourses of
cultural intimacy, those internal stories, which like myths reveal the conflicting and
conciliatory reasoning that entangle experiences and affections with effective options.
It is about histories that, as in the case of the aforementioned lyrics of the songwriters,
consolidate complexities by translating and converging the contradictions and
conflicts, as does any myth that pays respect to its genre.3

Developing on Edward Said’s work on Orientalism (1978), Maria Todorova introduces the term
Balkanism (1997) in order to illustrate, how the Balkans have been invented by Western imagination
and discourses as an essentialized cultural, historical and political category.
Cf. Barley, N. 1983, The innocent Anthropologist.
Cf. Campbell, J.,1988, The Power of Myth; Levi-Strauss, C., 1969, Mythologiques Vol. 1, 1973,
Mythologiques Vol. 2, 1978, Mythologiques Vol. 3, 1981, Mythologiques Vol. 4.

In such histories we will find not just conflicts, incidents of hatred and
separation, but also experiences of positive conceptualization of the symbiosis with
the different Other. The Ottoman heritage did not just bequeath linguistically and
religiously diverse populations, who got involved in violent conflicts prompted by the
needs to be incorporated in nation-states at the beginning and the end of the 20th
century.4 The Ottoman administration coiled them at the level of collaborative relative
groups and bestowed them with a stock of surviving resistance, but also of
patron/clientalist exchange, as options of subsistence within the polyvalent
environment of the empire.5 Since then, even though the circumstances change, the
particularistic logic of family, kinship or other local community that shifts between
‘‘interest and emotion’’6, is being employed any time as a utilitarian rational choice of
subsistence on the ground, when a rearrangement of power at the level of central
governance occurs. This partial logic which manifests itself as ‘‘us and the others’’ in
any given circumstance, not only reproduces itself as long as the bonds with the
central arrangement of power remain elusive and inadequate, but it is also enriched
with evaluations and classifications that create orientalistic expectations of
Balkanism, which derive from the West, either from outside or from above. This
condition of the double bond that these logics of ‘‘interest and emotion’’ seem to
follow, generates meaning only if one takes the trouble to listen to the subjects, who
nourish them discursively and empirically on a daily basis. For these subjects, this
logic generates meanings, which must be taken under serious consideration in order
not to serve culturalism and difference, but in order to search for the significance of
stereotypes in the lives of local people, who reproduce them selectively, even though
they try to disrupt them (cf. Herzfeld in this book). It is about time then to ensue and
listen to those ‘‘unreasonable’’ and ‘‘paradox’’ histories that remind us of fairytales
and seem not to make sense. As our guest of honour points out it is time to start taking
stereotypes seriously (see Herzfeld later in this book).
This can happen first, if we start looking at stereotypes themselves in a
deconstructive way, as well as approaching critically the way these are being
proliferated both externally and internally. As it was at least the intention of this
conference, our main concern was to overcome the traps of culturalism, but at the
same time to highlight the educational value of nationalism for the lives of people;
our purpose was to take into account the relationship of Balkan’s subordination to the
West, but also to avoid the dogmatism and persistence in the causality of dependence
The present endeavour, that attempts to give the floor to academics from the
region or those who are engaged with it from inside, selected to play with the myths,
the histories and discourses and not with the theories, models and norms of a
unilateral truth. This is the reason we invoke the modality of myths, which translate,
interpret and denote in polyvalent contexts, away from the rigidity and ontology of
the single truth.

For the instigation of nationalism during the Balkan Wars and the rise of nationalism in the 1990’s
after the breakup of Yugoslavia see the rich literature produced by historians, social anthropologists
and political scientists, for example, Todorova 1994, 1997, Hann 1994, Danforth 1995, Karakasidou
1997, Kazer 1998, Cowan et. Al. 2000, Duizings 2000, Friedman 2000, Kaser 2004, Boscovic 2005,
Bojcic & Dzelilovic 2006, Αρμακόλας 2010, Kolozova 2010.
Cf. Kayser, 1997, ‘‘Family and Kinship in the Balkans. A declining culture?’’
See Medick & Sabean et. Al. 1984, Παπαταξιάρχης (επιμ.) 2006.
For an interesting discussion between the two approaches, which are not mutually excluded, see
Theodossopoulos 2013.

The myths and the technologies of social poetics are used and performed by
condensing cultural intimacies mainly for the following reasons:
1. Ordinary people of the region seem to be more familiar with the myths and
histories, thus they can regain the lost time of modern nationalist modalities of
representation, which gave birth to limits and advocated the exclusion of the different
2. After all it seems that positivist approaches that produce serious theories do not
concern everybody. The constant search for essentialism in order to conceal the non-
regular, the contradictions and paradoxes, is useful for those who appropriate power
and become key-players at the central political scene.
3. The new modernist and unilateral myths of nationalisms and stereotypes that
educate the majorities should be disputed by the modalities of the inconsistent truths
that are found in ordinary old or new myths and narratives. This is the only way that
one can contest the distorted, propagandist essentialisms and the modality of the
single truth.
More specifically, in the Balkan region, as in other areas that constitute
polyvalent fields, the Sisyphean task of the European enlightening tradition, is not
only a utopia on purity, essence and progress, since it does not reflect on its own
contradictions, but it also reproduces contaminated distortions due to the hegemony
and persistence of the West’s compliance practices to its own economic and political
model of administration (see the nation-state, democracy, civil society, etc) in the
region. However the project of modernization, which is to be implemented as a
package in the last two centuries in the wider area, does not include the necessary
technological developments, hence the endeavour remains always suspended and
incomplete; for this reason the blame falls on the inhabitants of this area for
diverging, failing and moving away from the expected western European paradise.
Even though it is clear that the development of ‘‘Balkanism’’ stems from western
European and American preoccupations, attributing to the Balkans all the negative
elements of the East, from the middle of the 19th century until today, the citizens of
the Balkans are not familiar with these premises, either because these have not been
deconstructed officially, through the national narratives or due to their concealment
from imperialist centres, in order to be represented as the false economic and political
path, followed by the countries that shifted toward the communist prospect.
However, the silence over all those non-confessed traumas and attempts for
compliance, restraint, as well as the overlaid cancellation that followed the fall of the
socialist regimes, do not only leave open wounds but they also create new ones.
People especially after the 1990 wars in ex Yugoslavia, try to manage them either by
creating incomplete, partial and fragmented histories, or by returning as vengeful
ghosts against the Other, who is conceived in terms of alterity. Not accidentally,
though, the ‘‘other’’ becomes the internal different of the national backbone, the
neighbour and generally either the weak point (see minorities) or all those, who
happen to be in a vulnerable position at any given time (see migrants, women and
everything that slips from the dominant regularity).
Both the myths of the ‘‘Other’’ are being modified and transformed in
different contexts. The various histories are managing wounds, contradictions and
conflicts, as any discourse that is being reproduced officially and unofficially. These
myths, which convey the ideology and practices of those who articulate them, become
of important significance. It is not just within the framework of cultural relativism and
poly-vocality that these elements acquire their meaning. The project of a critical
understanding includes the modalities of embodied performativity of these discourses,

myths and histories that translate and at the same time interpret the contradictions of
social reality. The modalities that pave the way of substantial communication and
mutual understanding at the level of the significance of cultural intimacy, vicinity and
common geopolitical course, without clinging to national stereotypes, the narrow
possibilities of common sense and the permeability of rationalism.
In other words, we do not seek the elements of a common Balkan culture, but
the modalities to address common assumptions and stereotypical categorizations that
give birth not just to stereotypes, but also to inconsistencies. Without denying the
importance of a common Ottoman past, we test the limits of national culture as well
as of every statist and political tradition, in the ways people today manage old and
new hegemonies amid global and local power relationships. Even though people’s
practices seem to be adapted and transformed rapidly, at the same time they give the
impression that they remain unchanged.
This is the reason why we believe it is time to take both global hegemonies
and stereotypes seriously, of course not in order to exemplify them, in the way it was
done by the gurus of the neoliberal state of affairs (see Huntington 1997 and
Fukuyama 1992) reproducing in this way instrumental culturalisms, but to see their
synergies in the way people deal with stereotypes, as well as the contradictory
‘‘truths’’ in the spirit of empirical pragmatism. The convention of Social
Anthropology, History, Folklore Studies, as well as the other related disciplines from
the social and political sciences and the humanities, in the present book, espouses the
same disposition for deconstruction and reflexivity with regards to the significance
and modalities of the myth.
This is the reason why in 2011 in collaboration with the Via Egnatia network
(communication and financial co-sponsor), people from the social and political
sciences and the humanities were called to participate in the relevant conference,
which was organized in Thessaloniki by the department of Balkan, Slavic and
Oriental Studies of the University of Macedonia. Fotini Tsibiridou, was in charge of
the scientific and organizing committee.
The present edition, to which Nikitas Palantzas contributes as co-editor begins
with the inspiring speech given by our guest of honour, Michael Herzfeld, [The Social
Production of Difference in the Global Hierarchy of Value: Stereotypes and
Transnational Experience in Greece and the Balkans], after the introduction by the
editors, Tsibiridou and Palantzas and Marrietta Van Attecum’s greeting speech on
behalf of Via Egnatia. After these, some illustrative texts of that meeting are included,
which refer to ‘‘representations, cultural meanings and performativities’’, while they
compose the backbone of the event around the ‘‘Myths of the Other in the Balkans’’.8

2. The texts of the book

The present book comprises a collection of texts from various disciplines and
different theoretical and methodological approaches. However, they all deal with
topics, ethnographic examples and case studies from the wider region of the Balkans
that demonstrate how myths about the Self and the Other are being constructed in the
past and are being maintained in the present, as well as how new myths emerge and/or
are being re-articulated by different agents under particular circumstances. As it has
already been mentioned above, myths in this context should not be viewed simply as
idioms that describe or interpret culturally prescribed local beliefs. On the contrary,

The book includes also two texts (Tibiridou & Mavrommatis; Kanakis) that could not be presented at
the conference. The whole program of the conference is listed in the Annex of the present edition.

these myths that we shall see in the texts that follow act as the means which make
discourses -both official and unofficial-, human practices, tactics, political or
ideological subject positions and social relationships visible at the local level. As in
every interdisciplinary endeavour the reader of this book will notice that there are
certain differentiations, theoretical or methodological, among the authors of this
collection. Our intention was to include the majority of works presented at the
conference, in order to emphasize in a mood of reflexivity, that in such a polyvalent
context as the Balkans it is not just the protagonists under research, that appear
ambivalent and ‘‘tied’’ to their social, political and even cultural environment that
surrounds them, but also the people who study and write about them. In other words,
this selection of texts aims at bringing forward first of all the poly-vocality within the
Balkan region through the examples presented but also the ways that these have been
approached, understood and articulated. It is the outcome of a fruitful conversation,
among people from diverse academic fields, which is characterized more by
meaningful debate than uncritical consensus.
In order to offer the reader a first glimpse of the central issues of this book we
attempt a very general categorization of the texts that follow in larger thematics. The
first thematic of texts deals with the ‘‘national myths’’, each nation-state has formed
and maintains about itself and its immediate Others. As Frederick Barth (1969) has
shown in his classic work, any attempt to describe ones own identity, presupposes
basically a prescription of a number of certain characteristics, ideas or perceptions
that aim at showing what we are not and not what we are. In other words, national
narratives have been formed to a great extend on myths about the national Other in
order to form, stabilize and proliferate myths about the national Self. It is a process
that appears in the very early period of nation building and re-emerges at the present
in everyday discourses at the local level or through political conflicts at the official
level of international relations.
Hercules Millas discusses the establishment and proliferation of national
myths as an intrinsic element in the formation and negotiation of national identity.
Based on the documentary The Other Town that he produced together with the
director Nefin Dinc, in two towns in Greece and Turkey Millas demonstrates how
myths are appropriated and internalized in both sides, revealing their ambiguities and
contradictions. The author suggests that individuals are satisfied with the established
‘‘truths’’ that those myths about the Other provide them with, even when they are
confronted with the contradictions and complexities that a search for the actual
historical past might bring into surface, because the former is much more comforting
for their lives.
Raymond Detrez deals with the ‘‘myth of the Fanariotes’’ in Bulgarian
Historiography. Tracing the historical and political circumstances under which the
term Fanariotes has been used in Bulgarian public discourses, the author challenges
the wider Bulgarian national narrative, which includes the ‘‘myth of the Fanariotes’’
which is the myth of the ‘‘double yoke’’. With his approach Detrez suggests that there
is a need for the reassessment and deconstruction of this myth and the role of the
Fanariotes, both in Bulgarian national history and particularly the church dispute with
the Christian Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul.
Peter Mackridge shows how language and linguistic idioms have been used by
nationalist ideology in the Balkans, especially during the 19th and the beginning of
the 20th centuries. The author uses the example of Greek nationalist intellectuals, who
have used misinterpreted or distorted linguistic data in order to prove that Christian-
Orthodox populations, who spoke a different mother-tongue, but spoke also Greek or

used dialects with similar idioms, were actually Greek by origin. On the contrary,
with his examples, Mackridge argues that language choice was a matter of different
subject positions determined merely by the social and historical circumstances.
Baltsiotis and Skoulidas explore the myths about Albanian populations,
employed by Greek nationalism, from the 19th century, when the Modern Greek
nation-state was formed and during the period of Greek expansionism. The authors
focus on those myths that were emphasizing the strong linkage between the Albanian
and Greek language, as well as the common cultural past among the two ethnic
groups. This attitude gradually changed after the formation of the Modern Albanian
nation-state, however, as Baltsiotis and Skoulidas suggest some of the elements of
those myths seem to have significant endurance among Greek national discourses
until today.
Nikolay Aretov discusses the various representations of foreign women in
Bulgarian literature in the 19th century. He is looking at different examples of these
attitudes and compares them to similar representations of foreign men. By juxtaposing
the various representations between men and women, as well as discussing
perceptions of the Self and the Other, Aretov explores the role of women’s
representations in the context of national mythology.
By introducing the term Macedon as a rhetorical cast and with an intention for
it to be read as a neutrally deductive construction, Gjorgji Kalinski employs
Ankersmit’s work (1996) on Aesthetic Politics, putting emphasis on the distinction
between aesthetic political representation and mimetic political representation. In this
framework he discusses the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia from a critical perspective. The author asserts that a shift from
official representational politics is necessary toward a more individualist process
based on the foundation of knowledge, which will eventually enhance political
accountability and quality communication between the two countries.
One of the major mediums that nation-states have used in order to construct
national ideologies and national identities is education. Educational institutions -
especially at the primary and secondary levels- as one of the most important forms of
ideological state apparatuses in the Althusserian sense, appear as the main mediums
by which historical discourse, perceptions about the national Other and national
identity in general are being constructed and preserved.
Kenan Cayir discusses the constructions and representations of the ‘‘national
Self’’ and its ‘‘Others’’ especially by focussing on the school textbooks of Social
Studies and History in Turkey after the curriculum reform in 2005. Even though, the
revision of text-books was based on the premise of reconsideration of national
narratives within the framework of Turkey’s accession to the European Union and the
information age, the author argues that only a slight change has been made toward
that direction. Through particular examples, Cayir illustrates that the new textbooks
show little progress in eliminating previous dominant stereotypes on ‘‘otherness’’,
while promoting a narrow definition of Turkishness. The author maintains that further
revision of the textbooks is necessary in order to stimulate a more critical approach
based on the shared history of the peoples in the Balkans offering students a more
pluralistic imaginary for the region.
Chrysa Tamisoglou, shows the way that the ‘‘Balkan Other’’ is perceived by
Greek pupils of compulsory education. Based on her research among students in
Northern Greece, who were asked to use drawings about the ‘‘Balkan Others’’ and
write comments about them, the author tries to trace the agents that influences
children’s ideas and perceptions. Tamisoglou maintains that generally there seems to

be a rather negative image about the ‘‘Balkan Other’’ among Greek pupils and she
discusses the possible ways that such perceptions can be handled, in order to be
Lyubomir Georgiev, is presenting his findings based on archival research at
the St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library in Sofia. More particularly his
research is based on the memoirs and literature written by students and teachers in a
number of different Bulgarian schools that were founded in Thessaloniki and Edirne
toward the end of the nineteenth century. Through his work Georgiev represents some
of the images that Bulgarians students had at this period about the Other, namely their
neighbours from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.
Kostas Magos examines the dominant perceptions regarding the ethnic Self
and the ethnic Other, among Greek female kindergarten teachers. By using an
interesting methodological tool, based on a folk tale motif the author describes how
kindergarten teachers use and repeat the stereotypes about the ‘‘Albanian’’ and the
‘‘Turkish’’ Other and illustrates the variety of their representations. However, Magos
suggests that there is a willingness among teachers to overcome those stereotypical
perceptions, through the creation of a fruitful and effective relationship between all
The example used in this latter text by Magos, introduces a significant field
that is being discussed through different case studies by many of the authors of this
book. It is about the immediate contact with the national, ethnic or religious Other and
the various implications that such an interaction entails. This aspect was widely
discussed during the conference, from different perspectives and theoretical paths,
through the examination of examples stemming from the larger themes that cover the
issues of minorities and migration.
Remaining in the field of education, but viewed from the alternative point of
view, Aristidis Sgatzos examines the use of two symbols of Christmas “myth” in
Muslim minority schools of Western Thrace, Greece. These symbols are Baba Noel
(Santa Claus) and Yeni yil ağaç (Christmas Tree). According to the author, the latter
seem to be very popular among minority students during the Christmas holidays.
Based on his ethnographic research, Sgatzos discusses the use of these two symbols
within a framework that seeks to explore power relations and issues of taxonomies
between the Self and the Other at the local level.
In their joint paper Tsibiridou and Mavrommatis offer an interdisciplinary
approach on the Bektashi tradition in the region of Thrace in North Eastern Greece.
Mavrommatis explores the historical dimensions of the Bektashi tradition and its
development in the Balkans and Anatolia, while Tsibiridou draws from her
ethnographic fieldwork in the area in order to demonstrate the flexible ways by which
religion is being conceived as a performed embodied experience by local people. Both
approaches offer a detailed account of the Bektashi tradition in Greek Thrace and its
role as a discursive element that appears in the complex dynamic relations and the
production of multiple subjectivities in the region.
Maria Koumarianou presents the negotiation of multiple identities with
regards to a Maronite community in Cyprus. The author employs the concept of
collective identity in order to describe the ethnic and religious differentiations among
the Maronites and the Greek-Cypriots in the region under examination. She then goes
on to point out the differences appearing within the community itself, which are
merely linguistic and she discusses the patrilineal endogamous groups and its role in
preferential intermarriages, as a crucial factor for the maintenance of the collective
identity of the group.

In their paper Venetia Evergeti and Panos Hatziprokopiou discuss the

historical perceptions of Islam in Greece, from the point of view of indigenous
Muslims from Thrace, who live in Athens and Muslim immigrants who have moved
to Greece in the recent period. Drawing on the experiences and identity negotiations
among members of the two groups the authors raise a number of critical questions;
they seek to understand the role of religion as a ‘‘marker’’ of collective identity and
the way Muslims from both groups relate to each other and to the wider society. By
taking into account the conceptualization of Islam in the formation of Modern Greek
national identity and the role of the Church in Greece, Evergeti and Hatziprokopiou
expose the implications of the confrontation of Muslims in Greece, like in the case of
the construction of a Mosque in Athens.
Evgenia Troeva, presents the various perceptions surrounding the most
important saint for Bulgarian Muslims, Enihan Baba. By examining a number of
different resources, the author maintains that perceptions and representations about
Enihan seem to be mutually contradictive. Meanings deriving from different groups
and agents aim at representing Enihan either as a saint or a conqueror. This tendency,
Troeva maintains illustrates the dynamics of identity among Bulgarian Muslims.
Ifigenia Kokkali explores the practices of name and religion changing of
Albanian migrants as a strategy of adaptation in the host countries of their destination.
She suggests that in order to understand such strategies one should focus on the socio-
cultural and political circumstances of both the immigration and the emigration
countries. The author maintains that an approach on the ways Albanian immigrants in
Greece negotiate their identity, should also examine the socio-cultural characteristics
of the people migrating, as well as the historical and political circumstances in their
home country before migration. This perspective can offer a more thorough
understanding of such practices like name and religion changing, rather than restrict
them solely to a strategic adjustment to the hostile environment of the host countries.
Petko Hristov, examines labour migration in a ethnically and socially mixed
region in the Balkan area. Specifically he describes the circumstances under which
male labour migration takes place in the border between Albania and the Former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Following these groups during his field research,
Hristov describes their practices in order to maintain their cultural life in the places
they are going. He also illustrates the everyday interaction and identity negotiation
among migrants and local people in the wider area, as a result of the frequent conduct
of labour migration.
Zenelag, Kërpaçi and Sotirofski discuss through their joint work the social
construction of self-image among Albanian immigrants in Greece and Italy. The
authors describe how Albanian immigrants constitute their self-image as a result of
the dominant stereotypes and perceptions about them in both host countries. Zenelag,
Kërpaçi and Sotirofski maintain that although stigmatization of Albanian immigrants
has been reduced in recent years especially due to the emergence of new immigrant
groups from other countries self-perception among Albanian immigrants, in general,
has not yet been significantly improved.
Eftihia Voutira examines the accounts of asylum seekers, especially when
these are employed as supportive evidence, which determines their status during their
stay in Greece. Putting at the centre of her analysis the semantics of asylum by
examining those people’s personal narratives, the author proposes the approach of
oral testimony within a framework of a ‘‘biopolitics of asylum’’. From this
perspective, Voutira discusses how the oral testimonies of lived experience, as

translations of social reality become intertwined with the international legal practice
in the context of asylum seeking.
Vassilis Nitsiakos discusses how the myth of the ‘‘enslaved brothers’’ with
regards to the Greek population of Albania is being reshaped within the context of the
massive migration that followed the fall of the communist regime in Albania in 1990.
In his approach, the author shows how the terms ‘‘North Epirus’’ and ‘‘Northern
Epirote’’ that are being used in Greek national discourse, have also been employed by
migrants from the southern part of Albania in order to prove their ‘‘Greekness’’, in an
attempt to have a better reception in the host country. However, the actual interaction
between the migrants and the locals reveals the ambiguities and complexities of
identity negotiation within this framework.
Finally, another group of texts deals with a number of a different set of issues
regarding otherness and multiple and complex overtones. Cinema, performing arts,
the visual arts, multimedia, political identities and activist groups open new fields for
research, where previous questions on the main topics discussed in this book are
being re-posited or new ones arise.
Dimitris Kerkinos discusses the various implications of the establishment of
the “Balkan Survey” in Thessaloniki’s International Film Festival (TIFF). Being in
the double position as a programmer of the “Balkan Survey” and an anthropologist,
the author offers a critical approach on the choice of such a distinctive sub-section,
which is the only one referring to a specific geographical area. In addition, Kerkinos
goes on discussing the TIFF’s attempt to present Balkan Cinema though a
programming that brings together artistic as well as anthropological criteria.
Ivanka Vlaeva, presents the case of a woman, who became very famous in
Bulgaria as a Bollywood dancer and teacher. Following the life history of Kupka
Kumar, the author demonstrates how the influence of Indian popular films in the past
has become the life project of this woman in an endeavour to introduce Indian culture
to Bulgarian society through her work. With her example, Vlaeva touches on issues of
cultural hybridism, ethic multiculturalism and questions of otherness.
Anna Apostolidou, demonstrates how the Balkan area is being represented as
a cultural, historical and geopolitical entity through an interactive video-game named
‘‘The Making of Balkan Wars: The Game’’. As Apostolidou shows the video-game is
based on many of the theoretical and historical preconceptions that representations of
the Balkans have been developed on. However, in her approach, the author maintains
that what can be discerned from this interactive game, is not simply an attempt to
promote a performance of the essence of the Balkans. As Apostolidou points out, it is
merely the performative effect imprinted on the subject by the repetitive participation
of contrasting narrations of identity, which makes this form of artistic creativity an
interesting case study.
Aimilia Voulvouli, presents the case of a local environmentalist group in
Istanbul, which was established in order to oppose the Turkish government’s decision
to construct a third bridge over the Bosporus Sea. The author shows how the members
of this local initiative engage themselves with the Kemalist/Islamist debate through
their environmentalist discourse, as they protest against the government’s intention. In
doing so, they represent Kemal Atatürk, as the first environmentalist of the Turkish
Following the life-history of an old-woman, living in a village in Northern
Greece, Marica Rombou-Levidi, shows how myths perpetuated through singing and
crying, illustrate a kind of local historical practice. Such practices, the author
maintains, play a crucial role in personal handling of otherness, self-designation of

conflicting loyalties, while at the same time it seems to be an important tool of

understanding and reproducing historical narrative.
Nikitas Palantzas is looking at the case of ‘‘internal orientalism’’ as this
appears in everyday discourses among citizens of Istanbul. This idiosyncratic case of
‘‘orientalism’’ is expressed through the stereotypical categorization of Eastern Turkey
and people coming from that region, who are often represented as Turkey’s internal
‘‘Others’’. By using examples from his ethnographic research in Istanbul, Palantzas
maintains that stereotypical representations are not simply a matter of identity
negotiation revealing wider perceptions between the Self and the Other, but they can
be approached as discursive elements that depict the dynamic relations as these
unfolds themselves at the local level of vernacular politics.
Costas Canakis, shows how discourses on nation, ethnicity, religion and
heterosexuality are associated with perceptions about homosexuality and LGBT
visibility, representing them as a threat to the national body. Using ethnographic data
from a variety of different examples from Serbia, the author illustrates how
predominant perceptions on masculinity and the nation are used by various agents in
different contexts and through different discourses, while tolerance toward LGBT
visibility as a ‘‘European’’ brand of identity management is confronted as a threat to
the ‘‘purity’’ of the national body.
Ana Chupeska attempts an approach on Balkan identity politics from a
psychological point of view. She focuses her discussion on transitional post-
communist societies and she suggests that there seems to be a conflict between what
she calls ‘‘hybrid cultural identities and ethnic/racial’’ ones. Chupeska suggests that
post-communist societies must have their own subjectivity and develop it further in a
more distinctive way within the framework of international relations.
In what follows, we hope that the reader will have a good opportunity to see some of
the most critical questions that concern contemporary research in the wider region of
the Balkans today, from an interdisciplinary perspective.

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Yugoslavia”. Anthropology Today, vol.21 (2) 2005; 5-13.G.
Cowan, J., (ed.), (2000) Macedonia: The politics of Identity and Difference. London: Pluto press.
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Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Duizings, G. (2000) “The making of Egyptians in Kosovo and Macedonia”, in Religion and Politics of
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Simon & Schuster.
Karakasidou, A.N. (1997) Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood: Passages to Nationhood in Greek
Macedonia. Chicago and London: Chicago University Press.
Kaser, K. (2004) “Perspectives for a historical – anthropological research of the Balkans” in M.
Jovanovic, K. Kaser, S. Naumovic (eds) Between the archives and the field: A dialogue on historical
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Kayser, K. (1997) “Family and kinship in the Balkans. A declining culture?” Ethnologia Balkanika I
(1997): 150-155.
Kazer, K. (1998) “Anthropology and the Balkanization of the Balkans: Jovan Cvijic and Dinko
Tomasic”. Ethnologia Balkanika, vol 2: 89-100.
Kolozova, K. (2010) The Lived Revolution: Solidarity with the Body in Pain as the New Political
Universal, Skopje: Euro-Balkan Press.
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communist and Post-conflict Transition”, Ethnopolitics 5 (3): 223-241.
Mazower, M. (2002) The Balkans: A short History. New York: The Modern Library
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Kinship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Greek Financial Crisis’’, Current Anthropology, Vol. 54, No. 2, pp. 200-221.
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στη σημερινή Ελλάδα. Αθήνα: Αλεξάνδρεια.

1. Opening talk Conference ‘‘Myths about the Other’’

Marietta van Attekum

I speak to you as director of the Via Egnatia Foundation, co initiator of this

First I want to express our thankfulness to this University and its staff to make
this Conference possible, with the theme ‘‘Myths of the Other in the Balkans’’. It is a
sign of courage and positive regards to the ‘‘Others’’ who join this conference: it is in
fact an expression of willingness to regard so called ‘‘Others’’ similar to ourselves.
As such it is a sign of hope for the Balkans. We want to thank the Dutch embassy in
Skopje, and especially our Ambassador Simone Filippini, for her enthusiasm for this
Conference and the financial help. Last but not least we want to thank Fotini
Tsibiridou and her team for the immense amount of work they did for the
organization and implementation of this Conference.
I will explain to you shortly what Via Egnatia Foundation is about and then I
will speak shortly about Myth of the Others, from a psychological perspective.
Via Egnatia Foundation is an international volunteer’s organization, based in
Holland that aims to revive ancient Via Egnatia as ‘‘a way to connect’’. The old road
as a means to re-connect the peoples who are living along it. There is a practical side
to that goal, in putting the ancient road on the map again as a heritage trail, a cross
border hiking trail. And there is a more ideological, intellectual side to it: to search for
and stimulate interaction and exchange along this Road. As is said more often: a road
is a way to exchange goods, people, knowledge and art.
When we started this project, three years ago, we asked ourselves for such an
enormous enterprise who will be the first people to embrace these goals, who will be
most open-minded about these goals? We thought that would be artists and scientists.
And that is how we started with a first conference, now 2 years ago in Bitola. This
now is a second occasion. Here you are, mostly scientists and a few artists, interested
in questions of how we came to attribute all kinds of stereotypes to the ‘‘Others’’, to
create images of the Others, in fact to create Others, opposite to or different from
ourselves. We are here to investigate and discuss these images, these tales of Pride
and Prejudice. We are here, basically, to listen to each other.
Now I will elaborate on this as the psychologist that I am. This willingness to
think about the Other, to think about what he/she thinks, about what moves him/her,
this meta-thinking, or ‘‘mentalising’’ – as it is called in psychology – is the first
condition on which any development or growth is possible. The willingness to
imagine yourself in the Shoes of the Other and to think from the perspective of the
Other, creating room for more than one truth, that is the basis of communication and
of development. That is open mindedness, that is what we are here for.
All nations create myths. It is not something specifically Balkan. Nations
create myths of origin and myths of destination, tales of heroes and victims, expressed
in songs, dances, jokes and movies. The most poignant and exploited myth of all is
the violent myth of ethnic purity.
These myths divide people between ‘‘us’’ and ‘‘them’’. These myths are
convenient. They give a sense of belonging, and a sense of righteousness. ‘‘We’’ are
supposedly good, and the ‘‘Others’’ are supposedly bad. For example: we the Dutch

think ourselves better than the Germans or the Belgians and have all kinds of negative
cliché’s for them, as expressed in jokes and nicknames. In a similar way the Balkan
peoples have cliché’s about each other. Then there here are the Western stereotypes
about the Balkans, as a wild place, where robbers lurk in the bushes, ready to kill you
or each other. It is obvious that these are projections. Edward Said with his
‘‘Orientalism’’ has opened the way for new thinking, as Maria Todorova and others
have done for the Balkans.
Now dealing with projections is not an easy thing. Not for individual persons
and not for nations. The function of projection is to defend oneself to disconcerting
inner drives, like one’s own aggression and the fear it brings with it. It is a way to dis-
own a certain quality – usually negative – and to light that out in others. You see in
others your own shadow. It is a way to inflate your self-esteem, it is comfortable that
not you but others have this bad quality. It is convenient that others have guilt, and
you don’t. This can be necessary in times of uncertainty and low self-esteem. The
price of projection in the long run however is loss of open-mindedness and the
accumulation of conflicts.
Now, to withdraw these projections, to become aware that all these disowned
qualities that we have put away in the backyard of the neighbors, basically belong to
ourselves, are part of ourselves, or our nation, is one of the most difficult things to
accomplish. It is painful. Because it will make clear that we are not ‘‘better’’ than the
neighbors, maybe even not so different, after all.
Freud argues that especially in case of small differences between people near
to each other, like in families, these small differences tend to be exaggerated and
stereotyped, in order to create more boundaries and self esteem. For example: one
sister becomes the ‘‘bossy elder sister’’, a second one ‘the creative mind’, and the
third ‘‘the irresponsible playful thing’’. Whereas in fact, to outsiders these three
sisters have a lot in common. These stereotypes tend to lead to hate and alienation, to
hostility. The same happens between nations, especially neighboring nations: they
stereotype each other and are inclined to become hostile towards each other. Freud
calls this phenomenon ‘‘the narcissism of minor difference’’.
These feelings are easily exploited by populist political parties, as happens
everywhere in Europe, including my own country, the Netherlands.
As you know these myths are already implanted in children, by example of
their parents, by education and schoolbooks. Therefore we are happy to welcome on
this Conference also people from the educational field, who work at the basis – so to
speak – of Myth-implantation.
We are here now to unravel and discuss these myths, to look through the eyes
of the other, to listen with the ears of the other, and hopefully to laugh about
ourselves, as well as about the others.
We hope that we here together will be able to question the barriers of
Otherness and to start a process of common research, cross border exchange and
togetherness, in an atmosphere of respect and openness. It is one of the functions of
science and art to challenge the convenient images that we have about ourselves and
If we cannot do that, who can?

Thank you for your attention.


2. The Social Production of Difference in the Global Hierarchy of Value:

Stereotypes and Transnational Experience in Greece and the Balkans9 (Η
κοινωνική παραγωγή των αντιπαραθέσεων και η παγκοσμιοποιημένη ιεράρχηση
των αξιών: στερεότυπα και διεθνικά βιώματα στη σημερινή Ελλάδα και στα

Michael Herzfeld
University of Harvard

Honored Rector, Dear Colleagues and Friends,

The honor that you are awarding me today moves me profoundly. Any researcher
whose work is thus recognized by the representatives of such a distinguished
university must be enormously gratified. But the award of such an honor and
recognition in such a place -- in such a context, as social anthroplogists are wont to
say -- and among young researchers who are making every effort to promote
anthropological approaches in the battle against racial, religious, and cultural
prejudice causes such feelings of gratitude and humility that I am finding it unusually
difficult, I must say, to find words worthy of this moment. In truth I hope that you
will not in the least doubt the utter sincerity that guides every word in this address.
The personal meaning I derive from today’s ceremony has two main axes. The
first is concerned with the evidence that today’s event furnishes to the effect that
something we might call an anthropological consciousness has taken strong, firm root
in Greece. Since the establishment of the first department dedicated to our field at the
University of the Aegean, an initiative launched at a now famous opening conference
in 1986, the interest of the new generation of students has surprised the academic
world and demonstrated that the initiative had fallen on exceptionally fertile soil.
Without exulting unduly, we can say that the arrival of social anthropology in Greece
has contributed to two momentous developments. The first was the establishment of a
non-nationalistic understanding of the concept of culture. The second, equally
important though slower to take effect, was an acceptance -- consistent with the first
of these developments -- of the radically comparative orientation of the discipline.
Had I proposed the comparison that I have been exploring between Greece
and Thailand forty years ago, for example, I think that the reactions would have
covered a spectrum from indifference to hostility (and this for reasons that interest us
in the framework of our conference). I myself could not have imagined that one day I
would be concerned with such a remote country, although I was educated in an
intellectual tradition founded to a large extent on ethnographic research in Africa and
India. In Greece the problem was not simply a lack of the appropriate kind of
imagination, a weakness from which perhaps I also suffered, but also the long-
standing and fundamentally hostile confrontation with anything that represented the
category "Asia." In addition, many Greeks wondered why anthropologists were doing
research on their country: perhaps, so the attitude went, these foreign scholars thought

This English-language version was translated from the Greek by Qingyang Yuan in collaboration
with the author. The paper was delivered on 24 February, 2011, in the context of the conferral on the
author of the title of Doctor honoris causa in the Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies of
the University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki.

the Greeks were "primitives"? The political consequences of this attitude were not
unimportant, even if they took the form of indifference rather than of positive action.
Thus, most Greeks were evidently not moved by the fact that the students who rose up
against the regime of the colonels in 1973 at the Athens Polytechnic were already
comparing their rebellion with that of students of Thammasat University in Bangkok
(see and other sites), and if they had been
aware of it they would conceivably have denied the very idea of a comparison with an
Asian country. Even today, as much in the U.S. and in the U.K. as in Greece, such a
comparison does not stop generating surprise, while comparison with a Mediterranean
and European country like Italy - which in my estimation presents significant
differences compared with Greece - is still considered relatively "normal." Only the
students, who are always our hope for the future, knew and demonstrated knowledge
that went beyond the scarce information that had filtered through strict censorship of
those times to reach the terrified ears of the general public.
The attitude that Asian countries do not concern Greece, at least in the sense
of a direct comparison, demonstrates how much the world has absorbed the perhaps
subliminal racism left to us by the colonial project. The situation of Thailand is
especially relevant, however, in that this is a country that has suffered politico-
economic shocks similar to those Greece also received from its so-called "protectors."
The coming of social anthropology to Greece is a promise - a promise of
change. Without saying that social anthropology emerged as the sole discipline
capable of generating that kind of salvation when the old order started to collapse –
and let us not forget that forteen years passed from the fall of the junta to the
establishment of the department in Mytilene – I think we can say that it is now an
increasingly powerful influence on public speech and public opinion. Students of
Greek universities have started to do field research abroad, and those who work in
Greece work with a thoroughly comparative perspective. Our conference on Balkan
stereotypes is already a proof not only of the important expansion of social
anthropology in the direction of comparison, but also of the rich and international
interdisciplinarity that I ćeve also characterizes the educational policy of the
University of Macedonia in particular. Without this deliberate interdisciplinarity, the
study of prejudice and stereotypes would not make sense. I would like particularly to
welcome the role of historians, who are helping us to trace the roots of our own
situations and the prejudices that accompany them. More generally, I expect to learn a
great deal from communication with so many distinguished researchers from so many
countries and diverse disciplinary identities, representing interests that are close to
those of social anthropology, during these days of the conference.
One particular lesson that anthropologists have already seen in the mirror that
their colleagues in history have held up to them concerns the relationship of social
anthropology with global power. Our discipline was clearly born out of the
expansionist demands of colonialism and therefore, with the declaration of
independence of many former colonies, lost ground in those countries to sociology
and other disciplines that had not been infected so obviously by colonial power (see,
e.g., Uberoi, Sundar, and Deshpande 2007). I think, however, that rejecting the entire
discipline because of its past would not solve any problems. On the contrary, we
would thus lose exactly the lesson that the past guarantees us, whereas I think that in
fact we have learned a lot from it. The sad history of the cooperation between
colonialism and our discipline does not mean in any way that today we still support
the aims of colonialism with our theories ,with our practices, or with our views and
our personal beliefs. Quite the opposite is true. The deliberate and constantly

reiterated self-knowledge that has allowed sociologists and social anthropologists to

turn their backs on the hitherto dominant ideology of global governance and
exploitation, the attitude that we recognize with the name "reflexivity" and owe in
part to our colleagues in history, is not a template for excusing a continuing attitude of
support for those colonial and racist ideas of the past. In other words, it does not
work like the model of Original Sin that my late adviser, John Campbell(1964),
analysed in Sarakatsan society (and by extension in Greek folk society in general) –
that is, as a justification of present and even future wickedness. On the contrary, it
invites us to a relentless self-examination that leads to the equally unstoppable
disciplinary struggle against racial and cultural prejudice.
But even this does not allow us to rest on our laurels. Prejudice is insidious
and lies in wait, ready to ambush rhetorics of civility and human rights and to deploy
them for its own purposes. It is not enough to promote, for example, the ideals of
tolerance, the rhetoric of which often actually works as a politely phrased cover for
hatred and social and political exclusion (see also Kapferer 1988). Above all, we
must mine our historically based self-knowledge for the understanding of how people
come to nurture such negative and anti-social attitudes. By the same token, we should
not give up social anthropology because of its past, just as we should not invariably
blame Greek scholars for the extreme nationalism that in the past enabled their
predecessors, especially in the areas of history and folklore, to generate new fields
and techniques that were designed to achieve the purification – or “cleansing” – of
national culture.
On the contrary, as I have been trying to do during the whole course of my
career until today, and as many in the audience for this address continue to do, we
have to study these forms of original sin almost with affection, and certainly with a
desire to understand the forces that motivated them, as much as anything in order to
ensure that they will not be repeated. Humility requires that we see ourselves as
common mortals whose knowledge is similar to that of the people we study. That is to
say, from the moment we recognize the mental and especially the theoretical
capabilities of the people we study, we genuinely start to break the stranglehold of
I believe I am justified in demanding humility in this endeavor. No one can
convincingly claim to have escaped completely from the bad mental habits that it is so
easy to attribute to others. That is why the second focus of my speech has to do with
the fact that the problems of this region of the Balkans, and the so-called Macedonian
question in particular, cannot be studied without a complete recognition of the role of
the colonial powers in the formation of the current controversies, or without analyzing
the place of the local representatives of these powers in every country, every
government, as well as in every university and every village of the Balkan region.
The role of each should be judged by the same criteria, as exceptions generate
inequalities and imbalances. That the extreme nationalists do not forgive
anthropologists is not so much because the latter reject prejudice and cultural
hierarchy, although this is one basic factor. What disturbs them much more is the
recognition of the role of the external element, the famous "foreign finger," because
when we trace the origins of prejudice and extreme nationalism within games of
geopolitics, we also necessarily expose the role of those local elements who represent
such foreign interests and do their work for them. One need only recall, for example,
those paramount Quislings of the military Junta during 1967-74.
External pressures rarely fall on fertile ground if there are no local actors to
prepare the way. Thus, too, stereotypes and prejudices require a local base

sympathetic to their content: often, although derived from foreign sources, they
coincide with traditional ideas such as those associated with blood, kin, and house.
Moreover, they find especially fertile ground if enlightened academics do not take the
trouble to speak out in public against them and to reject such models as sources of a
particularly dangerous popularism. A tremendous effort of consciousness raising
must be made so that people will understand that the identities based on these
categories are not "natural" but stem from cultural and social constructions, which
enhance the capacity of foreign powers to govern the everyday life of the country
through their local representatives.
This is indeed the paradox of extreme nationalism, which can subject a whole
people to an extraneously derived definition of their culture in the name of national
freedom and independence! Greeks know this phenomenon very well, and it has cost
them dearly. But changing and reversing such patterns also entails radical reforms in
the educational sector. At a time when many immigrants are arriving in Greece, the
lack of any sort of educational initiative with the participation of anthropologists turns
out to be a dangerous instance of indifference and irresponsibility on behalf of the
authorities. It is not so far from the Greek villager who demands revenge for his
brother’s death to concepts of national loss enunciated by politicians who speak
about national regeneration, “return,” and “repatriation” (here I would like to refer, as
a source of critique, to the important work by Dr. Voutira [2003, 2006]) and to writers
such as Samuel Hungtington (1996) and Robert Kaplan (1993) who speak about
conflicts between mutually incompatible civilizations and about what they view as
eternal and endemic Balkan hatreds. Indeed, these academics bear a tragic
responsibility, as a cloak of academic seriousness all too easily lends respectability to
the worst rampages of racism. We must wonder why, for example, the viewpoints of
Kaplan are accepted more easily than those of Dušan Belić and the rest of "Circle of
Belgrade" (Belić et Savić 2002).
In this context, the corresponding responsibility of anthropologists is clear.
We should give a strong answer based on our immediate acquaintance with local
communities and on our familiarity with the experiences of everyday life. Only thus
will we persuade people that social anthropology is not merely another theoretical
discipline divorced from reality but one based on direct acquaintance with the most
familiar dimensions of everyday life. The perspective represented by Huntington and
Kaplan, so removed from empirical evidence, constitutes a major threat. In its place,
what we can offer is, in collaboration with our colleagues in other fields, an empirical
and analytical answer and a refreshing perspective capable of correcting the
distortions and over-generalizations that often circulate in the guise of “common
So now I am proceeding to the core of my argument. In the field of scholarly
analysis we need and must develop an approach that will allow us to understand how
large-scale processes and structures --prejudices and group identities--are transformed
into everyday social interactions, and how those interactions, which form the bulk of
what anthropologists observe, conversely enhance large-scale political trends and
therefore sometimes provide a breeding-ground for the most extreme ideologies.
Hence the great significance of the word "performance" in the title of our conference:
performance is the connecting link between ideology and practice.
The approach thus aims to bridge the conceptual gap that has hitherto
separated immediate interactions from long-term processes. It is not at all obvious
why politicians and ordinary people should go along with each other ideologically
and in practice when such a collaboration favors anything but the interests of the

people. The relation between social performance and cultural process can, and must,
clarify this question.
At this juncture it would be useful to introduce the analytic and
methodological properties of social poetics (see Herzfeld 2005: 21-27). Although this
approach might superficially appear to be about poetry, it is not an abstract
philological approach. On the contrary, it is a method of analysis that recognizes the
materiality of speech and more generally, of symbols. Let us not forget that in Greek
the word poiēsis also means “doing” or “acting” (the latter in the sense of realizing
agency). It concerns the performativity that the use of stereotypes always necessarily
entails, focusing on how the use of stereotypes affects and is affected by social
relationships. The approach does not necessarily touch on psychological dimensions;
it is strictly a form of social analysis. Instead of only talking about honesty and
hypocrisy, things that also do not easily lend themselves to a convincing
anthropological analysis as long as we do not have the capability of knowing what is
on another person’s mind, we can talk with more confidence about social actions and
their effects--that is to say, the existing relation between action and reaction.
Usually we can ascertain with absolute clarity that stereotypes are used quite
often to exclude a group of people from places where according to the law they are
guaranteed freedom of movement. Regardless of what motivations motivate different
social agents, it is the results of their interventions that count socially, and, as such,
are the primary object of anthropological interest. If social anthropology is indeed an
empirical discipline, this is due to the role of personal experience, something that is
recognized through the deliberate reflexivity and self-analysis on the part of
anthropologists. They, too, must acknowledge the role of stereotypes in their analyses
and even in their personal lives. The material consequences of stereotypes are often
direct and substantial, and often even painful. Greeks know all too well how this
phenomenon works. To take a case in point, the insistence of foreign journalists on
the alleged inability of Greeks to organize themselves efficiently or to conduct their
business with honesty and transparency creates a vicious cycle, of self-fulfilling
prophecies. We do not necessarily need to reject either the adverse effect of patronage
upon public life in Greece or the impact of biased perception in addressing questions
of functionality and transparency in the economic life of the country in order to see
how negatively some stereotypes can distort reality. When Angela Merkel invoked
the usual stereotypical assumptions about Greek inefficiency and inertia, she
effectively concealed the fact that her delaying tactics – apparently a bid for electoral
gains in her own country -- contributed significantly to the expansion and disclosure
of Greek monetary difficulties. This example confirms the political utility of
misusing stereotypes. In a logical short circuit, politicians assume certain features of
an invented “Mediterranean mentality” in order to “explain” some of its presumed
effects in a manner advantageous only to themselves.
That troubled Mediterranean Sea, viewed and analyzed as a "cultural region"!
Its construction gave anthropologists the feeling that they were creating new theory.
In this way it reinforced the invention, based on already firmly ensconced
presuppositions and prejudices and on inequalities of power between the colonialist
powers and the smaller and weaker countries of the region, of many Mediterraneanist
inventions: Mediterranean sins, Mediterranean values that appear to be rather
backward ( honor and shame, for example!), even a Mediterranean diet that seems to
have very little to do with the Mediterranean we know given that it precludes the
consumption of huge quantities of meat. Similar misconceptions abound in the public
sphere. In Athens today, a particularly elegant restaurant takes the inappropriate

name Cucina Povera, but it is difficult for anyone to imagine that a poor person
would find anything affordable to eat there!
And when we talk about the Balkans, representations become even more
misleading. The Bulgarian intellectual Alexander Kiossev, constructively playing
with my model of cultural intimacy, prefers the description “dark intimacy” for the
Balkan case (Kiossev 2002). So does his analysis suggest that this is how it looks
from the inside? If so, there is something pointedly ironic in such an insight, since, as
James Scott (1985) tells us, the weak people of the earth resist power -- if they indeed
resist and do not only feel the desire to do so –in thousands of ways that reverse, at
least symbolically, its distribution in social life, and they do so – just as the shadow-
puppet figure Karagiozis teaches us (Danforth 1976) -- through the small practices of
everyday existence.
Some will object, however, that stereotypes do speak to some sort of reality.
We discover something in common when we examine the ethical systems of the two
putatively contrasted regions of Europe. Some truth lurks, they will argue, behind all
these obviously deceptive stereotypes. Thus, for example, the apparent lack of self-
discipline in southern European public life is compared unfavorably with what
happens "in Europe." Such formulations are always at the expense of marginal
countries. Neither there is there a lack of riots, as we discovered in the week of the
conference with the strikes in Greece, and it is perhaps significant that in Greece and
Italy there are special web sites for people to watch for announcements of strikes and
follow their progress.
I am not denying any of this. But what is missing from the picture is an
explanation of causes and effects. Who constructed the conditions that have
encouraged these developments? Then again, when Greeks speak of the “foreign
finger,” it seems to confirm the impression that they are best by a destructive,
collective aversion to assuming responsibility. That argument may not be totally
lacking in merit, but it certainly does not exhaust the range of potential explanations.
We should ask in addition whether such assessments concern the
Mediterranean or the Balkans. In fact, I do not think that the difference has great
significance. And the two terms function, not as geographical categories, but mainly
together and in a contemptuous vein for people from the outside to express their
condescension against the peoples of the regions of the non-North, as it were, and to
justify their repeated slanders against the relevant countries as beset by inefficiency
and corruption as well as by eternal hatreds and disorder. What they disregard is the
fact that at least an important aspect of the events in question is the complicity of
those countries that have proclaimed themselves as judge and jury, as well as
protectors, in the international assessment of the various countries’ relevant standing
and in the genesis of the conditions that led to this assessment in the first place.
Here, indeed, we begin to discover a deeper layer of explanation, one that
raises the whole question of context -- that is to say, the frames of dynamic
relationship between the major forms of power and the local production of stereotypes
and prejudices. These phenomena, moreover, are often turned into acts of structural
or even direct material violence such as the so-called ethnic cleansing or that variant
of structural violence I have named "spatial cleansing" (Herzfeld 2006). The latter
aims at the consolidation of the hegemonic domination of the beneficiaries of the neo-
liberal economic ideology through eviction, the spatial restructuring of cities (a
process that perhaps began with the huge interventions of Baron Haussmann in Paris
in the 19th century), the monumentalization and the spatial isolation of the former

settlements of working people, and the removal of those who are considered to
constitute “dangerous populations” from the supposedly beautified urban centers.
Indeed, such phenomena are not found uniquely in Europe. In recent years, I
have studied them on the basis of fieldwork in Thailand as well. But Greece alone
offers a rich range of cases. There are, for example, cases of successful resistance, as
happened in Anafiotika in Athens (unless we simply regard the refurbishment of
Anafiotika to be an aesthetic and spatial revision of the wider Acropolis area), and of
the successful adjustment of the local population to spatial reconstructions and
rearrangements(as happened in Rethimno [Rethemnos] during the last four decades or
so) (see Caftanzoglou 2000, 2001; Herzfeld 1991).
What I want to emphasize in particular is the conflict between the ostensible
forces of good and evil as these play out in any cultural group. I wish to make two key
points here. First, assessments of what acts belong to which ethical category are
regulated by forces, often invisible, that govern the taxonomy of aesthetic, political
and ethical values through a system that I call the "global hierarchy of value"
(Herzfeld 2004). This hierarchy basically sprang from the system of colonial
domination and today is replacing it in many respects. Second, it is reproduced
taxonomically in virtually all dimensions of everyday life -- not only in language but
also and perhaps primarily in the use of space – and one of its effects is that it has
become imprinted onto the worldview of the population. A dramatic example that also
exposes the underlying the symbolic opposition and demonstrates clearly that the
touchstone is "Europe" or "the West" occurred when I arrived in the then new airport
of Athens just after the Olympic Games in 2004 and expressed my great surprise that
the passengers were waiting for the taxis in an orderly and peaceful line. Gone were
the fights of the past. My surprise immediately elicited a severe remonstration: "Sir,
now we have become Europeans!" To the conference audience I have dared to say
something that would have been entirely tactless had I addressed it to my interlocutor:
"Sir, your answer shows how much you remain subjugated by the West!"
Let us turn to our thought to the Elgin Marbles. I have personally believed for
many years that Great Britain, of which I happen to be a citizen, should return them to
Greece, not only because the Blair government gave its word (but alas, we know what
the word of politicians is worth!), but -- and this in my opinion counts for much more
-- because the Marbles have become, as they were almost from the outset, first and
foremost the symbol of the unequal political relation between Britain and Greece. The
return of the Elgin Marbles would signify, I have long believed, the reversal of this
essentially colonial relation. A distinguished friend and colleague, archaeologist
Dimitris Plantzos, nevertheless told me that a rather different answer would
symbolize the real liberation of Greece: "We don't want them any more. So keep
them if you want to!"
And this is indeed consistent with what I expressed a few years ago in a short
article intended for a general audience (Herzfeld 2003). I pointed out the fact that the
true Greek tragedy was how much the Greeks of today have learned to despise the
intimate aspects of their everyday life and to conceal these behind the veil of a
foreign-imposed neoclassicism. This attitude reproduced, let me now add, the ways
in which people studied by anthropologists in the 1960s and the 1970s concealed their
"shame" with performative displays of male aggressiveness and female chastity. The
observation that "we have become Europeans" undoubtedly corresponds to a reality in
the experience of the Greeks. Moreover, it implies the inversion, but not the erasure,
of a symbolic opposition. These oppositions are not the inventions of the structuralists
exclusively, but instead represent an increasingly globalized hegemony in which the

confrontation between the terms of such symbolic oppositions also presupposes, as

Louis Dumont (1982: 238-239) has noted, the inequality between them. Thus, a Greek
who claims that "we have become Europeans" indicates at the same time his own
subjugation, of which an external and apparent sign is colonial mimicry according to
Homi Bhabha (1994), and his acceptance of the conditions of his subordination
according to Gramsci’s view of hegemony (Gramsci 1992: 233-238). The very fact
that he made this statement perhaps suggests that he may have doubted whether in
fact the Greeks had really achieved the goal of “becoming European” according the
usual, foreign-derived criteria. Only when he stopped referring continuously to
Europeanness, only when he seemed not to care in the least about the Elgin Marbles,
would he be able to say that he had finally emerged from the oppressive arena of
cryptocolonialism– that is to say, of a colonialism that allows some marginal
countries to be thought of as technically independent for the paradoxical reason that
they faithfully follow the models of national independence that the colonial powers
dictate to them.
Indisputably, as the Turkish anthropologist Esra Özyürek (2004) has observed,
the actual content of the opposition between intimate and display dimensions of
cultural identity changes with time; sometimes, indeed, it gets inverted. When
patriarchal values were dominant in the West, the ideal type of a householder was that
of a patriarch dictating to his wife and his children what they had to do in every
moment of their lives. But when feminism entered the dominant thought of the West,
key elements of patriarchal life and ideology were concealed "at home" while the
previously concealed equality that sometimes occurred between men and women
became the hallmark of officially acceptable culture. So in Greece, and more
generally (I would say) in the Balkans, the quarrelsome male who did not patiently
await his turn for a taxi and whose contentiousness was the mark of his dominance
and of his ability to defend his interests at all times has been replaced by the polite
"European" who dislikes and rejects such stereotypically Mediterranean or Balkan
In this case, we may observe that, although the concrete symbols and the
concrete behaviour have changed, the structural opposition remains intact,
undisturbed. In other words, Europeanness remains the measure of culture. No one
needs to be a structuralist to understand how certain structural oppositions are used to
maintain an imbalance of values that exactly reflect what I intend by the expression
"the global hierarchy of value." Even the simple differentiation between the
colonizers and the colonized reproduces the basic pattern of inequality. In this regard,
it also follows the pattern of the opposition between the two genders or even between
culture and nature; these oppositions all reproduce and enhance each other.
According to the terminology of Dumont, this conceptual arrangement allows the
powerful to "encompass" the occupied or, in India, a superior caste to "encompass" an
inferior one. In the Greek language, one can illustrate this encompassment by the
ease with which the purist (kathareousa) word for "superior, "ανωτέρα,” iconically
(through its morphology) encompasses the demotic word "inferior" (κατώτερη).
The reference to Dumont is not a matter of happenstance. Since the
publication of a remarkable volume Adventures of Alterity, edited by Efthymios
Papataxiarchis (2006), my thoughts have often turned to the central theoretical
position of the group of authors of the book. They collectively argue that tolerance
toward foreigners and non-heterosexual people in Greece refutes the old
anthropological image of the superficially absolute and unyielding conservatism of
Greek society and shows that people from outside often become accepted -- provided,

however, that they conform to the dominant conventions of everyday behavior. In

other words, Greeks apply to all forms of diversity a social version of the Clintonian
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward homosexuality. This functions in a way
reminiscent of how Greeks were allowed to behave domestically as picturesque
Romioi instead of as the Hellenes of official imagination -- always, be it said, under
the strict condition that in public space they would reproduce as far as possible the
supposed characteristics attributed to the ancient Greek founders of Europeanness.
If today we meet many cases of racism in Greece as in other Balkan countries
(and indeed elsewhere), attributing its power to a system of dominance that taught
Greeks that their value always depended on their capacity to stand up performatively
for their Europeanness explains, to a great degree, how and why certain prejudices are
rooted so deeply in the Greek soul. That is to say, there is an ideology that is still
leading today some Greeks to wonder and to ask foreign visitors whether Greeks are
“really” Europeans. Woe to those who dare to express doubts! (The corresponding
version in the U.S., as I know from my personal experience, is the experimentally
affirmative answer that the "old world" has true culture, which by contrast remains
non-existent in America!) But asking themselves whether Greeks are true Europeans
reveals the sad secret that the Greeks experience serious doubts in the matter. And
the anthropological answer that Europeanness is merely an ideology, not surprisingly,
comforts no one!
Consequently, given that Greeks have been constantly pushed to demonstrate
their Europeanness, it was perhaps logical that this would result in the formation of
negative attitudes toward "non-Europeans." The latter category covers all those who
cannot be easily absorbed into the canon of a Europeanness constructed according to
the ideology of neoclassicism. Hence the surprising conclusion that, for example,
various Slavic peoples cannot be considered truly and genuinely Europeans, because
they are not possessed by the same feelings of individualism and unique genius that
the Greek folklorists of 19th century were looking for in ancient literary texts as in
contemporary folk texts (see Herzfeld 1982: 56-60)!
To find the roots of prejudice in foreign-derived ideologies of identity does
not imply at all, I want to emphasize, any exoneration of the evil it represents. Racism
is nasty, and nothing can exonerate it or excuse its crimes. But the concrete form that
it assumes in every culture is perhaps explicable, at least up to a certain point, and this
realization could perhaps help us fight it more effectively. Just as the recognition of
the role of the "foreign finger" does not justify, but only explains (and only partly
explains), the current avoidance of responsibility by Greek politicians and the
acquiescence of the Greek citizens who elect them, the recognition of the position of
contemporary Greece explains, not only the notoriously stereotypical estimations of
the Greek treatment of the economy by outsiders, but also the prejudices that sound
ever more loudly against all the foreigners who supposedly compete with Greek
employees for the few job positions available. And all these attitudes remain
concealed today -- cultural intimacy does not cease to shelter behind a proverbial
distinction between private home and public space. One source of such covering is the
rhetoric of political correctness, as in the disclaimer that "I am not a racist, but..." (see
Herzfeld 2007) and the more generic "We Greeks are not racists." Such remarks work,
much as do all expressions of this kind, to announce what "all of us know" ("at home"
in the spaces of cultural intimacy). No one admits to racist attitudes in public, in part
because crude racism is not today considered European. The latter shift is due to
historical developments such as those Özyürek studied in Turkey, despite all the
ultimately racist, anti-empirical, and, I would add, anti-anthropological statements of

Pope Benedict XVI (see Remotti 2008) and of Giscard D'Estaing that Europe is by
definition Christian. The same comments illustrate clearly the principal danger of
political correctness, which, while representing a practical intention of sensitizing
people to the implications of their everyday language, can nevertheless be too easily
transformed into tool of ideologies that work against its initial motivations. And here
we return to the meaning of encompassment of Dumont (1970), and especially to its
expanded sense developed by the Australian anthropologist Bruce Kapferer (1988). I
have written elsewhere about these specific theoretical ideas (Herzfeld 2007 and
forthcoming), so here I will confine myself to a brief synopsis.
Tolerance, which often conceals a feeling of contempt for the other, is easily
transformed into violence against that same other. Tolerance does not necessarily
imply acceptance. On the contrary, regardless of the intentions of each speaker –
something an anthropologist cannot study with any certainty, but that may as easily be
condescending as inclusive -- diversity tests the limits of a tolerant stance. As in the
case of a visitor who happens to violate the rules of hospitality, which also is the basic
metaphor of acceptance in Greece, an immigrant or a refugee who does not show the
required gratitude, or who follows patterns of behavior that do not match the local
code, becomes the target of reproaches which are then transformed easily into
practices of violence and exclusion. I remember that in Rhodes when I was doing
fieldwork for my doctoral dissertation, I was told that special hospitality had to be
showed to Turks exactly because Greeks always had to take the superior moral
position. At the same time, however, I heard about dreams in which a Turk was
present with the appearance of a black dog, a metaphor that merges racial and cultural
elements of prejudice, but also, above anything else, diagnostically shows signs of the
exorcism of evil spirits – exactly the same phenomenon that Kapferer noted in the
case of those Sinhalese who, partly under the leadership of their monks, turned
against their Tamil co-nationals in Sri Lanka, deploying a religious tradition with a
particular aversion to violence in the service of an especially violent form of prejudice,
that of genocide.
Today's world does not lack for demonization. The appeal of George W. Bush
to the logic of the Crusades, and the flaring up of Islamophobia in the West today, as
well as the persistent idea that Europe is by definition Christian, are all clear and
disturbing signs of the power and triumphant survival of certain long-standing
perceptions that have led to many massacres in the past. The performances that
perpetuate these perceptions also have deep roots themselves, as for example the
burning of Judas and different stereotypical representations of the "Turk" and the
caricatures performed in shadow theatre productions, but also the informal
dimensions of everyday interaction. Here I am thinking about the highly significant
role of gesture, which functions as the source of feelings of alienation and intimacy to
perhaps the same degree. Vassiliki Neofotistos, who did research in the city of Skopje,
found interesting data which in her assessment showed that the common source of
informal and subliminal gestures of two opposing ethnic groups may possibly have
helped to prevent outright war between them although they were passing through
critical moments of high tension (Neofotistos 2012). And now the distinguished
Italian anthropologist Cristina Grasseni is launching new research based on her
theories about apprentices’ “skilled vision" (see Grasseni 2007), creatively adopting
my suggestion that, since racial and cultural prejudice is a cultural phenomenon, it is
also learned through what we might call the malicious pedagogy of vision. The
immediate reactions of resentment, the misunderstandings arising from differences in
the interpretation of gestures, but also the categorical assurance expressed by both

racists and the members of oppressed group that "we immediately recognize them
even from their appearance" are topics that must be studied seriously with the tools
and models of visual anthropology, as more generally we have so many means to
understand better the role of bodily sensations in the creation of both cultural
controversies and cultural sympathy as well as understanding. The works of our
conference will possibly play an important role in the promotion and pursuit of this
desired result.
To close, I would like to come back to the personal honor that you are
bestowing on me today, but at the same time I would say a few words about the
broader significance, as I perceive it, of a conference about Balkan stereotypes. The
Balkan lands, along with the victims and producers of stereotypes, have existed for
many centuries. In the production of these stereotypes, sundry "national folklores"
played a central role. These traditions of scholarly folklore, which devoted such zeal
to the enhancement of national territorial claims, became key protagonists in various
conflicts among the newly established Balkan players. But the same folklorists also
discovered many common elements connecting the Balkan countries to each other as
well as to more remote cultures. Often, indeed, they tried to hide such demonstrations
of common cultural elements. Sometimes again they tried to use them to accuse
neighboring countries of cultural theft or at least of poor imitation. Such, for
example, was the essay by Georgios Megas (1951) on what he claimed were the
purely Greek roots of Balkan domestic spatial forms. This study was framed in terms
of a Cold War logic that did not countenance the attribution to any Slavic people of
the individualism or originality it reserved for peoples it considered to be European by
definition. Today, by contrast, anthropologists as much as most folklorists detect in
these similarities the most positive signs of our common human nature and no longer
attribute them to the "European genius" or to similar statements of cultural
superiority. Unfortunately journalists and politicians have too rarely kept up with
these intellectual developments. It is in changing that state of affairs that I see our
most important educational work for the future.
I believe that the great honor accorded to me at this gathering, so important
though it is for me personally, is above all a recognition of a combatively engaged
social anthropology that can and must cooperate with related disciplines in our
collective effort to help our world escape the vicious cycle of mutual hatred and
vicarious fatalism – that passive acceptance of a whole range of faits accomplis with
respect to racism and extreme nationalism. If I can offer even a small contribution to
advancing this cause, it is because I was educated in a discipline that has already, and
for a long time, been practicing a politically sensitive form of collective self-critique.
This self-critique, I believe, is the most valuable practical lesson that we can
derive from our studies and our research. It is also the most valuable gift that we can
offer today to every corner of our tortured planet. Rather than offering mere
“tolerance,” let us be generous in sharing this self-critique with the rest of the world,
even at the risk of some historically grounded embarrassment and even self-disgust.
Τhe future of humankind calls for no less.

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3. The Other Town: How the Greeks and the Turks

perceive mythical neighbors

Hercules Millas

During the filming of a documentary in two towns in Greece and Turkey the
perceptions of the two people related to the “neighbor” came to the fore. Various
prejudices and myths related to the “other” and the “self” are internalized in both
societies and the people are unaware of their existence. In some cases people do not
wish to find the “truth” about their myths; they feel more secure in believing than in
facing reality. Prejudices and myths operate like a belief that secures a respectful
communal identity and gives meaning to the past and prospect to the future.
Key words: Greeks, Turks, myths, prejudices, perceptions, silencing

1. Introduction
The nations create myths about themselves and about the “other”. These myths, in the
last resort, praise the “self” and directly and/or indirectly belittle the real or imagined
“other”. I presume this conference will bring to light cases which will verify the
existence of many such national prejudices and stereotypes. On my part, I will try to
demonstrate how some national myths are reproduced but especially I will try to show
why the myths are appropriated and internalized.
I recently had an opportunity to conduct a number of Greeks and Turks and ask
questions about the “other”. Together with the director Nefin Dinc we have just
completed a documentary – The Other Town – about the inhabitants of two towns
having asked them questions, our main interest being to look at the image of the
“other”. It took us more than a year to complete the filming in Dimitsana and Birgi,
in two towns, the first in Greece and the second in Turkey.
Dimitsana is a small town in the center of the Peloponnese (southern Greece) and it is
known for its input in the Greek revolution of 1821 against the Ottoman rule. The
town produced the gun powder that was needed during the revolt. Gun powder is still
produced in this place but Dimitsana is now a winter resort area that attracts visitors
and tourists. It is also known as a historically religious center. There are picturesque
monasteries in the area as well as the residences of historic religious personalities.
The house of Patriarch Grigorios who was hanged in Istanbul by the Ottoman
authorities when the revolt started has been turned into a museum, for example. The
house of bishop P.P. Germanos, who is believed to have blessed the revolt of 1821 at
its start, has been lately restored, too. It is as if the place is offered for national
Birgi is a town in the Western part of Turkey (Anatolia), near Ödemiş and Izmir. It is
a historic town with many mosques and other monuments which attracts tourists. Up
to the 14th century it had been a Byzantine town (Pyrgion, meaning small
castle/tower) and in the first quarter of the 20th century it was inhabited by Greeks,

too. In the 14th century it was the capital of Aydınoğulları, a Turkic emirate and later
part of the Ottoman Empire. According to a legend the first Turkish sailor Umur Bey
who had reached the Peloponnesus and fought there, was from this town. Its present
proud inhabitants narrate stories about the “efes” and the “zeybeks”, the legendary
Turkish warriors that fought against the Greek army that invaded and occupied the
area during the years 1919-1922.
The documentary shows not only how the two parties think and feel about their past
history and about the “other” but also presents the mechanisms with which these
opinions are formed. The educational practices, the public ceremonies and speeches,
the museums and the monuments are all means which shape this environment. The
young and old people with whom we talked also showed that nations mostly believe
in what they have been taught and expected to believe.

2. Myths mean more than what they narrate

For some people and even for some academics myths look as if they are innocent;
they are naïve and simplistic but at the same time harmless, the way fairy tales are.
Some use the term “legend” instead, which provide myths more credibility. Myths are
seen even as functioning positively, too, since they are, allegedly, nothing but an
expression of collective memory in allegoric form. Some believe that they should be
tolerated even if they do not convey reality as is understood by historians. I will not
dispute these views, I will only claim, however, that in the case of our documentary at
least, myths mean much more than what they state and they are far from being
innocent and/or simple collective memories. I will give attention only to two myths,
one Greek, the “secret school” and one Turkish, “the exploiter Greeks”.10
The Greek myth about the secret school is widely known among the Greeks and is in
tune with the popular understanding of the “history of the Greek nation”. According
to this view the Turks (meaning the Ottomans)11 invaded and conquered Greek lands
and imposed a tyrannical rule over the Greeks for four centuries. The secret schools
were the result of the prohibition imposed by the Turks: they did not allow the Greeks
to learn their language. So the children had to go to the secret schools (at night) and
learn Greek by the help of the priests and monks.
Modern historians disputed this alleged prohibition and demonstrated when and how
the myth of secret school started.12 Some Greek historians have shown that banning of
teaching the Greek language is simply a myth: a prohibition of this kind has never
been documented. The myth came to light first at the beginning of the 19th century
with reference to an anonymous folk poem – my tiny moon / light the way / to go to
school, etc.13 Much later, in 1886, a painting of the renown Greek painter, N. Gyzis

We heard of various national and rather modern myths about the “other’ in these towns: In Dimitsana
the myth about the Patriarch who died because he backed up the revolution of 1821 and a song whose
original wording was changed to show the Turks negative; and in Birgi the stories about the numerous
Greek army being unable to cope with a small number of Turks and the terrible Greeks who killed
Turks without reason.
Both in Turkey and in Greece often the Ottomans are called Turks. This ethnic attribution of identity
is a modern construct in Turkey. In the Greek language it is much older and can be traced back many
centuries. Equating Ottomans and (modern) Turks is anachronism, which serves both Turkish and
Greek national perceptions, paradigm and discourse.
See for example: Γιάνης Κ. Κορδάτος, Ιστορία της Νεώτερης Ελλάδας, Εκδόσεις 20ος Αιώνας,
Athens,1957, Vol. 1, p. 552. Άλκης Αγγέλου, Το Κρυφό Σχολειό, Χρονικό Ενός Μύθου, Εστία, Athens,
Φεγγαράκι μου λαμπρό / φέγγε με να περπατώ / να πηγαίνω στο σχολειό / να μαθαίνω γράμματα /
του θεού τα πράγματα.

(1842-1901), depicting an old monk teaching a number of children and a “cleft”

(Greek fighter) looking out for a possible Turkish threat popularized the idea. A poem
by I. Polemis (1862-1924) titled The Secret School 14 inspired by this painting
established the myth as a reality.
On the Turkish side, on the other hand, there is a widespread belief that the Greeks of
the Ottoman State exploited the Turks by controlling many professions, the
production, trade and banking. This myth – or this national prejudice – does not allow
for class distinctions: all Greeks exploited all Turks. According to this belief the Rum
millet lived a richer and more comfortable life than the average member of the “in-
group”, that is, the Muslim Turks. This alleged privileged status of the Greeks,
however, according to the myth, had been gained by unfair means. The Greeks had
joined the foreign powers in exploiting the Muslim Turks. 15 In Birgi we heard an old
woman saying that the Greeks, when they used to live in that town, i.e., before 1922,
spread lies in their churches that it was a sin for the Turks to work. In consequence all
trades were controlled by the Greeks causing the impoverishing of the Turks: “The
Turks were the servants of the Greeks”. Presumably, this myth infers that the Turks
believed in what the Greek priests said (in the churches) and hence they were turned
to servants of the Greeks.

In the documentary we see and hear the inhabitants of these towns expressing
themselves in front of the camera.16 In Birgi the aged lady answered my questions as
-The old Turkish lady: They (the Greeks) had the fields and the orchards, the flour
mills, the shoemaker’s shops. The priest at the mosques … no, I mean
temples…They did not have mosques, right? They told Turks that it was sinful to
-HM:What did the Turks do for work?
-The old Turkish lady: They were servants to the Greeks. (30:20 – 30:44)17

On the other hand a young Greek student explains what the picture of Gyzis hanged
on the corridor of the state school conveys.
- The Greek student: The priests were teaching kids there.

Το Κρυφό Σχολειό The Secret School
Απ' έξω μαυροφόρ' απελπισιά, Outside the dim despair
πικρής σκλαβιάς χειροπιαστό σκοτάδι, the soar darkness of slavery
και μέσα στη θολόκτιστη εκκλησιά, and inside, under the dome
στην εκκλησιά, που παίρνει κάθε βράδυ in the church
την όψη του σχολειού, that is turned every night into a school
το φοβισμένο φως του καντηλιού illuminated by a candlelight that trembles
τρεμάμενο τα ονείρατα αναδεύει, emits dreams and gathers around it
και γύρω τα σκλαβόπουλα μαζεύει... etc. the children who are in bondage, etc…

See for example: H. Millas, “Non-Muslim Minorities in the Historiography of Republican Turkey:
The Greek Case” in The Ottomans and the Balkans – A Discussion of Historiography, (Edit) Fikret
Adanır & Suraiya Faroqhi, Brill, Leiden/Boston/Köln, 2002; and Yunan Ulusunun Doğuşu, İletişim,
1994, pp. 201-248. For the way the myth is expressed in Turkish literture see H. Millas, Εικόνες
Ελλήνων και Τούρκων - σχολικά βιβλία, ιστοριογραφία, λογοτεχνία και εθνικά στερεότυπα, (Images of
Greeks and Turks - textbooks, historiography, literature and national stereotypes), Athens: Alexandria,
2001, pp. 173-191.
During my presentation in the conference the related sections of the documentary were projected.
Here only the transcriptions will be supplied.
The time refers to the documentary.

-HM: And what is this man doing?

- The Greek student: He is protecting children against the Turks. (31:04 – 31:18)

We can reach some conclusions based on all the above:

1- Nations believe in myths even if the myths are not sensible and rational, they are
not documented, they are full of contradictions, even if they are proven fake. The
myth about the secret school, for example, is still alive even though there are a
number of academic publications disproving it. In the same way the Greeks of the
Ottoman State are seen deceiving the Turks in order to exploit them, even though the
non-Muslims in the Ottoman lands were the unprivileged section of the country
relative to the Muslim population. The Muslims were the hakim millet (dominant
group) and the non-Muslims the mahkum millet (subjected group). In spite of the
privileged status of the Muslims the question “why were the Turks so easily
deceived?” never comes in mind to be asked.
2- The national myths, in the end of the day, praise “our” side and belittle the “other”.
In other words, these myths preserve and reproduce national prejudices and
stereotypes. For example the Greek myth of secret school gives the message that the
“negative” Turks are oppressive and prohibit “our” education whereas “we” are keen
in preserving our identity. In the same manner the myth of the “exploiter Greeks”
implies that the “other” is not honest, is not to be trusted and he is pitiless.
3- These myths also operate as a means in legitimizing “our” decisions and actions.
Both of these Greek and Turkish myths, in a sense, explain the past and the relations
with the “other”. Once the “other” is portrayed negatively as above, then “our”
actions and nationalist discourse are legitimized. When the “other” is belittled and
disparaged then it becomes quite easy to justify even some of “our” actions that are
not of the sort to be proud of, e.g., massacres, exportations, discriminations, etc.
4- Myths like the above act as supplementary to the national paradigm. The myths can
be correctly evaluated and really understood only if they are seen as part of a general
national narration and identity. These myths are directly or indirectly related to all
other popular discourses. The national narratives may not necessarily repeat these
myths, but when analyzed, they prove to repeat similar understandings and messages:
“we” have been positive; the “other” was and is negative.18
5- Finally, the national myths have a dimension that is related to “our” future
behavior. As mentioned above, the basic end results of national myths are the
nationalist and widely spread prejudices and stereotypes. Myths are means with which
nations build the images of the “other” and consequently the way the “other” should
be understood and eventually be treated. That is why myths are not only simple
innocent fairy tales, legends or symbolically expressed communal memories.
The image of the “other”, as this is constructed with the help of national myths
incorporates the probable future moves of the “other”. The image contains and
expresses the alleged character of the “other”; and the alleged character operates as a
herald of the actions of the “other”. This is the future dimension of the myths. In other
words the myths are not associated only with the past; they include a projection
towards the coming periods, too. National paradigm and national myths contain –
mostly in an indirect way - the worries and phobias of the nations which are

Myths are not preserved only through oral and/or written means. Monuments, performances during
celebrations, songs, art like pictures and even religious ceremonies reproduce occasionally the image of
the “other” and national myths.

associated with the coming day, too. Preserved myths denote preserved worries and

3. Being unaware of one’s myths and prejudices

Nations are unaware of their myths, their prejudices, their perceptions, in short, of
their inner world which shapes their sensitivities, beliefs and convictions. In other
words, the members of a nation are carriers of perceptions which are experienced as
knowledge and realities. This state of affairs is self understood and even a tautological
inevitability: If one is conscious of his/her prejudices and myths – if one knows that
what is being said is a myth and/or prejudice – he/she will discard it, will abandon it
automatically. Myths, prejudices and stereotypes if they exist, they can exist only as
entities which are perceived as true and as a reality.19
That is why many people react negatively when they come face to face with situations
that challenge their beliefs and their myths. They are surprised when they hear that
some myths, which for them are self understood facts, may not be true. They feel
threatened and confused. Some feel that their identity is undermined. During our
filming we experienced similar situations. The mechanisms of reacting are various:
silencing, direct rejecting and denying or trying to give an explanation to
For example the mayors of the two towns respondented negatively to my question:
“Don’t all these military parades and ceremonies - in which the old enemy is
continuously mentioned by name - promote a negative image of the “other” as if he is
still the enemy?” In fact, and as it is shown in our documentary, the “other” is
systematically belittled during the national celebrations but in other spheres of public
life, too. In the film we notice the picture hung on the wall behind the mayor of
Dimitsana showing Patriarch Grigorios being hanged by the “Turks”, as he says that
“The times have changed; we don’t say ‘the Turks hang us’, anymore”! The Turkish
mayor denies similar practices, too. In the meanwhile the practices in the classrooms
refute both mayors.

- The Mayor of Dimitsana: No. Things are getting better, more normal, as the years
go by. We don’t say the Turks killed or hanged us as we once used to. Being a
member of the European Union is gradually changing things.
- The Mayor of Birgi: I don’t think so. It may be true of Greece, but I do not believe
that such a thing happens in Turkey. That isn’t what our schools tell students. Nor is
it how our people talk among themselves.(13:52-14:30)

The next scenes are from the classrooms of the two towns where history was taught:

- The teacher in Birgi: Under the Treaty of Lausanne, the Turks living in Greece were
going to be exchanged with the Greeks of Anatolia. But the Greeks kept making
problems. They wanted lots of Greeks to be left in Turkey. It was because of their
Megali Idea, which was to create the Great Greece.

We never hear the sentence “I have a prejudice and/or a stereotype”; normally we claim that the
“other” is the carrier of these shortcomings. Sometimes one may say “we are prejudiced towards X”;
but in this case “we” means something quite different. This sentence actually should read like this: I
belong to a group Y which is prejudiced against X; but personally I (or a small section of the group
which I belong, too) follow a different route. “I” do not belong to the greater group. This is the case
which excludes “I” from “we”.

- The teacher in Dimitsana: The Turkish army was big. So what did Koloktronis do to
make us look stronger? He lit fires at night on Mount Menalo and marched his men in
front of the fires. From down below, the Turks thought there were hundreds of men up
there. But in fact, they were just the same men marching back and forth past the
fires. And the Turks thought they were facing a vast army.
- A Greek student: There were huge numbers of Turks, but the Greeks were brave.
- The teacher in Birgi: The Greeks thought they faced an army of thousands, but that
wasn’t the case. There were only 150 men. The Greeks attacked with heavy arms.
And that night Ödemiş was invaded.
- A Greek student: A priest betrayed Kolokotronis and his brothers. And the Turks
burned them alive in their house.
- Another Greek student: They burned them alive! Unbelievable! And now some
Greeks want the Turks!
- The teacher in Birgi: The (local) Greeks rejoiced at the arrival of the Greek
army. Later the war began, the (Turkish) Great Attack was launched and Anatolia
was purged of the enemy. On hearing that the Turkish army was close, the Greeks
burned down Birgi. They razed all the houses and killed anyone who escaped. (15:18-

In other words, at the conscious level people are sure that there are not prejudices and
myths against the “other” in their immediate environment. This is their self-image.
There are two reasons for this misconception.
1) They may be in an inward need to believe that their side is better than it actually is.
This belief provides a praise to the group to which the member belongs, provides self
assurance and elevates it to a better ethical and social status.
2) The member of the group - this time rather more consciously - may be trying to
guard its group and indirectly himself/herself by defending the reputation of the
group. He/she may, therefore, use a euphemistic and/or politically correct picture of
the “self”.
In both cases, however, he/she is somehow aware that the negative discourse against
the “other” is not to be appreciated by the wider society. People feel embarrassed
when they are reminded of their prejudices and stereotypes. In spite of all possible
goodwill, myths, prejudices and stereotypes exist and even they may be reproduced
by members in spite of the bearers` conscious desires. This is another unconscious
aspect of behavior of the members of a nation vis-à-vis the myths.
In the documentary we see and hear what the people say about their town-dwellers
and what the town-dwellers actually say about the “other”. Some “intellectuals”
express themselves being absolutely sure that there are no prejudices and myths in
their town. However, they apparently have a wrong self-image, they are misled by a
myth about themselves.20

- The Greek “intellectual”: Nobody in Greece today would speak negatively about the
Turks. Maybe just one or two people would say bad things about them. But not the
others. (37:02 – 37: 19)

When I claim that “people are unaware of their prejudices, stereotypes and myths”, naturally, I
include myself and you, the listeners/readers, in the category of the “people”, too. Even a specialist of
myths who is aware that people are bearers of myths cannot be aware of his/her own myths. A
conscious myth is a contradiction in terms.

- The Turkish “intellectual”: There is no prejudice against the Greeks in the things we
talk about here. There’s absolutely no sign of it. It’s never been the case. I can say
with absolute confidence there’s no prejudice against the Greeks. (38:12 – 38:30)

The dwellers contradict this self-image in the most distinct way. The situation is the
opposite of what the people think about themselves. I received the following answers
to my questions:

- HM: Can we ever be friends with the Greeks?

- An old Turk: Heavens, no! Friends with the Greeks? Impossible!
- HM: Could there be a war between us?
-The old Turk: God forbid! I pray I never see them again!
- A Greek shepherd: There’s a dark picture left behind. We heard many things from
our elders (about the Turks).
- HM: Have the Turks changed at all?
- The Greek shepherd: Some haven’t, and that’s a fact.
- An old Turk: The Greeks burned this place down.
- Another Turk: We have a lot of hate inside us. Aren’t the Greeks just the
same? They still can’t stand us Turks.
- A Greek girl: Once they killed us for years, for centuries. There’ll never be real
friendship between Greece and Turkey. It’s a question of history.
- A Turkish boy: They invaded our country once, and now they say they’re friends. I
don’t know. I don’t see them as friends.
- A young woman in Dimitsana: When we Greeks talk about the Revolution, we use a
capital ‘R’… and we mean the holy revolution of 1821 against the Turkish
invaders. Without education and freedom you have only darkness.
- An old woman in Birgi: So many of our children died in Cyprus. My neighbor’s only
son, for example. He’s buried in Cyprus along with so many others. As long as the
Greeks aren’t crushed, they’ll keep trying everything.
- HM: Are we in danger?
- A 12 years old Greek boy: Yes.
- HM: In what way?
- The 12 years old Greek boy: If the Turks invade.
- HM: Who?
- The 12 years old Greek boy: The Turks.
- A Turkish weaver in Birgi: My father used to say… “No fleece from a pig, no friend
from a Greek.”
- A young Greek woman: Personally, I hate them. That’s because of the history I’ve
read. (0:50 – 2:55)

4. Coping with obvious contradictions

It is more interesting to see what happens when people are face to face with the
obvious contradictions of their views and of their beliefs. They either deny the facts
straight away or try desperately to accommodate the situation and the challenge. The
desperate efforts of the mayor when he was forced to face the contradictions of the
myth of the secret school is comic-tragic. Dimitsana is proud both of its secret school,
which the Turks allegedly prohibited, and of its official school of the Ottoman period
which the Turks apparently allowed! Then we asked the young Turkish children how
the janissaries were recruited.

- HM: How do you explain Dimitsana having both a secret school and an official one
at the same period?
- Mayor of Dimitsana: Look, maybe the thing… I expect when things started
getting… When the conquerors came… To be frank, when things became more
difficult… …the children went to the secret school. It was an extra school
maybe. (31:17 – 31:55)

- Nefin Dinç: The Greeks say that the Ottoman army came and took their children
from the villages and made them janissaries. So the Greeks would hide their
- HM: What do you say to that?
- The Turkish boy: If our country took away the Greek children… Well, I don’t think
Turkey stole or took away their children. Because Turkey is a country that defends
its flag and its people. So it wouldn’t go after other people’s children.
- HM: So you mean nothing like that happened?
- The Turkish boy: I think this did not happen. (33:54 – 34:28)

5. Are myths the opposite of reality?

Myths can be seen by some as stories contradicting historical truths. Opposition to
specific myths may be launched on a reality-versus-falsehood basis. However, it is
interesting that current religious myths and mythology – such as the Christian myth of
a son of a god, or of the Muslim myth of a prophet who receives messages from a god
- and the related images of the “infidel other” which are connected to these myths are
treated and classified differently and separately. They are called religion and/or
belief.21 This distinction between myth and religion is worth exploring.
Actually this is a taboo issue. I will not say that religious stories are myths but I will
claim that myths operate as religious beliefs. Here, I would like to mention only some
observations related to the above mentioned Turkish and Greek myths.

1- They operate as beliefs which are accepted in a way that reminds proselytism. They
are not approached with skepticism but with a ready acceptance.
2- They use a simple wording, they have simplistic form and they are understood by
the average citizen.
3- They provide an explanation of “our” past (our existence and our history).
4- They present the in-group as positive; being on the correct side and on the correct
route and this has a reassuring and soothing effect.
5- This strengthens the believers’ self-esteem and self-confidence.
6- They also give a prospect for the future; especially the believers of national myths
feel that they are in possession of the knowledge about their future and their
environment (the “other”).
7- The sharing of myths with other people (and not rejecting myths) also strengthens
the feeling of belonging to a greater group. This feeling also provides self-

When all of the above are seen as the characteristics of myths, it becomes easier to see
myths as means to evaluate the “self” and the “other”. It becomes easier to see why
myths are so long-lasting. Most people are not so keen to find what the “truth” is, but
There are many researchers who treat the god mythology as “myths” (like the well-known case of
Richard Dawkins, for example) but the general tendency is to deal with religion, in the best case, as a
“special” myth and not as a myth.

they try to find a truth that will comfort them. The answer I got when I asked a Greek
if he would like to search and find out the truth about the myth of the secret school is

-HM: Would you ever look into it to see if it was true?

-The man in gunpowder museum: No, I wouldn’t! If we ever dispute the truth of
secret schools wouldn’t we also be denying the existence of Ancient Greece?

This man feels more secure when he believes than when he searches. In this sense, a
story that may be called myth or religious narrative or fairy tale or story or history, in
the last resort is received in the same sense by many persons: each chooses what suits
and satisfies him best. People seem to be in a pursuit of happiness and consolation,
and each chooses the stories that provide this: myths or other stories that bear other
A too postmodern conclusion, but, on the other hand, it does not contain

Κορδάτος, Γ. Κ., (1957) Ιστορία της Νεώτερης Ελλάδας, Εκδόσεις 20ος Αιώνας, Athens, Vol. 1, p. 552.
Αγγέλου, Α., (1999) Το Κρυφό Σχολειό, Χρονικό Ενός Μύθου, Athens: Εστία.
Millas, H., (1994) Yunan Ulusunun Doğuşu, İletişim: 201-248
H. Millas, (2001) Εικόνες Ελλήνων και Τούρκων - σχολικά βιβλία, ιστοριογραφία, λογοτεχνία και
εθνικά στερεότυπα, (Images of Greeks and Turks - textbooks, historiography, literature and national
stereotypes) Athens: Alexandria: 173-191.
Millas, H., (2002) “Non-Muslim Minorities in the Historiography of Republican Turkey: The Greek
Case” in Adanır F. & Faroqhi S. (eds) The Ottomans and the Balkans – A Discussion of Historiography
Leiden/Boston/Köln: Brill.

4. The Fanariote myth in Bulgarian historiography

Raymond Detrez
Ghent University

The term “Fanariotes” has been used since the 1850s by Bulgarian publicists and by
many Bulgarian historians after them as a container term for all the adversaries of the
Bulgarian church movement. However, at that time, when the church movement
reached its apogee, there were hardly any real Fanariotes left to use their power
position in order to jeopardize the Bulgarians. Branded as “Fanariotes”, a term
burdened with negative associations, the diffuse camp of the enemy, consisting of
patriarchal clerics, Greek politicians, diplomats and intellectuals, local Greeks and
Bulgarian “renegades” could in a dramatic way be represented as homogeneous and
Key words: Myths, national narratives, Fanariotes, Bulgarian historiography.

1. Introduction
The term ‘historical myth’ is often explained as the representation of a historical event
which has proved to be a fallacy, but continues to be transmitted from one generation
to another as ‘true’. The veracity of a historical myth, however, concerns only the
historian. As to its social function, a historical myth, regardless of whether it is ‘true’
or not, appears to be a narrative which shapes and preserves a community ― be it
religious, ethnic or national ― through a shared image of the past. Any scepticism
concerning the verisimilitude of this image challenges not only the collective identity
of the community and the perception of its place in the world, but also the moral
justification of its political endeavours and ultimately the coherence of the community
itself. Members of the community expressing disbelief often happen to be
(symbolically) excluded from the community and outsiders to the community doing
so are considered as hostile to it. Thus, what is essential to a historical myth is not its
veracity, but the fact that its veracity is sacrosanct and has acquired the status of a
In this contribution I deal with the myth of the Fanariotes in Bulgarian
(popular) historiography. In fact, this myth is only a part of the greater myth of the
“double yoke” (dvojno robstvo) ― the idea that the Bulgarians severely suffered
under the spiritual “Greek yoke” of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in addition to
the political and economic yoke imposed by the Turks. (Detrez 2010: 63-79) I will
argue that the role of the Fanariotes in Bulgarian history and especially in the
Bulgarian “church struggle”22 should be reassessed and dedramatized.

“Church struggle” (cărkovna borba): The political movement for education and worship in
Bulgarian, respectively Church Slavonic, instead of in Greek, resulting in the establishment of an
autonomous Bulgarian church in 1872.

2. Who are the Fanariotes?

As the Fanariotes hardly need any introduction, I will limit myself here to the
essentials that are relevant to my argument. Fanariotes were the rich inhabitants of
Fanari (in Turkish Fener), the Greek or rather Orthodox Christian quarter in Ottoman
Istanbul. They accumulated huge fortunes thanks to trading and tax farming. As
bankers and financiers, they acquired a considerable influence on the affairs of the
Patriarchate of Constantinople, whose seat was located in the Fanari quarter. Due to
the ecclesiastical taxes and the widespread tradition of simony, the Patriarchate as an
institution as well as the individual members of the higher clergy were in a permanent
need of money. The Fanariotes leant them in exchange for influential jobs in the
church administration. Since for a Christian in the Ottoman Empire a career in the
ecclesiastical hierarchy was about the only opportunity for upward social mobility,
the Fanariotes were particularly interested in having a say in the patriarchal decision
making and especially in the appointment of bishops, metropolitans and patriarchs.
In the seventeenth century, the Fanariotes became influential also at the
Sublime Porte itself. At that time, the Ottoman Empire suffered a series of military
defeats against Western powers and was forced to negotiate. The grand vizier, chair of
the imperial divan (government), who was also responsible for foreign affairs,
increasingly relied on Fanariote assistance. Due to their commercial contacts with the
West, the Fanariotes were familiar with Western habits and had a command of
Western languages. In 1665, grand vizier Köprülü Fazıl Ahmet paşa (1661-1676)
created the position of grand dragoman (Turkish tercüman başı, Greek megas
dhierminevs) ― translator, secretary and advisor to the grand vizier. To begin with
Panayotis (of Panayotakis) Nikousios (1613-1673) until the outbreak of the Greek
War for Independence in 1821, the function of grand dragoman was fulfilled
exclusively by Fanariotes. As confidants of the Ottoman viziers, the Fanariotes were
well placed to promote not only their own financial interests, but also the interests of
the Patriarchate and the higher clergy, which only increased the dependence of the
church on the Fanariotes.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century sultan Ahmed III (1703-1730)
decided to replace the unreliable indigenous voievods (princes) in the Danubian vassal
states of Wallachia and Moldova with Fanariote hospodars whose powers were
drastically curtailed. Nevertheless, they maintained a large degree of internal
autonomy, which enabled them to enrich themselves even more through excessive
taxation. As soon as it transpired that several Fanariotes had been involved in the
Greek Uprising in 1821, the sultan definitively put an end to their position of power.
The Fanariotes in the Romanian Principalities constituted an Ottoman
Orthodox Christian aristocracy. Like the aristocracy elsewhere in Europe, they were
ethnically mixed, but all spoke the same language ― French in the West, Greek in the
Ottoman Empire. They were subordinated to an almighty monarch, but they
themselves exerted an almost unlimited power over the lower classes. They were
loyal to the sultan (most of the time) and unconditionally true to the Orthodox
Church, but primarily defended their own class interests, which were not necessarily
Greek national interests. Very much as in the case of the Western aristocracy, theirs
was a sophisticated and influential cultural life. Briefly, as aristocrats everywhere,
they were admired, feared and hated at the same time.

3. The Fanariotes in Bulgarian historiography

Until recently, national historiographies in the Balkans as a rule treated the Fanariotes
disapprovingly.23 In Bulgaria, the Fanariotes have been blamed for what was regarded
as a policy of Graecization, carried out by representatives of the Patriarchate of
Constantinople at the Fanariotes’ instigation with the aim of creating a great Greek
state which would also include Bulgaria. They were considered, especially during the
four decades between proclamation of the hatt-i şerif of Gülhane in 1839 and the
establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1872, as the chief opponents of the
Bulgarian movement for ecclesiastical autonomy. In nineteenth-century Bulgarian
literature the word “Fanariote” had become a term of abuse.
Probably the first Bulgarian to create an elaborate negative image of the
Fanariotes was Georgi Rakovski (1821-1867). “Strange is the attitude of the
Bulgarians towards the Greeks,” he writes at one occasion:

‘‘It is double. One is their attitude towards the Greeks of the Kingdom of Greece and
different [their attitude] towards the Fanariotes in Constantinople. The former are
righteous, honest and polite to everyone, they respect every nation, including the
Bulgarian; the latter distinguish themselves through their malevolence, their exclusive
pursuit of wealth, their immorality, their tremendous stupidity, their infamous
pretending to know everything’’ (Danova [1994]: 86).

To be sure, Rakovski soon ascribed the negative features of the Fanariotes to

the Greeks in general. The image he created, as so many views ventilated by
Bulgarian nineteenth-century journalism, has profoundly influenced Bulgarian
“popular” or “romantic” historiography ever since. In virtually all Bulgarian studies
on the Bulgarian-Greek conflict that appeared from the end of the nineteenth to the
beginning of the 21st century, the authors tend to use the term “Fanariotes” to denote
without discrimination all Greek opponents of the Bulgarian national movement, be
they genuine Fanariotes, patriarchal clerics or those members of the Greek speaking
urban elite that supported the patriarchate against the Bulgarian movement for
ecclesiastical autonomy.
While the image of the Greeks in Bulgarian historiography has gradually
improved from the 1970s onwards, due to the friendly relations Bulgaria had with
Greece, the negative image of the Fanariotes has remained almost unchanged.
Academic historiography has not insisted so much on the negative moral
characteristics attributed to the Fanariotes, but has continued to focus on their alleged
attempts to systematically Graecize the Bulgarians. The Kratăk istoričeski spravočnik
– Bălgarija (Concise historical handbook ― Bulgaria) for instance, which appeared
in 1984, explains “Fanariotes” as “representatives of the high Greek clergy in the
Ottoman Empire” who

One of the few historians to write positively about the Fanariotes was the Romanian Nicolae Iorga
(1936), who considered the Romanian principalities as the heir of the Byzantine Empire and the
Fanariotes as the link between both. Recently, an increasing number of historians in Greece and
Romania seem to be inclined to reassess the Fanariotes’ role in Balkan history in a more balanced way.
(Kitromilides 2007; Papachristou 1992; Symposium 1974)

‘[a]s fervent adherents of the megali idea (“great idea”) attempted with all possible
means to achieve the Graecization of the other Christian peoples under Ottoman
dominance and in particular the Bulgarians. Fanariotes were called also the rich and
high-born Greeks who occupied higher state positions in the empire and were
proponents of the megali idea as well’’. (Nikolova & Kumanov 1983: 403)

The expression “with all possible means” (črez vsički sredstva) is a distant
echo of what Rakovski calls “malevolence” and “immorality”. Current (post-
totalitarian) Bulgarian historiography, which frequently deals with the past even more
nationalistically and tendentiously than was habitual under communist rule,
fortunately also has some representatives who favour a more balanced treatment and
prefer a politically more correct terminology. Thus, in the introduction to her
monumental study on the Bulgarian “church struggle”, Vera Bončeva, who explicitly
declares her work to be “Bulgarocentric” (“bălgarocentričen”, Boneva 2010: 36-7),
reflecting on the use of the words fanariot(in) (Fanariote), fanariotsko (“Fanariotic”),
fanariotština (“Fanariotehood”), explains that ‘‘in the lexicon of pre-independent
communication these are words, bearing very negative connotations and sometimes
even an insulting meaning. Due to the compact embeddedness of literature of the
national revival in the cultural context of the Bulgarian nineteenth century, the
vocabulary in question continues to bear disapproval and denunciation in current
And Boneva decides not to use these terms in her book, hoping that

‘‘public consciousness will go on freeing itself from characterizing everything

Patriarchal and Hellenic/Greek with names, referring to destructive societal practices
and unflattering moral characteristics, which is typical of our traditional culture and
our national revival writings’’. (Boneva 2010: 43)

However laudable as Boneva’s intention may be, a far more important issue is
whether the category of people whom she decided not to brand as Fanariotes any
more did indeed play the hideous part in Bulgarian history which continues to be
attributed to them by mainstream Bulgarian historians.

4. Some aspects of the image of the Fanariotes in Bulgarian historiography

4. 1. The Patriarchate of Constantinople as a “Greek” Church
The Fanariotes are held responsible for having turned the ecumenical patriarchate of
Constantinople into a “Greek” church, whose administration was felt by the
Bulgarians as a “foreign yoke”.
Since the emergence of nationalism and the construction of national identities,
the difference between a Greek and a Bulgarian has become obvious. Prior to the
nineteenth century, however, the distinction seems to be rather vague. As religion and
not ethnic affiliation was essential to collective self-identification, both Greeks and
Bulgarians felt themselves Orthodox Christians in the first place. The existence,
within the framework of the Ottoman Empire, of common religious practices,
common rites and holidays, common places of worship and pilgrimage, and of a
common ecclesiastical organization, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, resulted in the
emergence of a sense of Orthodox Christian commonality and solidarity, which
reached its apogee in the second half of the eighteenth and the first decades of the
nineteenth century. (See Kitromilides 2007 for a collection of pioneering studies on
the Balkan cultural community and Detrez 2010 for an attempt to define this

community in terms of a supra-ethnic proto-nation.) To be sure, the shared self-

identification as Orthodox Christians did not imply that people were unaware of
ethnic distinctions; however, these did not affect their deep-rooted feeling of
belonging to one single community.
Before the mid-nineteenth century, the Patriarchate of Constantinople did not
present itself as an (ethnically or nationally) Greek church, nor did it conduct as such.
As the Ottoman government, the patriarchal clergy was rather indifferent regarding
ethnic issues and did not pursue a policy of ethnic assimilation. Divine services in
Church Slavonic were still predominant in the Bulgarian lands. As Olga Todorova
(2003: 121) points out, “the foreign metropolitans and bishops (Greeks, Hellenized
Albanians, Serbs and others) did not obstruct the Slavonic services in the Bulgarian
churches, neither did they prohibit the veneration of the traditional Bulgarian saints.”
At variance with what is generally believed, not all members of the higher
clergy of the Patriarchate were ethnic Greeks. From 1453 to 1872 (when the
Bulgarian Exarchate was founded) thirteen out of the 97 ecumenical patriarchs are
reported to have been of Bulgarian origin. (Kolarov 1985: 179-87) Todorova (2003:
151) has some doubts, particularly regarding Raphail I (1475-1476), who might have
been a Serb; anyhow, he was not a Greek. Together, these Bulgarian patriarchs ruled
over the Patriarchate during approximately half a century (out of four). One of them is
supposed to have been even unable to speak Greek. Apparently, on the lower echelons
of the church administration as well the number of Bulgarian metropolitans and
bishops must have been considerably greater than usually assumed. (Maslev 1968:
355, 356, 358, 363, 366)
In these circumstances, it can be doubted whether the Bulgarians, prior to the
19th century, really perceived the Patriarchate of Constantinople as a “foreign”,
“Greek” institution. Quite the opposite, the Bulgarians to a large extent seem to have
accepted the Patriarchate of Constantinople as their own church. Paisij of Hilendar
grudgingly mentions that the Bulgarians ‘reverently’ (blagogovejno) accepted the
Greek clerics and respected them as archpriests. (Paisij 1972: 177-8) Hristo Gandev
points out that “until the 1820s, one cannot discern any forces that would alienate the
Bulgarians from the Greek church and the Greek language.” (Gandev 1976: 79)

4. 2. The Fanariotes as exploiters of the Bulgarian people

The ecclesiastical taxes were heavy indeed. They were collected by representatives of
the Patriarchate, often appointed with the support of the Fanariotes. They served not
only to compensate for the expenses of the church, but also to pay the notorious
peşkeş 24 to the sultan and to pay off the debts to the Fanariote bankers.
Understandably, given the Fanariote involvement in the financial operations of the
Patriarchate, Fanariotes were held responsible for what was regarded as the
exploitation of the flock. However, the idea that the Bulgarians in particular were
burdened with ecclesiastical taxes is false. The common parishioners’ feeling of being
oppressed and exploited by the clergy prevailed not only in Bulgaria, but also in
regions with a Greek population. Quoting William Gell’s Narrative of a Journey in
the Morea (London 1823), Richard Clogg points out that the Greeks thought that “the
country labours under three curses, the priests, the cogia bashis, and the Turks;
always placing the plagues in this order”. (Clogg 1996a: VIII, 349)
By the end of the eighteenth century, a fierce anticlerical mood existed not
only among the enlightened intellectuals, who were anticlerical for philosophical

A compulsory “gift” in return for an imperial edict confirming a patriarch in office.

reasons, but also among the common people, who complained about the immoral
behaviour of certain bishops and demanded their replacement. The Patriarchal clergy
was accused of corruption and greed, illicit sexual relations and alcohol abuse, briefly
of “unworthy (nedostoen, anaxios) conduct”. This was the case in the Bulgarian, but
also in the Greek lands. Among the Greeks these protests did not involve any ethnic
antagonism. However, prior to the 1830s, this was neither the case among the
The perception of the Fanariotes as exploiters is an indication of the social
antagonism between the patriarchal higher clergy and the common parishioner of
whatever ethnic origin. The interpretation of this antagonism as an expression of
ethnic resentment or nationalistic strife is in fact anachronistic.

4. 3. The Fanariotes turned the Patriarchate of Constantinople into a tool of

political aspirations
According to Bulgarian historians, the Fanariotes had an overwhelming influence on
the affairs of the Patriarchate and succeeded in turning it into a tool of their pan-
Hellenic aspirations. They often refer to the abolition of the Autocephalous
Archbishopric of Ohrid in 1767 as an example of Fanariote “imperialism”. According
to Ivan Snegarov, during the eighteenth century a Fanariotic and an autochthonous
current came into being among the leading clerics in the archbishopric. “The
adherents of the first [current]”, he writes,

“were people obsessed by Graecomania, who collaborated with money and intrigues
with certain Fanariote clerics to take power of the archiepiscopal seat. They did so out
of personal greed, because under the arbitrary rule of the Fanariote archbishops, they
would have the opportunity to rob the ecclesiastical revenues and belongings. The
adherents of the second current were moved by a diocesan patriotism and were
committed opponents to the Fanariote influence.” (Snegarov 1932: 126)

However, the Fanariotes’ share in the abolition of the Archbishopric of Ohrid

was rather limited. The events took place under patriarch Samuel I Handžeri
(Handzeris), who did not belong to an established Fanariote family, but actually used
his position to introduce his nephews into the Fanariote caste. According to
contemporary sources, the Archbishopric of Ohrid itself requested to be incorporated
into the Patriarchate of Constantinople because it was unable to pay its debts. For that
very reason, the patriarchate was reluctant to accept the offer. (Papadopoullos [1952]
1990: 89-90; Kitromilides 2007: I, 182) Runciman (1968: 380) suggests that the
Greek higher clergy asked for the abolition of the archbishopric because they “needed
support against growing Balkan nationalism”. This is not very convincing. Whatever
part was played by Fanariotes, it is very improbable that in the 1760s they ― or
others participants in the event ― were moved by nationalistic considerations.
The Fanariote influence on the Patriarchate had been increasing from the very
sixteenth century onwards and reached its peak in the first half of the eighteenth
century. To be sure, this influence was not always negative. For instance, thanks to
the interventions of the Fanariotes, the duration of the mandates of the patriarchs,
limited to a couple of years or even less before, doubled in the eighteenth century,
which allowed for a better governance.
In the years 1741-1755, Patriarch Kyrillos V (1748-1757), resenting the
pressure of the Fanariotes, curtailed their power by a reform which reduced the
influence of (mainly Fanariote) laymen in the church and increased the autonomy of

the Holy Synod in the election of the patriarch. From then onwards the patriarch was
to be elected by five specified metropolitans, constituting the “System of the Elders”.
Kyrillos also created the “System of the Public”, consisting of representatives of the
Greek, more exactly the Orthodox Christian guilds in Istanbul, who were entrusted
with the material affairs of the church. They constituted a counterbalance for the
Fanariote influence. Finally, he ordered that bishops and metropolitans reside in their
seats and not in Istanbul, where they were constantly exposed to Fanariote
manipulation. After a number of attempts made by the Fanariotes to restore the
former order, the innovations were finally sanctioned by a hatt-ı hümayun in 1759.
(Papadopoullos [1952] 1990: 48-56) They remained valid until the reformation of the
millets in the 1860s by the introduction of the National Statutes. Papadopoullos
concludes that

‘‘the policy of the Metropolitans, tending to subordinate the election of the Patriarch
to the exclusive influence of the clergy, constituted an effort to reestablish the
impaired authority of the Church; but what they achieved was only the preservation of
a residue of authority, the civil authority of the Church having been irremediably
impaired by the ascendancy of the Phanariots in the Turkish administration; it was,
however, a substantial residue, since it regarded the election of the Patriarch.”
(Papadopoullos [1952] 1990: 57)

The ensuing power shift from the patriarch to the synod also “benefited the
Church, because it helped to safeguard a relative effective authority for it despite the
persistence of the Phanariot influence.” (Papadopoullos [1952] 1990: 59)
There were many instances when the Patriarchate and the Fanariotes
disagreed, which is also an indication of the autonomy of the church. The older
generation of Fanariotes expected that their growing weight on the state affairs would
eventually result in a “takeover” of the Ottoman Empire, which implied the
preservation of the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire ― or, as they perceived
it, the Byzantine Empire ― and the existing social structures. To them, the church
was useful in supporting the Ottoman state. (Runciman 1968 : 394-397) Younger
Fanariotes were rather liberal nationalists; they favoured radical measures and were
involved in the revolutionary conspiracies preparing a Greek uprising and the
establishment of a Greek state. They were indifferent or even hostile to the church.
In the academies and schools the Fanariotes had opened in Istanbul, Bucharest,
Iaşi and elsewhere an education in the spirit of Western rationalism and
Enlightenment was offered, which the patriarchal authorities in the capital tolerated
only reluctantly and those in the province openly disapproved of. (Runciman 1968:
387) By the end of the eighteenth century, the Patriarchate repeatedly appealed to its
flock ― for instance in the notorious Paternal Teaching (Dhidhaskalia patriki) ― not
to fall under the spell of Enlightenment philosophy, liberalism and nationalism.
(Clogg 1996b: V, 87-101) While the older conservatives among the Fanariotes
supported this notorious pamphlet, the young revolutionaries indignantly condemned
We may conclude that the Fanariotes had a tremendous power over the
Patriarchate, which nevertheless ― due to the resistance of the Patriarchate and to
divisiveness among the Fanariotes themselves ― was not unlimited. The church
retained the tools to pursue a policy of its own, steering a middle course between its
traditional loyalty to the Ottoman government, its ecumenical mission and material
interests. The church and the Greek nationalists distrusted each other, as is illustrated

by the rift between the Greek insurgents and the Patriarchate after the outbreak of the
War of Independence in 1821 and by the creation of an autonomous Greek church in
the shape of the autocephalous archbishopric of Athens in 1833. Although the
Patriarchate recognized the Greek Church in 1851, it continued to be distrusted by the
Greeks in the Kingdom as an “Ottoman institution”.
In the second half of the 19th century, the Patriarchate reluctantly and to a
limited extent did indeed turn into an instrument of Greek nationalism. The
Patriarchate and the Kingdom of Greece had paralleling or overlapping interests.
Since the jurisdiction of the anticipated Bulgarian autonomous church was generally
considered as the blueprint of a future independent Bulgarian state, the Patriarchate’s
efforts to limit its jurisdiction, mainly for fear of losing the revenues from the rich
Bulgarian dioceses, actually served well the irredentist ambitions of Greece.
However, it was only from the 1860s onwards that the Patriarchate, confronted with
the growing Bulgarian church movement and having lost the support of Russia,
increasingly resorted to the support of the Greek state and became dependent on it.
(Koliopoulos & Veremis 2002: 141-149) The part played by Fanariotes in this
development was rather modest, though. To the extent Greeks pressurized the
Patriarchate to pursue a Greek nationalist policy, countering the Bulgarian demands,
these Greeks were ― with a few exceptions ― no Fanariotes. Both in the Ottoman
Empire and in the Kingdom of Greece, other influential parties increasingly played a
leading role. The reform of the church administration in 1847 and in the 1860s
enabled not only to the Greek bourgeoisie in Istanbul, but also the Greek middle-class
in the cities all over the Balkans to steer the church in a Greek nationalist direction.
Among these well-to-do Greek city-dwellers, a great number, if not the majority
consisted of Graecized Bulgarians who spoke Greek for professional reasons, or as a
result of their Greek education, or as a mark of social distinction. They often turned
out to be more committed opponents of Bulgarian education and divine services in
Church Slavonic that the local patriarchal so-called “Fanariote” clergymen
themselves. However, there happened to be also Greeks ― among whom some
Fanariotes ― who were not unsympathetic to the Bulgarian demands. They blamed
the patriarch for his obstinacy and pleaded for a compromise. (Danova 1980: 246)
Finally, the Patriarchate of Constantinople had proven to be not the most effective
tool to oppose the Bulgarians and, if possible, turn them into Greeks. Actually, the
Kingdom of Greece counted much more on the consulates, syllogoi (cultural clubs)
and schools it financed in Ottoman territory to achieve these goals.

4. 4. The Fanariotes used their influence on the Ottoman government to oppose the
Bulgarian demands
In the second half of the nineteenth century, when the church struggle reached its
peak and the Bulgarian activists rather indiscriminatingly labelled all their Greek
opponents “Fanariotes”, the power of the Fanariote power had in fact drastically
declined. In the eighteenth century, when the Fanariotes’ fortunes, prestige and power
culminated, the position of great dragoman was firmly in their hands, their control
over the Patriarchate of Constantinople was almost overwhelming, and they ruled
almost omnipotently as hospodars of the Romanian Principalities Wallachia and
Moldova. However, their power could always and almost arbitrarily be curtailed by
the sultan or the great vizier. In addition, the authority the Fanariotes exerted was
increasingly limited to a small number of Fanariote families and finally to a few
individual Fanariotes, a tendency that went hand in hand with the incessant constraint
of their power. In Wallachia and Moldavia, in the period from 1711 to 1769, in

practice only three Fanariote families ruled: Mavrokordhatos, Gikas and Rakovitsas;
in 1774 a decree was issued stipulating that only members of the Ypsilantis,
Mourouzis and Kallimachis families could be hospodars. (Runciman 1968: 373-375)
At the beginning of the nineteenth century the Fanariote power weakened even more,
as they once again lost the sultan’s confidence and support. In 1819, after the
defection of Ioannis Karadzas (Ion Caragea) a year earlier (he fled to Austria, taking
with him all his portable wealth), the sultan issued a new decree concerning the
Fanariotes’ eligibility as hospodars and as great dragomans. From then on, these
functions were entrusted exclusively to the members of four Fanariote families: those
of Skarlatos Kallimachis, Alexandhros Soutsos, Michail Soutsos and Dimitrios
Mourouzis. Disloyalty of one of the members of these families would entail the entire
family and all their descendents to be bereft of the privilege of serving as hospodars
or dragomans. (Oţetea 1974: 439) These measures in practice left little room to the
Fanariotes to effectively pursue a policy of promoting the Greek interests whenever
they were opposed to the Ottoman interests ― and they as a rule were. Finally, the
outbreak of the Greek Uprising led to “a general attack on the Phanariote elite”.
(Findley 1980: 132) Except for Alexandhros Soutsos, all other three families turned
out to have members participating in the Filiki Eteria conspiracy Steven Runciman’s

‘‘Turkish police entered the Patriarchate and kept him [Patriarch Gregory V] a
prisoner there till 22 April, when he was hanged at the gate of his palace. Two
metropolitans and twelve bishops followed him to the gallows. Then it was the turn of
the laymen. First the Grand Dragoman, Mouroussi, and his brother, then all the
leading Phanariots. By the summer of 1821 the great houses in the Phanar were
empty’’. (Runciman 1968: 406)

Skarlatos Kallimachis’s younger brother Ioannis was arrested and decapitated;

Skarlatos himself died of an apoplexy or was poisoned. Michail Soutsos escaped
decapitation flying to Russia. Only the family of Alexandhros Soutsos was left
The power of the Fanariotes was definitively broken. They were replaced, as
much as possible, by Muslims or by non-Muslims from other ethnic groups, among
whom Bulgarians occupied a small, but by no means negligible place. The institution
of the grand dragoman at the Imperial Divan was abolished in 1821 with the
execution of Konstantinos Mourouzis and replaced by the Translation Office of the
Sublime Porte (Bab-ı Âli Tercüme Odası). The first to become the heads of the new
office were the Bulgarian converts to Islam Bulgarzade Yahya Efendi, a teacher at the
military school, and his son Ruh ul-Din Efendi. As neither was very competent, they
were assisted for some time by the Greek Stavrakis Aristarchis and, after the latter’s
execution for disloyalty, by an Armenian. The office remained scarcely staffed and of
limited importance until the mid-1830s. In 1836, the Translation Office was
integrated into the newly created Foreign Office. Serving in the latter office was not
only well paid, but also paved the way for a great career, including the function of
vizier. Among the four viziers who started their careers in the Translation Office was
the Bulgarian Muslim Ahmet Vefik Efendi (1823-1891), the son of the
abovementioned Ruh ul-Din efendi. In the permanent embassies, re-established at that
time, some Fanariotes were appointed in minor functions, but soon even the
translators were replaced by non-Greeks. (Findley 1980: 133-6)

After the proclamation of the Hatt-ı hümayun in 1856, the number of non-
Muslim public servants increased. A few of them were Greeks or Orthodox Christians
who might be regarded as Fanariotes. However, a growing number of important
positions were occupied by Armenians and to a lesser extent by Jews, Christian Arabs
and even Westerners. They were, for very short periods of time, four non-Muslim
foreign ministers, two of whom were Greeks, one of whom — Alexandhros
Karatheodoris ― had a Fanariote background. In addition, some officials at the
Foreign Office and at least one ambassador were members of the Aristarchis family.
(Findley 1980: 207-208, 386, notes 150 and 152) Ottoman diplomats of Fanariote or
Greek origin were appointed only very exceptionally to capitals in the Balkans, so
they had little opportunity to interfere directly in Balkan affairs. (Dalègre 2002: 92)
Anyhow, what was left from the power of the Fanariotes were “patron-client networks
and bureaucratic ‘dynasties’”, replicating the Muslim ones. (Findley 1980: 208)
Dalègre (2002: 92) points out that in the second half of the nineteenth century and the
first decades of the twentieth century about fifteen Greeks worked as diplomats in
Ottoman service, mainly as secretaries and translators, but also as ambassadors. She
mentions only a few Fanariote names: Mousouros, Kallimachis, Mavroyennis,
Aristarchis, adding that “ces Rums, fiers de leur double appartenance grecque et
ottomane servent fidèlement et inflexiblement l’Empire meme lors des affrontements
turco-grecs.” Nevertheless, most Greeks who in that period played a role of some
importance, especially in the Ottoman diplomacy, originated from families of traders
and bankers who constituted the new rich middle-class, rather than from the ranks of
the Fanariotes. (Danova 1980: 182)
The situation was similar in the Kingdom of Greece, where the Fanariotes
were pushed aside as “heterochthons”. (Koliopoulos & Veremis 2002: 269) Among
the most significant political figures of the Greek war of Independence and during the
Othonian period was the Fanariote Alexandhros Mavrokordhatos (1791-1865), leader
of the “British party”. He held numerous ministerial posts and served as a diplomat in
several European capitals. In general, however, there existed a fierce anti-Fanariote
sentiment among the Greeks in the Kingdom. Not accidentally, Zallony’s Essai sur
les Phanariotes, a malicious attack on the Fanariotes which had appeared in France in
1824, was soon translated also into Greek. (Zallony 1832) The Fanariotes were
disliked because of their alleged “arrogance” — more probably their intellectual
superiority — and their claim on important and lucrative positions in the Greek state
bureaucracy. (Danova 1980: 137-8) In the 1840s, the Fanariotes were to a certain
extent rehabilitated as a result of the policy of the Kingdom to improve its relations
with the Patriarchate and due to the attempt of Greek historians to integrate the
Byzantine legacy into the Greek national narrative. After the Crimean War (1853-
1856), Fanariotes definitively ceded the most important positions to members of the
Greek upper middle-class. (Danova 1980: 182) Greek diplomats did of course
ventilate abroad the Greek standpoints regarding the Bulgarian “church struggle”.
However there is only one single Fanariote known to have done so — Ioannis
Soutsos, ambassador to Saint-Petersburg. (Danova 1880: 264)

4. 5. The Fanariotes were Greeks

The Fanariotes constituted an ethnically mixed aristocratic caste, something like an
Ottoman Orthodox Christian aristocracy, composed by about fifteen dynasties. Some
of them derived from Byzantine aristocracy; others without any ground claimed
Byzantine descent; still others, like the famous Mavrokordhatos dynasty, originated
from Greek islands under Venetian or Genoese rule and had Italian blood in their

veins. Many new Fanariote families were of Albanian (Gikas/Ghica) or Romanian

(Karadzas/Caragea, Rakovitsas/Racoviţă) origin. Some Fanariote dynasties were
active during the whole duration of Ottoman rule in the Balkans; other families
appeared and disappeared.
By the end of the eighteenth century, a Fanariote dynasty of Bulgarian origin
appeared as well: the Vogoridhes. Stefanos Vogorodhis (1775-1859, in Bulgarian
Stefan Bogoridi, in Turkish Stefanaki bey) was the grandson of Stojko Vladislavov
(1739-1813), better known as bishop Sofronij of Vraca, a prominent figure of the
early Bulgarian national revival period. Little is known of Conko Popstojkov (1759-
1794), bishop Sofronij’s son and Stefanos Vogoridhis’s father. (Čolov 2004: 274-5)
We know he was a tayıncı, a caterer of the Ottoman army, a profession which yielded
great benefits. Other Fanariote dynasties as the Karadzas too had started their careers
with fortunes accumulated in the army catering business. (Runciman 1968: 363) His
son Stojko Conkov (1775 or 1780-1859) adopted the name Stefanos Vogoridhis,
Vogoridhis being the family name of his great-grandmother, bishop Sofronij’s
mother, Maria. (Žečev 1980: 36) Bishop Sofronij too called himself Vogoridhis.
Using the prestigious family name of one’s mother or spouse was not an uncommon
practice at that time. (Čolov 2004: 269)
Stefanos Vogoridhis and his youngest brother Athanasios (ca. 1788-1826, in
Bulgarian Atanas Bogoridi) studied at the famous Greek Saint Savvas College in
Bucharest, which was financed by the Fanariote Moldovan princes. After finishing
school, Stefanos became a private teacher of French in a rich Greek family. In 1797-
1798 he accompanied the Ottoman army on its failed campaign against Napoleon in
Egypt. From 1812 to 1819, he served under the hospodar of Moldova, Skarlatos
Kallimachis. After the outbreak of the Greek War for Independence, Skarlatos was
suspected of allying with the Russians, arrested and convoyed to Istanbul to be
beheaded. However, the dead sentence was repealed and in 1821 he was appointed
hospodar of Wallachia and in 1822 of Moldova. Stefan became his deputy. Not
before long, Skarlatos Kallimachis was poisoned or died of an apoplexy.
Stefanos seems to have suffered little from these political turbulences. In 1823
he was appointed dragoman of the fleet (dhierminevs tou stolou), not an unusual start
of a Fanariote career in the highest echelons of Ottoman power. Soon after, in 1825,
for reasons that have remained unclear, he was sentenced to a three years exile in
Izmit, a very a common interruption in a Fanariote career as well. In 1828, he headed
the delegation to Saint-Petersburg that negotiated the 1829 Treaty of Edirne. After his
return, sultan Mahmut II (1808-1839), satisfied by the outcome of the peace
negotiations, appointed him as one of his advisors. After the outbreak of the Greek
War for Independence, the sultan obviously had more confidence in a Bulgarian than
in a Greek advisor. For the same reason, after the execution of the “disloyal” Patriarch
Grigorios V in 1821, three metropolitans of Bulgarian origin were elevated to the
patriarchal throne.) As an advisor, Stefan participated in the negotiations on the
independence of Greece, the making of the 1833 Treaty of Ünkâr Iskelesi, the
negotiations on the status of the Danube Principalities, and other important diplomatic
In 1833 the sultan endowed him with the title of bey (igemonas) and made him
governor of the prosperous island of Samos. His administration of the island bears all
the features of Fanariote rule. As Stefan considered the island primarily as a source of
revenues, he visited it only once (in 1839), administering it despotically and
voraciously from Istanbul through his representative. The capital of the island was
renamed Stefanoupolis to honour the governor. In 1850, Stefan was removed after an

uprising of the islanders. In the meantime, under Sultan Abdulmejit (1839-1861), he

had become a member of the Tanzimat council and “imperial councillor” — a
function created especially for him. (Cfr. the collected biographies of Stefanos
Vogoridhis in Radev 2004)

Stefanos Vogoridhis made a typically Fanariote career, displaying the same

professional qualities and moral vices most Fanariotes reportedly displayed. He
succeeded in marrying his children and grandchildren into well-known Fanariote
families. Although his own spouse, Ralou Skanavi, was of upper middle-class origin
and his two sons married into rich families of landholders, two of his daughters were
wedded to members of the old Fanariote family Kantakouzinos or the old Romanian
boyar dynasty Sturdza, and two other daughters to members of new Fanariote
families, who both held important diplomatic functions in Ottoman service
(Konstantinos Mousouros, Yanko Fotiadhis). Some of his grandchildren married into
the old Brâncoveanu and Mavrokordhatos families and the young Karatheodoris
family. Other grandchildren were married to members of prominent Russian and West
European aristocratic families. (Čolov 2004: 279-284)
Stefanos Vogoridhis’s brother Athanasios (1788-1826) studied medicine in
Vienna and Würzburg, but became a famous Hellenist, who contributed to Logios O
Ermis and the Paris-based Melisa. Stefanos’s second son Nikolaos (1821-1863)
became an Ottoman official in Moldova. His youngest son Aleksandhros (1822-
1910), better known in Bulgarian historiography as “Aleko pasha”, studied in
Istanbul, Iaşi and France and made a career as an Ottoman civil servant. After the
1878 Treaty of Berlin, the sultan appointed him governor of the Ottoman autonomous
province of Eastern Rumelia, in which capacity he followed the example of many
other disloyal Fanariotes, doing little to prevent the annexation of the province by the
Principality of Bulgaria in September 1885.
The Vogoridhes were not the only Bulgarians to make Fanariote-like careers.
Vasilaki Velikov (1782-1857) or Vasilaki Turko was a translator at the Patriarchate of
Constantinople, a member of the Tanzimat council and a representative of the
Patriarchate to the Sublime Porte. Later he worked at the ministry of Internal Affairs
and of Foreign Affairs. He represented the Ottoman Empire as a diplomat in Rome
and in other European capitals. (EB 1978: 628-629; Žečev 1980: 41-2)
Although he is never labelled like that by Bulgarian historians, Stefanos
Vogoridhis was a typical Fanariote: his career and social position were Fanariote; he
Hellenized his name and used to speak Greek. However, he seems to have supported
the Bulgarian struggle for ecclesiastical autonomy. In 1850, Stefanos Vogoridhis
obtained from the Ottoman authorities the permission for the Bulgarian community in
Istanbul to have a church of its own. He donated them his house on the bank of the
Golden Horn in the Fanar district. It was transformed into the first Bulgarian church
in Istanbul, named “Saint Stefan” after its patron. He also intervened with the sultan
and the patriarch in order to have Ilarion Makariopolski, the leader of the Istanbul
Bulgarians, enthroned as metropolitan. When the Greeks blamed the patriarch for
having ordained Ilarion, he reportedly replied that “therefore the almighty Vogoridhis
was guilty”. (Žečev 1980: 58) This is an indication not only of the power of (the
Bulgarian) Stefanos Vogoridhis, but also of the limited influence of the (Greek)
Fanariots defending the Greek interests.

5. Conclusions

There were obvious reasons for the Bulgarians in the nineteenth century to call the
members of the Patriarchal higher clergy “Fanariotes”. The seat of the Patriarchate of
Constantinople was located in the Fanar district and many patriarchal clerics lived
there. The metropolitans and bishops in the provincial seats were appointed by the
Patriarch and the Holy Synod in Fanar. In addition, in the 1850s through the 1870s,
some of the influential politicians and diplomats both in the Ottoman Empire and in
Kingdom of Greece, acting against the Bulgarian movement, were of Fanariote origin.
These circumstances, however, do not completely explain why the Bulgarian
activists almost systematically used the term Fanariotes to denote indiscriminatingly
nearly all the Greek opponents of their national movement and why they ascribed
such negative moral qualities to the Fanariotes. First of all, the Fanariotes never
exerted an absolute control over the Patriarchate, let alone over the Ottoman
government. Moreover, after the 1821-1830 Greek War for Independence that many
of them had supported, the Fanariotes had been eliminated as a political caste. To be
sure, there were still influential politicians of Fanariote origin in the Ottoman
administration, but these were talented and ambitious civil servants, whose weight on
state affairs did not exceed that of the much more numerous Turks, Armenians,
Bulgarians, Jews, Westerners and Greek upper middle-class newcomers. In the
Kingdom of Greece as well, only a few of the many political actors were Fanariotes,
distrusted and undesired by a great part of the population. Moreover, not all
Fanariotes opposed the Bulgarian national movement as fanatically as the Bulgarian
publicists thought or suggested. Among the Greeks in Istanbul and Athens who were
perceived as influential opponents of the Bulgarians, Fanariotes constituted only a
small minority. Finally, not all Fanariotes were Greeks; there were even Fanariotes of
Bulgarian origin. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Patriarchate of
Constantinople was certainly pressurized by Greek nationalists — among whom were
also a few descendants of the old Fanariote dynasties — to pursue a policy in defence
of the Greek national interests, but in most cases, the Patriarchate preferred to defend
its own spiritual and material interests. With that end, a policy of compromises and
reconciliation with the Bulgarians was often more appropriate. Briefly, before the
nineteenth century, the Fanariotes were not interested in Graecizing the Bulgarians,
and after the eighteenth century, they were almost powerless to do so.
The image of the Fanariotes as villain, greedy and morally degenerated may
have many origins. One of them is the perception of the patriarchal clergy as
exploiters of the common people ― a perception that existed also among Greeks.
Another reason might be the resistance which the predominant conservative wing
within the Orthodox Church, defending the traditional Christian values, offered to the
Enlightened Fanariotes insisting on modernization and Westernization. This anti-
Western attitude was shared by Greeks and Bulgarians alike. (Detrez 2005) There is,
of course, also the usual resentment felt by peasants and city-dwellers against an
aristocracy living in luxury and collaborating with the highest power in the state. It is
not excluded, however, that the image of the despicable Fanariote was partly taken
over by the Bulgarians from the Greeks, who exactly in the 1830s and 1840s, when
Bulgarian-Greek relations were still friendly and intense, nourished a very negative
and even hostile image of the Fanariotes.
Branding all opponents as Fanariotes without a doubt also served a rhetorical
aim. Significantly, the Vogoridhes, who supported the Bulgarian church movement,
are only reluctantly or not at all labelled “Fanariotes” by Bulgarian historians,
although they made typically Fanariote careers and behaved as fully-fledged
Fanariotes. Obviously, the term “Fanariote” was used by the Bulgarians not to denote

a particular social group, but simply all their adversaries in the church struggle.
Branded as “Fanariotes”, a term burdened with negative associations, the diffuse and
rather unfathomable camp of the enemy, consisting of patriarchal clerics, Greek
politicians, diplomats and intellectuals, local Greeks and Bulgarian “renegades” was
in a dramatical way represented as homogeneous and formidable. Moreover,
representing the enemy as morally degenerated implied the suggestion that the
Bulgarians were morally integral. Opposing “bad Greeks” to “good Bulgarians” had a
long tradition in Bulgarian writing, going back to Paisiy’s History of the Bulgarian
Slavs (completed in 1762).
Bulgarian activists and politicians, involved in “nation building”, might have
had an additional reason to maintain the image of the almighty and villain Fanariote.
They thus created a very recognizable enemy outside Bulgarian society. After
Bulgarian independence in 1878, which came soon after the conclusion of the church
struggle in 1872, the Bulgarian authorities took considerable trouble to integrate
ethno-cultural minorities into the Bulgarian nation. Among them were the Pomaks or
Bulgarian Muslims, who were held co-responsible for the cruel repression of the April
Uprising against the Ottomans in 1876. In order to remove possible obstacles to their
integration into Bulgarian society, not the Pomaks but the Ottoman army was
systematically blamed for the atrocities. (Cfr. Brunnbauer [2007]: 102-4; Vezenkov
[2007]: 112-4) In a similar way, the many Bulgarian “Graecomans”, who spoke
Greek and remained loyal to the Patriarchate until 1872 (and even later), could be
more easily convinced to join the Bulgarian nation after being cleansed of guilt by
blaming only the Fanariotes as their adversaries in the Bulgarian church movement.
The use in Bulgarian historiography of a very “pardoning” terminology ― as
grăkomani (Graecomans), which suggests a medical rather than a moral deficiency,
and zabluda or zabluždenie (deception) for what is otherwise branded as national
apostasy (rodootstăpničestvo) ― supports this assumption.
Finally, we should answer the question whether Bulgarian historiography
when dealing with the Fanariotes is still “mythological”. There is no doubt that the
myth of the Fanariotes is still vivid in popular historiography. Teachers, journalists,
“bloggers”, tourist guides and others still eagerly resort to its “explanatory force”, for
instance in reference to the old Slavonic manuscripts that were allegedly burned by
the Fanariote clergy — a very resilient myth in Bulgarian historiography. (Aretov
2006: 277-299) However, its relationship to national identity has become rather loose
and a revision of the Fanariotes’ role in Bulgarian history, although it would probably
be considered as extravagant or provocative, supposedly is not felt any more as a
disrespectful assault on a basic component of the national narrative.

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5. The Hellenicity of the linguistic Other in Greece

Peter Mackridge
University of Oxford

Throughout the 20th century, Greek linguists, historians and ethnologists have
attempted to demonstrate that speakers of Aromanian, Albanian and Slavic languages
who live in lands that are claimed to be Greek are essentially Hellenes. I focus on the
arguments that have aimed to demonstrate that these languages are not really foreign
languages but are closely related to Greek. I show how linguistic data have been
misinterpreted or distorted in order to prove the Greek nationalist case that what
appears superficially to be the Other is essentially a variant of the Hellene that can
readily be assimilated into the homogenized Hellenic national body.
Key words: Greece, nationalism, linguistics, minority languages, Aromanian, Slavic.

The “Other” in Greece can be either religiously or linguistically other. In traditional
Greek nationalist thinking the most radical otherness is religious (especially Islam).
However, in this paper I am talking about Orthodox Christians who speak languages
other than Greek.
From the late 18th century onwards there were ethnically homogenizing
tendencies at work within the Orthodox millet of the Ottoman Empire, which went
together with the greater cultural and political dominance of the Greek element
(Katsikas 2008: 178-181) and an increasing assumption that all Ottoman Orthodox
Christians were or should be Greek. I am thinking here of the work of the priest
Kosmas the Aetolian until his violent death in 1779 (Menounos n.d.), and of the
teacher Daniil of Moschopolis (Daniil 1802). The rise of Greek religious and
linguistic nationalism (starting perhaps with the teacher Neofytos Doukas in 1804) led
to the increased hegemony of the Greek language and Greek culture (including the
ancient Greek heritage) within the Orthodox millet.
As the second half of the 19th century progressed, Romanian nationalists were
claiming that all speakers of Romance languages in the Balkans were really
Romanians and needed to be taught in Romanian schools how to be proper
Romanians, Bulgarian nationalists were claiming that all Slav-speakers south and east
of Serbia were really Bulgarians and should be taught in Bulgarian schools how to be
proper Bulgarians loyal to the Bulgarian Exarchate and the principality of Bulgaria,
and Greek nationalists were claiming that all Orthodox Christians south and east of
Serbia were really Greeks and should be taught in Greek schools how to be proper
Greeks loyal to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Greek state. In these
circumstances truth was the first casualty, and scholarship became an instrument of
competing nationalist propagandas.

Pseudo-science flourished at a time when each of the Balkan nations was

struggling to claim its so-called “historic rights” (including its “historic lands”). Each
nation’s “historic rights” were supposed to be directly connected with its supposed
“ethnological origins”. These were not the rights of individuals or even communities,
but the rights of (actual or future) national governments to claim certain communities
and territories as their own.
All three of the competing nationalisms used the same means of propaganda. In
this paper I am concentrating on Greek material because I am a Hellenist, which
means that I am far better qualified to analyse arguments expressed in Greek than
those formulated in other Balkan languages.
As I have implied, Bulgarian and Romanian nationalist arguments tended to
define people’s nationality by their language, while Greek nationalist claims usually
defined people by their religion. In this paper I am focusing on instances in which
proponents of the Greek cause during the time of the armed struggle for Macedonia in
the first decade of the 20th century attempted to use the language spoken by certain
communities in order to demonstrate the Greekness – either by racial descent or by
contemporary culture – of those who spoke it. In other words, I am tracing efforts to
demonstrate that the linguistic Other was not in fact the Other at all. While
concentrating on two books published in the first decade of the 20th century, I shall
also briefly trace the afterlife of the theories they propounded.

1. Macedonian as a dialect of Greek

The chief focus of my paper is the book by Konstantinos Tsioulkas entitled
Contributions to the bilingualism of the Macedonians through a comparison of the
Slav-seeming Macedonian language with Greek (Tsioulkas 1907). Tsioulkas was born
in 1845 in the village of Γκορέντση (now Κορησός) near Kastoria, which was
incorporated into the Greek state as a result of the first Balkan War in 1912. Both as a
schoolmaster in Gorenci and as headmaster of the Greek high school in Monastir
(now Bitola in FYROM) in the 1880s,25 Tsioulkas had constantly defended the Greek
and Patriarchist cause against agents of the Exarchate and against anti-Greek
propaganda. When discussing Tsioulkas’ book we need to bear in mind that it was
written against a background of nationalist violence in various parts of Macedonia.
I have not been able to discover what Tsioulkas’ native language was. Most of
the inhabitants of Gorenci were native speakers of Macedonian, but his own family
may have been primarily Greek-speaking. He notes that the first person to teach the
“Bulgarians” in Macedonia that they were Bulgarians was Konstantinos Darzilovitis.
Tsioulkas and others managed to expel Darzilovitis from Gorenci in 1871, when he
was about to open a Bulgarian school in the village, where (according to Tsioulkas)
there was not a single inhabitant who did not know Greek (Tsioulkas 1907: vii-ix).26
He also notes that he had Apostolos Margaritis [Apostol Mărgărit] as a teacher of

25 For education in north-west Macedonia see Vouri 1992. For more on Tsioulkas see
Vakalopoulos 1983 (although this is an unreliable source).
Darzilovitis [Darzilen] founded the first Bulgarian school in Salonica, in 1867. His brother Kyriakos
was the director of the second Greek printing press to be founded in Salonica, in 1852, two years after
the first one was set up by Miltiadis Garbolas, an Aromanian from Olympus (Papastathis 1968). In 1852
Kyriakos Darzilen produced the first Gospel book printed in Macedonian (though using Greek
characters and calling itself “Bulgarian”) on the basis of an early 19th-century manuscript; this is known
as the Konikovo Gospel (Konikovo, now Δυτικό, is north of Pella); there is apparently no extant copy
extant; see For the manuscript of the
Konikovo Gospel, discovered in the library of the Patriarchate of Alexandria in 2003-4, see

Greek when he was 5-6 years old, before Margaritis became the leading founder of
Romanian schools in Macedonia. 27 This information provides an insight into the
complex multilingual environment in which Tsioulkas lived. It also highlights the
cardinal importance of schoolteachers as influential bearers of the competing national
cultures in Ottoman Macedonia.
By “bilingualism” in the title of his book Tsioulkas refers to the fact that some
inhabitants of Macedonia spoke local Greek dialects as their native language, while
others were native speakers of a “Slav-seeming” or “apparently Slav” language
(Tsioulkas 1907: cx). He is not so much talking about individual or communal
bilingualism as about the co-existence of two different speech communities in the
same region. The aim of his book was to demonstrate that, contrary to the Bulgarian
and Pan-Slavist propaganda at the time, “the so-called Bulgarian [language] in
Macedonia is Greek and not Slavic” (Tsioulkas 1907: v). I should make it clear that
Tsioulkas was not trying to claim that this language was not “Macedonian”, but that it
was not Bulgarian. As I have just said, he saw himself as countering Bulgarian
propaganda. Specifically Macedonian separatism was not an issue at that time, when
the only specifically national identity available to the inhabitants of Macedonia at the
time who were not native speakers of Aromanian or Albanian could only be either
Greek or Bulgarian.
Shortly before Tsioulkas published his study, G. Boukouvalas had published a book
entitled The language of the Bulgarian-speakers in Macedonia (Boukouvalas 1905) in
which he argued that the language of the Macedonians is a “mixture” of Greek and
Slavic elements: “This idiom is a mishmash of words taken from various other
languages, but very few from Bulgarian. The chiefest of these linguistic elements that
prevails in this so-called Bulgarian language is Greek” (Boukouvalas 1905: 6). 28
Boukouvalas’ argument that the language of Macedonia is made up of a mixture of
words taken from various languages implies that historically and genetically it is not
based on any single language, while the claim that the majority of the words in the
language are Greek is used as a demonstration that the language is by nature
predominantly Greek. If such a statistical method were applied to the vocabulary of
English, the fact that more than 50% of the English vocabulary is of Latin and/or
French origin could be used as a demonstration that English is not a Germanic
language (which in reality it is) but a predominantly Romance one.
Unlike Boukouvalas, Tsioulkas tries to prove that the Macedonians are Greeks
because their language is Greek in terms of its genetic origin. He claims that the
ancient Macedonian language was closely related to Greek and that modern
Macedonian has developed from it: “The modern so-called Slav-seeming
Macedonian,” he writes, “is in fact Macedonian and the sister of Greek, and
consequently the Macedonian people is autochthonous and of genuine Macedonian
blood” (Tsioulkas 1907: cx; his emphasis).
Tsioulkas overtly expresses his contempt for the Bulgarians, whom he describes as “a
worthless, diminutive, alien, fat-witted, savage, brigandly people. A people unworthy
of higher attention – the Japanese of Europe” (Tsioulkas 1907: xi). For Tsioulkas the
Bulgarians are well and truly the Other. By contrast, he claims, the Macedonians are

Mărgărit began teaching Romanian at school in (Vlacho)Kleisoura in 1862, while the first Romanian
high school in the region was established in 1876 at Monastir, which was the urban centre with the
largest Aromanian-speaking population.
For more on Boukouvalas’ book see Ioannidou 1997: 90.

Greek from a linguistic, social and craniological (i.e. racial) point of view (Tsioulkas
1907: cxvi).29
In his attempt to demonstrate that the “Slav-seeming” or “apparently Slav”
Macedonian language is actually Greek, Tsioulkas devotes the bulk of his two-
volume book to a study of the etymology of Macedonian words. He states
unashamedly that he knows no Slav language, but “I guess from certain things,
including intuition” (Tsioulkas 1907: iv).
As Roland Schmieger puts it, Tsioulkas attempts to demonstrate that Macedonian is a
Greek dialect “with the help of grotesque etymological constructions and in apparent
ignorance of the existence of the Indo-European proto-relationship” (Schmieger
1998b: 129). 30 Tsioulkas arrived at his arbitrary “etymological constructions” by
means of a totally unscientific poetic inspiration worthy of Socrates’ flights of fantasy
in the Cratylus; indeed, Tsioulkas declares that his etymologies are based on the
Cratylic method. 31 They also rely on a conjecture about the true pronunciation of
Ancient Greek which is not based on evidence or even on a plausible surmise, but is
intended, as Tsioulkas claims, to make Ancient Greek words easier and quicker to
pronounce, thus protecting the lungs against consumption (Tsioulkas 1907: xix-xx).32
Here are some examples of Tsioulkas’ attempts at deriving Macedonian words from
Ancient Greek:

Tsioulkas’ Macedonian Real Macedonian Ancient Greek

τρει ‘three’ три < τρεις
στο ‘a hundred’ сто < εκατόν
τschετέρροι ‘ four’ четири < τέτταρες
συhύν ‘son’ син < υιός
(φυλ)λίστ ‘leaf’ лист < φύλλον
Fόdα ‘water’ вода < ύδωρ

Note that he transcribes Macedonian words using the Greek alphabet – with the
addition of some Latin characters – in order to make them look more like Greek. His
use of ‘h’ between identical vowels is intended to indicate that that vowel is
pronounced long. ‘F’ represents the archaic Greek digamma, which was pronounced
Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with a Slavic language will immediately
recognize these words as being basic items in the Slavic vocabulary, whose genetic
connection with their Greek equivalents (where it exists at all) is due to the fact that
both Greek and the Slavic languages are descended from Proto-Indo-European. This
explains why some of these items have cognates in English (e.g. ‘three’, ‘son’ and
‘water’) and in other Indo-European languages.
Tsioulkas even attempts to demonstrate that Macedonian is closer to Ancient Greek
than is popular spoken Greek. In order to do this, he takes an alphabetical list of

Tsioulkas (1907: cxxiv) mentions that Kalostypis (1886) had illustrated “the morphology of the
cranium” of the Macedonians.
Schmieger has also published a study of the Slav language of Nestorio, south-west of Kastoria
(Schmieger 1998a).
Tsioulkas takes seriously the Cratylic etymology that Socrates pretends to espouse for a large part of
his dialogue but actually treats as an amusing game. Tsioulkas, like Socrates, appears to know no
language other than those he is analysing; for this reason neither of them is able to draw valid
conclusions by properly comparing languages.
According to Goutsos (2000: 78-79), Tsioulkas based his theory on a hypothetical reconstruction of
ancient Greek pronunciation, which in turn was based on the spelling.

words used by Homer and tries to find which of them have derivatives in Macedonian
and in what he calls “popular Greek” (i.e. contemporary colloquial Greek). He then
presents a list consisting of three columns: Homeric – Popular – Macedonian. He
calculates how many “Homeric words” he has found in Macedonian (1260) and how
many in popular Greek (650) and leaves it to the reader to decide whether it is
possible that Bulgarians could have preserved such a large number of Homeric words
(Tsioulkas 1907: cviii). He sums up his view of the make-up of the Macedonian
word-stock as follows: “The soul and the fine wheat flour of the Slav-seeming
Macedonian dialect are Greek, while the chaff and the bran and the other baser
components are Turkish, Latin – and these too have [ultimately] come from us – and a
very few Slavic as a result of incursions” (Tsioulkas 1907: cxv).33
Like Boukouvalas, Tsioulkas confines himself almost exclusively to the study of
individual words; he says very little about the morphological structure of Macedonian
and nothing at all about its syntax.34 Yet in reality it is the grammatical structure of a
language rather than its vocabulary that constitutes the most incontrovertible evidence
of its genetic origin.35
Tsioulkas’ book is characterized by a mixture of misplaced erudition and wilful
ignorance. Yet it seems to me to be the product of wishful thinking rather than
deliberate falsification. To show that such an attitude is not confined to Greek
nationalists, I would add that Noel Malcolm talks about “wishful thinking” and
“bizarrely fanciful etymologies” in the work of certain Albanians who try to prove
that their people were the earliest Indo-Europeans in Europe (Malcolm 2002: 75).
Tsioulkas and his like are victims of a metaphysical belief system (in this case
nationalism) that blinds them to the evidence of reality.
Later, when it came to be generally accepted in Greece that the Macedonian language
was indeed Slavic, the speaking of it in public was officially discouraged, and at times
prohibited. If Tsioulkas had been believed, it would not have been considered
necessary to discourage or ban the speaking of Macedonian, because it would have
been classified be a form of Greek. Nevertheless, attempts were made later to
demonstrate that the language spoken by the Macedonians was a “mixed” language
(made up of Slavic, Greek, Latin and Turkish words) that cannot be connected with
any Slavic language. Such an attempt was made during the Greek civil war by
Georgiadis (1948), a schoolteacher in Edessa (Vodena) who was a native speaker of
Macedonian. In his pamphlet Georgiadis used the same arguments as Boukouvalas
forty years earlier, and confined his study to vocabulary rather than grammatical
I should point out that no Greek linguist has ever subscribed to Tsioulkas’ theory.
However, some of them have claimed that the Slav-speakers of Macedonia are
descended from Greeks who had to learn Slavic when Slavic-speakers settled in the
region, because Greek was too difficult for the speakers of the “simple” Slavic
language to learn. If the Greeks had not learned Slavic, communication between the
two groups would have been impossible. Another aspect of this Greek nationalist
argument is that the Greek-speakers who learned Slavic went through a stage of
bilingualism during which they were able to transfer a significant amount of Greek

When he writes that the Latin words “have come from us”, Tsioulkas is subscribing to the erroneous
theory that Latin is derived from Greek.
The material on morphology is confined to vol. 2, pp. xxii-xxxii – a total of 11 pages.
Andriotis (1966: 24) excuses “Tsiourkas” (sic) and Georgiadis for not knowing this because they
were not linguists.

vocabulary into the Slavic language. 36 Other linguists have claimed that the
abundance of vocabulary items from Greek in modern Macedonian indicates that
there is a Greek substratum in the language. The presence of this substratum is once
explained by the historical phase of Greek/Slav bilingualism that the population is
claimed to have passed through.37
Had Tsioulkas’ book been forgotten, as it deserved to be, it would have warranted no
more than a footnote in the history of the Struggle for Macedonia. However, in 1991,
at the height of the “new Macedonian question” (the dispute between Greece and the
newly independent FYROM over the name “Macedonia” and over the use of certain
symbols), the book was republished in a facsimile edition, prefaced by a glowing
recommendation by the veteran Greek conservative politician Nikolaos Martis, who
had served as minister of Northern Greece from 1974 to 1981 (Tsioulkas 1991). It is
ironic that Martis, who had previously published a book decrying the “Falsification of
Macedonian History” by scholars in the Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Martis
1983),38 should have endorsed Tsioulkas’ book so heartily.
The fact that Tsioulkas’ book did not sink into oblivion after it was first published in
1907 has ensured that it has remained afloat on the sea of misinformation that feeds
the electronic blogosphere. One Slavophone contributor to an Internet forum has used
Tsioulkas’ argument that the Macedonians are indigenous as a justification for
proudly proclaiming that “we never came from anywhere, we were allways [sic]
here”.39 In this way Tsioulkas unwittingly contributed to the ideological belief that the
modern Slav-speaking Macedonians are descended from the rulers and subjects of the
ancient Macedonian kingdom and are therefore the true heirs to ancient Macedonian
history and culture.

2. The relationship between Aromanian (Vlach) and Greek

Another book on language that was published during the same period is the
etymological dictionary of Aromanian by Konstantinos Nikolaidis, Etymological
dictionary of the Koutsovlach [= Aromanian] Language (Nikolaidis 1909). Like
Tsioulkas, Nikolaidis was a schoolmaster from outside the Greek state. He was born
in the large Aromanian-speaking village of Livadi (Λιβάδι, often known as
Βλαχολίβαδο) on the northern slopes of Mount Olympus, which was incorporated
into the Greek state in 1912. His book contains an endorsement from the Patriarch of
Constantinople, Ioakeim III, and another one from a 6-member committee of Vlachs
in Volos. Although he was born in Constantinople, Ioakeim’s family origins were in
Krushevo (now in FYROM), which suggests that he too was from a Vlach
In his brief Prologue, Nikolaidis claims that his is the first specifically etymological
dictionary of Koutsovlach. According to the author, the two dictionaries of Vlach
published before this were compiled by Romanians and published in Bucharest by the
Romanian Ministry of Education and the Romanian Academy, respectively, with the
aim of detaching the Vlachs from Hellenism and replacing the Vlach language with
Romanian. By contrast, he claims, he has no proselytizing aim. He did not need to

The claims mentioned in this paragraph so far were made, among others, by Nikolaos Andriotis,
professor of linguistics at the University of Salonica (Andriotis 1966: 25, 11-12).
This part of the theory is expressed, for instance, by Babiniotis (1992: xxii), who cites Andriotis as
his authority.
This book was awarded a special honour by the Academy of Athens in 1985. It has been published in
English in several editions (e.g. Martis 1984).
Posted on 3/1/2008 on

proselytize, of course, because he was defending the status quo, according to which
all Orthodox Christians in the region were considered to be Greeks.
Nikolaidis’ work, unlike that of Tsioulkas, is based on impressive scholarship. For
instance, his firmer grasp of historical linguistics is shown by the fact that he
mentions the “Indo-European heritage” of the Albanians (Nikolaidis 1909: xxxii),
whereas Tsioulkas never mentions the Indo-European concept. Nevertheless, the very
first section after the Prologue is a table containing a small number of Aromanian
words which are presented as being derived “from the Ancient Greek and Byzantine
language”. This is indicative of the ideological starting-point of Nikolaidis’ research,
namely that the Aromanian language has been profoundly influenced by Greek from
the very earliest times. This table is followed by brief sections on Greek loanwords of
various parts of speech in Koutsovlach, then a section entitled “Phonetic influences of
the Greek language on Vlach”.
The influence of Greek is only to be expected in Aromanian communities that had for
centuries been living among Greek-speakers, worshipping in Greek and using Greek
for reading and writing.40 However, Nikolaidis’ linguistic arguments are intended to
demonstrate that the Romanians had moved north from the cradle of Vlach
settlements in the southern Balkans (Nikolaidis 1909: xxxiii). I should note that,
conversely, Romanian nationalists have tried to find “Dacian words” in Romanian in
order to demonstrate that the Romanians are indigenous to their present territories and
that the Vlachs are an offshoot of the Romanians, just as Greek nationalists have tried
to find Ancient Greek words in the Vlach language in order to prove that its speakers
are indigenous to Greece. As Natasha Drosou Lemos has succinctly put it: “For the
Romanians the Vlachs are simply Romanians in the wrong place, while official
Greece considers them to be Latinized Greeks” (Drosou 2010).41 It seems to me that
both claims are equally unproven.
Most of Nikolaidis’ book is taken up by an alphabetical list of Aromanian words, each
with its proposed etymology and its semantic equivalent in Romanian. On the basis of
the Aromanian and Romanian words included in his dictionary, the author calculates
that more than 50% of the Aromanian vocabulary is of Greek origin, whereas a little
over a third is from Latin. By contrast, according to his calculations, more than half of
the Romanian vocabulary is of Latin origin, whereas only just over 10% is from
Like Tsioulkas’ book, Nikolaidis’ dictionary has been republished in more recent
times, in this case in 1999 (Nikolaidis 1999). In addition, Nikolaidis’ proposals for
Ancient Greek etyma of two particular Aromanian words have been repeatedly – and
unquestioningly – recycled by Greek nationalist linguists in support of their argument
Nikolaidis treats these Greek influences as evidence that the Vlach and Romanian languages are
independently descended from Latin, and that they are therefore related to each other in the same way
as Western European Romance languages such as French, Italian and Spanish are related to each other.
His argument is significantly undermined by the fact that in this and other such lists he includes words
and suffixes (supposedly derived from Ancient Greek) that exist in both Aromanian and Romanian.
With reference to suffixes, he claims that the Aromanian adjectival suffix –escu and the feminine noun
suffix –iasă are from Greek –ίσκος and –ισσα respectively (Nikolaidis 1909: xix-xx); yet they exist in
Romanian as well as Aromanian.
“It is probable that the Vlachs are Latinised Greeks” (Andriotis 1966: 66).
Of the 6657 Vlach words recorded in his dictionary, Nikolaidis claims that 2605 are derived from
Latin, 3460 (that is, the largest number) are derived from Greek and 185 from Slavic. He contrasts these
figures with the Romanian equivalents, of which 3562 are from Latin, 685 from Greek and 1165 from
Slavic (Nikolaidis 1909: xxiv). His figures for the Romanian words ignore the efforts of the purist
movement in Romania to purge Romanian of foreign words – an effort that led to a situation in which
the proportion of Latin words in Romanian increased.

that the Vlachs were originally Greeks. One of these two contentious words is údzâre
‘‘udder’’ (Romanian uger), which Nikolaidis derives from Ancient Greek οὖθαρ,
while Romanian etymologists, probably rightly, derive it from Lat. uber.43 The other
is urmă ‘‘footprint, track, trace’’. Nikolaidis rightly says that this word exists in both
Vlach and Romanian and derives it from Ancient Greek ὀσμή ‘smell, scent’
(Nikolaidis 1909: xii).44 However, he does not mention that a cognate word (orma)
exists in Italian with the same meaning (‘‘footprint, track, trace’’). The Romanian,
Aromanian and Italian words must all come from a Late Latin word, which may have
been borrowed from Greek. It is difficult to see how a word of possible Ancient
Greek origin that exists in Romanian, Aromanian and Italian can tell us anything
specific about the nature of the Aromanian language, let alone provide any indication
of the racial or geographical origin of those who speak it.
One of the most curious modern uses of linguistics to prove the Greekness of the
Vlachs is the entry for the word Vlachos in the bestselling and supposedly
authoritative Modern Greek dictionary by Georgios Babiniotis, who served as
professor of linguistics and rector of Athens University (Babiniotis 1998).45 The entry
for Vlachos begins:
Vlachos (with capital letter) bilingual Greek [Ellinas] who speaks Vlach (vlachika).
It continues:
Contrary to what foreign interests and political expediencies have formerly attempted
to impose […], today scientific research has established the truth, which is widely
accepted. The Vlachs […], Greeks [Ellines] by descent and consciousness, are Greek
herdsmen and livestock breeders (in Central Macedonia, Thessaly, Aetoloakarnania)
who, side-by-side with Greek, speak a dialect descended from Latin […]. Their
linguistic (not ethnological!) kinship with the Romanians is due to the fact that both
Aromanian and Romanian go back to the same linguistic source, [namely] Eastern or
Balkan Latin. Linguistically Latinized Greeks, the Vlachs spoke [=began to speak]
Aromanian, with strong influence from Ancient Greek […].
Among the first things one notices in this definition is the fact that the word
“Greek” is used no less than six times. Another salient feature is that the
lexicographer implies that even Vlachs who have never lived in the Greek state are
Greeks too. A third one is the conflation of “descent” with “consciousness”. But the
aspect I want to focus on here is what I call the “argument from bilingualism”. The
argument from bilingualism is similar to the claim (made by Boukouvalas about
Macedonian) that a certain language is of “mixed” origin. In each case, the speakers
are alleged not to speak a single, distinct language, but to be split between two or
more languages. Greek nationalist linguists have used the Greek element in this
mixture as a handle with which to drag these populations conceptually away from the
other elements in their language into a totally Greek linguistic arena. Besides, while it
is true that the Vlachs employed Greek as their language of culture (education and

Koltsidas (1993 [1976]) probably took these examples from Nikolaidis (1907). The same two
examples are given by Babiniotis (1998), who misspells both of them. The etymology uger < uber is in
Cioranescu (1966), following Puscariu and Tiktin, who suggest that the unusual change from b > g is
influenced by a suge ‘to suck’. It is an Indo-European word (*udhr-): cf. Eng. udder.
Nikolaidis attributes this etymology to Ovide Densusianu. Densusianu writes: “Ce mot doit sans
doute être le grec ὀσμή “odeur”, quoique la presence de l’r pour s fasse quelques difficultés. [… ] On
peut toutefois admettre que ὀσμή a pénétré en latin avec σ changé en ρ par suite d’une pronunciation
dialectale” (Densusianu 1901: 201). Professor Martin Maiden (e-mail dated 25 May 2006) tells me that
the connection between smell/scent and track/trace is probably due to hunting with dogs.
For more details about Babiniotis’ definition of Vlachos see Mackridge 2007/8.

written communication), this does not mean that all of them had always been
bilingual, as it has been claimed.
The argument runs like this: (1) the Vlachs, Albanians and Slavophones who
live on Greek territory are bilingual; (2) Greek is their first language and the other
their second. The terms “first” and “second” language are then used in two different
ways. In one sense, as a community, they historically spoke Greek first, then at some
stage in their history they were obliged to learn the other language because of their
daily intercourse with native speakers of the other language. In the other sense, when
nationalist scholars call a speaker’s mother tongue their “second language” they really
mean “secondary language”, i.e. not their language of education, written culture and
communication with the Greek population as a whole, but their language of informal,
intimate oral communication within their family and their enclosed linguistic

3. Conclusion
In this paper I have discussed two instances in which schoolteachers from the
Ottoman Empire – that is, from outside the Greek state – used linguistic means in
order to try to prove that speakers of other languages were Greek in origin, or at least
by influence. The case of Nikolaidis (a native speaker of Aromanian) is an indication
of the high value accorded to Greek cultural capital as a source of self-esteem for
individuals and communities in the Balkans: Nikolaidis and their like preferred to see
themselves as heirs to the glorious heritage of the Ancient Hellenes than to the history
and culture of the medieval Vlachs or Bulgarians.
These instances are part of a developing process in which speakers of minority
languages in twentieth-century Greece have often adopted one of two discursive
strategies in order to construct and express their communal identity: either they have
denied, rejected and suppressed their otherness, including their mother tongue, in
order to become assimilated into the monolingual Greek-speaking majority (and in
some cases have tried to persuade others to do the same), or they have proudly
proclaimed that, despite possessing an apparently different mother tongue, they are
just as Greek as the majority of Greek-speakers – if not more so.

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6. Aspects of Greek “Myths” related to the Albanians during the Age of


Lambros Baltsiotis
Senior investigator in the Greek Ombudsman; associate lecturer, Panteion University
Elias G. Skoulidas
Epirus Institute of Technology

The purpose of the paper is to detect the myths used by Greek nationalism in order to
approach the Albanians, mainly during the period of the expansionism of the Greek
nation-state. The myth of the historical continuity in time and the supposed racial
and linguistic affinity, in combination with political approaches, such as a dual
monarchy, were the most widespread. Later on, and after the establishment of the
Albanian nation-state up to present, such theories existed but were marginalized,
especially during the Cold War era, although these myths seem to have an amazing
endurance and ability of modification.
Keywords: Greek myths, Myth of common origin, Myth of common language,
Pelasgian theories, Greek nationalism, Albanians, Arvanites

One of the key elements to define a nation’s identity is the discussion involving
constructed representations of the national ‘‘self’’ and the ‘‘other’’ (Verdery, 1995:
xvi). Myths are used by collectivities, such as nations, to establish their own existence
(Schöpflin 1997: 19; Smith 1999).
In our case, the newly-established Greek state, as it occurred in the early 19th
century, was based on a national ideology at the center of which was the internalized
image that the westerners had built for modern Greeks. It seems that during the 19th
century, as the west Europeans doubted the racial linkage of the Greeks of antiquity
with the modern Greeks, the latter felt obliged to assert their noble past. In a way, this
assertion was perhaps the only “tie” which could link the poor, illiterate and to a
certain extent Albanian speaking peasants of the new born state with the “civilized
Although the East was not the cradle of Romanticism (and of relevant racial
theories that derive from it), this context was easily adopted and internalized by local
nationalisms and prevailed in the wider Balkan region. The numerous Albanians
inhabiting the territory of the Greek state were not considered to be a major issue for
the newborn Kingdom of Greece. All of them were Orthodox Christians and thus,
they belonged to the community of Romioi. They perceived themselves as part of the
Rum community which upraised against the Ottomans, as Greeks. Furthermore, there
was no territorial proximity with the areas where Muslim Albanians mainly lived
which could be seen as a threat to their assumed identity. However, the concern that
this “different” Orthodox population could be a point of disconnection with the noble

background of ancient Greece can be traced back even to the time of Greek
As a consequence, the theories which developed in the West about the origin
of the Albanians and their language were embraced by the Greek élites.47 The reason
for this espousal was that they served well the idea that all the people of the new
Kingdom had an ancient and noble origin. As this procedure was described
“Albanians were solemnly accepted in the Greek history” (Skopetea 1988: 188). This
conception was not so much useful for the Albanians of Greece as for the country’s
image outside.
But the initial use of these theories was soon to be overcome in importance.
When the idea of the expansion of the Greek state appeared during the 1840s, the
issue that it raised was related to the attitude the state had to keep towards the
populations of other religions or races, most of all the Albanian populations, mainly
Muslims, Sunnis or Bektashis, who lived in the vilayets of western Balkan peninsula.
Despite the fact that the Albanian Muslims participated in the structure of the
Ottoman empire, as high-ranking or low-ranking officials or ordinary soldiers, the
Greek proposals circumvented the religious diversity and attempted to approach the
Albanians by addressing the Ottoman period as something short-lived, from which the
Albanians would be exempted as a race. 48 It was the Berlin Congress and the
appearance of Albanian nationalism that alerted the Greeks and directed them to focus
on this issue of common origin and language.
Consequently, the Greek approach intended to demonstrate the affinity of the
two peoples against another increasing factor, the Slavic element. The anti-Slavic
feelings of the Greek society at certain times resulted in the approach of the Albanians
as a different racial group, which “was in danger” by the Slavic factor and therefore,
it had to come into contact with the Greeks. In the above mentioned ways, the
historical myths were used as boundary-defining mechanisms (Kolstǿ 2005: 16-34).
Verbal patterns related with the Greek-Albanian affinity can be distinguished
in two types, although the boundaries are not always clear and the overlaps between
them are usual:
A. The myth of the common historical continuity in time. This effort
“reinvents” the continuity from antiquity and uses that with multiple variations one
(Pelasgians) or later another (Illyrians) pre-Greek or ancient people, “real” or possibly
unreal, in order to prove the concept of common origin and therefore their common
fate in space, since antiquity and well before the existence of Ottomans. At around the
mid 1840s and the 1850s the Pelasgian and Illyrian theories of Albanians’ origin
disseminated (Skendi 1967: 114-115), although they had appeared in an earlier
The notion of common Greek-Albanian ancestry had been predominant, in
many variations, since the mid 1850s, and from very early on it penetrated the
ideology of the Greek élites, as can be illustrated by the references made to it in the
Greek newspapers of the era. Hence it was “scientifically” argued, or even in that
A. Coraïs, Αλληλογραφία, t. Δ΄ (ΙV), Όμιλος Μελέτης του Ελληνικού Διαφωτισμού, Athens 1982,
pp. 309-310.
The works of Johann Georg von Hahn, published in the year 1854, would have great influence,
boosting the widespread of these theories.
This racial inclusion of the Albanians to the Greek nation still remains a unique case. There are no
other important cases in which the religious affiliation was untied of the Greek imagined community
(Baltsiotis 2004, 2012).
For early Pelasgian theories and the Albanians see the Geography of Malte-Brun and some years
later the writings of Giuseppe Crispi (1831) and Girolamo de Rada (1840 or 1841).

manner proven, that Albanians’ origins could be traced back to antiquity. Of course,
there were many others that followed containing variations of the basic argument of
each one of these primary theories.50 Geographers such as Elysée Reclus publicized
to the West the common ancestry of Greeks and Albanians,51 arguing that they were
derived from the Pelasgians, while some years earlier, the future Italian Prime
Minister, Fransesco Crispi, an Arbëresh (Albanian of South Italy) himself, was
arguing to the Greek audience about the ancient roots of Albanians and their relation
with the Greeks. 52
This way, the integration of the Albanians with the Greeks appeared as a
natural phenomenon, since it was their assumed common racial origin that would
guide them to their union. As a result, although later on all these ideas were aiming at
the emerging new Albanian nationalism, they were adopted, or at least aspects of
them were promoted, by many leading figures of Albanian nationalism (Clayer 2007:
passim; Embirikos 2002: 20-74,). The idea of an indigenous and historic Albanian
people fascinated the Albanian nationalists as much as it did the Greeks, and by using
theories like the aforementioned, they developed the Albanian narrative of their noble
In 1899, under the sponsorship of the Greek nationalistic society
“Hellenismos” of Neoklis Kazazis, was published the “Proclamation for Arvanites
brothers of Arvanitia-[Προκήρυξη του Αρβανίτικου Συνδέσμου της Αθήνας προς
τους αδερφούς Αρβανίτες της Αρβανιτιάς]. This proclamation, as an instrumental
dimension of such a type of political discourse was written in a moderate variation of
demotiki (spoken language), hence included the terms Arvanites and Arvanitia instead
of the form Alvanoi and Alvania (Baltsiotis & Embirikos 2007), is the most well
known published propaganda document which elaborates on the common origin and
fate of the two peoples. Signed by three imaginary descendents of Souliotic leading
clans (Sehou, Botsaris, Tzavellas), the proclamation concludes with the moto “Blood
is thicker than water” [το αίμα νερό δε γίνεται].53
A significant number of Greek intellectuals wrote about Greeks, Albanians
and the Pelasgian theories (Embirikos 2002), e.g. from Thomas Paschidis in 1879 up
to L.M. Melas in 1902. Michail Chrysohoou in 1891 in one of his memoranda to the
Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs shows in a vivid way the Greek intentions: “We
should consider Albanians as Greeks and of same race and demonstrate it by any
means” (Vouri 1994: 204). Christos Christovasilis a native of Ioannina, in various
articles and books, tried to describe the different populations in Epirus and their
friendly feelings towards the Greek state. Using a variation of these ideas, and
incorporating the religious affiliation, in a similar way that P. Aravantinos did, he
distinguishes the Albanian Christians (Ελληνοαλβανοί), who had Greek
“consciousness and common national and religious aspirations” with Hellenism. The
fluidity of his conceptions can be seen in another of his works, where he speaks of
three Christian branches and one Greek idea (Greeks / Greek Vlachs / Greek

For Albanians as descendants of the Pelasgian Greeks in the Greek discourse see inter alia Koulouri
1988: 202 and Gounaris 2007: 308. For further information related to the existence of the Pelasgians in
the Greek genealogical myth see Gounaris 2006.
Reclus (1875), carte n. 5.
Inter alia see Embirikos 2002: 68.
According to the Proclamation: “the history tells us that the Greeks are descendants of the
Pelasgians-our grandparents, that Greeks and Albanians during the Byzantine period had one religion,
one kingdom, one homeland, that Skanderbeg spoke both Albanian [Arvanitika in the text] and Greek,
and wrote the Greek language like a Greek, and that Greece as we know it today is a result of both of
them [Greeks and Albanians]” (“Proclamation” 1899: 198).

(Christian) Albanians). His views clearly belong to the framework of inquiries of the
Greek national movement, in order to incorporate in the ‘‘national core’’ populations
‘‘speaking other languages’’. The national perspective is obvious. He wrote about
Pelasgian origin: “In many ways the Albanian struggle interests us the Greeks, as a
struggle of a blood related race, i.e. Pelasgian, from which the Hellenism that
enlightens the world was aroused. Hellenism and Albanianism have the same origin”
(Christovasilis 1900: 256-257).
B. The affinity of the two languages, Greek and Albanian. Although measures
against the preservation of the Albanian language in the Greek territory was taken
immediately after the establishment of the new state, there was no way in reality of
hiding the fact of the existence of this community, as one out of five and possibly four
citizens of the population spoke Albanian (Baltsiotis 2002).
A consequence of the theories on the racial origins of the two peoples in
antiquity was the idea that there was a link between their languages in antiquity as
well and therefore, that their close relation could be traced, since the Albanian
language was connected with the language spoken by the Pelasgians and/or the
Illyrians. In the context of the construction of the Indo-European theories, it appeared
an attempt through the etymology of the words or common linguistic formulas to
determine the linguistic affinity of the two languages, and thus, to establish the
community of the two peoples since antiquity and far from the national interests of
the 19th century: Nationalism as an unchanged “vehicle” of continuity and preexisting
of modern times is still the interpretative scheme. As it was stressed, when describing
the ‘‘imagined community’’ of a nation we have to deal with stereotypes, close to
national poetics, which is labeled as mythistorical (Aleksić 2007: 1).
In fact, up until the creation of the Albanian state, one nationalism was feeding
the other with arguments concerning the historical past of the Albanians and the roots
of their language. The inclusion of the Albanians in what was called Pelasgian
Hellenism, was accomplished with the common language origin theory of the two
peoples. The historical roots of the Albanian language and the common past with
ancient Greeks and their language was a desideratum, so many theories were created
on the basis of this idea. Even in 1903, an important figure of Greek nationalism, and
obviously an Albanian-speaker himself, Loukas Bellos from Thiva, wrote on the
origins of the Albanian language, describing that the third of the living Greek dialects
was the Albanian (Bellos 1903).54
The pre-scientific linguistics and especially etymology turned out to be the
most useful tool in this process. There were moderate approaches like Christovasilis’
one: The Greek word for sun and the ancient Greek goddesses Athena and Aphrodite
are traced in Albanian also (Christovasilis 1900: 256-257). But even much more
generalized like Thomopoulos’ one as late as in year 1912.55 Panayotis Koupitoris, a
prominent Arvanitis from Hydra, some thirty years before had already classified the
Albanian language as Pelasgian, “elder sister of the Greek and Latin” (Koupitoris
1879). Leon Leondiou, doctor of law and member of an association interested in the
“Albanian union” in Athens, writes about an exact match between the two languages
(Leondiou 1897).

The second one was Tsakonika.
The title of the book is quite indicative: “Πελασγικά, ήτοι περί της γλώσσης των Πελασγών. Αρχαίαι
πελασγικαί επιγραφαί Λήμνου, Κρήτης, Λυκικαί, Καρικαί, Ετρουσσκικαί, Χετιτικαί ερμηνευόμενοι δια
της σημερινής πελασγικής αλβανικής και της ελληνικής”.

In contrast to the language, the different religion, Islam, of the majority of

Albanians is understated, as it does not enable them to be included in a shared future
with Christians of the Greek kingdom.
Myths such as the ones mentioned, which were developed at that period, and
many others related to them, some of them of major importance, e.g. the ones dealing
with the assumed religious indifference and tolerance of the Albanians, others of
minor, e.g. the ones regarding the disinclination of the Albanians to adopt Islamic
doctrines for women, played a significant role in the emergence of Albanian
nationalism and are still dominant in Albania today, even in Academia.
As we mentioned before, all these theories were used much less to justify the
presence of so many Albanians in the small Kingdom of Greece. They were utilized
to persuade the Albanians living in the Ottoman empire of their common fate with the
Greeks under the wings of Hellenism. As it is set, national myths can be seen as
socially grounded tools used in a network of power relations, as well (Bouchard
But it was Paparrigopoulos who developed the idea of the Greek expansion
policy and the aspirations of the Greeks in the Balkans. As back as 1850 he claimed,
rather focusing on the Albanians of Greece, that “two races reside in Greece, the
Greek and the Albanian” but the Albanians do not constitute a distinct nation [έθνος],
so consequently should be assimilated by the Greeks (Paparrigopoulos 1850: 201).
This quotation «introduced» the idea of the common fate of the two races, which was
later developed and used to certain “conciliation” attempts of the Greek state with
some Albanian leaders lasting more than thirty years.56 The common fate notion was
often linked to common ancestry ideas we mentioned, but this was not always the
case. Assimilation of Albanians to the Greek civilization was the desideratum from
the Greek side, under the idea of hellenization [εξελληνισμός] which had already
appeared in the mid 19th century. In fact, literacy [αλφαβητισμός] was the weapon
which, it was supposed, would turn to Greek everyone with a different language and
“culture” (Sigalas 2001).
The preceding factors are associated with the idea of creation of a single
statehood, which was served by the ideological myths. It was not only the racial and
linguistic affinities that were used in that perspective. Additionally, we find the claims
that Greeks and Albanians belong to two different races but constitute, or should
constitute, a nation and that the best perspective for the latter is the establishment of a
dual Greek-Albanian monarchy according to the Austrian-Hungarian model, in which
the Albanians, especially the Muslims, will have a distinct status. These ideas,
although in fact fabricated to match cultural inferiority of Albanians, stand quite apart
from the racial and subsequently linguistic affinity theories we mentioned before. The
future perspective of the Albanians should be in coherence with the Greek state
options in the area. A quite indicative trace of these ideas lay in the “Archive of
Charilaos Trikoupis”, who served as Prime Minister of Greece many times the last
quarter of the 19th century: Two draft Constitutions, dated ca. 1880, in which a
sovereign common state is provided but Albania will constitute a “separate entity”
[“ιδίαν προνομιούχον επαρχίαν’’] according to the first draft or will be governed in a
similar to the Austro-Hungarian way according to the second draft.57
Close to the notion that the political union of Greece and Albania was
desirable, there was the view that Albania could not constitute itself a state entity
Inter alia see Sfetas 2006.
L. Embirikos who presented these drafts concludes that the author of the drafts might be an Albanian
(Embirikos 2002: 55-56). For the text of the drafts see ibid: 302-320.

(Gounaris 2006; Skoulidas 2013). Ch. Christovasilis wrote (1900: 262-263),

“Although the Albanians give their consent to the Turkish monarchy, if they accept a
political union with the Greek kingdom -following the Austrian-Hungarian or
Norway-Sweden model-, they will maintain their language, national costumes,
customs and traditions. By saying political union of Greece and Albania we mean
common politics and common defense of the Greek-Albanian kingdom by the joined
Greek-Albanian army”. N. Kazazis (1907: 66) writes on the same subject and states
that the two peoples will have full autonomy and self-government. The boundaries of
what Albania is and the territories to be included were often unclear, a balance
between politics and geography (Skoulidas: 2012).
Serving the above perspective, there are many views that promote common
struggles of Greeks and Albanians in the past, especially during the Middle Ages, in
which it is emphasized the bravery and the martial ability of Albanian warriors:
Christovassilis wrote “the History enlightens us on the national solidarity between the
Greek and Albanian race, from Pyrrhus to Skanderbeg and Ali Pasha of Tepelena”
(Christovasilis 1900: 256-257). Skanderbeg in particular integrated in the Greek national
narrative during the 19th century. 58 This is in accordance with Hroch’s theory on national
movements and the construction and use of the medieval past (Hroch 1996: 85-87).
Later on, the significance of the Albanians in the Greek discourse was
gradually marginalized, especially after 1913 when the Albanian state established.
But, tracking various documents, we observed that all those ideas were still part of an
underground discourse of the Greek public administration and politics during the
Interwar period. The more relaxed behavior towards the Muslim Albanians of
Northern Greece and the efforts of any Greek-Albanian rapprochement, were
camouflaged under the common origin and the notion of “obligation” that spring up
from that origin for the two nations (Baltsiotis 2010). As it is stressed, myths are
usually more persistent than material factors (Armstrong 1982: 9).
Greeks had shifted, once and never again, from the notion of the
religious/millet model of national inclusion to one of ancestral origin at the third
quarter of the 19th century, but in the Interwar period all these ideas were quickly
marginalized: Greek orthodox denomination reappeared as the crucial –and in most
cases-the unique national inclusion marker.
The Question of Northern Epirus, on the other hand, is the driving force
behind a capsized theory that developed gradually from the 1910s. The fundamental
idea already existed: Albanians cannot form a nation as their origins are quite
different, the orthodox being descendants of the ancient Greeks or Illyrians or
Pelasgians etc, the rest of them being bastardized.59 Even the language of Christian
Orthodox Albanians is different, being “albanised’’ Greek. In an attempt to persuade
the Albanian speaking Christian Orthodox of the unstable new Albanian state that
they were Greeks, new arguments appeared. As the rest of the Albanians seemed to be
lost for good to Hellenism, and the Albanian Christian Οrthodox Church autocephaly
issue was under negotiation, a new discourse appeared aiming at the Christian
Orthodox Albanians and the Aromanians/Vlachs of Albania.
These two prima fasciae contradictory discourses were alternatively used
during the Interwar period, a striking example being the Muslim Chams. At the same
time they could be brothers from a common origin speaking albanised Greek or Turks

See Gounaris, 2006 and Jochalas 1975. Main stream Greek historiographers later excluded
Skanderbeg from the Greek medieval lineage.
Inter alia see Michail-Dede 1987.

speaking albanised Turkish. The day before the break out of WWII all these ideas had
been further marginalized.
A point that is out of the discussion of this paper is the limited reappearance of
these theories during the Cold War and Post Cold War Era: Mainly in the Arvanitika
speaking communities of Southern Greece (Arvanites) during the 1980s. Their
discourse, in order to emphasize the ancient and noble past of the Arvanites of Greece
adopted many of the 19th century arguments by incorporating them into Greek
nationalism, sometimes with a racial concept (Baltsiotis 2003-2004). Secondly,
during the 1990s and the reinforcement of the Greek nationalistic discourse but also
afterwards when the discourse on the Greek-Albanian rapprochement appears once
more. These ideas served as a remedy to the Greek nationalism and the scorn of the
Albanian immigrants residing in Greece. 60 Finally, the Greek far-right and
nationalistic groups maintain some of these ideas, as the Greek origin of Skenderbeg
and the Greek origin of some –if not all- of the Albanians.61
In conclusion, race related theories (of common origin, of common language
etc.) emerged during the Age of Nationalism, seem to have an amazing endurance
and ability of modification, at least in this case, as they appear and reappear to serve
different “myths” in the construction of collective identities.

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7. Fear and Desire: Foreign women in Bulgarian National Mythology

Nikolay Aretov
Institute for Literature, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

The paper deals with some peculiar cases in Bulgarian literature from 19th century,
where foreign women (mostly Greek and Jewish, later Turkish) were an important
element of the plot. The attitude towards them was ambivalent: generally they were
presented as attractive but malicious figures bringing bad fortune to their husbands
and to Bulgaria. Some comparisons between representations of foreign men (mostly
Greek and Muslim, later Russian) and women (both of them enemies) and between
foreign and ‘‘own’’ women in national mythology are offered, leading to some
clarifying of the notion of national mythology.
Keywords: Bulgarian literature, nationalism, national mythology, matrimonial rules,
woman, man, own, alien

Plots and figures associated with major historic events are only some of the elements
of national mythology, maybe the most direct but hardly the most widespread. Along
with them there are also mythical plots that indirectly and in parabolic manner narrate
about our days or recent past or about some chronologically indefinite time, or about
some recurrent events. Female figures occupy an important place in both historical
and chronologically uncertain myths. In each of these cases, they are loaded with
different emotions, a generally ambivalent knot of desire and fear, and a primordial
male reaction known from classical mythology. In the new mythological secondary
structures that all nationalisms are forging, new variations of old (archetypes) figures
get new meanings, which are in fact updated versions of old ones. Female figures are
no exception. Nationalist mythologies actively uses own versions of the mother
(Mother goddess), the seductress, the innocent victim, the beauty that must be won
through numerous obstacles, etc. Each of these options is associated with typical,
largely universal mythical plots, in which different female figures generally have their
place. Both male and female mythical figures are clearly distinguished as ‘‘our’’ and
‘‘foreign’’. Another issue is that the category “our” envelopes different things and it
changes over time, and according the mythical system, from which it is part of. One
of the major differences is that the male god figure that came from somewhere, but
nevertheless is seen as ‘‘ours’’ has no female counterparts.
Within the secondary mythology of cultural nationalism the idea that such
figures are cultural and social constructions stands clear and their relations with racial
and ethnic stereotypes is unambiguous. This topic has long been a subject of study
from different perspectives. (Cf. Nagel 2000: 107–133; Nagel 2001: 123–139)
A significant part of the mythical stories related to what Claude Lévi-Strauss
named exchange (échange) of women that formed the basis of his so-called Alliance
Theory (or General Theory of Exchanges) (Théorie de l'alliance ou Théorie générale
de l'échange). (Cf. Lévi-Strauss 1949; Lévi-Strauss 1962.) This process was still
active in Early-modern and Modern times, but in a slightly different appearance. That

is why I have tried to lance the notion ‘‘economics of women’’ 62 at its place to
designate the movement of women into a community which is not their “own”. This
could happen as a result of violence or voluntary, to be considered as deprivation or
indulgence by the “own” community; it can or cannot be experienced as personal
tragedy and so on. The violence could be against the community or against the
particular person. The process could be governed by the ‘demand and supply’ model;
at one time a community may experience a shortage of women as marriage partners
and the need to fill the gap with imports from outside, etc. All this variations could
bear axiological and mythological meaning.
Every community has its matrimonial rules describing some marriages as
permitted, desirable, intolerable or forbidden. These rules have to do with the
definition of the ‘own’ an ‘alien’ and with the inner differentiation of the ‘own’ and
their basis is the question what is beneficial for the community. These rules are
imposed by different means; one of them (very important when nation-state and its
legislation were still not established) was oral tradition and literature.
The exchange of women could be examined also as a part of a more individual
sphere of matrimonial and sexual relations. Not only the community as a whole but
also the individual human being (male or female) may experience difficulties in
obtaining a marriage (sexual) partner; this could direct him or her towards not-typical
object or towards distortion of the norm (including this part of it that forbids relations
with close relatives). This kind of relations is less substantial in the context of national
mythology, they gain interest in the context of Romanticism and later. In fact,
homosexual plots are almost missing in Bulgarian literature and other texts from
Early-modern times.
The emergence of Bulgarian nationalism finds the long imposed institution of
Christian marriage, which is formally clear, but somewhat shaken at the time system
of rules. It followed the canons of the Orthodox Church, which determined the
eligibility of marriage according to the faith and the absence of a degree of kinship.
Undoubtedly there were some unwritten social requirements that defined some links
as unacceptable or unequal. Ecclesiastical rule seems to authorize a wide range of
eligible partners - it is sufficient that potential partners were Orthodox and not close
relatives; traditional rules were hardly determining all Orthodox, regardless of their
ethnicity, as equally suitable partners. For the purpose of this paper there is no need to
enter into details such as permissible and recommended age for marriage, attitudes
toward priests and monks (nuns) as marital and sexual partners, etc. Broadly
speaking, relatively strong tensions between the two systems (traditional and
Christian) could probably relate to the admissibility of premarital (to a lesser extent -
of extramarital) relationship, and the rules that govern the dissolution of marriage, the
options (and obligations for) conclusion of a subsequent marriage after the death of
one of the spouses, etc.
Due to the general weakening of the church as an institution, on the one hand,
and the shaken traditional norms under the pressure of modernization, on the other,
both regulations are loose. (Cf. Тодорова 1991: 48-54.) Plenty of texts – journalistic,
archive documents, fiction – report on the weakening of the norm. On the other hand,
as a rule, narrations (mythical, fictional, even folklore – ‘beautiful maiden has no
family’) are more inclined to present the breaking of the norm. Narrations from the
age of early nationalism (not only those of them that have something to do with its
emerging or imposing it) were oriented toward different plots that were connected to

In other contexts this notion has different meaning. Cf. for example: Francine (2010).

the matrimonial (and sexual) norm and its trespassing. Two types of authors could be
distinguished. One was conservative and inclined to idealize the existing rules (for
example Iliya Bluskov), the other was more modern, liberal, and leftist in a certain
way, and they preferred to problematize the same rules. This kind of problematization
that manifested itself most openly in some works of Lyuben Karavelov took more
radical forms in journalism and was not so eminent in fiction.
The main violation of the norm that stood in the focus of the attention of
nationalism was the marriage or sexual relationship with a representative of a foreign
ethnicity. Plots about marriage or contact with a partner, inappropriate on ideological
or social grounds, were a more recent invention.
Another violation typical for the nationalistic literature was related not so
much with the norm and its breaking, but with the will of the persons that personify it
- Turkish rulers and Greek clergy. The authors like Sophronius from Vratsa (Life and
Sufferning) and Priest Mincho Kunchev and other texts and documents from 18th and
19th centuries willingly reported such cases. Generally speaking, the will of the ruler
was portrayed as tyrannical and mercenary, so a rejection was viewed positively.
Close to them were numerous narratives about the sexual sins of Greek clerics
presented as negative. (As we all know perfectly well negative presentation of sin is
not obligatory for literature of any time).
As a preliminary and much generalized summary one could maintain the
following: Bulgarian national mythology seems to depart from the dominant religious
rule (under which, with few exceptions, all Orthodox were an endogamous group) and
partially returned to the traditional rule, claiming that potential partners should be
sought within “our” ethnicity. (The topic of marriage relations with other Orthodox
Slavs is interesting but not so widespread in folklore and literature.63 One curious case
presented the marriage of Lyuben Karavelov with a Serb woman - Natalia, this fact
was used by his opponents as a ground for their critics.) Considering the entire ethnic
community as an endogamous group was not simply a return to tradition, which had
also other requirements. It was an essential element of the ideology and mythology of
nationalism, which was deliberately brought to the fore.
The variety of plots related to the economics of women is significant. It can be
presented schematically as follows:
1. Alien man and “our” woman.
1.1. Abduction (that could be successful or not). It is estimated negatively and
generates efforts to rescue the victim or to revenge for it; they could also be
successful or not.
1.2. Seduction.
1.2.1. Alien man tries to seduce “our” woman. The denouement may be stiff
denial, marriage, affair (rape) and subsequent abandonment. Most often these plots
end in death (suicide) of the woman, but there is also an option the woman to re-join
her community; this situation is charged with tension.
1.2.2. In theory, the “our” woman can seduce alien man. Her actions may be
motivated by selfishness or reasons, evaluated positively (for example, saving
someone “own”, patriotism, etc.).
1.3. Love affair that could be unhappy (more often) and to end in separation or

For two curious cases see: Аретов (2008: 96-118). First of them, presented by Zakhary Stoyanov's
famous Notes on Bulgarian Uprisings was from the time of the April Uprising and depicted a
Bulgarian woman, married to Dalmatian man and perceived as "foreign." The second was present in
several texts, and illustrated the attitude of Bulgarian society from the first decade after Liberation
(1878) to Klotilda Tzvetishich, a Croatian woman from Zagreb.

death. Such cases are widespread in folklore, three popular instances are the legend of
Vladimir and Kosara, and the legend about Emperor Baldwin I of Constantinople as
prisoner in Turnovo, The Peach Thief (1948) - a novel by Emiliyan Stanev). Rarely
the happy ending is also possible.
All the above mentioned cases represent the plot about the foreign captive who has
an affair with local woman. This plot has several variations.
1.4. The marriage of an “own” woman (princess) with foreigner man often has
dynastic or political motivation. The most popular Bulgarian instance is the folk song
and other texts about Mara White Bulgarian64 that has been given to Sultan Murad II.
1.5. Alien man can marry “our” woman on pragmatic ground and this is not always
seen as something definitely negative – the foreigner may have obtained the
2. “Our” man and alien woman.
2.1. Abduction. As a general rule it is considered positively, but can have negative
2.2. Seduction.
2.2.1. More often the foreign woman seduces the man. Usually, her motives are
mercenary but in theory they could be noble. In a sense, the alien seductress is
prolongation of and performs the functions of the demonic female figures, well-
known in every mythology.
2.2.2. In theory, it is possible “our” man to seduce alien woman with various
2.3. Love. (See above.)
2.4. Marriage
2.4.1. Marriage between ‘our” man and foreign woman. It is usually resulting of
dynastic or political arrangements and, as a rule, the effects are negative.
2.4.2. “Our” man could obtain foreign woman, “surplus” for another community,
and this act compensates the shortage of “our” matrimonial options.

Of all these options Bulgarian national mythology (and most other national
mythologies too) select a few: Alien man abducts or seduces “our” woman, infidel
alien woman seduces Bulgarian man; marriage with foreign woman (not by all means
unfaithful) has sorrowful consequences, despite whatever the motives of this alliance
The motive of the abduction of a foreign woman, that normally has great
mythological potential, is not very typical for Bulgarian national mythology or at least
is presented in a weaker position. The plot in which Bulgarian man seduces alien
woman appeared later, or at least was less important during the earlier period. Later it
will develop the powerful myth about the sexual super-potency of the Bulgarian man,
an idea that is not unfamiliar to other ethnicities too. Dynastic marriages and
marriages for political reasons are usually seen as variants of some of the other cases -
giving a woman to a foreign ruler looks like abduction; marriage of “our” ruler for
alien woman - as seduction or malicious conspiracy. Both versions of marriage with
‘‘superfluous’’ woman (own or alien) were not typical for early Bulgarian national

Scholars still argue about the identity of this figure. The dominant version claims that she was Mara
Branković, daughter of Serbian monarch Đurađ Branković. In Bulgarian folklore she is usually sister of
tsar Ivan Shishman of Bulgaria. She had no children, stepmother of Fatih Sultan Mehmet. Cf. Моллов

The variations in which love was involved were common in folklore, in
literature they are relatively new and not only differ from national mythology but
even underneath it. This was the case with some of the very popular and highly
estimated by literary criticism short stories by Yordan Yovkov (1880-1937).
The mythical meaning of the main variations could be traced in several
directions. The transition of an “our” woman in alien grope (as a result of abduction,
seduction, dynastic marriage and even love) present breaking of the rule and taking
away something valuable so all this cases were generalized as abduction and so – as
something bad, that have to be revenged or compensated in one way or another.
Relations between “our” man and foreign woman cause negative
consequences that could be interpreted as spoiling the own blood. This universal
mythical meaning is particularly typical for Bulgarian and Czech national mythology.
(Cf. Драгиева 2005: 276-289). In Bulgarian case it designates the indispensable
reason of the fall of the kingdom under Ottoman rule – a fatal effect of the influence
of Bulgarian queens with foreign blood. This was one of the two main reasons for the
misfortune of Bulgarian state from the view-point of national mythology. The other
one was the lost unity of Balkan Christian nations in the face of the powerful infidel
The identity of the children from mixed marriages and sexual relations with
aliens (abductions included) present substantial problem. This topic has its juridical
regulation in modern states, despite some differences. But there are traditional norms
that existed before modern regulations and even simultaneously with them; these
norms were governed by old mythical believes and, by national mythology, after its
emergence. These three norms (traditional, nationalistic and juridical) do not agree;
they often are in conflict. Generally speaking, traditional norm dominates in folklore
while literature from 19th century should be the reign of national mythology and its
relations with other two norms. Later emerged texts that problematize first
nationalistic and then juridical norms.
The typology of the plots with exchange of women, presented here, is build
mainly on the dichotomy between “our” and alien in ethnic sense. This definitely
doesn’t cover all potential or even existing in real life plots bearing some kind of
communitarian mythical meaning. All other dichotomies generate at least some
similar plots. The “our” (either man or woman) can be defined by social, religious,
confessional, regional or some other token. When the distinction is religious the
conflict is even harder and generates new adventures. The situation of a Christian
woman in a Muslim harem that could be the result of abduction, dynastic marriage or
even love is very productive not only in Bulgarian contexts. (Cf. Zaimova 2007: 155-
168, 212-214)
So analogical plots elaborate the relationship poor and rich (or just between
participants in different social gropes), with person from other village or region (one
very common dichotomy designates highlanders and lowlanders), etc.
One interesting topic is the dynamics, the alternation of different plots. In 19th
century most actual variation was that with abduction of Bulgarian woman by Muslim

The case in which Bulgarian man marries foreign woman and this is result of love and not of
abduction and the woman is “superfluous” for her community is more common in recent times.
Sometimes, it could be presented as seduction (either by the man or by the woman); this interpretation
could emerge simultaneously to the relation, or to later, post-factum. For analysis of contemporary
marriages of Bulgarian men with Polish women. (Cf. Михайлова 2001: с. 445-461. Similar cases
present marriages of Bulgarian men with (most often) Russian women.

(or Greek) man and seductions by pseudo-civilizers (European or Greek man) or

foreign woman (Jewish or Greek). Later plots that had something to do with
minorities became actual, mainly Gypsies (man and women) (Cf. Cartwright 1998:
319-342) and, more generalized, with settled versus migrating persons, including
circus artists (the work of Y. Yovkov again provided interesting instances). From a
global perspective from the time of Romanticism such kind of relations started to gain
positive interpretations that are also presented in Bulgarian literature from late 19th
and the whole 20th century.
The analysis proves that the matrix focused on exchange of women overlaps
with other similar matrixes – the historical one, at first place, with its heroic and
traumatic variation. Moreover, the elements of different mythical structures are
interchangeable; this means that different elements can perform the same function.
The question from where the elite that created national mythology took the
elements (figures and plots) by which, though the mechanics of bricolage, forged the
new structure is substantial. Historical chronicles and narrations and Christian
mythology (Bible, lives of saints, etc) were the main suppliers, but they were
insufficient, above all because common people were not so familiar with them. This
was the reason why folklore (including oral narrations about unusual contemporary
events) was widely used. This was the third main and predictable source for creation
of national mythology. But this source had to be “edited”. (This, by the way is also
truth for history and Christian writings.) This “editing” follows the patterns of other
national mythologies and, not so directly, the universal mythical patterns that govern
primary, classical mythologies. These patterns were appropriated in different ways: in
foreign schools and universities, through reading foreign literature, etc.
Leaning on the key mythical oppositions and not withdrawing the welded
Christian construction the new national mythology re-defined the notions of the
Our/Own and Alien, the main figures and the narrations about them. New variation of
the story about the Age of the ancestors was created – it was a glorious past, of
course, but also had some traumatic elements. This image of the past had its relations
with the historic events but was still sacral. The Pantheon was also changed – new
figures emerged, old ones were re-worked. The group of the Warriors and Heroes was
enlarged, so was the case with the narrations for their illustrious deeds, great victories
and tragic defeats. Key figure in this context was the Resistant against the infidels
(King Marko – ‘Krali Marko’, Skanderbeg, Dracula, Spanish El Sid, etc). Another
key figure is the Founder of the state, booth ancient or modern. The figures of the
Baptizer and the most of the Saints remain but obtain some national features.
Women figures were scarce in early stages of forging Bulgarian national
mythology. They were in the background and did not perform leading functions in the
plots. The main one was the Mother, a personification of motherland and having
something common with the Mother of God. She was not a substantial actant in the
plot but more a speaker that poured out the pain of the people, an instance to which
her sons address. Earlier variations of this figure (Neophit Bozveli, c. 1785-1848)
followed the Biblical tradition, later (Christo Botev) were more close to folklore
imagery. First more important figures of women that were part of elaborated plots
were the abducted maiden and Rayna, Bulgarian Princess (that had two variations,
one of them went back to medieval past, the other was a real person from the 19th
century) (Cf. Aretov 2010: 69-90). There were also some attempts for creation of
some figures of heroic women in folk songs and in the work of the important poet
from that age Petko R. Slaveykov (1827 – 1895). These all were figures of the “our”
that stand side by side with figures of the “other” and entered in relations with them.

Women were also relatively scarce among the aliens. Among them stood out the
Perfidious Beauty, a variation of a universal archetype. She was often accompanied
by an old and ugly evil doer, male or female.
Such figures tend to form coupled and more complex configurations and were
the basis of the mythical plots or muthos (μῦθος). It was not uncommon that
characteristics of several archetypes combined in one figure. But basically these
figures represent archetypes and have their counterparts not only in an abstract notion
of a universal mythology, but also in the Bible and in folklore. The opposite was not
always truth – not all roles and functions, characteristic for the narrations in the Bible
(not to mention folklore) had their counterparts in a particular national mythology.
This opens the door for questions about the obligatory or dispensable nature of a
function or role which I am afraid I could not answer now. For the time being one can
suggest only some cautious generalizations about Bulgarian national mythology,
presented in the literature from 19th century. Focused on victimizing Bulgarian
woman this structure leaves in the background the heroic and bellicose type of
Some conclusions derive from the whole corpus of texts devoted to the
economy of women in Bulgarian national mythology at least from its early stages.
Creators of nationalist ideology and intellectuals in general, people whose voices
reach us, generally did not accept mixed marriages and sexual relations. General
opinion was that they break off parts of the ethnic community, pollute the blood and
lead to misfortune and other bad consequences.
Men, married to “alien” women and their children were exposed to
denationalization. In folklore such men and children should at least pass through
special rituals for purification while women had to be expelled or even killed.
In the opposite case, a Bulgarian woman that had an affair or had married an
alien man, was interpreted as abduction and needed revenge. The fate of a woman that
was abducted and then rescued was quite vague and ambiguous. (Similar case was
presented in Hindu mythology through the destiny of Rama and Sita.) The instance of
love between “our” and “alien” were scarce and emerged latter.

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[Blood, degradation. disgust]

Михайлова, К. (2001) Българинът през погледа на поляците - стереотипи и среща на култури. -
В: Да мислим другото. Образи, стереотипи, кризи. С.: Кралица Маб, с. 445-461. [Bulgarian in
the Polish eyes – stereotypes and cultural meetings]
Моллов, Т. (2000) Някои бележки за песента “Мурад и Мара Бяла българка”. - [Some notes about the song Murad and Mara, white
Bulgarian woman]
Тодорова, О. (1991) Эволюция христианских взглядов на смешанние браки (християн с
мусулманами) в ХV-ХVІІІ вв. – Bulgarian Historical Review, № 1, р. 48-54. [Evolution of Christian
notions on mixed marriages (Christian man with Muslim woman) in 15th – 18th century]

8. Macedon: Communicating the Reality or Myth?

An Interrogation by the Provisions of Franklin Rudolf Ankersmit’s Theory on
Aesthetic Political Representation

Gjorgji Kalinski
National Conservation Centre of Cultural Heritage, NKC – Republic of Macedonia
& University of Jyväskylä, Faculty of Social Sciences and Philosophy – Finland

How can we challenge the rigid and impenetrable constructions of the Balkans’
political culture? Is it possible to engage the other Macedon, into a sort of trans-
culturalism, to constitute instead, an enduring political, as much as functional post-
reality, in relations between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia? How can its
multiple, polyvalent and contradictory facets, be articulated, to form essentially
democratic discourse, and eventually contribute to the integrative post-reality for the
Balkans and Europe?
Keywords: “Macedon”; aesthetic/mimetic political representation; historical

1. Introduction
In his work titled as Aesthetic Politics: Political Philosophy Beyond Fact and Value
(1996), Franklin Rudolf Ankersmit is drawing an interesting parallel, between, what
is in his definition supposed to be an aesthetic political representation on one hand, in
contrast to the mimetic one, on the other. The later, though traditionally being far
more widely accepted within the political theory and practice, still, according to
Ankersmit, when it comes to democratic governance and politics, is the one,
overburdened by romanticist pledges, in addition to being largely incompatible within
the contemporary situational realities and needs.
Simply speaking, the mimetic political representation pictures a political conduct,
sustained within certain replication, and an exact-like attitude of conformism to the
public’s will. Hence, Ankersmit basically argues for the need of rethinking the
conduct of democratic politics and governance, where the homo politicus becomes a
qualitative, centre-stage focus point, relatively independent but empowered enough,
to wage political decisions, rather than being a sole instrumentarium of the elective
democracy and the political hierarchy.
Ankersmit clearly suggests that though rational political beings we can be, we cannot
know practically everything, or have an equally rational, as much as balanced answer
to every political issue in question. The political philosophy and practice unavoidably
go beyond the fact and value – the two components, which are more often than not,
sustained and subjected to the self-centred, and mainly linguistically mediated,
historical narratives rather than to the existing necessities of democratic policy
making 66 . This duality nowadays, in neither way finds it easy to be a subject of
In this context, it is worth considering the relativist-constructivist positions of Hayden White on
history, as an ‘ironic condition’ (1973), as much as Richard Rorty’s pragmatist approach on ‘absolute
truth’ (1999), and the question of inter-subjectiveness. However, while White claims that such
irreducible relativism of knowledge undermines all belief in positive political actions, Ankersmit on the

positivist legitimisation. And since ‘historical truth’ can no longer be credited as an

ultimate, and overwhelmingly sufficient argument in democratic politics making
(even less in its form of meta-groundness), the need for anticipating a political
representation that will be moving the things forward within our fast-paced, post-
modern society, becomes a ‘must’ in its own right.
Hence, assuming the more qualitative approach to democratic policy-making, as of
what Ankersmit portrays an aesthetic political representation, most likely, can be an
imperative for creating, delivering, and realistically sustaining, integrative policies, of
qualitatively improved, democratic conduct.
Or translated within the existing political conditions and relations between Greece and
the Republic of Macedonia over the “Macedon”, it appears, that the political
representation can either stimulate further positive, as much as negative impulses.
And all that depending very much on the question of how it is to be comprehended;
whether as a constant search for integrative political, (and consequently societal)
processes, or as a pale ontological postulate for replicating one’s own ‘absolute truth’.
From these accounts, I am likely to believe that ‘the issue’ in its current format, is not
an issue at all, as much as of what Ankersmit recognises within his perception of the
mimetic theory of political representation, and which by his conviction, is also, not a
theory of political representation at all. Rather, he sees the alternative within the so-
called aesthetic theory of political representation, as an innovative, and productive
approach to managing political relations (and situations), along with the overall
democratic conduct within society. And since there is a growing agreement within the
social sciences field that the representation does not reflect but rather creates,
(Czarniawska specifically on narrative constructions in social sciences, p. 118, 2004),
Ankersmit, further claims that the aesthetic political representation essentially, is all
about bringing a sort of a new ‘additional value’ within the democratic policy making.
Yet, in his own thoughts, it is still to be sufficiently exploited, both theoretically, and
So, how productive and sustainable, could such approach eventually be, regarding the
issue of “Macedon”, and to terms of sensibly overcoming the fears of the both
nations? Where do the political language and paradigm start, and where do they end,
within the flow of the so-called ‘reality’ and ‘myth’? Can the historical constructivist
narrative after all, be a reachable and sustainable category, between the two countries
and nations? Then, is the Balkans in this chapter to be reinvented, or reverted?
I use the term “Macedon” as a rhetorical cast, and with an intention for it being a
neutral deductive construction, i.e., a sort of neologism, thus taking into consideration
(at least most generally, rather than explicitly), both sides’ truths, and given the
contested heritage in question. Indirectly, and within the realpolitik contextualization,
my text opts for addressing the so-called ‘name issue’, that in my view, is to be
sustained within the erga omnes as of the ‘Republic of Macedonia’, with strong
compulsory clauses assuring it is being used as such. I believe, the ‘Republic’ makes
a clear distinction to the “other Macedon”, which as a sort of sub-construction I use
bellow in my text for ‘categorising’ a part of the differential, but yet in my view, a
very common, Balkan heritage. Surely, suchlike stance does not address many further
questions and dilemmas that the social scientists (historians primarily), would likely,
have to be dealing with, and hopefully sooner agree upon. But as for the primary
interest of mine, there stands a political ‘formula’ inspired by the ones of

contrary, appears to the idea of an aesthetic political representation, claiming basically, that the system
of representative democracy, as we have known it for several centuries now, inevitably has to undergo
rather radical changes, and all that, just to come back to its ‘roots’.

Ankersmit’s, for which I suggest, might well suit this problem called ‘the name

2. An Apologia and Antithesis

How the national narratives collided and progressed in the midst of the political
processes over the “Macedon” within the past two decades, is likely to be associated
with what Franklin Rudolf Ankersmit portrays as a theory of mimetic political
representation. In his work (1996), Ankersmit justifies a rather contrary concept, in
terms of the overall democratic thought and conduct, and as of what is to be by his
accounts, a theory of aesthetic political representation. To this end, I am fully aware
that placing the theoretical political discourses over the “Macedon” within a suchlike
subjectivisation on aesthetic politics, could be deemed as an over-ambitious goal, at
least for the time being… However, I will get myself the privilege, in trying to map a
backbone, to what I believe could be a far more qualitative political discourse, than
the one existing in the moment; And all that, in the spirit of connecting the people and
cultures in the Balkans.
Ankersmit comes to terms with the idea that likewise the social, the political
processes are also not, nor it is likely that they will remain being of static, so to say,
pre-arranged nature, and in the role of mostly following the instrumental aspects of
democratic politics within our modernity. Political representation, as it has been
known and conducted for a couple of centuries now, by his accounts, inevitably has to
undergo rather radical changes, and all that, accordingly, to retain to the path, as of
securing an essentially democratic environment, as well as governance. The aesthetic
political representation thus, motivates individual’s subjection to the scope, and the
quality, of the democratic conduct and reality.
Ankersmit notices that the discourse of politics, society, and the state, has moved
between the norm and the fact, resulting thus, in a situational reality that most of the
political conclusions and decisions being reached, proved to be certain projections of
values, rather than actual truths. Political philosophy for its part, retained mostly to its
normative character, explicating its affinity to the rational choice theories.
Concluding this, Ankersmit continues upon the notion that in the aesthetic political
representation, the ethical and normative dimensions are to be reduced to irrelevance.
Hence, and from his point of view, he strongly advocates an aesthetic, in addition to
ethical and normative approach to political theory and practice…
The person represented is never represented completely, but as Ankersmit suggests,
only partially, and most notably, throughout metaphorical constructions, that always
have a specific, mostly a fact-norm oriented projection focus. These metaphorical
constructions consider a very limited, if not only a single aspect of the voter, who is to
be politically represented, (e.g. a citizen of specific country). As a flexible category
however, ‘the fact’, within the political discourse, will always be an emanation of the
available knowledge. Hence, exercising political robustness over the chosen facts, can
certainly, and prospectively, bring only a less productive outcome, affecting mostly,
the shared soc-reality of the lived context and time.
Thus, representation, and within the boundaries of the political, inevitably comes to
terms with, what we understand by democracy, and the capacities for democratic rule
and exchange. And, as it is becoming an ever more vibrant category for measuring the
human development, the democracy is also becoming an ever more diversified model
of social interaction. Pierre Rosanvallon (2008) goes even further by extensively
elaborating this concept as ‘unpolitical democracy’.

Mimetic theory indicates that the political representation should be reflecting as

accurately as possible, the people represented. The representation anticipated as such,
is an exact portrait in miniature of the people at large. The aesthetic theory of
representation, on the contrary, and according to Ankersmit, presupposes a substantial
difference between the representative, and the person being represented. This
difference, is unavoidable in political representation; as unavoidable, as the difference
between a painted portrait of an artist, and the person being portrayed…
And as the artistic representation, implies a certain amount of deliberate distortion of
the ‘objective truth’, that is being artistically represented, the very same ‘objective
truth’, cannot choose the perspective, from which, it is to be represented. It will be
like (and almost unimaginative), making one specific artistic style as obligatory to all
pictorial representation, or otherwise, if using any other style than the specified, shall
mean not to be considered a ‘true artist’ at any cost…
Conclusively, Ankersmit indicates that the mimetic theory of representation cannot be
a theory of representation at all, but on the contrary, a theory against the
representation. And as an issue cannot be an issue, unless perceived, and approached
as such, I claim that the very political settling for the “Macedon”, depends greatly on
the political virtues, to exercise essential democratic capacities, as much as the
courage, by both parties, and in the historically given, integrative momentum.
As a basic argument that Ankersmit claims upon in his theory of aesthetic political
representation, is his conviction that there is always a need, for a certain distance
between the representative and the person being represented. This distance, allows the
representative autonomy to weight the political decisions, rather than becoming, as
mostly suggested by the mimetic theory of representation, a delegate of the voter, or
in other words, his or her mailbox. Such an argument, in favour of the aesthetic
political representation, contradictorily enough, was actually strongly promoted by
Rousseau, in his course against all political representation…
In doing so, Rousseau, problematises the notion of ‘identity’ within relations between
the representative and the person being represented, arguing that the former (the
representative) can only be “people’s agents”… The ‘identity’ is in this case, a
constitutive element of the mimetic theory of political representation, whereas in
theory and practice of aesthetic political representation, likewise Rousseau, Ankersmit
in fact, recognizes the one, as of the ‘difference’…
Hence, political issues are often very complex, and by no single, and clear question,
or even structural unit, as of the Rousseau’s ‘general will’, can these be rightfully
formulated, nor it is likely to expect that one will have a ready-made answer, to every
political question.
Then, as for the “Macedon”, there stands the fact, of constantly fuelling the mythical
senses of the glorious past by the both parties. A process that is being more or less
articulated, as much as embraced within the political relationships of representation,
and with only changing timeframe and intensity. In sum, the political actions taken by
the both parties, for essentially defining the problem, as much as easing ‘the issue’,
remained relevant, ‘within their own breath’.
The drive for a democratic development, integration and all-level cooperation
between the two countries and societies, primarily questions the political courage
and democratic capacities, to face up to the challenges of our contemporary ‘case’.
It is frankly speaking, ever more delicate, to be left unanswered, as to a lesser or a
greater extent, directly or indirectly, it negatively affects, the relationships between
the two countries. Henceforth, contributing the idea of historical constructivism in
European context, and towards the ensemble of the “Macedon”, primarily befalls

on the part of political representation, which for its part, has to find ways to create
and prospectively manage, a durable, and mutually agreeable solution.
Political representation therefore, is not, nor it can sustain itself being a replicated
outlook of the represented, but on the contrary, a relation of differential democratic
surplus, and an expressionism of an autonomous, and qualitatively emerging conduct,
moulding the very political reality.
In other words, there is not a political reality existing, as a pre-defined state of affairs
in political sense, but political reality is rather made throughout the political
representation. Rather than a priori, it is a posteriori category. It does not exist before
the political representation, but rather, it is created by it, to be a changeable and a
varied outcome. It is as much as the case, on the question of styles in artistic
representation. Henceforth, political reality does not originate from the acceptance of
certain facts, or normative rules. Instead, and as of what Ankersmit suggests,
‘making’ the political reality is what actually counts, towards the whole rationale of
political representation, and as of the idea, of defining the proposals for political
In this sense, what Ankersmit sees as an appealing principle generated by the result of
mimetically interpreted, as well as practiced political power, is within the notion that
the state and the society have gradually become an inseparable unit, whereas the
disappearance of the boundaries between them, has resulted in a double emanation of
“one (still unnamed) substance” (p. 52). Henceforth, he clearly observes that in
principle, such submission of the state and the society under a single postulation is
typical for totalitarianism, whose intensity and form of appearance, I believe are just a
matter of the level of political development within national environments. The
question about the stage, at which a clear division between these two can be achieved,
inevitably, is a constantly open case…
Thus no matter how ironically and contradictorily it might sounds, in our shortly-
existing, but still, too-long-enough case (at least when it comes to the UN mandated
process over the name issue), the contemporary conceptual discourse on political
thought and action, could surely find some interesting hotspots for eventual
examination. And as of the so-called ‘balkanisation of politics’ it is even more likely,
that ‘the issue’ has become another political charade within European context – a
tragic-comical mometum, that supplements further problematisation of ‘otherness’ in
the Balkans.
The UN mandated process over the name issue is at the dead end. After years of
ethno-centrist departures, as well as for the lacking efforts to properly communicate
each other’s fears, the political representation randomly continued to be trapped, but
yet cultivated within an empty political rhetorics. Such patios to the problem, a sort of
‘listening but not hearing’, politically resulted in nothing but a loss of precious time
for both of the parties, that failed to further their political relations from their most
basic (and abstract) level ones, while prospectively engaging into an essentially
dynamic and diverse cooperation at all levels. A one, as much as it is been
preconceived by the Interim Accord of 1995…
This stalemate implicates negatively a much wider scope of political objectives
concerning the Euro-Atlantic integration processes in the Balkans, too… And while
the “Macedon” is being strongly embedded within the collective memories and the
identity codes, it additionally soars in its political complexity. Obviously, there are
‘issues’, rather than ‘an issue’. This claim is to be recognized and clearly articulated
either in context of the already mentioned a) overall integrative policies for the
region, or more specifically b) to the very “Macedon”itself.

Acknowledging this dual load seems to be an initial way for the political
representation, as of essentially positioning the things forward… And all that, by the
very political conduct, that is to be, an equally trustworthy appeal for the two
neighbouring countries and nations. A stand, which if not nurtured sincerely (and
specifically corresponding to the later), will only make a further room, for a greater
polarisation within the ethno-historical accounts. And these, are being the core bases,
constituting, as much as reflecting, and finally affecting, the very UN process itself…
And as towards the idea of finding a ‘mutually acceptable agreement’ to the so-called
‘name issue’… I strongly believe that the political representation however, needs to
correspondingly encourage mutually respectable approaches first, on the very
“Macedon” itself, and within its, a far broader spectrum, surrounding the actual
prospects of our contemporaneity.
What is however, an essentially unavoidable fact is that ‘the Macedon’ appears as a
core of a shared cultural heritage, encompassing various ontological elementarisms.
These pathways constitute the existing collective realities, which although
confronting, do still have a great potential to converge upon. The political paradigm
and practice, as previously mentioned, can easily turn them either into an advantage
or disadvantage for both of the countries. Hence, I claim that one cannot be on the
course of finding a mutually agreeable solution, unless first, somewhat, live-off, a
mutually respectable duration.
In addition, I believe that the process of nation-building (and rebuilding) in the
Balkans is still very much active one, with fairly contrasting scopes and qualities, to
the ones recognized within the settings of liberal-democratic Europe. Specifically, in
the case of Greece and Republic of Macedonia, the self-centrist departures on the
issue of “Macedon”, unfortunately, are nothing but an unproductively contested
space, of representing the meaning, the identity, the culture, the history, and the
belonging. Representing politics, on the other hand, is inevitably a matter of
introducing a new value to the political pluralism, and in the existing context of post-
national realities.

3. Translating the Otherness

“As every narrative self-account is itself part of a life, embedded in a lived context
of interaction and communication, intention and imagination, ambiguity and
vagueness, there is always, potentially, a next and different story to tell, as there
occur different situations in which to tell it”.

Although there is a substantial difference in the scope of the ‘opening incident’, as

well as to the projected outcome when it comes to democratic politics, I believe that
many of Ankersmit’s ideas, in fact, could be posing an interesting conceptual
rationale, in such situations when having these case-sensitive, political issues in the
Balkans. So where is in this case the otherness between the collectiveness and
individuality, between the cultural and the historic, between the ethnic and the
The self-centred, mimetically interpreted and historically subjected, political
representation has so far, additionally furthered, as much as aggravated a number of
reservations for the ‘other’. The so-called ‘red lines’, exposed by the both parties in
their current format, and within the UN mandated process over the name issue, are

67Brockmeier, Jens / Carbaugh, Donal (ed.) et al. - “Narrative and Identity: Studies in
Autobiography, Self and Culture”, John Benjamins B.V., 2001.

nothing but a core expression of a mimetically interpreted, as much as maintained

political rationale of representative democracy, whereas the ‘public will’ concerning
the “Macedon” is equally asserted by the rigidness of the respective historical
narratives. These, luring from behind, are being the primary essence and a roadmap to
maintaining (if not winning), the political support from the electorates on the very
issues of “Macedon”.
Such situational realities have resulted in an unfavourable political climate between
the two countries and neighbours, which consequently, has been affecting all the other
relations, for more than fifteen years now…
Ankersmit, in his deconstructivist manner, rightfully notes that the democratic
decision-making is essentially intertextual, saying thus, that it resists the metaphysics
of presence. By rejecting the tendencies for fixed rules and matrices, while
positioning the intercourse of political thought and action, he indicates that, what
really counts in a democratic policy making, is not the political principles and
preferences of the individual voter, but learning how to negotiate these, and find a
compromise, with the other, different political sets and principles…
Added to this, Ankersmit also indicates analogies from the notions on historical
representation, which as an appealing concept of determining the post-reality, is
struggled to the demand, as of creating an objective representation of the past.
Tendencies for imposing the so-called “translation rules”, as of achieving the lastly
indicated, according to him, automatically mean “the end of all that is at stake in
historical debate”. (p. 41)
The political discourse over the “Macedon”within the last two decades failed to
initiate a sincere debate, that would have eventually, faced up to stigmatisations
caused by the historical, political and cultural narratives. Such political bankruptcy,
has been so far, effectuated most intensively during the election campaigns, resulting
in a missing of important political lessons for both of the parties. Consequently,
instead of connecting, the two societies and nations, for the most part remained
alienated, and most commonly, faced up to the ‘other Macedon’, as nothing, but a
hostile propaganda of the adversary party. On the top of it all, not rarely, in an
absence of a genuine political vision for the future, the ‘vulgarisations of the past’,
happen to appear more frequently.
So what aesthetic politics for the “Macedon”could there eventually be? What
essentially democratic, historical constructivism is to be reached if any? What
narratives and cultural fabrics? What heritage as a plot? Ultimately, where does the
story begin and where does it end?
Rather than positioning the things on the scale between the truth and falsity,
Ankersmit, of vital importance acknowledges, that there exist various “sets of truths”.
Accordingly, representation becomes a question of what true statements we might
prefer, to other sets of true statements. Thus, he anticipates the question on political
representation, as a matter of organizing, and maintaining the knowledge (the true
statements), without claiming the throne of the very knowledge, for itself… It is not a
question of how the true statement can properly be said, as to correspond to a
dimension of reality, but accessing the nature of relationship between the
representative (being it, the politician, the political party, or the state), and the person
being represented.
For Ankersmit, representation is perhaps the most neutral concept in political
philosophy. Then the argument, most likely goes towards the speculative
hermeneutical sphere, where once again, and in line with his argument as of the
translation rules, the whole process will always, sort of need, a ‘fresh re-start’. Such

positioning, serves an effective orientation mechanism within the social reality, while
maintaining a meaningful relationship with it.
This argument is well lined to the rationale of ‘imagined communities’, and the quest
for a narrative construction that is in constant need to be reinvented and reconstructed
repeatedly (Kearney, p. 81, 2002). Hence, nothing could be more and specifically true
in this regard, as of the question of national narratives. These cannot be a subject to an
inherited identity that goes without saying. It is a flexible category, and sooner the
political representation acknowledges that one’s identity is fundamentally narrative in
character, the greater chances are, either for itself, as much as for its very electorate,
to avoid the fruitless historical captivity. Political representation in our case therefore,
failed in constructing novel qualities for the times ahead, and out of the very
differences on the “Macedon”. Rather, and on the contrary, it posed an anaemic
expression of a typically mimetic interpretation of its mandate and mission.
To this end, and specifically in regard to the question of national narratives, Richard
Kearney, further reminds on the negative political implications caused by the failures
to anticipate this constantly adaptable, narrative origination:
“The problem is not that each society constructs itself as a story but that it forgets that
it has done so. Whenever a nation forgets its own narrative origins it becomes
dangerous. Self-oblivion is the disease of a community that takes itself for granted –
or like an overgrown narcissistic infants presumes that it is the centre of the world,
entitled to assert itself to the detriment of others. When this happens the nation
congeals into a terrifying will-to-power. The result is totalitarianism, fascism and
fanaticism. These political pathologies are symptoms of the same erasure: the denial
of the birth of every nation in narration of some kind” (p. 81).
The need to mutually translate, as well as converge upon the competing stories
becomes an inevitable necessity of our time. And all that not just because of the
common history and heritage, but also because of the novel integrative momentum
within the Balkans; the one which has to be released of the ethno-centric, historical
captivity, and out of which each party can only benefit.
Political representation thus, cannot hide itself anymore behind the impenetrable
constructions of the respected historical narratives and discourses over the
“Macedon”, nor can it deny, neglect, as much as manipulate, the factual premises,
along with the potential, for a greater integration, and an all-inclusive cooperation
between the two societies. It owes it to the represented, and as if it is to be
conclusively considered an aesthetic, and henceforth, essentially democratic in
Ankersmit’s terms, political representation has to further, reframe and qualitatively
improve the political dialogue, on questions that really matter.

4. Conclusion
Facing up to our frustrations as individuals, ‘political beings’, ethnicity, nation, or
worshipers of civilizations, would be a first major step ahead. Once we eventually
start such process, and on the back of our respective political representation, we will
have greater chances to succeed in building more stable foundations for cooperation,
based on our common interests, and while pursuing active partnerships for the
common challenges ahead.
And for “Macedon”? It will just have to be narrated, separately each time, in the quest
for the organization of knowledge. A knowledge that will essentially supply the
political accountability, the dynamics, and the quality of communication between the
two immediate neighbours; And all that in a spirit of Hegelian subjectivism and
individualism, anticipating the greater dissociation of the object and the subject, and

while primarily concerning the social reality; The one, which for its part becomes an
object itself.

Ankersmit, F. R. (1996) Aesthetic Politcs: Political Philosophy beyond Fact and Value. Stanford &
Cambridge: Stanford University Press / Cambridge University Press.
Brockmeier, J. & Carbaugh, D. (eds.) (2001) Narrative and Identity: Studies in Autobiography, Self
and Culture John Benjamins B.V.
Czarniawska, B. (2004) Narratives in Social Science Research, London: SAGE Publications Ltd,
Kearney, R. (2002) On Stories: Thinking in Action, London: Routledge – Taylor & Francis Group.
Rorty, R. (1999) Philosophy and Social Hope, London: Penguin Books.
Rosanvallon, P. (2008) Counter-Democracy: Politics in an Age of Distrust, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
White, H. (1975) Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth Century Europe, Baltimore &
London: John Hopkins University Press.
Rousseau, Jean Jacques – “The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right”, 1762, translated by
G.D.H.Cole, public domain (01/11).
United Nations, Interim Accord No. 32193, 1995, public domain (01/11).
United Nations, Security Council Resolution 817 & 845, 1993, public domain /

9. The Representation of the National Self and the Balkan People in Turkey’s
New Textbooks

Kenan Çayır
Istanbul Bilgi University, Department of Sociology

The paper explores the representation of the Turkish national self and the Balkan
people in Turkey’s textbooks. It gives a brief analysis of how the national self and
“others” have been constructed in textbooks of different periods. It mainly focuses on
the new Social Studies and History books produced after the curriculum reform of
2005. The new curriculum, as stated by the Ministry of Education, aims at preparing
Turkey for the European Union and the information age. In this regard, this reform is
to include a reconsideration of national narratives in relation to the West and the
Balkans. A close analysis of the new textbooks, however, demonstrates that the
Balkans still occupy a small place with almost no reference to the shared history.
Moreover, they stress darker periods of the Balkan nations while omitting those of
Turks. The paper argues that new textbooks which continue to promote a narrow
definition of Turkishness-Muslimness need to be revised in order to contribute to the
development of a more pluralist imaginary in pupils.
Keywords: Turkish textbooks, the Balkans, national stereotypes, Greek textbooks.

1. Introduction
There is today a growing awareness that textbooks can be a means to strengthen
democratic values at national and international level. However, this is not an easy task
in the face of historical experience in which textbooks have long been used as a
means to construct national self and ‘‘others’’. Textbooks do not only present the
official knowledge, they are also part of memory politics of nation-states. Events are
transformed into collective national memory through narratives of textbooks,
particularly history books. Building a national collective identity involves a process of
forgetting: forgetting the past, shared histories and complexity of identities. Present
concerns of building a national self are projected on to the past which often leads to
an essentialist nationalist view of history.
This frame can also be employed to evaluate textbooks in Turkey and the
Balkan nations. Several studies analyzing textbooks in Balkan nations and in Turkey
point out the fact that history textbooks are based on an ethnocentric narrative of
history (Koulori 2002; Çayır 2009; Pavlovitch 2004; Eliou 1997). Textbooks, in other
words, put an emphasis on the greatness of their own state and on the organic unity of
the national community. Such a narrative of history also involves delineating the
borders of national self and ‘‘others’’. Accordingly, textbooks in Turkey and other
Balkan nations have long been used to negatively stereotype and stigmatize ‘‘the
other’’. Therefore, textbooks can be considered one of the sources of the past and
present conflict between nations.
Studying the representation of the Turkish national self is not independent of
the history of Balkans since Turkish nationalism gained a momentum following the

Balkan wars of 1912-1913. Moreover, the war of independence was fought mainly
against the Greek powers according to nationalist historiography. As a result,
textbooks contained several references in which Greeks were profiled in the negative.
However, several initiatives were taken to improve textbooks in Turkey and to
eliminate conflict-producing narratives.
A comprehensive curriculum reform was undertaken in Turkey in 2005. This
paper focuses on the representation of the national self and the Balkans in Turkey’s
new textbooks after this curriculum reform. By way of contextualizing the topic in a
broader framework and giving examples about the representation of the Balkans in
different periods of the Republican history, the paper aims to understand the
improvements, if any, brought about after the curriculum reform.

2. The representation of the Balkans in textbooks produced prior to the 2005

In the early years of the Republican period in Turkey, negative images created in
textbooks concentrated on Greeks among other Balkan nations. It seems that during
the early years of the nation-formation process, negative stereotyping or
‘‘otherisation’’ processes were more overt.
One early example emerges in a Civics textbook (figure 1). This book,
published in 1927, is presented as the textbook of the Atatürk period. It involves
several themes to inculcate national identity, citizenship skills and national feelings in
children. The image of the Greek as the ‘‘other’’ of Turks appears in a poem written
by the author himself to warn kids about alcohol. Towards the end of the poem, the
author answers ‘‘why we should keep away of alcohol’’ as follows: “Alcohol is your
enemy as is a Greek” (Figure 2), (Gölpınarlı 2007 [1927], 102-103). At first glance, it
seems hard to make sense why Greeks are mentioned in such a poem. This example
illustrates the way in which a nationalist context and imaginary leads to distort the
image of others by associating alcohol with Greekness.

Figure 1 The Cover page of Yurt Bilgisi (Civics) textbook


Figure 2 The poem, “Alcohol and the Drunk” by Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı.

Another example of stigmatization of Greeks comes from a Grammar textbook of a

recent date, just before the curriculum reform in 2005. This book presents the
superiority of Turkish language along with condescending utterances towards the
Greek language:

“Turkish does not contain the consecutive y’s or forceful r’s of Italian, or the
consecutively used ‘‘sin’s, resembling a snake, and lisping of s’s and z’s of Greek...
The superiority of Turkish is thus revealed” (Grammar for high school,Özdamarlar 2002: 101, cited in Gemalmaz 2004: 35).

It is not only in textbooks in Turkey that we encounter such approaches of

negative stereotyping. Research shows that textbooks in Greece also portray the Turks
with negative qualities (Xochellis 2001). This is not surprising since, as Herkul
Millas notes, by rare coincidence each nation (Greece and Turkey) fought against the
other for national independence. Greeks fought against the Ottoman Turks and Turks
fought against the Greeks for national liberation (Millas 1991).
Besides Greeks, Bulgarians have also appeared in Turkey’s textbooks with
negative connotations throughout the Republican period. History textbooks
occasionally refer to the forced migration of Turkish minority from Bulgaria in
different periods of the 20th century. These books included pictures with titles such as:
“The destruction of the Muslim graveyard by the Bulgarians” or “The burning of
Turkish neighborhoods and villages by the Bulgarians” (Erpulat 1996: 223-225).

Apart from these specific references to Greeks and Bulgarians, the Balkans, as a
region in general, takes place in textbooks only in the context of Balkan wars. As a
result of the Balkan wars, according to a history textbook,
“The Ottoman State lost most of her Balkan lands. The Christian world that
was encouraged with this, started to desire to throw the Turks out of Anatolia and
share their lands. The Ottoman influence on the Balkans ended. Millions of Turks
who were living on the abandoned lands were left under the cruelty of Bulgarians,
Greeks, Serbs and Montenegrins. Thousands of them were murdered. The ones who
migrated to Anatolia to save their lives died in large numbers because of famine and
epidemics. After we lost Aegean islands, each one of them became a military base
which threatens Anatolia” (History for High Schools, Halaçoğlu, Merçil, Mısıroğlu,
1994: 225, cited in Erpulat 1996: 225).
These examples do not mean that the Balkans and Balkan peoples receive a lot
of mention in Turkey’s textbooks. On the contrary, several textbooks analysis studies
show that the difference between Turkish textbooks and the Balkan nations’ books is
that the Balkans and Balkan peoples occupy a very small place in Turkish textbooks
whereas there are many references to Turks and Ottomans in Greek, Bulgarian or
other Balkan nations’ textbooks (Xochellis 2001). This is mainly because the
19th and the 20th century Balkan history was a story of defeat for Turks (Tarih Vakfı
2003: 15) Therefore, with the exception of few negative examples of stereotyping of
Greeks and Bulgarians, the Balkans emerged in the Turkey’s textbooks mostly with
neutral reference and with a territorial approach. 68 In other words, the Balkans is
represented as a territory once conquered and lost. Accordingly the Balkan people are
not considered as people who shared a common past with Ottomans and Turks (Tarih
Vakfı 2003). The story of the Balkans is thus confined to political history of wars.

3. The Turkish national self and the Balkans in the new textbooks
There has been a growing interest in textbook research in Turkey since the turn of the
21st century. Civil associations conduct projects on textbooks and publish reports on
discriminatory sentences or negative stereotypes. Two projects carried out by the
History Foundation in 2002 and 2009 on “Human Rights in Textbooks” involved a
comprehensive analysis of textbooks, which provides a good practice of raising public
attention to human rights violations in textbooks (Ceylan and Irzık 2004; Tüzün
2009). Some of these critiques seem to be registered by the Ministry of National
Education (MoNE) which, in recent years, is in the process of transforming itself by
way of collaborating with national civil associations and international bodies in order
to improve educational materials.
An important step taken by the MoNE has been the introduction of a
comprehensive school curriculum reform in 2005. As a result of this reform a new
curriculum has been developed on the basis of constructivist paradigm. New
textbooks (and for the first time teacher’s guides and students’ workbooks) have been
written with a student-centered approach as the MoNE argues. The reason for the
renewal of the curriculum and textbooks, as expressed by the MoNE, is to prepare
Turkey for the information age and for the standards of the European Union (Çayır
2009). The new curriculum, according to the MoNE, “draws on our country’s
essential cultural, historical and moral tenets and aims to maintain Turkish Republic”

It is noted, in a study analyzing history textooks in 1996-7 in Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, FYROM
and Turkey, that out of 351 references to Balkan countries in Turkey, 330 were neutral while in
Greece, of the total 647 reference to Balkan people, the majority (%82) concerns the Turks, mostly
with negative connotations (Xochellis 2001)

and “adopts the norms, aims and educational stance of the European Union” (MoNE
2005). These two aims of the curriculum reform signify the main paradox of Turkish
nationalism and modernization: to draw on the ‘‘essential culture’’, thus to construct
a distinct identity and to be European at the same time. In other words, Turkey still
maintains a nationalist ideal of developing an essentialist historical stance in
education in parallel to modernizing itself and educational institutions on the way to
European Union. 69 This historical paradox points at the continuing problems
regarding the representation of the national self and the other in new textbooks.
It is important to note that the current textbooks involve several progressive
elements. They include, for instance, pictures regarding gender equality such as
portraying male figures serving their wives or doing housework like ironing. Also we
come across with activities that potentially stimulate students to critically construct
knowledge through interactive techniques. And particularly in Social Studies
textbooks from grade 4 to 8, negative references to other nations and utterances such
as “internal and external enemies” of former books have been eliminated.
However, problems concerning imagining a positive and a proud national self
still remain. The Turkish national self continues to be constructed on the basis of a
homogenous Turkishness-Muslimness. Ethnic and religious differences still receive
no mention. In other words, two others of Turkish identity (those whose religion is
different—non Muslim minorities, Armenians, Jews, Greeks—and those whose
language is different—Kurds, Arabs etc.) are not mentioned in current textbooks. It
seems that the current textbooks have not yet separated ethnos from demos.
The new textbooks include many references to universal values such as human
rights. Yet many of these references are often made in an anachronistic fashion. The
most common anachronism is the presentation of the Ottoman times in the context of
human rights. For instance, an excerpt from a 6th grade Social Studies book titled “A
Human Rights Lesson from the Sultan of the World” states that

“When Mehmet the Conqueror conquered Istanbul, he first entered Hagia

Sophia. The Patrick and the people were throwing themselves to the ground crying.
Sultan Mehmet gestured them with his hands to be silent. He spoke to the Patrick:
‘‘Stand up. I, Sultan Mehmet, tell you and your friends and all people that from this
day on you shall not fear my wrath on your life or your liberty” (Social Studies 6,
Kolukısa 2006: 151).
Although the MoNE states that the new curriculum is based on universal
values, such passages do not promote universal values in education. It could be
argued that they might bear the danger of creating a hegemonic nativism if universal
values such as human rights, peace and freedom are presented as values deriving from
“Us”. Such an essentialism obscures relational aspect of cultures and leads to the
conception of national culture as autonomous and separate.
This perspective also illustrates how the Ottoman rule in the Balkans is
represented in textbooks. The Ottoman rule is portrayed with its tolerant governance.
And tolerance towards non-Muslim minorities is interpreted on the basis of human
rights in an anachronistic way. The new textbooks, in this regard, maintain the
dominant narrative of old books that the Balkan nations were happy with the tolerant
Ottoman rule.70 They are represented as people who rebelled against the Ottomans as

For the elaboration of this paradox thesis see Kadıoğlu 1996: Çayır and Bağlı 2011.
For an analysis of how the Ottoman rule in the Balkans is represented see Adanır 1997.

a result of the provocation of “imperialist states” such as Russia and struggled for
their liberation.
Thessaloniki, for instance, is represented once as an Ottoman city where
Atatürk was born and once as a city of peaceful coexistence under the Ottoman rule in
a new The History of Revolution and Ataturkism textbook (figure 3, Başol 2009:
16). Another continuity with the old textbooks is that the Balkans are still covered in
few pages in the new textbooks. There is no separate chapter and extensive references
to the shared history. The new textbooks narrate few human stories from the Balkans.
A Social Studies textbook, under the title of migration, includes the story of Sabriye
Hamzaova whose family was forced to migrate from Bulgaria in 1951 (figure 4, Polat 2007: 42). Forced migration from Bulgaria is an important historical fact to note
in textbooks. Yet this example can still be considered under the framework of
stereotyping the others since it presents an one-sided narrative and thus a story/history
of what ‘‘they did to us’’. The textbooks do not comprise counter stories such as
stories of Greek citizens who had to migrate from Turkey because of atrocities
towards Greeks in the 1950s and 1960s.
Until the curriculum reform of 2005, references to the Balkans ended with
Atatürk’s biography. Indeed, until 2005, history courses ended with the death of
Atatürk and the curriculum did not involve a separate subject on contemporary
history. The MoNE, as part of the curriculum reform, has introduced a distinct subject
and published a textbook with the title of “The Contemporary Turkish and the World
History” (Okur 2009). In this book the Balkans are covered in two pages (Figure
5-6). Majority of these two pages narrates the assimilation policy of Bulgaria towards
the Turks between 1985-1990. The book quotes a “top secret dialogue” among Jivkov
and other figures on how they plan to force Turkish minority in Bulgaria to migrate to
Turkey. The last two paragraphs contain remarks about Turkey-Greece relations in
the 1990s. Greece is represented with its negative stance towards Turkey: “Greece
supported terrorist activities towards Turkey in the 1990s”, Greece vetoes Turkey’s
membership to the European Union” (Okur 2009: 213).

Figure 3 The representation of Thessaloniki, The History of Revolution and

Ataturkism 8.

Figure 4 Forced migration of Turks from Bulgaria and Sabriye Hamzaova’s story,
Social Studies 7

Figure 5-6 The representation of the Balkans in the new Contemporary Turkish and
the World History textbook for high schools.

4. Conclusion: Reflections on how to develop new textbooks to promote a

pluralist national imaginary
Analysis of the new textbooks demonstrates that they do not contain overt
stereotyping utterances of the pre-2005 curriculum towards the Balkan people, yet
they do maintain the old pattern that the Balkans appear in few pages and with a one-
sided narrative. The new textbooks do not involve any progressive steps that promote
an interest and a new positive stance towards the Balkans and Balkan people. There is
still almost no reference to the shared history and to some positive developments such
as the cooperation between Greek and Turkish NGOs after the earthquake of 1999.
The new textbooks seem to have a more global perspective but all positive
examples are still drawn from Turkic-central Asian and Muslim countries such as
Pakistan. Turkishness, in other words, continues to be defined along ethno-religious
terms. It is not, however, possible to perpetuate a simple nationalistic imaginary and
to transmit children a supposedly monolithic culture in contemporary Turkey. Turkey
has been undergoing a major social and political transformation due to several
internal and international developments such as the European Union accession

process. Non-Muslim and non-Turkish minorities have recently gained a public

visibility and they claim their equal rights and right to recognition. Moreover,
intellectuals and civil activists have brought the unrecognized memory of Armenian
and Kurdish massacres in to the public agenda. Turkey has begun to discuss issues,
which have heretofore been considered taboo ranging from Kurdish problem to the
problems of non-Muslim minorities.
As a result of these developments, Turkey is experiencing the troubles of
confronting its history, questioning the borders of its “national identity” and
developing a new social and political framework which embraces differences. New
debates on taboo issues require Turkish citizens to update and revise their collective
memory. They also lead educationalists to develop alternative materials to handle
controversial issues in classrooms. There are indeed progressive steps and new
approaches in historiography in Turkey, which are not yet reflected in textbooks.
The Joint History Project by the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in
Southeastern Europe in which several books on the Balkan history have been
published in different languages including Turkish could serve as a good practice in
this field. 71 These books aim at eliminating conflict-producing national stereotypes
and writing history with an emphasis on the shared cultural history of the Balkans,
which is less divisive. Creating a shared collective memory would provide people a
common ground for communication. Yet, we still need to lead people face the darker
periods of their history. And remembering is not an easy process since it involves
questioning one’s cultural borders, identities, national histories, deconstructing the
borders of “us and them”. It requires us to redefine Turkishness or Greekness.
If nation-states are to redefine themselves, the schools and textbooks need to
be part of this process. For the Turkish case, for instance, this means that we need to
deconstruct the notion of Turkishness and rearticulate it in an anti-essentialist way.
We have to transform Turkish national imaginary presented in textbooks from ethno-
national achievements into more inclusivist fashion. One difficulty regarding this
problem is the trap of essentialism. Not only dominant cultures but also ethnic
minorities today fall into the trap of essentialism when they define their cultures and
identities. People do fear of loosing their cultures and identities during the process of
deconstructing and reconstructing national histories.72 Another difficulty is that we
expect textbooks to undertake two missions at once: to perpetuate a sense of nation-
state continuity and to open itself to integrate ethnic differences or non-nationals
(Baumann 2004: 1). In other words, we need an educational approach that both
critically unpacks but also packs cultural norms and identities. How can we achieve
this? How can we develop new textbooks that maintain a sense of social solidarity
and open the national imaginary to differences and universal norms? What Baumann
offers might be a way out of this complicated process: the emphasis in textbooks
should be shifted from ethno-national achievements to civil cultural methods. In
Baumann’s words “it is not what we did and do here that is great, but how we did it
and do it and it is not who you are that matters, but how you do whatever you do”
(2004:13). This is worth considering when we collaboratively work on developing
new materials on the Balkan history.

For the project and history books visit website at
For instance Balkan History Workbooks of the Joint History Project have been criticized as being
part of supra-national conspiracy. Their comparativist approach was criticized in the way that it could
“weaken the importance of the nation”, and the editor (Christina Koulori) was blamed to be
“Hellenocentric”, dedicating more space to Greece by different circles. See Stojanovic 2007.

Adanır, F. (1997) “The Tolerant and the Grim: The Ottoman Legacy in Southeastern Europe”. In
Association for Democracy in the Balkans (ed.), Culture and Reconciliation in Southeastern Europe,
Thessaloniki: Paratiritis.
Başol, S. (2009) T.C Inkılap Tarihi ve Atatürkçülük [The History of Revolution and Ataturkism],
İstanbul: MEB yayınları
Ceylan, D. T. and Irzık, G. (eds.) (2004) Human Rights Issues in Textbooks: The Turkish Case,
İstanbul: The History Foundation of Turkey.
Çayır, K. (2009) Preparing Turkey for the European Union: Nationalism, national identity and
‘otherness’ in Turkey’s new textbooks. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 30(1), 39-55.
Çayır, K. & M. T. Bağlı (2011) ‘No-one respects them anyway’: Secondary students’ perceptions of
human rights education in Turkey. Intercultural Education, vol.22, no.1, 1-14.
Eliou, M. (1997) The Image of other people in the evolution, particularly in history teaching, as seen
through the teaching material used in the Balkan countries. In Maria Couroucli (gen.rap), The Balkans -
ethnic and cultural crossroads: educational and cultural aspects, Strasbourg: The Council of Europe
Erpulat, D. E. (1996) “The Balkan Wars in the Turkish History Textbooks”. In W. Hopken, Oil on
Fire? Textbooks, Stereotypes and Violence in South-Eastern Europe, The Georg-Eckert Institute for
International Textbooks Research.
Gemalmaz, S. (2004) “Evaluation of Data Concerning Human Rights Criteria Obtained from a Survey
of Textbooks”. In D. T. Ceylan and G. Irzık (eds.), Human Rights Issues in Textbooks: The Turkish
Case, İstanbul: The History Foundation of Turkey.
Gölpınarlı, A. (2007[1927]) Yurt Bilgisi (Civics), İstanbul: Kaynak yayınları.
Kadıoğlu, A. (1996) “The Paradox of Turkish Nationalism and the Construction of Official Identity”,
Middle Eastern Studies, 32(2), 177-193.
Kolukısa, E. A. (2006) Sosyal Bilgiler 6 [Social Studies 6], Ankara: A Yayınları.
Koulouri, C. (ed.) (2002) Clio in the Balkans: The Politics of History Education, CDRSEE,
Millas, H. (1991) “History Textbooks in Greece and Turkey”, History Workshop Journal, 31 (1), 21-33
MoNE-The Ministry of National Education (2005) MEB Müfredat Geliştirme Süreci [The Curriculum
Development Process], (accessed in
5 August 2008).
Okur, Y. (2009) Ortaöğretim Çağdaş Türk ve Dünya Tarihi [Contemporary Turkish and the
World History], Ankara: Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı Yayınları.
Pavlowitch, S. K. (2004) ‘History Education in the Balkans: How Bad is it?’. Journal of Southern
Europe and the Balkans Online, 6 (1), 63-68.
Polat, M. M. (2007) Sosyal Bilgiler 7 [Social Studies 7], İstanbul: MEB yayınları
Stojanovic, D. (2007) Balkan History Workbooks—Consequences and Experiences, unpublished
Tarih Vakfı (2003) Improvement of Balkan History Textbooks Project Reports, İstanbul: Türkiye
Ekonomik ve Toplumsal Tarih Vakfı.
Tüzün, G. (ed.)(2009) Ders kitaplarında insan hakları: Tarama sonuçları II [Human Rights in
Textbooks: Project Reports II], İstanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yayınları.
Xochellis, P. et al. (2001) “The Image of the ‘Other’ in the School History Textbooks of the Balkan
Countries”. In P. D. Xochellis and F. L. Toloudi (eds.), The Image of the ‘Other’/Neighbour in the
School Textbooks of the Balkan Countries. Proceedings of the International Conference, (Thessaloniki
16–18 October 1998). Athens: Typothito-Dardanos

10. Pupils’ perceptions of the Balkan ‘‘other’’

Chrysa Tamisoglou

This paper reports the findings of a small-scale research conducted in North Greece
aiming to identify how the ‘‘other’’ and particularly the Balkan ‘‘other’’ is perceived
by Greek pupils of compulsory education. The research design was based on arts and
employed the ‘‘human figure drawing’’ approach. Pupils were called to draw
representative human figures of the Balkan ‘‘other’’ and to comment on their
creations. Apart from the investigation of pupils’ ideas, the research aimed to
investigate the agents (such as school history, the media, their family and their travel
experience) that influence their ideas about Balkan people. Presenting the pupils’
drawings and their comments, the paper concludes that Greek pupils have a rather
negative image of the Balkan ‘‘other’’ which stems from a complexity of parameters.
Also, pupils’ suggestions of how this negative image could be discarded are
Key words: other, Balkan, Greece, pupils

Many theorists have tried to define the ‘‘nature’’ of national identity and have paid
particular attention to the way national identity is formed. Although theorists have
examined national identity and its construction from different perspectives (for
example, on the base of primordial attachments (Geertz 1973) or common cultural
roots (Anderson 1991), they have agreed on several points. Among these points is the
theorists’ ascertainment that national identity is not mono-dimensional, in the sense
that it does not only entail the national self, but that it could be conceived as ‘‘a
double-edge relationship’’ and defined both internally and externally (e.g. Colley
2003, Schiffauer et al. 2004).
More particularly, on the one hand, national identity involves a set of common
shared features and claims, based mainly on the past, which self-determines each
nation and gives a sense of belonging to a wider community (Connor 1978, Tate
2004). These shared features, claims and beliefs constitute a ‘‘common background’’
for the members of a nation. On the other hand, belonging to a nation and formulating
a national identity implies differences from other nations, peoples and cultures as well
as commonalities. Connor (1978:388) suggests that, in the process of national identity
formation, ‘‘a group of people become first aware of what they are not ethically
before actually realizing what they are’’. He divides humanity into ‘‘us’’, fellow
nationals and the ‘‘others’’, non members of our community. According to Deutsch
(1966), for the nation to exist, there must be some ‘‘outgroup’’- the ‘‘others’’- against
which the unity and homogeneity of the ‘‘ingroup’’- ‘‘us’’- is tested. Thus, national
consciousness involves both self-awareness of the national group and awareness of
the ‘‘other’’ from which a nation seeks to differentiate itself.
In the same vein, some scientists have gone further and tried to define the identity
of the ‘‘other’’ which plays a significant role in the construction of national identity -

the so called ‘‘significant other’’-. According to the relevant literature (e.g.

Triantafyllidou 1998, Tamisoglou 2011), the ‘‘significant other’’ could be defined as
the other nations whose their national and historical courses are linked with a
particular national course. In this sense, ‘‘significant other’’ nations could be
conceived, firstly, as the nations which either have menaced or are thought to threaten
the entity and purity of a particular nation (enemies), and secondly, as the nations
which influenced or continue to influence the national course of a particular nation.
Moreover, in many cases, the notion of ‘‘significant other’’ involves the neighbour
nations of a particular nation with which this nation is linked geographically,
culturally, socially and historically.
From a psychological point of view, relevant literature (e.g. Bal-Tar 2000,
Cullingford 2000) indicates that the way the younger generation perceives the world,
itself and the ‘‘other’’ is a cognitive process which is influenced by the conditions of
the societal environment in which youngsters are brought up. In terms of the way
children develop their ideas about, perceptions of and attitudes to ‘‘national/ in group
self’’ and the ‘‘other/out group self’’, psychological research (e.g. Barrett et al. 2003,
Barrett 2007) argues that from the age of 5-6, children can state some ideas and
judgements about national self and other national groups which become more detailed
and accurate by 10 or 11 years of age. At the age of 5-6, children’s perceptions
involve mostly typical physical features such as clothing, language and habits, and
during middle childhood and onwards these features are expanded and entail also
psychological and personality traits as well as political and religious belief.
Additionally, the same research indicates that a) younger generation gains its
knowledge about the ‘‘national self’’ and the ‘‘other’’ through various political,
social, cultural channels such as the political system of a state, its economic condition,
family and the media and b) younger generation’s ideas about its national ‘‘self’’ and
‘‘other’’ does not change considerable during the next years of its life.
Based on the above, this paper reports and discusses the findings of an exploratory
research conducted in order to identify how Greek youngsters perceive the Balkan
‘‘other’’. This announcement is based on a more expanded work which examined
what Greek nationality children think about their national self and ‘‘significant other’’
nations and their people. Concerning the theme of this conference, the part of this
research which refers to the Balkan ‘‘other’’ is presented.
In the Greek context, the Balkan nations constitute ‘‘significant other’’ nations
since they threatened the national self in the past and, in sοme cases, are still thought
as enemies, they are linked with the national (historical) course and are contiguous
with Greece. Thus, this research tried to identify what 12 to 15 years old pupils think
about the Balkan nations since, according to the psychological research, youngsters of
these ages have more or less formed their perceptions which would not alter
considerable in the future. More particularly, this work intended to touch upon the
following issues: “What do Greek youngsters think of and how do they describe a
person from a Balkan country? What is their image of each Balkan nation? Do these
images vary? What are the typical physical, psychological and personality traits of
each Balkan people? What are the sources of their perceptions? What suggestions do
Greek pupils make about the Balkans and their people?”. At this early stage, it should
be mentioned that this paper does not aim to generalize its findings but to explore
young people’s perceptions and impose questions for further examination. Also, the
presentation of the research and its findings has been adjusted to the limitation a paper
of this kind imposes.

2. Methodological design
Considering the psychological research discussed above, the target population of this
research was children of 12 to 15 years of age. However, not all Greek nationality
children of these ages participated in the research. Since the research was conducted
at schools (places where children are gathered and can be investigated), the schools
which participated in this study were selected randomly according to the Schools List
provided by the Ministry of Education which enumerates each school of each level of
each geographical area with a code number. Six schools which were located in North
Greece (1 primary and 1 junior-high school from North-Western Greece, 1 primary
and 1 junior-high school North-Central Greece, 1 primary and 1 junior-high school
from North-Eastern Greece) were selected. In total, 192 pupils took part in this
research and an almost equivalent number of boys and girls (93 boys and 99 girls).
Since this study was an explanatory one, this size of the sample was judged
The research was conducted at three stages. At the first stage, pupils were
introduced to the scope, aims and the procedure of the research by the researcher. At
the second stage of the research, pupils were asked to present their attitudes to,
perceptions of and ideas about the Balkan ‘‘other’’. For this purpose, a visual
technique was employed based on arts and, in particular, human figure drawing.
Human figure drawing entails the presentation of a representative person who is of
interest (in our case, a representative person from each Balkan country) including
his/her internal and external characteristics. The selection of the particular visual
technique was made since a visual approach seems to facilitate and engage the
participants of a survey (Chambers 1994). In the same vein, the drawing activity is
based on the arts-based paradigm in research (Bochner & Ellis 2003). Additionally,
psychological research (e.g. Koppitz 1985, Cox 1993) has indicated that the act of
drawing especially children’s drawings represent children’s internal reality, the
internal qualities of objects, people and events and ‘‘reflect unconscious layers of
their personality such as conflict, feelings and attitudes related to the self and
significant others’’ (Bal-Tar & Teichman 2005:327). However, children’s drawings
and particularly human figure drawing is not only an individual creation and
representation but embedded messages that disseminated by the social context in
which children live. Dennis (1966 cited in Bal-Tar & Teichman 2005: 328) argues
that drawing of people should be regarded as reflecting preferences and choices
guided by social values to which a child is socialized.
Considering the above, children were given an A4 sheet and were asked to draw a
representative person (man or woman) from each Balkan country in black and white
colours. Youngsters were motivated to draw common and typical figures based on
their experiences and knowledge. They were also asked to add symbols, objects,
bubbles with characteristic phrases and so on if they thought that these would help
them to express their ideas. Children worked individually.
When the drawing activity was over, at the third stage, children in groups of 4-5
discussed their drawings. This phase of the research aimed to investigate the way
pupils portrayed the Balkan ‘‘other’’ and gain insights into their perception of each
Balkan nation. At this stage, the technique of focus group interview was used. The
purpose of the technique is to ‘‘provide insights into the attitudes, perceptions and
opinions of participants’’ (Krueger 1994). Questions, such as: ‘‘Why did you draw
this person from X country like that?’’, ‘‘What did you want to show drawing this
person like that?’’, ‘‘Where do you know about this country’’, were asked. At the
end, youngsters were motivated to discuss any suggestion they had about the Balkan

‘‘other’’. For instance, if they would like to learn more about other Balkan countries
and at what point knowledge about other Balkan countries would be useful for them
and their lives. The group discussion gave pupils the opportunity to add comments on
their own drawings and on others’ as well as to raise objections to other pupils’ ideas
about the Balkan ‘‘other’’ leading, in some cases, the discussion to a meaningful
debate which helped the researcher to identify in depth pupils’ ideas. Finally, the
interviews were recorded with digital voice recorder and transcribed and the drawings
were collected for further analysis.
Following the specific research design, 37 transcripts were collected and 192
drawings. The analysis of the transcripts was made by using NVIVO 8.0 (qualitative
data analysis software). The analysis of drawings was based on the pattern of human
figure drawing suggested by Bar-Tal & Teichman (2007). Bar-Tal & Teichman
investigated pupils’ ideas about national self on psychometric foundations and tried to
identify how these ideas develop by age. For data collection, they used human figure
drawings which were scored on structural and thematic variables. The aspects of
structural analysis involved image complexity and image quality and the thematic
variables dealt with the status, affect, behaviour and appearance of human figures.
Since this study is not interested in the structure of the drawings (for example,
proportions of limbs and distortion of a figure and/or complexity of human figure),
the particular analysis was focused on the thematic aspects of the proposed pattern. In
terms of thematic analysis, Bar-Tal & Teichman scored the drawings they collected
according to attributed status, affect, behaviour and appearance. Attributed status
included level of education or profession and figure size defined by length and width.
Attributed affect entailed the rating of affect projected by the figure (negative, e.g.
anger, threat; neutral, e.g. unspecified; positive, e.g. joy, happiness) and the number
of colours used by children in a drawing. Attributed behaviour was linked with
movement (human figure was presented as static or active), verbal expressions
attached to figures (positive/neutral/negative content) and the decoration of a figure
(the items that accompanied a figure). Appearance was related to the type of clothing
(dressing code), to skin colour (light/dark), age (young/elder) and cleanliness (clean
dirty). In the first phase of the analysis, the particular parameters were applied to a set
of drawings in order to examine if they are applicable. This pilot examination showed
that not all variables can be applied to the human figure drawings of this study. For
example, the parameter ‘‘movement’’ was not applicable since all human figure
drawings presented as static figures and the age of figures can not be specified. Thus,
the parameters that were used in the context of this study were:
A) Attributed status related to level of education or profession expressed by drawing
(low level, e.g. garbage collector, unspecified, high level, e.g. doctor/businessman)
B) Attributed affect in regards to the figure’s reflecting affect (negative, neutral,
positive as defined above)
C) Attributed behaviour was examined under a) the content of verbal expressions that
was stated in bubbles and attached to figures (negative/neutral/positive content) and
b) figure decoration, the items that accompanied a figure (negative decoration e.g.
bombs, guns; neutral when there was no decoration; positive e.g. flowers, home)
D) Attributed appearance related to type of clothing (negative e.g. old fashioned,
ragged clothes, neutral e.g. classical dressing code, undefined, positive e.g. in fashion,
rich clothes with accessories) and to body cleanliness (negative e.g. dirty face/body
with smudges, positive e.g. clean and cared face/body).

The comments each child made for his/her creation of a particular human figure
were attached underneath each figure. At the end of the comments, pupil’s age and
gender were mentioned.
Children’s drawings of and the accompanied comments on each Balkan country
were separated and gathered on a separate paper editing what it was called ‘‘nation
drawing’’-one for each Balkan country. The ‘‘nation drawings’’ were analyzed by the
researcher and two coders (one teacher from primary school and one from secondary
school) in order to secure, as far as possible, objectivity. An analysis protocol and a
coding sheet were edited according to the parameters discussed above. Each teacher
and the researcher evaluated each human figure individually stating whether the
particular parameters attributed a negative or neutral or positive image. Additionally,
the analysts would mention how they reached to their judgement, indicating relevant
characteristics in the drawing and written expressions in pupils’ comments. After this
analysis, the judgements were compared and the inter-coder agreement was

3. Brief presentation of the findings

At first place, pupils’ reluctance to draw representative figures of particular nations
was noticed. Youngsters explained this reluctance on the base that they were not fully
aware of the countries which are included in Balkan Peninsula and where some of
them are located. Some pupils stated that:

I did not know that this country belongs to Balkans. I thought it was too far away (Int.

It was found that the countries pupils did not realize as part of the Balkan
Peninsula were those which are located away of the Greek bounders and in the
perimeter of the Balkans.
In order to draw representative figures from these countries, they used their
imagination due to the lack of their knowledge about these countries.

I did not know anything about

Serbians. I imagine them (Int.

Based on their drawings, pupils

expressed a rather
‘‘unspecified’’ and
‘‘imaginary’’ image of these
countries which was
characterised as neutral by the
coders (Image 2). Despite the
‘‘imaginary’’ image of these
countries pupils had, in some
cases, they underlined that they
Image 1. Sample of
pupils’ Image 2. Sample of knew that their home country
misconceptions about pupil’s ‘imaginary’ shares many cultural features
some nations image with these countries:
(The particular pupil (The creator of this
thought that figure comments: ‘I did
Montenegro is not know how they are.
F.Y.R.O.M. and the […] I imagined him’
former claims for

I know that we have many common with Croatia such as music and dances (Int. 3).
In some other cases, children did not avoid misconceptions as Image 1
On the other hand, pupils welcomed the task to draw figures from countries which
share borders with Greece (Albania, F.Y.R.O.M., Bulgaria and Turkey). Young
people argued that they were more aware of these nations because either they have
visited these countries or have learned about them at school or heard on the news.
Thus, they claimed that they have a more ‘‘clear’’ image of these nations than of
others which are far from the Greek borders. The way they portrayed these neighbour
countries was characterized as rather ‘‘negative’’ by the coders and the researcher.
Each of the neighbour countries gathered different features which reflected a negative
More particularly, Albanians and Bulgarians gathered the same features.
According to pupils’ comments, people of these countries come to Greece to find a
job because there are no jobs in their countries. The participants of this research
described these people as bad, selfish and ungrateful. As a result of these people’s
immigration, crime has increased in Greece. Also, children commented that, although
they find jobs and bring up their children in Greece, they disdain and steal from Greek
people. Especially about Bulgarians, pupils added that if they wanted to characterize
someone as a bad person, they called him/her Bulgarian. Nevertheless, pupils admit
that both these people work hard and do jobs that indigenous people characterize as
low status jobs (Image 3 & 4).
I have a negative
image of them.
They have
increased crime in

We give them
work and
afterwards they
disdain us
Image 3. Sample of Albanian figures made by pupils

They are not so

good people

Image 4. Sample of Bulgarian figures made by pupils

He is holding
a knife

The ideas that accompanied the drawings of Turks were different, but, with the
same result: a negative image (Image 5). Pupils described Turks as very bad people,
barbarians, aggressive, hateful and cold-blooded. They thought that wars and fights
were still taking place in Turkey because Turks are very hostile even with each other.
According to young people’s comments, they based their image of these people on the
war between Turks and Greeks that took place many years ago and the Turks’ hostile
behaviour towards Greeks that pupils were taught at school.

These people made Greeks suffer a lot and always want to conquer Greek regions
(Int. 16).
They also took Greek lands and fortunes and booted Greeks out of their places (Int.5).

They are not peaceful. They

caused many wars. That’s why I
put a gun and a knife in his hand He is a fat pasha.
They are bad

They are bad.

Image 5. Sample of Turkish figures made by pupils


Concerning the F.Y.R.O.M., pupils’ judgements and drawings replied on and were
‘‘inspired’’ by the ‘‘Macedonian issue’’ which still constitutes a ‘‘hot issue’’ between
the two countries (Greece-F.Y.R.O.M.). Pupils believed that the people of this nation
have expansionist views to Greece and because of these views, are underdeveloped.

They want to take Macedonia and take advantages of our country (Int. 11).

In regards to pupils’ age and gender, the research showed that these parameters did
not influence young people’s perceptions. Both girls and boys, regardless their age,
expressed the same kind of attitudes of each Balkan country. Additionally, no
significant differentiations were noticed in terms of the gender of the figures. Boys
drew female figures and girls male figures.
When youngsters were asked about the sources of their knowledge about the
Balkan countries they mentioned a list of agents which could be summarized as
follows. Education and school in general and school history in particular played an
important role in the construction of their image of each Balkan country. The way
children commented on Turks exemplifies the influence of school history. The media
constituted another source of knowledge that was mentioned by the participants of
this research. The news in particular and the way other countries are discussed and
the events that are selected to be broadcasted on the news were mentioned several
times as the base of young participants’ judgements. The pupils’ encounters with
people from other (neighbour) Balkan countries who live and work in Greece
contributed to the formation of pupils’ image of these countries. Young people who
were interviewed either knew or have spoken to or shared the same neighbourhood
with people from the neighbour Balkan countries. Finally, the family and the peer
group did not seem to influence much the formation of their ideas about the Balkan
‘‘other’’ since, as interviewees discussed, they did not talk about others with their
parents, siblings and friends; only occasionally- especially when a serious event is
broadcasted on the news.

The other day, I had a brief discussion about what F.Y.R.O.M. wants from us with my
dad. I heard something relevant on the news and caught my attention (Int. 27).

4. Brief discussion of the findings

The Balkan Peninsula and its countries share many common features in terms of the
culture, heritage, social construction and historical course. Nevertheless, this research
demonstrates that Greek young people had a ‘‘fragmental’’ view of the Balkans and
the Balkan ‘‘other’’. On the one hand, this ‘‘fragmental’’ view relates to the limited
pupils’ geographical knowledge of the region. On the other hand, it derives from the
historical knowledge pupils obtain at school. It seems that the focus on the countries
which link historically with the national history and the limited references to other
Balkan nations contribute for young people to distinguish the Balkan ‘‘other’’ as ‘‘far
away Balkan other’’ and the ‘‘neighbour Balkan other’’. The ‘‘far away Balkan
other’’ do not have so much in common as the ‘‘neighbour Balkan other’’ does.
However, children are aware of the commonalities that connect Balkan countries in
general, but they are not able to specify them.
In the same vein, participants of this research discuss mainly things (for instance,
events, issues and social reality) that divide Balkan countries rather than those which
connect them. The emphasis on this sort of events, issues and social reality
contributes for pupils to regard the ‘‘neighbour Balkan other’’ as ‘‘significant other’’

in the senses we discussed above. Moreover, the way pupils commented on these
‘‘significant other’’ countries (Albania, F.Y.R.O.M., Turkey and Bulgaria) reflects
that they consider these countries as inferior in relation to the national self. It should
be underlined that while children discussed their perception of the Balkan ‘‘other’’,
they related their national self to each Balkan country they knew something about. By
this way, they highlighted the ‘‘unpleasant’’ features of other Balkan nations and the
‘‘threat’’ other neighbour Balkan people constitute for the national self. Thus,
participants try to differentiate their national self from the Balkan ‘‘other’’
confirming what the theoretical discourse of national identity suggests and discussed
above (e.g. Connor 1978, Cullingford 2000).
Nevertheless, pupils’ suggestions about the Balkan ‘‘other’’ add other dimension
to this discussion. Participants were willing to know more about the Balkan Peninsula
and its countries. They emphasized that they would like to be aware of the social,
historical and cultural features that unite the Balkan nations.

I wish I would know more about Balkan countries. I am interested in the cultural
elements that everyone says that they unite us (Int. 28).

They suggest that school should contribute to this direction. School history,
geography and literature are some of school subjects that pupils propose as areas in
which the Balkan ‘‘other’’ should be discussed and presented. They also underline
that information about the other Balkan countries’ culture, heritage and social reality
will help them to understand better their national social reality.

I would like to know more about what happened in Albania and why people from this
country came in Greece. This information may help me to see Albanians through
different lenses (Int. 3).

Finally, youngsters suggest that the expansion of knowledge about the Balkan
other will give them the opportunity to see events and issues related to the Balkan
countries from other than the national point of view.

I would like to know what Turks have to say about the war between Greeks and
Turks. I was taught the Greek side not the other view (Int.11).

Coming to an end, this research tried to throw light to and gain insights into Greek
pupils’ perception of the Balkan ‘‘other’’. Despite its limited sample, this study
shows that pupils’ ideas are very interesting and challenging. We suggest that a more
expanded research in terms of sample size and nationality distribution should take
place in the future. The need for this kind of research becomes apparent if we take
into consideration that these young people will soon become the next active citizens
of a region as Balkan Peninsula which suffered a lot in the past and they will deal, in
the near future, with many ‘‘hot issues’’ which are still under debate.

Anderson, B. (1991) Imagined Communities. London: Verso.
Barrett, M., Wilson H., & Lyons E. (2003) “The development of national in-group bias: English
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Barrett, M. (2007) Children’s knowledge, beliefs and feelings about nations and national groups. New
York: Psychology Press.

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University Press.
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Nationality. Cambridge: the MIT Press.
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New York: Grune & Stratton.
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enculturation: Nation-state, school and ethnic difference in the Netherlands, Britain, Germany and
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Tamisoglou, C. (2011) What effect does school history have on Greek nationality pupils in relation to
their ideas about their own nation and ‘significant other’ nations and their people?. Unpublished thesis
submitted at University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
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Europe since 1989. Hamburg: Korber-Stiftung, 28-38.
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11. The Question of the Other in the reminiscences of former

pupils of the Bulgarian secondary schools
in Thessaloniki and Edirne

Lyubomir Georgiev
St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library – Sofia

The question of the Other is elaborated on the basis of scientific literature and of the
memoirs, preserved in the Bulgarian historical archives of the St. St. Cyril and
Methodius National Library in Sofia (CMNL - BHA) The focus of this report is
placed above all on the relationship between Bulgarians and Greeks.
Keywords: Bulgarian secondary schools, Thessaloniki, Edirne, stereotype of the

1. Introduction
Until the Second Balkan War (1913) Thessaloniki was the most important centre of
the Bulgarian education in Macedonia. In the 1880-1881 school year the Orthodox
Bulgarian exarchate opened the secondary school for boys “St. St. Cyril and
Methodius” in Thessaloniki, as well as the secondary school for girls “Holy
In 1886 the Uniat Bulgarian secondary school in the district of Zejtinlik was
opened by the Order of St. Lazarus. In 1904 the extensive economic development in
the early twentieth century prompted the Bulgarian Exarchate to open a trade
secondary school in Thessaloniki as well.
The ancient city of Edirne played a key role in the past of the Thrace region
and of the Bulgarian state. The Bulgarians in Adrianople at the end of 19th – the
beginning of 20th century had four secondary schools – one for boys and one for
girls, respectively for the Orthodoxies and for the Eastern Catholics74.
The Orthodox secondary school for boys, named after its benefactor, Dr Petar
Beron was established in 1896.
The Orthodox secondary school for girls had the name of its benefactor –
‘‘Kasarova”. This school existed simultaneously with the school for boys.
There is scientific literature, considerable in quality and quantity, dedicated to
the Bulgarian secondary schools in Thessaloniki and in Edirne75. On the other side,
over the years historians and philologists have developed a sustainable and successful

Енциклопедия България, т. 6, София, 1988, с. 289-290. [Encyclopedia Bulgaria, vol. 6, Sofia,
1988, p. 289-290.]
Елдъров, С. Униатството в съдбата на България. София, 1994, с. 11-13. [Eldarov, S. Uniatism in
the Fate of Bulgaria. Sofia, 1994, p. 11-13.]
Божинов, В. Българската просвета в Македония и Одринска Тракия (1878 – 1913). София,
1982 [Bozhinov, V. Bulgarian education in Macedonia and the Adrianople region of Thrace (1878–
1913), Sofia, 1982]; Димитров, А. Училището, прогресът и националната революция.
Българското училище през Възраждането. София, 1987. [Dimitrov, A. The School, the Progress
and the National Revolution. The Bulgarian School in the Period of the Revival]. Sofia, 1987,

tradition in the study of the attitudes towards the Other in the Balkans76. Therefore,
studying the image of the Other from the school graduates’ point of view seems a
worthwhile endeavour, especially as new historical sources have been included. The
Bulgarian historical archives of the St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library in
Sofia (CMNL - BHA) hold significant documental material about this problem field77.

2. The Question of the Other in the memories of graduates of the Bulgarian

Orthodox Secondary Schools
Memoirs are reasonably overlooked as a historical source because they are extremely
subjective and located in a border area of fiction. As a rule, their authors seek to
present themselves in a better light, to adjust their memories according the events that
followed and adapt them because of different ad hoc reasons. It is just that personal
attitude though that makes memories interesting to read. The images and pictures they
paint are vivid and understandable and build in their readers sustainable historical
The collected memories of the schoolboys and schoolgirls are an extremely
rich source of diverse information about the Other. One can read there about the Other
Bulgarians (the subjects of the Bulgarian Tsar and the Sultan, the congregation of the
Bulgarian Exarchate and the Constantinople Patriarchate, the Orthodox and the
Catholics, the boys and the girls, the teachers and the students); about the Other
Christians - the Orthodox neighbours ( the Greeks, the Orthodox Slavs – the Russians,
the Serbs) the Other Christians - Catholics (Frenchmen, Italians and a Hungarian) and
Armenians; about the Other faiths (Jews, Gypsies, Muslims - Turks, Albanians and a
Circassian). The focus of this report is placed above all on the relationship between
Bulgarians and Greeks because of the international conference, for which it was

3. The Image of the Greeks

The Bulgarian stereotype of the Greeks has its thousand-year old history. In the minds
of the medieval pagan Bulgarians the dominating image of the Greeks was “the image
of the enemy." Even after the adoption of Christianity (c. 865), the Bulgarians
continued to perceive the Greeks as sly and cunning.
In the era of the national Revival the image of the Other was built up by
ideologists and the national propaganda, while it was also the product of the century-
old coexistence and relations between nations. Quoting the Nobel laureate Georgios
Seferis :
Και ψυχή
ει μέλλει γνώσεσθαι αυτήν
εις ψυχήν
αυτή βλεπτέον:
τον ξένο και τον εχθρό τον είδαμε στον καθρέφτη78.

Представата за Другия на Балканите. София, 1995. Съст. Н. Данова, В. Димова и М.
Калицин.[The idea of the Other in the Balkans, Sofia, 1995, eds. N. Danova V. Dimova, M. Kalitsin] ;
Greece and the Balkans: Identities, Perceptions and Cultural Encounters since the Enlightenment. Ed.
D. Tziovas, Burlington, 2003.
Georgiev, L. The education of the Bulgarians in Adrianople in the light of documents from the
National library in Sofia – In: International Symposium “Edirne in archival resources of the Balkan
countries”, Ed. Karatepe, T., U. Demirelli. Edirne 2010, p. 11-27.
Сеферис, Г. Аргонавти. Съвременна гръцка поезия. Книга първа. Съст. Стефан Гечев. София,
1997, с. 264. [Seferis, G. Argonauts. Contemporary Greek poetry. Vol. 1. Eds. St. Gechev . Sofia,
1997, p. 264.]

And a soul
if it is to know itself
must look
into its own soul:
the stranger and enemy, we’ve seen him in the mirror79.

The attitude of the Bulgarians to the Greeks, at that time, is controversial. The
Greeks become an example of culture and Europeanization. Their patriotism, their
agreement in the works of the entire nation is recognized - those are virtues that the
Bulgarians lack. The Greek is a gentler lover, a more passionate patriot, more
studious. A folk song urges the girl to marry a Greek tradesman, not a rough
Bulgarian ploughman80. About the middle of nineteenth century with the embittering
of the Bulgarian-Greek ecclesiastical feud and as a result of the open confrontation
with the Hellenic National Platform (Megali Idea), the negative starts to prevail in the
image of the Greek. The mirror reflection of this negativity defines the Greek notions
of that time of their northern neighbours81.
But let us get back to more recent times when Bulgarian secondary schools
were operating in Thessaloniki and Edirne. In memories the Greeks were considered
as the main enemy. While by adopting the Catholic Faith one entered the category of
the Other Bulgarians, and in those times turning Turk in Edirne was an exception,
hellenization was not rare and it meant not only loss for the young Bulgarian nation,
but also clear gain for the enemy. The verbal collision was at all levels - from
children's jokes deciphering the initials of the Bulgarian pension (boarding school) as
“Bulgarian pig” and of the Hellenic School as Elinikon gaydurion “Greek donkey”,
to the Greeks wishing a boat full of Bulgarian students to sink so the Bulgarians
would drown in the stormy sea82. It is remarkable that those curses were made on one
of the biggest Christian holidays itself – St. Jordan’s day. One striking fact is that the
teacher Anastas Dumev changed his first name to its Bulgarian equivalent Velko and
solemnly announced that in front of the gathered people in 1894, on May 1183. This is
the day of St. St. Cyril and Methodius, called “The Thessaloniki’s brothers” – the
holiday of the Bulgarian culture and education.
Fortunately, hate was not the only feeling that the high school students
experienced to the Greek people. A “love affair” between a high school student and a
Greek girl who lived in a house opposite the school is mentioned. The romantic
relationship began with a witty exchange of notes and sweets to lead ultimately to the
whitewashing with a thick coat of paint of the window of the school with the warning
to the boy to be expelled from school and the “total insanity” of the girl84 . The
described case is probably true, but it is particularly important because of its edifying

Mythistorema by George Seferis. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.
Михова, Л. Народната литература като "безмитна зона" в балканските книжовни контакти. –
В: Представата за Другия ..., с. 159. [Mihova, L. The folk literature as a "free zone" in Balkan literary
contacts. – In: The idea of the Other…, p. 159.]
Данова, Н. Взаимната представа на българи и гърци ХV – средата на ХІХ в. – В: Представата
за Другия... с. 183-186. [Danova, N. The mutual idea of Bulgarians and Greeks 15 – mid- 19 century.
– In: The idea of the Other…, p. 183-186.]
Bulgarian historical archives of the St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library in Sofia (CMNL -
BHA), F. 641 (Ivan Ormandzhiev), а.u. 36 а, f. 468-470.
Ibidem, f. 150.
Ibidem, f. 232.

significance for the community. Clearly, one of the main risks of erosion and melting
of the national group were mixed marriages. At the beginning of the last century the
mythological image of the fatally beautiful and deeply insidious descendant of Helen
of Troy still functioned. One school mistress, who came from the Principality of
Bulgaria, saw things in Edirne in 1905 like this: “It seems that our Bulgarians there
had special fondness for Greek girls, because I saw many Bulgarians married to
Greek women but not one Greek man married to a Bulgarian.” The crime - incest with
the ancestral enemy - in her eyes was inevitably punished and the children paid the
price: ”In these families they spoke exclusively Greek, their children spoke bad
Bulgarian, were bad students with an unhealthy appearance: pale, thin as if being
The stereotype of the Greek in the memories of the Bulgarians, who studied in
Thessaloniki, stands out as negative even more clearly. Among the reasons for that is
the fact that our town was taken away by the Greeks, and the Bulgarian secondary
school in Thessaloniki was captured after a bloody battle that lasted for long hours.
The initially blurred boundaries among the Orthodox Christians in the Balkans
become outlined in the situation of relentless war between national ideologies. George
Bozhkov remembers how Your own becomes Foreign, Other. “Some of my close
people began to resort to the foreign. Some married Greek women and forgot their
origin. Some became teachers in Greek schools(…)”86
It was Graecomane relatives who attacked and wounded his father in five
places, because he had moved Georgi from a Greek school into a Bulgarian one. A
woman relative of Bozhkov, a Greek by birth, used to tell him in Greek: "I have been
sworn by my father, wherever I see a Bulgarian, to break his head"87. This graduate
from a Hellenic school, who mastered the language of Kavafis and Seferis, a relative
of Graecomanes and Greeks, went to the extreme in his hatred of the Greeks.
Bozhkov even refuses them the right to be people, to be Greek: "There is nothing
human in them ... They have nothing in common with that culture we have read about.
They do not speak Greek but Vlach and Albanian"88.
The deepening of the contradictions with the Greeks in the development of the
Bulgarian Revival is clearly visible in the memories of Konstantin Kondov. His uncle
called Costa took part in the Greek uprising on the island of Crete89 . Konstantin's
father even studied in a classical Greek school in Thessaloniki and was fluent in
Greek 90 . Konstantin himself was proud to take part in the fistfights against the
children of other nations and first of all – against the Greeks, when he studied in the
Bulgarian secondary school in Thessaloniki: “On the streets Greeks and Turks, who
dared to bother us, often became aware of our fists armed with brass knuckles on
their backs and loins. Therefore, Turks and Greeks and Jews treated the Bulgarian
boarders with respect” 91 . Konstantin Kondov clearly expressed his intolerance
towards the Greeks, writing about the broader rights of their minority in Bulgaria.
During military exercises in 1892, he and other cadets from Macedonia were

CMNL – BHA, F. 641, а.u. 37, f. 291.
Бошнакова, М. Солунските българи в навечерието на Балканската война. (Спомени на Георги
Божков) – Българска етнология, год. ХХІХ (2003), кн. 2-3, с. 175-191. . [Boshnakova, M. The
Thessaloniki Bulgarians on the eve of the Balkan war. (Memories of Georgi Bozhkov) - Bulgarian
ethnology, year 29 (2003), vol. 2-3, p. 176.]
Ibidem, p. 180.
Ibidem, p. 190.
CMNL – BHA, F. 326, a. u. 4, f. 43.
Ibidem, f. 47.
Ibidem, f. 64.

particularly outraged by the non-Bulgarian colouring of the cities Pazardzhik and

Plovdiv, where the Greeks had bishops, schools and community centers and allowed
themselves to wave Greek flags on their homes and shops. Kondov exclaimed with
pain: "What a difference we found between the Bulgarianised Solun /Thessaloniki/
and the choked with Hellenism Plovdiv or "Philippopolis"92.
In his versicular eulogy of the Bulgarian secondary school in Thessaloniki on
the occasion of its anniversary, Lyubomir Bobevski denigrates Hellenism: using such
epithets for the Greek – the narrow-minded soul of the cunning Hellene…the
malicious mean Greek, who mocked without pity at our family and tribe and
Testament and ideal”.
It should be strongly emphasized here that this opinion is in the context of a
specific tragic historical situation, of national disaster. It is in no way representative of
the long-term relations between the two neighbouring Orthodox peoples. Even in
these words there is a trace of homage to the great culture of Hellas. Overall, the
memories are not lacking recognition of human and professional qualities of
individual Greeks. High school students were treated by Greek doctors and
pharmacists, who were characterized as good, conscientious, kind and noble people93.

4. Conclusion
The relations between the Bulgarian students and the Others are complex and filled
with contradictions, but they also play an important role for all involved. The
memories left by the former pupils of the Secondary schools are imbued with the
burning problems of everyday life and with the gall of the personal attitude. They
combine the flavour of the time they refer to with the aroma of the era in which they
were written. This is the reason why the memoirs are valuable building blocks for the
work of the historian. The point of view to the other Christians in them is generally
positive. The exception is the negation to the happier rivals of Bulgaria in the division
of Macedonia and Thrace - Serbia and definitely Greece. However, in the documents
are highlighted the minuses as well as the pluses in the national psychology and in
the political actions of the Hellenes. The combination of ardent patriotic feelings
with a striving for objectivity and logic in the conclusions is typical of the turn of the
twentieth century, when these memories were written.

Ibidem, f. 69.
CMNL – BHA, F. 641, a .u. 36, f. 289-290.

Appendix – Photographies



CMNL – BHA, С VІІ 131.




12. “If on a cold winter night a foreigner...”: Researching the perceptions of

student kindergarten teachers about the ethnic Balkan “Other”

Kostas Magos
University of Thessaly

This article aims to examine the perceptions of Greek female student kindergarten
teachers concerning the ethnic “self”, the ethnic “other” and the desired relationship
between them, when the ethnic “other” is a man coming from Turkey or from
Albania. Narrative analysis of stories told by the research participants and based on a
folk tale motif was the methodology used. The findings of the research show that the
student kindergarten teachers repeat the stereotypes of the majority concerning the
specific Balkan “Other” but at the same time they express the willingness to
overcome these stereotypes through the creation of a fruitful and effective
Key words: student kindergarten teachers, Balkan “Other”, narrative, folk tales,

1. Introduction
The use of narrative inquiry in educational research is not an innovation. Many
researchers have used narrative as a means for researching perceptions and attitudes of
teachers (Carter 1993; Coulter, Michael & Poynor 2007). As supported by Olson
(2000), teachers, through narrative inquiry, can rethink their work and see the changes
they make each year, whether they are successful or not. Storytelling and narrative
help teachers reexamine the views and positions they have expressed or adopted
through a fresh critical eye. According to Mezirow (1991), this type of transformation
of previous views may constitute the beginning of a transformative process that is
capable of leading someone towards the reexamination of problematic perceptions and
attitudes which, in the past, has accepted. Within such a framework, storytelling does
not stand only with its classic use but, also, in a form of a critical approach (Aveling
2001), through which values, opinions and life philosophies are redefined. Given that
stories function on two different levels, practical and conscious (Bruner 1986), the use
of storytelling within the framework of an educational process prompts participants to,
on the one hand, evaluate the views and behaviors adopted by stories’ heroes, and on
the other, compare their own experiences with those of the heroes. Subsequently,
participants identify with the heroes or distance themselves. Through such a
procedure, participants understand cultural differences, interpret cultural codes, judge
prejudice and stereotypes, and compare their own cultural identity with that of others.
There is a large number of studies in which storytelling has been used for
intercultural training, both for student and in-service teachers (Villegas & Lucas 2002;
Vavrus 2002; Dilworth 1998). Overall, these studies agree that teachers who analyze
and interpret both their storytelling practices as well as those of others may gradually
succeed in raising intercultural awareness while also achieving professional and
personal improvement. Garcia (1997) underlines the importance of using personal
storytelling as, through such a method, it is possible to demonstrate how teachers use

their cultural references to create teaching and learning environments related to the
existence of intercultural dimensions.
The fact that narrative inquiry, as a technique, is particularly pleasant for the
research subjects and contributes towards creating a relaxed working environment
between participants and the researcher, makes it one of the most effective
methodological tools for conducting educational and social research.

2. Aim, sample and methodology of the research

The research being presented here examines the perceptions of Greek female student
teachers on ethnic “self” and ethnic “other” through the use of storytelling. Two cases
of ethnic otherness were examined. In both cases, the ethnic “other” comes from the
Balkans. In the first case the other is from Turkey and in the second from Albania.
The comparison of views expressed by the participants of the research in these two
cases, as well as the examination of their opinions on how they would like the
relationship between ethnic “self” and the specific ethnic “others” stands as another
main aim of this research.
The sample of the research is 198 Greek female student kindergarten teachers from
the Department of Preschool Education of the University of Thessaly in Greece. Of
these, 102 focused on ethnic “other” of Turkish descent, while the remaining 96
students on “other” of Albanian background. Narrative analysis, which is based on the
analysis of stories told by the research participants, was the methodology used.
According to Leech and Onwuegbuzie (2008), the methodology of narrative analysis
usually entails producing a summary of the research findings by either summarizing
the story's main plot, distinguishing the main thematic categories that run through the
plot, or utilizing the structure of events mentioned in a story.
Though autobiographical storytelling or life stories are used for the majority of
such studies, other approaches, according to Ladson-Bilings (2004), including
parables, chronicles, stories, counter stories, poetry, and fiction, may be used for
educational purposes within the framework of Critical Race Theory in order to
improve understanding of how dominant ethnocentric views and stereotypes are
formed and why they prevail. Ben Cohen and Piper (2000) note that the storytelling of
students, with regard to their educational experiences, often repeats aspects existing in
stories and tales.
The stories analyzed in this study carry a folk tale motif. A prepared story that
resembles the introduction of a typical folk tale was provided as text for this study.
The text that was provided to the research participants follows.

‘‘Once upon a time an old man, his wife and their daughter Angeliki lived inside a
small cottage located in a Greek forest. Angeliki was attractive,18 years old, and
many young men of the region were interested in having her as their wife. One cold
and rainy night, a knock was heard on the cottage door. The surprised old man opened
the door to see a young man who had just dismounted his horse.
-Who are you stranger so late at night, the old man asked.
-I’m Ali, I'm Turk, and I'm looking for a place to sleep. It's raining and it gets very
cold in the forest at night, the young man replied’’.

The version with the Albanian foreigner was the same. The answer provided by the
stranger in that version was:

“-I'm Ervin, I'm Albanian, and I'm looking for a place to sleep. It's raining and it gets

very cold in the forest at night.”

The female students who took part in the research were asked to complete the story as
they desired. No constraints in terms of size, structure or style were imposed. The fact
that the female students can identify with the heroine’s gender, ethno cultural identity,
and age, increases the likelihood of transferring their own experiences, expectations,
desires and behaviors to the heroine. As a result, the stories provided by the
participants of the research contain and describe responses to ethnic and cultural
otherness that would have been likely by the writers themselves. Subsequently, the
participants who think and offer their versions of the story's continuation assume, to a
certain degree, the roles of the protagonists they create. Such is the case in Italo
Calvino's (1979) novel “If on a cold winter night a foreigner...” which this article
takes its title from. There the reader and his or her interpretation becomes the story's
true protagonist.
The research presented here further pursues a preceding study (Magos and
Kontogianni (2009), in which the perceptions of student kindergarten teachers on the
connection between ethnic “self” and “other” were researched using the same
methodological approach.

3. Findings of the research

3.1. “Welcome foreigner…”
In the case where the stranger is represented by Ali the Turk, the old man offers
hospitality without any hesitation in the majority of stories (82%). He is not troubled
by the stranger's different ethnocultural identity, as it is the identity of a stranger in
need of help that dominates the line of thinking. The following excerpts illustrate:

Without second thought, the old man immediately welcomed the young Ali and
provided hospitality inside his home. (T80)

Quickly, come inside so I can give you warm clothes because you are drenched. I
have hot soup and a place for you to sleep. (T9)

Once he heard the Turk's words, the old man thought nothing about ethnic
background or religion - nothing whatsoever. He viewed him as a person who had
asked for help. And the old man immediately said: 'Come inside my friend.' (T68)

Without hesitation, Angeliki's family, guided by the spirit of Greek hospitality,

accepted the young Turk into their home. (T59)

In this last excerpt, hospitality is projected as a fundamental characteristic of ethnic

identity that indirectly 'obliges' the host to offer hospitality, regardless of personal
desire. Similar excerpts of conditional hospitality were found in the case of the
Albanian Ervin.

-Thank you very much, I did not expect to be accepted by you. I knocked on the doors
of many cottages around here, but was not accepted anywhere.
-It would be a disgrace to Greek hospitality to not accept you, replied the old man.

In some stories, both in the cases of the Turkish and Albanian visitors, the Greek

hospitality stereotype is supplemented by that of the ‘‘poor yet hospitable Greek.’’

Welcome to our poor little home stranger. We may be poor, but we're hospitable.

Come inside for a glass of wine with us. We don't have much to offer you, but we can
share our bread and cheese with you. (A29)

Come on into our poor little home my lad. You may not find rich offerings here, but a
roof will protect you from the heavy rain." "My kind old man, you are so much like my
father. He was good-hearted like you. Never did he leave people helpless." "Oh, my
boy, we poor people are sensitive, because we know well about hardship and hunger.
But let's forget about the things that make us feel bitter. (T60)

The aforementioned excerpts show that differences in social class identity prevail over
ethno cultural differences, the logic being that if you are "poor" then you are "good"
regardless of where you come from, and since you are "poor" like us, you are "one of

In a smaller number of stories regarding the Turk Ali (18%), the Greek hospitality
stereotype continues to dominate, but not without hesitation. The hospitality offered
here is accompanied by suspicion and fear of the ethnic and religious disparities.

Even though you're Turkish, it doesn't matter. Come inside and sleep here tonight.

They were not overcome by fear because he was Turkish. On the contrary, they took
care of him. (T59)

The old man took him into the cottage and asked his wife to serve him some hot soup.
But he told the stranger that the barn was all he had to offer for a night's sleep. (T83)

-But you're Turk. How can a Turk sleep inside my home?

- Old man, I'm a Turk, not a leper!
- Do you promise me that you're good and not like the others? (T49)

Contrary to the case of the Turk Ali, Ervin the Albanian is offered instant hospitality
without any hesitation in just 29% of the stories. In the remaining 71% of the sample's
stories, hospitality is offered, but with fear and suspicion of the stranger intact. The
following excerpts illustrate:

The old man felt confused. He looked at the strange traveler with suspicion and
invited him inside after letting him know how dangerous the forest could be at night.

The old man found himself trapped in a major dilemma. On the one hand, he had
before him a person who was tired and with no place to go, and on the other, a
stranger whom he knew nothing about...The old man was unable to sleep during the
night. He felt restless about the stranger he had allowed into his home, and, as a
result, every now and then, checked if he were asleep to be sure of his family's safety.


The solutions reached by the research participants to assure that the representatives of
ethnic «self» - the Greek family living in the cottage - could stay true to the Greek
hospitality stereotype while avoiding to offer genuine hospitality to the Albanian man
Ervin were quite creative: The barn, basement, adjoining hut, storage room, even a
guest room are deemed as being part of the cottage, and, ultimately, enable hospitality
to be offered.

I can't let you stay inside my home, but I can allow you to stay in the barn. He gave
the stranger some water, a loaf of bread, and a towel. (A2)

Once he had led the stranger to the guest room, he wished young Ervin "goodnight."

On the one hand, Angeliki's father did not want to allow a stranger into the cottage,
but, on the other, he was such a good person, which prompted the old man to let him
sleep in the adjacent hut that was empty. (A13)

He asked him to enter and quickly hid the stranger in the basement. (A14)

In 29% of the cases where the Albanian stranger is offered instant hospitality without
any hesitation from the specific Greek family, the stranger mentions difficulties that
he needed to overcome before being accepted:

-Come into my cottage. I'll put you up.

-Thank you very much.
-Come inside my boy so you can warm up and forget about the pleasantries.
-You know, I found three other cottages along the way, but was not accepted. I felt
dejected. (A31)

It is common in the stories concerning both Ali and Ervin for the women of the family
to deal with hospitality's burden. They are the ones that end up taking care of the
guest. The following excerpts offer interesting insight into gender-based stereotypes
conveyed in a large number of the stories delivered by the research group's

Come inside stranger. Get up woman, a traveling stranger is here. (T19)

Come inside and get some rest. Make the bed for the stranger my little Angeliki. (T41)

Come inside my lad. Woman, fetch a pair of trousers and a shirt for the young man to
change. Heat up a little food, too, for the boy to warm up. (T91)

The old man woke up his wife and daughter so they could take care of the foreigner.
Both women did so with great pleasure. (A33)

The old man felt sorry for him and called his wife: Woman, prepare the fold-up bed in
the storage room for the foreigner to sleep and serve him a plate of food. (A6)

In some of the stories concerning both Ali and Ervin, the doubt and fear of the

"foreigner" does not seem to stem from the old man but his wife. These stories also
convey typical gender stereotypes that underline fear as a female trait.

The old man initially hesitated as to whether he should allow the person into his
cottage and felt concerned about how his wife and daughter would feel about it.
However, since this person needed help, even though he was Turkish, the old man had
to offer hospitality despite his wife's objections. (T12)

What are you doing my old man? He's Turkish. He will do something bad to us! Our
daughter! What are you talking about my lady! Are all Turks and Greeks bad people?

But, my old man, come to your senses, remarked the old woman. An Albanian inside
our house at this hour? Aren't you afraid at all? We have a grown-up daughter. (A57)

You're letting a foreigner, and mind you an Albanian, into our house at such an hour?
she questioned. Aren't you ashamed of yourself? The boy is drenched. Where are we
going to let him go in the night? (A3)

In some stories concerning the Albanian Ervin, the hesitation to offer hospitality is
attributed to fear of society's reaction. Dominant stereotypes regarding ethnic
otherness are repeated.

He was an Albanian and the entire village considered him a thief, fraud, public
danger. ( A32)

Old man, you've run into trouble for bringing an Albanian into your home. Everybody
around here is saying he's a thief and that he could kill you. (A23)

Everybody here will stop talking to us if the village finds out you're staying here my
lad. And nobody will want to marry our daughter. (A10)

In Ervin's case, four stories portray differences of opinion caused by the generation
gap. Young Angeliki's perspective contrasts the view of her parents. The following
excerpts illustrate:

-Where did you say you were from?

-From Albania.
-And you dare to ask me if you can stay in my home, shouted the old man.
-Why shouldn't I be able to ask, Ervin questioned calmly.
-Because you're from Albania, the old woman's voice was heard saying.
Having listened to all this, Angeliki felt horrible about her parents and their views.

The old man refused to offer Ervin shelter and sent him away in a nasty fashion. He
told him to leave because he did not want to help an Albanian. As soon as his
daughter Angeliki had realised what was going on, she attempted to talk to her father
and make him change his mind. (A25)

Table 1: The offer of hospitality to the foreigner:


hospitality hospitality with

without hesitation hesitation (%)
Ali 82 18
Ervin 29 71

3.2. "The children got married..."

The two young individuals fall in love and get married in approximately two-thirds of
the stories (64%) concerning the Turk Ali and just over one-third of the stories
concerning the Albanian Ervin (35%). The parents either have no objections or, if
they do, ultimately overcome them.

They ended up getting married, celebrated wildly, and lived happily ever after. (T85)

Eventually, the old man accepted. The children got married, celebrated in a big way,
and lived happily ever after. (T88)

Over time, Ervin and Angeliki fell in love and decided to get married in the city
nearby. They lived happily ever after. (A1)

They got married, continued to live there, and had three children, Giorgos, Hasan,
and Maria. (T11)

They got married according to Greek and Turkish customs. (T38)

The storytellers behind the two previous examples make clear their need to declare a
coexistence between the two cultures (Greek and Turkish), as well as the mutually
influential intercultural interaction that is created as a result of ties between
individuals of different ethno cultural identity.

In some stories, the storytellers feel the need to include the approval of the parents for
such an unconventional wedding. Approval is provided by comparing the ethnically
different prospective husband with local candidates and deciding that the foreigner is
superior in terms of character. The following excerpt underlines this:

The wedding took place with the blessing of both parents as Ali proved to be kinder
and more virtuous than all the local lads. (T47)

In some stories, the wedding proceeds after Ali is baptised a Christian - indicating
acceptance of assimilation - as either a result of his own initiative or demand made by
Angeliki and her parents.

Ali became a Christian and was baptised as Dimitris. The wedding followed and
Angeliki and Dimitris had three children and lived happily ever after. (T68)

Ali was baptised as Alexandros. The wedding took place a few days later and the
young couple went to live in the city nearby. Their love lasted for evermore. (T67)

In some cases, it is not necessary for the culturally different individual to become a
Christian - and hence religiously and culturally identical - for the wedding to receive

approval. This is so if the husband-to-be is of distinguished lineage. Relatively higher

social class can overcome obstacles created by differences in cultural identity.

Ali lived with Angeliki while his palace was being constructed. In the end, they all
went to Ali's father, met and were happy without exception. The couple married at the
beautiful palace and the entire lot lived there together. (T10)

They all traveled together to Turkey, where Prince Ali married the daughter. (T20)

I love you Angeliki. I'm going to abandon my homeland, riches, palaces and stay here
with you forever so I can just gaze into your two eyes. (T67)

A similar case is also noted in a story concerning the Albanian Ervin. Besides the
social status of the foreigner, the local's behaviour is particularly interesting.

- I've come to Greece to purchase a few horses for my kingdom in Albania. Greek
horses are faster than ours.
- So, you're a king, asked the old man.
- Still just a prince. The son of a king in an Albanian province, replied the young man.
Following the exchange, the old man thought about arranging to marry his only
daughter with the young prince. The plan would hit two birds with one stone, the old
man thought. I'll both marry my daughter and get rich myself..." Angeliki met Ervin's
parents, who liked her very much and decided to move to Greece. They lived happily
ever after. (A39)

The royal family's relocation to Greece, as well as the opinions expressed about the
quality of Greek and Albanian horses, illustrates the storyteller's willingness to make
cultural comparisons of the two countries, and also reach conclusions.

In another story, Ervin may not be a prince, but his financial status is confirmed by the
presents he chooses to bring for Angeliki and her parents.

Many days later, Ervin returned to the forest and, for presents, brought the old man's
family two slaughtered wild pigs, five chickens, and a beautiful necklace for Angeliki,
whom he proposed to. Angeliki accepted and her parents did not object. The young
couple lived together happily in a proper house built by Ervin, who was one of his
country's wealthiest people. (A13)

In another story concerning Ervin, the Albanian bridegroom's acceptance and

establishment is based on both his career progress and behaviour towards Angeliki's
parents. This storyteller's choice highlights the stereotype characterizing the average
Greek, and by extension, Balkan family for a desirable husband.

Ervin studied medicine and Angeliki studied drama. Their aspirations, however, did
not end there. Angeliki pursued post-graduate studies in children's theatre and now
enjoys a career as an academic, while Ervin was employed at one of the best hospitals
abroad. They communicated by email on a daily basis...One day, Ervin returned to
Greece and proposed to Angeliki. She happily accepted and began searching for a
university post in the country where she planned to move to...In the long run, Ervin
proved to be a good husband, father and son-in-law. As a present for Angeliki's

parents, now also his parents, Ervin offered his in-laws a huge house with an
enormous garden next door to their home, so they could all live together in the same
country. (A11)

The need to justify the marriage approval with a foreigner dominates the majority of
stories that culminate with marriage between the protagonists. This is particularly so
in the stories concerning Ervin, who is described as a hard-working and worthy
example of an outsider by the majority of participants.

The old man thought very highly of Ervin. He was a diligent worker and supported
both the old man and his family. (A1)

Ervin proved to be hard-working, generous, and a good friend. Later on, he fell in
love with Angeliki, they married and had a wonderful family. (A2)

-One woman who ran into Angeliki's mother in the marketplace enquired: "How could
such a beautiful girl marry an Albanian?
-So what if he's Albanian? He's proved that he is an honest and worthy lad who loves
our little daughter very much. (A3)

Ervin worked many days out in the cold without making a single complaint. Observing
the young man's generosity and diligence, the old man agreed to him marrying his
daughter. (A9)

Contrary to Ervin, whose acceptance as a bridegroom is tied with his honesty,

productivity, and goodness, Ali the Turk, in a limited number of stories (5%), is
accepted as a bridegroom after this ethnically different individual has proven that his
feelings for the bride-to-be are true. In one story, Ali saves her from drowning in the
river (T64); in another version she is saved from an attack by wild jackals (T55); in a
third story he manages to purge spirits that have made her ill (T46); and in a fourth
story, Ali saves Angeliki's mother from thieves who are about to kill her (T72).

The elements that determine the bridegroom's acceptance in the majority of cases, and
which differ depending on the foreigner's descent -honesty and productivity in the
case of the Albanian, and love in the Turk's case- once again indirectly portray the
dominant stereotypes held by the majority of Greeks against specific ethnic groups.

In one story Angeliki asks from Ervin and from a Greek lover to contest. In that way
she will decide who is more suitable for her husband. The personality of Angeliki as it
is described through the process of the competition gives very interesting elements of
the perceptions of the storyteller about the female ethnic self.

In the morning, Angeliki announced the details of her test to the two young men.
-I will ask you three questions. Whoever provides the best answer will be my husband.
First question: What colour is my hair under the sun?
-Red, both men answered.
-Second question: What colour are my eyes?
-Brown, both young men answered.
However, before Angeliki was able to pose her third question, Ervin remarked: But
they turn into the colour of honey when exposed to light, and darken when they

-You're my man, Angeliki responded. (A39)

In two stories concerning Ervin, the relationship between the Albanian foreigner and
Angeliki prompts violent reaction from her parents as well as the community. The
following stories demonstrate the strong renunciation of the specific ethnic outsider
by the locals.

Her father became furious and got up to attack Ervin, who had taken advantage of the
hospitality by daring to establish ties with his daughter. He spoke harshly of the
foreigner's descent. But Ervin remained calm. He spoke to the old man in a civilized
and very eloquent fashion. (A6)

When the news had spread to the local community, the village's young men who had
set their eyes on Angeliki as a bride reacted and wanted to get rid of him. They
decided that they would kill him one night while he would be returning to the hut.
Ervin was fortunate, though, because he happened to stay in on that particular night.

3.3. "The lovers eloped one night..."

In 12% of the cases concerning the Turk Ali, the two young lovers eloped because the
parents had either not given their blessing or the pair was afraid they would not do so.
In Ervin's case, in seven stories (7%) the pair flees to marry.

Ali was so much in love that, upon nightfall, while all were asleep, he took her and
they left for a faraway place. The couple married and had a big and happy family.

Without too much ado, they eloped during the night. All Angeliki left behind was a
message for her parents. (T58)

Ali grabbed her, placed her on the horse, and they left for a distant place to live their
love in peace. (T16)

Ervin and Angeliki decided to flee as they feared her parents would not agree to such
a marriage. (A51)

Fortunately, Ervin had kept his horse. One night, he and Angeliki fled from the
cottage without having said anything to anybody. (A63)

In Ervin's case, all the stories in which the two young lovers decide to marry without
the blessing of the parents have a happy ending. The parents accept the situation after
it has become clear to them that the couple is binded blissfully. However, in Ali's
case, the initiative taken by the couple ends painfully in a limited number of stories.
Here, punishment arrives as divine justice for a socially unacceptable relationship.

Ali and Angeliki fell in love knowing that the old man would never give his one and
only precious daughter to a Turk. As a result, they decided to elope. They took the old
man's horse and left, but did not manage to go too far. The pair died in the freezing
weather, embraced on the horse. (T44)

The father forced Ali to go away because he could not accept a Turk as a bridegroom.
Following seven years of anticipation and grief, Angeliki died at the age of twenty-
five. Not long after, Ali's life suffered a similar fate when he died in a hotel room after
having unsuccessfully spent years seeking to meet with Angeliki. Her father had kept
her locked inside the house. (T19)

The emphasis of this love story as socially unacceptable is illustrated in the following
story where the parents seem to go beyond the limits of parenthood, as well as ethnic
and religious identity:

In the end, Ali, who was impressed by Angeliki's beauty, stole her from her family, she
converted to Islam, and they married. Her parents did not accept these developments
and disowned her. (T90)

It is worth noting that the aforementioned excerpt is the only story in which the
individual representing the role of ethnic "self" opts to change religious identity. The
consequences of this decision are very harsh and, according to the ending chosen by
the storyteller, capable of expelling the "ethnic self" from the majority group.

3.4. Unrequited love

In a small number of stories concerning Ali (5%), and a significantly larger portion
concerning Ervin (30%), the love of the two young individuals either remains
unexpressed or unrequited.

You look like a good and honest young man Ali, and I'd like to be your wife, but I can't
abandon my homeland and family to wither in foreign lands. Goodbye and good luck.
Ali, with head bowed, mounted his horse and vanished into the forest, leaving behind
a feeling of sadness and a cloud of dust. (T81)

Following some thought, Angeliki rejected Ali's proposal and married a wealthy
young man from the region. But her heart would always remain attached to Ali. (T75)

In some stories, reference is made to forbidden love, both directly and clearly. The
following excerpt, in which both sides accept their love's social impasse, illustrates:

A Turkish man with a Greek woman? How could we live together? In the end,
Angeliki married another man, Ali left, and all that remained were memories that
could offer moments of pleasure for this FORBIDDEN couple. (The writer of this
story chose to use capital letters to emphasize the point).

In another story, the lovers (Angeliki and Ervin) meet in a small room which Ervin
ends up renting in the village nearby. But a village resident, described by the writer as
a wealthy Englishman who has purchased plots of land in the area, spots them and
reveals the secret to the girl's father. The father and the Englishman decide to go and
find the couple.

They opened the door and found Angeliki and Ervin locked in an embrace. The father
could not believe his very own eyes, and felt the urge to take his daughter and hit
Ervin with all his might. He approached the two young lovers but they managed to

escape. The pair mounted two horses and disappeared into the forest. (A24)

In the aforementioned story, it is interesting to note the choice of ethnicity given to the
traitor by the writer. As the Englishman is not a member of the local community, or
dominant group, "ethnic self" is protected from negative and demeaning

In many stories, even though the love felt between Ervin and Angeliki is obvious,
neither of the two express their true feelings. The protagonists opt for another type of
relationship: “They remain just friends, become close friends offering mutual support
and help, and Ervin is the best man at Angeliki's wedding”.

Even though Angeliki loved Ervin, she hesitated to tell her parents because she did
not know how they would react. So, Ervin and Angeliki continued to socialize and all
else between them remained stagnant. (A17)

After Ervin lay down, the only thing he could think of before closing his eyes was that
he wished he had the strength to ask for her hand. (A18)

Ervin and Angeliki became inseparable friends. Both felt like they had found the
sibling they had never had. (A34)

The entire village had gathered for Angeliki's wedding, but many villagers got up and
left after realising that Ervin was the occasion's best man. Others made rude remarks
while others remained unperturbed. (A23)

3.5. "He left the following day..."

In 9% of the stories concerning Ali and 26% concerning Ervin, no references are
made to a love affair between Angeliki and the foreigner. In these stories, which are
the shortest, the foreigner carries on with his journey, either the following day or
several days later, after having been offered hospitality. The following excerpts are

Ali ate and spent the night at the old man's house. In the morning, he got up, thanked
them all, and departed to continue his journey. (T86)

The next day, Ali carried on with his journey. (T4)

The old man supplied him with food for the journey and Ervin carried on after
thanking him. (A30)

Ervin thanked them for the hospitality mounted his horse and disappeared into the
dark forest. (A2)

Stories such as the aforementioned essentially eliminate all interaction between ethnic
«self» and ethnic «other» as the respective sides continue along their way without
having been affected by their crossing. Besides this interpretation, it is also possible
that the research participants who chose to provide such an end to the story did so
with the intention of opting for a swift and harmless development that did not require
them to think about a socially difficult situation.

Marriage Elopement(%) Unrequited Continuation Other (%)

(%) Love (%) of
Ali 64 12 5 9 10
Ervin 35 7 30 26 2

The category “other” is comprised of various stories by the research participants that
are not suited for any of the previous four categories describing the developments
between Angeliki and Ali or Ervin, respectively. The various stories here, which
outnumber those of the other categories, and are more original in the case of the Turk
Ali than the Albanian Ervin, often, take unexpected turns. In one of these stories
(T66) Angeliki is raped by Ali, and in another (T62) it is discovered that Ali and
Angeliki happen to be biological siblings. In this latter story, Angeliki's parents once
lived in Turkey, and as a result of poverty, had given up their first child, a boy, for
adoption by a wealthy Turkish family. After finding out about his origins as a grown
up, the boy, Ali, traveled to Greece in search of his biological parents. Besides
carrying similarities to plots of old Greek and Turkish films from the 60s and 70s, an
analysis of these two stories offers interesting information on how the writers perceive
relations between ethnic «self» and ethnic «other» when the latter is Turkish.

4. Conclusions
Comparisons of the stories delivered by the research participants concerning the
provision of hospitality show that it is more readily offered when the foreigner is
represented by the Turk Ali rather than the Albanian Ervin. This piece of information
highlights that, in this study, a far greater number of negative stereotypes are attached
to men of Albanian origin than men of Turkish origin. The powerful negative
stereotypes concerning this specific case of ethnic “other” are also confirmed in other
studies (Droukas, 1998, Lazarides & Wickens, 1999). Both underline the prejudice
against Albanian immigrants in Greece, which, in turn, confines the members of this
specific ethnic group to conditions of inferiority, weakness and manipulation.
The provision of unconditional hospitality to the foreigner coming from Turkey, as
told in the majority of stories, could possibly indicate a weakening of the enemy
stereotype held against this specific ethnic “other” group. This stereotype has
prevailed for great periods of time. The weakening of the enemy stereotype attached
to this specific ethnic «other» group has become evident in Greece in more recent
years through a series of initiatives that have helped create fresh and more favorable -
compared to the past- perceptions and attitudes. Action taken has included the
publication of new school books offering a more careful look at the neighboring
country than publications of the past; common educational programs implemented by
both countries; and, most importantly, high-rating serials on Greek television
featuring love-story plots between a Greek woman and Turkish man, or vice versa. As
highlighted by Gundogdu (2001), one of the central arguments about the post-quake
period, which starts after the earthquakes in Greece and Turkey, has been that the
people of the two countries showed their preference for friendship and peace, an
attitude which was also followed by their political leaders.
The wish for friendly and peaceful coexistence between ethnic “self” and ethnic
“other” when the latter is represented by the Turk Ali is confirmed by the large

number of stories that end with marriage for Ali and Angeliki, in other words, a desire
for a stable and harmonious life together. According to Magos and Kontogianni
(2009), this option could underline a desire by the sample group's participants for
disentanglement of the two peoples -Greek and Turkish- from constant political
disputes in favor of a prevailing climate of communication and exchange.
On the contrary, when the ethnic “other” is represented by Ervin the Albanian,
coexistence, as metaphorically manifested through marriage, seems to be more
difficult in most of the stories. The subjects of the research accept such coexistence
only conditionally, when the ethnic «other» with Albanian descent can prove his
worthiness and good intentions. This view underlines that, in the case of the Albanian
«other», the sample’s majority has accepted the classic stereotypes and expects him to
prove that he is an exception. It is positive to see that, in some stories, this prejudice is
held by the old man and old woman, representatives of older generations, whereas the
daughter, who represents the younger generation, condemns the stereotype views of
her parents.
A significant number of stories, especially in the case of the Albanian “other”, end
in unrequited love. This choice of ending reflects the obstacles that, according to the
study's participants, need to be overcome for fertile coexistence between ethnic “self”
and ethnic “other”. Once again, the majority of these obstacles stem from prevalent
social views attached to this particular ethnic “other” group which, ultimately, obliges
the protagonists of the stories to conform, even if they personally doubt these
Finally, the analysis of the study's stories contains interesting findings that disclose
the perceptions of the sample's participants on various dimensions of ethnic self-
identity. As a result, the stories concerning both the Albanian and Turkish “others”
contain repeated references to hospitality as a fundamental dimension of identity
when concerning ethnic “self”. The Greek hospitality stereotype appears as a basic
stereotype in the perceptions of teachers in a study by Frangoudaki and Dragona
(1996). In that study, 86% of respondents -of a sample comprising 1,000 teachers-
asked to name one advantage of Greek people, as attributed to them by other
Europeans, agree with “hospitable”.
Another finding that appears regularly in the stories provided by the participants of
the research is the patriarchal structure of Greek families. In the majority of cases, it is
the father who decides whether to offer hospitality to the foreigner, and, should a
relationship ensue between his daughter and the foreigner, the father's opinion about
the development is instrumental. It should be noted that, in a smaller number of
resulting stories, it is the daughter who decides on the nature of her relationship with
the foreigner -therefore, her life as well- by either reacting or persuading her father.
This development overturns the typical storyline of traditional stories and may portray
the desire of some of the sample's participants to overturn classic gender stereotypes
that often appear in folk tales. Moreover, it would be interesting to conduct a study
examining the extent of gender identity as a deciding factor when either accepting or
rejecting ethnic “others”. Had the individual representing ethnic “other” in this
specific study been of the same gender as the sample's participants, that is, female,
would the results have been different? And to what extent would the choice of taking
either a positive or negative stance towards this woman have differed compared to this
study's reactions by the female participants who, from the female protagonist's
position, dealt with an ethnic “other” of the opposite sex?
In conclusion, we believe that it would be extremely worthwhile to conduct similar
research on a sample group of both student and in-service teachers coming from

Turkish and Albanian ethnic groups, as well as other ethnic groups. We believe that
an analysis and comparisons of similar stories provided by teachers from various
Balkan countries would lead to interesting findings on how foreigners are perceived
throughout the Balkans. We would gladly collaborate with any of this conference's
participants interested in further exploring this study and also preparing and
conducting other similar studies.

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13. Baba Noel and Yeni yil ağaç

- Symbols of the myth of Christmas in schools of the Muslim minority

Aristidis Sgatzos
Aegean University

This article focuses on the use of the myth and symbol of Santa Claus and Christmas
tree among muslim school students and teachers of those schools in the Greek region
of Thrace and aims to highlight changes and continuities in the local management of
“borders”, taxonomies and knowledge. This article is based on ethnographic research
that took place in minority schools in Western Thrace.
Keywords: Education, borders, Muslim minority, Thrace, hegemony, symbols

The ‘‘myth’’ I intend to discuss is no other than Santa Claus (Santa Claus) and the
Christmas tree, Baba Noel and Yeni yil ağaç respectively. From the minority villages
of Soufli to the neighborhoods of Komotini minority children draw in their notebooks
the figures of a fat old man with a white beard and a bag of gifts, describe and draw
in their blocks snowy and ablaze “New Year trees” .
These two symbols of the Christmas “myth” in a population in which "self"
and “hetero”– is determined as Muslim, are interesting because both the discourse and
the action of the subjects are related to these symbols, are directly attached to issues
related to the Self and the Other, times and places that have to do with the minority
In fact I’m talking about the “invasion”, in the school – condition of minority
schools in Western Thrace, of two powerful symbols, their use from school subjects
with connotations associated to the taxonomic hegemonic boundary in the area, this of
minority/majority, as well as the issue of framing school knowledge and taxonomic
boundaries present in minority schools.
This article is based on ethnographic research that took place in minority
schools in Western Thrace (Sgatzos, 2005) and tries to connect the management of
these and other similar symbols and practices (carnival figures, Easter bunnies) to the
process of guarding cognitive borders in school condition.
The minority school94, like every other school is not isolated from the wider
social environment in which it is located. Inside it the broader social processes are
reflected, while at the same time, it is being pressed from powers created in other
areas of social life. Students in their lives outside school are recipients of these
procedures and inevitably pass them in the school– condition. But as easy as it is, for
social experience and practice, to pass the material – physical boundary of the school
area (i.e. the walls, the gate), it is equally difficult to penetrate the taxonomic
boundaries imposed from framing school knowledge. The observation of those
experiences and practices that impinge on the borders, helps us greatly to see where
the classification is strong (i.e. in which areas the boundaries of the various contents

More about minority education in Greece on: Baltsiotis, Tsistselikis 2001

are delineated clearly), and therefore which specific categories, identities ultimately,
are being used in the process of framing those borders and who are the guardians
mobilized for their preservation as Basil Bernstein highlights (1991).

2. “Everything passes through TV”

A winter day at school, during the time of the break, the students of 5th grade sang a
Turkish pop song. As I discussed this incident with my school Principal, Ali, listing it
as an event that brought such cheer in the classroom, the answer was:

Hey kids ... if they don’t sing now when will they sing

and asked me the tune of the song. When I whispered the song, he mentioned:

Oh ... great success in Turkey

Children would used often to transfer in class debates and discussions that
they had heard on television. Also in every opportunity presented, they imitated
voices of television series heroes. Minority teachers admitted the catalytic effect of
television, especially of the Turkish satellite channels, in the shaping of students
perceptions, combined with the school's inability to resist. In a discussion on the
impact of technology on humans, the director told me when we were alone:

Television affects too much on children and whatever you do, as a parent or as
school, you will not have any good result. For example we have the order from the
local education administration not to talk at school about some subjects like a poet or
Ataturk etc. But the child at its home can watch everything from Turkish satellite TV.
Then the head director calls us, the Turkish teachers, and …bla …bla… bla… Me
too I agree being a state employee but I can’t do anything. Everything passes through

3. “What’s ours is ours and what’s is theirs is theirs”

From the first days of my presence as a teacher, in minority schools and particularly
in a minority village school in the prefecture of Evros, the days before Christmas of
'98, I noticed that the children draw on the margins of their notebooks or in their
scetch blocks Christmas trees95. When I asked them what that was they called it in
Turkish: Yeni yil ağaç, tree of the new year, and a child noted that there is a big one in
Soufli, the capital of the province. They spoke with admiration about it, described
their expectation for the time when the trees are decorated and they combined the
event with gifts and school vacations. The following year, when I taught in Komotini,
a few days before Christmas, the children began again spontaneously, without being
requested, to draw Christmas trees and Santas96. The famous figure of the red dressed
whitebeard and chubby old man, with the red bag full of presents, of Santa Claus
was called by them Baba Noel, the Elder, the Saint of Christmas. Children, before
Christmas and school holidays were drawing on every occasion Baba Noel and Yeni
yil ağaç figures.
Having taken under condideration warnings from older majority colleagues for
the hazard of creating ‘‘misunderstandings’’ when in teaching were involved topics

Pic. 1
Pic. 2

and issues related to Christianity, I discussed the matter with Ali the school Principal,
asking him how to handle this issue; if I should tolerate, avoid or encourage this
practice from children. Before I could finish my phrase he jumped up and turning all
red with anger, whispering but with a strong tone he said.

Do as you never saw it. Say nothing. Let not so that we don’t have any problems. You
know now…

A Muslim and a Christian teacher heard the discusion and as soon as the
Principal left, they rushed to advise me. Ali said:

We do not celebrate Christmas but we honor Christ as a prophet ... and for the New
Year… a few things. Children, like the lights, and get confused they watch on TV that
all this exists in Turkey. But what happens in Turkey is another issue.

And George said:

Yes - yes, and this happens only recently, but we do not say anything. What’s ours is
ours and what’s theirs is theirs.

Here I should point out that a few days later I saw, in the city market, veil and
kerchief dressed Muslim women, in a big supermarket - market buying garlands and
glass balls. Indeed, in several houses with windows on the street, through the half-
closed shutters you could see festive decorations and even one Yeni yil ağaç in a
corner of the lounge.
This ‘‘syncretism’’ does not stop just at Christmas. During the Carnival
children came at school with masks in their bags, drew carnival figures and other
themes in their blocks97. In fact in my school a Christian teacher brought cardboard
for the students to make masks and the Friday before the last Sunday of the Carnival,
the students organized in their classes a small party with refreshments, snacks, music,
masks and streamers. For the outsider though, the school gave the impression that it
functioned normally. Not a single streamer could be seen in the schoolyard and
classes’ doors were closed so no one could hear anything outside. I asked about that
Farouk who was also a Hodge.

-What happened? Do you celebrate the carnival too?

-No, no ... what happens here is another issue, we let the children, just for their
pleasure but it is a difficult situation that should not be heard outside. It’s not right.
It’s a pagan custom…
- Don’t you, mum on Kurban Bayram?
-Well ... some do, but mostly the Gypsies.

Also before Easter holidays children drew themes related to Easter holidays
such as bunnies and eggs98. In that case, however, when minority teachers saw them
on my desk at school, they expressed frustration, saying:

Children watching TV make their minds”mess (“ahtarma” is the word he used).

Pic. 3
Pic. 4

The ‘‘outside’’ does not ‘‘invade’’ the school only through the children. There
were few times that the discussions that took place in the teachers’ office were
determined by the political news of Turkish news channels but also by news on these
channels that can be classified in the category of ‘‘bizarre’’. One day, for example,
Mola said that someone had invented a car that runs on water instead of gasoline.
Another employee of the school confirmed the news and commented that it would be
sabotaged by the Americans and the Arabs who control the oil.
But if such ‘‘outside’s’’ issues influence the ‘‘inside’’ pass unnoticed, this
doesn’t happen, in the case of other issues clearly political. Both during the period of
the ‘‘Oçalan case’’ and the war in Kosovo the minority colleagues were reproducing
discussions that they had heard through their satellite receivers from the Turkish
media. But that debate was not as ‘‘comfortable’’ as the chit chat with references to
‘‘bizarre’’ issues. The debate was intense and very shortly stopped after an
intervention made by the Christian vice Principal. And happened in all three schools
where I taught. The vice Principals made sure interrupt the debate on these issues
before it had even started.

4. Conclusion
From these indicative examples, we could say that non- school knowledge and
experience is acceptable as long as that does not allow the confusion of cultural
models that constitute the hegemonic dichotomy majority / minority in the area.
Children can sing Turkish pop songs they hear on TV but can’t follow practices that
are acceptable in Turkey as a result of the states secularity. New Year tree and festive
decorations, the baskets with eggs and bunnies that are imposed by commercial
standards in urban areas of Turkey, in Thrace can create hybrid identities and
therefore are not acceptable in the minority school. In the end the bans are in daily
negotiation with the consumption of new cultural products (Appadurai 1996: 71-72),
a transaction that alters the power of the dominant dichotomy. Practices of carnival,
on the other hand, enter the school-condition, but must stay behind the closed doors
and pulled curtains of the classes. These are practices of the other pole of the
dichotomy also performed from a marginal part of the minority, the Gypsies. The
minority teachers, particularly the school Principals, act as border guards on both the
separation of clusters of dichotomy and the preservation of the united and inclusive
nature of the pole of the minority. Furthermore elements that may highlight the
differences and transfer them to another level, as political conflict, were excluded
from the school-condition. The connection of the minority to the discourse of a
national center threatens to upset the fragile balance of dichotomy and turn it to a non-
operational system.

Appardurai. Α. (1996) Modernity at large. Cultural dimensions of globalization. Mineapolis:
University of Minesota Press
Bernstein, Β. (1991) Παιδαγωγικοί κώδικες και κοινωνικός έλεγχος. Αθήνα: Εκδ. Αλεξάνδρεια [Greek:
Pedagogical codes and social control]
Μπαλτσιώτης, Λ., Τσιτσελίκης, Κ. (2001) Η μειονοτική εκπαίδευση της Θράκης. Συλλογή Νομοθεσίας
– Σχόλια. Αθήνα – Κομοτηνή: εκδ. Αντ. Ν. Σάκκουλα [Baltsiotis, Tsitselikis (2001)]
Σγατζός, Α. (2005) Μαθαίνοντας τα σύνορα. Η κατασκευή της μειονοτικότητας σε ένα μειονοτικό
σχολείο της Κομοτηνής. Διδακτορική διατριβή (αδημοσίευτο). Πανεπιστήμιο Αιγαίου: Μυτιλήνη
[Sgatzos (2005)]

Appendix – Pictures





14. Challenging the Bektashi tradition in the Greek Thrace: Anthropological and
historical encounters

Fotini Tsibiridou
University of Macedonia
Giorgos Mavrommatis
Democritus University of Thrace

In this paper, two scientific and personal experiences - an ethnographic fieldwork in
Rhodopi mountain (Greece) and a historical research about Bektashism in the Balkans
and Anatolia - meet in order to study the dynamic transformation of the Bektashi
tradition in an area of the Rodopi mountain. More specifically, this bidisciplinary
approach aims at showing how the specific Bektashi tradition, as an Islamic
discursive one, combines the religious path in its spiritual meaning with the embodied
experience negotiating human, existential and social contradictions, all mediated by
different and interrelated politics of powers. Based mainly on Talal Asad’s thesis, this
paper approaches the specific Bektashi tradition in Greek Thrace as a multi-layered
dynamic discursive process motivating and inspiring individuals and collectivities,
generating various kinds of subjectivities and belonging, in social as well as
cosmological terms.
Key words: Bektashi tradition, scholar and popular Islam in the Balkans and Greece,
religious experiences, anthropology and history

This paper brings together two scientific and personal experiences, ethnographic
fieldwork in the Rhodopi mountains (Tsibiridou, 2000) and historical research about
Bektashism in the Balkans and Anatolia (Mavrommatis, 2008). Both meet on the
dynamic transformation of the Bektashi tradition, as an Islamic discursive one. The
two approaches can help us to realize the ways by which the Bektashi tradition as an
Islamic discursive one was, at first, not only a religious path in its spiritual meaning,
leading to the communication of people with God, but also an embodied experience
negotiating human, existential and social contradictions, mediated by different kinds
of powers. In other words, we can consider the Bektashi tradition in Greek Thrace as
a multilayered dynamic discursive process motivating and inspiring individuals and
collectivities for old and new kinds of subjectivities and belonging.
In order to clarify our positioning regarding Islam as a “discursive tradition”,
an issue first raised by Talal Asad (Asad, 1986, 2003) we will refer to some
characteristic passages of the study of Anjum Ovamir, “Islam as a Discursive
Tradition. Talal Asad and its Interlocutors” (Anjum, 2007). In this study it is
mentioned that “religious symbols acquire their meaning and efficacy in real life
through social and political means and processes, in which power, in the form of
coercion, discipline, institutions, and knowledge, is intricately involved” (Anjum,
2007, s. 660). As Talal Asad is quoted in the same study “a tradition consists
essentially of discourses that seek to instruct practitioners regarding the correct form

and purpose of a given practice that, precisely because it is established, has a history.”
(ibid: 661). Anjum argues that “[t]he Islamic discursive tradition is therefore
understood as a historically evolving set of discourses, embodied in the practices and
institutions of Islamic societies and hence deeply imbricated in the material life of
those inhabiting them.” (idid: 662). In this frame, “[p]aying attention to a discursive
tradition is not to essentialize certain practices or symbols as being more authentic but
to recognize that the authenticity or orthodoxy of these has to be argued for from
within the tradition and embraced or rejected according to its own criteria. Nor does it
mean to take the natives or practitioners of the tradition for their word and give up
one’s own notions of rationality, or ignore the material conditions within which the
discourse takes place and focus merely on cultural factors.” (ibid: 662)
In this paper we are focusing on the Bektashi/ Alevi people of the Greek side
of the Rhodopi Mountains – often called “kizilbash” by the others; some 3 thousand
local Muslim people of Greek citizenship, living – as all Thracian minority Muslims
do - under minority condition, since the integration of the region into the Modern
Greek state (1923). While most of them claim a Turkish national belonging, most of
the people living in the mountains speak a Slavic language, and are named as Pomaks
(Tsibiridou, 2000).
The ethnographic fieldwork and the historical genealogy come to meet in
order to give some answers about the Bektashi religious, social and cosmological
experience, in a context analysis of the discursive tradition. To broaden Anjum’s
arguments in order to include our common effort of understanding the Bektashi
tradition, we could suggest that anthropologists and other fieldwork researchers have
to look specifically for different “kinds of reasoning and the reasons for arguing,”
which underline any particular Islamic practice, in time and place. In this effort, as it
is mentioned by Anjum interpreting Asad’s concept of “discursive tradition”, “the
consideration of the power of political, economic and social motivation in Asad is
tempered with attention to the power of faith, conviction, nostalgia, or superstition, as
the case may be. Such an attention makes possible a meeting of the disciplines of
Islamology and history on the one hand and anthropology and political economy on
the other” (Anjum, 2007, s. 672). As our attempt may be included in the above effort,
during our research we were both open to personal motivations for new paths,
contacts and understanding beyond the academic methodology, as well. We, both
writers, were motivated by the principal thesis that personal involvement and
participant observation can challenge historical understanding and the perplexity of
the Bektashi traditions in the Balkans; for these reasons, we were both eager to be
transformed as persons through other people’s religious, social and cosmological
experiences, too.

Challenging the Bektashi tradition I : The historical account

By Giorgos Mavrommatis

Plenty of historical data - mainly the tombstones around various Bektashi monuments
- prove the existence of the tarikat type of Bektashism (the Babagân branch), in the
area defined nowadays as Greece, during 18th and mainly during the 19th century.
By the end of the 19th century there were big Bektashi communities all over
Greece, having, both as liturgical and geographical centres, important tekkes: the
tekke of Horasanizade Mevlana Dervis Ali Dede in Heraklion/ Kandiye and the tekke

of Haci Hasan Baba in Rethimno/ Resmo on the island of Crete99 the tekke of Durbali
Sultan in Farsala and the tekke of Hasan Baba in Tembi in the area of Thessaly,
Central Greece, the tekke of Abdulah Baba in Katerini and the tekke of Thessaloniki,
Central Macedonia, the tekkes of Baba Osman and Baba Husen in Konitsa, Epirous.
An of course the tekke of Hasip Baba and the famous tekke of Seyyid Ali sultan in
However, the situation with Bektashis as with all Muslims in Greece, changed
dramatically in the early 20th century, mainly due to the Balkan Wars and the
compulsory population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923.
The compulsory population exchange between Greece and Turkey under the
1923 Lausanne treaty - carried out on the grounds of religion and decided in order to
resolve the Greek-Turkish dispute and eliminate the “minority question” in both
countries - forced about half a million Muslims to move from Greece to Turkey.101
All the Muslims on the island of Crete were forced to leave, the Bektashis
included, while the Muslims of Central and North West Greece with Albanian origin,
most of them with strong connections to the Bektashi culture, were exempted initially
and they had the right to stay; however, the vast majority of them left the area –
mostly as a result of pressure and in cases of prosecutions – till the 1950’s.102
The Albanian dervishes who stayed in Greece followed the transformation of
Albanian Bektashism (in the late 19th and early 20th century) from a Sufi ‘‘order’’ to a
religious ‘‘community’’ at the Albanian national level and the transformation of
dervishes and babas into a ‘‘clergy’’, by analogy to the Christian Orthodox and
Catholic clergy.
The situation in Western/Greek Thrace NE Greece was different, since the
Thracian Muslims – some 100 thousand – were exempted form the exchange, became
Greek citizens, were put under the Greek administration with some special provisions
regarding religion, education, and were gradually homogenized in one
Nowadays, all of the 80 thousand Muslims who live permanently in Greek
Thrace are fluent Turkish speakers; the great majority of them have Turkish as their
mother tongue, while a group of highlanders living in a strip of land by the Greek-
Bulgarian borders, named Pomaks, still speak their Slavic - close to the official
Bulgarian - mother tongue. The vast majority of the Thracian Muslims consider
themselves as part of the Turkish nation.103 Among them, settled in a strip by the

On the island of Crete there was a big Bektashi community with the special characteristic that the
vast majority of its members were Greek speaking Muslims. It is quite interesting that they had
composed and had in use nefes in Greek! (Özbayrı & Zakhos, 1976). Detailed presentation of the
Bektashis in the island of Crete in Erkal, 2008
Extent presentation of the Bektashi monuments and communities in mainland Greece in
Mavrommatis, 2008a.
And more than one and a half million Christians to move from Turkey to Greece. The Muslims of
Western Thrace and the Greek Orthodox of Konstantinoupolis/ İstanbul, Imvros/ Gökçeada and
Tenedos/ Bozcaada islands were exempted from the exchange. Both population groups had the right to
remain in Greece and Turkey, respectively, enjoying a special minority status under the terms of the
Lausanne Treaty.
For the history of the Muslim presence in Greece and the situation of the Muslim population in
Greece from 1821 to 1981 see Popovic, 1986. On Muslim heterodoxy in the Balkans see Norris, 1993.
A comprehensive approach to the issue of the compulsory population exchange between Greece and
Turkey following the Lausanne treaty in Pekin, 2005.
However, we have to keep in mind that for many researchers and some minority members as well,
the nation building process for the Thracian minority Muslims is an open and still on-going process.

Greek- Bulgarian boarders, live some 30,000 people speaking Bulgarian and Turkish,
of whom some 3,000 – those living at the East part - are self defined as Bektashi/
Alevi. It is interesting that most of the rest Sunni inhabitants of this area are more or
less influenced by Bektashi perceptions and believes and in cases follow Bektashi
practices. However, they want to make clear that they differ from the self-defined
Bektashi/Alevi, named (by the Sunnis) “Kizilbash” (Tsibiridou, 2000).
Focusing on the important Bektashi monuments of Xanthi - the tekke of Hasip
Baba in the town of Xanthi (İskeçe in Turkish) and the tekke of ‘‘kirklar’’ with the
turbe o Kaygusuz Sultan in the village of Genisea (Yenice in Turkish) – , we see that
nowadays, only some elements of popular Islam practices can be traced, since the
Bektashis of the area either left or became Sunni. The situation is totally different in
the area of Evros.
The most important Bektashi monument in Greek Thrace is the tekke of
Seyyid Ali Sultan, known also as the tekke of Kizil Deli. It stands by the village of
Roussa (called Ruşenler/ Urşanlar by the Turkish speakers), some 33 km WNW of the
town of Soufli by the Greek-Turkish border, in the middle of an area inhabited mainly
by some 3,000 rural Bektashis who live in some 20 villages and settlements.104
The tekke was founded in 804 AH/ 1402 AD and restored in 1173 AH/ 1759
AD, according to the inscription over the gate of the big hall for the liturgical
services/ meydan. The cluster covers an extensive area with a lot of buildings, the
most important being the turbe of Seyyid Ali. In the centre of the turbe lies the grave
of Seyyid Ali, surrounded by 12 candlesticks. Till mid 2000’s in the centre of the
turbe there was a typical wooden coffin covered by green fabric (on which people
often place as offerings towels, kerchiefs etc.), having on its eastern side, under the
cover and in a plastic bag, a piece of red thick wool cloth, according to the tradition a
part of Seyyid Ali Sultan's clog/ hirka. Adjacent to the turbe is a small praying place/
mesdjit with mihrab. Close to the turbe - mesdjit building, on the left, there is a large
cook-house/ ash evi, while on the right lies the meydan joined to a large room were
the collective meals (muhabbet) take place.
Upon entering the recently restored105 meydan, one can see on the floor a big
flat white stone with a candlestick on it, half-covering a similar dark brown-red
stone. On the left there is a huge fireplace, close to which there is a small red carpet
with 11 candlesticks on it. The entire room next to the meydan is covered by carpets,
with lots of pillows, mattresses and blankets in one corner and a small library in
another corner, while the walls are hung with two old instruments (saz), icons of
imam Ali and recent hand-written inscriptions in Arabic letters.106
However, the most important ‘‘document’’ hangs in the middle of the eastern
wall of the room, is the framed photocopy of the Ehl-i Beyt (Ahl al Bayt, which
means the People of the House in Arabic). Actually it’s a hat - an artistic
composition in Arabic calligraphy - of all the ayet of Qur’an referring to the family
of prophet Muhammad and of course to his nephew and son-in-law Ali, the most

The main villages of the area inhabited only or partly by Bektashis are: Mirtiski (Musacik), Hloi
(Hebilköy), Kehros (Merkoz), Hamilo (Salıncak), Ano Kampi (Yukari Kanberler), Goniko (Babalar),
Roussa (Ruşenler), Mesimeri (Mevsimler), Spano (Köseler), Mikraki (Kütüklü), Sidirochori (Tsilingir
mahalle), Megalo Derio (Büyük Dervent) etc. In parenthesis the old/ Turkish names.
Around 2002 the wooden ceiling was replaced, a wooden floor was fitted over the existing earthen
one and -most importantly- the two slot-shaped windows on the south wall gave their place to two
large windows, which give a symbolic ‘accessibility’ and ‘transparency’ to the place.
"Presents" of the postnishin of the Otman Baba tekke given to the caretaker’s family members
during their visit to Southern Bulgaria in 2003.

important person for Alevis. This also exists in other places of the tekke and, as far as
I could notice, in all Bektashi houses in the area, providing a type of connection to
the official/ scholar type of Islam and a sort of legitimisation before the eyes of the
It has to be noted here that the (attempt of) legitimisation has various steps
and layers. As a second step, on behalf of rather elaborated Bektashis and only when
they feel quite safe in the certain communicative circumstance, would appear the
alternative interpretation of Qur’an e.g. on the meaning and the messages of the sura
Al Insan, regarding the colour of cloths, the use of wine
At the north side of the cluster there is a big building called Pasha Konagi,
possibly quarters for babas in the recent past, while at the south side, behind the
turbe, there is a graveyard, where many former postnishin are buried -the oldest
inscribed tombstone dates back to 1160 AH/ 1747 AD. Apart form that, there are two
more graveyards some 100m east of the tekke perimeter.
The tekke of Seyyid Ali Sultan is also connected -considered as a single unit-
to the Ashagi Tekke (the lower tekke) some 10 km E of the Seyyid Ali Sultan Tekke,
1 km NE of the village of Mikro Derio (also called Kutsuk Derbent by the Turkish
speakers), nowadays inhabited by Christians only.
Nowadays, at the tekke of Seyyid Ali Sultan (and its congregation) there are
no visible elements of an alive presence of the Babagân Bektashi cultural
characteristics, while somebody can clearly ascertain the presence of a rural Alevi/
Chelebi type Bektashi cultural symbols. That happened because the existing for
centuries ethnic-sect type of Bektashism,108 in the wider geographical area of Thrace,
became dominant in the area and in the tekke during the first two decades of the 20th
century, after the repeated destructions of tekkes and the death or departure of all
Babagân dervishes and babas.
From that time on, and till the mid 1980’s the Bektashis in Greek Thrace lived
isolated, having no connections with their ‘‘brothers’’ in the North – being isolated
too, in the boarders of the Bulgarian State – as well as from their ‘‘brothers’’ in the
East, despite the fact that many Thracian Minority Muslims would travel quite often
to Turkey.
It is interesting to be reminded here that form 1930 and on, Alevism/
Bektashism was an oppressed sub-culture in Turkey, while it also has to be noted that
the first time Greek Thracian minority Bektashi Muslims found brothers from Turkey
was among their colleague migrant workers in the factories of Germany, in mid
1970’s (Mavrommatis, 2008).

Things were not always like this. I was told by an important to the local hierarchy person, that some
50 years ago, when Sunni construction workers came to their home to repair (and partly rebuilt the
house), his father took two “very old and important Bektshi books” he was hiding in the roof and threw
them in the river. I am not in a position to know what these books were and if this story is true or not.
What I see in this narration is an attempt of connection between the(ir) Bektashim and the great
tradition and on the other hand the fear they were feeling, the sense of guilt for their ‘declination’.
Here the term attempts to outline the wider area of (mainly rural) Bektashis and Alevis, both in
Anatolia and in the Balkans, who can be (self or hetero-)categorised and distinguished in numerous
groups according to various criteria: a)mother tongue (e.g. Turkish or Bulgarian in Thrace, Turkish or
Kurdish in Anatolia), b) mythical or real descent (e.g. the Turkish tribes of Amudja, Balaban in
Thrace) often linked to the geographical area in which they are spread, c) differentiation according to
the tekke to which they belong - e.g. Kizildeliler, Akyazililar, (Otman)babailar, Alikotchlular, -
which is often connected to different beliefs and practices.

Its is more than a decade now – after the Turkish State changed its attitude and
embraced, in order to control, the Alevi culture, considering it as a part of the wider
Turkish national culture - that the Thracian Bektashis (Pomak and Turkish speaking
rural populations of Greek citizenship) have found, with the help of the satellite
television and the support of the Turkish State, that they have many similarities with
the Alevis in Turkey, and nowadays they define themselves both by the term Bektashi
and Alevi alternatively, in spite of the fact that they realise the existence of significant
differences between Anatolian Alevis and themselves, while, at the same time, all of
them strongly reject the term Kizilbash attributed to them by others and some of the
researchers.109 Apart from that, is has to be noted that satellite television in all its
production regarding the Balkans, the Middle East and the Central and South Asia,
brought other types of fruits, as well. It’s thanks to satellite television and war
broadcastings that people of the Bektashi/ Alevi mountaineers in Rodopi realised –
mainly by noticing symbols and watching practices - that followers of Ali exist from
Albania, Kosovo and Sandjak to the Gulf States and to Afghanistan and that,
somehow and under certain criteria, they might be considered as one community.110
What has to be pointed out here is that, apart form these Bektashi highlanders
in Thrace, there are some 15 to 20 thousand Muslims –Turkish-speaking and
settled/non-travellers in their majority- (hetero-)defined as Gypsies, who follow
practices that could be characterised as ‘‘folk Islam’’, among other things. Examining
their beliefs and practices, some researchers (e.g. Zenginis, 1988, 1994) hasten to
diagnose significant similarities with Christian beliefs and practices and distances
from the official Sunni Islam and, consequently, to place them among heterodox
Islam, recognising kinship with Bektashism. It is true that people of this category visit
places where Bektashi saints are buried (turbe and yatir), pray there, make offerings,
light candles and enjoy eating the meat of sacrificed animals (kurban) the Bektashis
offer to everybody. But this set of beliefs and practices is a meagre - if at all -
elaborated scheme, far removed from the elaborate Bektashi system. Apart from that,
people of this category, even those few of them settled in or by Bektashi villages, are
not accepted as members of the ethnic-sect and here more or less tribal Bektashi

For the record, the various mainly Turkish-speaking tribes in medieval Anatolia practising popular
Islam strongly influenced by Shia beliefs and involved in the foundation of the Shia Safavid Dynasty of
Iran that fought against the Ottomans at the beginning of the 16th century, were (hetero-) defined as
Kizilbash [“red head” or “read head cover” in Turkish]. This term is occasionally used even nowadays
in Turkey and the Balkans in order to define heterodox Muslims. This discursive practice of power
seems like an adjustment to the grammar of orthodoxy in Islam. Detected since the late ottoman period,
always as a hetero-definition and always in a derogatory sense, in the frame of the nation-state this
hetero-definition practice is inscribed to the characteristics of minoritization processes too. (Birge,
1937, Tsibiridou, 2000, Melikoff, 1975).
I realised it at the time of the war in Afghanistan – western allies against the Taliban. It was
summer time, and I was visiting the Yayla panayiri accompanied by a friend, an Irish journalist of the
Guardian, with good knowledge of the Alevi issue and obviously pro-Alevi. My friend appeared as a
person of extremely high status before their eyes and was enjoying great respect. So after some time of
socialisation, the discussion came to Afghanistan and a request came up. “You, such an important
person, showing such an interest and appreciation for us and our culture, please do something to stop
bombing Mazar-I Sharif (means the Holly Grave). We know that Talibans are the worst kind of Sunni
and we are with you but look, your troops are about to destroy everything there. Take care of the
Grave”. The grave is considered to be of Ali, and the Bektashi people in Rodopi were sharing the sense
on the holiness of the certain area and with the help of satellite television they were fumbling the edges
of the imaginary community of the followers of Ali, members of which they feel that they are.

community - in general, (people considered to be) Gypsies are not accepted into the
Bektashi bosom - and, thus, can not participate in the liturgical life.
In the area having the tekke of Seyyid Ali Sultan as a geographical and
spiritual centre, a lot of activities connected to the Bektashi culture take place, most
importantly the various kurbans from Spring to Autumn every year,111 by the tombs/
yatir of local saints – as a rule Babas of the Babagân branch – who lived in the area
during the 19th century.
The cycle of performed rituals opens with the kurbans on the day of Hederlez
(May 6) in various places, among them by the Ashagi tekke. The next big kurban -
the Kirk Kurbani- is some 40 days later, by the tombs of the "Gaziler" close to the
village of Chloi (also called Ebilköy by Turkish speakers and/or (H)Ebilovo by Slav
speakers), some 20 km W of the Kizil Deli tekke, followed by the kurban by the
tomb of Ali Baba, in the village of Ano Kambi (also called Yukari Kamberler by
Turkish speakers), some 110 days after Hederlez. Numerous other kurbans take
place in the meantime.112 The kurban by the tomb of Mursal Baba, some 3 km W of
the tekke (November 8, the day of Kasim) closes the ‘‘cycle’’, while the biggest
kurban is the one taking place in the tekke on 13th Muharrem every year, where
almost all the Bektashis of the area gather.113
It is worth mentioning that in some kurbans, especially those of Hederlez in
Ashagi tekke and Mursal Baba114, Christians from the nearby villages participate in
the feast, too, and eat the meat of the kurban with pleasure, most of them having a
rather vague perception of the whole thing, but knowing and accepting that it is in
the name and memory of a Muslim saint. The Sunni people of the area, who usually
visit the feast site in hundreds – actually visiting the trade fair taking place in the area
at the same time -, do not usually participate in the common meal and do not eat the
meat of the kurban. Most probably perceiving the whole thing as haram, which
means not accepted by God, since it is not according to the correct/ orthodox form of
the religion or the proper Sunni “protocol”.
It has to be noted that there is not any difference in the protocol of the
sacrifice. However, it is clear that consumption of the meat of an animal sacrificed in
the name of the Bektashi saint is a marker, which clearly sets the borderline between
the in-group and the out-group. All the Sunni people from the area, when asked the
reason of this avoidance say that, this is a more or less a (Bektashi) family issue and
it would not be polite for them to get mixed. It is very interesting that in June 1999,
at the Gaziler kurbani, local authorities were invited and despite the fact that there
was plenty of the kurban meat available, some lambs and goats were grilled (to be
obvious that it is not from the offered for the kurban animals, since the kurban meat

One has to bear in mind that this is a mountain area at an altitude of over 1,000 metres, with heavy
winters and snowfalls, which made travelling during wintertime impossible in the past.
Detailed presentation in Vrachiologlou, 2000.
To illustrate the size of that feast, in the year 1999 I counted more than 100 sheep, goats and cows
offered by the people and sacrificed in this kurban.
The special symbolism of those days needs to be underlined here. Hederlez -an important day to so-
called heterodox Islam since, according to the tradition, on that day Heder/Hidir meets prophet Elias-
on May 6 (the day of the celebration in memory of St. George according to the old Christian Orthodox/
Julian calendar which was in effect in Greece till 1923) is 45 days after the Spring solstice and marks
the beginning of Summer. Accordingly, Kasim, on November 8 (the day of the celebration in memory
of St. Demitrios according to the old Christian Orthodox calendar) is 45 days after the Autumn solstice
and marks the beginning of Winter, while the Sechek feast is in mid-summer close to the day of the
celebration in memory of prophet Elias according to the old Christian Orthodox calendar.

is cooked exclusively as a stew) especially for them, since most of them were Sunni
Another feast connected to the local Bektashi culture, but not bearing straight
religious connotations is the wrestling festival of Sechek, which is held on a plateau
near the village of Ano Kambi at the beginning of August, traditionally under the
directions of the "Lord of the plateau" (yayla agasi). In the year 1996 the "Sechek
Cultural Association" was established and started undertaking the organisation of
this feast and of some kurbans. 115 Among other things, they introduced some
modernisation measures, 116 which seem to have disappointed a number of local
It should be pointed out that all these big events/feasts are an excellent
opportunity for a public confrontation between the Greek and Turkish nationalism in
the area of Thrace. The Turkish State actually invests in the tight cultural bonds
Thracian Muslim Turk minority people have with Turkey, supports and guides
(mainly through the Turkish consulate in Komotini) the cultural associations, and, in
every chance and by many means, shows off the connection and importance all these
have for Turkey, e.g. by facilitating the presence of folk dancers, musicians and
wrestlers from Turkey etc. At the same time and on the other hand, Greek State also
tries to have some sort of presence, mainly through the declarations of the
(appointed) local officers for financial support, and supporting the various activities
by infrastructure works.
Besides, we could consider as part of a general modernisation process117 -
often presented as a revival of the Bektashi pilgrimage tradition in Thrace which was
violently interrupted in 1920 with the creation of Nation States - the visit/pilgrimage
of some Bulgarian Bektashis (from villages close to the Greek border, affiliated
traditionally to the tekke of Kizil Deli) to the tekke in 2004 and 2005, at the invitation
of the local association and with the tactful support of the Turkish Ministry of
Foreign Affairs.118
Of course, and apart from all these activities, the Bektashis of the area follow
their own liturgical life, with acts accessible only to the initiated ones. It seems,
however, that this tradition of liturgical life is weakening;119 as a result, the whole
thing is slipping towards a popular religious practice, perhaps partly due to a gradual

The evolution of the panyir/ feast of Sechek during the last decade was presented (with the help of
visual material) and analysed by Miranda Terzopoulou, under the title "Identity, politics and the sacred:
the evolution of a Bektashi panayir in Greek Thrace" in the 1st International Symposium on Alevism
and Bektashism, organised by the department of Theology of the Suleyman Demirel University, 28-30
September 2005, in Isparta, Turkey. On the modernization processes of the panyir see Tsibiridou,
2005, and the documentary film Walk up in Chilia, by Panos Papadopoulos and Fotini Tsibiridou.
E.g. the Sechek feast is now held on the first weekend of August and not in mid-week, as
traditionally was the case.
Since it takes place in this new contemporary framework, despite the fact that it could also be read
as a continuation of older practices, before the Greek and the Bulgarian States were created or borders
were traced.
A senior official of which (the vice consul of the Turkish consulate of Komotini) was present and
welcomed the Bulgarians in their last visit, in November 2005.
On that issue there is limited public discourse, since the people of the area strongly avoid
discussing such issues. Once, in the mid-1990s, the leadership got to the point of "punishing" the
member of the community Huseyin Kamber who dared publish a rather general article in the local
Turkish newspaper Ileri, published in Komotini (no. 816/ 29 of September 1995 and no 817/ 6 of
October 1995).

‘‘sunnification’’,120 partly due to the gradual prevalence of innovatory views of the

world and mainly due to the lack of local Bektashi scholars capable of and willing to
cultivate and spread an elaborate Bektashi knowledge.
In order to sum up and make a focus on (past, present and potentially future)
Bektashi networks leading to (re)conceptualisations of the Bektashi as a discursive
Islamic tradition, we may point out that:
- The current state of knowledge, based on field research and Greek
bibliographical sources, cannot sustain the hypothesis of the existence of a strong
connection or a network connecting all Bektashi communities and monuments in
Central and Northern Greece in the 20th century. It seems that the Bektashi
communities of Thessaly, Epirus and Central Macedonia were connected indeed;
their main agglutinating element was the Albanian ethnic origin of the people and the
fact that they were under the jurisdiction of the Bektashi centre of Albania, which
made it possible for them to offer basic mutual coverage for their administrative
needs at least. On the other hand, the people around the Kizil Deli tekke obviously
constitute a network with an unclear connection with the Alevi-Bektashi
networks/circles in Turkey, while -rather due to the turmoil and the changes in the
area during the three first decades of the 20th century- a gap can be noticed between
Thessaloniki and Xanthi. Apart form that, nether the people of the tekke of Durbali
Sultan nor the people of the tekke of Kizil Deli – the two biggest tekkes in mainland
Greece - seemed to have, in the period 1900 – 1980, any straight connection and
communication with the people of the Pir Evi. Regarding the large Bektashi
community in Crete, we have to notice that there isn’t any evidence indicating any
kind of relation and communication with the Bektashi centres of Central and
Northern Greece.
- The presence and the action (attempts of restoration) of Albanian Bektashi
migrant workers in Greece could be viewed as the beginning of a revival of
Bektashism in Central Greece, having as centre the tekke of Durbali Sultan. Such a
development might provide a sense of connection with the ‘‘history’’ – so important
for the Balkan nationalisms – and a frame in which Albanian migrants can find an
alternative way to built a sense of connection or even belonging to the Greek Nation-
State. However at the same time, all these might give rise to suspicion, concern or
even hostility among authorities in Greece, and alarm or even mobilise certain
(Greek nationalistic) circles.
- The revival or better the (re)creation of an Alevi-Bektashi network is also taking
place in Thrace, since rural Bektashis of the same ethnic-sect background from
Turkish, Bulgarian and Greek Thrace get together, having as a centre, better as a
reference point, the tekke of Kizil Deli. Nowadays, the Turkish State supports
strongly this network and promotes through it the ‘‘official’’ (and more or less
controlled by the State) form of Alevi-Bektashi cultural and symbolic characteristics,
building at the same time a platform on which wider national issues (potentially
along with political and economic) can be promoted.
Regarding the strict local network, it is interesting to note that people from
the same village and in cases neighbours, having the same ‘‘ethnic’’ background and
(more or less) value system and in some cases relatives by marriage do not eat the

It is worth mentioning that -according to field research findings- nowadays, in most of the cases
(ceremonial and collective meals), the people of the area, most probably in an attempt to avoid being
blamed by the Sunnis, replace alcohol (wine or raki) with cola type refreshments.

kurban meat, in order to declare their difference and their ‘‘loyalty’’ to their position;
all clearly understand that in this way they prove that they are members of the
dominant Sunni group, and keeping the certain attitude they demonstrate - and
underlie in parallel - their ‘‘superiority’’. On the other hand, the Gypsies, neighbours
again, with the same more or less value system but with different ‘‘ethnic’’
background, wish for a ‘‘full’’ participation, but never get it. The consumption of the
kurban meat by them cant be considered as a clear marker. However, the Bektashis
consider the meat offered by them to the Gypsies as a sort of sadaka (charity), while,
‘‘being’’ Gypsies, it is obvious to all that they can never be members of the clan.
Besides, by acting in this way, the Bektashis of the area have a unique opportunity to
put themselves into a superior position, since, in the specific power relation system
and through the specific perceptions and practice, another group is found in an
inferior position.
Regarding the supralocal networks, what we can say is that it is more than 10
years now, that Thracian Minority mountaineer Bektashis/ Alevis, with the help of
satellite television have been fumbling the edges of the imaginary community of the
followers of Ali, members of which they feel that they are.

Challenging the Bektashi tradition II: The anthropological account

By Fotini Tsibiridou

How can ethnographic fieldwork experience in the Greek Thrace challenge the
existing assumptions about the Bektashi as an Islamic discursive tradition? How can
participant observation within multilayered minority condition, investing on empathy
and emotional understanding lead us to reconsider our assumptions about religion,
and our dividing logic between orthodoxy and heterodoxy? We will base our
hypothesis on people’s religious practices and experiences, sometimes combining and
relating rituals and performances regarded as controversial or incompatible with the
official Sunni Muslim Modern orthodoxy.
The present anthropological approach has been based on previous
ethnographic data (Tsibiridou, 2000) showing the flexible ways which the local
Muslim people conceive religion as a performed practical embodied experience
(Mahmood, 2009). The minority condition prevailing in this area, since early Modern
times, urges us to reconsider the dynamics of power relationships about people’s
religiosity as well as sociability. In this frame, ethnographic data seem to challenge
not only the Modern ways of defining religion and particularly Islam, but also other
dominant assumptions regarding the heterodoxy of the Sufi order, such as the
Bektashi one.
More specifically, popular Bektashi practices (if this is not an antiphrasis on
its own), hetero-defined as “kizilbash” in the area, are popular Muslim practices
interacting with shamanistic ones and sometimes conversing with orthodox
Christianity. All of them are interwoven in a perplex and unequal game of
power/knowledge and social poverty within the context of minoritization processes.
This Bektashi tradition in Thrace includes more social and embodied practices
than spiritual and scholar interpretations. The so-called “Bektashi tradition” plays an
important role in the politics of otherness, exclusion, and “internal orientalisms”
(Todorova, 1997) by implementing power and knowledge. The Bektashi tradition is
experienced in a socio-political level of proliferated practices of silence which people
living in the area adopt under the pressure of multilayered minority status and internal
discriminations, not necessarily dyadic ones: as Muslims/ Christians/ Kizilbash/

Alevis, Greek/ Turks and Pomaks, poor, rich, and excluded from the communities,
“same people” and “different/others” (Tsibiridou, 2005).
In other words, our main hypothesis is formulated as following: in the Greek
Thrace the Bektashi tradition is experienced through practices of religiosity inscribed
to the human body, rather than a simple spiritual scholar tradition; under the minority
condition, poor people living in marginal situations of exclusion, become victims of
multiple power relationships leading them to embodied fear experiences, lived
through religiosity practices. In addition, hegemonic scholar assumptions about
Islamic orthodoxy/orthopraxy lead to “from above” categorization of Bektashism,
through the prism of Modern and Protestant Western assumptions about religion,
orthodoxy and heterodoxy (Asad,1986, 2003; Mahmood, 2009). Bektashis or people
interacting with Bektashi practices adopt a subaltern policy, perform in silence, and
keep practicing religious duties without talking about all this.121
In my opinion, these conditions of power and the endorsed practices of
discipline inscribed to people’s bodies and general attitudes become the primary
characteristic of the Bektashi Sufi tradition as a discursive one (Anjum, 2007), not
only in the Greek Thrace, but also in the broader area of the Balkans and Anatolia.
Such religious experiences in the region involve different kind of rituals (Islamic
religious praxis and sorcery practices), mixing philosophical narratives of the Sunni,
the Bektashi, and sometimes Christian orthodox scholar or popular tradition, focusing
on human body and its relation to nature and its forces.
People living in the mountains of Rhodopi, not coming from the Bektashis,
before the modernisation process used to adopt their own narrative about Islam,
humanity and nature, not differentiating between dogmas, experiencing religiosity
bodily and mostly materially within an inter-relational framework of sociability and
dependence. See characteristically their own saying like, “people here don’t believe in
God and his Prophet, Mohamed, they only believe in jinns and other spirits”. These
perceptions used to function in a syncretism framework, where people would ask the
Bektashi healers (muskadji) for help, or insisted on participating in the Bektashi
festivities, “just for the good”.122 This is a kind of syncretism shaping religiosity as
total cosmology connecting human bodies’ integrity with the social persona
apparatus; this is the reason why cosmology comes to be related to the social reality,
immediately referring to illness and health, aiming at the egalitarian regulations
within the community, presuming the adoption of negative reciprocity practices (see
evil eye and other sorcery practices), as mechanisms of control and
(re)conceptualisations of the different forms of power (secular, religious,
However, under the wider modernization process of the end of the 20th century
in the mountain area of the Greek Thrace, we have to consider the parameter of the
minority condition to be critical to our hypothesis. While minoritization processes

Most of the information about the Bektashi tradition in Thrace are coming from scholars, or
rumours and fantasies of the non Bektashi. It is ironic to see locals to search about their Bektashi roots
holding in their hands scientific or folklore studies about Bektashism. This happened with the study of
Vrahiologlou, 2000, as I have noticed in the fieldwork.
It seemed a paradox to my eyes to envy the leader of the festivity (aga) for its prestigious position,
since the non Bektashi do not have the right to reclaim this prestigious role; then, later (1993-95), I
discovered the appropriation of the festivities by different new actors/players, away from the Bektashi
ritual reality. By their presence and the change of the performed ritual this part of the Bektashi tradition
has been transformed (Tsibiridou 2005 and see also above).
For a detailed analysis of all these practices and performance see Tsibiridou, 2000 and 2007.

seem to proliferate the politics of power, modernisation processes seem to transform

the meaning and modalities of power and its endorsement by people.
More specifically, since the incorporation of this part of Thrace into the Greek
nation-state in 1920, the population has consisted of a Christian Greek-speaking
majority and a largely Turkish-speaking Moslem minority. In that frame of
antagonistic nationalisms, mostly between Greece and Turkey, people search for new
Modern identities. More recently, practices of self-assertion have resulted in the
emergence of a redefinition of the Muslim minority dividing it into a “Turkish one”
and a nascent “Pomak” ethnic identity, too.124
These claims have in a way been related to the existence of the Bektashi
tradition. Immediate and mediate effects have transformed local people’s religiosity,
sociability and the ways symbolic power has been attributed. The latter has been
transformed from “prestige” to “authority” through the appropriation of the local
Bektashi festivities (panyir). Modernisation processes, on the other hand, have
provoked deep transformations to the ways people started to lead their everyday life
(mechanisation of the agricultural production and transport, urbanism, monetarism,
In any case, this evolution, having delayed for almost 40 years for minority
people, has created a tremendous gap between the Christian majority and Muslim
minority people, especially those living in the mountain area. Since the 1990s, a mass
modernisation process has contributed to the ways Muslim people are now
experiencing religiosity through the prism of a new puritanical modesty and/or the
dependence/control on/of their male religious leaders (Sunni hodja). In this frame,
Islam started to acquire standard and rational characteristics of orthopraxy, adjusted to
the official hegemonic Islamic narrative of the Sunni tradition coming from the city,
since the village practices of the popular Islam were regarded as heterodoxal and
retarded. Any rural religious practice became “heterodoxy”, forced to disappear or be
renamed through a new positivist meaning of Islam, usually engaged in the mundane
service of the Turkish nationalism. Thus, the minority condition generated policies
crucial to the ways people are experiencing not only national ideologies, but
personhood and subjectivity, collective belonging and religious feeling (Tsibiridou
2000, 2005, 2007).
The ethnographic fieldwork on the issue of Bektashism in Greek Thrace
showed that the hetero-determination with a negative connotation like “Kizilbash”
and auto-determination as “Alevi” cannot be dealt with an orientalist writing full of
hetero-defined assumptions and generalizations. 125 We need to proceed to a more
systematic genealogy of conditions and practices that link the meaning and the
subjects involved; we need to search for the reasoning and inside hermeneutics of
other marginal and heterodoxal practices in order to understand the multiple meanings
and transformations that can acquire Bektashism, as a discursive tradition.126

The latter with the support of Greek nationalism, as antagonistic to the Turkish one.
See Zegkinis, 1988, who arbitrarily rejects the hetero-determining negative term “Kizilbash” and
uses the term “Bektashi” without making any difference to almost all Sufi or popular versions of Islam,
and in this way producing objective determinations which do not conform to the flexible content. Less
problematic seems to be the study of Mirmiroglou, 1940.
The distinction between orthodoxy and heterodoxy is used here not because we take for granted the
binary categories, but because these terminologies have politically and historically been established. In
this context, the orthodoxy of either the Sunnis or the Shia seems to have been established through
rationality scholar practices and puritan Western ideology that have been identified more with
theological and dogmatic traditions, rather than with the mysticism and polytheistic religiosity of

While taking into consideration the genealogy to which we referred above, we

would like to challenge one main characteristic of the Bektashi tradition related to the
harmony between humans and nature – obviously referring to the Al wahdad al
wudjud [the unity of being] Sufi principal, one of the fundamentals of the elaborated
Bektashi knowledge. Namely, with the involvement of local people in a hard game of
power and subordination, control and self-discipline, sociability and exclusion,
egalitarianism and hierarchy which cause disorder in nature and in human body, we
ask ourselves where the principles of the Sufi tradition on harmony, peace, human
with nature can be found. In other words, how has the Bektashi tradition been
transformed in a social context of minoritization process and inclusion/exclusion of
social subjects from different types of power/authority (traditional or of a modern
type), and how is it used selectively when, at the same time, it can trigger power
relations and inspire social subjects in different ways? How are all these bodily
endorsed by social actors that are inspired by and that experience the relationship with
the Bektashi practices in the region, either as a type of material remains, as traumatic
memories or secret fantasies?
The catalyst of this seems to have been the continuous rationalization as
orthopraxy of Muslim practices in the region and their adjustment to the form of the
Modern Turkish Sunni version. It seems that the social subjects as much as they have
been inspired by the tradition of Bektashism, or whatever they imagine it to be,
cannot but comply with the new tradition of orthodoxy of the modern rules of the
Western values of religion and religiosity that, at the same time, transform the former.
This, in the multiple minority condition, can trigger not only silencing of the Bektashi
practices, but also the potential mutation of the Bektashi positive concepts of the
relationship between humans and nature.
Today, the use of the Bektashi tradition acquires more secular characteristics
of Protestant morality (Mahmood, 2009) since the adoption of the orthodox Sunni
version aims at fostering or strengthening the national consciousness (Turkish), not
only as a process of coercion, but as a process of a desire for progress on the part of a
marginal minority that is attracted to, and imitates the dominant standards of the
Modern national Turkish identity. Furthermore, capitalist modernization processes
that indirectly devalue nature and whatever comes from it, are co-responsible too for
the degradation of the Bektashi tradition.
The old practices related to agricultural activities in rural areas allow people to
have a more secretive relationship with surrounding nature, to serve and cultivate a
more cyclic use of time. In short, the Bektashi beliefs and practices are gradually
being transformed not only because of the oppression by the Sunni and the strict
Turkish nationalistic preaching of the hodjas in the cities, but mainly because people,
by moving to the cities, are losing their direct contact with nature, and thus, the unity
of the human body and the natural environment is broken. 127 For example,
generalized perceptions as practices prevailing in the region and deriving from the
wider Bektashi tradition stipulated one’s body to be a part of nature, and be punished
in case of unnecessary use of violence upon little creatures of nature, visible ones
(kittens, turtles, snakes etc. that bear the spirit of a jinn or peri), or invisible ones (that
circulate during the night hours and are not noticeable). The punishment was
exercised directly and, for that reason, the violations of not allowed actions were

Sufism (see on Asad 2003; Mahmood, 2009). For the case of rationalizing and enforcement of
hierarchy in the Bektashi tradition of Albanians see Doja, 2006.
Presentation of the same phenomenon in Alevi communities in Turkey in Shankland, 2007.

always done by saying the prayer (bismilla). In this naturalized world the knowledge
of women, and particularly the elderly was of a special value and appreciation.
The woman-shaman or therapist owned the same power as the Bektashi
healers (muskadji). Both had the power of positive / therapeutic action. But elderly
women that practised djadilik and karatsalik (the former being the negative act of
sorcery in order to deprive someone of their material goods and belongings, and the
negative act of sorcery aiming at separating the young couple in love, the latter), also
had harmful qualities / skills, same as the especially “strong hodjas”. The latter have
gradually gained control over life and death over the bodies of victims of pravina (the
sorcery act of rendering someone unsocial, being out of themselves).
The modernization process and abandonment of rural areas signalled the end
of these roles that experts usually offered disinterestedly, in order to heal, or, in a
closed community environment, to maintain the balance of goods and people. By
moving to the city these roles were retained only by Sunni hodjas. The latter
sometimes act as shaman, sometimes controlling the orthopraxy of Islam (and
therefore they demand the believers be present in central rather than in neighbourhood
mosques), sometimes acting as mediators with the Minority Committee and the
Turkish consulate in Komotini, which focuses on promoting the Turkish
consciousness, while other time they act as guarantors and mediators with employers
from the Greek-Christian majority in a job search. In any case, their benefits are either
of a financial nature, or they maximize their symbolic capital of prestige and power
(Tsibiridou 2000).
On the other hand, for practical reasons that serve social actors well in the
modernization phase, time has been restructured, working as a catalyst for the
transformation of the Bektashi tradition in the region. Festivals move to weekends,
and the strict observance of symbolic and meaningful dates has been abandoned (see
above the text by Mavrommatis). These, among others, are strictly connected with the
breaking of dependency on old networks, and in the making of new networks, in
which the minority subjects of the city have now been included, as well as politicians,
technicians, journalists and researchers from outside (out of the Bektashi, and the rest
of the Turkish Muslim minority).
All these has as a result the “rebaptism” of the religious experiences of social
subjects through new goals of personal/individual advancement, and other power
policies of claim of the modern identities such as ethnic and national. The more the
intentional practices of the actors continue being suppressed at the social level
(obstacles to the modernization applied by the Greek state as well as by the
mechanism of leadership of the Minority) and their desires for justification,
advancement fading, the more introversion is developing, with whatever it may
entail: from ethnocentrism / nationalism, dependencies and solidarity to the emerging
of ethnic consciousness (processes of Turkification or Pomakification of pre-ethnic
Muslim populations), even fear and conservatism, auto-catastrophic tendencies or
extreme instability in getting social integrity (see determination of ideological
positioning on to whom they do speak), etc. Thus, within modernization processes in
the framework of the modern Greek state, the minority condition has been working as
a catalyst for both the experience of the Bektashi tradition as well as for its
In any case, either during the last two centuries of Ottoman rule or now, the
Bektashi tradition has been perceived in Thrace as “heterodoxy”. Because of the
primacy of the scholar description and the Western assumptions about religion,

orthodoxy and heterodoxy, any difference was seen as deviation from the dominant
assumption about the Sunni orthodoxy.
All these should be seriously taken into account for the nature and
development of the knowledge on the Bektashi tradition in general. In other words,
heterodoxy, as a practice of deviation from or non-compliance with the prevailing
orthodoxy on the one hand, and management of the minority condition on the other,
are the aspects that have been giving a meaning to the Bektashi, as a discursive
Islamic tradition in this region of the Balkans. It could be very interesting to pose a
double hypothetical question about how this Bektashi, as an Islamic discursive
tradition could be differently configured:
- 1. What would have happened if there had been no long- term practices of
compliance with the orthodoxy / orthopraxy of Islam throughout the Muslim
world, as it happened with the compliance of the popular religious traditions of
Christianity at the end of the Middle Ages in Europe? It should be noted that in
the Balkans the hunt for old knowledge and practices of religiosity was mostly
done not by force (see the witch-hunt in the Middle Ages in Europe in Frederici,
2004) except perhaps some sporadic praxis linked to State administrational
reforms related one way or another with religious reforms, such as the persecution
of Bektashis and the closure of the tekkes in the Ottoman Empire by Sultan
Mahmoud II, 1826. But what most probably happened is that the end of the
popular Islam practices in this region of the Balkans took place gradually along
with the creation of Nation-States (with national borders and its’ consequences)
and the economic and political changes of modernization, in parallel – this is the
most important - with religious reform practices of adjustment to the Sunni
- 2. What would have happened if the Muslim population that followed or were
inspired by the Bektashi tradition in this area of the Balkans had not lived during
the last century under a condition of multiple minoritization process, within a
modern capitalist state? What would have happened if the latter had not produced
the multiple practices of power causing fear and/or shame to the social
subjects? 128 What would have happened if the actors themselves had not
developed high self-control disciplinary embodiments, negative reciprocity
practices and competitiveness of everyday narcissism, thus assuring the survival
of the self through his neighbour’s destruction? Modernization has not changed
these competitive relationships of the actors, but has definitely transformed the
modality and the gender of power, exercised through mediators. The minority
populations that were dependent on the healing powers of the muskadji and
elderly women, fall under the aggressive power of hodjas, who implicate comply
bodies and collective consciences with social antagonism and different political

The Bektashi as a discursive tradition is an Islamic religious experience

formulated through power and discipline, narratives and description of those
practicing it, inspired by it, as well as of those who try to describe it. Every project of
essentialism, without making its genealogy in specific place and time, and without the

On fear and shame (stramo/ srano) discursive practices, endorsing power by the Pomak people in
Rhodopi mountains see analytically Tsibiridou, 2007.

research of the particular religious meaning people invest upon, can only lead to
further misunderstandings.
However, for the sake of this meaning endorsed by people we will conclude
with the following paradigm.

A parabolic story instead of conclusion

By Giorgos Mavrommatis

In the last 15 years, studying Bektashism, being with Bektashis, talking to Bektashis,
watching Bektashis, a question - rather a wonder - comes again and again in my mind.
What’s actually Alevilik and Bektashilik? What is actually the content of the Alevi/
Bektashi identity and how is it ‘‘expressed’’ in the way people perceive the world and
themselves in it? And then, how is it ‘‘implemented’’ in their everyday life? I know
pretty well that this question cannot have one answer, if any. However, I don’t quit,
since from time to time I come across elements, which could be considered part of the
answer. And here I come to share one of them with you.
In 2006 I was serving as a teacher of Greek in a minority school in Komotini.
Of my ten years old Turkish speaking Muslim pupils, 25 were from Sunni families
and one from an Alevi family. One day, while talking about a (Christian) holiday, and
trying to explain what is a Christian saint, I found myself in a very difficult position.
My pupils could not understand what a Christian saint is, so, almost automatically I
gave them the Arabic terms (“aziz”, “veli ullah”). Still nobody seemed to understand.
But they insisted on asking; so, I tried to explain it in a more extended way. After
some 3 minutes of talking and explaining, I asked. “Well, finally did you understand
what a saint is? and what a saint does?”
“Savash” [war], shouted my best Sunni pupil with enthusiasm, having on his
face that great expression: “yes, I understood it”.
Why not? Think about it. Almost all Muslim and Christian saints fought for
their faith. They were warriors and, in most cases, martyrs.
With empty eyes and a strange expression - something between surprise and
reservation - drawn on my face, I turned to the class, not knowing what else to ask,
what else to expect. At that time, my Alevi pupil raised her hand asking for
permission to talk.
Calm and with eyes full of certainty, she said: “iyilik” [goodness]


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15. “Nahni wa xfendik”129 (We and the Others):

Negotiation of multiple identities in the Maronite Community of Cyprus

Maria Koumarianou
Hellenic Open University/ President of the Greek Society for Ethnology

In this study we will examine the negotiation of multiple identities in the Maronite
community of Cyprus which comprises four villages in the occupied territories and a
large number of displaced population, and particularly the extent to which some
identities are negotiable, while others are not. We will analyze the concept of
collective identity in relation to religious and ethnic factors (Maronite, Arab origin
versus the Orthodox Cypriots of Greek origin), differences within the community in
relation to language (use of a particular Arabic dialect only by the inhabitants of
Kormakiti, while other villages speak the Greek- Cypriot dialect). Very important for
the survival of the group in question is the existence of patrilineal, endogamous
groups that conclude preferential intermarriages.
Key words: Cyprus, Maronite community, collective identity, religion, language.

1. Introduction
This paper was prompted by an incident in August 2010, during my fieldwork in
Cyprus. As I was walking along the street with a friend, a Maronite lawyer, who was
accompanying me to the Nicosia Public Library, I met, quite by chance, a Cypriot
lady acquaintance of mine, whom I had not seen for several months. She greeted me
and asked me if I was still engaged in research on the Maronites, expressing her
surprise that I found anything of interest among these uncivilized «peasants».
Needless to say, I was most embarrassed, given that my companion was a Maronite.
He then stepped in and asked her politely whether she had actually met any
Maronites. Her reply was negative but she added that she had friends who knew some
and that generally she had heard unfavourable comments.
This incident places yet again the object of Ethnology and Anthropology, the
“other”, the “different”, and perhaps even the “exotic (Segalen 1989, Todorov 1989),
not only to people who are far away from us and whose way of life has nothing in
common with ours, but also within our own society and our own culture (Alexakis
2003, Hustrup 1993). As can be seen very clearly in the episode cited, in most cases
the figure of the Other is prefabricated and associated with behavioural stereotypes,
before the encounter or any other approach, and it is no surprise that very often
scientific function tries to fit this idea to reality.
This paper is based on fieldwork that began in 2002 and deals with the
Maronite Community of Cyprus. This time-depth has given me the opportunity of
studying the Maronites’ change in behaviour, mentality and attitude regarding certain
subjects over the course of ten years. The main reason for these changes is that in this
decade the political and the social status quo in Cyprus have changed, primarily due
to the freedom of movement across the green line, the rejection of the Annan Plan by

Part of the title is written in the Cypriot Maronite Arabic dialect of the village Kormakitis in Cyprus.

the majority of Greek Cypriots, and the stalemate in the attempt to find a solution to
the Cyprus Problem.
The paper aims to show that today’s problem of bi-communalism has its
beginnings in earlier political periods, when the division and classification of the
population into discreet groups, in order to achieve good governance, helped to
stabilize the fluid and ambiguous ethnic-religious boundaries. The study is developed
along three axes:
Firstly, we shall examine historicity, that is the process of constituting the
minority through the historical and social contexts (Troubeta 2000).
Secondly, we shall analyse the concept of collective identity in relation to
national/ethnic, religious and linguistic factors between the Orthodox Cypriots and the
Thirdly, we shall try to pinpoint those elements that enhance more clearly the
dynamic of the relationship between ethno-religious identity and political claims, as
this is developing on Cyprus today.

2. Historical review
2.1 The place and the people
Cyprus has a population of 818,200, of which the Maronite community consists of
approximately 4,800 people, most of whom live in the Maronite neighbourhood of
Nicosia, while approximately 100 people remain in enclaves in the occupied territory.
The Maronites of Cyprus consider that they originate from Lebanon and they
are Greek-order Catholics in religion. Their Archbishop is elected by the Holy Synod
of the Maronite Church, seat of which is in Lebanon. In their liturgy Cypriot
Maronites follow the Eastern rite of their Church, they use the Aramaic, Greek and
Arabic language (Hadjiroussos 2002, Hill 1972, Koumarianou 2009).
The Maronites are citizens of the Republic of Cyprus and have the same rights
and obligations as the rest of the population, except that they are not eligible for
election to the Presidency (Koumarianou 2004).

2.2 Name
The name Maronites derives from St Maron, a hermit who died in the early fifth
century and was revered by the inhabitants of the wider region of Mount Lebanon, or,
according to a different view, from the energetic Bishop and leader John Maron, who
zealously supported Monophysitism at the end of the 7th century130.
130 During the seventh century, the period of Arab expansionism, of Persian and Arab incursion, the
Empire faced a major problem with the eastern Monophysite regions, from with the imperial army
drew a large part of its troops. To ensure that the Empire did not lose its eastern provinces, Emperor
Herakleios (610-641), an Armenian in origin, and Patriarch Sergios (610-638), a Syrian, tried to keep
hold of the Monophysite populations with theological ekphrases more familiar to their manner of
understanding man and the world. The solution invented was Monotheletism and as consequence
Monoenergetism, which was introduced by Patriarch Sergios, supported by Emperor Herakleios and
expressed by Sergios’s successor to the patriarchal throne, Pyrrhos (638-642, 654). All three
collaborated on drafting the “Ektheses” of Monotheletic content, in order to achieve union of the
Monophysite Churches of the East with the Empire. However, this solution brought the Christian world
one step closer to Monophysitism, since the prevailing of God’s will and action cancels the human
nature, which ceases to participate in man’s salvation and he remains almost passive, subordinate to
divine will, in the state he was before the Theanthropos was born. The choices of the monks of St
Maron define also the choices of the militant population of the region, which had proved a valuable
source of recruits for the local Byzantine army. The condemnation of Monotheletism and
Monoenergetism by the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680) came up against the reactions of the monks of
St Maron, who organized the reactions of the local population to the Ecumenical Council’s decisions.

However, during the First Crusade the Maronites were forced to submit to the
papal authority of the Patriarchate of Antioch (1182) and to accept later (1215) the
teaching on the two natures of Christ. In 1736 the latinization of the Maronite Church
was completed with the acceptance of the decisions of the Latin Council of Trent
(1545-1563) and the Roman catechism, which was translated into Arabic (1786), the
acceptance of the filioque in the Credo, the teaching on “transubstantiation”, the use
of unleavened bread in the Mass, the Holy Communion of the laity with bread only
and not wine (the right of Communion with both bread and wine is exclusive to the
clergy), the recognition of the post-Schism (1054) Western councils as ecumenical131.

2.3 The Maronites in Cyprus

The presence of Maronites in Cyprus dates from the eighth century and reached its
peak in the twelfth century, under the Lusignan kings, and later with the defeat of the
Crusaders in Tripolis in Lebanon, between 1292 and 1307, when they arrived in
waves from the area of Mount Lebanon.
This period coincides with the heyday of the Maronites’ presence on Cyprus.
The Lusignan rulers granted them many privileges, firstly because they went over to
Catholicism and secondly because they helped the Crusaders during the First Crusade.
The start of Ottoman sovereignty over Cyprus (1571) dealt a big blow to the
Maronite Community. For the duration of Ottoman rule, the Maronites suffered
persecutions and oppression both from the Orthodox Christians and the Muslims.
Furthermore, the Orthodox clergy violently seized many of their churches and
monastic properties. The Ottomans, in their turn, forced many Christians from both
communities to convert to Islam. Numerous Orthodox, Catholics and Maronites
became Muslims and were known was Linovamvakoi – a name of metaphorical
character, a compound of linari (flax, linen) and vamvaki (cotton) – which refers to
their dual identity, at once Christians and Muslims, as well as to the tortures to which
they were subjected, to make them change their faith (‘the passions of the flax’) (Hill
In 1878, the Ottomans ceded the administration of the island to the British,
while in 1914 Cyprus was annexed to the British Crown and in 1928 was declared
officially a British colony. The British authorities were intent on modernizing rather
than abolishing the millet system. The establishment of two separate Educational
Councils and the introduction of teachers and teaching material from the two mother
countries (Greece and Turkey), contributed to the identification of the Greek Cypriot
children with the ideals and ambitions of their compatriots in Greece, in parallel with
the ambitions of the Turkish Cypriots who considered Turkey their motherland Loizos
2001). And whereas the 1881 census was taken on the basis of purely religious
criteria, the 1946 census was taken on ethno-religious criteria (Turks Muslims and
Greeks Orthodox Christians) – a reaction of the British colonial government, which
led to the encouragement of the Turkish Cypriots’ national consciousness as
counterweight to the Greek Cypriots’ ambitions for union with Greece (Polat 2002,
Thus, the British colonial government conceived at first a bi-religious model
of managing the population, which developed into a bi-ethnic model, succoured by
the awakening of Greek and Turkish national consciousness and underpinned by acts
of violence in the territory. The clash between the two different political ambitions led

Interview with Father Stephanos Marangos, Archimandrite of the Greek-order Catholic Church,
parish of the Holy Trinity, Acharnes (Athens, October 13th 2010).

to the London and Zurich accords (1959), a compromise which officially established
and legitimized the bi-communal structure.
According to the clauses of the 1960 Constitution, implemented after Cyprus
gained her independence, the Maronites, like the other religious groups – Armenians
and Latins –, had to choose to which of the two communities they would belong,
independently of ethnic origin. In 1969 they were recognized officially as a religious
Until the time of the Turkish invasion the Maronites lived all together in four
villages in the northern part of Cyprus, close to Nicosia: Kormakitis, Assomatos, Agia
Marina and Karpasha, and numbered approximately 5,000 persons. Their main
occupation was agriculture and around their villages there are sizeable areas of
cultivable land. The Turkish invasion in 1974 radically changed their life. Up until
2003 the Maronites fell into two categories: the displaced and the enclaved, who are
protected under International Law by the Geneva Convention (ΙV Convention of
1949), the Hague Regulations of 1907, as well as by more general customary
international law132.
The determination and the courage of the enclaved Maronites, mainly of
Kormakitis, who have opted to remain in their homes and in this way to keep alive the
presence of an indigenous population in their areas, is an important element, a fact
which they will, of course, exploit accordingly after the solution of the Cyprus
On account of the displacement and the continuous daily contact with the
Greek Cypriots, they are being assimilated rapidly by the Greek Cypriot community,
mainly through mixed marriages. With their forced displacement they lost the social
network and tissue which had enabled them to keep their religion and identity for

3. From the local to the collective identity

For the Maronites the concept of collective identity starts from an entirely general
local criterion, in which the concept of the local community is confused with the
concept of the ethnic group and is associated on the one hand with common origin
and on the other with the specific origin of the inhabitants from the individual
villages. Τhe “we” of this group is very fluid and when they use it in their discourse I
very often have to think abstractly in order to understand to which group they were
referring (Alexakis 1995: 151-170).

We’re refugees, I’m from Agia Marina. But my village no longer exists. It was
destroyed and turned into an army camp for armoured vehicles. The government gave
us housing in Kotsati, which was a Turkish Cypriot village that had been abandoned.
Petris is from Kormakitis. He left his parents there to guard the fields and he
considers himself best. Why not, since he did not lose everything? What do you
expect? But, what good is property to someone if he doesn’t know how to behave
properly! Just look at him! All he does is shout! I’m not saying, the Kormakitians are
hospitable and know how to enjoy themselves! But, what shouting and noisiness! …
We Maronites are soft-spoken, born merchants … As if we’re just like the
Assomatians and the Karpashotans. Because they’re paler-skinned, we call them
Europeans. They’re also a bit snobbish, they don’t let their hair down and have a

Article 73 of the Hague Regulations guarantees the rights of the enclaved, prohibits the
displacement of members and exempts them from military service.

good time, and they’re rather aloof. The Kosmakitians, who are dark-skinned and
black-haired, they call ‘chalachoues’ (χαλαχούες). It’s a word that comes from the
language they speak, Arabic, and they sound to our ears ‘chala, chala, chala’… But
they are much pleasanter in company and our women prefer them for husbands.
(Giorkis, 61 years old).
Τhis excerpt poses the problem of the local identity in relation to the
stereotype characteristics of each village, as well as the stereotype of the Greek
Cypriot in relation to the Europeans, who are considered cold – and this can be seen
more in the colours too – in contrast to the Cypriots in general, who consider
themselves warm people.
Essentially, this group constitutes a “community” which is based on the
territorial factor and on a more or less single and continuous residential space. By the
term community or more precisely local community we mean a group of persons
which is larger than the family and less impersonal than the national or ethnic group,
organized or not in a State, and who are in direct interpersonal relationship everyday
or at frequent intervals of time. The concept of community does not express simply
the concept that someone belongs to the group but also that he/she does not belong to
some other group (Cohen 1989: 12).
The particular identity communities develop in their discourse derives from
specific conjunctures. Kormakitis, which is otherwise known as Vasilochori or
Tsielepochori (the lovely village), is surrounded by large tracts or arable land, for the
most part privately owned, and its inhabitants were involved in the grain trade. There
were also numerous wage-earners or journeymen (mistarkoi), as well as shepherds.
Kormakitis had a large school and the parliamentary deputies of the Community came
from this village. Due to the existence of large private landholdings and the
considerable income from their cultivation, many villagers left to study and returned
to the village as teachers or priests (Strathern 1982: 72-100, Alexakis 1994: 147-224).
In relation to the two other villages, which have small landholdings and whose
inhabitants are mainly small farmers and shepherds, the brides consider the transfer to
“Vasilochori” as a step up in the world for them – social advancement – apart from
the fact that Kormakitian men are considered to be good-natured and attentive
husbands. So, the stereotypes of the villages derive from social and economic factors,
and according to other views imply different ethnic origin.
The inhabitants of Agia Marina, which is the only village in the Nicosia
district and is located very near the nodes or intersections of main roads, were in the
majority involved with transport and haulage with self-owned trucks, and worked as
free-lance professionals and drivers. Concurrently, they had small land holdings and
many of them laboured as share-croppers on the estates of the Prophet Elijah
monastery. Agia Marina was a village with a mixed population and there were many
marriages between Muslim men and Maronite women. The offspring of these
marriages chose either Islam or the Maronite faith. Indeed, it is not unusual for some
siblings to be Muslims and others Christians within the same family. Because the
Maronites were involved with trade and travelled, they acquired, as their compatriots
say, a different mind-set. They are sweet-talking “traders” (that is wily) in their ways,
but also quarrelsome. They took brides from within their village and, when these were
insufficient, from Karpasha or Assomatos, with whom they felt closer. However, the
principal element that distinguishes Kormakitis from the three other villages is its
inhabitants’ use of a special language which characterizes them as a linguistic
minority. And in this respect the Kormakitians are aware that they belong to a special
linguistic group, they acknowledge and emphasize this singularity in relation to the

Cypriot dialect and in relation to the fact that this idiom is not spoken in the other
villages. The Kormakitians consider themselves fiduciaries of tradition as well as
reference point for all issues of concern to Maronites.
This attitude provokes the reaction of the other Maronites, who consider that
the Kormakitians speak from a position of security, since they have lost virtually
nothing of their properties and because of their language are better able to negotiate
their singularity and whatever benefits may emerge from their recognition as a
linguistic minority.

4. Μinority and collective identity

The concept of identity is linked essentially with categorizations and classifications of
content and container. The main trait of collective identities is always the existence of
stereotypes, that is of real and hypothetical traits that each group has.
The identity construction of the Maronite community in contemporary Cypriot
society has been defined by three facts: their adequate population; their opting to
belong to the Greek-Cypriot Community in 1963; and their recognition as a religious
group in 1969.
Typical of minorities is the promotion of their characteristics and the
construction of ideologies upon which the cohesion of the group is structured (Barth
1969, 13-15). These characteristics are transformed into symbolic properties
(Bourdieu 1982, 94), which are attributed collectively to the members of the group,
attaching to them a particular behaviour with regard to its social milieu.

We Maronites are very hard working. In this respect we differ from all the others.
Wherever we go, we’re successful! Also, we’ve got solidarity between us; we help one
another, not like the Orthodox who tear out each other’s eyes. And our Church
supported us a lot (Solon, 65 years old).

So, the catalytic factor in constituting the group is not the common
characteristics of the social actors, but their opposition to the characteristics of the
dominant group. It is these characteristics which give the group its ethnic nature,
together with the subjective belief in belonging together, since its members share
common historical and contemporary experiences, representations of a common
origin as far as their identity is concerned, as well as mutual solidarity, creating an
imagined community (Anderson 1991,6). The dynamic of these imagined
communities becomes obvious also in their ability to supply their members with
sentiments that are articulated with the memory of past situations, which acquire
crucial dimensions because they are viewed from the standpoint of the present. In this
way the remembrance of situations is passed on to the generations to come, which,
although they have not lived and experienced these themselves, comprehend them as
common lived experience. (Anderson, op.cit.: 187-206).

4.1 Ethno-religious identity

According to Smith’s definition, the ethnic group is “a discreet – on the basis of name
– population which shares myths of origin, histories and culture, which maintains a
relationship with a specific geographical region and is possessed by a sense of
solidarity” (Smith 1986, 32, Aggelopoulos, 1997).
The approach to the formation of the Maronites’ ethnic identity will be
anthropological, that is an emic approach. The questions posed are what does their
particular identity constitute for the Maronites, what do they consider as their national

origin, how do they understand their position in Cypriot society and how do they see
their relation with the other ethnic groups in the wider region? We should add here
that of significant value for the formation of identity is the process of ethnicization
(Bukow 1993,61). The usefulness of the term “ethnicization” lies in the fact that it
reflects two levels of formation: a) hetero-ethnicization that results from the way in
which the dominant group perceives and presents the said group, b) auto-
ethnicization, which refers to the way in which this group defines itself, in reaction to
the surrounding social environment. Fundamental principle of the phenomenon is the
fact that, as a rule, ethnicization is imposed by the external environment and is
adopted by the group itself (Hargreaves 1995,36).
In 2002, when my involvement with the Maronites commenced, I tried to
understand what it means for them to be Maronites. In the interviews I had gathered
then, there were two identities which expressed them: Maronite and Cypriot.

Only in the last 30 years have I begun to feel I’m Cypriot. Before that I was only a
Maronite, because that’s the way they behaved towards me. I mean, for them I was
something like a Turk, uncouth, illiterate, something alien to the place. Probably they
did not know us, they didn’t know our history. Today, however, we live and work
together with them and we marry Orthodox women. Things have changed. (Giannis,
63 years old).

Today, eight years later and for the needs of fieldwork, I asked the same
question to the same informants. The answer I received is that they feel they are
Maronites and indeed Lebanese Maronites.

We are Maronites and we originated from Lebanon. Our ancestors came here
hundreds of years ago, but we are of Lebanese origin. Our priests, our saints, our
pilgrim shrines, all our history relates to Lebanon.

This change in national consciousness in recent years is not fortuitous. In

Cypriot society Greekness is identified with Orthodoxy, and whatever does not fall
within these bounds is considered alien and potentially hostile.

The Orthodox hounded us and they still hound us. You see this church? (the church of
St Romanos at Vouni). It was ours and the Orthodox took it by force. There was a
dragoman, Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios, who stole our properties and made them his
own; he is to blame for everything. He and the Orthodox are to blame for the
desertion of our villages. If you look at the old community documents, all the villages
here, below the Pentadaktylos, were Maronite. Now, there are hardly four that are

Although this event which the informant describes happened about 250 years
ago, the content of this memory shows the existence of two layers within it: one layer
consists of hackneyed memories relating to historical data, while the other touches
emotionally each individual.
The ethnic identity of the Maronites today includes a particular devotion to
Lebanon and denotes, inter alia, the subconscious identification of religious and
ethnic identity, through identification with one State (Lebanon) and one religious
group in that State, with which they consider they share a parallel course and

mythology. This is the direction in which the continual cultural exchanges with this
country tend, as an effort to strengthen the sentiment of national origin.
The mythology underpinning the Maronites of Cyprus in relation to their
homologues in Lebanon can be summarized as follows:
A) The history of the Maronites in Lebanon was shaped in the isolation of the
mountains and in the endless struggle with the other religious groups. The writings of
their clergy forged the idea of Maronite identity, which is based on Catholicism and
concurrence with Rome, on uniqueness and on militancy for survival in relation to the
other religious groups. The present status of the Maronites in Cyprus is based on
exactly the same model, which was imposed and promoted through traditional
narratives on continuity, and created a strong sense of Maronite identity (Spagnolo
Β) The Maronites were and are always a nation whose cradle is Lebanon, and they
translated their religious identity into nationality on terms of political legitimacy,
unity, action and authority (Moosa 1986, 175).
C) The Maronites are a nation with a special religion which bridges the world of
the West with that of the East (Salibi 2005). They are committed to respect all, while
at the same time keeping their identity and values.
Thus, the Maronites in Lebanon, given their long-standing ties with West,
throughout their history, do not feel they belong to the Arab Muslim world (at least
the majority of them). Concurrently, they feel threatened by the assimilative practice
of Islam. In the same way, the Maronites in Cyprus feel that their religious and
national identity is threatened by the dominant Orthodox ideology. Since their
religious singularity gives them a political existence, it acquires in their eyes the value
of a symbol Particularly after 1969 and specifically after the events of 1974, religion
is identified with the political and ethnic group. After their displacement and the
intensive activity of the Catholic Church and the Pope to their advantage, religion
gained strength among them and the sense of belonging to a special community
(Koumarianou 2010).
So, living in a State that recognizes religious groups, which acquire political
representation in Parliament but within which their status appears inferior, the
Maronites in Cyprus desire their identification with Lebanon, where the system of
government allocates political and institutional power proportionally between the
religious groups, and the Prime Minister is always a Maronite (Salibi 2005).
However, the difference is that that whereas the Lebanese Maronites have
turned towards the West and deny a pan-Arab identity (Hagopian 1989), the Cypriot
Maronites, particularly the Arabic-speaking ones, have turned towards their Lebanese
homologues, not just towards religion, but by developing also an Arab identity with
them. This is something that the political leadership of Cyprus does not want at all,
since in popular sentiment the identity “Arab = Muslim” and “Muslim = Turk” holds
sway. Not all the Maronites espouse this position, however, but mainly those who
originate from Kormakitis and who speak the Arabic idiom. This language is an
additional reason for them to identify with the Arabic-speaking populations of the
Middle East, something that the rest of the Maronites view with suspicion.

The inhabitants of Kormakitis do us more harm than good and mainly because they
look only to their own interests and are indifferent about the rest of us. They speak
Arabic and they think the whole world revolves around them. We from Karpasha, like
the others from Asomatos, have great confidence in our government and our Church.

Father Giannakis in particular, our bishop, who is one of us, has always supported
our interests and advised us soundly. (Eleni from Karpasha).

The Christophias government, fully aware of the rift being created and the risk
that recognizing the Maronites as an ethnic minority entails, has made a significant
turn-around in its policy, with the aim of achieving their better incorporation in
Cypriot society. Very recently, on 18 January 2011, the President of Lebanon,
General Michel Suleiman, visited Cyprus, President Christofias declared his particular
respect for the role of the Maronites of Cyprus in Cypriot society. And he went on to

The Maronites of Cyprus are our brothers and sisters, whom our government assists
in various ways to preserve their cultural identity”. At the same time, the President of
Lebanon had contacts with leading members of the Maronite community and heard
their problems (Mavrohannas 2011).

These recent political changes have reinforced relations between the two sides
to an unprecedented degree. In recent years, there has been an upsurge in excursions
of organized groups to Lebanon, where the travellers usually stay in monasteries. The
founding of association has led to official exchanges between the municipal
authorities. Furthermore, the new Archbishop encourages exchanges between young
people and young Lebanese come to Kormakitis, where they are offered
accommodation in the homes of local people or in the Convent. The founding of
association has led to official exchanges between the municipal authorities.
Maronite relations with the Greek Cypriot community are characterized by
mutual mistrust and very often by highly negative sentiments, as the incident I
described at the beginning attests.

I wonder how you can involve yourself with them. Personally, I can’t stand them. My
kid is jobless, while all the Maronites are sitting pretty in civil-service posts.
[President] Kliridis supported them a lot. And not only he. They all help them. (Μary,
52 years old, Orthodox).

The negative stance of a large part of the Orthodox population is not without
real grounds, since the Maronites have managed to negotiate, through the intervention
of the Pope, certain rights and freedoms for those enclaved in the occupied part of the
island, which does not hold for the Greek Cypriots of Rizokarpaso133. This fact in
itself created much ill-feeling in the Greek Cypriot community, which was
exacerbated after the additional rights announced for the Maronites in the North.
Specifically, Maronites wishing to settle permanently in the occupied part of the
island are entitled to the necessary papers and identity card from the Turkish Republic
of Northern Cyprus (ΤRNC), so that they may participate fully in the economic and
social life of the pseudo-state. Many Maronites have taken advantage of this option

Since 1998 some significant steps have been made to facilitate the enclaved Maronites and their
families. The enclaved are able periodically to visit their families in the free region, and vice versa,
whereas for the Greek Cypriots with enclave relatives there was the age limit of 16 year. This
restriction does not apply to the Maronites, which after submitting an application and paying a deposit
bond are able to visit their relatives. Even the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
(PACE) in Resolution 1333 (2003) calls for Greek Cypriots living in the north to be granted “at least
the same rights as those already allowed to Maronites”.

and at the same time have received from the Cypriot Government financial aid to
resettle (Sotiriou 2011). This tactic further fuelled the climate of mistrust as to what
extent the Maronites are or feel themselves to be “Greek Cypriots”, since they used
their special religious identity in order to gain greater profit – depending on
circumstances –, that is to what extent someone can be simultaneously a citizen of the
Republic of Cyprus and the TRNC.
This new situation has divided the Maronite community. Some representatives
see it as an opportunity from which they should benefit to the utmost, while others
feel that any initiative they take should have the full support and approval of the
Greek Cypriot government. This opposition has its grounds in practice too, since there
are many and different leaders both in the North and the South, while some are
acknowledged by the authorities of the North and others by those of the South134.
These moves of the Maronites are monitored closely by the Cypriot government and it
does not hesitate to declare on every occasion that “the Maronite community is an
integral part of the Greek Cypriot community”135.
However, at the level of day-to-day intercourse, there are criticisms of the
Maronites’ behaviour in the workplace, such as idleness, lack of interest in
productivity and efficiency, slyness, which are perceived as negative cultural
preconditions which the Maronites bear and which are an obstacle to their social

I’d never want my daughter to marry a Maronite. They’re lazy and cunning. Whatever
stone you unturn, you’ll find one underneath. And then they get on with everybody.
Even the Turks! That’s why I can’t stand them (Αndroulla, 57 years old, Orthodox).

So, although the Maronites are fully incorporated in the Greek Cypriot
community, the fact that until recently the young men were exempt from compulsory
military service generated suspicion and discontent towards this group, since the
Orthodox Greek Cypriots considered that the Maronites enjoyed special privileges.
Within this climate of mistrust and disparagement, the Maronites promoted the
superiority of their faith: Time and again in my presence, when they started
discussions about which doctrine is the best, they all ended up saying that
Maronitism, and by extension Catholicism, is much more human. Whenever an
opposite view was expressed, there were conflicts. This is proof that their religious
identity is not negotiable.

Essentially, we have no differences with the Orthodox, even though they don’t want
us. But we accept them in our Church and when our people marry Orthodox we don’t
demand that they be baptized as Maronites. But you (addressing me) ask us to change
faith and to become Orthodox. But our own religion is much more human. For
example, Purgatory, which gives our people the chance to pray and to beseech, so
that whatever you’ve done your soul can, in the end, go to Paradise. That’s why we
go frequently to Lebanon. To beseech the Virgin Charissa and St Siarbel for our dead

The displaced communities elect in community elections their own community heads, who are
different from the community heads who are elected by those remaining in the occupied territory and
who are recognized by the occupation authorities.
Newspaper Politis 13 February 2006.
D.Bukow R. Lloryola, Mitburger aus der Fremde. Sociogenese ethnischer Minoritaten, Οπλάντεν
1993, 63.

ones and also to help us to return to our villages. (Marinos, president of the
ecclesiastical committee of Agia Marina, Skylloura).

In my discussions with them, they put the argument of origin to the fore, with
the aim of justifying their claims, reversing their minority status to “minority
superiority” and supremacy.
In relation to the Turkish Cypriots, the discourse is of those who remained in
the occupied north of the island.

We’ve survived so many centuries and so many persecutions. We’ve never forgotten
our faith. And those they call ‘Linovamvakoi’ were in reality Maronites. A large
percentage of Turkish Cypriots is made up of these, and that’s why they love us and
we get on well with them. Whatever happens, we will try to survive. That’s why we get
on with everybody. It’s in our interest (Νinos, 45 years old)

Later in their discourse they will express the stereotype of the Turkish Cypriot,
who is identified with the Turk.

What is there to be afraid of from them? You’ve got to have your way, we manage to
deal with them and we get along fine with them. The Turk has to be dealt with in a
certain way … .”

At the same time, they consider they have much in common with the Turkish
Cypriots and indeed they stress that in the past Turkish Cypriots were Maronites who
changed religion. That is why they think the Turkish Cypriots are amicably disposed
towards them and very often in mixed villages there are intermarriages between
Muslims and Maronites. It is noteworthy that the children born of these unions chose
whether they would become Maronites or Muslims. Such incidents show the mind-set
of the groups, whose only way of comprehending the differentiation and division is as
a process of family division or splitting off from the ethnic group.

4.2 Linguistic identity

Part of the Maronite identity is connected with language, as Kormakitis, the main
Maronite village, is distinguished by the fact that its people speak a variant of Arabic
called Cypriot Maronite Arabic (CMA). The dialect has never been written and it is
transmitted orally through everyday conversation.
According to Alexander Borg, an eminent linguist who studied it, the most
intriguing aspect of Cypriot Maronite Arabic (CMA) is that it is a survival of the
Medieval Arabic dialects spoken in the urban centres of the Near East, especially
Baghdad. This raises questions about the historical links between the urban centres of
the Near East and the social upheaval caused by the Crusades.
The fact that CMA is solely the vernacular tongue of Kormakitis village and
not of the neighbouring villages is very interesting. Kormakitians attribute this fact to
their origin from the village of Kour in Lebanon.

We feel Lebanon is our second native country. I am from Lebanon, from a village
called Kour. And from this name comes the contemporary name of our village: ‘Kour
ma zit’, which means, ‘we came here but Kour didn’t’. This is what our ancestors
used to say when they arrived on the island. The memory of the village is so strong
that we kept speaking Arabic.

At the same time, the dialect has submitted to the impact of contact with the
Greek language; Greek vocabulary loans are ubiquitous. The linguistic term "code
switching" is used to describe the process whereby speakers change from one
language to another, depending on the situation. Parents eager to improve the future
social standing of their children do it voluntarily.
Of great importance for the survival of CMA is the Accession Treaty of
Cyprus to the European Community, as EC decisions concerning minorities already
exist. The Council of Europe has declared CMA as a seriously endangered language,
since only a few hundred people still speak and use it and those who do are all over
40 years of age. Furthermore, since 1993 CMA also features in the European section
of the UNESCO Red Book Report on Endangered Languages.
However, in its Initial Report (2004) the Republic of Cyprus declared only
Armenian as a minority language but not CMA, which it excluded and designated as a
dialect spoken by relatively few and thus in no need of protection.
Under constant pressures from both the Maronite associations and the Council
of Europe, on 17 September 2009 the Ministry of Education and Culture submitted to
the Ministerial Council a memorandum relating to the obligations of the Cypriot
government regarding recognition of CMA as a minority language.
It is important to stress that recognition of the Maronites as a linguistic
minority with regard to Aramaic involves the whole community, because that
language is used in church services. In contrast, their official recognition as a
linguistic minority with regard to CMA involves only those persons living in or
originating from Kormakitis. CMA recognition will be extremely beneficial to
Kormakitian landowners whose land has been actively safeguarded by their enclaved
relatives. Conversely, this is clearly not the case for many others originating from the
other villages, whose property has been stripped and who are understandably more
concerned with illegal possession than CMA recognition.

5. Issues of identity and political claims

According to the Manchester School — Bailey, Epstein, Turner and Gluckman —
politics is essentially a struggle between contestants for socially-defined prizes. From
that perspective, politics is a constant struggle between groups in a society (Swartz
The basic disadvantage of ethnic categories lies in the fact that they obscure
social conflicts (which are the driving force of constituting groups and minorities)
which are concealed behind ideological symbols.
The goal of the Maronite community is to gain by all means the status of a
Minority. Without such status, the rights continue to apply but may become more
difficult in practice. For this reason, the Maronites have taken measures and actions of
a conscious political character. In order to acquire this status, they try to maintain a
sufficient number of speakers and to preserve and stress in every possible way their
Their main claims are: a) protection and promotion of their religious, ethnic
and linguistic identity b) participation in the Parliament (the right to vote and to
play an active role in parliamentary committees) 137 ; c) to ensure the right of
property ownership and exploitation in the occupied territory; and d) to be allowed
to return to their villages and settle under conditions of security.

UN Doc. E/CN.4/1992/SR.17, para 19.

Perhaps one of the most important legal rights to emerge from this recognition is
also the principle of local self-government or local autonomy. The principle of
autonomy states that: “Τhe participating States make every possible effort to protect
and to create conditions that contribute to the defence of the national, linguistic,
cultural and religious identity of the minorities, by instituting the appropriate local or
autonomous administrative bodies, which will respond to the particular historical and
local conjunctures of these minorities and in accordance with the policies of the
An autonomy of this kind can be applied to issues of local elections, residence,
land management, protection of nature and the cultural heritage, education, etc. In a
word, autonomy is essential for real control in a defined area.
In the case that the principle of autonomy is not feasible, the Maronites
consider that they fulfill the terms to be recognized as a minority with specific
territoriality 139 , since their presence in the northern part of Cyprus is attested for
centuries and they own land in accordance with Article 10.2 of the European
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Aim of this article
is to protect minorities against measures which may change the composition of the
population, particularly in areas inhabited by minority groups, or to restrict basic
rights and freedoms with measures such as expropriation of properties, persecutions
or redistribution of administrative boundaries of a region, aimed at limiting the right
of free circulation140.
This position is related to the main problem of the Maronites, that the bi-zonal,
bi-communal plan will lead to total dissolution and loss of their identity, since the
historical and geographical location of their villages is under Turkish occupation in
the northern part of Cyprus, which fact prevents their return home.
In the opposite case, if the Maronite Community remains under Turkish
Cypriot Administration, the principle of autonomy or the regime of specific
territoriality will allow arrangements to be made concerning property (building zones,
land use, irrigation, property transfer, etc.). In particular, in the area of Kormakitis,
where there are enormous tracts of privately-owned land, what is desired is to create
local self-government authorities with additional powers, so that they have an
important opinion on matters relating to the land and the village. Of course, an effort
of this kind should have the official consent of the European Union, for issues
concerning the protection of minorities141.
In addition to the educational or cultural or economic benefits the Maronites
may have, Part II of the European Charter includes many favourable conditions,
namely the “respect of the geographical area […] where minorities live”.

Copenhagen Document of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe)
Human Dimension, para 35.
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, article 10.2.
In the absence of autonomy, another concept is offered in the Framework Convention for the
Protection of National Minorities. This is the concept of a “specific area”, which may be minority
dominated, or perhaps more equally populated by different groups. The expressions of rights in the
Framework Convention include Article 10.2:
“In areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities traditionally or in substantial
numbers, if those persons so request and the request corresponds to a real need, the parties shall
endeavour to ensure, as far as possible, the conditions which would make it possible to use the
minority language in relations between those persons and the administrative authorities”.
Newspaper Κοινοτικό Βήμα (November-December 2002) in the leader article entitled
«Παγκοινοτική Σύσκεψη Μαρωνιτών για το σχέδιο Ανάν».

As their presence in the northern part of Cyprus goes back for centuries and
they own land, they meet all the necessary conditions to be recognized as a minority
with specific territoriality. This means that the States involved are committed to
preserving the way of life, language and culture of the minority group.
Furthermore, Article 14 encourages “appropriate types of trans-national
exchanges […] for minority languages in two or more States” as well as “bilateral
agreements [that] facilitate contacts between the users of the same languages”.
The reluctance of the Cypriot government to attribute the status of minority to
the Maronite community and to recognize CMA as a language stems from the
implications this action may have in the settlement of the Cyprus problem, as it
demands mutual agreement and cooperation with the so called “Republic of Northern
Cyprus” – a phantom state that seeks legal basis for its existence. For instance, during
the discussion on the Annan Plan, among the things to be implemented immediately
after the agreement was the return of Maronites to their villages. This is why over
90% of Maronites said “Yes” to the Annan Plan, but when this agreement was
rejected, the government accused them of putting their personal benefit above the
general public benefit (Chrisostomidis 1997).

6. Epilogue
The ascertainment that social groups become aware of their particular identity when
they find themselves in inter-relationship with the “Other” (Cohen 1985, 3) has been
accepted by Social Anthropology since the late 1960s, when Barth (1969) published
his monograph entitled Ethnic Groups and Boundaries. Τhe primordial traits of an
ethnic identity function as symbolic systems which express and conserve the
oppositions within the society. Consequently, their value as components of identity
can be transmuted easily and negotiated, since it depends on the fluctuations in social
rivalry (Balibar 1988, 133).
In order to declare their origin, the Maronites use the definition Maronia,
identifying the religious with the ethnic group. It is their conviction that they belong
to a large religious grouping which simultaneously presents certain ethnic
characteristics, such as common origin and spirit of aggregation, and concurrently
enjoys the protection of State in which religious group and policy are identical
concepts. At the same time, they use mockingly the terms “chalachoues”,
“Europeans”, ‘merchants”, which are hetero-definitions given to them by the Greek
Cypriots or by the inhabitants of other villages.
The subjective ranking of cultural identities into upper and lower, the
development of a sense of minority superiority and supremacy, the selective use of
the past, the revitalizing of forms of collectivity by creating institutions of exclusive
participation (Association of Assomatos, of Agia Marina, Sports Club of Kormakitis,
etc.), the presentation of the stereotype characteristics of each village, the
development of a singular cultural localism and its activation under certain
circumstances (linguistic school), and last, the reinforcing of the ties of a divided
community are responses that cover at various times the needs and priorities of the
specific population.
First of all, the Maronites present a local/territorial identity, which is linked
also with localness.
Their ethnic identity includes a particular devotion to Lebanon, with which
they consider they share a parallel course and mythology. The continual cultural

exchanges with this country tend in this direction, in an effort to strengthen the sense
of national origin and to promote their case at an international level.
Their relations with the Greek Cypriot community are to a large degree
negotiable, particularly in recent years, depending on the political conditions and the
community’s claims both at State and international level.
The main element of opposition between the two communities is identified at
a religious level (Geertz 1968).. It is well known that religion can be used
successfully as an assimilative force of national/ethnic communities. If they are
incorporated in central value systems, they can even legitimize relations of power
(Lekkas 1986, 189).
The Maronites have good relations with the Turkish Cypriot community, to
the annoyance of the Greek Cypriot community. That is, the beneficial relation of the
emotions, duty and religious solidarity prevails.
One other very important element in claiming their recognition as a linguistic
minority is the use of the very interesting Arabic dialect of KormakitisLinguistic
otherness allows one group to stress its difference and at the same time allows it to
raise claims and rights on account of the special regime to which it wants to be
subject (Mac Donald 1989). In relation to the preservation of both the linguistic and
the ethnic otherness, the actions on the part of the Maronites are consciously political
in character.
In their discourse and their narrations they present a form of negotiation
regarding the language, but not their origin and their religion, which for them are not
I conclude with the words of an 84-year-old Maronite who said to me one day:
“The water slowly slowly digs the stone …” meaning that the Maronites’ patience and
persistence will win in the end.

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16. On Muslims, Turks and migrants: perceptions of Islam in Greece and the
challenge of migration

Venetia Evergeti1 and Panos Hatziprokopiou2

University of Surrey
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki/ Hellenic Foundation of European & Foreign
Policy (ELIAMEP)

In this paper we explore the historical perceptions of Islam in Greek national identity,
the role of the minority of Thrace and the challenge that Muslim newcomers pose to
such an established myth. It is based on preliminary material from a project entitled
“Islam in Greece: religious identity and practice among indigenous Muslims and
Muslim immigrants”, funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council. It
will draw on interviews with Thracian and migrant Muslims living in Athens,
focusing on their views about Greece’s myth; of Islam, and its practice in a country
were Orthodoxy forms such an integral part of the national self and where the Church
was never truly separated from the State.
Keywords: Islam, Greece, immigrants, indigenous Muslims, national identity.

1. Introduction
This paper is based on preliminary findings from our project Islam in Greece:
Religious identity and practice among indigenous and migrant Muslims, funded by
the British Arts and Humanities Research Council and hosted at the University of
Surrey, UK. The study explores the negotiations of religious identity and practice, and
the politics of recognition of religious rights. Focusing on Muslim immigrants and
indigenous Muslims in Athens we seek to understand the role of religion as a
“marker”, possibly among others, of collective identification for these groups and the
extent to which they relate to each other and the wider society. Greece provides an
important case, because of its historical Muslim population, but also because it is seen
as a country with a strong sense of national identity contrasting to its newly emerging
multicultural reality.
The position of Islam in Greece, where the Church is not officially separated
from the state, is linked to the country’s Ottoman past and the Turkish/Muslim
“Other”, against which the Greek national identity has, to an extent, been formed.
This often lies at the background of xenophobic reactions towards certain ethnic and
religious groups, including Muslims. Currently issues concerning the meaning of
religion for minority and migrant Muslims and whether they relate to each other in
their struggle for recognition remain so far unanswered.
Methodologically speaking, our study is based on qualitative and mainly
ethnographic fieldwork in particular areas of Athens with high concentrations of
native and immigrant Muslims. The study involves interviews and focus group
discussions with immigrant and indigenous Muslims, key-informant interviews with
community organisations and with representatives of Greek NGOs, the Church and
the State, as well as ethnographic visits to prayer sites, Friday and special-occasion

prayers, (non-participant) observation, informal chats and collection of visual material

(photographs and video). It explores issues relating to religious and ethnic
identification, religious representation and practice, experiences of prejudice,
strategies and alliances, the rituals and symbols of religious expression, how they
engage in the mosque debates, whether their struggles for religious recognition unites
or divides them and whether such arguments are articulated differently by Thracian
Muslimss and Muslim immigrants.
The paper will be structured in the following way. In the next section, we
overview key features of the two broad groups of Muslims in Greece, namely
indigenous Muslims from the minority of Thrace and recently-arrived Muslim
immigrants. Then we provide a brief account of the role of religion in Greek national
identity, arguing that this has historically determined perceptions of Islam and
Muslims in the country, and showing how the persisting ethnicisation of Islam
through its association to Turkey is reflected upon the experiences of immigrant and
indigenous Muslims alike. In the fourth section, we link the issue of religious rights to
the question of citizenship, exploring reactions over a short-lived law facilitating
access for second generation and long-term migrants. Lastly, we juxtapose Muslim
stances towards the long debate over the establishment of a central Mosque in Athens,
in which the alleged involvement of Turkey, partly featured as a counter-argument
against the construction, and the mundane organisation of Islamic religious practice in
informal prayer sites spread across the Greek capital.

2. Muslims in Greece: from indigenous to immigrant Islam

2.1 Indigenous Muslims
The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne provided for the protection of minorities in the two
states, following a massive exchange of populations which involved the crossing of
about 2 million people to either Greece or Turkey, according to the faith in which
they were born (Hirschon 2003). In Greece, this concerned the Muslim population of
Western Thrace. Following the Ottoman millet system, the Treaty recognized and
defined them according to their religion and therefore provided a framework for
protecting them as religious minorities. The Muslims of Western Thrace became a
small minority in the area; their official status was determined in religious (Muslim)
rather than linguistic or ethnic terms. However, the minority consists of three different
ethno-linguistic groups: Turks, Pomaks and Roma. The formation of their diverse
identities has not been without tensions and conflicts. At different historical times and
depending on the nature of the Greek-Turkish relations there have been various
political and academic debates as to whether the Muslims of Thrace should be viewed
as a homogenous religious community or as diverse ethno-linguistic groups (Evergeti,
2006 & 2011; Borou 2009). Yet, although institutionalised discriminatory practices
have gradually led to growing identification of the minority as “Turkish”, any explicit
reference to this would be perceived as a national threat. Still, vernacular
understandings of Islam continue to equate the Muslim with the Turk.
Thrace has often been described as a politically and nationally sensitive area by
both academics and politicians (Borou, 2009, Yiakoumaki, 2006). Those exempted from
the population exchange were never accepted by their host countries as part of the nation
and ‘‘have always been forced to live a separate life, sometimes subjected to
harassment’’ (Oran, 2003: 101). They were always viewed as the enemy, or the “other
within”. Indeed, the presence of a Muslim minority so close to the Turkish borders has
been seen as problematic and the two countries have strived in their attempts to present it
under two antithetical homogenising titles: as ‘‘a unified Muslim minority’’ according to

the Greek official discourse and as ‘‘one Turkish minority’’ according to the Turkish
discourse (Demetriou, 2004; Evergeti, 2006).
Ethnic Turks compose the dominant group within the minority not only
because of their number (56,000), but also because of the socio-historical and political
developments in the area. The Pomaks (38,000) and the Roma (18,000) thus face the
problem of being a minority within a minority.
In contrast to newly arriving immigrants, the Muslims of Thrace are Greek
citizens with constitutional and religious rights. They have their own religious
institutions and minority schools (both regulated by the Greek state), several
associations and unions, and full civil and political rights, including the recognition of
Sharia law where the local Muftis arbitrate mainly family and inheritance issues.
Nevertheless, since its establishment the Muslim minority in Thrace has been
subjected to discrimination and exclusion, while the region is among the least
developed in the EU. These factors have contributed to internal migration of many
Thracian Muslims to Athens.
Most of the Thracian Muslims came to Athens in the mid 70s and early 80s,
and the majority of them have settled in the areas of Gazi and Plateia Vathis both
located in downtown Athens. This internal migration movement was reinforced both
by the lack of jobs in Thrace as well as by a state policy that started in the early 80s
and aimed to encourage members of the minority in Thrace to find employment in the
public sector in other towns. However, it seems that the policy’s ultimate goal was to
weaken the Muslim presence and their political participation in Thrace. Once in
Athens, they lose all access to Muslim institutions (pray sites, minority schools and
the provision of Islamic family law), mainly due to the absence of such institutions
outside Thrace. As a result, these internal Greek Muslim migrants often experience
problems similar to those of recent Muslim migrants, marked by prejudice, exclusion
and limited religious provisions.

2.2 ‘‘New’’ Muslim migrants

Since the 1990s, Greece has been accepting large numbers of immigrants, not only
challenging its myth of homogeneity but also reminding her of different continuities.
But if the overwhelming majority of migrants initially came from neighbouring
Albania, the Balkans, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, an increasing
proportion of newcomers originate from more distant lands, including predominantly
Muslim countries of South Asia and the Middle East. Overwhelmingly concentrated
in Athens, these migrants now share the religious needs of the Muslims in Thrace;
they are not citizens, many are undocumented and many would prefer to cross to
Western Europe. Lacking a formal place of worship, they practice their religion in
informal prayer sites in basements and storerooms, without any access to marriage
provisions and a cemetery to burry their dead. Above all, they come from Islamic
traditions largely deferring from those of Turkey.
‘‘New’’ Muslim immigrants in Athens are differentiated by many factors.
First of all, they are of different national and ethnic origins, they have diverse
experiences in relation to their legal (or illegal) status, the number of years they have
been in Greece and their family and social conditions. Furthermore, they are
differentiated in relation to their community and religious organizations: there seems
to be a clear division along national and ethnic lines and religious associations. In
recent years there has been a shift from a private or invisible presence to a more
public and visible one, with public prayers organized in central squares of Athens and
the political mobilization of community organizations and elites.

The vast majority of Muslim immigrants in Greece are concentrated in Greater

Athens and Piraeus: above 90 % of Bangladeshis and Iraqis recorded in the 2001
Census, more than two thirds of Egyptians and Syrians, roughly 68 % of Pakistanis.
Most leave in neighbourhoods of low rents, either traditional working class districts or
areas that have been gradually abandoned by indigenous Greek residents who moved
to the suburbs. Although housing segregation of immigrants is generally low, mostly
due to the overwhelming presence and spatial dispersal of Albanians, smaller national
groups such the ones from Muslim countries have formed specific and rather visible
concentrations, especially in central Athens and its western surroundings (Arapoglou
et al 2009). The historic commercial core of downtown Athens in particular (around
Omonoia square), concentrates spaces of mass temporary settlement of newcomers, a
diversity of ethnic businesses including many established by Muslim immigrants,
offices of migrant community organisations, as well as multiple sites of worship
(Arapoglou et al. 2009; Noussia and Lyons 2009). In terms of employment and living
conditions, studies of specific immigrant groups have shown that the majority
performs hard manual tasks in specific economic sectors, often through informal
arrangements and thus with no social security and with very modest rewards.
Pakistani immigrants constitute one of the oldest though fairly recently grown,
and certainly the largest group from a Muslim country at present. Their population
has grown from 1,911 people in 1991 to 9,945 in 2001, approaching 15,478 in 2006.
According to the Ministry of Interior statistics, there were 12,126 Pakistani migrants
holding a valid residence permit in 2007, 47% between 31-40 years of age and
another 26% between 21-30 years old. This is a predominantly male population: out
of 13,325 Pakistani migrants who were insured with IKA by January 2009 (the largest
Greek social security fund), only 47 were women. Pakistani migrants have recently
been at the epicentre of public discourse, as they have been targets of several violent
racist attacks and police raids in recent years. Nevertheless, it is difficult to talk of one
unified Pakistani community as they are differentiated according to modes of
mobilization and community organizations that reflect their polarizations in respect to
both local Greek politics and their political affiliations back home in Pakistan.
Furthermore, they are differentiated according to varying religious traditions, mainly
between Suni and Shia, some Sufi orders and Hanafi legal school missionary
Having sketched the position of indigenous and immigrant Islam in Greece, in
the next part of our presentation we will provide some preliminary results from our
study. Specifically, we will explore the ‘‘ethnicisation’’ of Islam in Greece, the issue
of citizenship and the mosque debate in Athens, exemplified through interview
extracts from our fieldwork.

3. Portrayals of Greek National Identity and the ‘‘Ethnicisation’’ of Islam in

Greece’s Ottoman legacy has historically played a very important role in the
construction of the Greek nation-state and the development of Greek national identity.
Popular imagination and dominant discourses of national identity in Greece relate
Islam with the Turkish Ottoman “Other”. To a certain degree, it is against this
“Other” that Greekness has been officially constructed, partly by placing great
emphasis on Christian Orthodox religion (Polis, 1992; Triandafyllidou, 1998;
Mavrogordatos, 2003). It is also in relation to this “Other” that the myths of
homogeneity and continuity have shaped perceptions of the imagined community of
the nation. The myth of continuity, on the one hand, implies a straight line from a

glorious ancient past to European modernity passing through Orthodox Byzantium, in

which the Ottoman period was perceived as a rapture signified by Islamic conquest
and oppression. National homogeneity, on the other, was achieved by waves of forced
or voluntary assimilation and population movements, the most tragic one being the
population exchange and the Treaty of Lausanne. Ever since, it became mainstream
dogma to equate Greek nationality to the Orthodox religion, while implying its natural
opposite, i.e. equating Muslim to Turkish, though not always explicitly.
The narratives of our immigrant interviewees underline that, until quite
recently, most of the discrimination experienced by Muslims appeared to relate more
to the very position and status as immigrants, rather than to their different religion.
According to various studies, Greeks have been among the Europeans holding the
most negative views on immigration in Eurobarometer surveys and there has been
rising xenophobia and racism in the context of the recent economic crisis
(Anagnostou and Gropas 2010: 92; HRW 2012). Negative views may be linked to
certain perceived aspects of Islam and Muslim societies, entailing a great deal of
ignorance, rather than broad Islamophobic sentiments. A 2009 opinion poll to a
sample of 622 people across the country recorded some 77 percent of responses
having minimal knowledge of Islam (Public Issue 2010). The same poll registered
large shares of negative reactions to the concepts of “jihad”, “burka” and the “islamic
veil”, but relatively limited shares reacting negatively to “Quran”, “Mosques”,
“Muslims”, “Prophet Muhammad” or “Islam” (between 19-23 percent of responses,
compared to a similar range of shares declaring postive views towards the same
concepts). However, about half agreed that “Islam leads to violence more easily than
other religions” (as opposed to nearly 40 percent disagreeing with that statement),
although some 70 percent do not think that Islam poses a real threat for Greece.
As mentioned earlier, however, dominant national identity discourses have
developed in relation to the ‘‘Ottoman’’/Muslim Other. Furthermore, the
“entanglement of Muslim difference with Turkish ethnicity” (Triandafyllidou and
Gropas 2009: 212) persists in contemporary perceptions towards the Muslim
‘‘Other’’. In this respect, there has been an ongoing stance in the public imagination
equating Islam to Ottoman times and thus relating and ethnicising the Muslim
religion, by equating it to Turkey and the Turks. This is one of the striking
experiences of both Thracian and foreign immigrants in Athens. Some of our
interviewees expressed their dissapointment explaining that because of their Muslim
identity, they were often associated to Turkey both in official discourses and in their
daily encounters with Greeks:

… This is the single thing I would like to condemn, they relate us Pakistani Muslims
with Turkey, although we are in Greece and have nothing to do with Turkey,
Pakistanis come here to work and they will support Greece, this is our second
country. It is really an obstacle that they identify us with Turkey and with Thrace,
even the Church does this, they say that we have in our memory all what the Turks
have done to us…. (Pakistani migrant association A)
I consider myself a Greek, I am Greek, my mother is Greek, I have grown up here…
The problem is, or rather not actually the problem but the view people have, is that
we are foreigners because we are Muslims, or since we are Muslims then we must be
Turks… Being a Muslim in Greece means that you are somehow unwanted, or you are
a Turk… it is difficult.. you don’t have the same rights neither the same
opportunities… (Greek-Egyptian imam)

These are not isolated complaints. Often Pakistani and other Muslim
immigrants that we talked to and/or interviewed explained that although there were no
clear Islamophobic attitudes in Greece, they often felt that historical and national
stereotypes about Turks/Muslims often influenced the way Greek people approached
them, or the (negative) ways Muslims were portrayed in the media. Interestingly, and
as shown in the extract below, this is a view also shared by Thracian Muslims in

Islam is not Turkish…people here think that all Muslims are Turkish but they are not.
There are many Muslims in Athens that are not Turkish. We learn Islam from the
Arabs not from the Turks (Thracian in Athens)

In general, our research revealed that religion is not an issue in mundane

experiences of interaction between Muslims of either immigrant or indigenous origin
and non-Muslim Greeks. For Thracians, the question of “ethnicisation” through their
implicit association with Turkey may be more prominent, revealing more discourses
and stances bounded in dominant national identity constructions, which – curiously,
as we have seen here - affects immigrant Muslims too. But even from the immigrants’
perspective, religion as such did not appear to be the main marker of negative
demarcation. By contrast, our study showed that experiences of discrimination among
immigrant Muslims were more linked to their very status and position as immigrants,
rather than to their Islamic faith and practice, confirming thus the findings of previous
studies (KSPM 2007; Papandoniou 2009). To the extent that religion became an issue
in everyday interactions, it would mostly relate to perceptions of Muslims as de facto
religious, devote and practicing, and to stereotypes over the position of women in
Islam, or dietary habits in relation to pork meat and alcohol consumption.

4. Questions of belonging and the issue of citizenship

Hegemonic notions of the national self in the Greek context, as earlier described, have
had serious implications for the legal requirements of who can and who cannot
acquire Greek citizenship. Historically, religion (Orthodox Christianity), language and
ethnic descent have been the most important elements of the Greek national identity,
which have subsequently influenced historical shifts in the regulatory framework of
citizenship (e.g. Christopoulos 2012). In what concerns recent immigration, according
to the respective legal framework, not only citizenship was reserved chiefly for those
of proven Greek descent/origin, but more generally the development of immigration
policies over the past twenty years was highly selective and fragmented,
distinguishing between various “categories” of migrants partly on the basis of national
identity considerations (Trandafyllidou and Veikou 2002). A new citizenship law
passed in March 2010 (3838) has provided new requirements to allow long-term
foreign residents and their children to acquire citizenship. However, as we will show
later in our paper there have been serious objections to this law in the name of the
‘‘unity of the Greek nation’’, which resulted in a formal ruling of the Council of State
in January 2013, cancelling the Law as incompatible to the constitution.
Before this, however, reactions from sections of the Church and conservative
politicians have focused partly on the challenge of Muslims becoming Greek citizens
(e.g. Hatzopoulos and Kambouri 2010). Despite such reactions from part of the
clergy, the Church of Greece did not adopt a single official stance; the moderate
Archbishop avoided to intervene in what he saw as an essentially civic matter;
opinions given by individual bishops varied from positive views acknowledging the

“multicultural character of contemporary Greek society” and “the need for respecting
alterity”, to a “growing preoccupation with Islam as a potential destabilising force”
(Hatzopoulos and Kambouri, 2010: 5). In respect to the latter, as the following quote
indicates (reported in the Press at the time the law was originally voted) the fear is
that granting citizenship to Muslim immigrants, will somehow weaken the national
(Orthodox) identity of the Greek state by introducing Muslim elements to Greek

…no bishop assumes a public stance against the law, [but] in private talk they do not
deny fears about the strengthening of the islamic element… They estimate that the
overwhelming majority of migrants living in our country come from Muslim
countries… these people were born and have been brought up in fanatically Muslim
societies, where sharia rules… they, as Greek muslim citizens now, will then demand
the building of mosques at least in the country’s large cities, the construction of
cemeteries, etc… Orthodox Greek children will start getting familiar with Bairam and
Ramadan… (To Vima, 31/1/2010)

The same newspaper reported on statements coming from MPs of the

ultranationalist party LAOS (in parliament at the time), who alarmingly talked of an
alleged “Muslim invasion” by exaggerating numbers and their potentially threatening
political impact in case immigrants would ally with indigenous Muslims of the
minority of Thrace:

… If they [immigrants] join the other 250,000 Muslims of northern Greece, then here
it is, a Muslim party will emerge

Nevertheless, the difficulty of acquiring citizenship presents very serious

problems, especially for second generation migrants who are born and raised in
Greece and are now starting their own families:

I was born here, went to school here, got married here, had my own baby here… for
me Greece is my country but my country sees me as a stranger… I’ve been born here
and every year I have to go and queue together with the Pakistanis, Albanians,
Romanians that have just come into the country in order to get my residence permit…
(second generation Egyptian)

This is a shared sentiment among many of the migrants, especially those who
have either been in Greece for many years or were born in the country and are having
problems not just with acquiring citizenship, but more generally with securing a long-
term legal status in the country. Alongside obstacles to naturalisation related to the
long, bureaucratic and quite expensive procedures, and apart from the serious
reactions against the Law, its recent rejection by the Council of State has resulted in
freezing recent applications. Of course this relates to their status and conditions as
immigrants and not their Muslim religion.
Although Thracian Muslims are Greek citizens, and despite institutional
improvements in the overall state approach to the minority since the 1990s, many feel
they are treated as second class citizens on the basis of the prejudice and
discrimination by the Greek polity and society at large. Such experiences and
complaints were often brought to the fore of the narratives of our Thracian Muslim
participants in Athens:

One of the biggest problems the minority has in Thrace is the level of education. They
treat us differently…maybe that’s the official line… the teachers they send us have
very poor knowledge, they don’t care about the education of the Muslim children in
the same way (as they care for the Christian children) (Thracian in Athens)

A similar complaint was made about the fact that Thracian Muslims did not
have any (formal) religious provisions in Athens regardless of the fact that they are
Greek citizens and their rights are safeguarded by an international treaty. In the
absence of such provisions, Thracian Muslims’ negotiation of religious practice in
Athens resembles much the relevant experiences of immigrant Muslims. One of the
most important issues coming out of our fieldwork is the absence of an official
mosque in Athens, and the subsequent organisation of religious identity and practice
around numerous informal prayer sites.

5. The Mosque debate and informal prayer sites

The debates over the construction of a central mosque in the Greek capital date back
more than a century ago and include a series of provisions and plans that were never
put into practice. Much of the “mosque debates” reflect the role of the Church in
Greek decision-making, as well as the omnipresent influence of religion in the Greek
public sphere and the historical association of Islam with Turkey (Triandafyllidou and
Gropas 2009; Skoulariki 2010), which are embedded in dominant perceptions of the
Greek national self. The privileged status of the Orthodox Church as the “prevailing
religion” in Greece (Constitution, article 3) and its authority to control the activities of
other religions and denominations is partly related to why the Mosque has not been
established (Tsitselikis 2012; Anagnostou and Gropas 2010). The current legal
framework determining the establishment of non-Orthodox venues of worship dates
back to 1938-39 and requires a permit issued by the Ministry of Education and
Religious Affairs, after hearing the (non-binding) opinion of the Church of Greece
(Triandafyllidou and Gropas 2009: 962-3; Anagnostou and Gropas 2010: 95). On the
other hand, however, the building of the mosque has been strongly resisted at the
political front on nationalistic grounds, revealing once again the aforementioned
association between Islam and Turkey. In recent proposals, for instance, those
opposing the Mosque argued that it may imply direct intervention of Turkey in Greek
domestic affairs, and that building a Mosque in Athens would require Turkey to
respect Greek Orthodox churches and institutions in its own territory (Triandafyllidou
and Gropas 2009; Skoulariki 2010). Generally speaking, arguments resisting the
building of a mosque come from moderate conservative to ultra-nationalist and
extreme right political parties, as well as Church circles, while the Centre and Left of
the political spectrum are generally less reluctant or even supportive (Triandafyllidou
and Gropas 2009; Skoulariki 2010).
The question of establishing a central mosque in the capital emerged anew in
the 1970s, mostly by diplomatic representatives of Arab countries (Skoulariki 2010;
Anagnostou and Gropas 2010), while in the 1980s it was also promoted by a deputy
of the minority, as well as by a group of Sudanese students (Triandafyllidou and
Gropas 2009; Skoulariki 2010). The government responded by offering a plot in
Marousi, a northern Athens suburb, then in Alimos at the southeast, but plans were
rejected by the (conservative) opposition (Skoulariki 2010: 305). Subsequent plans to
have the mosque built in Paiania, a northeastern suburb close to Athens airport, came
close to materialize by a relevant 2000 Law; however, these plans were also
abandoned, partly due to objections from the Church, as the local bishop did not agree

with the location, while Church Authorities –although generally positive to the
construction of a Mosque - rejected the provision for it being accompanied by an
Islamic Cultural Centre. A brief proposal by then Mayor Dora Bakoyanni to have the
mosque established at an 18th century Ottoman mosque in Monastiraki, did not
materialize as the venue was judged too small by Muslim communities, but also came
to be contentious in terms of its location, right at the city’s historic core and literally
in the shadow of the Acropolis. More recently, the Church proposed to have the
mosque built in Elaionas, a sparsely populated industrial area at the western fringe of
the Municipality of Athens, subject to a massive regeneration project. This was taken
forward with Law 3512 of 2006 and despite reactions currently still determines the
procedures for finally building the Mosque, providing for it to be financed directly
from the state budget, to operate under state management and with state-appointed
imams. More than the usual objections we briefly accounted so far, however, this time
it seems that it is Greece’s worsening economic difficulties that ultimately appear to
be the main reason why the construction of the mosque, estimated at nearly one
million Euros, is once again being postponed.
As the following quotes indicate, the lack of a central Mosque is seen as a very
serious problem by both Muslim migrants and Thracian Muslims who have moved to

The minority in Thrace has many problems but here in Athens the mosque is one of
the most important ones… we would definitely visit it and use it as a central prayer
site. (Thracian in Athens)
Leaving here in Athens I would like to have a proper mosque to visit. …I still haven’t
understood what the problem is and why Greek governments don’t want to make this
mosque since there are official mosques in all European capitals. It would be good
for the Muslims here… Now we have to use basements of buildings to pray. (Thracian
in Athens)

Similarly Pakistani and other migrants saw the building of a central mosque as
an important move towards the public recognition of their religious rights:

The Muslim world is not interested in building a mosque here in Greece, I believe this
is an obligation of the Greek state to come to a final decision and finance its
building… In Britain, France, Germany, Spain, there is a mosque,… is it that they
can’t build a single mosque in Greece?…It is important to have a mosque built in
Greece… once there is a mosque built in Athens the whole climate will change,
contact will improve, there will be respect for Athens in the Muslim world…
(Sudanese Imam)
What I see is that this is in the Constitution, every religion should have one… [But]
Until this is built, it is only words to me, because there have been at least 10 years…
that they say there will be a mosque built here in Athens, in Paiania, in Eleonas…
There are many instances that they have been saying there will be a mosque… But we
have not seen anything… I believe… in a few years there will be a Mosque… I believe
that we need at least one very big mosque, so as to show the world here is Greek
democracy, here is respect, we are civilized… (Pakistani migrant association B)

In the absence of a central mosque, there are numerous small informal ones
that have been established either in relation to ethnic affiliations (Thracian, Pakistani,
Bangladeshi, Arab mosques) or in relation to different religious traditions (Sunni or

Shia mosques). It is very difficult to estimate the exact number of informal mosques
(although see KSPM 2007) because most of them operate in flats, basements,
storerooms, garages, or abandoned small industrial sites, lacking “all the architectural
characteristics of a mosque, especially the minaret used for the ezan” (Skoulariki
2010: 311). They are, more correctly, prayer halls or sites of worship, as denoted by
the terms masjid or mescit. While informal mosques are not operating illegally as
such, they do not have a proper permit as religious venues, and are therefore also
referred to as “semi-legal” (Hatzopoulos and Kambouri 2010: 6).
When asked about their informal mosques most people in our study explained
that such venues served as important socialising places and therefore the
establishment of a central mosque would not mean the closure of the smaller ones.

Here we have created a meeting place where we meet our own people (meaning
people from Thrace and specifically the same village) and we wouldn’t want to lose
that. (Thracian in Athens)
…All these centres cannot be abandoned once we will have a single big mosque, as
they say… these centres will continue to exist… in the last few years we are
witnessing these centres to be differentiated on the basis of nationality – this one is of
Syrians, or Bangladeshis, etc… (Sudanese Imam)

This is a clear indication that apart from being prayer and worship sites,
informal mosques are also a social space often based on local origin (sometimes
people from the same village or area gather in the same informal prayer site), and thus
provide both an important sense of belonging and a crucial social space for Athens’
Muslim communities. At the same time, however, as the last quote implies, the
differentiation of mosques along ethnic lines is indicative not only of the vast
heterogeneity and diversity of Athens’ Muslim population, but also of its significant
fragmentation. This was reported in contradictory terms in the narratives of some of
our interviewees, especially community representatives and religious leaders, as
opposed to the universality of the “ummah”, i.e. the community of the faithful, which
radically contrasts the fragmentation along ethnicity, nationality, or even diverging
Islamic traditions. Neither Islam exists in a vacuum as a solid category, nor the
Muslim population itself constitutes a single unified “community”, and Athens’
central Mosque has been perhaps one of the few issues that has ultimately brought
together different Muslim communities assuming a single unified stance.

6. Concluding Remarks
Our paper has highlighted a number of important issues emerging from our study
among indigenous and migrant Muslims in Athens. Put in the context of historical and
current perceptions of Islam in Greece we sought to provide a preliminary analysis of
some of the problems Muslims in Athens currently face. Although they have different
legal and socio-cultural status, and are by no means solid homogenous groups but
rather characterized by internal differences, diversity, and fragmentation, Thracian
and migrant Muslims often face similar difficulties in their everyday life, especially in
relation to the performance of their religious practices and their experience of
prejudice and discrimination.
Until recently, religion was not a major issue in respect to the public discourse
on immigrants in Greece, and still remains a fairly marginal one (Hatziprokopiou
forthcoming). As elsewhere in Europe, however, Islam stands quite exceptional, since
“public debates on the question of religion and migration in Greece have primarily

focused on the impact of Muslim migration in Greek society” (Hatzopoulos and

Kambouri 2010: 3). Interestingly, although there was a feeling among Muslim people
and community representatives that their religion was not publicly accepted or
tolerated, their marginality was often felt more in relation to their low social status
associated with their migratory experience (in the case of Muslim migrants) or their
minority membership (in the case of Thracian Muslims). But while there has been a
marked improvement in terms of equality before the Law for the latter since the
1990s, there are still many steps to be taken in respect to the former, especially in
opening institutional pathways to integration through long-term residence and
citizenship provisions. Especially for those settled permanently or born and raised in
Greece, the policy backlash of the last couple of years exemplified by the short-lived
citizenship law prolongs an ambiguous status at a time of deepening crisis and rising
Our study has responded to the need for integrated, combined and
comparative accounts of indigenous Thracian Muslims and Muslim immigrants
pointed out by previous research (e.g. Trubeta, 2003; Antoniou, 2003 and
Triandafyllidou, 2010). But at the same time it revealed that this needs to be taken
even further. As Muslim immigrants gradually set ground in the country by
outnumbering numerically the minority and by featuring centre-stage in the public
sphere (Hatziprokopiou forthcoming), there is a need to focus more thoroughly on the
contacts and communication between these two broad groups, or the reasons why this
may not be the case. Whether this goes on in parallel with a paradigm shift in
hegemonic perceptions of Islam in Greece, from predominantly determined by the
burden of history and the role of religion in Greek national identity, to global geo-
political and ideological currents associating Islam with terrorism and islamophobic
concerns over the integration prospects of the Muslim ‘‘Other’’, common elsewhere
in Europe, also remains to be further explored.

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17. A Muslim Saint or a Conqueror: Myths and the Religious Other

Evgenia Troeva
Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum,
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

The paper aims to detect tendencies in the attitudes to the religious Other in Bulgaria
through different memories about the most revered saint of Muslim Bulgarians –
Enihan Baba. It presents the role of oral traditions, literary works, the homeland
researchers’ works, films and media in the construction of myths. The fieldwork data
reveal the existence of mutually contradicting opinions about Enihan. They vary from
extremely positive (Enihan – saint) to pointedly negative (Enihan – conqueror)
depending on to the generation, social class and confessional group of the
interviewees.These mutually exclusive memories reflect the dynamics in the Muslim
Bulgarians’ identity.
Keywords: Religion, identity, Muslims, myths, saint

1. Introduction
The present research aims to detect tendencies in the attitudes to the religious Other in
Bulgaria through different memories about the most revered saint of Muslim
Bulgarians – Enihan Baba. His tuyrbe (tomb) is located on the Svoboda Peak (called
Enihan and Momchil in the past) in the district of Banite in the Rhodope Mountains.
The cult complex under study is located in a contact area of different ethno-
confessional groups – Bulgarians (Muslims and Christians), and Turks. This
borderline state favours the symbolic expression of different religious identities, and
that is precisely what the region under study is being meaningfully called “the
Rhodopean Mecca”. The paper will present the role of oral traditions, literary works,
the homeland researchers’ works, films and media in the construction of myths that
are representative of the policy towards the religious Other.
Theoretically, this research is based on the thesis that there are a number of
collective memories that are social and cultural constructs and are determined by the
identities of the remembering groups (Халбвакс 1996: 97; Gillis 1994: 5; Assmann
2000; Асман 2001: 51). The memory is always a current phenomenon, the past being
replaced according to the present needs (Лоуентал 2002: 493; Нора 2004: 38). It is
also a main instrument through which identities are constructed (Olick & Robbins
1998: 133).
The applied methods of historical and social anthropology allow us to analyze the
dynamics of identity in both a diachronic and a synchronic aspect, thus revealing the
close relationship between social context and individual/collective identity. On the
other hand, the specifics of the qualitative methods based on interviews, makes the
researcher face a self-presentation depending on the narrative configuration. The
fieldwork data used in the present article were collected mostly in 2007, 2008 and

2009 in the Middle Rhodopes142 but some interviews were conducted as early as

2. Historical background
Thе Muslim Bulgarian population in Bulgaria numbers about 180.000 people mostly
living in the Rhodope Mountains. Their community formed during the period of
Ottoman domination, when local mountain populations accepted Islam but continued
speaking the Bulgarian language. In the 20th century, the restored Bulgarian state
held, varying in intensity, a policy of integrating Muslim Bulgarians into the
Bulgarian nation, using coercive measures such as a forced name-change, conversion,
and a ban on practicing religious rituals. In 1912-1913 the Bulgarian church, using the
military situation of the Balkan War, forcibly converted the Muslim Bulgarians. The
next period of intensified state policy towards the Muslim Bulgarians is expressed
through the activity of the Rodina Movement in the second half of the 30’s and early
40’s of the 20th century, which, however, does not result in any religious conversion.
The manifestation of attachment to religious traditions (be it Christian or Muslim)
during the socialist period are interpreted negatively in the light of the prevailing
ideology of atheism. From the late 50’s of the 20th century the Bulgarian leaders
follow a consistent policy of limiting the influence of Islam within the so-called
’’cultural revolution”, which consists of ’’upgrading” clothing and replacing the
Muslim festivals with socialist ones (Груев 2003: 237). Another renaming of
Bulgarian Muslims in the 70’s of the 20th c. is in the context of a ban on professing
Islam and publicly demonstrating religious belonging (through clothing, visits to
houses of prayer, celebration of religious festivals) (Георгиева 1998: 293; Груев &
Кальонски 2008). While part of the Muslim Bulgarians take this as a threat to their
identity and close themselves within group (e.g. in some areas of the Western
Rhodopes), others (e.g. in the Middle Rhodopes) see this as an opportunity for a fuller
integration into the Bulgarian society. Both trends continue to develop also in the
transition period following the 1989 changes.
After the democratic changes in Bulgaria in 1989, Muslims are given the
opportunity to restore their Muslim names and to freely profess their religion. The
focus of attention in the present report is on Muslim Bulgarians, among which
divergent trends143 are visible. The interaction of the ruling policies with different
strategies of the Muslim Bulgarians to adapt to the changing social environment leads
to various differences in their self-identification.
Nowadays, some of the Bulgarian Muslims claim a Turkish identity in the
presence of strangers, thus trying to accentuate on their Muslim belonging. The
Turkish self-identification in the villages under research is expressed by
representatives of the oldest generation of Muslim Bulgarians who use the ethnonym
‘Turks’ in the sense of ‘Muslims’, elucidating that they are actually ‘Pomaks’.
The self-denomination ‘Pomaks’ is characteristic of many people at a middle and
older age in the region. In the presence of strangers they prefer to use the community

The text presents my work on the topic “Cultural Memory and Religious Identity of Muslim
Bulgarians” that is part of the project of the Ethnographic Institute and Museum “Collective Memory
and National Identity”, sponsored by National Scientific Fund.
The various tendencies in the self-identification of Bulgarian Muslims are conditioned by multiple
historic, political, social and local factors that have attracted the attention of researchers (Karagiannis
1997; Георгиева 1998; Todorova 1998; Brunnbauer 1998; Balikci 1999; Brunnbauer 1999;
Brunnbauer 2002; Telbizova-Sack 1999; Telbizova-Sack 2000; Velinov 2001; Karagiannis 2005;
Benovska-Sabkova 2006; Steinke & Voss 2007; Груев & Кальонски 2008, Tроева 2011).

name ‘Bulgaro-Mohammedan’ which was initially imposed on them, but later on

accepted. Representatives of this provisional group conform their attachment to Islam
with their Bulgarian civil identity. They share a feeling of being different from both
Turks and Bulgarians. People of middle and younger age consider themselves
‘Bulgarians’, giving a preference to the Bulgarian ethnic and language identity over
the religious one. For them, the Muslim religious practice is more of an expression of
tradition rather than following a specific religious doctrine.
The fieldwork data reveal the existence of mutually contradicting opinions about
Enihan Baba. They vary from extremely positive (Enihan – saint) to pointedly
negative (Enihan – conqueror) depending on to the generation, social class and
confessional group of the interviewees. The diversification of the memory of what
Enihan was leads to the formation of various memory groups. They, in turn, reflect
the transformation processes in the Muslim Bulgarians’ identity. The preference for
one or another legend positions religious identity within the hierarchy of the complex
personal identity. On the other hand, it allows for an analysis of the specific context
that causes the choice of the memory preferred (Troeva 2010).

3. Literary works, homeland researchers’ works, film and media in the

construction of myth
The Enihan Peak was first mentioned in the firman of Sultan Selim I, issued in 1519,
the Enihan Mountain being among the listed territories (Маринов 1937: 2). In the
materials of the homeland researchers from the end of the 19th and the first two
decades of the 20th century, Enihan Peak is described as a Muslim Bulgarians’
sanctuary. For the first time Enihan is associated with legends about the Turkish
conquest of the Rhodopes by the Rodina Movement’s activist P. Marinov. He
published an expose according to which the leader of the Turks Enihan was killed in a
battle while conquering the Rhodopes and was buried on the peak of the mountain
(Маринов 1938: 2-3).
The review of publications about Enihan shows the paths of distributing certain
motifs. An exceptional role in this respect is played by the laic historical literature,
whose authors, with a few exceptions, are Christian Bulgarians. In the following
decades, this story of the bloody conquest of the Rhodopes, in which the Turkish
military leader Enihan Baba was a significant figure, gradually became a major
historiographic story. The constantly increasing works of homeland researchers
played an important role in that process. But the concept of Enihan the conqueror
became popular with the general public when his name was included in Anton
Donchev’s novel “Vreme Razdelno” (“Time of Parting”) published in 1964. The book
is based on the idea that the population of the Rhodopes was islamized by force.
According to the fictional text of the novel Enihan was a Turkish commander who
“killed our grandfathers and captured our grandmothers”, his grave was actually
symbolic, there were no bones in it, and this meant that the Rhodopes had no
conqueror (Дончев 1964: 234-235).
While working on the film “Time of Parting” in 1986, the crew initially comes to
the village just off the tyurbe (Davidkovo) to shoot the episode about Enihan Baba on
location, but because of bad weather gives up. Although the filming on Svoboda Peak
does not happen, the local people clearly associate Enihan of the fictional work with
Enihan Baba from their region. For the Muslim Bulgarians this association is
unpleasant and unacceptable because of the idea of the forceful conversion to Islam
which the film advances. Therefore, they keep avoiding any comment on the film in
front of outside observers to this day. Christian Bulgarians, however, take the film

“Time of Parting” as an illustration of what happened in the Rhodope Mountains a

few centuries ago.
In the oral tradition and in the sources about the Muslim saints on the Balkans
there are some motives in which they are presented as ghazi warriors (conquerors of
territories for the Islam) (Евлия Челеби 1972: 293; Григоров 1998: 554;
Карамихова 1999: 247; Карамихова 2002: 33, 42; Алексиев 2005: 28, 62, 136;
Миков 2007: 92). Nowadays Muslim Bulgarians identify themselves as followers of
the Sunni Islam. Probably, legends about other babas as military commanders and
missioners from different Muslim Heterodox brotherhoods served as a foundation for
the formation of the idea about Enihan Baba the Conqueror. Petar Marinov, who
published this interpretation of the conquest of the Rhodopes was one of the activists
of the Rodina („Motherland”) organization, which from the mid-1930s to the mid-
1940s pursued an active policy of integration of the Muslim-Bulgarian population into
the Bulgarian nation often using forceful methods. Following the development of the
various historiographic theses throughout the years, we can see that they were
determined by the specific social-political context. For decades the state policy of
integrating Muslim Bulgarians into the Bulgarian nation went along with the idea that
they had been forcibly islamized by the Ottoman Turks. The concept of Enihan the
Conqueror was widespread exactly in that same ideological context. Nowadays,
political confrontations breathe new life into it, transforming Enihan into their
symbolic figure (Троева 2011).
A great role for shaping the general public’s idea of Enihan has been played by
the media and its publications in the last few years about the erection of a new
building on Enihan Baba’s tyurbe in 2004. The latter became a widely commented
issue in the national media and vitalized the memory-forming processes. In order to
counteract the building of the new tomb, nationalistic circles used the idea of “the
conqueror of the Rhodopes”. A stone plaque in memory of Momchil Voyvoda, a local
ruler in the Rhodopes who fought against the Turks in the 14th century, was set up
near the tyurbe by Christians. The plaque reads: „In memory of Momchil Voyvoda,
defender of the Rhodopes Mountains against the Ottoman oppressors. VMRO-BND”.
Placing the memorial plaque of Momchil unlocks a series of acts to discredit and
eliminate the “monument” of the Other.

4. Memory groups
The Bulgarian Christians from the researched region who were interviewed consider
the newly-built tyurbe a means of MRF (the Turks’ party in Bulgaria) to manipulate
the Muslim Bulgarians. They narrate the story of Enihan the conqueror referring to
laic historical literature. A respondent from Smolyan said that the construction of the
tyurbe could have been prevented if a monument of Momchil had been erected on the
peak as early as in communist times. A Bulgarian Christian from the village of
Davidkovo, who is greatly interested in the history of the area, said he only “recently”
learned that Momchil Voyvoda fought and died on Svoboda Peak. The fact that a
memorial plaque has been installed there now is a proof for the respondent that
Momchil really fought in these places – “having a monument of Momchil is based on
something”. In an interview with a Bulgarian Christian from the village of Monastery
I recorded a narration in which the respondent expressed the conviction that the
tyurbe was actually the hero Momchil’s tomb while Enihan was the name of the area.
The argument for the existence of an ancient Thracian sanctuary on the peak is
perceived by respondents as a counter-argument against the erection of the tyurbe –
“They have made it up or discovered it now. We have never heard of a sanctuary.

There might have been, but now to oppose what is happening up there, the other side
tries to come up with something or there was something indeed” (Троева 2011).
Some of the Muslim Bulgarians’ stories about Enihan focus on the ban of
professing Muslim faith in the period of socialism, the authorities’ encroachment on
the tyurbe, and the sacrifices (Кurbans) performed at the place. Oral narratives report
three demolitions of the tyurbe – “They put it down three times... Because Christians
hate Muslims” (Bosilkovo). (The last reply of the interviewee was followed by the
cries: “silent”, “quiet” from the women present). A motif often occurring in the
narratives is the one about the divine punishment following the destruction of the
tyurbe in the form of heavy hail in the region, accidents and illnesses to people who
had participated in the destruction of the tomb.
According to their views on Enihan, the Muslim Bulgarians interviewed can be
divided into several provisional groups. The first group is influenced by the negative
media campaign against Enihan and his tomb. A young Muslim Bulgarian woman
from the village of Belitsa has read publications about Enihan which have shaped her
idea about him – “I've read many books and this affects me. So I cannot accept. The
old grandmothers think that Inihan was buried there. Who is Inihan, I know who
Inihan is. And for me he is an invader, nothing more. And therefore I feel reserved.
Otherwise, older people believe that anyone who brings Kurban and kills it, will have
his intentions fulfilled” (Belitsa). The respondent’s mother-in-law argues that Enihan
is “a man of God”, which her daughter-in-law considers a “delusion” and states that
she herself cannot bow down to “a conqueror and an invader”.
The second provisional memory group of Muslim Bulgarians is more numerous,
its members revering Enihan as a saint. According to the recorded fieldwork date,
Enihan and his two brothers are evliya, people of Allah, melyayketa, peygamberi who
did only good to people. According to the stories, Enihan himself lived at the peak,
where he was killed and buried. My question about who killed him, however,
received no answer in most cases, as Muslim Bulgarians associate the idea of the
Rhodope Mountains’ conquest to the thesis of the forceful imposition of Islam that
most of them do not accept as a version of their past. In fieldwork data from the mid
90’s the Muslim Bulgarians of this second provisional group mention that Enihan was
a commander. 15 years later, after the negative media campaign started in 2004,
which popularized the version about Enihan the conqueror of the Rhodope
Mountains, this definition is almost absent from the narrative biographies of the saint.
It is replaced, however, by the legend that Enihan was an Arab preacher of Islam, who
came to these lands as early as the 9th century, i.e. before the Ottomans (Davidkovo).
This legend, on the one hand, countered the idea of Enihan as an Ottoman conqueror,
and on the other, moved the adoption of Islam by the local population a few centuries
back in time, thereby discarding the proposition of the forceful imposition of Islam by
the Turks.
In the researched region there is still a group of stories in which Enihan is
identified not as a Turkish commander, conqueror of the Rhodope Mountains, but as a
Turkish captain protecting the Rhodopes. The legends referred to are recorded by
adult Bulgarian Muslims who live near the tyurbe, respectively, near the former
Bulgarian-Turkish border. According to them, Enihan was a Turk who stopped the
retreat of the Turks before the Russian army and was killed and buried on the peak.
These stories reflect the establishment of the border between the Principality of
Bulgaria and Turkey on Svoboda Peak. They present Enihan as a defender of the
Muslim population against the advancing Russian army and illustrate the

confrontating memories of Christians and Muslims in terms of the Russian-Turkish

war from 1877-1878.
Older people, for whom the Muslim religion is an essential identity element, see
Enihan as one of the signs of that identity. In the villages lying up to 30 kilometers
away from the tyurbe, the Enihan cult is the strongest. The Muslim Bulgarians
(including those who emigrated from the area to the cities) go to the peak to perform
the annual Kurban of each village and also on personal occasions – family and clan
meetings, performing Kurbans for illness and pleading to the saint for help144. The
visits to Enhan’s tyurbe and the organized Kurbans are turning into a major form of
religious expression of both the local Muslim Bulgarians and the ones who have
migrated from the region.
Representatives of the local Muslim-Bulgarian intelligence form the third and
smallest group of interviewed people. They also stand against the idea that Enihan is
an Ottoman conqueror of the Rhodopes. The local researchers interviewed support the
hypothesis that there is an ancient Thracian sanctuary on Svoboda Peak. These new
interpretations of local history reflect the new trends in the transformation of the
Muslim Bulgarians’ identity.
The emphasis on the ancient past of the religion-important Svoboda Peak supports
the idea of continuity and a long tradition of which religion (in this case, Islam) is
only an outer shell, which the authors are keen to belittle. The association of the peak
with the sanctuary of Dionysus, the most sacred site of the Bulgarian lands in
antiquity, however, is used as an argument both from the opponents of Enihan’s
tyurbe and by its defenders.

5. Conclusion
In the new context, the united figure of the saint-ghazi of the legends of Heterodox
Muslims finds a different reading among the Muslim Bulgarians and the Bulgarian
Christians. While in a Turkish-speaking environment the figure of the saint-conqueror
(e.g. the babas mentioned above) is respected145, the Muslim Bulgarians associate the
idea of conquest with the thesis of the forceful imposition of Islam that most of them
do not accept as a version of their past. This is why in the oral narratives of Muslim
Bulgarians the version of Enihan the conqueror is rejected. For Muslim Bulgarians
Enihan is a saint who did and continues doing good to people. The only elements in
the contemporary “biography” of the saint which bear the relationship with the
prototype of the saint-ghazi but is the product of a new social situation, is the Muslim
Bulgarians’ mentioning that Enihan brought “faith” (read Islam) and that he was an
evliya protecting the land from invaders. Christian Bulgarians hold a contrary opinion
by adopting P. Marinov’s viewpoint of Enihan as a cruel conqueror.
The preference of a certain idea of Enihan and of the regions’ history depends also
on the age of the interviewee: for the elderly Muslim Bulgarians he is a saint, mid-
aged people hesitate in their attitude to him, while the young are more likely to adopt
the idea of Enihan the conqueror. These mutually exclusive memories reflect the
dynamics in the Muslim Bulgarians’ identity.

On the pilgrimage to Enihan’s tyurbe see: Valtchinova 2008.
B. Alexiev thinks that the idea of the saints as Ottoman commanders who were killed in a battle
against the enemy is a product of the modern Turkish nationalistic mythologisation, in which the
religious figure is secularized (Алексиев 2005: 62).

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18. Being Albanian in Greece or elsewhere: negotiation of the (national) self in a

migratory context

Ifigeneia Kokkali
Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute and

Albanian migrants in Greece massively practiced name-changing and religious shifts
at least until the mid-2000s. The object of this paper is to demonstrate how these
phenomena of identity negotiation emerged in response to a complex situation related
both to the immigration and the emigration country. I argue that in these practices,
one should not only see the undisputed adjustment of the Albanian migrants to the
xenophobic pressures of the dominant society; I thus try to shed some more light to
the ‘other side of the Janus’, related to the history and culture of the source country.
Key words: immigration, Albanians, Greece, Italy, Turkey, identity negotiation,

1. Introduction
The massive concentration of the Albanian migration over a short period of time – as
Albania moved almost overnight from total closure to large-scale out-migration – has
marked this particular flow as a significant and unique case (Vullnetari 2007: 39).
Since the 1990s, Albania has been a ‘country on the move’ (Carletto et al. 2006), with
Greece being undoubtedly the most important destination of Albanian out-migration
at least until the mid-2000s. Even if since then this flow is increasingly slowing down,
taken gradually up by Middle-Eastern, Asian and also African population flows, the
Albanians remain by far the most important immigrant ‘stock’ in Greece (Kokkali
2011a), representing more than half of the total foreign population of the country.
Counting for 438,000 individuals in the 2001 Greek Census, by 2010, Albanians
living in Greece were estimated to have reached 700,000 individuals (Maroukis 2008:
6-8). In the total population of Greece (about 11 millions), Albanians form therefore a
very significant part.
Empirical and other research those last years has been repeatedly referring to
Albanians’ identity negotiations that is mainly massive practices of name-changing
and disavowing of the person’s religious affiliation (particularly in the case of Muslim
affiliations) and in some cases christening, especially of children. Simultaneously, in
the 1990s and early 2000s, with a marked volition to convince the local communities
that they are not like the other Albanians, many individuals – but certainly not all –
seem to have focused on their personal as opposed to the ethno-national character, in
order to set themselves apart from the rest of the group and the stereotypes that
accompanied it.
Let me remind here the harsh campaign of criminalization and stigmatization
to which Albanian immigrants have been submitted since 1991 (Cf. Karydis, 1996;
Tsoukala, 1999; Pavlou, 2001: 135-137; Baldwin-Edwards, 2001 & 2002; Kourtovik,
2001; Petrakou, 2001; Psimmenos, 2001). In the light of this campaign, according to
which the Albanian has soon become synonym to ‘clandestine’ and, in turn, to
‘criminal’ or ‘malefactor’, the practices of dissociation from the Albanian group and,

overall, the process of identity negotiation of some Albanians in Greece seem – if not
satisfactorily explained – at least logically justified.
The object of this paper is to shed some more light on other possible reasons
of this identity negotiation that are less apparent than the pressures exerted on
Albanian immigrants from the dominant society. Drawing upon the work of Hans
Vermeulen (2001) on the equal importance of the ‘cultural factor’ and the ‘structural
factor’ in the study of migrant social mobility in the host countries, I argue that in
approaching the ways Albanian immigrants in Greece are negotiating their identities
we should not only see the migrants’ adjustment to the hostile reception of the
dominant society in the immigration country; we should also take into account the
cultural characteristics of the ‘newcomers’, the history of their country before the
migratory episode, their relations with their compatriots in the land of exile, their
relations with their state of origin – all of them factors that also play a role in the way
in which immigrants operate in the host country. I thus try to demonstrate some
similarities observed in the phenomenon of identity negotiation of Albanian
immigrants in Greece and Italy, but also in Turkey at the beginning of the 20th
For this purpose, I draw mainly on the relative literature, but I also make use
of the empirical findings (including extracts of Albanians’ lay talk in Greece) drawn
from the research programme Supporting the Design of Migration Policies: an
Analysis of Migration Flows between Albania and Greece commissioned by the
World Bank and conducted between December 2005 to June 2006 in Greece by the
Laboratory of Demographic and Social Analyses of the University of Thessaly146.
The structure of the paper is as follows: in the next section I give some
background details important for the comprehension of the genesis and extension of
the massive phenomena of name-changing and religious shift. I thus focus on the
‘structural factors’ that gave birth to such practices – factors intrinsically related to the
Greek context of xenophobic reception of immigrants and in particular of Albanian
immigrants. In the following section, the focal point is the immigrant culture and the
history of the source country that is Albania and the Albanians. In the first part of this
section, I thus make a very brief overview of ‘the negative Albania’, i.e. an image of
the country bleakly depicted by immigrants themselves. In these descriptions, we
should not undermine, however, the effect that has probably had the fact that these
interviews were conducted by a representative of the dominant group in, overall, a
very negative social context of reception of Albanian immigrants (Greece in the mid-
2000s). The second part of the section tries to trace some similarities with practices of
identity negotiation in Italy in the mid-2000s, but also in Turkey of the 1900s. In
doing this, I argue that the identity negotiation and namely the name-changing and the
religious shift are not new in the history of the Albanian population flows. In all three
countries, characterised by different socio-economic, political and temporal contexts,
similarities can be drawn in the strategies undertaken by Albanian populations.

For the purposes of this assignment 128 semi-structured interviews with Albanian immigrants in
Greece were conducted. The sample was based on the information gathered during the Living
Standards Measurement Survey/LSMS carried out in Albania in 2005. Cf. World Bank & INSTAT
(2003), but also the link: For more on the sampling method,
see Kotzamanis (2006).

2. Some background ‘details’

At the end of the 20th century, Greece underwent two concomitant changes that have
had a profound impact on the structure of its society: mass immigration on the one
hand, very significantly undocumented, and on the other hand a noteworthy increase
in crime, in a country previously characterized by very low crime rates 147 . The
simultaneity of these two phenomena has been unquestionably interpreted as causal,
both in public opinion and the media (Tsoukala 1999: 77-78), while other
fundamental facts of the Greek socio-economic context were obliterated. For instance,
the increasing numbers of burglaries during the 1990's were not associated to the
modernization and, overall, the growth of the country. In other words, the
considerable increase in the cost of living creating income disparities, could also be a
significant parameter in order to explain that increase in burglary (Baldwin-Edwards
2004: 60; Kourtovic 2001: 169).
The media systematically laid the blame on foreigners, constantly associating
them with crime, even when there was no evidence (Cf. Pavlou 2001). Given that the
Albanians were the most numerous foreign group and – at the time – very
significantly undocumented since many arrived in Greece by crossing clandestinely
the Greek-Albanian borders, the triptych Albanian- clandestine immigrant (in Greek
lathrometanastis)-malefactor dominated Greece of the 1990s. The word ‘Albanian’
soon became synonymous to ‘criminal’ and ‘danger’ and ‘albanophobia’ settled for
good and dominated the public imaginary during the whole decade of the 1990s until
even the mid-2000s. Then, other newly arrived immigrants came to replace the
Albanians and to become the new scapegoats of the Greek society in the public
imaginary; as for Albanians, they were (and still are) considered as the most
integrated foreigners of Greece (Kokkali 2011a).
Let me stress, however, that the criminalization of immigration since 1990
was not an initiative of the media. Until the advent of the 2001 immigration law,
immigration policies and legislation were characterized by police logic and mainly
dealt with the control of immigration and deportation. During the 1990s and early
2000s, the restrictive measures, as well as the police border and internal controls that
resulted in massive deportations (known as broom-operations) were numerous and
were foreseen by the law, while simultaneously neither integration measures nor any
rights for documented immigrants were anticipated in this same law. As such, the
media came to exaggerate and generalize an already hostile general climate towards
foreign immigrants in Greece that has emerged as a result of specific state politics. As
Teun Van Dijk (1991) notices, the media discourse is nourished by the social reality,
which, in turn, is nourished by discourses in the media.
In addition, the immigration law at the time, namely the bill 1975/1991, which
was the one that set the premises of the Greek immigration policy, has been highly
preferential 148 to immigrants of ethnic-Greek origin that is Pontic Greeks coming

From 1977 to 1987, the recorded rates of delinquency have increased by 24.6% (1977 = 100), while
from 1977 to 1997 (1977 = 100) we can observe an increase of +104.4%. Among the crimes recorded
between 1980 and 1996, murders were up by 44.4%, rapes by 46.9%, robberies during this period have
quadrupled and the number of armed robberies was multiplied by twenty (Tsoukala op.cit., 78).
Let me remind that the law required that the employment of non-nationals was allowed only when a
job vacancy could not be filled by Greek citizens or EU nationals. The Ministry of Labour would grant
work permits for specific employment, in theory, only before the arrival of the foreign employees in
Greece. These permits could not exceed the period of one year, only renewable for another three years
after which the renewal could only be granted by the Ministry of Public Order. However, the
legislation was less demanding with respect to individuals of foreign nationality but of Greek descent,
who would thus enjoy a favorable legal status, as for instance in employment in which they were

from ex-Soviet Republics, as well as members of the Greek minority in southern

Albania falsely known as Vorioepirotes.
These latter and their arrival to Greece deserve a closer attention, because they
are the main factor that has permitted the establishment and implementation of an
interesting ‘identity game’ between Albanian immigrants and Greek nationals149.
In summary, until the mid-2000s, the vast majority of Albanian immigrants in
Greece had adopted Greek Orthodox Christian names, while in particular many
Muslim Albanians (but also Catholics too) seemingly disavowed their religious
affiliation by claiming to be Orthodox Christians 150 (Kretsi 2005a: 131-132;
Kotzamanis 2006; Kokkali, 2010: 293-306), as the overwhelming majority of Greeks.
The adopted Greek name would be used in the person’s contact with Greeks, but
sometimes even in the domestic sphere. As an informal practice, the name-changing
was not reported in any official document such as identity-cards or passports.
However, it seems that official changes did also take place in Greece in the case of
co-ethnic (homogeneis in Greek) Greeks from Albania151.
The name-changing and the claim of being Orthodox Christian are highly
associated to the catalytic presence of a Greek minority in southern Albania. The
massive emigration of the minority’s members to Greece, their pioneering role in the
launch of the Albanian-Greek flux, together with the preferential treatment they
received from the Greek state and the society at least upon arrival, seem to have
triggered the identity dissimulation.
Let me explain why. The great volition of the Greek state to inflate the size of
the Greek minority in Albania, together with the benefits (real or fictive) that
represented a ‘Greek origin’ for Albanian immigrants in Greece (according to
immigration law 1975/1991), resulted in the establishment of a prosperous ‘visa
trading’ (not to say ‘origin trading’) that took place in many Greek consulates of
southern Albania. It consisted in providing Albanian citizens (in the beginning
Christians, then expanded even to Muslims) with certificates of Greek origin, and has
been advantageous for all the involved parts: the Greek authorities, Albanian citizens
that were desperate to take a visa to migrate to Greece, Greek and Albanian agents of
any kind, such as co-ethnic associations in Albania and in Greece and so forth (Cf.
Mpaltsiotis et al. 2001; Kretsi 2005b: 196, 205).
As a result, the size of the Greek minority was extended far beyond the ‘real
minority’ (Kretsi, op.cit. 196). But apart from this, I argue that the echo of the

preferred to other foreign nationals (Kokkali, 2010: 64-85). For this reason, the law has been harshly
criticized by NGOs and humanitarian organizations. The advent of the 2001 immigration law put an
end – at least on paper – in this preferential treatment.
For more on the dialogical ‘identity game’ between Greek nationals and Albanian immigrants, see
Xenitidou and Kokkali (2011).
One third of the migrants interviewed during our empirical study in 2005-2006 had used a Greek
name instead of the original one. Our findings also showed that children born in Greece, whose parents
were of Muslim affiliation, were often christened, this being a kind of obligation for parents, as Ed.
implies: "I have christened them [his children], that’s it: I’ve done my duty..." [Ed., Thessaloniki, 17-
As for instance in the case of S. and his wife M., both interviewed in Thessaloniki, on 15/12/2005.
Georgia Kretsi (2005a: 132-133), in her study of those practices in the villages of Fterra and Çorraj in
Albania, maintains that, in some cases, the name has been officially changed already from Albania.
Potential migrants to Greece would take advantage of the disorganization, corruption and
‘deliquescence’ of the Albanian administration to falsify their documents and thus appear to the Greek
authorities as having some kind of Greek origin that has been a fastest ‘passport’ to Greece. On the
‘visa trading’ that has taken place in the Greek consulates of Albania, see Pavlou (2003) and
Mpaltsiotis et al. (2001).

practice of falsifying one’s identity went far beyond the falsification of one’s
documents in order to acquire a somewhat ‘Greek origin’. In other words, it became
very popular among the Albanian immigrants of Greece to claim being
‘Vorioepirotes’, i.e. members (or descendants) of the Greek minority in Albania, even
without having any certificate of ‘Greek origin’.
This practice was then gradually further expanded: dissimulating one’s
identity did not remain only a question of claiming to be ‘Vorioepirotis’. It could also
mean introduce oneself with a Greek name, while claiming to be Christian.
Not without reason. The ethno-cultural perception of the Greek nation seems
to have given rise to the creation of multiple categories of Greeks that, in Greek lay
discourses, are constructed hierarchically (Xenitidou 2007). Maria Xenitidou (2007),
drawing from a focus-group based study conducted in Greece in 2004-8, with people
who identified as Greek citizens of Greek ethnic origin, has indeed shown that, in
talking about national identity and immigration in Greece, participants extend the
boundaries of Greekness according to particular conditions and criteria. She stresses
that the category of a Greek person with Greek ethnic origin who was born, raised and
resides in Greece and feels Greek is constructed as a central category.
This multiple categorisation entails then who is more or less Greek. In this
respect, different ‘degrees’ of Greekness can be distinguished among migrants and
they are clearly reflected in the ethos of reception in Greece, as well as in the
governmental policies adopted for each group. In this imaginary hierarchy, and given
that Orthodox Christianity is the official religion in Greece, it would not be surprising
to classify the (Orthodox) Christian migrants directly after co-ethnic groups such as
the members of the Greek minority in southern Albania (‘Vorioepirotes’), while those
who are Muslims would probably find themselves at the bottom of this hierarchy
(Kokkali, 2010: 303), as for instance the only officially recognised minority of
Greece, the Muslims of Thrace.
As for Albanians in particular, the aforementioned climate of their
criminalisation directly classified them at the very bottom of any social hierarchy in
Greece. Without any doubt, this is an additional – and very important reason – for the
expansion of the phenomena of identity dissimulation/negotiation. The title of Gilles
De Rapper’s (2005) article is very eloquent: Better than Muslims, not as good as
Greeks […]. Albanians and in particular Albanians of Muslim affiliation would find it
disproportionally difficult to get accepted by the local communities.
Taking all this into account, it becomes clear that by adopting a Greek name
and by claiming to be Orthodox Christian or even by claiming Greek origin (even if
only as a matter of discourse), some Albanian immigrants aspired and – in many cases
– achieved (more or less successfully) a wider acceptance from the dominant society,
at least in the local scale and regarding personal social bonds with nationals152. This is
why I call their practices of identity dissimulation/negotiation under the name
‘adaptation strategies’. Albanian immigrants have adapted to a given situation in the
country of immigration.

Among those of our interviewees that have used a Greek name (1/3 of our sample), more than three
individuals out of five did so when they went to look for a job for the first time. They considered – not
falsely – that they would have had better chances to get a job if they presented themselves with a Greek
name. In the dissimulation of the Albanian identity, the role of Greek employers and neighbours is very
significant, as very often they have been the ones who proposed to christen their Albanian employees
and neighbours and thus become their godfathers/godmothers. It is beyond the scope of this paper to
enter into this discussion.

3. The other side of Janus

In this section, I will argue that what has been discussed so far is only part of the
situation. After Vermeulen (2001), the way in which immigrants operate in the
country of settlement, and in turn their upward or downward social mobility, is also a
function of factors that are directly related to the immigrant culture itself
independently of structural factors in the immigration country. Hans Vermeulen
stresses on that, very often, in studying the social mobility of immigrants in host
countries, explanations phrased in terms of culture are readily interpreted as blaming
the immigrant, while structural explanations as blaming the system. As such, in terms
of policy implications, either the immigrants need to change or the receiving societies.
However, as the author demonstrates, the dilemma ‘culture’ versus ‘structure’ is a
false dilemma, as the role of immigrant cultures as well as of structural factors in the
receiving country are equally relevant and important to questions of social mobility
(Vermeulen 2001: 1-2, 44), and, by extension, I would add, overall to questions of
migrant strategies in host societies. Meaning that the way in which immigrants
operate in the country of settlement, their practices, their ways of life, and so forth
depend both on their previous history (including thus their cultural heritage too) and
the situations they are called to face in their new homelands. In this respect, it is not
surprising that Albanians in Greece and Italy might have adopted similar practices of
identity negotiation, while in the U.K. and the U.S. such phenomena were not
reported, at least to my knowledge. I will return to this point in my conclusions.
It is important to stress that the discussion that follows remains a significant
reduction of reality, as this latter is always much more complex than what any
theoretical scheme could describe. I will thus focus on two issues that I consider as
significant for my argument: first, the ‘negative image of Albania’ apparent largely in
Albanian immigrants’ talk in Greece; then, the similarities traced between the identity
negotiation of Albanians that has taken place in Greece and Italy, but also in Turkey
at the beginning of the 20th century, all of which suggest and underline the importance
of the ‘cultural factor’ referred to by Hans Vermeulen.

3.1 A ‘negative Albania’

The recent history and the political and socio-economic situation of Albania is
marked by poverty and the various and repetitive crises that have been shaking the
country rather often since the fall of the previous regime. But even before that, the
hardships of everyday life in Albania together with the absence of basic individual
liberties during the presidency of Enver Hoxha are imprinted in the memories of
people, as the following extracts rather tellingly evoke (quoted in Kokkali 2010: 199-
200). In this context, migration abroad, particularly towards Greece, has represented
the foremost way of survival of the Albanian family, that is to say its main livelihood
strategy (Carletto et al. 2006).

We do not care about [Albania], nor can we help. […] When I left it, I left like a
chased wild animal. There is nothing which I care about in this country; I don’t want
to hear anything about it. […] I don’t think that the situation will ameliorate there;
there’s neither water nor public light in the streets. I think that in the future they
[politicians, the State] will rob people even more”
L. (co-ethnic Greek), male, Thessalonki1, 22-12-2005

I don’t want to know anything about Albania. We are not going back, never… I have
sold everything, the flat and everything… I do not want to hear talking of Albania…

E. (Vlach who claimed to be co-ethnic Greek), male,

(interview with his wife, D.), Thessalonki1, 16-12-2005

Upon departure, I sold everything there for never to come back. Only the house was
left, as my mother didn’t allow me to sell it, saying to me: ‘the house will stay here.
Ed. (Muslim affiliation), male, Thessaloniki, 17-12-2005

I don’t want to go. Here’s my home. We are well here, happy. […] When I go back
there, I see that they are all [the family, in particular her parents] doing fine and this
is enough for me. It’s only the love of my mother that I miss here. […] I don’t want to
return. Because in Albania it has been very hard for us; I wasn’t able to buy a
banana… a sweet for my children
D., female, Thessaloniki, 17-12-2005

I absolutely not want to return to Albania, because now I am used to life here. Back
there, there’s nothing left for me… neither family…my mother is an intern at a
psychiatric hospital and my father got married again…nor nice memories: since I
was very little, I carried wood on my back, because, at the time, how could we keep
warm otherwise?
V. (Catholic affiliation), female,
(interview with her husband, A.), Lagina, Thessaloniki district, 28-01-2006

There is no racism in Greece. Let’s see what have they been our rights in Albania:
L. (Catholic christened to Orthodox Christian), male,
Thessaloniki, 14-12-2005

But, given the total isolation of Albania during the forty-five years of the
communist rule, for the Albanians, out-migration also meant the discovery of the
outside world. Even worse, as foreign immigrants, they discovered this very world,
literally, from the bottom, for they have almost automatically entered the lowest
socio-economic categories of the host societies; at least this has been the case for the
great majority.
French ethnographer Gilles De Rapper (1996) argues that, discovering the
outside, in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, during the turmoil in Albania, has
naturally caused a great shock to the Albanian people and the collapse of many
identity certainties. He remarks that, beside this discovery, the disorders of the
transition period, with the exponential increase of criminality and the development of
dishonest or amoral practices that accompanied them153, aroused questionings on the
character and the ‘nature’ of the Albanians inside the country. This might be even
more so, considering the regime’s propaganda on the superiority of the Albanian
people and the allegation that Albania was the happiest country in the world (literally
a paradise on earth). As Albanian journalist Fatos Lubonja (2002: 96, 101-103)

Let me remind, for instance, the 1997 events, when a significant bank crisis quickly
became political crisis. The collapse of the state has brought the country into chaos and generated a
feeling of general insecurity, where armed gangs, engaged in various illegal trafficking (drugs,
weapons and human beings that might also have been relatives of the traffickers), had taken the full
control of some towns and villages. Albanians often refer to this period as a ‘civil war’ or ‘when we
took the guns’.

remarks, this ‘virtual’ image according to which the Albanians are a proud154 and
superior people still pesters them:

Albanians continue to live divided between the glory of their virtual world and the
misery of their real world. One of the most eloquent expressions of that separation is
the paradox in which on the one hand Albanians express their pride in being
Albanians, considering themselves to be natural superiors while on the other hand,
they regularly defame their country and try to escape from it in search of a better life
(Lubonja 2002: 103).

This contradiction becomes rather evident in the next extract of a woman’s

talk, while in the following extracts (quoted in Kokkali 2011b: 85-114) the suspicion
and distrust expressed from the interviewees towards the generic group of ‘the
Albanians’ could be associated to Gilles De Rapper’s argument on the identity
questionings of Albanians regarding their national character and ‘nature’.

I am proud of being Albanian. I have never hidden the fact that I come from Albania.
[…] Some people know me as A. [Greek name] and some as D. [original Albanian
D., female, Thessaloniki, 17-12-2005

Ah, the Albanians... Yes, they help each other, but only when it’s for doing evil things
– stealing or what – never for a good reason. Never will they help each other for
doing any good, because they are very jealous of each other, the Albanians [...] Why
Costas has this or that [goods, money...] and not me? I’ll show him, I’ll harm him, I’ll
bother him... That’s how Albanians think…
K, male, Thessaloniki, 08-07-2006

The Albanians, I do not want them – I do not trust them. Relatives yes – the rest, no...
They are jealous of one another, the Albanians: in front of you, everything goes fine,
and behind your back... the knife.
G., male, Thessaloniki, 17-12-2005

Beside the unrest in Albania and the consequent identity questionings that this
may have aroused, the simultaneous transmission by the Greek, Italian and other
European media of a representation of Albanians as bandits and barbarians resulted in
that this image of a ‘nation of thieves and robbers’ ended up by finding a particular
echo even within Albania (De Rapper, 1996). In other words, the image of Albanians
transmitted from the rest of the world and mirrored back to them, even if marked by
harsh prejudice and stereotypes, has undoubtedly had a decisive influence on the
perception of the self either within the country or in a migratory context.
Iordanis Psimmenos (2001: 190-191) suggested indeed that the Albanian
migrants in Greece have been gradually making a negative image of themselves, thus
adopting the perception of the dominant society on them; in the migratory context,
this negative self-perception resulted in phenomena of self-denial and the symbolic
rupture with the group in order to avoid the stereotypes that affected it. In the afore-
cited extracts the use of the phrase ‘the Albanians’ or the pronoun ‘they’ in order to
refer to the generic group of the Albanian migrants in Greece without including the

For the issue of the national pride of Albanians, see also Papailias (2003).

interviewee him/herself is rather telling of this dis-identification. It is obvious,

however, that not all the Albanian immigrants in Greece adopted the same stance.
In his work on Albanian immigrants in Italy, Nicola Mai suggested quite
similarly that the partial internalization of the negative image of Albanians and of
Albania transmitted by the ‘West’ produced a negative perception of Albanians
themselves for their nation and their country and, in turn, greatly influenced the way
in which the person addressed the question of his/her identity and negotiated it in the
context of migration (Mai, 2005: 551).
Internalising the stigma has thus been a result of a twofold situation related
both to the source and the settlement country. The latter’s role is quite obvious. The
source country is linked to this process via the people’s memories of a harsh life
depicted by poverty and deprivation, the regime’s deception on the state of the outside
world compared to Albania, as well as to the discovery of this real world and its
negative perception of Albanians and Albania – discovery that has been concomitant
to the chaotic situation in Albania during the late 1990s. All are factors that seem to
have given rise to identity uncertainties to Albanian immigrants and non-immigrants,
and, in turn, regarding the former, to identity negotiations in the country of settlement.
In this respect, the ‘adaptation strategies’ in Greece, apart from representing the
Albanian immigrants’ adaptation to the conditions countered there, they respond too
to the process of adaptation of Albanians to the post-communist era; meaning the
realities that emerged after the discovery of the outside world, namely Albania’s
position in this latter and the questionings that have arisen on what may mean to be

3.2 Albanians’ identity negotiation in the present and the past

Nicola Mai (2003), in studying the construction of the representations of the Albanian
immigration in Italy, observed a similar – to the Greek case – treatment of foreign
migrants by the Italian media. In analyzing the vocabulary used in the titles and text
of newspaper articles related to immigration, he demonstrated the construction of a
social dichotomy between two opposing groups, us and them. As in Greece, the
Albanians were the group of foreigners the most often associated with crime and with
lack of morality, focusing specifically on their involvement in drug trafficking and
sexual exploitation. Mai (2005: 553) has also observed that Albanian immigrants in
Italy proceed to a negotiation of their national identity in order to avoid, at the
individual level, the bad reputation and the negative stereotypes which, at least in the
mid-2000s, went hand-in-hand with the adjective ‘Albanian’, exactly as it has been
the case of Greece155. The migrants have thus developed – argues Mai – strategies to
circumvent the use of the word ‘Albanian’, focusing on expressions such as I come
from Tirana or I come from Albania, rather than using the adjective itself.
There’s nothing new about these practices. Already in the 1960s, Erving
Goffman (1963: 37) described similar techniques of excision of the stigmatised word
from common use, while replacing it with other ‘neutral’ words. In doing this, little
by little, the stigmatised group imposes a new vocabulary to the group considered as
‘normal’, which in our case stands for the dominant society either in Italy or in
Greece. In both countries, Albanian immigrants tried indeed to ostracise the word

Miltos Pavlou (2001: 135), drawing on Critical Discourse Analysis, has shown how the media
discourses in three local newspapers of Thessaloniki during the period 1997-1998 have gradually
transformed the adjective ‘Albanian’ to a key-word noun inclusive of a stereotypical behaviour and
thus a de facto token of criminality.

‘Albanian’ from the current vocabulary, replacing it with words indicating regional or
local origin.
After making a clear distinction between the ‘virtual’ and the actual identity,
Goffman (1963: 31, 152) stresses the discrepancies created between them, which, in
the case of Albanians have been eloquently described by Fatos Lubonja. Goffman
(op. cit.) also stresses on the techniques such as ‘passing’ and ‘covering’ by which the
stigmatised individual tries to dissimulate his or her stigma. As he stresses, the
intention behind such devices (that include practices like name-changing and changes
in nose shape) is mainly to restrict the way in which a known-about-attribute obtrudes
itself into the centre of attention. Because, as he argues, obtrusiveness increases the
difficulty of maintaining easeful inattention regarding the stigma (op.cit., 127).
In this sense, ‘covering’ the Albanian origin and trying to ‘pass’ for Orthodox
Christian or Greek-Albanian or somebody coming from Tirana, Korçe, etc. is without
any doubt, at first, a strategy that seeks to advocate comforting – for the local society
– inattention to the stigmatised origin. Still, as discussed in the previous section,
managing identity in such techniques responds also to uncertainties regarding Albania
and the Albanians triggered by reasons that concern the source country and its history,
such as the unrest and disorder in Albania of the 1990s or the harsh living conditions
up to that time.
Furthermore, such practices of identity negotiation are not new in the
Albanian history, thus underlining the aforementioned ‘cultural factor’. In his study
The Albanians in Istanbul, Gilles De Rapper (2000) notices that for the Albanians of
Turkey in the beginning of the 20th century, dissimulating one’s identity in the
migratory context has been rather a current practice. De Rapper points out that the
Albanians in Turkey, and more particularly in Istanbul, especially enjoyed telling
peddle-stories in which the Albanian identity was hidden, kept in the domestic sphere.
He cites a rather eloquent example: two classmates both think of the other to be a
Turk, until the day that one of them addresses his father in Albanian during the
presence of the other, who thus recognizes his friend as a compatriot, revealing in turn
his own Albanian identity (De Rapper 2000: 15). Despite the size and the length of
their migration, the Albanians in Istanbul did not opt for their recognition as a distinct
entity; rather they sought – notices De Rapper – to be dissolved in the Turkish society
without leaving any trace. Being Albanian or of Albanian origin was not expressed in
any political way and, in general, did not exceed the family history. Besides, De
Rapper observes a rapid loss of the mother tongue, which has generally been a
‘private language’ as opposed to Turkish, the language of the dominant society i.e. the
‘public language’. More importantly, the author notices that, regardless of the
migratory wave in question, most Albanians in Istanbul have soon adopted the
Turkish also as their family language and thus there has been a quick loss of the
Albanian. Besides, the younger generations were discouraged by the previous ones to
identify with an Albanian origin. An intensive assimilation was viewed in order to
enable the following generations’ better integration into the Turkish society and an
upward social mobility (Kokkali 2011b: 85-114).
The similarities with the Greek and the Italian case are clear-cut. And even if,
in those two cases, the role played by the host societies is also evidently comparable,
the different socio-spatial and temporal context that represents Turkey of the 1900s
brings to light factors that are more related to the Albanian population now and then
rather than to systemic factors related to the contexts of reception.
Besides, it seems that such phenomena of identity negotiation are not new in
the history of Albanian populations. Miranda Vickers writes: “Throughout their

turbulent history Albanians had shifted with relative ease from one religion to
another: Catholic, Orthodox or Muslim according to momentary interests. During the
late middle ages, their country had become the battlefield between the Catholic West
and the Orthodox East: whenever the west was advancing, the Albanian feudal lords -
often followed by their population - espoused Catholicism; whenever Byzantium was
the victor and the West retreated, they embraced Orthodoxy ... The Albanian saying
'Ku është shpata është feja' - 'Where the sword is, there lies religion' - is directly
related to this history” (Vickers 1995).
As such, I have tried to demonstrate in this section that the identity
negotiation/dissimulation that has been reported in Greece regarding Albanian
immigrants is not a phenomenon related solely to the hostile ethos of reception in
Greece. It is as well linked to historic and cultural reasons related to Albania and the

4. Discussion
In this paper, I have tried to demonstrate that if practices such as name and religion
changing have been taking place in Greece, one should seek explanations both in the
area of structural and of cultural factors. I have thus shown that the dissimulation of
the Albanian identity and its negotiation in various ways has been met in Turkey, in
Italy and in Greece, and in all the three countries it took forms that offer considerable
analogies. As such, independently of the different structural factors in the countries of
immigration, Albanian immigrants seem to have utilised similar strategies of
adaptation. This finding underlines then the importance of the ‘cultural factor’.
On the other hand, similar phenomena of identity dissimulation have not been
reported, to my knowledge at least, in countries such as the UK and the US, where
Albanian immigrants have established distinct ethnic communities 156 . And if one
would be eager to interpret this as a ‘structural’ difference between a continental
European and an Anglo-Saxon pattern that would promote multiculturalism and in
turn the formation of distinct ethnic communities, one would be surprised to observe
that similar patterns in Canada and Australia were not at all the case. Apparently, the
‘hidden identity’ of Albanian immigrants in Australia hinders the measuring of the
group’s size, as Albanians opt to identify themselves with other larger communities,
maintaining their Albanian identities in private157. Similarly to the Australian case, in
Canada, there is important difficulty in measuring the Albanian population, whose
socio-cultural activity would, besides, be restrained to the domestic sphere (Tomoviç
These differences then rather highlight both the cultural and the structural
factors that intervene in the migrants’ practices, strategies and ways of life in the
countries of settlement. And this is as such even in cases where we could expect that
apparently similar structural factors would generate similar migratory patterns.
Indeed, as rightly suggested by Caroline Brettel (1981), transatlantic and intra-
European comparisons seem appropriate when studying the formation (or not) of
ethnic communities in the countries of migrant settlement. By necessity, the former

In the British case, for instance, the development of several Albanian action groups in London (e.g.
the Albanian Youth Action), the claim of Albanian parents for educating their children in their mother
tongue, as well as several other collective claims (Kostovicova, 2003), seem to indicate a more
collective organisation of Albanians in Great Britain than what I have found in examining closely the
Greek case. For this, see Kokkali (2011b).
For this, see I sincerely thank Riki Van Boeschoten for
bringing this to my attention.

are more permanent moves, while the latter might have a more temporary character
because movement back and forth between the country of origin and the country of
destination is facilitated by geographical proximity. The case of Albanians in Italy
and Greece fits in here very well. Still, as seem to suggest the different patterns of
Albanian immigrants’ settlement in transatlantic far-away destinations (US vs.
Australia and Canada), the cultural-structural nexus cuts across such schemes of
interpretation (differences between distant and less distant population moves) despite
their doubtless relevance.

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19. Markers of self-identity and the image of the Other in the context of labour
mobility in Western Macedonia

Petko Hristov
Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum – BAS

This research is based on my fieldwork experience from 2005 and 2009 in the
Western part of today’s FYR of Macedonia, specifically in the regions of Debar and
Struga. I analyse the construction of self-identity among both the Orthodox Christian
population (in Vevchani) and the Macedonian Muslims (so-called Torbeshi in the
villages of Yanche, Broshtitsa and Labunishta). Both cases concern local
communities with traditions in gurbet (seasonal labour migration) among the male
population – as pechalbars on the Balkans during the first half of the 20th century, as
gastarbeiters in Germany and Austria during the second half of the century, and as
present-day temporary labour migrants, mainly in Northern Italy.My article is built
around the answers of questions which will focus on the need for an image of the
Other (especially for Western Macedonia in an ethnic and religious aspect) in order to
construct one’s self-identity, particularly among Macedonian Muslims (Torbeshi).
Key words: labour migration, identity, religiousness, co-existence, FYR of

Labour mobility in the Balkans is among the most discussed topics in recent years,
while at the same time among the least researched. The tradition of seasonal or
temporary labour mobility, particularly among the men, has existed for centuries in a
number of regions on the peninsula, and is known as гурбет/ gurbet/ kurbet/ kurbéti,
or through the South-Slavic term pechalbarstvo158 (Hristov 2008: 217). Even though
the denomination gurbet unifies a wide range of labour mobility patterns, it is what
Martin Baldwin-Edwards successfully calls “old-fashioned temporary migration”, in
which “the migrant’s identity is closely linked to the country of origin” (Baldwin-
Edwards 2002: 2), that is significant for continuous periods in the history of entire
regions, regardless of ethnic and religious affiliation. The Balkans offer a remarkable
variety of similar traditional patterns: from shepherds’, agrarian workers’ and master
builders’ seasonal mobility to craftsmen’s and merchants’ temporary absences from
home, with the goal of gaining wealth and supporting their families back home. The
villages in Western Macedonia that I researched are emblematic in this aspect: it is
not a coincidence that Michael Palairet describes one of them, Galichnik, as an
“archetypal pechalbar community.” Even though this village is currently deserted,
during the late 19th and early 20th centuries up to 90% of its men were away on
gurbet/pechalba in Thessalonica, Istanbul, Sofia, Belgrade and Bucharest, even
reaching Egypt (Palairet 1987: 44).
Migration researchers face several main difficulties, primarily in the attempt to
reveal the reasons for labour migrations of different social groups in the population of
The word “gurbet” in most Balkan languages comes from the Turkish-Arabic ‘gurbet’, meaning
‘abroad’ (cf. Turkish-Bulgarian Dictionary, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia, 1952, p. 193), and
the word “pechalbarstvo” from the Slavic ‘pechalba’ (‘gain’), i.e. to ‘gain for a living’.

one country to another or within the country itself, to trace the mechanisms of this
process, and to determine the ways in which these changes reflect on the everyday life
and culture of the migrants.
In a Balkan perspective, interdisciplinary research in a historical and
contemporary view is hampered by the frequent politicisation of migration movement,
most often of refugees and political emigrants. In this aspect, Balkan researchers fall
victim to the common tendency of international migrations to be a focus of political
debate, rather than analysis of their hidden dynamics and socio-cultural characteristics
(Kearney 1997: 324).
Serious difficulties also arise from the researchers’ approach often being limited to
national frames, especially when studying trans-border migrations, both in the past
and in the present. Social and cultural influence and exchange, both in the regions or
countries that “send” migrants and in those that “accept” them, is very often ignored.
Such a view is particularly inaccurate; in a historical context, labour migrations on the
Balkans were as a rule cross- and trans-border, “border” in the meaning implied by
Fredrik Barth of the [trans-] ethnic, religious, cultural, and (later) state boundaries on
the Balkans (cf. Barth 1969).
A significant challenge to researchers (historians, ethnologists, anthropologists,
sociologists, demographers) is to explain whether these traditional patterns of ‘life in
motion’ are reproduced and transformed in the conditions of globalisation and EU
expansion, which give more opportunities for labour mobility in a European
perspective. Such research has yet to happen. In this approach, Greece’s example is
indicative: from a ‘source’ of migrants it became an attractive centre for Balkan
As a basis of my research I use materials from my fieldwork and my historical
research in the Western part of Macedonia, in the border regions between Albania and
the FYR of Macedonia. These regions are famous for their ethnic and religious
diversity, especially the Miyak 159 region in North-western Macedonia. Traditional
patterns of male labour mobility have existed in Western Macedonia for centuries,
and form a part of what some researchers call a Balkan “Culture of Gurbet”,
following Caroline Brettell (cf. Brettell 2003: 3).
Yanche village, located close to Galichnik in the region north of Debar, is
populated by Muslims and Christians that call themselves “Macedonians”. The
Muslim population, which is sometimes referred to as “Torbeshi”, is predominant. A
considerable part of the older generation men have worked as gastarbeiters in
Germany and Austria during the second half of the 20th century, while younger men
worked as construction workers in Northern Italy after the 1990s. During the 1960s,
70s and 80s the gastarbeiters’ families still stayed in the village, while the men
traditionally returned at least once a year during their annual leave. For the remaining
time, they were “earning abroad”. After the Yugoslav federation broke up in the early
1990s and visa limitations were imposed on its former member states, the sons of
these former gastarbeiters chose certain regions in Northern Italy as their destination.
Following the “chain migration” model, men from the younger generation took their
families with them and created entire colonies in some towns. Young men return to
their birthplaces to marry, however; villages are still endogamous.

The Miyaks are a specific ethnographic group, inhabiting Northwestern Macedonia. In my research I
use the geographic connotation of the name Macedonia – a territory inhabited by various ethnic and
religious groups over the centuries – instead of its contemporary political meaning.

In Yanche, our research team witnessed the way returning gastarbeiters from
the older generations, mainly Muslims, take care of the village mosque. Both in
Yanche and in neighbour villages old mosques are renovated and new ones are built.
The new mosque with a clock tower in Debar, the closely located regional centre, has
a very modernistic look: one can see the influence of architecture in Italy, which is
where most of the builders that built the mosque work on gurbet.

The Yanche imam was born in Alexandria (Egypt) in an old pechalbar family,
did a pilgrimage to Mecca, and was particularly proud to show us the renovated
mosque in Yanche.

Villagers told us that returning pechalbars also made donations for the old
church and for renovating an old mountain chapel. A Christian, also born in
Alexandria in a pechalbar family, showed us the St. Elijah chapel, visited by infertile
women (both Christian and Muslim) hoping for God’s help to conceive.

Another village, Broshtisa, is located in the mountains south of Debar, and is

populated entirely by Macedonian Muslims (torbeshi). There, our research team
witnessed the marriage between a gurbetchia who returned from Italy and his local

The money these men earn abroad is mainly invested in building big houses,
which are inhabited by the gastarbeiters’ parents for most of the year while the men
are abroad with their families. In contrast with Christian women, however, Muslim
migrant women never work abroad. They stay home and raise the children, and a very
small minority of them works part-time. New architecture in the village is influenced
by the labour migrants’ destinations: it’s easy to tell who worked in Austria and who
– in Italy.

Local women who return to Broshitsa for their annual leave keep their
traditional celebration suits, now a mixture between a traditional outfit and modern
influence, as their “own” marker.
The following examples are from two neighbour villages: Labunishta,
inhabited entirely by Macedonian Muslims, and Vevchani, inhabited entirely by
Orthodox Christians. The men in both villages have been pechalbars for several
generations, i.e. seasonal or temporary migrants in countries in former Yugoslavia
and Western Europe.
Local gastarbeiters in Labunishta proudly showed us their new multi-story
houses, built with the money they earned on gurbet. Young men take their families
with them to Italy, but, as a rule, Muslim women never work; they stay at home to

raise the children. Children go to Italian schools, even though the school in
Labunishta is working. August was the “marriage season”: every day saw several
marriages of gastarbeiters who had returned to the village.

Labunishta is still endogamous. Young torbeshi gastarbeiters told me that

migrants from the region help each other in Italy, including Christians and Albanians.
However, the torbeshi are normally separated from them, as they differ in religion
from the Christians and in language and ethnic affiliation from the Albanians.
Christian women, migrants in Northern Italy, told me that their husbands stopped
organising common celebrations, because whereas they take their families with them,
Muslim men show up alone without their wives.
When talking about their Albanian neighbours, also fellow migrants, the
torbeshi point out that there is notable distance between them despite the shared
religion, mainly because of the Albanians’ different national identity. In the Albanian
village of Radolishta, located close to Struga, I witnessed this myself: the
gastarbeiters had restored the local mosque in a very indicative way.

However, despite the fact that Labunishta has no Albanian residents, a sizable
part of the villagers declared themselves as Albanians on the last census due to
pragmatic political reasons.
In Vevchani, as well as in a number of Miyak villages in Western Macedonia,
the century-old tradition of temporary labour migrations in different Balkan countries
and (post-1960s) in Western Europe has led to transformations in the entire folk
culture of local Orthodox Christians. Along with changes in traditional gender roles,
prolonged cycle of complexity in family-kin households and vitality of extended
families, the regions with traditional gurbet also exhibit a certain “grouping” of the
most important family-kin and village celebrations; for example, in the fall/winter
period of the feast calendar in the regions of men masons (Vevchani) and in the
summer/fall period in the region of the Miyaks who were practicing trade. In some of
these villages with long-standing traditions of seasonal male pechalbar migrations in
Western Macedonia one notices interesting “creations” in the feast ritual process in
the spirit of “invented tradition”: in Vevchani, for example, the feast of Spasovden
(Ascension of Jesus) was celebrated three times (in May, September and January).
The winter feast on the Thursday before St. Athanasius’s Day (January 31) was called
“pechalbar’s Spasovden” since the men who returned to the village from gurbet
“abroad” visited the chapel in the mountain, built for and by them. During my
fieldwork research in the summer of 2005 in Vevchani I visited the mountain chapel
that was robbed the year before. A retired gastarbeiter who returned from Germany
had taken it upon himself to restore the chapel.

The mass absence for most of the year of men pechalbars from their homes
led to transformations in all main rituals from the life cycle. Among the Miyaks in
Western Macedonia weddings were held only once in the year, on the day of the
village church celebration (St. Peter’s Day in Galichnik, St. Elijah’s Day in
Lazaropole, etc.) when young men returned to their homes. If the young couple
(verenici) did not manage to marry on this day, they had to wait for an entire year
until the next church celebration; the only “reserve” option that was allowed by
tradition were the feasts dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Similarly to the torbeshi villages, these mountainous villages were entirely

closed and endogamous even until the mid-20th century: young men returned to their
homes for their weddings to find brides, as a rule only “among their own” (in a village
and, rarely, in regional aspect). According to respondents, even today local women
marry during the summer when descendants of the former pechalbars and
gastarbeiters from Europe, America and Australia return home to find wives.
There are other examples, also from Western Macedonia, but what is truly
notable for the researcher is that all pechalbars developed a strong local identity that
was related to the Muslim or Orthodox cult places. My interpretation is that by seeing
themselves in “the mirror of otherness” in the multicultural environment of Germany,
Austria, Switzerland or Italy, these Balkan people developed a strong bond with their
birthplaces in the mountainous regions of the peninsula. This is proven by their return
home, even though most of these pechalbar villages are already deserted today,
especially the ones populated by Orthodox Christians. In this respect, Vevchani is a
happy exception. Nevertheless, nostalgia for the home place still remains: at the end
of their lives, some of these gastarbeiters return from all over the world to their
villages in order to die “at home”.
From my point of view, the (self-) identity in Western Macedonia is not static, but
constantly changing and variable. In most cases the ethnic component is dominant and
the other levels (religious, linguistic and cultural) are hierarchically structured.
Actually, the strategy of choosing one or another type of identity is strictly situational
and, because of its pragmatic motives, “representative identity” depends on the
interlocutor (the national or confessional affiliation that the researcher declares) and
his ethno-linguistic identity. For example, the researcher from Bulgaria is loved or
hated only because he is Bulgarian (especially in Macedonia! – cf. Hristov 2009: 109-
In Western Macedonia, the tradition of temporary male labour migrations
away from the home region has been uninterrupted for centuries. What changed was
the direction, the intensity and the nature of their work (cf. Hristov 2008: 215-230),
but the “Culture of Gurbet” is constant, among both Christians and Muslims, and has
become not only a part of the virtue system but also an element of everyday life.
Despite the visa restrictions imposed by many European countries on former
Yugoslavian member states, these temporary labour migrations still dominate life in a
number of regions in Western Europe. And, while current young migrants still return
home every year for a short time to get married, to build a home or to take care of
their elderly parents, only time will tell whether they will become permanent migrants
in the EU countries or whether their local identity will prevail and they will return
home, “among their own”.

Baldwin-Edwards, M. (2002) “Immigration, Immigrants and Socialisation in Southern Europe:
Patterns, Problems and Contradistinctions” Keynote lecture on Academic Symposium on Immigration
in Northern versus Southern Europe, Athens, November 2002
Barth, F. (1969) “Introduction”. In: Barth, F. (ed.) Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social
Organization of Culture Difference. Bergen-Oslo-London
Brettell, C. (2003) “Anthropology and Migration. Essays in Transnationalism, Ethnicity and Identity”.
Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press
Hristov, P. (2008) “Trans-Border Exchange of Seasonal Workers in the Central Part of the Balkans
(19th – 20th Century)”. In: Ethnologia Balkanica, 12, Berlin: Lit Verlag: 215-230
Hristov, P. (2009) “Borders and Identities (Difficulties and perspectives faced by comparative
ethnological studies of the border regions on the Balkans)”. In: Etudes Balkaniques, 3: 109-126

Kearney, M. (1997) “Migration”. In: Barfield, T. (ed.) The Dictionary of Anthropology. Oxford:
Blackwell: 322-324
Palairet, M. (1987) “The Migrant Workers of the Balkans and Their Villages (18th Century – World
War II)”. In: Roth, K. (hg.) Handwerk in Mittel- und Südosteuropa. München: 23-46.

20. The immigrant self perception, social status and the myths influence.
A comparison study of the Albanian immigrant in Greece and Italy

Zenelaga Brunilda, Kërpaçi Kalie & Sotirofski Kseanela,

State University of Albania “Aleksandër Moisiu” Durrës

This article aims to analyze the social construction of Albanian immigrant self image
in two main destination countries: Greece and Italy. Our intention is to identify and
understand at the same time the way the Albanian immigrant perpetuates himself
through his everyday interaction and experience within the Greek and Italian
societies. In other words, we intend to analyze the way the Albanian immigrant
develops his identity and his self image, reacting to the social stereotypes created by
immigrant myths in the host countries, comparing the case of the Albanian immigrant
in Greece with the one in Italy. This article also tries to put into evidence the reactions
of Albanian immigrant towards stigma.
Key words: Albanian immigrant, stigma, self-perception, myths, Greek society,
Italian society

1. Introduction
During the communist regime, Albania was extremely isolated and the phenomenon
of migration was out of discussion. This phenomenon became a special issue after the
collapse of the communist regime in the 1990’s. Among the reasons of this
emigration propensity are different political events, economic and social issues. By
the end of 1990, in anticipation of radical political change, Albanians rebelled against
the restrictive legislation on expatriation imposed by the regime (UNDP, 2000, p.36.)
Thousands people applied to the foreign embassies in Tirana in order to leave
and a large share of the expatriates received political asylum in Western Europe
countries. A massive flow of Albanian migrants to western developed countries
started on July 1990 when about almost 5000 people entered the Italian, German and
French embassies in Tirana seeking for political asylum. At the end of 1990, 20000
Albanians left the country to pass the Greek border (Papanagos & Sanfey, 2001: 500-
In March 1991, during the first democratic elections in Albania, due to
political chaos and economic collapse, 25000 Albanians seized different kinds of
boats and headed to the ports of Southern Italy (King, 2003: 287). The period 1991-92
is described as the most difficult period for the Albanian people due to the increase of
the unemployment. So between, 1991-92 300,000 Albanians left the country,
(Carletto et al. 2006) seeking refuge and working especially in their neighbor
countries, Greece and Italy, more easily to be accessed because of their geographical
This is the premise of a massive migratory process that in ten years affected
500,000-600,000 persons (about 15% of the population, 40 % of which in the age of
19-40) and nearly each family (Council of the European Union, 2000, p.12)

Since the beginning, Italy and Greece stood out as privileged destinations, but
the areas of origin for emigration to either country were different: whereas emigration
towards Italy came mostly from the central region of the country, emigration towards
Greece had its main source in the Southern border region, inhabited by a significant
minority of Orthodox Greeks. Albanians, leaving behind a well-known eastern
traditional world, were faced with a western unknown modern conceptualization
which was objective to them. Arriving at Greece and Italy with a modern way of
thinking and living, Albanians tried to make this new world meaningful to them,
through their daily contact with the local people. Due to their inevitable interaction,
an image of Albanian immigrant was constructed. So in the current research our
primary concern is to highlight the stereotype of Albanian immigrant through his
experience in these two respective countries. So, we present some qualitative findings
regarding the way the Albanian immigrant see himself while living in Greece and
Italy and how this self-image changes with the passing of time and how it affects his
daily life. In this article we try to compare analytically the Albanian stereotype based
on immigrant’s living experiences in these two countries. The article is divided into
the following sections: a brief review of Albanian migration in Greece and Italy, the
methodological framework, the description of Albanian stereotype in the respective
countries, the impact of this stereotype in immigrants’ daily life and the conclusions.

2. A brief description of Albanian migration to Greece and Italy

2.1. Albanian migration to Greece
Greece and Italy are considered as the two most reachable countries for the Albanian
migrants because of their geographic proximity with Albania. To Iosifides and King
(1998), the massive movement of Albanians towards Greece in 1990 is linked to the
geopolitical changes in the socialist countries of the Eastern Europe after 1989. The
fall of the communist regime caused the free internal and international movement of
Albanians (Iosifides & King, 1998:207). Fakiolas (2000) notes that despite the
political and social push factors, the economic ones played a great role in constraining
Albanian people leaving their country and immigrating to Greece. He goes on by
saying that “the wages earned in Greece are about four-to-six times higher than those
that might be earned at home in Albania.” (Fakiolas, 2000: 67).
According to the National Statistical Service of Greece (ESYE) in 2001, there
were 797,091 foreign residents in Greece. Of those, 750,000 were citizens from states
not belonging to EU.
It should be stressed the fact that the migrants in Greece come mostly from
neighboring countries. The largest group of Greece’s foreign population is composed
by Albanians followed by the Bulgarians, the second largest group (Triandafyllidou,
Maroufof & Nikolova, 2009: 13, 17). Albanians constitute more than the half of the
migrant population in Greece. According to Labrianidis & Hatziprokopiou (2005) the
total number of Albanians in Greece is 450,000-550,000. Based on the LFS reports
about the foreign population without social insurance (1999-2002), Kanellopoulos,
Gregou & Petralias (2006), note that 60% of the legal immigrants and 64% of the
irregular ones are Albanians. Looking at the existing research studies on economic
incorporation of Albanian migrants in the Greek labor market, (Balwdin- Edwards
2004; Hatziprokopiou 2003; Iosifides and King 1998), the majority of Albanian males
are employed mainly in construction, then in agriculture, industry and tourism, while
the majority of women mainly in domestic services and a very small number of them
in tourism, agriculture and industry (Balwdin- Edwards 2004; Hatziprokopiou 2003;
Iosifides and King 1998). But the research of Albanians in Thessaloniki conducted in

2000 by Labrianidis and Lyberaki (2001) explains temporally better the Albanian
employment in Greece. The Albanians in their sample tended to move out of
unskilled farm work, and rapidly into construction, small firm employment,
technician’s work, and transport services. This was due to their increased ability in the
Greek language and a better understanding of employment possibilities (Baldin-
Edwards, 2004: 52).

2.2. Albanian migration in Italy

Albanian migration in Italy started in 1990, when 6 persons invaded the territory of
the Italian embassy in Tirana160, and gave a start to a big popular revolt against the
communist regime. The ‘embassy migrants’ are widely accepted as the first sign of
the mass Albanian emigration which was to follow. The migration from Albania to
the nearby Italy continued for all the 90s and can be divided in three main flows.
The first period is considered the one during 1991-1992 due to the political
crisis of communist regime. In March 1991 Italy accepted a first group of 23,000
Albanian migrants; in August another group of 20,000 people was treated in the
opposite way and repatriated without exceptions (Pastore, 1998, p.12).
The second period of arrival started on 1997 e continued till 2000, due to the
economical crisis which followed the failure of the pyramid schemes.
The immigrants of the last period after 2000, are known as the “new arrivals”,
which are mainly composed by university students and young women working in
domestic assistance. According to Caritas/Migrantes Dossier Statistico 2008, until 31
of December 2007 the number of the Albanian documented immigrants was 420.402
(Caritas/Migrantes, 2008) From Italian ISTAT the number of the Albanina
immigrants in Italy in the begiining of 2011 is 482.627 (ISTAT, 2011).

3. Methodology
This article presents the results of 32 in-depth interviews with immigrants that have
been conducted during the period March-December 2010. From these interviews 17
were conducted in Greece and 15 in Italy. The migrants interviewed in these two
correspondent countries lived in Athens (Greece) and Firenze (Italy) as big cities with
a great number of Albanian immigrants.
The whole sample was stratified by some variables: gender, age, time of
arrival, level of education, labor condition and social contact. We used the snowball
sampling method trying to select people of different socio-economic and educational
backgrounds. The interviews were ranging, following a semi-structured format but
giving full allowance for discussion on any issues judged to be important to the
interviewees. All interviews were in Albanian. Many migrants didn’t like to be tape-
recorded while interviewing them so we wrote down the main points of our
conversation with them. The other interview narratives have been registered and then
taped. While analyzing the interviews, we choose some words of immigrants to
illustrate our findings. It is crucial to mention that the findings from our interviews

160 Four sisters and two brothers of the Popa family from Durrës dressed themselves to look like
foreigners and speaking to the Albanian guard at the embassy compound in Italian, they posed as
Italian tourists. Once inside the Italian embassy grounds, they claimed asylum and threatened to
poison themselves if they were handed over to the Sigurimi (the feared Albanian security police).
The Italians accommodated them inside the embassy, but this brought serious friction between
them and the Albanian authorities of the time. The embassy was besieged by Albanian armed
special forces for several weeks. It was only in May 1990 that the Albanian authorities gave
permission for them to be flown to Italy. (Qesari 2000: 160).

with the immigrants cannot represent the experience of all the Albanians living in
Greece and Italy because of the small sample of our study in these two respective

4. Are you sure….!? You can’t be an Albanian!

4.1 “Us and Them”. The case of Greece
Albanians are described as the most disliked immigrant group in Greece. A number of
negative stereotypes are attached to them. Greek citizens by developing a perception of
immigrants that promotes a national identity, that is about “Us and Them”, create
boundaries which distinguish the in-group, the national community, from that outside,
the foreigners (Triandafyllidou, 2000:188). The interviewees in our research reported
that in the beginning Albanians were perceived by the Greek society as strangers with the
meaning that Simmel (1972) used for the people who live in a society with characteristics
uncommon to the latter. So the Greeks considered the Albanians as foreigners due to the
lack of common characteristics such as nationality, religion and language. Albania was an
isolated country for fifty years and Greeks didn’t have the opportunity to learn more
about its neighbor country in the other years. The only thing they knew was that Albania
was a totalitarian and poor country. So when they came into contact with the Albanian
migrants they showed great interest in learning more about the way of living in Albania
and were willing to help them. Sometimes, they made were very strange and funny
questions to the immigrants.

In the beginning the Greeks were very friendly to us. They didn’t know anything about
us. They asked us very strange questions such as: do you have milk? Do you have
electricity? Do you have butter? Do you have TV. These sorts of questions made me
understand that they knew nothing about us and our country.
Well it is very funny this thing that I am going to tell to you. My friends and I laugh a
lot when we mention it. One day an Albanian woman, friend of my friend was sitting
at the stairs of the house where she was working and saw the sun and said: what a
lovely day today! The sun is shining… The old women, the owner of the house asked
her: Do you have sun in Albania? And the Albanian answered: no we don’t have but
know our parliament asked your parliament to give us a piece from your sun and now
we have a sun as well as you...

Our reporters think that for a very short period, suddenly everything changed,
epithets such as criminals, dangerous, uneducated, illegal and wild were attached to their
previous image as a foreigner. They describe this period as a nightmare within their most
desirable “American dream”. Psimenos (1995) in his study with Albanian immigrants
living in Athens notes that two Albanian ghettos have been created in the centre of
Athens. Albanians in their first stage of settlement in Athens lived in places where
Greek state was absent. They lived in specific squares, in underground, in railway
stations and in abandoned houses, places or old hotels. Greek citizens began avoiding
these areas as they were linked to crime and poverty. In 1998, criminality rate in
Greece was increased and Albanian immigrants, according to public opinion, was one of
the factors caused it. Greek society reacted with serious protests and violence against
Albanian immigrants expressing their dislike for this immigrant community (Fakiolas,
1999: 220).

Then the Albanian was characterized as a criminal, without education…yes in this

way they saw us…One day I heard a woman saying to her little daughter: Paidi mou
(my baby) eat because the Albanian will eat you…..;Well, we were unwanted inside

the Greek society and they saw as a threaten to them….;In a village the locals didn’t
allow the Albanians enter at the coffee shops or clubs….

What can I say? I was at the second year of my undergraduate studies in Athens and I
went to a woman professor to ask her about the course paper. She understood that I
was a foreigner and asked me where I was from. I answered from Albania and she
reacted like a bee pinched her. She saw me and said to me that my people were wild
and continued by saying that professors from the University of Tirana had invited her
to visit Albania but she didn’t go because she was afraid that someone could cut her
head off there…. What could I say to her? I didn’t expect a professor saying such

According to the interviewed immigrants, media, the political debates between

the Greek and the Albanian government, and the regular arrests of Albanian people at
the central squares, in the bus or even in their house contributed in the construction of
this negative stereotype. They think that the figure of the Albanian migrant as
criminal was especially fueled by Greek media. Paulou (2001) in his study about the
racist wording against immigrants used by media in Thessalonica explained that media
had the tendency to present Albanians, without having an evidence, as the main suspects
for the rise of criminality in the country.

Then everything was changed…after 1992-3 we became criminals to them. They

opened their doors to us and then shut them in front of our face. Many “skoupa161”
operations were carried out by the Greek police. It was logical for the Greek people
to shut their doors to us. They saw police arresting Albanians in the midday or early
in the morning in the bus or on the streets while they were going to or coming back
from work. So what other image would they create for the Albanians under these

when something bad happened like a robbery in a bank, the televisions always said
that the author of the crime perhaps was an Albanian…always without having any
proof about the ethnicity of the author….

Every day, I followed the news on television and listen so many times accusations not
based on real facts against Albanians…

When something was not going well between the two governments the Greek police
was acting immediately against us… with arrests and deportation…

Often, Greek citizens blame immigrants for all the bad things happening to
their society. Many unquestioned assumptions are made for the immigrants in Greece
and especially for the Albanians. The interviewed immigrants refer to these
assumptions as myths because according to them, these assumptions don’t content
any slice of truth.

Albanians take our jobs and drive down wages..; they don’t invest here but send their
money to their people in Albania…; at the end they will take even our flag…; they are
the reason of crimes here…
The word skoupa in Greek refers to the police operations arresting immigrants at squares and

One day I made a joke to my Greek coworkers saying that even the earthquake
happened in the 1999, was caused by the Albanians. It was a period that everything
bad happened to the Greeks was caused by the Albanians.; When we came here we
did jobs that Greeks didn’t prefer to do… so how did we steal their jobs….

Our interviewees gave emphasis to the fact that very often, Greek people react
with a great surprise while meeting by chance an Albanian who is educated, good
looking and well dressed.

I was in a taxi and the taxi driver began to talk to me and at the end he asked me
about my origin. I answered from Albania. He stopped the taxi and turned back to see
me better and said: Are you sure that you are an Albanian? You can’t be and
Albanian?.... I laughed and asked him that how did an Albanian look? He answered:
..with wild characteristics and amorfotos (illiterate) …..and I was dressed with too
expensive clothes!...
Our neighbor, in the beginning, didn’t believe us when we told him that we were
Albanians. He said that we were a very cute and nice couple…!

Empirical studies confirm that close social contact affects the development of
close, stable, cooperative and long-term social relations and thus reduces prejudice
and discriminatory behavior and practices (Allport 1954; Chryssochoou 2004). Based
on their personal experiences, Albanian immigrants come to the conclusion that close
social contact with Greeks for a long time reduces prejudice and discrimination. They
added that Greeks’ opinion about them improves especially when they come into
close contact with Albanians. Greek citizens admit the fact that there are exceptions,
not all the Albanians are “criminals” and wild people.

John (Gianis), you are a good fellow but the other Albanians are not… My owner of
the house where I stay one day said to me that I was a very good person and I was not
like my compatriots…

Nowadays, the interviewees report that Greek citizens’ attention is not entirely
focused any more on them but on the new waves of immigrants coming from
Pakistan162 who are seen not only by the Greeks but even by the Albanians as an
uncivilized community. So the stigmatized Albanian is now stigmatizing other
immigrant groups in Greece, more inferior than him. It is a strategy, according to
Gerhard Falk (2001) that stigmatized persons usually use. They think that Albanian
immigrant community is the most integrated immigrant group in Greece. They see
themselves within the Greek society as hard workers, giving emphasis to their
children’s education and improving their living and working conditions.

Now we are all right… Many Albanians have bought houses here, have a stable good
work, their children are integrated here…we see these Pakistani people in Attica,
Metaksurgio and they sleep 10 men in a room…; They (the Pakistani people) gather

The interviewees are unable to make the difference among the people coming from Middle East
countries and therefore place them in one category and call all of them Pakistani people.

at Saint Panteleimonas163 and make that place very dirty…; The Albanians look at
their job and try to give the best education to their children.

4.2. “L’albanese” in Italy

Italy is a country that sent most emigrants abroad among all European countries (more
than 26 million since official records began in 1876; (King and Andall 1999: 135) and
the one that has been most identified as a key destination for the new migration into
Southern European countries. During the 1970s, like many countries in Southern
Europe (Spain, Greece and Portugal), Italy experienced a “migration turnaround”
from emigration to immigration (King et al. 1997). Italy became an important
destination for people from African and Asian countries and, after 1989, from Eastern
European countries too.
On the other hand over the post-war period Italy experienced a large-scale of
interregional migration. Between 1951 and 1971, 2 million Southern Italians migrated
to the North of the country (King and Andall 1999: 135).
The positionality of Southern Italy and of Southern Italians within the process
of construction of Italian national identity is very important here. Northern Italians'
prejudice against Southern Italians was (and still is) very strong. The growing
intolerance against foreign migrants were consistent with a crisis in Italian citizens'
relation with their state. In fact, during the 1990s the traditional post-1945 cultural
construction of 'Italianness' came into crisis, while at the same time a new version
began to emerge according to the symbolic polarisations shaping Italy's national
identity since its very beginning: North/South, Europe/Africa, Christian/non-
Christian, developed/backward. It is in this context that foreign migrants became
Italy's 'constitutive other' against which a more EU-compatible articulation of
Italianness was produced (Mai, 2005). Renata Salecl in her analysis of the rise of
nationalism in former Yugoslavia, showed that the hatred of the 'other' which
psychologically sustains nationalism is nothing but the outcome of a process of
projection onto the other of an aspect of the 'same' which is considered unbearable
and unacceptable (Salecl 1993: 105).
Italian media's representation of foreign migrants in Italy can be seen as
having both responded to and engendered anxieties, fostering an interpretation of the
migratory phenomenon in terms of 'social alarm' (Maher 1996: 160).
As Nicola Mai described in his article “ The Albanian diaspora-in-the-
making: media, migration and social exclusion", the use of the term “Albanese” in
Italy refered to the way Albanian migrants in the 1990s became the new symbolic
embodiment of non-Italianness. So, “l’albanese” in Italy became “the stranger”, not in
the sense as the wanderer who comes today and goes tomorrow, but rather as the
person who comes today and stays tomorrow. But his position in this group is
determined, essentially, by the fact that he has not belonged to it from the beginning,
that he imports qualities into it, which do not and cannot stem from the group itself. In
the relationship to him, distance means that he (l’albanese), who is close by, is far,
and strangeness means that he (l’albanese), who also is far, is actually near (Wolf,
Albanians have been the most heavily stereotyped group in the context of the
wider representation of migration-related events in Italy, with particular reference to

Saint Panteleimonas square is at the center of Athens. Before, this square was a shelter for Albanian
and other immigrants and now it is transformed in a shelter for the immigrants coming from Middle
East countries.

their involvement in the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and in thefts
and burglaries of a particularly ferocious nature.
Very much like in the Greek case, the Italian response to the immigration of
Albanians during the 1990s was also driven by the media, and was very negative
(King and Mai 2002). Whilst the first arrivals of the ‘Adriatic brethren’ (Zinn 1996)
in March 1991 were greeted with generally positive media reports, where undertones
of patronising these ‘pitiful, backward and helpless’ people were nevertheless not
lacking, the reception changed very soon after that.
According to Mai, the visual and narrative scripts through which Albanian
migration was represented by Italian media can be grouped according to three main
sets of narratives: tales of moral depravation with reference to Albanian migrants'
involvement in crime; discourses of demonisation of atheism or essentialisation of
religious difference (Islam); and discourses of backwardness, exoticism and isolation
(Mai, 2005).

Independent of their age, gender, educational level, type of work, all

respondents showed their experiences to the prejudices they suffered being
immigrants in Italy, at least in the beginning of their migratory experience.

At the beginning it was very difficult to show to the others the proper nationality,
because if I showed I was un Albanian, I would see a change on his (expression of
the) face, so, in many cases I hided my nationality lying. When somebody asked me, I
said I’m from Montenegro, from Poland etc. To be an Albanian in Italy since some
year ago, but even today in many cases, means to be a potential criminal, a burglar
or something like that…

Many respondents showed the features associated with being an Albanian as a

state of being ‘uncivilised’. They underlined, in their own terms, how this mythical
construction was a powerful agent of discrimination, infiltrating every aspect of social
interaction. Many interviewees reported that, when they showed their Albanian
nationality, Italians have been told by that ‘you can’t be an Albanian’.
As King and Mai showed in their article “Albanian Immigrants in Lecce and
Modena: Narratives of Rejection, Survival and Integration” on 2004, from many
experiences of Albanian migrants’ social identities it clearly emerges how, in its
current use, the term ‘albanese’ (‘Albanian’ in Italian) has lost its original denotative
function and is now used as an insult which Italian people employ to define
themselves and others, according to unspoken, but interiorised hierarchies of
Italianness (King & Mai, 2004).
Nowadays the situation has changed a little bit. As many immigrants
described, looking that many Albanian immigrants have more than 10 years living
and working at the same place, Italian have had the chance to know better how
Albanians are, and the influence of myths and stereotypes is diminished.

At the beginning it was difficult to have an Italian friend. They (Italians) stayed far
away from us Albanians. This because we had a very bad fame. Now is a little bit
different. My friend Carlo is one of my best friends. I invited him to my brother’s
wedding ceremony in Albania and he invited me to his son baptizing. I mean we call
each-other “family friends”. I have 16 years living in Firenze and I think I’m good
arranged here. I have very good relations with the Italians I know.

5. Reaction of Albanian immigrants towards stigma

5.1. The case of Greece
Social bonding and extended family structures have played an important role for the
Albanian migrants’ survival in Greece. These two factors provide Albanians with a
sense of community, an increase of social capital, alleviation from economic and
health problems, and easier access to employment (Iosifides and King, 1998: 218).
While we were analyzing the interviews, we noticed that family has a very significant
role for the Albanian immigrants. In the beginning, the majority of Albanian migrants
immigrated to Greece were men. After they were settled there, they tried to reunion
with their family. This served to them as a channel for a smooth integration into the
Greek country.

At the beginning, I was alone here (he is referring for Athens city) without my wife
and children... I was with my brothers. We worked a lot and sometimes 14 hours a
day and were very tired. The neighbors didn’t speak to us. When my wife with the
children came the neighbors started to show interest towards us and helped us a lot
especially with the children.

By passing the time, the Albanians are becoming more integrated into the
Greek society. They live in two worlds, the world of compatriots in Albania or Greece
and the world of Greeks where they work, study and divert. This kind of integration
corresponds with that of distance integration in the typology of Peter Rose, (1981).
Albanians tend to have contact with their people in Albania. The advances in
technology provide them with information about political and socioeconomic issues
in their country and also affect positively their relations with relatives and friends
living there.

I have the Alb digital, because I want to know about the political and economical
changes in my country ; In Albania, I have my parents, my relative, my friend. I feel
there as in my home. Here I don’t feel so good. I will stay only for my children
because they came here in a very young age and it is very difficult for them to return
and live there….; I speak with my parents or friends in Facebook or Skype..; We came
here only to gather some money and then to return back to our home.; My children
now speak every day with their grandparents on Skype or on telephone.

5.2. The case of Italy

Differently from the populations coming from Africa and Asia to Italy, Albanians
never constitute ethnic concentration as China town or Little Italy, but try to “spread”
themselves equally on all the territory. As a consequence, they often live in buildings
with only Italian co-tenants. This tendency creates more opportunities for the
Albanian immigrants to have contacts with the locals.
As the above interviews showed, in the beginning of their migratory
experience, young people, in particular, adopted a strategy of 'hiding' their Albanian
identity in order to meet potential Italian partners and friends. So, the burden of
prejudice is felt to be much stronger at the beginning of the migratory experience
because of the lack of solid interpersonal relations that prevents Albanian migrants
from negotiating their individual identities away from hegemonic stereotypes
addressing them as part of a stigmatised group.
According to Vincenzo Romania (2003) Albanians perceive the diffusion of a
strong stereotype which diminishes and stigmatizes their identity and then they

perform mimesis (passing for Italian).. According to him, Albanians do not react to
the stereotype in a passive way, reducing expectations about the future; but react
actively, hiding their identity in the public space and accessing the same resources of
locals, in this particular situations. As Romania analyzes, Italian public opinion
reacted to the flows of migrants of 90s, with a process of hetero -racisation of
Albanians (Taguieff P.A., 1988.) Then a stigma was produced, and passing, as
Goffman (1968) affirmed, constituted a way to avoid the bad consequences of
representing a discredited identity in public space.
According to Romania dialectal adaptation of Italian, can be considered,
another tool for mimesis.

Using the dialect on the Italian speaking, makes me feel nearer the family where I
work. I work as a badante (cleaning leady) in a family here in Florence and
sometimes hearing me to speak “l’italiano alla fiorentina” makes people in this
family happier and enable us to have a better communication and as a result a better
relation. Antonio, the 12 years old son in this family, tells me that I don’t seem at all
as an Albanian, because my dialectic Italian is perfect.

As King and Mai (2005) showed, behind the readiness with which many
Albanian migrants seemed to partially interiorize (self-)discrimination lie broader
sociocultural and historical factors:
Firstly, the complex way in which Albanian national culture had been
articulated and appropriated by the communist state, and Albanians’ reaction against
anything associated with that communist past, means that it has been particularly
difficult for Albanians to find positive elements of identification to contrast the
stigmatisation at a collective level. In other words, both their past (in Albania) and
their collective image in the present (in Italy) are rejected; and no real alternatives are
Secondly, in the post-communist context the search for a democratic
alternative to communism has been based on a rejection of collectivism and a parallel
process of thorough individualization of Albanian identities.
And yet, despite media stereotyping as undesirables and criminals, and despite
being, in public opinion polls, the least preferred immigrant group, Albanians have
achieved considerable success in integrating into Italy (King and Mai, 2004).
The data gathered during this study showed that Albanians prefer to live in
little towns than in the city. This is an indirect indicator of integration. Living outside
the city, in fact, allows them to have access to a cheaper housing and to integration