So a certain purist concept of nationalism has had unfortunate effects on the landscape, language, and toponymy of Greece. The worst, though, is its effect on people. The ultimate implication of ethnic nationalism is that only members of the national ethnic group can be allowed to be part of the nation; all others must be eliminated or assimilated. This attitude was part of the Greek War of Independence from the beginning; some quotes from the 1911 Britannica, with colorful but accurate descriptions:

The town itself was destroyed and those of its Mussulman inhabitants who could not escape into the citadel were massacred…. Kolokotrones, a notable brigand once in the service of the lonian government… captured Karytaena and slaughtered its infidel population… [T]he revolt spread rapidly; within three weeks there was not a Mussulman left in the open country….. In the Morea, meanwhile, a few Mussulman fortresses still held out: Coron, Modon, Navarino, Patras, Nauplia, Monemvasia, Tripolitsá. One by one they fell, and everywhere were repeated the same scenes of butchery. The horrors culminated in the capture of Tripolitsá, the capital of the vilayet. In September this was taken by storm; Kolokotrones rode in triumph to the citadel over streets carpeted with the dead; and the crowning triumph of the Cross was celebrated by a cold-blooded massacre of 2000 prisoners of all ages and both sexes.

This sort of thing is not, of course, confined to Greek history; it is a sad feature of similar struggles everywhere. But when the war was over and the Greek state established, the attitude hardened rather than dissipating; the vicious Balkan Wars of 1912–13 featured ethnic cleansing as a modus operandi on all sides (see the first-person accounts here; I highly recommend the Carnegie Endowment’s Report, from which the quotes are taken, to anyone interested in the wars), and the equally vicious Greco-Turkish War of 1919–22 resulted in an “exchange of populations” (as this devastating mass ethnic cleansing was politely called) that uprooted “Greeks” who spoke no Greek from their ancestral homes in Turkey and equally assimilated “Turks” from Greece and sent them to alien countries they had never seen and where they had no homes and no occupation.

The Greek government announced that Greece was now ethnically homogeneous, and from then on ethnic minorities (principally Turks, Macedonian Slavs, Albanians, Vlachs, and Romá [Gypsies; note that Romá is the plural of Rom]) were either ignored or repressed, depending on the political situation. The official attitude is that everyone in Greece is Greek; attempts to discuss, say, the Slavic minority will be met with a denial that there is such a thing—people in the villages you mention may speak with a distinct accent, but certainly not in a different language. A classic example of this attitude was brought about by the research of Anastasia Karakasidou into the history of a village in Greek Macedonia, north of Thessalonica; she had originally thought that the village was divided between the “local” Greeks and the “refugees” (from the 1921–22 war), but as she talked to people she learned that many of them had relatives who came from a Slavic background. Unfortunately, just as she was preparing to publish her results (in the excellent book Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood: Passages to Nationhood in Greek Macedonia, 1870-1990) the Balkan wars of the 1990s broke out, and the Greeks became extremely paranoid about ethnic questions; along with blockading the poor and landlocked new Republic of Macedonia (and forcing everyone to call it “FYROM”), they began a campaign of harassment against the author and her book, calling her a “cannibal” and frightening Cambridge University Press into shamefully caving in and canceling publication (fortunately the book was picked up by the gutsier University of Chicago Press).

Again, none of this is unique to Greece; similar nonsense is perpetrated everywhere that ethnic differences are used and exacerbated by evil politicians (Sri Lanka and Rwanda come immediately to mind, but of course examples are legion), and Turkey has done far worse to Armenians and Kurds in the last century than Greece has done to its minorities. I have concentrated on Greece because of its unique status as the “fountainhead of Western civilization” and because the pernicious theories of ethnic and historical purity used to justify the things I have discussed were imported from the supposedly civilized nations of Western Europe. It is the heirs of the Enlightenment who licensed the Greeks to falsify everything around them in the name of a chimerical Hellas that never was, and it is at their feet (and by extension our own, if we wish to claim the inheritance of “progress” and “rationality”) that we must lay much of the responsibility for the evils that resulted. When we fulminate against the Rwandans, it is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.

Addendum. For further information on the background of the ethnic confusion of Macedonia and the political dispute engendered by it, I urge anyone interested to read Loring M. Danforth’s The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World (Princeton, 1995). Like the Karakasidou book mentioned above, it’s unusually well written for an academic work, and Danforth has one of the most sensible takes on the problem of ethnicity and nationalism that I’ve seen. From his first chapter:

According to the logic of nationalism, because nations are equated with states and because states have unambiguous, clearly defined territorial borders, nations must have such borders as well. Complex cultural realities, however, know no such borders. While a particular village must be located on one side or the other of the border separating two sovereign states, the people who live in this village are likely to speak more than one language and participate in more than one culture. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that the inhabitants of this village speak the two national languages and participate in the two national cultures of the nation-states whose border the village lies near. The people of this village do not inhabit two homogeneous, bounded national cultures; they inhabit a cultural continuum, a cultural intersystem, in which cultural differences and similarities coexist in complex and constantly changing ways.

Having established his theoretical basis, he goes on to discuss the complex history of Macedonia and the conflicting claims to Macedonian identity. In a particularly moving chapter, he tells us about an Australian he calls Ted Yannas who comes from a village in northern Greece where people spoke Macedonian as well as Greek but identified themselves as Greeks; in Australia, he discovered others from the same village who identified themselves as Macedonians, and he wound up joining them, alienating himself from friends and even his own family. Makes me glad to be an American mutt who doesn’t worry about such things.


  1. I recall a claim that the current inhabitants of Greece are “not the same Greeks” as those of ancient Greece. I’m not really sure what that’s supposed to mean, particularly in the light of recent research about how close to us in time our virtually universal common ancestry is. But I suppose it means that the descendents of the ancient Greeks at some point were displaced by immigrants of some other ethnic background, with enough overlap for the Greek language to take root among the immigrants.

    So, making allowances for the racist nonsense at the root of this assertion, is there any truth to it? Or is it just code for the admixture of Slavic and Turkish and other blood in the Greek gene pool?

  2. More abstractly – do you have a source you can recommend that discusses the construction of Nationalism as the dominant ideology of the 19th century, whereby the Nation State as atomic unit of geopolitics defines itself to be linguistically, ethnically, religously and culturally homogeneous to the predictable and often horrifying disadvantage of anyone who could act as a counterexample?

  3. Prentiss: You’re thinking of the theories of Fallmerayer, a German historian who in the 1850s claimed that the modern Greeks were descended from the Slavs who had invaded the peninsula after the fall of Rome and had nothing to do with the ancient Greeks (badly written summary here); this, of course, enraged the Greeks, who to this day react to his name the way Atlantans do to that of Gen. Sherman. My impression is that his claims were wildly overstated, although of course it’s true that there was a lot of Slavic (and Albanian and other) intermixture, and Greece is as mongrel a nation as any other. (For an example of why Greeks get so mad, here‘s a sample of how he gets used by enemies of Greece, in this case Turks.)

    des: There’s been lots of scholarship on this subject in the last twenty years. Two seminal works are Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities and Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger’s The Invention of Tradition, both from 1983; on the specific case of Macedonia, I highly recommend both the Karakasidou book and Loring M. Danforth’s The Macedonian Conflict (whose bibliography you can use for further research) — in fact, I think I’ll add the latter as an addendum to the entry.

  4. Cool, thanks. I had heard of (and then forgotten about) the Hobsbawm before I knew who he was – the Marxist perspective is certainly the one I want to start with.

  5. Everytime when one dares to point the finger at the really vicious -and verging the crude racialism- Greek nationalism (as you admirably do) there we have cohortes of Greeks popping up and expressing their “disbelief”..In a way, I understand them: at school, beginning with the primary one, they were being told incessantly that “Greeks are 100% unadulterated direct descendents of the Ancient Hellens”..Don’t blame them if they naively believe this nonsense..
    What they don’t get is that all your plea for multiculturalism has nothing to do with the Fallmereyers etc.
    You simply denounce the Greek exclusivism, and so we do in our webpages..It’s not a dislike of them: it’s a dislike of the policies of successive Greek governments which eventually succeded in harassing all those who dare speak any other language than the official “Hellenic” one..
    To do this is not at all dishonourable..

  6. An interesting site, with lots of Vlach-related information — thanks!

  7. I’m glad to hear the language policy has improved. But not all the expelled “Greeks” spoke Greek, although of course most did. Anyway, I’m glad your ancestors made it out in one piece; thanks for writing!

  8. So far, so good, but you seem to forget how the Macedonian problem came about… It was by the beginning of the 20th century, when the Turkish empire was collapsing, that the Bulgars started thinking that they should get a bigger slice of the pie, after Russia’s St. Stefan capitulation was cancelled by the other two “super powers” of the time, UK and Germany. With that capitulation, Bulgaria would get Macedonia, including Thessaloniki, in their state. After that they organized some teams that tried to forcibly get the Greeks to their church (The exarchy).

    At that time, the only link between people was the church as they all speaked several languages. If they managed to get the Greek population to their church, they would get Macedonia.
    That failed. Later, they betrayed the Greeks and Serbs after the war against Turkey, and tried to get Macedonia, ONCE more…
    This time it was a race of who would manage to get Thessaloniki first. The Greeks did. Since then, many Slavs tried several ways to get that land, or at least the name. FYROM even distributed a map (which I have seen with my own eyes), that includes the Greek part of Macedonia in THEIR country, INCLUDING Thessaloniki.
    Is that ethical? It’s up to you to decide…

    Oh, and about the language… That’s a thing of the past… For the past 10 years, anyone gets into the country, mainly from the ex-USS countries, with the HELP of the government and are given the Greek citizenship, plus several extra points to get a job more easily. That’s the opposite of what you describe.

    Finally, during the population exchange, it was not as if total strangers went to Greece and vice versa. Yes, they were treated like SHIT by the Greek population, yes, they lost their homes in Turkey, BUT they DID speak Greek, as did the Turks that moved to Turkey speak Turkish. All my ancestors are immigrants from that place, in that period. Many people left BEFORE the destruction of Smirni, cause they saw it coming.

  9. The two books you mentioned present the Slav-Macedonians’ POV, but what about the Bulgarian-Macedonians’ POV, and the Greek-Macedonians’ POV? Just out of curiosity, without intending to criticize, do you use to form an opinion reading only books from one POV? 🙂 Perhaps the reason “Greeks became extremely paranoid about ethnic questions” in 1990 was precisely because of the behaviour of “real Macedonian patriots” like extremist Ted Yannas in Australia, who use maps of, and fantasize about, “a United Macedonia”, and APPROPRIATE the name ‘Macedonia’ declaring that Greeks “cannot be Macedonians”!
    After the Ancient times ended, the name “Macedonian” was used only to descibe a person from a certain GEOGRAPHICAL area with many ethnic groups (Slavs, Greeks, Bulgars, Turks, etc.) – NOT to describe ONE ethnic group. Since the people of FYROM acquired a new national conscience for themselves last century (they were “Slavs” or “Slav Macedonians” until then), it’s their right and obligation to find an official name for their new country and nationality, but they should not use simply “Macedonia” as a neologism, since they cannot deny the Greek-Macedonians and the Bulgarian-Macedonians the right to also continue calling themselves “Macedonians”.
    As for the Communists that were exiled when the bitter Civil War ended with the Monarchists’ victory in 1949, all of them were allowed to return after Greece finally became a democracy – the Greeks in 1982 and the Slavs with a further 20 year delay for which the Greek government has apologized. To slander present-day democratic Greece based on memories of ruthless dictators who made Greeks and non-Greeks alike suffer for decades is cheap. Except if Ted Yannas himself is too ignorant of history to realize that, or too blinded in his fanaticism.

  10. Utena: First off, thank you for expressing yourself in such a non-hostile way. When I wrote the entry, I was braced for nasty comments by offended Greeks and was pleasantly surprised not to get them; it’s nice that you criticize so politely. I’ll try to reciprocate.
    In the first place, I do not “form an opinion reading only books from one POV.” Believe me, I am well aware of the Greek POV; I used to live in Astoria, and was initially amazed and finally bored by the fact that every single Greek, no matter how intelligent or otherwise sensible, completely lost it when the subject of Macedonia came up. “Macedonia is, was, and always will be GREEK! The slanders of the Bulgarians, &c &c…” No one was willing to admit that there were substantial numbers of Greek citizens whose native language was Slavic, much less that before Greece seized its section of Macedonia in the Balkan Wars, much of the population spoke nothing but Slavic dialects. The works of Greek scholars, not to mention the official publications of the Greek government, support the (clearly mistaken) monoethnic view of Greece, including Greek Macedonia. This is not scholarship, it’s blind faith.
    I have nothing against Greece or the Greeks; I’ve loved Greece all my life, was thrilled when I finally got there, and look forward to going again. I know both Ancient and Modern Greek, and happily quote Cavafy in the original. The Greek people are, on the whole, friendly and generous. But they’ve been bitten by the bug of ethnic nationalism, which poisons everything it touches. Like the Turks pretending there are no Kurds in Turkey, only “mountain Turks,” Greeks pretend there are no Slavs in Greece, and anyone who calls himself a Slavic Macedonian with a Slavic language is a traitor or has been brainwashed by propaganda. And much brutality has been (and is being) caused in the world by such refusal to admit reality; I’m sure I don’t have to give you examples. I would ask you to consider why the subject is of such emotional importance to Greeks; why can’t they simply say “Sure, there are Slavic Greeks and Vlach Greeks and Turkish Greeks and Roma Greeks, and we all love the same food and wine and landscape — we’re all Greeks together, whatever our ethnic background”? Why the insistence that everyone has to be ethnic Greek, or if not, to pretend to be on pain of rejection from the community?
    I look forward to a response, but I should say that if I get nasty comments from less polite adherents of the official view, I will delete them and close comments to this entry. I welcome debate but have no stomach for flame wars.

  11. Oh yes, many Greek immigrants are indeed “bitten by the bug of ethnic nationalism”. I was shocked to see in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” that the father has a Greek flag painted on his garage wall! (He’d never be able to live it down in Greece!) But so and worse (if possible! ;)) are Slavomacedonians. Anyway, I can speak only for Greeks of Greece, not people who left 50-60 years ago with an entirely different image of Greece than what it is today.
    >>to admit that they were substantial numbers of Greek citizens whose native language was Slavic>and anyone who calls himself a Slavic Macedonian with a Slavic language is a traitor or has been brainwashed by propaganda.>I would ask you to consider why the subject is of such emotional importance to Greeks;>why can’t they simply say “Sure, there are Slavic Greeks and Vlach Greeks and Turkish Greeks and Roma Greeks, and we all love the same food and wine and landscape — we’re all Greeks together, whatever our ethnic background”?

  12. Well, I hope you’re right. You obviously have a fuller picture of the situation than I do, since (I assume from your comments) you live in Greece. And of course it’s true that one can’t generalize from people like Metaxas to “all Greeks.” Actually, I never meant to imply that “all Greeks” were like that; I do think it’s a strong tendency historically, but it seems to be lessening with greater prosperity and more distance from the events that exacerbated it, which is great. I think we basically agree about older history, and I’m happy to take your word for the situation today. And again, thank you for writing in a friendly way. It can be hard to discuss these things!

  13. I’m living abroad at the moment, but I spent in Greece all my life until fall 2002 (apart from 3 months in France in 2000), so I’m indeed a “pure” modern Greek. There is no reason you should thank me for behaving as I do towards anyone anywhere.
    Without really intending to defend the “Greeks” you’ve talked with so far, since I’m not aware of their political inclinations and/or biases, but rather hoping to make you examine your own approach towards the issue, please keep in mind that extreme reactions of otherwise intelligent persons are sometimes caused when they confront “biased perceptions held by external observers” – which also happened to be one of the themes of the international academic conference “Developing Cultural Identity in the Balkans: Convergence vs. Divergence” that took place in Belgium last December. Maybe Christian Ross’ abstract about the vocal group of [Slav Greeks? or Slavomacedonians?] I already mentioned, “which in the last 10 years has led to a slow and partial ethnicisation and even nationalisation of Greece’s Slavic minority towards the Republic of Macedonia, especially in the centre of the “ethnic revival”, i.e. the border region of Florina”, can offer you some insight in the situation:
    Conference Theme:
    “The fundamental contrast between convergent and divergent tendencies in the development of Balkan cultural/linguistic identity is an important determinative in the contradictory self-image of people in the Balkans, as well as in the biased perceptions of Balkan societies held by external observers. In bringing together heterogeneous disciplines and lines of research, this conference aims at elucidating the intriguing paradox which characterises the cultural situation in the Balkans and which, moreover, is of undeniable relevance for our understanding of recent political developments.”

  14. Cap10 Michael says

    Re. Falmerayer:
    He was politically biased.
    1. He was a Pan-Germanisist
    2. He saw Slavic states (Poland, Russia) as a danger to that.
    3. He saw the Ottomans as a bulwark against Slavic expansionism.
    4. In order to support it he sought to stem Western support of Greece (sworn-enemy of the Ottomans and an irredentist nation).
    5. He thought Western support was because of our descent and history.
    6. He cynically tried to disprove this descent, both culturally and biologically (then unfortunately race actually mattered to people).
    7. Another Austrian, some time later, took to his ideas with gusto. His name was Adolph Hitler and his troops killed almost half a million Greeks (including almost all of the 70.000 Greek-Jews). They did this, while at the same time venerating Plato and the Bible, because people like Falmerayer had paved the way for them. Greeks and Jews are just bastardized mongrels so it was all right.
    More recent studies in anthropology (Coon) and genetics have determined that modern Greeks are indeed the descendants of the ancient lot. However that is of little consequence, except to highlight the political nature of previous studies.
    We are Greeks because such is our culture, language and religion. Because people have handed down all three to us who loved them, added to them and adapted them to their circumstances to keep them ever alive and relevant. And finally because these people chose, when the time came, to fight and die than see them lost.
    What my ancestors’ race may have been three centuries ago hardly affects who I am today. What makes me who I am has been molded and passed on to me by Greeks through the long millennia we dwelt on this corner of the world.
    As Isokratis put it two thousand years ago: “…a Greek is one who partakes of our culture and education”.
    As an endnote, there were a few years back a scientific study published by the University of Skopje in conjunction with a Spanish institution. This purported to show that Greeks are in fact Africans and related to the Ethiopians. The study of course was later summarily ridiculed and debunked by respected academics the world over. Not that it has stopped Slavic Macedonians (including the Republic of Macedonia web site) adorning their web pages with it.
    The racist ideology of the Slavic Macedonians holds that if they have “Macedonian” blood they are entitled to the Macedonian heritage, irrespective of their society, culture, language and religion being Slavic. Additionally they hold that Greeks being of “not pure blood” discredits them, irrespective of their culture being the modern expression of the one the Macedonians of Alexander spread through out the known world.
    Falmerayer and Hitler would have been proud. And so are the White Supremacists at http://www.stormfront.org. Ahh, how the thought of a bunch of brown skinned wogs having culture, trade and civilization thousands of years before the lily white Slavs and Nordics must pain them inside.

  15. Cap10 Michel says

    Re: The Vlachs
    The Greek state OWES them alot and should begin immediately efforts to help them preserve their language, instead of denying it.
    The biggest benefactors of the early Greek state were Vlach merchants from Epirus. Today Epirus has the largest concentration of Vlach villages in Greece and should be registered as a Cultural Heritage site.
    Finally in Greece the term Vlach is used as a
    pejorative, conoting rural descent and uncouthness. It is sad…
    Similarly more freedoms must be made available for the Slavic Macedonians. They should be allowed to teach their language as Macedonian, instead of being forced to call it Bulgarian as they do now. The language may be almost the same, but it is the name that is important to them.
    As the case of Yannas clearly shows, coercion only achieves the opposite effect. That sad man is now lost to his hate of Greeks; and in all fairness I can understand how he feels. We should make up to these people whom we have hurt.

  16. As an endnote, there were a few years back a scientific study published by the University of Skopje in conjunction with a Spanish institution. This purported to show that Greeks are in fact Africans and related to the Ethiopians.
    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Thanks for your illuminating and sensible comments, Cap10; it’s always a pleasure to hear from people who are able to look beyond nationalist preconceptions.

  17. i find it hilarious when americans attempt to understand different cultures with their simplistic view of the world.

  18. Yeah, we’re a wacky bunch.

  19. Proud to be Greek says

    Modern Greeks are indeed directly descended from Ancient Greeks. Their blood lines and lineage have never been in question until people with an agenda say otherwise to try and prove that Greeks are not really Greeks and that they are really Turks and/or Slavs… so all of Greece should not belong to those who call themselves Greek because there are no Greeks! This sounds stupid (it is) but this is the kind of logic we are dealing with.
    Well, first off, Greeks know that their blood lines are not 100 percent pure. This not only applies to Greece but for all nations around the globe. I’ll go one further than that…Ancient Greeks were not pure either. I’m sure they had the blood lines of others in their gene pool as well at some point and time. Regardless, the majority of the ancient blood lineage was Greek, the same blood lineage that today’s Greeks share.
    Second, when (and I’ll use a conservative number) 95% of the population is descended from ancient times (it’s probably closer to 98% but who cares) why in the world are we talking about Greeks not being ‘Greeks’? Furthermore, regardless of the purity of the gene pool in terms of percentages, WE ARE STILL THE DIRECT UNITERRUPTED DESCENDANTS OF ANCIENT GREEKS! What, did all of the Ancient Greek genes get killed off? Please, give me a break! Even if we make accommodations that Greeks have some Turkish/Slavic blood in their lineage, this does not change the fact that it represents small fraction (first appearing around 1000 years ago) of their overall lineage, the majority being derived directly from ancient times, namely the Hellenic race.
    In addition to this, when the Ottoman Empire ruled this region for over 400 years, in an attempt to kill off other cultures, they would regularly kill the babies and then impregnate the women with Turkish (blood) lineage babies. They did this not only against the Greeks but other ethnic groups as well. The problem with using this to prove that Greeks are not ‘Greeks’ is that the majority of women would either voluntarily kill these babies upon birth or their babies would be killed by others, such as the husband (if he was not killed already) or father, brothers, uncles and cousins (in fact, women often died trying to rid their bodies of the Turkish babies). A small percentage kept their Turkish lineage babies for sure…but most did not. This was the way Turkish impregnation was dealt with for all of the different ethnic groups of this region under the Ottoman Empire (including the Slavs).
    The point I am trying to make here is that all ethnic groups in the region (for the most part) did not inter-marry, intertwine socially or culturally, cohabitate with anybody other than their own kind. Greeks stayed with Greeks, Turks stayed with Turks, Slavs stayed with Slavs and so on. Given this, how can anybody come to the conclusion that Greeks are not really ‘Greeks’? Where did the ancient blood lines go? Did they just get up and walk away into oblivion? That is so absurd! Again, what we have here is a classic case of historical revisionism. That is, trying to steal someone else’s history, while denying that others exist (or more precisely, not descended from the ancients to whom the history belongs to).
    All of this is being done to try and win international support for this ‘phantom thesis’ that today’s Greeks are not real ‘Greeks’. This nonsense originates from the Turkish and Slavic areas of the Balkans. The reason behind their motives are simple: If they can persuade the U.S. or the U.K., by doing so, it can and most likely will weaken the Hellenic State internationally to the point of where land claims will heard against the state by ‘minority groups’ and quite possibly leading to the breakup of the Hellenic State as we know it.
    Their attempts are and will be unsuccessful because you cannot wipe out the fact that first, Greeks have never left the area and that we were here long before the likes of the Turks or the Slavs. Two, history is on our side. How in the world can you change recorded actual and factual history, proven without any doubt, throughout the last 5000 years? You can’t. This alas, is their Achilles heel…oops wasn’t he Greek as well!

  20. Anton wrote: “Modern Greeks are indeed directly descended from Ancient Greeks.”
    I first believed in Anton’s statement as a kid in elementary school,; in collage I became enamoured with Fallemereyer’s theory that the modern Greeks are basically Slavonic. In the past few years, however, I have come full circle back to my original belief that the Modern Greeks are the direct descendants of the Ancient Greeks.
    The fact that Greeks share some of the same DNA that many American Indians do suggests that they are a very ancient people and have been probably living in the area they are in today for a long time (i.e. Greece and Turkey).

  21. I must say, I’m sorry this thread got completely caught up in discussions of Greek ancestry and that sort of thing; I was hoping for some talk about the history of ethnic cleansing and its links to national pride. But I guess that was a little much to hope for.

  22. Language Hat,
    If ethnic cleansing is what you wish to discuss, the Armenians, Kurds and Greeks have all been victims of Turkish massacres in Asia Minor at various times (mostly between 1880 and 1915) but the Armenians suffered the most. Some would argue that the ethnic cleansing of Kurds is still going on today in both Turkey and Iraq.

  23. Nick Metaxas says

    The fact that some ‘civilian’ Muslims were killed in Greece’s war of Independence is likely undeniable. This so-called butchery was inevitable for the insurgents to succeed in their efforts to relieve themselves of the Ottoman yoke. Many of these Turks were naturally on the side of the Turkish authorities, and fought as irregulars to put down the insurrection. In fact, many modern atrocities committed by Turks against Christian or other foreign groups were acts perpetrated by this type of irregulars. I refer to such acts of barbarism as the destruction of Smyrna in 1922, including the torture, mutilation, and dismemberment of Archbishop Chrysostomos by mobs of civilian Turks. Other examples of outrages committed by Turkish civilians range from the state-sanctioned pogroms of the Greek citizenry of Istanbul in 1955 to the fatal beatings by Turkish Cypriot mobs of Greek Cypriots in 1996.

    The history of Greece is marred more by internecine conflict than nationalistic genocide, as you allege. A prime example is the constant warring between the ancient Greek city-states. Another example debunking any theory about a predisposition of Greeks toward barbaric acts of nationalism, is when Alexander refused to heed Aristotle’s advice to treat the Greeks as equals and the barbarians as lesser peoples, and thus treated all his subjects equally, even promoting increased tolerance and marriage between races.

    More recently, when the Latins sacked Constantinople in the 4th Crusade of 1204, the Greek citizens were so outraged by the barbarism of their ‘fellow Christians’, they guaranteed the protection of the property and lives of the Saracens (Muslims) who resided peacefully with the Byzantines in the splendid City. In this century, the Greek advance into Asia Minor during the disastrous 1922 campaign, was completely devoid of any aggression on the civilian Turkish population. Images survive to the present day where Greek troops are sitting and chatting with other Turks, watching theatre, or feeding soup to Turkish children, under the new (yet brief) Greek military presence in Anatolia. These benevolent acts were later followed by violent Turkish ‘retribution’ in Smyrna and other areas.

    Later on in WWII, despite Greek victories in Albania, a country that collaborated with the Axis enemy, no reprisals were inflicted by Greek troops on civilians. Examples of Greek discipline and respect in such situations are numerous, and examples to the contrary are few, if not non-existent.

    As far as speculation of the constitution of Modern Greeks, anybody with any degree of scholarship on this subject would recognize that there is no debate. Modern Greeks are true descendants of the ancients who first occupied the area. The ridiculous racial theories asserting that ancient Greeks were blonde-haired and blue-eyed, are nothing but pathetic attempts by Nordic supremacists to lend legitimacy to their cause by associating themselves to the glory that was Classical Greece. When Isocrates made his famous statement in his Panegyricus about ‘the name of Greek no longer counting as that of a stock, but as that of a type of mind…designating those who share with us (biological Greeks) in our culture, rather than those who share in a common physical type’, it must not be taken out of context by people pretending to strip away the importance of a Greek nation. The context of his statement was the wide gulf between Athenian (and Greek) intellectual and artistic achievement, and that of foreign peoples. ‘The pupils of our masters, are the teachers of others’, he goes on to say. Although Isocrates loosely accepted as ‘Greeks’ those people of foreign stock who sought to enlighten and enrich themselves with Greek culture, we should not wildly extrapolate that anybody who today avidly indulges in modern Greek cuisine, music and dance can justifiably call himself Greek.

    Modern Greeks define themselves by their lineage and religion. Unlike America which has no strong ethnic or cultural identity of its own, and where people who reside there can rightfully be deemed Americans, in Greece, foreign peoples are merely Greek citizens, and this by no means qualifies them as ‘Greeks’ in every sense of the word.

  24. Very true, and the ironic thing is that the Kurds were used by the Turks to help wipe out the Armenians a century ago, only to later become victims themselves. There’s a small group of Moslem Armenians (Hemshins) in northeastern Turkey who keep their Armenian-ness to themselves as much as possible, to stay out of the line of fire. Depressing stuff, all of it.

  25. Proud to be Greek says

    I must say, I’m sorry this thread got completely caught up in discussions of Greek ancestry and that sort of thing; I was hoping for some talk about the history of ethnic cleansing and its links to national pride. But I guess that was a little much to hope for

    Well, if that was your attempt, please go back and examine the articles that you and others (who agree with your point of view) have written by attempting to understand the context in which they can and will be taken by Hellenic people.

    Your words of past postings sting, hurt and offend Greeks intellectually NOT because there is any truth in them. Quite opposite, you are trying to re-write history by spreading false information. This is no different than saying there was no attempt by Hitler to kill of the Jews, or if Greece laid claims to other people’s history (such as Ancient Egypt). They have never and will never do that because history is as important as the present day because it gives direction to all of mankind in regards to the future. By avoiding the mistakes of the past we can avoid them later on down the road.

    When people post lies about Macedonia and “the origins of their people” being Slavic…that is totally and utterly false, filled with holes as large and high as Mount Everest. The Slavic people came to Europe about 1000 years ago (give or take). End of discussion. Turkish people came to Europe (in the form of the Ottoman Empire) roughly about the same time. When you look back into history about 2500 – 3000 BC, there are no Turkish people, no Slavic people. What you have are a people – Ancient Greeks, who are just starting up as a race/society/culture.
    Before them are the Egyptians and before them, are the Babylonians. Mixed in with all of these societies you have Phoenicians, Minoans, Israelites, Assyrians and so on. No Turkish and certainly no Slavic people.

    Be very careful when saying you were trying to have a discussion of so and so topic when in reality you were not. Your words again, register very different when taken in context and read by the viewer. Your tone is sarcastic and you are not being genuine in your response. This site unfortunately is no different than all of the other sites that spread false information about people and people’s history.

  26. Nick Metaxas says

    I will echo the point about the Macedonian question since that has been in the news so often lately, especially with misguided and reckless gov’ts like the US recognizing the claim to the name Macedonia by the FYROM state.
    The inhabitants of that state, whom Greeks rightfully call Skopjans or FYROMians, are really composed of a variety of nationalities (Slavic and other), none of whom have a real claim to Macedonia, since none of them have been in the area longer than several centuries, as the above poster accurately points out.
    The only reason these people now erroneously call themselves Macedonians is because Tito, in his faithfully underhanded and expansionist manner, decided to attribute that name to one of his republics (renaming it from the more appropriate name of Vardarska).
    Besides putting aside historical animosities between the rival nationalities that composed Tito’s Yugoslavia, the dictator decided to inject some false nationalism to the scattered motley crew of inhabitants who today criminally lay their claim to Macedonian names and symbols.
    This was all part of Tito’s plan to ultimately annex Greek Macedonia, which is what the nation-less people inhabiting the FYROM state will eventually attempt to do, if they are not stopped.
    Other identity-starved groups with no history of their own, inspired by discredited imbeciles like Fallmeyer, may attempt to do the same. It’s up to the Greeks to stand up now and defend the sovereignty of their soil and their sacred heritage.
    An excellent start would be to elect officials who are firm on immigration and who do not sanction this modern legalized invasion of the country. An even more necessary measure for Greeks to take would be to pull out of Europe, the moment Turkey is invited to that self-destructing continental union.

  27. I just came upon this page googling as part of my PhD work.
    Couple of points:

    My impression is that his claims were wildly overstated, although of course it’s true that there was a lot of Slavic (and Albanian and other) intermixture, and Greece is as mongrel a nation as any other.

    The genetic evidence is actually the other way around. There is a lot of Greek admixture into the Slavic (and a whole lot into the Turkish) populations surrounding Greece, but very little of the reverse.

    There’s been lots of scholarship on this subject in the last twenty years. Two seminal works are Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities and Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger’s The Invention of Tradition, both from 1983; on the specific case of Macedonia, I highly recommend both the Karakasidou book and Loring M. Danforth’s The Macedonian Conflict (whose bibliography you can use for further research) — in fact, I think I’ll add the latter as an addendum to the entry.

    Danforth has recently come under some review because of his double and triple citing of the same statistics and giving the impression they are from different sources. In fact for example he widely uses ethnicity research for the 1900-1920 promulgated by the mid 1970’s Yugoslavia, at the hight of the cold war. That is why he got into the rather difficult problem of arguing that no Bulgarians lived in northern Greece at the turn of the century and no Greeks lived in the Northon Macedonia. These are really unsupportable positions. I feel bad for Danforth, he did some interesting work, but of late he is increasingly being seen as a modern Fallmerayer (not racist like him, but deeply flawed in his research).

  28. Thanks very much for your enlightening comment; I’ll have to look into the controversy. It’s hard being a dilettante and having to rely on whatever authoritative-seeming books you happen to pick up, and I appreciate corrections by those who know more.

  29. I appreciate your information and accuracy

  30. Concerned Greek says

    I am a citizen of Canada and have recently stumbled upon this website. Though my information is limited on interracial mixing, I DO infact know very much about the history of Greece and have literally read through this whole forum. My personal thoughts on the debates are that everyone should think as they wish. Sure, there must have been some sort of interracial mixing in the past, but if infact the persons trying to deny the fact that Greeks of the modern day are not PURE Greeks, I am displeased to announce that you have no idea what you are talking about.
    Back in the days when the Greek citizens were under the power of Turks, they would be killed if they didn’t change there religion or if the women would not have the babies of a Turkish man. This information is probably what is known to a non-Greek or someone who simply knows a little bit of the history. During these difficult times the Greek people would try to keep their own bloodline alive. Evidence of this was when a Greek hero of the Greek Revolution: Athanassios Diakos said he would never change his religion, and said that he was born Greek and would die Greek. To this the Turkish people roasted him on a spit. Also, to keep their heritage alive the women of Greece would literally kill themselves and their babies if the babies were from a Turkish man (That is of course assuming that the woman was raped and impregnated by a Turk).
    Another important fact is that, when the Turkish would try to kill the Greek heritage, even the church stood up. The had something called: “Ta krufa Sxoleia” or “The Hidden Schools” where pupils would simply learn about there Greek language.
    Another funny thing is that many of the Greek inhabitants of Western communities agree that Greek people should marry other Greek people. This means that Greek people are still trying to keep the heritage alive to this very day.
    Thus, my question is: Do you honestly think that the bloodline is not pure? And if you do…please check your sources over. Ask a Greek about the history of THEIR country.

  31. Hat, best close the thread, I think. (I’m visiting a friend in Buenos Aires at the moment and musing disappointedly on the missed opportunities of this country of abundant natural resources and minimally belligerent neighbours. It’s oddly comforting to see it re-inforced that the proud irrationality that seems to be at the root of these missed opportunities is, on an international level, very common.)

  32. Yeah, you’re probably right. No good can come of letting it devolve into “my nationalism is purer than yours.”
    Listen, have some pizza for me while you’re there, will you? The pizza in BA is the best I’ve ever had (and I’ve had Pepe’s in New Haven).

  33. At the risk of reopening the still-wriggling can of worms, I had to laugh at this:

    […] misguided and reckless gov’ts like the US recognizing the claim to the name Macedonia by the FYROM state.

    The inhabitants of that state, whom Greeks rightfully call Skopjans or FYROMians, are really composed of a variety of nationalities (Slavic and other), none of whom have a real claim to Macedonia, since none of them have been in the area longer than several centuries […]

    Does anyone suppose that the government of the U.S., of all places, would refuse to recognize a people’s claim to land merely because it was only a few centuries old? Whatever would they do with themselves after that?

  34. From Peter Mackridge’s 2007 paper on Greek identity:

    The basic mistake that […] Fallmerayer made in 1830 was his adherence to the idea that only the biological descendants of the ancient Hellenes had the right to identify themselves as Hellenes today. But to be a Hellene in 1830 – as in 2008 – hasn’t in the end been a matter of racial descent (in other words objective proof) but a matter of self-definition (in other words subjective will). As the leading Greek politician Eleftherios Venizelos put it succinctly after the end of the First World War, “A Greek is a person who wants to be Greek, feels he is a Greek and says he is a Greek.” This definition artfully excludes both language and religion.

  35. If only the Greek government would adopt that definition!

  36. John Cowan says

    ObHattitudes (from the WP page on the naming dispute): The reference term (not name) within the UN for what is now (thankfully) North Macedonia was “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, as is well known. But there were two subtleties hiding in this: “f” had to be lower case, to prevent the creation of a proper name beginning with “Former”, and Greece rejected alphabetization under M whereas the other party rejected alphabetization under F, so it was alphabetized under T and seated next to Thailand. In the interim accord of 1995, no names at allses were used, only “the Party of the First Part” (i.e., Greece) and “the Party of the Second Part” (i.e. not Greece).

    “”But that’s far in the past, you see. The territory is long ago assimilated to us. Irredentism is idiocy.” —Poul Anderson, The Day of Their Return

  37. Toward the end of Yanukovich presidency, he personally became quite toxic to Western leaders (those were the simpler times, or as the case might be, more refined times) and in some important (NATO?) meeting neither president of US nor prime minister of UK wanted to be near Ukraine. The solution was to organize the sitting by French spelling of state names.

  38. Toward the end of Yanukovich presidency, he personally became quite toxic to Western leaders

    Eastern leaders became quite toxic to Yushchenko. (Ha ha. Couldn’t resist.)

  39. Lars (the original one) says

    Where did they get the T from?

  40. David Marjanović says

    Is T a typo for Y?

    (Putting the jug “south” in Yugoslavia…)

  41. “T” is for “the”, I guess.

  42. Yes, for “the.”

  43. John Cowan says

    Yes (for the avoidance of all doubt), contrary to the English rule that the, a, an are ignored in alphabetization of names: Gambia, The rather than The Gambia.

  44. Lars (the original one) says

    Yeah, that rule is clearly so ingrained in me that I couldn’t even see the T. (My mother was a librarian).

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