From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- This page is about the dialectological group of Arbëreshë
in Southern Greece. For an overview of different communities of
Albanian origin in Greece, see Albanian communities in
Greece. For other uses of the term Arbëreshë, Arbër or Arbëror
Arvanites (Greek: Αρβανίτες, Arvanitika: Arbëreshë or
Αρbε̰ρεσ̈ε̰) are a population group in Greece who traditionally speak Arvanitika, a sub-branch
of the Tosk
dialect of the Albanian language. They settled in
Greece during the late Middle Ages and were the dominant
population element of some regions of Peloponnisos and Attica until the 19th
Arvanites self-identify as Greeks.
Arvanitika is in a state of attrition due to language shift towards Greek and
large-scale internal migration to the cities and subsequent
intermingling of the population during the 20th century.
Arvanites in Greece originated from Albanian settlers who moved
south at different times between the 11th and 16th century from
areas in what is today southern Albania. The
reasons for this migration are not entirely clear and may be
manifold. In many instances the Arvanites were invited by the Byzantine and
Latin rulers of
the time. They were employed to re-settle areas that had been
largely depopulated through wars, epidemics, and other reasons, and
they were employed as soldiers. Some later movements are also
believed to have been motivated to evade Islamization after the Ottoman conquest.
The main waves of migration into southern Greece started around
1300, reached a peak some time during the 14th century, and ended
Arvanites first reached Thessaly, then Attica, and finally the Peloponnese.
In areas such as Mesogeia, many Arvanitika-speaking populations
did not see language as the defining criterion of their Greek
identity. Their sense of identity relied upon their adherence to
the Greek Orthodox Church, their
sense of localism with ties to the land, and their sense of
kinship. All of these attributes had long served as cohesive
elements of identity within the Ottoman Empire, which provided the
Arvanites the ability to establish a form of ethnic unity and a
stronger form of Greek self-identification.
Throughout the Ottoman period, the Arvanites always maintained
their ethnic Greek identity, as well
as their loyalty to the Greek Orthodox Church during their
conflicts against the Ottomans.
German ethnographic map of the Peloponnese
Albanian(Arvanitika)-speaking areas in red.
During the Greek War of Independence,
many Arvanites played an important role fighting on the Greek side
against the Ottomans, often as national Greek heroes. With the
formation of modern nations and nation-states in the Balkans, Arvanites have come to
be regarded as an integral part of the Greek nation. In 1899,
leading representatives of the Arvanites in Greece, among them
descendants of the independence heroes, published a manifesto
calling their fellow Albanians outside Greece to join in the
creation of a common Albanian-Greek state. In
1903, Arvanites like Vangelis Koropoulis from Mandra, Attica, participated in the Macedonian Struggle.
During the 20th century, after the creation of the Albanian
nation-state, Arvanites in Greece have come to dissociate
themselves much more strongly from the Albanians, stressing instead
their national self-identification as Greeks. They are reported to
resent being called Albanians. At
the same time, it has been suggested that many Arvanites in earlier
decades maintained an assimilatory stance,
leading to a progressive loss of their traditional language and a
shifting of the younger generation towards Greek. At some times,
particularly under the nationalist 4th of August Regime under Ioannis Metaxas
of 1936–1941, Greek state institutions followed a policy of
actively discouraging and repressing the use of Arvanitika. In
the decades following World War II and the Greek Civil
War, many Arvanites came under pressure to abandon Arvanitika
in favour of monolingualism in the national language, and
especially the archaizing Katharevousa which remained the official
variant of Greek until 1976. This trend was prevalent mostly during
the Greek military junta of
Regions with a strong traditional presence of Arvanites are
found mainly in a compact area in southeastern Greece, namely
across Attica (especially in
Eastern Attica), southern Boeotia, the north-east of the Peloponnese, the south
of the island of Euboea, the
north of the island of Andros,
and several islands of the Saronic Gulf including Salamis. In parts
of this area they formed a solid majority until about 1900. Within
Attica, parts of the capital Athens and its suburbs were Arvanitic until the
late 19th century.
There are also settlements in some other parts of the
Peloponnese, and in Phthiotis (Livanates, Malesina, Martino villages). There are no reliable
figures about the number of Arvanites in Greece today and their
exact number is unknown (no official data exist for ethnicity in
Greece). The last
official census figures available come from 1951. Since then,
estimates of the numbers of Arvanites has ranged from 50,000 to
250,000, with no real effort to distinguish Arvanite-descended
Greeks from Arvanitika-speakers. The following is a summary of the
widely diverging estimates (Botsi 2003: 97):
- 1928 census: 18,773 citizens self-identifying as "Albanophone",
including other Albanian-origin communities of Greeks.
- 1951 census: 22,736 "Albanophones".
- Furikis (1934): estimated 70,000 Arvanites in Attica
- Trudgill/Tzavaras (1976/77): estimated 140,000 in Attica and
- Sasse (1991): estimated 50,000 Arvanitika speakers in all of
- Ethnologue, 2000: 150,000 Arvanites, living in 300
- Federal Union of European Nationalities, 1991: 95,000
"Albanians of Greece" (MRG 1991: 189)
Like the rest of the Greek population, Arvanites have been
emigrating from their villages to the cities and especially to the
capital Athens. This has
contributed to the loss of the language in the younger
According to the anthropological studies of Theodoros Pitsios,
Arvanites in the Peloponnese in the 1970s were physically
indistinguishable from other Greek inhabitants of the same region.
This may indicate that either the Arvanites shared extant physical
similarities with other Greek populations or that early Arvanite
groups extensively incorporated parts of the autochthonous Greek
Anthropological studies on the Arvanites reflect historical
facts pertaining to the Arvanites' Greek consciousness and
allegiance to Greek movements. Arvanites are Orthodox Christians.
Specific Arvanite cultural activities appear to be limited.
Tsitsipis has reported only occasional folklore festivals, music,
and poetry contests. Since
the 1980s, there has been a creation of Arvanite cultural
associations and publication of a magazine and some books on
Arvanite culture, however very little has been published in
The name Arvanites and its equivalents are today used both in
Greek (Αρβανίτες, singular form Αρβανίτης,
feminine Αρβανίτισσα) and in Arvanitika itself (Arbëreshë
or Arbërorë). In Standard Albanian, both three names are used:
Arvanitë, Arbëreshë or Arbërorë.
The name Arvanites and its equivalents go back to an
old ethnonym that used in Greek to refer to Albanians. It
originally referred to the inhabitants of that region
Arvanon (Άρβανον) or Arvana (Άρβανα), and
then to all Albanian-speakers. In Albanian language the
self-designation Arbëror, which is still in use by
Arvanites and Arbëreshë of Italy, had been exchanged for
the new name Shqiptarë since the 17th century, an
innovation that was not shared by the Albanophone migrant
communities in the south of Greece. The alternative exonym
Albanians may ultimately be etymologically related, but is
of less clear origin (see Albania
(toponym)). It was probably conflated with that of the
"Arbanitai" at some stage due to phonological similarity. In later
Byzantine usage, the terms "Arbanitai" and "Albanoi", with a range
of variants, were used interchangeably, while sometimes the same
groups were also called by the classicising names Illyrians. In the 19th
and early 20th century, Alvani (Albanians) was used
predominantly in formal registers and Arvanites
(Αρβανίτες) in the more popular speech in Greek, but both were used
indiscriminately for both Muslim and Christian Albanophones inside
and outside Greece. In the course of the 20th century, it became
customary to use only Αλβανοί for the people of Albania,
and only Αρβανίτες for the Greek-Arvanites, thus stressing
the national separation between the two groups.
Another subbranch of Albanians, native to Greece, is that of Cham Albanians.
They speak another dialect of the Albanian
language, but the Orthodox population is regarded as Arvanites, by
Greeks, although they designate themselves as Shqiptar.
Greeks distinguish the Christian Chams from the Muslim Chams, who
were expelled to Albania at the
end of World War
There is some uncertainty to what extent the term
Arvanites also includes the small remaining Christian
Albanophone population groups in Epirus and West Macedonia. Unlike the southern
Arvanites, these speakers are reported to use the name
Shqiptarë both for themselves and for Albanian
although this is reported not necessarily to imply Albanian
national consciousness. The
word Shqiptár is also used in a few villages of Thrace,
where Arvanites migrated from the mountains of Pindus during the 19th century
however they also use the name Arvanitis speaking in
Greek, while the Euromosaic (1996)
reports notes that the designation Chams is today rejected
by the group. The report by GHM (1995) subsumes the Epirote
Albanophones under the term Arvanites, although it notes
the different linguistic self-designation, on
the other hand, applies the term Arvanites only to the
populations of the compact Arvanitic settlement areas in southern
Greece, in keeping with the self-identification of those groups.
Linguistically, the Ethnologue
identifies the present-day Albanian/Arvanitic dialects of
Northwestern Greece (in Epirus and Lechovo) with those of the Chams, and therefore
classifies them together with standard Tosk Albanian, as opposed to "Arvanitika
Albanian proper" (i.e. southern Greek-Arvanitika). Nevertheless, it
reports that in Greek the Epirus varieties are also often subsumed
under "Arvanitika" in a wider sense. It puts the estimated number
of Epirus Albanophones at 10,000. Arvanitika proper is
said to include the outlying dialects spoken in Thrace.
Language use and language
Opening verses of a poem composed in Arvanitika, with Greek
translation, honouring the marriage between Alexandra
and Archduke Paul of Russia; 1889
While Arvanitika was commonly called Albanian in Greece
until the 20th century, the wish of Arvanites to express their
ethnic identification as Greeks has led to a stance of rejecting
the identification of the language with Albanian as
well. In recent times, Arvanites had only very imprecise notions
about how related or unrelated their language was to Albanian. Since
Arvanitika is almost exclusively a spoken language, Arvanites also
have no practical affiliation with the Standard Albanian language
used in Albania, as they do not use this form in writing or in
media. The question of linguistic closeness or distance between
Arvanitika and Albanian has come to the forefront especially since
the early 1990s, when a large number of Albanian immigrants began to enter Greece and
came into contact with local Arvanitic communities.
Since the 1980s, there have been some organized efforts to
preserve the cultural and linguistic heritage of Arvanites. The
largest organisation promoting Arvanitika is the "Arvanitic League
of Greece" (Αρβανίτικος σύλλογος Ελλάδος).
Although sociological studies of Arvanite communities still used
to note an identifiable sense of a special "ethnic" identity among
Arvanites, the authors did not identify a sense of 'belonging to
Albania or to the Albanian nation'.
Fara (Greek: φάρα, from Albanian fara 'seed' or
from Aromanian fară 'tribe') is a
descent model, similar to Scottish clans and
Malësia tribes in
Northern Albania. Arvanites were organised in phares (φάρες) mostly
during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. The apical
ancestor was a warlord and the phara was named after him. In
an Arvanitic village, each phara was responsible to keep
genealogical records (see also registry offices), that are preserved
until today as historical documents in local libraries. Usually,
there were more than one phares in an Arvanitic village and
sometimes they were organised in phratries that had conflicts of interest. Those
phratries didn't last long, because each leader of a phara desired
to be the leader of the phratry and would not be led by
Women held a relatively strong position in traditional Arvanitic
society. Women had a say in public issues concerning their phara,
and also often bore arms. Widows could inherit the status and
privileges of their husbands and thus acquire leading roles within
a phara, as did, for instance, Laskarina Bouboulina.
Traditional Arvanite folk songs offer valuable information about
social values and ideals of Arvanitic societies.
Jonathan M. Hall, Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity, p.29, ISBN
Botsi (2003: 90); Lawrence (2007: 22; 156)
See Biris 1960, Poulos 1950, Panagiotopulos 1985, Kocollari 1992,
Some authors, particularly Biris (1961), have likened the medieval
Arvanitic migrations to that of the ancient Dorians. Some Greek authors go one step
further, and have proposed theories that link the ultimate
ancestors of the Arvanites with pre-Greek "Pelasgians" (Kollias 1983), or relate
Arvanitika with Ancient
Greek. These views have no echo in mainstream modern
scholarship. The "Pelasgian" view was fashionable in Greece in the
19th century and was then applied to Albanians in general. It was
used to claim autochthonous status and hence historical affinity
with the Greek nation, since at that time Greeks wished to win the
Albanians over for the formation of a common Greater Greek nation
state (Gounaris 2006). "Pelasgian" theories are currently still
propagated by the largest association of Greek Arvanites
(Αρβανιτικός Σύνδεσμος Ελλάδος,  and ). Other Greek
authors have proposed an ancient Greek identity of the settlers
based on their supposed Epirote ancestry.
Troupis, Theodore K. Σκαλίζοντας τις ρίζες μας. Σέρβου. p.
1036. Τέλος η εσωτερική μετακίνηση εντός της επαρχίας Ηπειρωτών
μεταναστών, που στο μεταξύ πλήθαιναν με γάμους και τις επιμειξίες
σταμάτησε γύρω στο 1600 μ.Χ.
Biris gives an estimated figure of 18,200 Arvanites who were
settled in southern Greece between 1350 and 1418.
Gefou-Madianou, p. 420. "For the Arvanitika-speaking populations of
the Mesogeia, however, language was not the definite criterion of
their Greekness. For them, attributes such as adherence to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, a sense of
localism, and ties to the land and kinship, attributes that had
long served as cohesive forces within the Ottoman Empire, provided
a sense of ethnic unity and identified them as Greeks. They felt
they could trace their ancestry back many generations and still be
found to inhabit the same land: Attica."
P. J. Ruches. Albania's
captives. Argonaut, 1965, p. 28.
P. J. Ruches. Albania's
captives. Argonaut, 1965, p. 28, 40.
First published in Ελληνισμός, Athens 1899, 195-202.
Quoted in Gkikas 1978:7-9.
Stamou, Ch. Μακεδονικός Αγώνας (1903-08). "...θα αγωνισθώ
μέχρι να ελευθερωθεί η Μακεδονία και θα πεθάνω εδώ..." (English
translation: "...I will fight until Macedonia is free and I will
Tsitsipis 1981, Botsi 2003
GHM 1995, Trudgill/Tzavaras 1977. See also Tsitsipis 1981, Botsi
Gefou-Madianou, pp. 420-421. "Those speakers of Arvanitika who were
living in or near the capital came under greater criticism since
their presence allegedly embodied the infection that contaminated
the purity of the ethnic heritage. Thus, some decades later, during
the dictatorship of August 4, 1936, the communities of Arvanites
suffered various forms of persecution at the hands of the
authorities, though during the 1940s their position improved
somewhat as their members helped other Greek soldiers and officers
serving in the Albanian front. Later, during the 1950s, 1960s, and
early 1970s, especially during the years of the military junta
(1967-74), their lot was undermined once more as the Greek
language, and especially katharevousa during the junta, was
actively and forcibly imposed by the government as the language of
Greek nationality and identity."
Travellers in the 19th century were unanimous in identifying Plaka as a heavily "Albanian"
quarter of Athens. John Cam Hobhouse,
writing in 1810, quoted in John Freely, Strolling through
Athens, p. 247: "The number of houses in Athens is supposed to
be between twelve and thirteen hundred; of which about four hundred
are inhabited by the Turks, the remainder by the Greeks and
Albanians, the latter of whom occupy above three hundred houses."
Eyre Evans Crowe, The Greek and the Turk; or, Powers and
prospects in the Levant, 1853: "The cultivators of the plain
live at the foot of the Acropolis, occupying what is called the
Albanian quarter..." (p. 99); Edmond About, Greece and the
Greeks of the Present Day, Edinburgh, 1855 (translation of
La Grèce contemporaine, 1854): "Athens, twenty-five years
ago, was only an Albanian village. The Albanians formed, and still
form, almost the whole of the population of Attica; and within
three leagues of the capital, villages are to be found where Greek
is hardly understood." (p. 32); "The Albanians form about
one-fourth of the population of the country; they are in majority
in Attica, in Arcadia, and in Hydra...." (p. 50); "The Turkish
[sic] village which formerly clustered round the base of the
Acropolis has not disappeared: it forms a whole quarter of the
town.... An immense majority of the population of this quarter is
composed of Albanians." (p. 160)
Θ. Κ. Πίτσιος. “Ανθροπωλογική Μελετή του Πληθυσμού της
Πελοπονήσσου: Η Καταγωγή των Πελοπονησσίων.” ["Anthropological
Study of the Peloponnesian Population: The Ancestry of the
Peloponnesians"] Βιβλιοθήκη Ανθροπωλογικής Εταιρείας Ελλάδος. Αρ.
2, Αθήνα, 1978.
Pitsios, Theodoros (1986): "Anthropologische Untersuchung der
Bevölkerung auf dem Peloponnes unter besonderer Berücksichtigung
der Arwaniten und der Tsakonen". ["An anthropological study of the
Peloponnesian population, with a special focus on the Arvanites and
Tsakonians"] Anthropologischer Anzeiger 44.3: 215-225.
Tsitsipis, 1983 and 1994.
Fine, John Van Antwerp (1994). The Late Medieval Balkans: A
Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman
Conquest. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-08260-5. http://books.google.com/books?id=QDFVUDmAIqIC.
ΛΕΞΙΚΟΝ ΤΗΣ ΙΤΑΛΙΚΗΣ ΓΛΩΣΣΗΣ ΣΥΝΤΕΘΕΝ ΠΑΡΑ ΣΠΥΡΙΔΩΝΟΣ ΒΛΑΝΤΗ. Καὶ
παρ' αὐτοῦ πλουτισθὲν τῆ προσθήκῃ περίπου δεκακισχιλίων Λέξεων.
ΕΚΔΟΣΙΣ ΤΕΤΑΡΤΗ. ΕΝ ΒΕΝΕΤΙᾼ. ΠΑΡΑ ΝΙΚΟΛΑῼ ΓΛΥΚΕΙ Τῼ ΕΞ ΙΩΑΝΝΙΝΩΝ•
1819; ΛΕΞΙΚΟΝ ΓΕΩΓΡΑΦΙΚΟΝ ΙΤΑΛΙΚΟ ΓΡΑΙΚΙΚΟΝ. (σελ. 5)...
Albania: Ἐπαρ. τῆς Εὐρωπ. Τουρκίας. Ἀλβανία, κοιν.
Attaliates, History 297 mentiones "Arbanitai" as parts
of a mercenary army (c.1085); Anna Comnena,
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called Arbanon or Arbana, and "Arbanitai" as its inhabitants
(1148). See also Vranousi (1970) and Ducellier (1968).
Botsi (2003: 21)
Ethnologue (2005). "Albanian,
Tosk: A language of Albania".
Ethnologue (2005). "Albanian,
Arvanitika: A language of Greece".
Breu (1985: 424) and Tsitsipis (1983).
Botsi (2003), Athanassopoulou (2005).
Arvanitic League of Greece
, Χριστοφορήδης. Κων. ΛΕΞΙΚΟΝ ΤΗΣ ΑΛΒΑΝΙΚΗΣ ΓΛΩΣΣΗΣ. p.
Babiniotis, Lexiko tis neoellinikis glossas
See Biris (1960) and Kollias (1983).
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