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Indigenous minorities in Greece are negligible in size compared to Balkan standards.[1] The country is largely ethnically homogeneous. This is mainly due to the population exchanges between Greece and neighboring Turkey (Treaty of Lausanne) and Bulgaria (Treaty of Neuilly), which removed most Muslims (with the exception of the Muslims of Thrace) and those Christian Slavs who did not identify as Greeks, from Greek territory; the treaty also provided for the resettlement of ethnic Greeks from those countries, later to be followed by refugees (see Greek genocide, Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) and Istanbul Pogrom). The 2001 census reported a population of 10,964,020 people.[2]

The main officially recognized "minority" (μειονότητα, meionótita) is the Muslim minority (μουσουλμανική μειονότητα, mousoulmanikí meionótita) in Thrace, which numbered 97,604 people or 0.95% of the total population according to the 1991 census,[3] and mainly consists of Turks, Pomaks and Roma. Other recognized minority groups are the Armenians numbering approximately 35,000,[4] and the Jews (Sephardim and Romaniotes) numbering approximately 5,500.[5]


Religious minorities

The Greek constitution defines the Eastern Orthodox Church as the "prevailing religion" in Greece, and over 95% of the population claim membership in it. Any other religion not explicitly defined by law (e.g. unlike Islam and Judaism, which are explicitly recognized) may acquire the status of a "known religion", a status which allows the religion's adherents to worship freely, and to have constitutional recognition. After a court ruling, the criteria for acquiring the status of a "known religion", were defined as being, a "religion or a dogma whose doctrine is open and not secret, is taught publicly and its rites of worship are also open to the public, irrespective of whether its adherents have religious authorities; such a religion or dogma needs not to be recognized or approved by an act of the State or Church". This covers most religious minorities such as Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, and Jehovah's Witnesses. All known religions to be considered by the Greek state legal entities under private law must establish an association, or foundation, or charitable fund-raising committee pursuant to the Civil Code. The Roman Catholic Church refuses to be considered a legal person under private or public law and has requested recognition by its own canon law. In July 1999, following a parliamentary amendment, the legal entity status of all institutions of the Roman Catholic Church established before 1946 was reconfirmed. There is no formal mechanism that exists to gain recognition as a "known religion". There are also around two thousand Greeks who adhere to a reconstruction of the ancient Greek Religion.[6 ][7] A place of worship has been recognized as such by court.[8 ]

Linguistic and cultural minorities

Regions with a traditional presence of languages other than Greek. Greek is today spoken as the dominant language throughout the country.[9]


In the 2001 census, 274,390 ethnic Albanian immigrants are residing in Greece,[10][11] mostly economic migrants.

Albanian economic migrants are not to be confused with the Greek Orthodox Arvanites, a group who traditionally speak a form of Tosk Albanian in addition to Greek and self-identify as Greeks,[12] having played a significant role in the Greek War of Independence and Greek culture in general.

The Chams were an ethnic Albanian community that formerly inhabited the area of Thesprotia, part of the Greek province of Epirus. Most of them fled to Albania at the end of World War II after a large part of them collaborated with the Nazi occupation forces.[13][14][15][16]


In Greece, the Aromanians are called Vlachs (Greek: Βλάχοι). There are numerous festivals celebrating Aromanian culture all over Greece. Their language, Aromanian, is in danger of extinction and mostly spoken by the elderly. There are, however, Aromanians in Greece who call for greater recognition of the Aromanian language, such as Sotiris Bletsas. It is hypothesized that these Vlachs originated from the Roman colonisation of the Balkans and are the descendants of Latinised native peoples and Roman legionaries who had settled in the Balkans.[17][18][19] German researcher Thede Kahl claims to have also documented some cases of assimilation of the Aromanian population in regions which are now largely Greek-speaking.[20] The Panhellenic Federation of Cultural Associations of Vlachs (Πανελλήνια Ομοσπονδία Πολιτιστικών Συλλόγων Βλάχων) has publicly stated that they do not want Aromanian recognized as a minority language nor do they want it inserted into the education system,[21] and the same organization also protested,[22] when Thede Kahl discussed in a paper if they could be designated a "minority".[17] Greek Aromanians, and Greeks in general, believe that the aromanian-speaking population spoke Latin from the 5th century already, but went under a process of Romanian propaganda from 1860 that achieved changing their idiom but failed in developing the sentiment of Romanian ethnicity.[23]


The history of Roma in Greece goes back over 600 years to the 15th century. The name Gypsy sometimes used for the Roma people was first given to them by the Greeks who supposed them to be Egyptian in origin. Due to their nomadic nature, they are not concentrated in a specific geographical area, but are dispersed all over the country. The majority of the Greek Roma are Orthodox Christians who speak the 'Vlachoura-Roma' language in addition to Greek. Most of the Roma who live in Western Thrace are Muslims and speak a dialect of the same language.[24]

The Roma in Greece live scattered on the whole territory of the country, but a large concentration in the bigger cities, mainly in Athens and Thessalonica. Notable centres of Roma life in Greece are Agia Varvara which has a very successful Roma community and Ano Liosia where conditions are bad. Roma largely maintain their own customs and traditions. Although a large number of Roma has adopted a sedentary and urban way of living, there are still settlements in some areas. The nomads at the settlements often differentiate themselves from the rest of the population. They number 200,000 according to the Greek government. According to the National Commission for Human Rights that number is closer to 250,000 and according to the Greek Helsinki Watch group to 300,000.[24]

As a result of neglect by the state, among other factors, the Roma communities in Greece face several problems including high instances of child labour and abuse, low school attendance, police discrimination and drug trafficking. The most serious issue is the housing problem since many Roma in Greece still live in tents, on properties they do not own, making them subject to eviction. In the past decade these issues have received wider attention and some state funding.[24]


Slavic languages have been spoken in the region of Macedonia alongside Greek and others since the invasions of the Slavs in the 6th and 7th centuries AD.[25] In parts of northern Greece, in the regions of Macedonia (Μακεδονία) and Thrace (Θράκη), Slavonic languages continue to be spoken by people with a wide range of self-identifications. The actual linguistic classification of these dialects is unclear, although most linguists will classify them as either Bulgarian or Macedonian Slavic taking into account numerous factors, including the resemblance and mutual intelligibility of each dialect to the standard languages (abstand), and the self-identification of the speakers themselves. As however the vast majority of these people don't have a Bulgarian or Macedonian Slav national identity, linguists will make their decisions based on abstand alone. For a fuller treatment of this subject, see Slavic language (Greece). The Slavic-speaking minority of northern Greece can be divided in to two main groups: Christians and Muslims (see below).

Christian Orthodox Slavophones

Greek ethnographic map of south-eastern Balkans by Professor George Soteriadis, Edward Stanford, London, 1918. "Macedonian Slavs" shown as separate from other South Slavs
Distribution of races in the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor in 1922, Racial Map Of Europe by Hammond & Co. "Macedonian Slavs" shown as Bulgarians and Serbians.

The Christian portion of Greece's Slavic-speaking minority are commonly referred to as Slavophones (from the Greek Σλαβόφωνοι Slavophōnoi - lit. Slavic-speakers) or Dopii, which means "locals" in Greek. The vast majority of them espouse a Greek national identity and are bilingual in Greek. They live mostly in the Periphery of Western Macedonia and adhere to the Greek Orthodox Church. The fact that the majority of these people self-identify as Greeks makes their numbers uncertain. Until and including the 1951 census the question of mother tongue was asked throughout Greece, so this gives a rough idea as to the size of this group, and later estimates are usually based on this figure.

The national identity of this community has frequently been loaded with political implications. The Politis-Kalfov Protocol signed on September 29, 1925 purported to recognize the Slav-speakers of Greek Macedonia as Bulgarians, but this protocol was never ratified. A short lived agreement was signed August 1926, which recognized them as a Serbian minority.[26]

In the 1951 census, 41,017 people claimed to speak the Slavic language.

According to a report issued by the Greek Helsinki Monitor, there are about 10,000-30,000 ethnic Slav Macedonians living in Greece,[27] but because of the absence of an official census it is impossible to determine the exact number. This group has received some attention in recent years due to claims from the neighboring Republic of Macedonia that these people form an ethnic Slav Macedonian minority in Greece. A political party promoting this line and claiming rights of what they describe as the "Macedonian minority in Greece" - the Rainbow (Виножито) - was founded around 1994-95; the party received 2,955 votes in the 2004 elections for the European Parliament in the region of Macedonia. The official position of the Greek government is that there is no ethnic Macedonian or Bulgarian minority in Greece.


The Muslim Slavic-speaking minority is known as Pomak (Πομάκοι), they reside mainly in villages in the Rhodope Mountains in Thrace. Their dialects are usually classified as dialects of Bulgarian, although most Pomaks themselves self-identify as either Turks or Bulgarians.[28] This Turkification has a number of reasons, including the fact that Turks and Pomaks were part of the same millet during the years when their homeland was part of the Ottoman Empire. It is believed though that the main reason for the Pomaks' Turkification is that they would no longer be a minority within a minority[28] (the Muslim minority), or have no one to defend their rights (the Turkish government actively promotes the welfare of the Turkish minority).

Under Greek law, the Muslim minority (including the Pomaks) has a right to education in its own language. In practice however, only Turkish is used.[28] This is due to the Turkish self-identification of the Pomaks, and the fact that this trend was promoted until recently by the Greek authorities (who from 1968 until the 1980s even officially recognized the Pomaks as Turks[29]) in order to distance them from the Bulgarians.[28] It has been reported though, that Pomak dialects may be used by teachers to explain some things orally to kindergarten and primary school pupils.[28] Additionally, the minority languages can be used by local authorities and in courts, and under Greek law, interpreters will be provided. Nevertheless, most Pomaks will speak Turkish on such occasions.[28]

Most Pomaks are fluent in their Pomak dialects (spoken amongst themselves), Turkish (their language of education, and the main language of the Muslim minority), Greek (the official language of the Greek state), and may know some Arabic (the language of the Qur'an).[28]

Other minorities


There is a Muslim minority living in Thrace, concentrated in the Rhodope and Xanthi Prefectures. From the 1991 census, the official position of the Greek government is that there are 98,000 Muslims in western Thrace, and that 50% are of Turkish ethnic origin, the rest being 35% Pomaks and 15% Roma.[30][31]


The numbers of the ethnic Turks in Greece are estimated by INTEREG (1994) at 90,000 (quoted by Eurominority). The Turks of Thrace descend from Turkish populations living in the area during the Ottoman period. Like the Greeks of Istanbul, Imbros and Tenedos, they were exempted from the 1923 population exchange.[32] The Greek government continues to deliver Turkish language and there are two Islamic theological seminaries, one in Komotini and one in Ehinos.

Apart from Thrace, a small minority of Turks exists in the Dodecanese islands of Rhodes and Kos. They were not included in the 1923 population exchange as the Dodecanese were annexed from Italy in 1947 after World War II. After annexation of islands, their Muslim inhabitants, Greek and Turkish speakers, were granted Greek citizenship. Today, about 4,000 Muslims live in the Dodecanese islands of Rhodes and Kos and use Turkish in every day life. In Rhodes and Kos, the teaching of the Turkish language was de facto abolished in the early 1970s.[33]


There are approximately 35,000 Armenians in Greece[4] out of which approximately 20,000 can speak the Armenian language.[34] The community's main political representative is the Armenian National Committee of Greece; its headquarters are in Athens with branches all over Greece. The community also manages its own educational institutions. Approximately 95% of Armenians in Greece are Armenian Orthodox, with the rest being Armenian Catholics or Evangelicals.[4]


Population of Thessaloniki[35]

Year Total Pop. Jewish Pop. Jewish %
1842 70,000 36,000 51%
1870 90,000 50,000 56%
1882/84 85,000 48,000 56%
1902 126,000 62,000 49%
1913 157,889 61,439 39%
1943 53,000
2001 363,987[36] 1,000 0.003%

The interaction between Greece and the Jews dates back to ancient times. Alexander the Great reached ancient Judea and was welcomed by the Jews. Following his death, war erupted between the Hellenized Jews and Greeks and the Jewish conservatives Maccabees that embittered relations between Greeks and Jews for centuries.

Until the Holocaust during World War II Greece had always had a significant, localized and active Jewish community with a long and rich cultural heritage. Jews practiced Judaism and over the centuries, developed a variety of Greek-Judaic dialects, such as the Yevanic language and a distinct Graecojewish culture. The Romaniotes are a Jewish population who have lived in the territory of today's Greece and neighboring areas with large Greek populations for more than 2,000 years. Their language is Greek and they derive their name from the old name for the Greek people, Rhomaioi. The Romaniotes are historically distinct from the Sephardim, who settled in Thessalonica after the 1492 expulsion of the Jews from Spain.

During the Holocaust 86% of the Greek Jews, especially those in the areas occupied by Nazi Germany and Bulgaria, were killed despite efforts by the Greek Orthodox Church hierarchy, the EAM resistance movement and individual Greeks (both Christian and Communist) to shelter Jews. These efforts were most successful in Zakynthos, where absolutely every local Jew was saved from the Holocaust.

See also


Further reading

  • Anagnostou, Dia (March 2005). "Deepening Democracy or Defending the Nation? The Europeanisation of Minority Rights and Greek Citizenship". West European Politics 28 (2): 335–357. doi:10.1080/01402380500059785.  
  • Divani, Lena (1999) (in Greek). Greece and Minorities The international protection system of the League of Nations. ISBN 978-960-03-2491-4.  


  1. ^ Richard Clogg Concise History of Greece (Second edition) Chap.7 page 238 Cambridge 2002, for the Greek edition Katoptro ISBN 960-7778-61-8
  2. ^ Ελληνική Επιτροπή για τη διαχείρηση των υδατικών πόρων: Στοιχεία από την πρόσφατη απογραφή του πληθυσμού
  3. ^ Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών, Υπηρεσία Ενημέρωσης: Μουσουλμάνικη μειονότητα Θράκης
  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^ Κεντρικό Ισραηλίτικο Συμβούλιο Ελλάδος: Οι Εβραίοι της Ελλάδος
  6. ^ BBC NewsAncient Greek gods' new believers
  7. ^ YSEE in the media (See Video 2)
  8. ^ The Guardian Greek gods prepare for comeback
  9. ^ See Ethnologue ([1]); Euromosaic, Le (slavo)macédonien / bulgare en Grèce, L'arvanite / albanais en Grèce, Le valaque/aromoune-aroumane en Grèce, and Mercator-Education: European Network for Regional or Minority Languages and Education, The Turkish language in education in Greece. cf. also P. Trudgill, "Greece and European Turkey: From Religious to Linguistic Identity", in S Barbour, C Carmichael (eds.), Language and nationalism in Europe, Oxford University Press 2000.
  10. ^ Migrants in Greece Online Observatory [
  11. ^ Migration and Migration Policy in Greece. Critical Review and Policy Recommendations. Anna Triandafyllidou. Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP). Data taken from Greek ministry of Interiors. p. 5 "the total number of Albanian citizens residing in Greece, including 185,000 co-ethnics holding special identity cards"
  12. ^ Greek Helsinki Monitor, The Arvanites.
  13. ^ M. Mazower (ed.), After The War Was Over: Reconstructing the Family, Nation and State in Greece, 1943-1960, p. 25
  14. ^ Miranda Vickers, The Cham Issue - Albanian National & Property Claims in Greece, paper prepared for the British MoD, Defence Academy, 2002
  15. ^ Russell King, Nicola Mai, Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers,The New Albanian Migration, p.67, and 87
  16. ^ M. Mazower, Inside Hitler's Greece
  17. ^ a b Thede Kahl - "Minorities in Greece. Historical Issues and New Perspectives". "Jahrbücher für Geschichte un Kultur Südeuropas" Vol. 5, 2004, p. 205-219"
  18. ^ Max D. Peyfuss - "Die Aromunische Frage. Ihre Entwicklung von der Ursprüngen bis zum Frieden von Bukarest (1913) und die Haltung Österreich-Ungarns. Wiener Archiv für Geschichte des Slawentums und Osteuropas, Wien 1974
  19. ^ Gustav Weigand - "Die Aromunen. Ethnographisch-philologisch-historische Untersuchungen über das Volk der sogennanten Makedo-Romanen oder Zinzaren". Vol 1. "Land und Leute", 2. "Volksliteratur der Aromunen", Leipzig 1894 (vol.2), 1895 (vol.1)
  20. ^ Thede Kahl - "Gustav Weigand in Griechenland: Von den Shwierigkeiten einer Rezeption", in Südost/Forschungen 61, München 2003, p. 101-113."
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Spyros Ergolabos, "The Zagori villages in the beginning of the 20th century: 2 precious documents", Epirus Publications, Ioannina 1993
  24. ^ a b c Hellenic Republic: National Commission for Human Rights: The state of Roma in Greece
  25. ^ Macedonia. (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved June 16, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service: [2]
  26. ^ Iakovos D. Michailidis Minority Rights and Educational Problems in Greek Interwar Macedonia: The Case of the Primer "Abecedar"
  27. ^ GREEK HELSINKI MONITOR (GHM) & MINORITY RIGHTS GROUP – GREECE (MRG-G) - In the report it is stated that: “...those with a Slav Macedonian national identity can be estimated to between 10,000-30,000. Indeed, the political party “Rainbow” which was created in 1994 and has campaigned for the recognition of a national Slav Macedonian minority, received 7,300 votes in 1994 and 5,000 in 1999, two elections it contested alone: these figures correspond to some 7,000-10,000 citizens of all (not just voting) ages. One can estimate that besides this “hard core” there may be other citizens voting for mainstream parties that also espouse this identity, hence the above estimate.“
  28. ^ a b c d e f g Report on the Pomaks, by the Greek Helsinki Monitor
  29. ^ Religious Freedom in Greece, by the Greek Helsinki Monitor, September 2002
  30. ^ Greek Helsinki Monitor: Religious freedom in Greece
  31. ^ Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Muslim minority in Thrace
  32. ^ University of Leiden page
  33. ^ Mercator Education, The Turkish language in Education in Greece, 2003
  34. ^
  35. ^ Molho, Rena.The Jersualem of the Balkans: Salonica 1856-1919 The Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki. URL accessed July 10, 2006.
  36. ^ PDF "(875 KB) 2001 Census" (in Greek). National Statistical Service of Greece (ΕΣΥΕ). PDF. Retrieved 2007-10-30.  

External links


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