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Flag of Greece.svg
Thrace within Greece
Country: Greece
Capital: Komotini
Prefectures: Xanthi
Population: 362,038 (2001 census)
368,993 (2006 estimate)
Area: 8,578 km²
Population density: 43/km²
Website: Ministry for Macedonia–Thrace

Thrace (Greek: Θράκη, Thrákī, IPA: [ˈθɾаkʲi]; Turkish: Batı Trakya) is a geographic and historical region of Greece, located between the Nestos and Evros rivers in the northeast of the country. Together with the regions of Macedonia and Epirus, it is often referred to informally as northern Greece. It is also called Western or Greek Thrace to distinguish it from Eastern Thrace, which lies east of the river Evros and forms the European part of Turkey, and the area to the north, in Bulgaria, known as Northern Thrace. Thrace is divided into the three prefectures of Xanthi, Rodhopi and Evros, which together with the two Macedonian prefectures of Drama and Kavala form the Periphery of East Macedonia and Thrace. Furthermore, the prefectural authorities of Drama, Kavala and Xanthi have been combined into a single administrative unit in recent years, as have those of Rodhopi and Evros.


Area - Demographics

The approximate area of Thrace is 8,578 km² with a population of 368,993 (2006 est.). More than two-thirds of the population are Orthodox Christian Greeks, while the remainder (approx. 120,000) are Muslims who are an officially recognised minority of Greece. Majority (67%) of Turkish origin, while another third are Pomaks who mainly inhabit the mountainous parts of the region. The Roma of Thrace are also mainly Muslim, unlike their ethnic kin in other parts of the country who generally profess the Orthodox faith of the Greek majority. Although since 1990 and the end of the Cold War Greece has seen an influx of both legal and illegal economic immigrants seeking work mainly in the urban areas, in Thrace there was no immigration of foreigners. Thrace is bordered by Bulgaria to the north, Turkey to the east, the Aegean Sea to the south and the Greek region of Macedonia to the west. Alexandroupoli is the largest city, with a population of around 52,720 (2001 census). Below is a table of the Largest Thracian towns and cities.

City Greek Population
Municipal Population
Alexandroupoli Αλεξανδρούπολη 48.885 52.720
Komotini Κομοτηνή 43.326 52.659
Xanthi Ξάνθη 45.111 52.270
Orestiada Ορεστιάδα 15.246 21.730
Didymoteicho Διδυμότειχο 8.799 18.998


Komotini's Clock Tower

The region had been under the rule of the Ottoman Empire since 14th century and till the 19th century. Before the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, Thrace had a mixed population of Turks and Bulgarians, with a strong Greek element in the cities and the Aegean Sea littoral. A smaller number of Pomaks, Jews, Armenians and Roma also lived in the region.

During the First Balkan War, the Balkan League (Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Montenegro) fought against the Ottoman Empire and annexed most of its European territory, including Thrace. Western Thrace was occupied by Bulgarian troops who defeated the Ottoman army. On November 15, 1912 on the right bank of the river Maritza Macedonian-Adrianopolitan Volunteer Corps captured the Turkish corps of Yaver Paha, which defends the Eastern Rhodopes and Western Thrace from invading Bulgarians.

The victors quickly fell into dispute on how to divide the newly conquered lands, resulting in the Second Balkan War. In August 1913 Bulgaria was defeated, but gained Western Thrace under the terms of the Treaty of Bucharest.

In the following years, the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire) (with which Bulgaria had sided) lost World War I and as a result Western Thrace was withdrawn from Bulgaria under the terms of the 1919 Treaty of Neuilly.[1] Western Thrace was under temporary management of the Entente led by French General Sharpe. In the second half of April 1920 in San Remo conference of the prime ministers of the main allies of the Entente powers (except USA) Western Thrace was given to Greece.

Throughout the Balkan Wars and World War I, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey each forced respective minority populations in the Thrace region out of areas they controlled. A large population of Greeks in Eastern Thrace, and Black Sea coastal and southern Bulgaria, was expelled south and west into Greek-controlled Thrace. Concurrently, a large population of Bulgarians was forced from the region into Bulgaria by Greek and Turkish actions. Turkish populations in the area were also targeted by Bulgarian and Greek forces and pushed eastward. As part of the Treaty of Neuilly, and subsequent agreements, the status of the expelled populations was legitimized. This was followed by a further population exchange which radically changed the demographics of the region toward increased ethnic homogenization within the territories each respective country ultimately was awarded.

This was followed by the large-scale Greek-Turkish population exchanges of 1923 (Treaty of Lausanne), which finalized the reversal of Western and Eastern Thrace region's pre-Balkan War demography. The treaty granted the status of a minority to the Muslims in Western Thrace, in exchange for a similar status for the ethnic Greek minority in Istanbul and the Aegean islands of Imbros and Tenedos. The Treaty of Lausanne was gradually violated from the Turkish side, and was crowned by the Istanbul Pogrom in mid 50's.

When Bulgaria invaded Western Thrace as one of the Axis Powers during World War II, it further changed the demographics by arresting the region's Jews and deporting them to death camps administered by Germany.


The Muslim minority of Thrace has been a source of diplomatic tension between Greece and Turkey. Turkey considers the whole of the Muslim minority a strictly Turkish minority. Greece, on the other hand, considers the whole minority to be Greek citizens of diverse origins and a recognised religious minority under Greece's international obligations (Treaty of Lausanne). Athens affords no official recognition to a Turkish or any other ethnicity.

In fact, there are ethnic differences within the Muslim minority. The estimated numbers of its constituent ethnic groups are given in a document of the Greek Consulate Berlin as follows:

  • total number: 120,000
  • Turkish origin: 50%
  • Pomak origin: 35%
  • Roma origin: 15%

Such documents as the said paper of the Greek Consulate Berlin have no effect on the minority politics of Greece concerning the concession of any ethnic identity to the Muslim minority and they primarily serve as information publications about Greece to the world.


The economy of Thrace in recent years has become less dependent on agriculture. A number of Greek-owned high-tech industries belonging to the telecommunications industry have settled in the area. The Via Egnatia motorway (which is planned to be completed by 2008) which will pass through Thrace, is a promise for further development of the region. Tourism is slowly becoming more and more important as the Aegean coast of Region of Thrace boasts quite a few beautiful beaches. Additionally, there is the potential for winter tourism activities in the Rhodopi mountains, the natural border with Bulgaria which are covered by dense forest.


Ruins of the ancient city of Abdera.
  • Abdera, an ancient Greek coastal town in the prefecture of Xanthi is the birth place of the Greek philosophers Democritus, considered by some the father of the atomic theory, and Protagoras, who is credited with having invented the role of the professional sophist or teacher of "virtue".
  • Thrace and in particular the Rhodope mountains, its northern mountainous part, is home to one of the two surviving brown bear (species Ursus arctos) populations in Greece (the other is in the Pindus mountains, in central Greece).
  • The Greek-Turkish border is a major entering point of illegal immigrants from Asia (Kurds, Afghans, Pakistanis) trying to enter Europe.

See also


External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


Western Thrace is a region in Greece. In Greek is referred simply as Thrace (Greek: Θράκη), as their is no other Thrace in Greece. Eastern Thrace is part of Turkey.


Greek is the native language of most the people of Thrace. Most of the Muslims in Thrace are ethnic Turks and speak Turkish as a native language. In villages north of Xanthi, Pomakika language (a dialect of Bulgarian) is spoken. However, most people also speak passable English and same may speak German or other European languages.

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