The Birth of a Clone State
By Georgios Gialtouridis
The term clone is derived from κλών (klon), the Greek word for twig or branch, referring to the process whereby a new plant can be created from a twig.
“It was night when we entered Monastiri and night when we left…The inhabitants – the town is populated by Greeks – walk about furtively…and dwell below ground in their basements…The people here got wind instantly of the arrival of fellow Greeks…They kissed our hands, caressed our rifles, patted our helmets…and wept calmly beneath the moonlight. ‘Can it be true? Are you really Greeks? Greeks from Greece? Our brothers?’ They explained that during all their years of slavery they had been waiting for us, dreaming about us ‘…please, brethren, never let us fall into the hands of the Serbs again. They’ve oppressed us horribly, just because we are Greek…They lash us with whips if they hear the Greek language spoken among us. They don’t even allow us to celebrate mass in Greek.'”
Through brilliant imagery author Stratis Myrivilis, born Efstratios Stamatopoulos, in his book Life in the Tomb evokes the meaning and truth of his personal experiences as a soldier in the Greek army in World War I. Monastiri, at the time a predominantly Greek city located on the southern edge of the Pelagonia valley, was originally founded by Philip II as Heraclea Lyncestis. During the Byzantine period it became known as Monastiri. Following almost 500 years of Ottoman occupation, the Treaty of Bucharest of 1913 placed the city under Serb control, only to be occupied by Bulgaria and the Central Powers just two years later during World War I. Myrivilis accounts firsthand as the Greeks, fighting on the side of the Allies, heroically entered Monastiri in 1918 ending the city’s brief Bulgarian occupation. At the conclusion of the war, Monastiri again fell under Serb control as part of Vardarska province in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The Slavs call it Bitola, from the old Slavic word obitel, meaning monastery.
The savage assimilation process which the city’s inhabitants had so vehemently exposed to the Greek soldiers went unheeded by the powers that be. Again the Greeks of Monastiri were left to their fate as policies of intimidation, persecution and terror perpetuated by successive regimes continued…even up to this day.
According to the latest census there are roughly 75,000 inhabitants in Monastiri. Not one of them has been recorded as Greek. Ninety years earlier the city was bustling with a Greek population including Greek schools, churches, businesses and cultural centers. Today a visitor can still see the remnants of the Greek glory days of Monastiri. So, what happened to all those Greeks? Where are they?
THE VLACHS. Following the 1768 Greek rebellion at Moschopolis, Epirus (today Voskopoja, Albania) then the cradle of Vlach speaking Greeks, and the subsequent destruction of the city by Ottoman irregulars and Albanian tribes, Vlachs moved to other cities in the Balkans including the cities of Monastiri, Ochrid, Gevgeli, Doirani, etc. presently in FYROM. The Vlach dialect has Latin origins going back to the Roman occupation of Greece. Vlach speaking Greeks do not define themselves with the term ‘Vlach’ but rather with the term ‘Aromoun’ or ‘Aromanian.’ This term is equivalent and a paraphrase to the term ‘Romios’ which was used to describe all Greek men since the time of the Roman Empire when the Roman emperor Caracalla under the Constitutio Antoniniana of 212 A.D. extended the privileges of full Roman citizenship to all free men. Therefore the term ‘Aromoun’ or ‘Aromanian’ which Vlachs themselves use is a self-definition of their ethnic Greek identity. Another term used by the Slavs to describe the Vlachs is ‘Vlachogrekomans.’
THE SARAKATSANS. The Sarakatsans are a Greek tribe with ancient origins. They originated from the area of Agrafa, a region in the southern part of the Pindos mountain range in central Greece. To avoid Ottoman rule they turned to nomadic life, abandoning the area of their settlement and fleeing north to territories now known as Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. In the 19th century a large portion of this tribe settled in southern Serbia. They had preserved their ethnic Greek identity by reason of their nomadic life and marriages within the tribe. As a sign of protest against the Ottoman occupation of Greece they were dressed in black, also indicative of their mourning for the fall of Constantinople. Therefore their contemporary name ‘Sarakatsans’ derives from the Turkish words ‘kara’ meaning black and ‘kacan’ meaning fugitive. The Sarakatsans in FYROM speak the local Slavonic dialect as well as Greek.
In the next segment I will continue revealing the Greek minority in FYROM, including references to written documentation proving human rights violations against Greeks.
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