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Ethnic Albanians in Greece

Early Twentieth Century: Forceful Assimilation of Ortodox Albanians (Arvanitis)

Just like the Turkish and Macedonian minorities, there existed the Albanian minority in Greece at the start of the twentieth century. In the early twentieth century, there were many Albanian-speaking people in Attica, Boeotia, Southern Euboea, and Hydra while the Plaka district in Athens near the Acropolis was the Albanian quarter of the city with its own law courts using the Albanian language.

Albanians are Orthodox Christians or Muslims by religion. Ever since the mid-twentieth century, Greece pursued a sophisticated assimilation policy against Orthodox Albanians or Arvanitis: by alleging that they are Greeks, they denied their ethnic, cultural, linguistic rights. Also by intentionally equating faith for nationality, and pretending that all the Orthodox people are Greeks, they exploited the religion factor in attempts to hellenize the ethnic Albanians. The Greek church still endeavours to assimilate Orthodox Albanians, namely Arvanitis, into the Greek nation.

Today, as a result of the government’s discriminatory treatment against the non-Greeks, those Orthodox Albanians who demand their right to be recognized as Albanian, cannot speak out. This unbearable racism against the non-Greeks in Greece finds its expression in the statements of the Greek statesmen as well. Following is a declaration by the famous politician and present Foreign Minister George Papandreu in the “Two-day Meeting On Racism in Greece” on 19 June 1995:

“There is clearly racism in our country as well. Yet, the causes for Greece possibly differ from those neighboring countries. There is racism which springs from the acquaintance with the other and racism which is the result of taboos and prejudices without direct contact with the different. Racism is not always the manifestation of superiority; it is sometimes feeling of inferiority or fear.”