When Chams Attack

Greece and Albania are having a small diplomatic tiff. If reading about that sort of thing interests you, read on.

So: two weeks ago, Greek President Karolos Papoulias’ was scheduled to meet with Albanian President Alfred Moisiu, in the southern Albanian town of Sarande. I’m pretty sure this was the first meeting of Greek and Albanian heads of state in a long time. So, fairly big deal by regional standards.

But it didn’t happen, because of the Chams. About 200 of them. They showed up outside the hotel in Saranda where President Papoulias was staying, waved signs, shouted, and generally made a nuisance of themselves.

President Papoulias didn’t take this at all well. He cancelled the meeting with President Moisiu and went back to Greece in a huff. A day or two later, Greece issued a demarche to Albania. (A demarche is a formal diplomatic note from one country to another. It’s about a 5 on the diplomatic hissy-fit scale, higher than merely expressing disapproval but lower than recalling your ambassador.) The demarche expressed regret that Albania did not “take the necessary precautions so that the meeting between the Greek and Albanian Presidents could take place without hindrance.” Worse yet, they did not “take the necessary measures to discourage certain familiar extremist elements which, in their effort to obstruct the normal development of bilateral relations, continue to promote unacceptable and non-existent issues, at the very moment when Albania is attempting to proceed with steps fulfilling its European ambitions”.

Got that? Okay, now comes an obvious question.

What, exactly, are Chams?

Right. We fire up the Wayback Machine and go back to 1913, when Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia — having just defeated the Ottoman Turks in the First Balkan War — are dividing up Turkey’s possessions in Europe. Greece got, among other things, a chunk of territory called Chameria. Chameria is in what’s now northwest Greece, and in 1913 it was inhabited by a mixed population of Muslim Albanians, Orthodox Albanians, Turks, and Greeks. We won’t delve into the hotly disputed issue of how many of which, but suffice it to say that the Muslim Albanians were at least a large minority.

The Turks all left in 1923, and the Orthodox Albanians… well, it’s not clear what happened to them. Some probably became Greek. Never mind that now. That left the Muslim Albanians, now a minority in a frontier area. Unsurprisingly, the Greek state didn’t treat them very well.

So, come 1941, the Muslim Albanians of Chameria welcomed the Germans with open arms. For the next three years, they fought with the Axis occupiers against the Greeks.

So, when the Germans left Greece in 1944, the Greeks turned around and drove the Muslim Albanians out of Chameria. Well, some they just killed, but somewhere between 20,000 and 35,000 of them got away, either fled or were expelled, and went over the northern border and into Albania. Where they became known as the Chams.

(It’s not widely realized that Greece underwent a small wave of ethnic cleansing in 1944, followed by a bigger one in 1948, at the end of the Greek Civil War. Pretty successful ethnic cleansing, too. But that’s a story for another post.)

Still with me? Okay, so the new Communist government of Albania did not exactly welcome the Chams. They may have been fellow Albanians, but they were also Axis collaborators, and the Communists’ first claim to credibility was that they were anti-Axis. So the Chams weren’t granted citizenship in Albania until the 1950s, and were second-class citizens for a long time thereafter. And because they weren’t integrating so well into Albania, the Chams held strongly to memories of their lost homeland.

Sixty years later, they still do. The Chams who were protesting outside President Papoulias’ hotel were asking that the Greek government (1) acknowledge that ethnic cleansing took place, and (2) recompense them for their lost homes, farms, and property. Okay, their grandparents’ lost homes and property, but the principle is the same.

As to the protest: it seems to have been fairly peaceful. It’s possible that it may have been arranged with the connivance of the Albanian government — there were claims that some of the Chams had been bussed in from northern Albania, 200 km away — but this is not certain. The Greek President certainly wasn’t in any danger. (He wasn’t even in the hotel. He was at the Greek consulate in Gjirokaster, miles away.) The Albanian President’s office described it as “a peaceful demonstration of minor dimensions and under the complete supervision of security services,” and the Greeks have not denied this. So apparently just the appearance of the Chams was offensive enough to cause the Greek President to cancel his trip on the spot.

Okay. So what, if anything, does this tell us about Greece and Albania today?

One, the Greeks still have a tender spot about ethnic minority issues. Very tender. (Greece basically pretends it doesn’t have ethnic minorities. Long story.) Go back and check out that demarche again. “Extremist elements”. “Unacceptable and non-existent issues”. And, of course, the veiled threat about Europe. Keep this up, Albanians, and see how far your EU candidacy gets.

Two, there’s a broad consensus in Greek politics that they shouldn’t take any guff from uppity Albanians. All the major Greek parties issued statements on the Cham episode, and all pretty much said the same thing. PASOK, the main opposition party, joined with the government in insisting that Albania “must prevent the activity of extremist elements in every way”. Even the Communists said that the “abuse ” against the Greek President was “part of a general negative framework being shaped in the region as a result of imperialist interventions and rivalries.” So, Greece is not likely to budge on this issue.

Three, it could be that the new Berisha government in Albania is feeling its oats. From 1997 until about two months ago, Albania was governed by Fatos Nano. Nano was broadly pro-Greek… so much so, that Albanians gave him the nickname “that Greek bastard”. More generally, he was more interested in economic development than in nationalism.

Berisha is something else again. He’s a serious old-fashioned Balkan nationalist, and he doesn’t much like Greece at all. So, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that the Chams were indeed bussed into Saranda, and that this was a test of the waters.

So. What do I think will happen now? Not much. But if it is Berisha’s people at work, then watch for the Chams to pop up again at some time convenient for the Albanian government. Like, when they really want to distract public attention, or unify public opinion against the Greeks.

Possible consequences? Well, so far Greek threats to derail EU accession have been pretty much empty bluster. At various times, Greek politicians have implicitly or explicitly threatened to veto the accession of theTurks, the Bulgarians, and the Macedonians. Adding Albania to the list gives Greece the dubious honor of being the only country to threaten a veto against every single one of its neighbors. But, to date, it’s been only threats. I doubt Albania will be different…

…unless Berisha is even more whack than I think he is. (And I think he’s kinda whack.) In which case, who knows? The Cham thing could turn into a nasty game of brinksmanship. A really stupid nasty game of brinksmanship, but that’s far from unknown around here.

— What do I think should happen? Well, I feel sorry for the Chams, but supporting the Axis in WWII was a bad idea, and sixty years is a long time. I’d put them in the same category as the Sudeten Germans. They should get an acknowledgment from the Greek government that they were ethnically cleansed, and maybe some token recompense, but otherwise I wouldn’t disturb the status quo.

Of course, the “Greeks acknowledge ethnic cleansing” part is simply not going to happen. The Greeks won’t acknowledge what they did. And without that, there’s no way the Chams will forgive or forget. Memories are long around here.


48 thoughts on “When Chams Attack

  1. Historic answer: Chams are Albanophonic Moslems who populated the Greek – Albanian border until World War Two. Their leadership and most of their rank and file sided with the Italians and then the Nazi Germans as they each invaded Greece, committing some serious attrocities in Greece against local Greek, Jewish and Slavic civilian communities. These attacks are mentioned quite a bit in UK SOE and US OSS reports.

    They withdrew to the Albanian side of the border when the German army fled. As returning to Greece would have exposed many of them to serious charges of war crimes, they stayed in Albanian and were made Albanian citizens by Hoxa in the early 1950’s.

    Lately they have become vocal in internal Albanian politics.

    IMHO Current answer:
    The Chams are the latest in a number of current challenges to the post-Ottoman nation state model.
    If they are entitled to reparations and citizenship for themsevles and their descendents as some human rights groups assert, then about 22 million persons in various post Ottoman countries in South East Europe, as well as several million in the US, Canada and Austriali also have claims.

    Minorities with no “home nation”, especially those who a) remained, and b) engaged in no sedition or treason, deserve the utmost civil and minorities rights. But persons who a) left; b) became citizens of other countries, especially countries with more comminality in ethnic hallmarks like relgion, language etc.; AND c) engaged in oganized sedition should not be considered for repatriation and reparations; otherwise their will problem in the post -Ottoman states that will be profound.

  2. It is strange and a little shallow to assert that Greece has opposed the EU entry of its neighbors. Greece shocked the EU by being supportive. Do certain politicians stump on conditions? Sure.

    Albania and Macedonia all assert old claims against Greece, and of course Turkey’s agression against it’s neighbors is the essential defining force in the Blakans for the past few hundred years. It seems the Greeks strategically see the EU as the main anti-revisionist force in the region.

    As far as Chams and Macedonians who are now citizens of their home coutries, as someone else pointed out, both Albania and Macedonia would have the most to lose by following revisionist claims. Kosovo of course would have to let back in a huge number of Serbs.

  3. AA, there’s no question that the Chams generally supported the Axis. However, I’d hesitate to hold the entire community — women, children, and the elderly alike — responsible for that. Especially since this was a scourge that the Greek state created for itself, by consistent mistreatment of the Chams in the years between 1913 and 1941.

    Note that ethnic Albanians _in Albania_ were anti-Axis — often quite ferociously and heroically so — and cooperated with Greek partisan forces between 1941 and 1944.

    More to the point, most Chams today weren’t even born during WWII. So I’m not at all inclined to tar them with this brush.

    “Withdrew to the Albanian side of the border”: this implies voluntary departure, which isn’t correct. They didn’t ‘withdraw’; they ran. Some ran before they could be killed… and some didn’t run soon enough or fast enough, and /were/ killed. The Greeks weren’t gentle in victory, nor did they distinguish between collaborators and innocent bystanders. If you were Albanian, you had to flee or die.

    And, as noted, it’s not like a warm welcome awaited them in Hoxha’s Albania. Rather, they were treated so badly, and for so long, that they’re still a discrete minority today.

    Anyway, as you may have noticed — or not — I don’t support repatriation. Nor reparations beyond very modest or token ones.

    But I /do/ support the Greek state acknowledging the history, without nationalist distortion.

    Again, I think it’s very similar to the case of the Sudeten Germans in Czecheslovakia. The official Czech position is — I’m simplifying, but this is broadly correct — “It was unfortunate, but necessary. We’re not apologizing or paying reparations, but we’re not exulting either. Nor do we pretend that it didn’t happen. Let the unhappy history be studied, and be a lesson.”

    The Greek position is more like “Treacherous Albanian scum. They deserved it.”

    I find that a bit less sympathetic, I admit.

    Doug M.

  4. It is strange and a little shallow to assert that Greece has opposed the EU entry of its neighbors.

    I dunno, man. Am I just not writing clearly tonight?

    I said Greece threatened to oppose. Which Greece did.

    When the moment came, they didn’t follow through with those threats, no. But they did threaten.

    Albania and Macedonia all assert old claims against Greece,

    Cite, please?

    both Albania and Macedonia would have the most to lose by following revisionist claims. Kosovo of course would have to let back in a huge number of Serbs.

    And Serbia would have to let back in huge numbers of Croats and — if we’re going back to 1944 –Vojvodina Hungarians and Germans. If they wanted to move back to Serbia, which of course they don’t.

    Greece… whoo. Albanians, Slav Macedonians, Bulgarians, Vlachs, you name it. Greece’s ethnic map was a lot more colorful before 1944.

    Not that it matters, since — I don’t know why people keep missing this — I don’t support repatriation for any of these groups.

    Doug M.

  5. “The Chams who were protesting outside President Papoulias’ hotel were asking that the Greek government (1) acknowledge that ethnic cleansing took place”

    This is interesting. I thought one of the EU’s non-negotiable demands for Turkey was that they acknowledge the Armenian ethnic cleansing. I would have though the Turks would have lost no opportunity to call the EU hypocritical for this, especially since such a statement would also stick it to the Greeks, always a plus for Turkey.

  6. This is a cite from the recent EU Opinion on the application from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for EU membership

    The (FYRo)Macedonian Constitution was adopted in November 1991 and has subsequently been amended in 1992 to declare explicitly that the country has no territorial pretensions towards any neighbouring State and will not interfere in the sovereign rights of other States or in their internal affairs (in the context of negotiations with Greece regarding the dispute over the name of the country and its international recognition).

    Given the apparent response to mild if irritating peaceful protest in Albania, please may I seriously hear the credible threat Macedonia or the Chams makes to Greece to solicit such responses and opinions.

  7. Maynard: the Greek ethnic cleansings of 1944 were relatively bloodless, with ~50-100,000 people expelled and perhaps a couple of thousand killed.

    The second round, in 1948, was bigger — maybe as many as a couple of hundred thousand people forced out, and perhaps 10,000 or 20,000 killed — though it’s really hard to get even round numbers, since it was all happening during, and as a consequence of, the Greek Civil War.

    Still, if you total it all up, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the Armenian genocide. We’re talking at most ~20,000 dead compared to ~2 million. It’s just not in the same category.

    Perhaps more relevant, tweaking Greece at this point would serve no purpose but to irritate Greece. It probably does annoy Turks that Greece has gotten a bye on the skiffier bits of their 20th century history. But Turkey doesn’t care to pick a fight on this issue, and the rest of Europe decided long ago that it wasn’t something they cared about much.

    Doug M.

  8. I don’t think you know what the Albanians have been treated unfairly by all the people in the Balkan. Albanians have lived in these lands forever, but the greeks,slavs turks always wanted and still want to take us out. But let me tell you something body, we are strong and these stuff makes us stronger. The chams were mistreated by the greeks and if they did support the germans which i know for sure they didn’t, i belive they had no choice because the greek are worse then the germans.
    Please, please try to learn some history bacause you seem mad at someone or some people.

  9. having spent a fair amount of time recently in macedonia, greece, serbia, albania and bulgaria, i have been astounded at the depth of cultural, religious and ethnic enmity that still abounds… i was often reminded, “you just don’t understand… 500 years of the ottoman empire… etc., etc., blah, blah…” i would always respond, “yes, you’re absolutely right… i DON’T understand… but what i DO understand is this… if you can’t figure out a way to get past it some how, some way, some time, you will all be condemned to live it out over and over and over again…” nobody wants to let go of their particular load of hurts and injustices long enough to engage in civil dialogue… not unlike many other areas of the world, i guess…

  10. This is truly an interesting case. In the post-Communist era, the rise of stateless minorities in the Balkans has perhaps complicated relationships between states. The region as a whole is very complex. I do think, however, that the Albanians have been historically mistreated in this region. While their activities in Kosovo and Macedonia have not been honourable, I do think that they, as indigenous people, should be given more rights. And Greece, despite its status as the only high-income in the region and the only EU member, shares the same mentality as the rest of the Balkans – in fact, I would say Greece is the most backward Southeastern European state in terms of minority rights. The same thing happens to the Aromanians of Greece, which are recognised as “Romance-language-speaking Greeks”, etc. So, the prospect of Greece owning up to its wrongs is negligible, but that doesn’t mean the issue should be ignored.

    The EU has placed a great deal of pressure on candidate states to reform and become more democratic. That’s created very positive change and has resulted in quite democratic states – see Slovenia, Hungary and Romania, with their extensive minority rights frameworks. At the same time, however, the EU should continue applying equal treatment to its member-states. Just because a country is an EU member, doesn’t mean that threats such as suspension of voting shouldn’t apply. While this Cham issue shouldn’t lead to Greece being punished so severely, I think Greece is using its status as an EU member, and its veto power, to make the Western Balkans submit to it. I don’t think the EU should tolerate that.

  11. I agree that all the Balkan inhabitants should get past the history including Greeks,Albanians, and the rest of the Slavs however there was a great deal of injustice served in the Berlin Treaty(1878), and the London conference (1913) where anyone could have grabbed as much land as they could, which turned out to be an uneven split. The Greeks are megalomaniacs and claim everything to be Greek, the Albanians claim their lands are theirs and that is not a lot to ask. They dont want to redraw the borders, they have proper documents proving property ownership and they just want their wounds to be healed. The Chams have suffered the same as the Palestinians being occupied by Israel.The Greek government cannot just ignore the Cham requests because they are as much Greek as they are, however they have Albanian ethnicity which cannot be ignored,covered up,treated as non-existent,assimilated into the “everyone is Greek” policy and lastly Greece cannot ignore its minorities Such as Macedonian Slavs, Aromanians, Vlachs,Arvanites and Chams and refer to them as only linguistic minorities. I personally know muslim Chams that lived in Greece all their life and were forcefully converted to Greek orthox religion, and their name was changed, however they didn’t deny that they were Albanians, they didnt claim to be Greek. Greece should just stop pretending to be the “Supreme Civilization of the Balkans” and just give its minorities what they deserve,basic human rights..freedom of expression..freedom of religion..and freedom of choosing their own nationality. (exluding the Hellenization procedures).

  12. During the Conference of Ambassadors in London in 1913, the southern part of the region was cut off from the motherland and annexed to the Greek state despite the fact that people of the southern Epirus were Albanians of Orthodox and the Muslim faith. While the orthodox Albanians were targets of hellenization, the muslim Albanians were either exterminated or expelled from their ancestral lands by the Greek government.

    Chams who lived in Southern Epirus (Chameria or Thesprotia as it is called by the Greeks) were the victims of the first ethnic cleansing in Europe at the end of the Second World War. The Cham tragedy is one of the most painful tragedies of the European continent. Statistical yearbook of the Greek government in 1936 showed that 26.000 Chams lived in Chameria region in Greece at that time.

    As a result of the 1944-1945 ethnic cleansing and genocide, 30.000 Albanian Muslims were violently expelled from the Chameria region, and sought refuge in the Republic of Albania, where they still live. Today, there are 150.000 members of this population in Albania, a figure that has grown because of the high birth rate of the population. On the other hand, current number of Cham Albanians living in Greece is estimated at around 100.000. Yet these people are deprived of every sort of minority rights like other minorities living in Greece. To cite but one example, they can speak Albanian only in their homes.

    The population of Chameria has always been ethnically Albanian:
    – A lot of voyagers and foreign historians wrote that Chameria had been populated by Albanians. Even the Greek historian Herodotus underscored this fact in his book “Historia” and called Albanians of the Chameria “barbarians”, a term used by the ancient Greeks to distinguish non-greek people.
    – The census held by the Turkish Administration in 1910 established that there were 83.000 orthodox and muslim Albanians in the region. The demographic map of the British military mission sent to the British government in London indicates that on the eve of the second World War, 75% of Chameria’s population was Albanian.
    – The pro-Greek historian Spiro Muselimi, in his book “Historical Sight Through Thesprotia”, edited in Joannina on 1974, wrote that “The bishop of Thesprotia in the year 1870 translated some parts of Bible into Albanian, as the people of orthodox faith of the region did not understand any word in Greek”.

    The Greek authorities, sticking to the concept of absolute denial of the existence of ethnic groups on Greek territory, have followed a well-established chauvinistic policy and, as history recorded, they committed genocide against the Albanians of muslim faith.
    The racial assault on Chameria’s muslim Albanians began to be first applied at the end of the Second World War, in 1944-1945, when criminal bands of the notorious General Napoleon Zervas perpetrated ethnic cleansing against them.

    On June 27, 1944, Greek criminal bands resorted to the worst atrocities witnessed in this region. The terror committed against this population was beyond description. It included killings, rapes, inhuman treatment, massacre of women, babies and pregnant women. More than 1400 men, women and children were killed within 24 hours in the town of Paramithy, on Tuesday, June 27, 1944, which happened to be the date of St.Bartholomeus day for the whole Chameria.

    During the June 1944-March 1945 period, 1286 persons were killed in Filat, 192 people were killed in Gumenica, 626 persons were killed in Margellic and Parga. There were hundreds of other missing persons. In the same period, as a result of Greek massacres, acts of robbery and rapes against the Albanian population of Chameria; 2900 young and old men, 214 women, 96 children were massacred, 745 women were raped, 76 women abducted, 32 children, younger than 3 years were massacred, 68 villages were razed to the ground, 5800 houses and places of worship were burned down or destroyed. Furthermore, 30.000 Albanian Muslims were violently expelled from the Chameria region who took refuge in the Republic of Albania.

    The Albanian government, after the war, took the Cham issue to the Peace Conference in Paris. The conference of Foreign Ministers of the Allied Powers not only recognized the very difficult circumstances the Chams were subjected to, but also demanded repatriation and recovery of their property. The International Investigation Commission of the United Nations, appointed for the verification of the tragedy on both sides of the border, concluded its report in 1946-1947, replete with facts and evidence about the massacre and painful tragedy of the Cham people.

    Realities of the recent history of Chameria require the attention of the international community. Greece cannot avoid but recognize the genocide of the “Cham Albanians.” The civil and legal rights of those currently living in Greece, estimated around 100.000 today, must be respected by Greece. According to the official Greek stand, the muslim population of Chameria, which numbers around 150.000 and still refugees in Albania will never be allowed to return to Greece because they allegedly collaborated with the German occupiers during the Second World War. “They are considered as war criminals according to the Greek laws” (K.Mitsotakis, Tirana, May 1992).

    This “hypothesis” is untrue and fabricated. To consider a whole community as “criminals”, many members of which died in Greece’s liberation struggle in the Second World War, is a political and historical crime against Cham Albanians.
    In 1994, the Parliament of the Albanian Republic proclaimed 27 June 1944 as the commemoration day for the massacred Albanians of Chameria, and a monument was built up in Konispol in memory of the victims of Chameria.

    After 1945, with a view to changing the demographic structure of Chameria, its colonization with Greeks, Aromens and Gypsies was begun. Greece wanted the demographic structure of the province changed because it did not trust the rest of the Albanian population who remained there, even though they were of the Orthodox confession. Greece violently put an end to every attempt to preserve the identity of the Albanian population of the Orthodox belief and Albanian was prohibited to be spoken in public. Thereby, the assimilation of orthodox Albanians gained momentum. The fate of the orthodox Albanians was not much different than that of their Muslim brothers when it came to maintaining their ethnic identity.

  13. in 1944-1945, when criminal bands of the notorious General Napoleon Zervas perpetrated ethnic cleansing against them.

    So it is the UK then that you accuse of ethnic cleansing? Zervas of course was directed by Woodhouse to push the Chams out of the area becasue they were overwhelmingly supporting Nazi German fascists in attacks on Slavs, Greeks, Jews etc in the region as well as anti-Nazi forces like Zervas?

    Do some reading of the pimary material of the various British officers workign in Greece at the time. The doocument horrific destruction, mass murder etc by the Cham groups, as well as the British stretegy of pushing them over the border.

    I personally know muslim Chams that lived in Greece all their life and were forcefully converted to Greek orthox religion, and their name was changed, however they didn’t deny that they were Albanians, they didnt claim to be Greek.

    Frankly I doubt the veracity of this statement since Chams will say they are NOT ethnic Albanians.

    I the end we all know that 8 to 10% of Albania was comprised of Greeks at the same time the Cham expulsion occured. there were mutual expulsions. On the border area the greek on the Albanian side consituted the majority and via versa (exactly like Thrace where Greeks were the majority in the east and Turks the majority in the west. )

  14. Buddy the chams were albanians. chameria is the area called were they lived durring the ottomans era. as for me i lived in the monastir area in southwest macedonia region. how is it so that more albanians live outside its borders rather then albania itself. there is over 500,000 albanian alone in greece today with albanian citizenship. how many do u think there is ethnically (chams, arvantis, epirus)? who knows, in the millions. iv been all throughout the albanian inhabited area’s and the only flags or launguages i see spoken are albanian , english. no greek no turkish no nothing. the albanians that really do say there greek or turkish and not albanian are probably victims from the hoxha era of there family vicimtized against religion suppression. The thing i dont no is why dont the albanians in greece stand up for themselves and let the EU hear them. final thought: the years to come are going to stir up the problems in the balkans and the minorites will get there rights and maybe even land back that they really deserve. LAVDI

  15. Albania is the mother of Latin and Greek. All of Greece/the Balkans and Troy belong to Albania/Illyria.

  16. It’s interesting how bit by bit, all of Albania’s territory is moving towards total unification, under US-EU-MA-SB-IL-FY-KT’s watchful eye, guidance and blessings.

  17. In a top 10 list of nationalist peoples in Europe I’d certainly put the Albanians at the top. Maybe not the ones in Albania put certainly the ones in Macedonia and Kosovo! Even if the Greeks aren’t No. 2 they’re certainly among the top 5 (hey, they’re in the Balkans).

    So, maybe these Chams (I’d never heard of them before) could end up causing quite a stir – if politicians find it useful. Big question is how to avoid that.

  18. Why would they avoid it? Chameria belongs to Albania proper and it will be returned. As will all the properties illegally taken from the Albanian people. And, nationalism is not their cause. Justice is.

  19. Someone forgot to mention the Etruscans. Their ancient tablet writings have been decifered using the Ancient Albanian language. Albania is the mother of the Etruscan civilization. Put this in your pipe, too, Napolean’s mother was Albanian. As was the royal blood of the Merovingians of France..via the Sicambrians and the Arcadian royal line.

  20. A good but rather pro-Albanian analysis of the historical evolution is available onine. Written by Miranda Vickers and published by the Sandhurst Defence College, it bears out that Woodehouse was quite happy to see what he described in his ‘Struggle for Greece’ as ‘the undesirable Cham population’ driven out of the territory.

    Oversimplifications abound on this topic. One should bear in mind that:

    1) Not all Chams were pro-Axis; many were uninvolved, and indeed others were actively involved on the Communist side against Zervas’ andartes. This, rather than pro-Axis sympathies was the prime reason Woodehouse turned a blind eye to the attacks on their villages. SOE was already fighting the Cold War.

    2) More generally, the Chams were anti-Greek rather than pro-Italian or pro-German, and saw in the Axis powers another version of the foreign protector which had enabled them to displace Greeks from the best lands in the area in Ottoman times.

    3) Very few individual Chams had legal property rights, either before or after WW1. Mostly they were landless tenants of Ottoman Beys. It is the descendants of these Beys who stand to gain (considerably) in any compensation deal. The descendants of the ordinary Cham shepherds (the vast majority) stand only to gain the right to live in Greece.

    4) Ethnicity in the area was problematic. Which of language, national affiliation or cultural and religious preferences should be the basis of nationality was the whole basis of the struggle for the region, stretching into what is now southern Albania, in the first decades of the last century. A great many Orthodox southern Albanians preferred to be ‘Greek’ at the time, (whatever their distant and confused ancestry) largely because this meant they would be liberated from the economic domination of the major Ottoman/Muslim landowners. Albanian national identity was slow in developing and systematically suppressed by the Ottomans.

    5) It is very misleading to draw arbitrary chronological lines through patterns of ethnic cleansing. This conflict DOES go back to Ottoman times, when the boot was on the other foot. Our modernity is not the modernity of the Balkans – it is that of Birkenau, remember?

    6) Many of the Greek andartes were drawn from villages where some Chams had committed atrocities.The analogy with the Sudeten Germans is reasonable. Germany asked for Czech compensation for that much more sizeable ethnic cleansing at the time of the Czech EU candidacy; they got a pretty frosty response and had to swallow it.

    The history of the whole region is well covered in Tom Winnifrith’s Badlands-Borderlands, from the Bronze Age onwards. He tries to show why the ethnicity of Pyrrhus is still a live issue that you may find yourself discussing with a taxi driver in Tirana

  21. Whoever thinks the Chams issue is about “justice” must be pretty naive.

    Considering how hard it is to exact justice for warcrimes committed just a decade ago things which happened over half a century must be considered buried in history. I think John Montague’s comparison to the Sudeten Germans (or Germans in Poland, Yugoslavia and Romania for that matter) is pretty good. And they were a much larger population.

    If the ethnic cleansing of 400,000 serbs from Croatia during the 1990s hardly registers the the expulsion of 30,000 Chams from their homes in 1946 is hardly a blip on the ethnic cleansing radar screen.

    Considering the developments in Kosovo and Macedonia I can understand Greece’s sensitivity on the issue. Who wants to be seen to be ready to give any ground with such precedents around? I think the situation could be greatly helped along if Albania gave up any demands on Greece on the issue and the Greek government reciprocated by issuing an apology for what happened. End of story.

  22. Hi John,

    I’ve had that conversation, although it was in Pristina and about the Taj Mahal.

    Miranda Vickers is always worth reading although, as you point out, also always pro-Albanian. In fact, she seems to have become the patron saint of pro-Albanian journalists and academics. Her buddy James Pettifer just came ought with a book about the Kosovo war, and he dedicated it to her. (_Kosova Express_ — it’s overwrought and self-indulgent, but still worth reading.)

    The Chams were anti-Greek rather than pro-Axis (or whatever): firm agreement. If Greece had been invaded by Sweden, they’d have jumped into bed with the Swedes.

    Orthodox Albanians: yah sure. There used to be a lot of them; most of them simply morphed into Greeks sometime in the last century. This was a bit unusual (contrast the experience of Orthodox Slavs in Croatia or Bosnia), but may perhaps be explained by the relative weakness of Albanian nationalism.

    I wonder, if you poked around northwest Greece (and Athens), how many quietly bilingual children and grandchildren of Albanian _conversos_ you would find. I suspect quite a few. I know there are a lot of “ethnic Greeks” in and around Thessaloniki who can speak fluently in, shall we say, a Slavic dialect, if you just get some rakia into them first.

    I’m a bit confused by your fifth point, though. “Misleading to draw arbitrary chronological lines”… um, are you saying that 1944 and 1948 weren’t bumper years for ethnic cleansing in Greece? There was a steady background level of discrimination and forced assimilation, sure — but those particular years saw large numbers of people being forced out at gunpoint, largely based on ethnicity.

    “Balkan modernity is not ours” — well, true, but I don’t think this lets them off the hook.

    And it’s not as if Birkenau was a lesson only for central and western Europeans. Ask a Thessalonican Jew, if you can find one.

    Doug M.

  23. As you know, Doug, many Balkanians have a passion for history that makes our popular culture look tawdry in comparison. That’s why I say that their modernity is not ours. The historical events that they are still struggling to come to terms with go back further in time and there is a continuity in those events that crosses over the great transition points of Western history. The Great War started out as the Third Balkan War – and for them it remained just that.

    Modern Balkan nations emerged from the Millet system. The first modern Greek constitution defined a Greek as ‘he who lives in Greece and believes in Christ’ and the Greek revolution of 1821 was often a conflict between Orthodox Albanians defining themselves as Greeks and Muslim Albanians defining themselves as servants of the Sultan. The 18th century forced conversions to Islam in Epirus and the attendant dispossession of those, Greek or Albanian, who remained Orthodox created the land ownership pattern which the Greek state inherited when it won Epirus in 1913.

    It was no longer primarily religious identities that divided the Germans, Austrians, French and British in their conflicts. Economic rivalries and economic crises were the force motrice for the World Wars and the emergence of totalitarian ideologies. But in the Balkans, modern nationalism was still tracing the fractures of the collapsed Ottoman empire – even in 1948.

    I mentioned Birkenau as a reminder that our different Western history of the emergence of national identification does not give us a moral superiority. Apparently Blair was told by his civil servants when the Bosnian conflict broke out : “The thing you have to remember, Prime Minister, is that these people just love killing each other”. With such a sophisticated analysis behind it, it is no surprise that the peacekeeping operations led by Michael Rose were such a failure.

    The murder of the Thessaloniki Jews by the Germans does not stand to the discredit of the Bulgarians, let alone the Greeks, to anything like the same extent as, say, the wartime deportation of Jewish children is a problem for France’s self-image. Anti-semitism is still so prevalent in the Balkans precisely because they have so much less to reproach themselves about concerning murdered Jews. Murdered Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Serbs and Turks – that’s another story.

  24. a passion for history that makes our popular culture look tawdry in comparison.

    Eh. Let’s not go overboard here. If American historical amnesia can be a bit annoying sometimes, Balkan historical obsession can be just as bad — and, arguably, even more destructive. Sometimes it seems like the lesson of the Balkans is that “those who /remember/ history are condemned to repeat it”.

    The historical events that they are still struggling to come to terms with go back further in time

    Yes and no. Yes, you can’t understand the Balkans without understanding Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire — especially the strange, hybrid modern-medieval world of the Empire’s final century.

    No, because a lot of what passes for history in the Balkans is a deliberate construct of 19th century nationalists. And also because the history since 1940 trumps the earlier stuff, just as in Western Europe. Serbs in Krajina weren’t acting out “ancient tribal hatreds”; they were motivated by much more recent memories, of being slaughtered by the Pavelic regime in 1941-44.

    there is a continuity in those events that crosses over the great transition points of Western history. The Great War started out as the Third Balkan War – and for them it remained just that.

    This is sort of like saying that the Chinese didn’t even notice WWI — the defining catastrophe of European civilization — while WWII, for them, started in 1937. It’s true enough, but I don’t see how it addresses the issue of “modernity” or the lack thereof.

    Forced conversions to Islam and the land system in Epirus: sure, but I’m not sure where you’re going with this. Some parts of the Balkans (Bosnia) inherited the old Ottoman land system almost intact; others (Serbia) wiped the slate clean. Black George distributed “Turkish” land to his followers, creating a land of yeoman farmers from scratch; Romania stayed stuck with a feudal system of boyars and landless tenant farmers; Macedonia kept the Ottoman system, but heavily modified by land confiscations. There really is no “Balkan” system of land tenure.

    The millet system: this is basically true for Greece and Serbia, less true for Bulgaria and Albania, and not true at all for Romania, Macedonia or Bosnia. Albanian national identity never relied on religion, while Bulgarians (even more than their neighbors) relied on a constructed ethnicity of which religion was just one element. It’s perhaps not irrelevant that Bulgaria is the only country in the region with a significant Protestant minority, dating back to the period before independence.

    The murder of the Thessaloniki Jews by the Germans does not stand to the discredit of the Bulgarians, let alone the Greeks, to anything like the same extent as, say, the wartime deportation of Jewish children is a problem for France’s self-image. Anti-semitism is still so prevalent in the Balkans precisely because they have so much less to reproach themselves about concerning murdered Jews.

    Okay, you really lost me here. Why shouldn’t the Bulgarians reproach themselves about handing over the Jews of Thessaloniki? Yes, they kept their own Jews — but they cheerfully herded the ones in Macedonia onto the trains.

    Then there’s Serbia under Nedic, which was “judenfrei” by the end of 1943. 90% of Serbia’s Jews died in the Holocaust. How is this less reprehensible than what happened in France under the Vichy regime?

    I won’t even mention Croatia and Bosnia under Pavelic or Romania under Antonescu.

    Doug M.

  25. In answer to J. Stiles ?, for the Greeks, any group, connected to the history of the Balkans, that makes an inconsequential but just claim against the Greeks, presents a clear and present threat to Greek national security. Simply because Greece knows that the west has the evidence to prove these cases against the Greek state.

    As for Doug M., first of all, I recall Armenia claiming four million killed during that genocide. So, what will it be?? 2?? 4?? The person who said “murder, genocide, or holocausts cannot be compared”, was right.

    If you want to get technical…let’s compare the genocide of the native peoples in the western hemphisphere by the Europeans. Out of all the genocides perpetrated against a people, the European genocide of the native peoples of the N and S American continents tops the list of all genocides in history…and these Europeans have yet to be judged by their makers for these horrific crimes against humanity.

    To Oskar, tell me…who’s going around staging the slaughter of their own innocent citizens, so they could draw a picture of a nebulous foreign threat against their nation and create the raison d’etre for more death of innocent civilians on foreign lands..all in the name of patriotism or as you call it: “Nationalism”? Yep, some pretty powerful members of your own American citizenry. If any nation tops the list of nationalists, it is AMERICA. And, if you carefully read your American History X-deleted by influential members of the American Historical Society- you would hesitate to call Albania the Nationalist leader of the Balkan peninsula.

    Albania has been historically asking for what is justly theirs, nothing more. As opposed to what Greece, Serbia, and Macedonia did to Albania in 1914. There is ample proof that these states cannot and will not be trusted by the W. Europe or America. And, Albania will be in the sphere of American protection until justice is complete. And, there are many (Converso) Albanians everywhere that will make sure of this outcome. Many you wouldn’t know. Even if a law was enacted, you’re not equipped to decifer its meaning. :))

  26. Yep, wrong Prime Minister. It was presumably Major who got the silly advice.

    Doug, your point about Croatia’s and to some extent, Romania’s Jews is, sadly, quite valid . However, the Bulgarian people had little control over the fate of Macedonia’s Jews. In Bulgaria itself, on the other hand, it was their protests and activities that defeated the policy Germany – and elements within their own regime – sought to impose.. I don’t see the ADL honouring Vichy France in the way it has honoured Bulgaria. http://www.adl.org/PresRele/HolNa_52/3099-52.asp. There were more Jews living in Bulgaria after World War 2 than before.

    As I’m sure you know, Albania is honoured as ‘righteous amongst the Gentiles’ by Israel. Serbia was mostly under direct German military control; Nedic’s regime was a puppet in a way that Petain’s was not. The Zbor participated enthusiastically in Belgrade and other atrocities but mostly it was the Wehrmacht themselves who rounded people up.

    The Pavelic regime was as you say a monstrosity in Spades and I suppose you’re right that the sufferings of Serbs in WW2 conditions modern attitude to Croats. Not towards Bosniaks or Albanian though.

    The point I’m trying to make is that since religion was, for many Balkan nations, a key element in the emergence of the modern nation state, we shouldn’t dismiss religious antagonisms as atavistic in the way we can in the West. You’ve hit the nail on the head when you say that historical interpretations (in both Greece and Albania,for instance) were constructed quite explicitly to suit nationalist purposes. There is now a tremendous opportunity for joint historical programs to feed into popular sensitivities and present the kind of perspective which dispels harmful myths and recognizes past ills, allowing people to walk five miles in the other guy’s historical shoes.

    I wasn’t suggesting that there was an overall Balkan pattern of land-tenure, by the way. Only that Ottoman imposed or facilitated land tenure patterns in Epirus are inseparable from the Cham issue (something Vickers seems to overlook). The Cham case reopens wounds that go further back than 1914. I would dearly like to see Greece apologize for Zervas’ andartes murdering Albanian children and Albania abandon claims to re-establishing a hostile enclave on Greek territory. But I think it more important that Greeks acknowledge that Albanian culture was as much a victim of Ottoman occupation as their own, that Orthodoxy is no longer an excuse for expansionism, and above all that Albanian immigrants are a blessing not a curse. I can’t see that pressing the Cham case right now furthers those aims. Further down the line, of course, it’s possible.

  27. John,

    Good discussion. Have you given up on blogging? You’re missed.

    Couple of brief points.

    — Bulgaria and the Jews of Macedonia: I’m less certain that they bear little blame. But that’s a story for another time.

    — Religion was a key element in the formation of most Western European states, too. The only difference is that more time has passed. It took the UK about a century to go from universal and occasionally violent bigotry against Catholics to formal toleration, and another century to the first Catholic ministers and near-full social integration. France, roughly the same… from the Edict of Nantes to Orleanist liberalism was just 150 years or so.

    Greece and Serbia, at least, have already had a century to play with. Yes, I’m oversimplifying. But the whole region — especially Greece — has had a while to come to grips with modernity. (And it’s not just about the passage of time. Bulgaria and, especially Albania are a lot less uptight about the religious thing than Serbia and Greece, despite coming out of Ottoman rule at a much later date.)

    N.B., it’s possible to make a case that Eastern Europe, not the West, is the normal or default case. Perhaps liberal, secular modernity is the aberration. I dislike this idea a lot, but there’s a case to be made.

    Another possibility is that the Orthodox Church is the problem. More specifically, Caesaropapism combined with the reflexive “defensive” stance inculcated by centuries of Ottoman domination. I’d find this pretty plausible, myself, except then what about the Croats?


    above all that Albanian immigrants are a blessing not a curse.

    This short sentence probably deserves a post of its own.

    Short version: they should, and they may yet, but it won’t be easy. The /mainstream/ position is that Albanians are primitive, dirty and vaguely dangerous. The nationalist right position is that they are a Danger, and that the only way to deal with them is to Keep Them In Their Place. Greece lacks a strong tradition of unforced assimilation, and hyphenated nationality has never played well there.

    But that’s a story for another time.

    Doug M.

  28. More than one person has mentioned that Chams killed Sllavs, and Jews.

    Can you please please please name one sllav that was killed by a Cham? What a load of nonesense, there were not Sllavs in Cameria, and as for Jews, Gin please 10 times please name one Jew that was hurt by Chams. I am sorry but Jewish blood runs in Chams. A considerable number of Jewissh people mixed with Chams in Chameria, and identified themselves as Chams. I know personally few such cases.

    Chams generaly are quite distunguished pysically, dependaning on the region of Chameria of course, most are north european in looks.

  29. Chams would say they are not ethnic ALBANIAN? Take it from a CHAM, CHAMS along side LABS and KOSOVARS are undisputed of ALBANIAN ethnic stock, i would place them at the very core of the Albanian concept.

  30. Well if you start with the wrong assumption that Chams sided with Germans, then you will reach the conclusion that Chams killed Jews and i think some people need to realize that it was the Greeks that ethnically xcleansed Jews from north, western adn eastern part of Greece, how else do you explain the Jewish families that along side Chams ended up in Albania, especially in the city of Vlora in Albania.

    Statements like “there is not doubt that chams sided with germans” are fictional, didn’t ZERVAS the greek that comitted the crimes in Chameria resign after allagations that he had direct contacts with Hitler himself and collaborated with Nazis? He resigned as Greece’s interior minister.

  31. The British at the time were fetched and convinced with Greek propoganda from the Greek side, and even the British officers in the region were used as instrumeted byt the Greece and for the Greeks megalomaniac ideas. They simple turned a blind eye to the ethnic cleansing. Greeks convinced them bravoo, brave greeks.

    Chams won’t forget, they converted to the ottoman’s relegion after the failed rebellion of Paramathia few centuries ago, in order to keep hold of their land, why do you think they will forget the precious land of Chameria? And let’s just face it Chameria looks like a gost region wiuthout the chams, the rightful ownsers(Chams) should return to their rightful homeland one way or another.

    As for the pro-axis and anti-axis debate, let me just mention and you can research it yourself, that Kosnispoli(a northern Cham town) put quite a fight against the nazis, and knowing that Kosnisploi is lies on the border between Greece and Albania, they were bombarded for 40 days in row by the advancing German army. They even had a resistance batallion by the name of “Chameria” Let the truth be heard.

    The ethnic cleansing of Chams was simply a barbaric act done to create an ethnically pure Greece, and the rest are excuses and bias opinions.

  32. Chams did barbaric killings of Greeks? Chams had no problem with the minority Greeks, as a matter of fact a lot of the greeks were working for Chams and most them them had arrived in chameria from the islands to work the lands.

    I know that after the initial 1913-1922-1930 cleansing of the central part(drawn by greeks as the first pure/cleansed greek triangle), the Dino clan (whos 70% f family had suffered the consequence and had perished at the hands of greeks) returned and took vengence on greek colons in that exact triangle, that is the only killings that Chams did to Greeks and in my view all justified, the rest of the chams had nothing too do with it.

    Please provide me with evidence that Chams killed Greeks, because more then one of you greek nationalists here are mentioning it.

    You Greeks can claim anything you want but chams have more of an ancient epirus leanage that you could ever deserve or do, else how do you explain that greek minority families in southern Albania would send their kids to get edcated on predominantly cham albanian villages and towns in the southern tip of Albania? Greeks had their own schools in their villages, but often they chose to pay and live in dorms so that they get education from Chams, if you think we are backward then you must be 10 levels down.

  33. If you think there were 30000 chams cleaned in 1944, where do you get this figure? Do you count the chams cleansed prior to 1944-45? An Chams in Albania are 200000? That makes me laff, Chams in Albania are as much as half a million, Chams are found in all parts of Albania North, South, West and East and in many cities they as much as 50%. Simple in my family we are 7 and my parents parents were borned and raised in Chameria and they were 10 and 12 members per each family, so do the math. The cleansed Chams were in eccess of 50000 in 1944-45, based on my investigtion close to 75K.

    So we talking about large population here, and the analogy with Serbs in Croatia is silly, Chams didn’t form a Chameria Republic in northern Grece and they were going on about their everyday life when the greek bashibozuks showed up with guns and started killing, raping and interning people. NO FUUUCKING WAY WE WILL FORGET. Chams are solid as a group and the more attuned politically
    they get, the more of a problem the issue will become. After the fall of communism they were found loyal to various parties and didn’t speak with one voice even though a Chamerian cultural organization was formed they were still not speaking with the same voice, however they are geeting there, a politicla party was formed recently and i would not be suprised if they form a liberation army..

  34. Forgot to metion that the Epirus population in 1920-30 had 219K Moslem Chams, assuming a portion of this converted to orthodoxy, and 60K-100K was wrongfully sent to Turkey, then that leaves ~100K, few thousands were killed, and raped, some were interned in the aegean islands (mostly kids under the age of 13, fate of which is still unkmnown), then you will come to ~75K cleansed multiply it by ~7 then will end up with 1/2 of million Chams(more or less).

  35. Further on Albania recorded Chams in 1970 as been 255K in Albania, what makes you think that 35 years later their population dropped to 200K? Let me assure you people didn’t use condoms in Hoxha’s regime(lol). Vickers made the numbers up, now way she did the arithmetics.

  36. Star, I don’t think anybody here has accused the Chams of attacks on Jews. I was under the impression that most of the Epirus Jews were in Ioannina anyway, but I’d be interested to know of any other historical Jewish communities of Epirus.

    You say Chams are North European in looks. Certainly that is true of many Albanians. I have however always been puzzled as to why the Suliots (whom some writers say were part of the tribe of the Tchamides) are always depicted as dark, even by western observers who recognized them as Albanians rather than Greeks.

    This is the first time I hear of Greeks sending their children to be educated by Chams. Could you give us a date, please, and tell us in what language the education was conducted and whether it was under religious auspices? The main ports of Chameria were never exclusively Albanian in population and Greek was the preferred language of many people in the region, even when most were bilingual.

    Bashibouzouks usually refers to Turkish irregulars, by the way.

    Zervas did call a temporary cease-fire shortly before the German withdrawal, which implies some contact with the Nazis. However, Woodehouse’s account suggests that he did so in compliance with SOE policy at the time. Zervas was never a collaborator in the way that many people later incorporated into the Greek National Army had been.

    The debate cannot advance if there is a blanket refusal to accept some basic facts. Greek villages and families were attacked by Cham groups armed by the Italians, notably in Paramithia and Igoumenitsa. Dozens of community leaders were systematically murdered. The Dino brothers you mentioned were prominent within the fascist administration. Xhemil Dino was High Commissioner of Thesprotia. Mazar Dino was a leader of the Fascist Youth. Chams manned an Albanian military gendarmerie in Epirus which fought actively against the resistance movement. Perhaps this was partly a settling of old clan scores, I don’t know. That’s an interesting perspective I haven’t come across before. But the Greeks in 1913 and in the 1920’s had old scores to settle too, from Ottoman times, in this territory they had only recently driven the Turks from.. The Muslim Albanians of southern Epirus fought on the side of the Turks in 1913, and Mussolini’s Italy sought to use the Albanians for its expansionism at Greek expense in the inter-war years. In WW2, Italy started implementing a territorial expansion of Albania at the expense of its neighbours, a policy most Chams actively supported as it applied to Epirus. In wartime, that would count as treason in any state in Europe.

    One excuse often given is that the Chams were not familiar with the concept of national betrayal and were led into it by influential quislings like the Dino brothers. However the fact remains that although there were active Albanian resistance movements to the Nazis – both nationalist and communist – the Germans felt they could rely on the armed Chams, not just one clan. That may be one reason why Chams are to this day rather unpopular within Albania itself.

    The emergence of a modern Cham Liberation Army would be welcomed by the most reactionary forces in Greece and would be a real disaster for all Albanian immigrants in the country. For that reason alone, even Berisha will not tolerate it. The only way Chams will return to Epirus is as friends and allies of Greece within the EU. Starting to build that friendship and the mutual understanding it requires would be more productive than seeking ways of continuing the feud.

  37. John, first of Suliots were of Albanian stock and true they were/are dark and dinaric in looks, most tall. I know for a fact that my father’s father was a Suliot quite tall 6’5” and quite dark from the Suliot highlands, he married with my grandmother from Igumenitsa and she was such a blonde doll, so the rest of us are blondes/blue/green eyes at least in my family.

    The Suliots darkness has puzzled me, not that it bothers me(don’t read me as racist), however based on my reading, and understanding their movements/migration to Epirus were recorded from northern Albania, especially northern hinterlands in the region of Montenegro, some of their last names indicate a catholic past, of course they had converted to orthodoxy. Last names such as Gucia, Hoti, Nikaj(Nick), Gjin(Jean) etc indicate an Albanian origin in Montenegro. So that is what distinguished Suliots from the rest of Chams, the rest on the western side were entirely different, quite a mix of north Europeans and dinaric (probably a deposit of the redorded Goths and Visigoths invaders much earlier in the area of Chameria), of course we have the Alpines too, the western Chams can not be traced in recent history anywhere as having migrated to the area, that is what differentiates them from Suliots, but as both appear to be of Albanian stock, and the close proximity Suliots were often seen as Chams, however in my view Suliots that had converted to islam had become automatically Chams, seem that Chams had converted to Islam in the later centuries of the ottoman rule.

    Not a long time ago came across some MALSIA(Montenegro Albanians) parties and noticed the dark and dinaric looks so common among them and that got me a clue on the Suliots past.

    As for the Dino brothers, they were exacting revenge on the greeks for what Greeks had done to them earlier, much like our Kosovar breather to Serbs when Nato moved to Kosova, in Chameria, it was clan based, and as for Chams not been popular Albania, well i was born in Albania and would be in position to tell you that Chams and our Kosovar breathen in Albania(yes lots of them arrived in Albania in 1913 too) were looked down by the commies. So Chams were not alone in this.

    As for the liberation army, i didn’t enforce the idea nor did i support it, however i indicated it might eventually get into that, and there are certainly people that would sacrifice themselves for what they think is rightfully their homeland, so this is not about who has the most power or guns, Albs or Greeks, this is about ” the sorrow of ones loosing their homeland” once Socrates himself had written about so philosophically.

    Chams if they return they will return as friends to Greeks but NOT as Greeks, and within EU, sure i got NO problem with that.

    As for Chams educating Greeks, there is several generation of Greeks educated by Chams, especially in Saranda, particularly in Konispol, again this on my father’s account as he did his high school there, and he tells me most of the students from outside Konispol were Greek speakers and they were living in a dorm and choose to be educated there but also in Saranda and Konispol both school were led by two Cham brothers and ahd a reputation as been excellent schools, again there is something Homeric about Chams wisdom which i thought of sharing, and references> Well ask the educated Greek minority in saranda and see how many of them did graduate from an entirely cham school. The language was Albanian, but Greeks had their school in their own villages in Albanian of course and no religious pressure as you perhaps know in Hoxha’s time these things were not allowed.

    Since i mentioned Konispoli again, if you happen to visit Albania, do visit Konispoli and see for yourself what over 90% of Konispolat chams look like, they are blonde blue eyed, seems like you have gone to north Europe someplace.


  38. You seem to describe Chams as bi-lingual, well Greeks the moment they got Chameria wuthin their borders(1913) they started executing their megaloidea, so no Albanian schools or education was allowed, most Orthodox Albanians were convinced by Greeks(and a single track/brainwashing greek schooling played a role) that they were Greek, Cham Moslems didn’t buy it but they had to go through education in Greek, so in 1944 you’d find plenty that could speak Greek, too but please don’t tell me Chams are Greeks, i happen to come from such community and there is nothing Greek about them.

    So they(greeks) say Suliots were Greek and Chams Turkoalbani, however greeks were smart enough to cleanse both Suliots and Chams from their teritory, how many Suliots remain in Suli today?? Not many, the same with Chams, so in the end whether you were orthodox albanian or moslem suliot or cham, you had no place in Epirus because it intefered with the pure Greek state concept.

  39. Bashibouzouks usually refers to Turkish irregulars, by the way.

    Sure i know that, simply repalce the Turkish with Greek and you get the same.

  40. This argument is really pointless. It’s all a matter of how deep you dig in the past, in order to support a case in the present.

    History all over the world, even as we speak, is being written with blood, and blood doesn’t always come from battles between armies lined up against each other, you know, fighting and dying romantically over a noble cause. It mostly comes from massive and brutal slaughter, name it genocide, ethnic cleansing or plain massacre. This was undisputedly the case with the Chams in Greece, as it was with Armenians and Greeks in Pontus and Eastern Tukey, Jews and Roma all over Europe, all kinds of indigenous people in America and Africa. History is written with the pain and tears of humiliated, tortured, harassed, raped, robbed, evicted, murdered civilians, most sadly children. So where, historically or geographically, do you draw the line between incidents that should be punished and others that should be forgotten?

    Payback of previous “wrongs” has been the cause of many balkan conflicts. Right now, virtually each nation in the Balkans feels “wronged” by every other Balkan nation. Ethnic cleansing has been a common practice since the first 19th-century liberation movements. Bulgarians, Serbs, Greeks, Albanians, Muslims, have all been victims of massacres.

    Will we keep on digging through history, counting murders and rapes, comparing numbers and statistics? Or are we going to look forward, as Western european nations have already done? This is the real question, the only one that matters.

    Unfortunately, taking a look at this list of comments proved a really pessimistic point: that nationalism, enmity, backwardness, racism, pseudo-religious doctrines combined with stupidity are inherent in these lands, and that the current illusion of stability is very likely to burst any time now. The public display of hatred reminds me of male teenagers comparing the size of their genitals, and sadly this is an impression you can get from a simple discussion with an average balkanian. The european prospect is really the only thing that keeps the savages (that’s us balkanians) from killing each other. One can only hope that as our societies advance, even with our slow balkanian pace, our education system and our media will stop pouring oil in the fire and maybe in many generations’ time, our distant grandchildren will overcome the loads of stupidity which has been concentrated through the ages.

    I’m a Greek ashame for his country and his balkan identity, in case one wonders.

  41. Nikos, there are also plenty of things you should be proud of.

    The thing about Chams is that they got a raw deal, trapped in communist Albania for 50 years, unlike the greeks from Asia Minor, and the very physical proximity makes it somewhat different to the other peoples cases.

    Today, you can travel in Greece from Albania but not if you are a Cham, i know the case of a Cham kid 11 years of age (from the border region in Albania) who crossed the border to Greece to buy medicine for his ill mother in the nearest Greek village on the greek side and was caught by the Greek border guards and he beaten extrmiley terated badly, taken to athents and your “fair” and “democratic” legal system sentenced him to 18 years in prison on the basis of been a Cham and some other silly and false allagetions, when you get tens of thousands of Albs crossing the border, why sacrifice the kid? He is free now thanks to my dad’s efforts through the European connections(my clan lives in western Europe more like northern Europe, both of my older brothers have businesses here), but so you know it’s about dignity my friend and timeless humiliation, so much a people can take man so much.

    I don’t see the connection between the physical appearance discussion and your penis point, whatever you mean, but i mentioned the blonde looks of Chams as there is aalso that facet to the problem that most do not know, and there are others, for instance Cams are very good merchants, in Albania they known to be very good in commerce. In Tirana you got the Chams trading place and a lot of business are on their hands, something that greeks also seem to be able too.

    Greece should make a public apology to Chams and give headway by allowing the elders to visit their birth places and their relatives graves in Chameria.

    Albanian Cham got no other beef with Greeks, we have shared the region for centuries, and when i speak on behalf of chams here i also represent the small but unfortunate greek moslem chams(yes there were greek speaking or ethnic greek of moslem religion) who found exactly the same fate as the albanian chams at the hand of the greek zervists.

  42. Star, 1) The incident about the Cham kid proves my point: that it’s innocent people who pay the price. 2) Our legal system is neither fair nor democratic, it is deeply corrupt and unfair especially when it comes to foreigners. 3) The size comparison had nothing to do with the physical appearance discussion, it was a metaphor about people getting here shouting “chameria belongs to albania” , “greeks worse than nazis” or other things which add nothing to the discussion.

    I agree with people asking to visit their grandparents’ graves, but i don’t understand the connection between this and the trade thing or the blond chams you were talking about. I really can’t see what you mean there.

    I don’t agree with people suggesting border changes, such as giving Chameria to Albania. Border change will come only by another bloodshed, something the region cannot afford.

    Btw, don’t expect any apologies from our backward politicians. Anyway, why do you need one? Will you really be morally satisfied if someone that tells lies all the time says he is sorry for your looted village? I personally don’t care if some important hypocrite in Turkey apologizes for my grandparents’ lost home and property in 1922 (it’s never going to happen but anyway). You can’t feed on an apology pal.

    What you really should be after is getting Albania in the EU. Then you will be free to cross the border as often as you like, and maybe even get the chance to buy back your lost property and settle in your ancestors’ homeland.

    Anyway, i don’t advise you to come and live here. My country is by far the most fucked up place in the EU right now. You will be greatly disappointed.

  43. Nikos, i agree for the most part, and just to clarify further i never suggested border changes.

    I can understand if you do not make a connection between the blond chams and the whole issue, in my view Greeks often refer to Albanians as turkalbanoi or chams as turkotsamides, however the fact that chams look more like northern european shows that chams apart from the relegion got nothing in common with turks or the middle east. To me most Chams look like a long lost northern european tribe.

    Anyhow don’t consider the physical appearance discussion to be racist in any shape or form, as i am not in the slighest racist, but simply wanted to stress Chams european look-and-feel.

    I personally do not know any Chams that go to mosque frequently or at all, but islam was the relgion that most adopted after 500 years of ottoman rule, most did to hold on to their land as it is recorded(dionisios skilosofos revolt involving mostly CHAMS against the ottomans, they lost and converted in order to hold on to the land)

    Albania in EU would not be bad at all, but Albanians in Albania like Greeks in Greece wouldn’t give a shiat about Chams, even though Chams are ethnic Albanians, but that is a differet matter and it got very little to do with pro-axis, anti-axis discussins, etc, etc., when you lose your homeland, house, etc, then you are the mercy of the others, and i would be the first to see myself different from Albanians in Albania, however make no mistake i am an ETHNIC ALBANIAN!

    I am sorry to hear that your grand parents had to go through probably the same scenario in Turkey.

    As for me i am already in EU and an EU citizen, i have said fairwell to Albania a long time ago(was a kid back then) and don’t plan on ever going back, and as a teenager i am used and set on my European ways, so there you have it, however to me Chameria will always be the homeland of my parents and grandparents, they existed there for centuries, the land where my ancersots are burried.

  44. A sidenote: Greece’s nationalism and bad relations with northern neighbourghs were serving the cause of stopping Russian/German/Austrian/Communist influence , Greece being a protectorate of Britain until 1947 and of USA after that.

    Britain and USA are largely responsible for greek irredentism and greek fascism. But of course they couldn’t allow democracy in Greece, they had a cold war to fight.

  45. Hmm, anti, I think it was the ‘French’ party within Greek politics that was the most expansionist. Venizelos gets the credit, but it was Kolettis who spawned the Megali-Idea.

    The northern neighbours had their own fears about assimilation and cultural survival to cope with, and the dynamic for that runs deeper than the machinations of the powers, or later, of the West. After all, Hoxha and Tito had very divergent views of the future of the region, n’est-ce-pas.

    The powers were rather taken by surprise by the final expulsion of the Turks from the Balkans, but generally speaking, the Florence Protocol border was a reasonable reflection of ethnic realities, even if Austrian fears about Russian expansion played their part. Minorities were left on both sides, but that was rather inevitable.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to ask Nikos on whom he blames the current state of Greek-Albanian relations. Is it all the Greek media that vilifies Albs, or just a section linked to particular political groups, and does the Church have a particular responsibility in this problem?

  46. Nikos. You have the past and history. History is what happened to the death. 60 years means that there are still a lot of survivers and those people you can restore their rights to

  47. hi,

    i was passing by your internet page while i was reading as I am doing lately on several balcan issues. As a greek i have to state that I can’t really be that proud of many things mainly having to do with how the government should handle immigrant issues. Nevertheless I have also to state that as a child of immigrants myself (nikos will also recall the great emigration wave during the 60’s especially to germany) I am trying as much as possible to understand these people. With the history learnt in the alarmingly recent past, i don’t think that any person with sensitivity would go through all this trip again and again revising historical parts for his her own interest. It is true that the greek government has played a significant role in all this hysteria caused with the main victims albanian immigrants in my country. The mass media come second but not less responsible (don’t forget that following the west’s standards is a must-nevertheless there are some documentary shows on greek tv that i rank among the best in the world)…anyway just wishing to say apart from the Tsamides/Cam/Chams issue that i wish for the albanian immigrants one day to repatriate to their homes, start building up their lifes after endless working years, live and prepare a prosperus life for the next generations to come, and from time to time to show some kindness by not humiliating us so much in our soccer match meetings (I am really sorry for the facts that took place in the city centre that day). All of you don’t forget that even for Greece the transition to democracy and prosperity took some time, lots of years spent living in slums, lots of tears shed for loved ones leaving back, but sooner or later with necessary movements from greeks outside their coutry the goals gradually had been achieved. Does anyone know that a true by all means national health system in greece was introduced NOT before 83′? You are no different in this case, believe me, i know this from my parents who offered me more than a child could ever ask – the same thing you will do one day as i will for my own child (I am using singular because in greece having more than one child IS painful-financially i mean).

    Take care people and be as open as possible to ideas and stimuli. regards

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