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[ALBSA-Info] Two articles in English

Sejfi Protopapa Heljo at
Fri Jun 22 16:31:02 EDT 2001

(*Governance here refers to
all institutions and
individuals with influence)

Edvin Bodari

When the Greek state was
conceived in 1830 it was
comprised of four ethnic
groups: the Greeks, the
Albanians, the Turks and the
Vlach. Later, with a number of
expansionist wars that served
to fulfill the plans of the
megali idea (the grand idea: a
notion where extreme Greek
nationalism and religious
intolerance are intertwined),
another large group was added,
the Slavs. Thus the country
that called itself Greece had
a Greek population that did
not surpass thirty per cent of
the total local population.
This changed in 1922 when the
migrations from  Asia Minor
added one million and three
hundred thousand Greek
refugees for a total of four
million inhabitants.

Now, after 150 years, Greece
claims to be the most
homogeneous country in the
Balkans with only two percent
of its population declaring
that they do not belong to its
dominant Greek orthodox group.
How did Greece achieve this
unparalleled homogeneity which
the other Balkan countries
have strived to imitate
without results? They achieved
this by way of annihilation of
linguistic, cultural and
religious identities.
(National identities had not
been created in the rest of
the Balkans, or they were
being created without the
support of a central state and
as such they did not pose any
threat). They imposed the
Greek language as the only
official language of the state
and the church, they
instituted coercion practices,
social and economical boycott
and they placed additional
restrictions on all those who
continued to maintain their
unique identities. They even
resorted to ethnic cleansing
when their assimilation
methods would not succeed. In
1945 the Greek army, under
general N. Zervas, expelled to
Albania thirty-five thousand
Çams, Moslem Albanians, from
Southern Epirus in
Northwestern Greece.

One of the most successfully
assimilated group is the
Arvanitas, Albanians that had
moved throughout Greece during
the 13th and 14th centuries.
However, considering that
perhaps the Arvanitas were the
largest non-Greek group and
settled in compact units
before the urbanization of the
Greek society, and since
Greece is bordered to the
North by Albania, the Greek
leadership has always doubted
as to whether it had fully
accomplished its goal of
assimilation with regard to
this ethnic group. This
uncertainty increased in the
beginning of the 1990s with
the tide of Albanian
immigrants to Greece.
The old generation of
Arvanitas began to bring out
their lost language and along
with it the suppressed
feelings. They started
remembering lullabies, songs
of their youth, ballads of
valorous men who fought and
defeated the Turks under their
leader Gjergj Kastrioti
(Scanderbeg), who was their
source of pride in the
Albanian ancestry.

During these developments,
instinctively, the Greek
governance reactivated all its
national resources to protect
the Greek ethnicity. From 1993
on, the image of the Albanian
immigrant was demonized and as
a result he suffered such a
terror that makes one think of
the pogroms against the Jews.
Greek "democracy" which the
Greeks have already claimed as
their invention, like all
achievements of the ancient
Hellenic civilization, was
violating the most basic human
right, that of protecting and
respecting human dignity.

This anti-Albanian hysteria
was successfully propagated
through the masses and served
well to achieve two
a. On one hand to create
distance and hostility on the
part of the Arvanitas towards
the newly arrived Albanians.
They should not be identified
again with a condemned and
castaway ethnic group.
b. And on the other hand it
fueled a belief among the
immigrants themselves that
an Albanian is dishonorable
and that they themselves
deserve what was happening to
them by virtue of being

The torch of anti-Albanian
propaganda was carried out and
is still being carried out by
the Greek mass media, who on
these occasions display a
cultivated unity of purpose,
that successfully created the
image of the Albanian
immigrant to be: poor,
wretched, ignorant and
especially a criminal human
being. These media have
zealously supported the
ethnocentrism of the Greek
elite that backs and labors
for the creation of a
homogenous society. The
profile of this society is
established upon a dominant
and exclusive ethnic, cultural
and religious Greek model and
as a result a society more
amenable to a chauvinistic

Thus the Albanians who live in
the Greek society, having
become victims to this
propaganda, try to avoid any
kind of connection with
Albania. At the same time they
try to purge themselves from
all distinguishable Albanian
traits so that they are not
identified with the cultivated
demon created by the Greek
society, a xenophobic society.
At the same time the Albanian
emigrants have been victims of
an institutionalized racism
that has denied them the most
basic of human rights,
recognized by all
international conventions.
Infringements and abuses by
state organs, especially the
Greek police, have been and
are a daily phenomenon.

However, there is a sharp
contrast with the behavior of
the Greek governance towards
those Albanian  immigrants who
"declare" that they are not of
Albanian nationality but
("omogenis" a Greek word that
in is the same as
"homogenous") from Vorios
Epiros, Northern Epirus, the
name that the Greeks use for
southern Albania.
At present, according to Greek
sources there are over one
hundred and fifty thousand
Albanian citizens who have a
"document" that proves that
they are from "Northern
Epirus". That "document" is
the basis for the Greek
government to issue new
identification papers that
immediately guarantees them a
much broader set of rights
(free medical care, more ease
for "vorioepiriotes" students
in Greek universities, travel
opportunities in Europe etc.)
and the "hope" that in the
near future they will acquire
Greek citizenship. This Greek
government activity has
produced far more  converts
amomg ethnic Albanian
immigrants than the real
"fellow countrymen" from the
Greek Minority region in

For the new immigrant, the
social picture is completed by
the work of the Greek
educational system that makes
sure that all residents are
imbued with the tenets of
Greek culture. Note that no
aspect of the Greek
educational system has changed
since the beginning of the
state when it adapted the myth
of the "three thousand years
of continuity" and the
position of the historian
Paparigopoulos, who was not
only a grecocentrist but also
campaigned with fervor for the
ideas of Panhellenism. As a
consequence, every immigrant
child attending Greek schools,
at any level, is subjected to
a process of indoctrination
with the idea of the
superiority and the uniqueness
of the Greek culture and race.
 In order to further
consolidate this campaign,
Greece compares its economic
achievements with those of the
neighboring countries, thus
exploiting their misfortune
with the communist experience.
Albania and the other
countries of the Balkans who
went through some fifty years
of communism, for the time
being, cannot face up to this
Greek challenge. With this
economic disadvantage the
Albanian immigrant is inclined
to  further succumb to the
assimilation campaign of Greek

While the "democratic" Greek
state complains in every
international forum that
Albania is abusing the Greek
minority and that the country
does not comply with present
day visions of a civil
society, the Greeks themselves
are forcefully assimilating
the Albanian immigrants and
doing so with impunity. As
they expect that most Albanian
immigrants will settle
permanently in Greece, the
Greek government is bent on
completely destroying the
Albanian identity of the
immigrants whereas a civil
society would require Greece
to accept the Albanians with
their own culture, whatever
the differences, instead of
the current policy of forcing
the ethnic Greek credo upon

This pretend democracy, that
even the United States offers
as an example to be  imitated,
has reached the level of
perfection in the art of
hypocrisy. Nothing exists that
is not challenged effectively.
However, Greece is facing a
dilemma. On one hand it cannot
ignore the Albanian immigrant,
since eventually it will be
obliged to give them wider
recognition. On the other
hand, as the exploitation of
the Albanian immigrants is
exposed, Greece will be known
also for the repression of
ethnic minorities, in addition
to its pre-eminence for the
repression of religious
freedom. (Among the countries
ranked with regard to the
cases presented at the
European Court for Human
Rights, Greece comes first,
far ahead of the second, for
the repression of its citizens
of minority religions who are
not members of the dominant
Orthodox Church in Greece).

Then everyone will discover
what is hidden behind the
curtain of make-believe that
claims the temple of a
civilization emerging from the
grave: the temple is a corpse
without any signs of revival.

The assimilation of the
Albanians in Greece is a
desperate and hopeless
situation, as it follows in
the footsteps of the Arvanitas
and therefore the Albanian
intellectuals, all
intellectuals, wherever they
are, should be aware of the

Edvin Bodari
(The author is a 3rd year
student, majoring in
International and European
studies, University of Social
and political sciences,
Pandios,  Athens, Greece).
The original was published in
Illyria June 1-4, 2001, #1042.
Translated  from Albanian by
S. Protopapa

Why is the Albanian language
forbidden in the Albanian
Orthodox Church of Saranda?

By Sokrat Dhima
Not long ago, the town of
Saranda (a resort seaport on
the southern coast of Albania)
had been, at most, a modest
port that developed into a
commercial center with a small
population during the reign of
King Zog. After WW II, the
town grew gradually with
newcomers from the surrounding
villages. Along with these
newcomers came a number of
ethnic Greeks (Minoritarë).
This brief history of the town
shows why Saranda is not
considered an ethnic Greek
town. During the communist
dictatorship there were no
Greek schools in Saranda while
there were Greek schools in
every nearby village where
Greek was spoken. These Greek
language schools continue to
operate to this day.
The new and impressive
Orthodox Church of St.
Harallambi stands in one of
the roadways crossing Saranda.
It was built and paid for by
the Bank of Greece. Before the
church was built, services
were conducted in a building
referred to by the elders of
the town as 'shtëpia e beut'
(the house of the bey). The
services were conducted on the
first floor whereas Fr. Kristo
Papa occupied the second floor
where he continues to live at
this time. Originally Fr.
Kristo came from the ethnic
Greek village of Aliko.  He
was ordained into the
priesthood in Greece and after
spending some time in various
Greek monasteries to learn the
professional aspects of the
job, he was appointed to the
church of Saranda by His
Beatitude the Archbishop of
Tiranë and all Albania
Anastasios (Yannulatos).
St. Harallambi is the only
church in town and under the
stewardship of Fr.Kristo all
services, the sermon and all
other church functions are
conducted in Greek.
Following an Orthodox
Christian point of view, the
Greek language should be used
for the benefit of the ethnic
Greek faithful who attend the
services, regardless of
whether the government
supports Greek schools in the
town as it does in the ethnic
Greek villages nearby.
However, logic has fallen by
the wayside and instead Greek
language is used exclusively,
ignoring entirely the Albanian
faithful who want to attend
the church services. The
original Byzantine Greek is
used for the liturgy whereas
for the sermon and the priest'
s communication with the
parishioners is in Modern
Greek.  The chanter is Fr.
Kristo's son who chants mostly
on Sundays. The Sunday choir
uses Greek text and the choir
leader is a young lady who
comes for this purpose from
Ioannina, Greece.

The church has been taken over
completely by ethnic Greeks,
led by the missionaries sent
by Greece, saying 'The church
was built by the Greeks and we
are the majority'. Meanwhile
those of us who cannot speak
Greek are left at the mercy of
all the other sects and
religious denominations that
crisscross Albania up and down
the country. The Albanians are
free to follow any religion
they wish or need, but when it
comes to the point when, in
peace time, they are denied
the attendance of services in
their own language, in their
own country, in the church of
their own ancestors, it is
proper to say that a cardinal
sin has been committed.
Fr. Kristo is the head of the
church council. He appointed
three Albanian members of the
council as representatives of
'the Albanian Orthodox
minority' in Saranda. They are
able and must speak Greek
since that is the official
language of the meetings that
are often attended by the
Greek representative of the
Archbishop, Archimandrite
Dimitrios who is the
chancellor of the Metropolis
of Gjirokastër.
During the last ten years,
since the arrival of Bishop
Anastasios in Albania, all of
his representatives in Saranda
have been archimandrite
priests from Greece. One of
them was the famous
Krisostomos who was expelled
from Albania in 1994 when
caught red handed conducting
an anti-Albanian campaign. As
an obvious reprisal, in a
three day period, the Greek
government expelled from
Greece sixty thousand (60,000)
Albanian immigrants. After the
expulsion of Krisostomos, for
his replacement to Saranda,
Archbishop Anastasios assigned
Archimandrite Efrem, a former
military chaplain and army
major who to this day receives
his pension from the Greek
In 1995, during Easter
celebrations, there was a
confrontation between the
Albanian speaking and Greek
speaking faithful. It was Holy
Friday when Fr. Efrem refused
the parishioners' requests to
hear a few words in Albanian
during the procession of the
Epitaph through the streets of
Saranda.  "Here all are
 Greek!" said the reverend
Efrem who turned red with
anger. "Those who do not want
Greek do not belong here!".
The church in Saranda is under
the jurisdiction of the
Metropolis of Gjirokastër
which is the only metropolis
in Albania without a bishop.
Therefore, the Archbishop, who
has never responded to our
complaints pertaining to the
use of Albanian in worship, is
directly responsible for all
church assignments and every
other detail related to the
church. He assigned Fr. Efrem
to Saranda and it was his
decision to elevate him to the
position of igumen (the abbot)
of the Monastery of Ardenica
in Fier.
The Greek incursion in the
church of Saranda will be
further enhanced with the
enthronement of a Greek priest
as the Metropolitan of
Gjirokastër. This may happen
quietly, on the sly, and is
likely to take place
immediately after the coming
parliamentary elections in
Albania on June 24. The
Archbishop is preoccupied with
the question of the Holy Synod
(the Council of Bishops),
particularly since Orthodox
theologians abroad are
concerned with canonical
procedures, the latter being
less than orderly in the
Church of Albania.
A canonical synod should have
five bishops while today there
are only three in Albania. At
the same time there are,
behind the scenes, efforts to
avoid an uncontrollable
situation with regard to the
vacancy in the Metropolis of
Gjirokastër, especially in
view of the health and age of
the current Archbishop.
Discreetly, the Greek
government has made
suggestions that a Greek
bishop be elected to the post
in order to avoid leaving the
ethnic Greeks in Albania
without a bishop or worse yet
with an Albanian Bishop.
The church issue in Saranda
has political ramifications
and is intrinsically connected
to the whole situation of the
Orthodox Church in Albania. It
is imperative to improve the
situation in Saranda to avoid
a spark for further
deterioration. Recently, Fr.
Arthur Liolin, the chancellor
of the Albanian Archdiocese in
America, has established a
solid bridge of understanding
with Archbishop Anastasios.
Appropriately, he may be the
intermediary to a balanced
approach to this problem.
Also, Prof. Dr. Ylli Popa, as
the legal advisor of
Archbishop Anastasios in
Albania since 1991, and as the
current head of the Albanian
Academy of Sciences, should be
concerned with the situation
and intervene to remedy it.
What is needed here is not the
suppression of the Greek
Minority, but the liberation
of the Orthodox church in
Saranda from the absurdity of
the "Albanian Minority". The
anti-Albanian priest and those
who prop him up should not
pursue such a travesty
especially when there is an
Albanian state and an Albanian
Autocephalous Church.
The mesmerizing campaign of
Anastasios around the world,
full of diplomatic double
talk, does not hold water any
more. A balanced solution must
be put in place in Saranda in
order to enhance the
brotherhood of all Orthodox
without ethnic distinctions.
The neglect and the consequent
gradual estrangement of the
Orthodox Albanian faithful are
a malfeasance that should not
be ignored by the leadership
of the governance of Albania.
To remedy the situation in
Saranda there are many
solutions from which to choose
while complying with Orthodox
tradition and accounting for
the sensitivities of the
region. If the ethnic Greeks
do not wish to celebrate the
Liturgy together with the
Albanians, so be it. However,
there could be two separate
Liturgy services, one in each
language. Then, each faithful
is free to pick the service of
his choice. It is true that
the church was built by the
Greeks, but let there be some
recognition for us poor folks
that did not raise any
objections while the church
was placed in our land.
Both the priest and the
chanter know Albanian as well
as Greek. In the near future,
one could build a second
church in Saranda in order to
put an end to this absurdity.
Consequently, everyone will be
free to choose the Liturgy of
his choice.
However, I think that the
seeming hatred between the two
groups in the church of
Saranda is a contrived
situation. We have lived
together for a long time in
peace and with understanding
for each other. Until a new
church is built we, the
Orthodox of Saranda, could
very nicely attend the same
Liturgy in Greek and Albanian
and celebrate together the
holy gifts, with one faith and
one heart, as we worship the
same God, crucified and risen,
who understands very well both
Albanian and Greek.
This article is an appeal
addressed to all of those of
good will who are concerned
for the well being of the
Albanian Orthodox Church and
especially to those with
influence to evaluate and
resolve the issue of the
church in Saranda for the
benefit of the Orthodox
Saranda, June 10, 2001 (All
Saints Day)
(The original Albanian article
was published in ILLYRIA
#1045, June 12-14, 2001).
Translation by S. Protopapa


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