Aristoula Beti
Aristoula Beti | Pomak villages
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Pomak villages

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According to the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, namely Orthodox Greeks who had settled in Istanbul prior to 1918, and Muslims established in the Greek province of Western Thrace were exempt from the major compulsory population exchange between Greece and Turkey. The fate of both these minority groups, was intricately linked with and affected by the relations between the two countries.

 

Nowadays, the main officially recognized minority of Greece is the muslim minority of Thrace which is recognised as religious minority. Unfortunately, there are no reliable official statistics for either the exact size of the minority or its ethnic composition. Part of it are Pomaks.

 

Pomaks of Western Thrace are Greek citizens of diverse ethnic origins. The representation of their identity is mostly constructed by using criteria such as the religion of Islam and their oral language (aka. pomak language) with its slavic elements. Pomaks reside mainly in villages in the Rhodope Mountains in Thrace, in Evros, Xanthi and Rhodope regional units of Greece.

 

Until 1996, there was a ‘restricted zone’ along the Greek–Bulgarian border. In order to visit Pomak villages, you were obliged to pass a border control inside Greece and also take a license from the Police Directorate of Xanthi. For years, Muslims faced an unacceptable policy of discrimination and persecution, which made the muslim minority a proponent of the propaganda of the Turkish Consulate in Komotini, but also a field of action and exploitation by the Greek extremist-nationalists. Such controversies characterize educational policy and instructional practices.

 

Being in such a state, Pomaks of Greece have proved capable of preserving traditional responses, while undergoing rapid changes over the last years.