Meliti (Greek: Μελίτη, before 1926: Βοστεράνη - Vosterani, Bulgarian: Овчарани or Вощарани, Macedonian: Овчарани) is a village in the Florina regional unit, Greece, 15 km northeast of the city of Florina. It is part of the municipal unit Meliti.
Florina city- in the background is the electricity power plant of Meliti.
|Administrative region||West Macedonia|
|Highest elevation||680 m (2,230 ft)|
|Lowest elevation||680 m (2,230 ft)|
|Time zone||UTC+2 (EET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+3 (EEST)|
The name of the village is "Voshterani", "Voštarani" (Воштарани, Вощарани) or "Ovčarani" (Овчарани) in both Macedonian and Bulgarian. The village was called Türbeli during the Ottoman Empire. In 1926, it was renamed to "Meliti" in Greek.
The village was first mentioned in an Ottoman defter of 1481, where it was listed under the name Voštarani and described as having one hundred and ninety-eight households. During the Ottoman period, the village had a mixed Bulgarian and Turkish population. In 1845 the Russian slavist Victor Grigorovich recorded Vushtarani (Вуштарани) as mainly Bulgarian village. A Bulgarian school stood in the village at the beginning of 20th century.
After the Balkan Wars, Greece annexed the village. In World War I, Bulgaria occupied it, but with Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine it was returned to Greece. After the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922), the Turkish population left the village and 182 refugees (40 families) from Pontus and East Thrace were settled there. After the defeat of Greece by Nazi Germany in April 1941, a local government was established and villagers were actively involved in the pro-Bulgarian organization "Ohrana." In 1946, 20 activists from "Ohrana", were sentenced to prison by a court in Florina.[unreliable source?] During the Greek Civil War, about 200 villagers joined the Communist-led Democratic Army of Greece. After the Greek Civil War, 66 Macedonian and 12 Pontic families left the village.
In 2008, a group of roughly 30 villagers from Meliti joined in protest with fellow ethnic Macedonians from Lofoi and Kella to protest the presence of the Greek military conducting training exercises in the vicinity of these villages.
Meliti holds an annual festival in honour of the Prophet Elijah. Held every year on 19–20 July, it is known as "Ilinden" in the local dialect, and is considered by some ethnic Macedonians living in the village to be a celebration in honour of the Ilinden Uprising. The festival has attracted performers from the neighbouring Republic of Macedonia such as Vaska Ilieva, Suzana Spasovska, Elena Velevska, Synthesis and the Tanec folklore ensemble. An estimated 3,000–5,000 people attend the event every year.
The festival however has not gone without criticism from the Greek authorities and local Greek media. In the past, as was common with all festivals involving songs in the Macedonian language, there were suppressive measures enforced by local authorities. According to the president of the local community, this was so severe that it was only until 1983 that songs in the Macedonian language were allowed to be sung. In 1988 the local police interrupted the festival to by switching off all power to the sound system, a reaction to the singing of Macedonian language songs. The police later justified these actions claiming that the mayor of the village had been warned not to use the local Macedonian names of songs, but to instead use the Greek version. Two years later the police employed similar tactics in response to a folkloric group singing in the Macedonian language. Some Greek media has perceived the festival to constitute a threat alleging that the festival represents a "rebellion against Greek sovereignty". Within the Macedonian-language media however, an alternate approach has been taken, with the event being publicised as the largest annual gathering of ethnic Macedonians in Greece.
The village is home to both ethnic Macedonian and Pontic Greek folkloric groups, with the ethnic Macedonian group "KUD Ovčarani" notably performing at the 40th "Macedonian Border Festival" at the border village of Trnovo, Republic of Macedonia.
Recently the village has been described as the "epicenter of Macedonian ethnic activism in Greece". A 1993 EU funded survey revealed that the village is inhabited by a mixed population of Macedonian Slavic speakers and the descendants of Greek refugees, including Pontians, from Asia Minor.
According to the 2011 census, the population of Meliti was 1,432 people.
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