The Pontic Greeks (Pontic: Ρωμαίοι, Ρωμίοι, Turkish: Pontus Rumları or Karadeniz Rumları, Greek: Πόντιοι, romanized: Póndii or Ελληνοπόντιοι, romanized: Ellinopóndii, Georgian: პონტოელი ბერძნები, romanized: P’ont’oeli Berdznebi), also Pontian Greeks or simply Pontians, are an ethnically Greek group indigenous to the region of Pontus, in northeastern Anatolia (in Turkey). Many later migrated to other parts of Eastern Anatolia, to the former Russian province of Kars Oblast in the Transcaucasus, and to Georgia in various waves between the Ottoman conquest of the Empire of Trebizond in 1461 and the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–1829. Those from southern Russia, Ukraine, and Crimea are often referred to as "Northern Pontic [Greeks]", in contrast to those from "South Pontus", which strictly speaking is Pontus proper. Those from Georgia, northeastern Anatolia, and the former Russian Caucasus are in contemporary Greek academic circles often referred to as "Eastern Pontic [Greeks]" or as Caucasian Greeks, but also include the Turkic-speaking Urums.
Έλληνες του Πόντου (Ρωμιοί)
|c. 2,000,000 – 2,500,000|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Greece, Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Germany, United States, Uzbekistan, Australia, Canada, Syria, Romania, Bulgaria, Egypt|
|Predominantly Modern and Pontic Greek. Also the languages of their respective countries of residence (Those include Armenian, Russian, Turkish, Georgian and Urum language)|
|Greek Orthodox Christianity, Russian Orthodox Christianity, Sunni Islam (mostly in Turkey), Judaism, other Christian denominations|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Cappadocians, Caucasian Greeks, Urums, Laz|
Pontic Greeks owe their genetic ancestry to multiple sources, specifically ancient Greek colonists, indigenous Anatolians, Greeks who had moved relatively recently to Pontus and other people who migrated to Pontus and converted to Christianity. They traditionally speak the Pontic Greek dialect, a distinct form of the standard Greek language which, due to the remoteness of Pontus, has undergone linguistic evolution distinct from that of the rest of the Greek world. The Pontic Greeks had a continuous presence in the region of Pontus (modern-day northeastern Turkey), Georgia, and Eastern Anatolia from at least 700 BC until the Greek genocide and the population exchange with Turkey in 1923. Today, most Pontic Greeks live in Greece, especially in and around Thessaloniki in Greek Macedonia.
Nowadays, due to extensive intermarriage (also with non-Pontic Greeks), the exact number of Greeks from the Pontus, or people with Greek ancestry still living there, is unknown. After 1988, Pontian Greeks in the Soviet Union started to migrate to Greece settling in and around Athens and Thessaloniki, and especially Macedonia. The largest communities of Pontian Greeks (or people of Pontian Greek descent) around the world are:
Ancestry and ethnicityEdit
Pontic Greeks are an ethnic Greek subgroup, indigenous to the region of Pontus, in northeastern Anatolia. Greeks lived in Pontus since "the time of the Argonauts, Herodotus and Xenophon and the Ten Thousand". The Pontic Greeks are believed to be descendants of Greeks who in the 8th century BC had moved from the Ionian cities located in the islands and shores of the Aegean Sea, to the area of the Black Sea called Pontus. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an ethnicity is made up of people with ancestry or cultural background in common. Self-identification is an important part of belonging to an ethnic group. Pontians have a lot in common with other Greeks; for example, they speak Romeika, a Greek language variety. Pontians also traditionally follow the Greek Orthodox faith, although a minority in Turkey are Sunni Muslims. Pontian Greeks also share traits with other ethnic groups. Like Turks, they cook havítz (kuymak), boortsog, and İmam bayıldı. They share other aspects of their culture with Lazes, Persians, and Armenians. They may owe some aspects of their culture to ancient Anatolian peoples. According to Sam Topalidis, a Pontic Greek historian, Pontians owe their genetic ancestry to multiple sources: Ancient Greek colonists, Indigenous Anatolians, Greeks who had moved recently into Pontus and other people who converted to Christianity upon moving to the Pontus. The region of Pontus has been diverse since at least the Middle Ages; in 1204, the Matzouka (Maçka) region alone contained Greeks, Italians, Lazes and a few Armenians.
A genetic study of male Georgians, including Pontic Greeks in Georgia, revealed that the latter had high incidences[spelling?] of haplogroup L, which is also prevalent among Laz people. Haplogroup G2 and haplogroup J2 were also prevalent among the Pontians studied. Pontians in Georgia and Lazes are genetically similar. Armenians in Georgia and Pontians in Georgia are also genetically similar.
Pontian self-identification is also important. The Pontic label is relatively new. Anton Popov writes, "Anthony Bryer states that 'at the beginning of the nineteenth century a Pontic Christian might describe himself in the old way as a Douberites, Phytanos or Tsitenos first, and then as a “Roman” (Rum) Orthodox subject of the sultan; by the end of the century he was calling himself a Greek, and after he had finally left the Pontos in 1923, a Pontic Greek.'" Anton Popov studied Caucasus Greeks in former Soviet territories. Most of the Romeika speakers that Popov interviewed referred to themselves as "Romei." He also mentioned that many Caucasus Greeks only began referring to themselves as Pontians when they went to work in Greece.
During Ottoman times, most Pontian Greeks did not see themselves as "Greeks" per se. Neal Acherson, in his book Black Sea, writes, "Who did they think they were, in this pre-nationalist age? In the first place, they did not think of themselves as 'Greek' or as a people in some way rooted in the peninsula and islands we now call 'Greece.' Sophisticates in Trebizond might address one another in the fifteenth century as 'Hellenes,' but this was a cultural fancy rather than an ethnic description. Outsiders, whether Turks or northern Europeans, referred to them and to all the inhabitants of the Byzantine Empire as 'Rom' or 'Rum' people, or as 'Romanians' [Romans] — citizens of the Roman Empire, in other words, who were also distinguished by their Orthodox Christian faith. Struggling with these categories, a Pontic Turk whose village had once been Greek told Anthony Bryer: 'This is Roman (Rum) country; they spoke Christian here...'" This identification mirrored the identification of other non-intellectual Greeks at the time.
Greek nationalism only began to spread to the Pontos in the 1800s after the Greek nation gained independence from the Ottoman Empire. This nationalism came during a time of commercial prosperity in the Pontos. Again, Acherson writes, "The teachers and the school curricula came from Athens, bringing with them a new concept of Greekness which linked the Greek-Orthodox communities of the Black Sea and the 'nation' of Greece." He goes on to explain how the Greek government encouraged nationalist thinking: "A speaker in the Greek parliament in 1844 expounded this newly designed identity: 'The Kingdom of Greece is not Greece. It constitutes only one part, the smallest and the poorest. A Greek is not only a man who lives within the Kingdom, but also one who lives in Yoannina, Serrai, Adrianople, Constantinople, Smyrna, Trebizond, Crete and in any land associated with Greek history and the Greek race." The newly established Kingdom of Greece set up consulates in the Ottoman Empire to spread the Megali Idea. While the Anatolians recognized a shared cultural heritage, most weren't involved in an irredentist movement.
Few Pontic Greeks supported the Megali Idea except for some Greek nationalists such as Nikos Kapetanidis. Very few wanted an independent Pontic state, and few had ambition to join with Greece, even in the early 1900s. The reason for this is unclear. Benny Morris and Dror Ze'evi give three theories on why most Pontic Greeks distanced themselves from nationalism and separatism: poorly developed political consciousness, tradition of submissiveness to Islamic hegemony, or fears of massacres and economic harm. More generally, Greek nationalism in Asia Minor mostly appealed to "the most enlightened and liberal", to the medical, legal and literary professionals and to the rising middle class. It was opposed, however, by the "ancient [Greek] nobility, the superior clergy, the lay dignitaries of the church and the wealthy merchants". There are also some Turkish-speaking Pontic Greeks, living in the Greek region of Western Macedonia, specifically in Metamorfosi, Kozani. These Pontians follow the Greek Orthodox Church and profess a strong Greek identity. After the Greek-Turkish population exchange in 1923, even though the state never considered them a "national threat", many of these Pontians saw their language as a "cultural flaw" and desired to get rid of it. Historian and psychologist Stavros Iason Gavriilidis states that this was a result of the trauma they faced from the Greek genocide.
In Greek mythology the Black Sea region is the region where Jason and the Argonauts sailed to find the Golden Fleece. The Amazons, female warriors in Greek Mythology lived in Pontus, and a minority lived in Taurica, also known as Crimea, which is also the minor unique settlement of Pontic Greeks. The warlike characteristics of Pontic Greeks were once said to have been derived from the Amazons of Pontus.
The first recorded Greek colony, established on the northern shores of ancient Anatolia, was Sinope on the Black Sea, circa 800 BC. The settlers of Sinope were merchants from the Ionian Greek city state of Miletus. After the colonization of the shores of the Black Sea, known until then to the Greek world as Pontos Axeinos (Inhospitable Sea), the name changed to Pontos Euxeinos (Hospitable Sea). In time, as the numbers of Greeks settling in the region grew significantly, more colonies were established along the whole Black Sea coastline of what is now Turkey, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania.
The region of Trapezus (later called Trebizond, now Trabzon) was mentioned by Xenophon in his famous work Anabasis, describing how he and other 10,000 Greek mercenaries fought their way to the Euxine Sea after the failure of the rebellion of Cyrus the Younger whom they fought for, against his older brother Artaxerxes II of Persia. Xenophon mentions that when at the sight of sea they shouted "Thalatta! Thalatta!" – "The sea! The sea!", the local people understood them. They were Greeks too and, according to Xenophon, they had been there for over 300 years. A whole range of trade flourished among the various Greek colonies, but also with the indigenous tribes who inhabited the Pontus inland. Soon Trebizond established a leading stature among the other colonies and the region nearby become the heart of the Pontian Greek culture and civilization. A notable inhabitant of the region was Philetaerus (c. 343 BC–263 BC) who was born to a Greek father in the small town of Tieion which was situated on the Black Sea coast of the Pontus Euxinus, he founded the Attalid dynasty and the Anatolian city of Pergamon in the second century BC.
This region was organized circa 281 BC as a kingdom by Mithridates I of Pontus, whose ancestry line dated back to Ariobarzanes I, a Persian ruler of the Greek town of Cius. The most prominent descendant of Mithridates I was Mithridates VI Eupator, who between 90 and 65 BC fought the Mithridatic Wars, three bitter wars against the Roman Republic, before eventually being defeated. Mithridates VI the Great, as he was left in memory, claiming to be the protector of the Greek world against the barbarian Romans, expanded his kingdom to Bithynia, Crimea and Propontis (in present-day Ukraine and Turkey) before his downfall after the Third Mithridatic War.
Nevertheless, the kingdom survived as a Roman vassal state, now named Bosporan Kingdom and based in Crimea, until the 4th century AD, when it succumbed to the Huns. The rest of the Pontus became part of the Roman Empire, while the mountainous interior (Chaldia) was fully incorporated into the Eastern Roman Empire during the 6th century.
Pontus was the birthplace of the Komnenos dynasty, which ruled the Byzantine Empire from 1082 to 1185, a time in which the empire resurged to recover much of Anatolia from the Seljuk Turks. In the aftermath of the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the Empire of Trebizond was established by Alexios I of Trebizond, a descendant of Alexios I Komnenos, the patriarch of the Komnenos dynasty. The Empire was ruled by this new branch of the Komenos dynasty which bore the name Megas Komnenos Axouch (or Axouchos or Afouxechos) as early rulers intermarried with the family of Axouch, a Byzantine noble house of Turkic origin which included famed politicians such as John Axouch
This empire lasted for more than 250 years until it eventually fell at the hands of Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire in 1461. However it took the Ottomans 18 more years to finally defeat the Greek resistance in Pontus. During this long period of resistance many Pontic Greeks nobles and aristocrats married foreign emperors and dynasties, most notably of Medieval Russia, Medieval Georgia, or the Safavid Persian dynasty, and to a lesser extent the Kara Koyunlu rulers, in order to gain their protection and aid against the Ottoman threat. Many of the landowning and lower-class families of Pontus "turned-Turk", adopting the Turkish language and Turkish Islam but often remaining crypto-Christian before reverting to their Greek Orthodoxy in the early 19th century.
In the 1600s and 1700s, as Turkish lords called derebeys gained more control of land along the Black Sea coast, many coastal Pontians moved to the Pontic Mountains. There, they established villages such as Santa.
Between 1461 and the second Russo-Turkish War of 1828–29, Pontic Greeks from northeastern Anatolia migrated as refugees or economic migrants (especially miners and livestock breeders) into nearby Armenia or Georgia, where they came to form a nucleus of Pontic Greeks which increased in size with the addition of each wave of refugees and migrants until these eastern Pontic Greek communities of the South Caucasus region came to define themselves as Caucasian Greeks.
During the Ottoman period a number of Pontian Greeks converted to Islam and adopted the Turkish language. This could be willingly, for example so to avoid paying the higher rate of taxation imposed on Orthodox Christians or in order to make themselves more eligible for higher level government and regular military employment opportunities within the empire (at least in the later period following the abolition of the infamous Greek and Balkan Christian child levy or 'devshirme', on which the elite Janissary corps had in the early Ottoman period depended for its recruits). But conversion could also occur in response to pressures from central government and local Muslim militia (e.g.) following any one of the Russo-Turkish wars in which ethnic Greeks from the Ottoman Empire's northern border regions were known to have collaborated, fought alongside, and sometimes even led invading Russian forces, such as was the case in the Greek governed, semi-autonomous Romanian Principalities, Trebizond, and the area that was briefly to become part of the Russian Caucasus in the far northeast.
Large communities (around 25% of the population) of Christian Pontic Greeks remained throughout the Pontus area (including Trabzon and Kars in northeastern Turkey/the Russian Caucasus) until the 1920s, and in parts of Georgia and Armenia until the 1990s, preserving their own customs and dialect of Greek.
Genocide and population exchangeEdit
Between 1913 and 1923, the Turkish leadership attempted to expel or kill its native Greek population, including the Pontic Greeks. The genocide was first perpetrated by the Three Pashas and later by the rebel government under Mustafa Kemal. Different scholars have made different estimates for the death toll; most estimates range from 300,000 to 360,000 Pontic Greeks killed. Some notable victims include Matthaios Kofidis and Nikos Kapetanidis. Many were executed, for example during the Amasya trials; others were subject to massacres; many Pontic men were forced to work in labor camps until they died; still others were deported to the interior on death marches. Rape, primarily of Pontic women and girls, was prominent.
In 1923, after hundreds of years, those remaining were expelled from Turkey to Greece as part of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey defined by the Treaty of Lausanne. In his book Black Sea, author Neal Ascherson writes:
The Turkish guide-books on sale in the Taksim Meydane offer this account of the 1923 Katastrofĕ: 'After the proclamation of the Republic, the Greeks who lived in the region returned to their own country […].' Their own country? Returned? They had lived in the Pontos for nearly three thousand years. Their Pontian dialect was not understandable to twentieth-century Athenians.
According to the 1928 census of Greece, there were in total 240,695 Pontic Greek refugees in Greece: 11,435 from Russia, 47,091 from the Caucasus, and 182,169 from the Pontus region of Anatolia.
Remaining architecture and settlementsEdit
During their millennia-long presence on the Black Sea's southern coast, Pontic Greeks constructed a number of buildings, some of which still stand today. Many structures sit in ruins. Others, however, enjoy active use; one example is Nakip Mosque in Trabzon, originally built as a Greek Orthodox church during the 900s or 1000s.
Ancient Greeks reached and settled the Black Sea by the 700s BCE; Sinope was perhaps the earliest colony. According to the Pontic Greek historian Strabo, Greeks from the existing colony of Miletus settled the Pontus region. Some walls from an early fortification stand in the modern Turkish city of Sinop (renamed from Sinope). These fortifications may date back to early Greek colonization in the 600s BCE. During late Ottoman and recent Turkish times, the fortress housed a state prison.
Between 281 BCE and 62 CE, the Mithridatic kings ruled the Pontos region and called it the Kingdom of Pontus. While the ruling dynasty was Persian in origin, many kings had Greek ancestry, as Pontic rulers often married Seleucid nobility. Some of these Persian/Greek rulers were interred in the Tombs of the kings of Pontus. Their necropolis is still visible in Amasya.
One Pontic king, Pharnaces I of Pontus, may have built Giresun Castle in the 100s BCE. There's also a chance it was built during medieval times. From the castle, the Black Sea and much of Giresun are visible.
Many other structures date back to Greek occupation in ancient times. Ancient Greeks inhabited Giresun, then called Kerasous, from the 5th century BCE. During this time, they must also have used Giresun Island. The poet Apollonius of Rhodes mentioned this island in his best-known epic, the Argonautica. Altars on the island date to the Classical or Hellenistic period. Its use as a religious center continued after the rise of Christianity in the region. During Byzantine times, likely in the 400s or 500s, a monastic complex was built on the island, dedicated to either St Phocas of Sinope or Mary. It functioned both as a religious center and as a fortress.
After Christianity spread to the Pontus region in Roman times, Pontic Greeks began constructing a number of churches, monasteries, and other religious buildings. The Virgin Mary Monastery in Şebinkarahisar District, Giresun Province may be one of the oldest Greek Orthodox monasteries in the region; Turkish archaeologists suspect it may date to the 2nd century. The monastery is made of carved stone and built into a cave. As of the mid-2010s, it's open for tourism.
Other religious buildings were constructed later. Three ruined monasteries lie in Maçka, Trabzon Province: Panagias Soumela Monastery, Saint George Peristereotas Monastery, and Vazelon Monastery. These were built during early Byzantine times. Vazelon Monastery, for example, was built around 270 CE, and it retained great political and societal importance until its abandonment in 1922/3. While St. George Monastery (also called Kuştul Monastery) and Vazelon are abandoned, Sumela is a prominent tourist attraction.
Pontic Greeks also constructed a number of non-religious buildings during Byzantine times. In the 500s, for example, a castle was built in Rize on the order of Justinian I. It was later expanded. The old fortress still stands today, serving tourists.
Later, the Pontians built further churches and castles. Balatlar Church is a Byzantine church dating back to 660. It lies on the Black Sea coast. Despite vandalism and natural deterioration, the church still has old frescoes, which have been of interest to modern historians. The actual structure itself may date to Roman times. It likely had different uses over the centuries, potentially being a public bath and gymnasium before its use as a church. Pottery found at the site dates to the Roman and Hellenistic eras. There is also speculation that a piece of the True Cross was found at Balatlar Church; however, it's more likely that the materials found were actually the relics of a saint or other holy person.
Trabzon has at least three more late Byzantine churches that stand today. St. Anne Church, as the name suggests, was dedicated to Saint Anne, the mother of Mary. While the actual date of construction is uncertain, it was restored by the Byzantine emperors in 884 and 885. It had three apses and a tympanum over the door. Unlike many churches in Trabzon, there is no evidence of it being converted into a mosque following Ottoman conquest in 1461.
Two other structures in Trabzon, built as churches in Byzantine or Trapezuntine times, are now functional mosques. The New Friday Mosque, for example, was originally the Hagios Eugenios Church dedicated to Saint Eugenios of Trebizond. Another is Fatih Mosque. It was originally the Panagia Chrysokephalos church, a cathedral in Trabzon. The name is fitting; fatih means "conqueror" in both Ottoman and modern Turkish.
Another church, Trabzon's Hagia Sophia, was perhaps built by Manuel I Komnenos. It was used as a mosque after Turkish conquest; the frescoes may have been covered for Muslim worship. Hagia Sophia underwent restoration work in the mid-20th century.
During the Empire of Trebizond, many new structures were built. One is Kiz Castle in Rize Province. The castle sits on an islet just off the Black Sea coast. According to Anthony Bryer, a British Byzantinist, it was built in the 1200s or 1300s on the order of Trapezuntine rulers. Zilkale Castle is another fortress in Rize Province. According to the same historian, it may have been built by the Empire of Trebizond for local Hemshin rulers. Yet another fortress, the Kov Castle in Gümüşhane Province, may have been built by Trapezuntine Emperor Alexios III.
Alexios III, one of the last emperors under whom the Empire of Trebizond flourished, built Panagia Theoskepastos Monastery in the 1300s. It was an all-female monastery in Trabzon. The monastery may undergo restoration work to boost tourism.
After Mehmed the Conqueror lay siege to Trabzon in 1461, the Empire of Trebizond fell. Many church buildings became mosques around this time, while others remained in the Greek Orthodox community.
Pontic Greeks continued to live and build under Ottoman rule. For example, Pontians in Gümüşhane established the valley town of Santa (today called Dumanlı) in the 1600s. Even today, many of the stone schools, houses, and churches built by Santa's Greek Orthodox residents still stand.
They weren't divorced from Ottoman society, however; Pontic Greeks also contributed their labor to Ottoman construction projects. In 1610, Pontians built the Hacı Abdullah Wall in Giresun Province. The wall is 6.5 km (4.0 mi) long.
Trabzon remained an important center of Pontic Greek society and culture throughout Ottoman times. A scholar named Sevastos Kyminitis founded the Phrontisterion of Trapezous, a Greek school operating in Trabzon from the late 1600s to the early 1900s. It was an important center for Greek-language education across the whole Pontus region. Some students came from outside of Trabzon to learn there (one example being Nikos Kapetanidis, who was born in Rize).
After the Ottoman Reform Edict of 1856 guaranteed more religious freedom and civic equality for the Ottoman Empire's Jews and Christians, new churches were constructed. One of these was the church at Cape Jason in Perşembe, Ordu Province. Local Georgians and Greeks built this church in the 1800s; it remains today. Another was the small stone church in Çakrak, Giresun Province. Still another was Taşbaşı Church in Ordu, built in the 1800s; after the Greek Orthodox were expelled from Turkey, it saw some use as a prison. Many other less-notable churches remain throughout the Pontus region.
Some of the old houses once belonging to Pontic Greeks still stand. For example, Konstantinos Theofylaktos, a wealthy Greek, had a mansion built for him in Trabzon. It now functions as Trabzon Museum.
Some of the settlements historically inhabited by Pontian Greeks include (current official names in parenthesis):
- In Pontus proper
- Amasea, Samsunda (Amisos), Aphene, Argyrion (Akdağmadeni), Argyropolis (Gümüşhane), Athina (Pazar), Bafra, Comana Pontica (Gümenek), Etonia (Gümüşhacıköy), Fatsa, Galiana (Konaklar), Gemoura (Yomra), Hopa, Imera (Olucak), Kakatsis, Kelkit, Cerasus(Giresun), Kissa (Fındıklı), Kolonia (Şebinkarahisar), Nikopolis (Koyulhisar), Kotyora (Ordu), Kromni (Yağlıdere), Livera (Yazlık), Matsouka (Maçka), Meletios (Mesudiye), Myrsiphon (Merzifon), Mouzena (Aydınlar), Neocaesarea (Niksar), Ofis (Of), Oinoe (Ünye), Platana (Akçaabat), Rizounta (Rize), Santa (Dumanlı), Sinope (Sinop), Sourmena (Sürmene), Therme (Terme), i.e. the ancient of the Themiscyra, Evdokia (Tokat), Thoania (Tonya), Trebizond (Trabzon), Tripolis (Tirebolu), Cheriana (Şiran).
- Outside Pontus proper
- Adapazarı, Palea (Balya), Baiberdon (Bayburt), Efchaneia (Çorum), Sebastia (Sivas), Theodosiopolis (Erzurum), Erzincan (see below on Eastern Anatolia Greeks) and in the so-called Russian Asia Minor (see Batum Oblast, Kars Oblast' and Caucasian Greeks) and the so-called Russian Trans-Caucasus or Transcaucasia (see Černomore Guberniya, Kutais Guberniya, Tiflis Guberniya, Bathys Limni, Dioskourias (Sevastoupolis), Gonia, Phasis, Pytius and Tsalka).
- In Crimea and the northern Azov Sea
- Chersonesos, Symbolon (Balaklava), Kerkinitida, Panticapaeum, Soughdaia (Sudak), Tanais, Theodosia (Feodosiya).
- On the Taman peninsula and Krasnodar Krai, Stavropol Krai (in particular Essentuki)
- Germonassa, Gorgippa (Anapa), Heraclea Pontica, Phanagoria.
Eastern Anatolia GreeksEdit
Ethnic Greeks indigenous to the high plateau of Eastern Anatolia to the immediate south of the boundaries of the Empire of Trebizond – essentially the northern portion of the former Ottoman Vilayet of Erzurum between Erzinjan and Kars province, that is the western half of the Armenian Highlands – are sometimes differentiated from both Pontic Greeks proper and Caucasian Greeks. These Greeks pre-date the refugees and migrants who left their homelands in the Pontic Alps and moved onto the Eastern Anatolian plateau after the fall of the Empire of Trebizond in 1461. They were mainly the descendants of Greek farmers, soldiers, state officials and traders, who settled in Erzurum province in the late Roman and Byzantine Empire period.
Unlike the thoroughly Hellenized areas of the western and central Black Sea coast and the Pontic Alps, the Erzinjan and Erzerum regions were primarily Turkish- and Armenian-speaking, with Greeks forming only a small minority of the population. The Greeks of this region were consequently more exposed to Turkish and Armenian cultural influences than those of Pontus proper, and also more likely to have a strong command of the Turkish language, particular since the areas they inhabited had also been part of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum and other pre-Ottoman Turkish powers in Central and Eastern Anatolia. Many are also known to have "turned Turk" in both the Seljuk and Ottoman periods, and consequently to have assimilated into Turkish society or reverted to Christian Orthodoxy in the 19th century. Erzurum province was invaded and occupied by the Russian Empire several times in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and large numbers of Eastern Anatolia Greeks are known to have collaborated with the Russians in these campaigns, particularly that of the 1828–29 Russo-Turkish War, alongside Pontic Greeks inhabiting areas to the immediate north of Erzinjan and Erzurum.
As with Pontic Greeks proper, those Eastern Anatolia Greeks who migrated eastwards into Kars province, Georgia, Armenia and Southern Russia between the early Ottoman period and 1829 generally assimilated into the branch of Pontic Greeks usually called Caucasian Greeks. Those who remained and retained their Greek identity into the early 20th century were either deported to the Kingdom of Greece as part of the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey in 1923-4 or massacred in the Greek genocide that occurred after the larger Armenian genocide in the same part of Anatolia.
The culture of Pontus has been strongly influenced by the topography of its different regions. In commercial cities like Trebizond, Samsunda, Kerasounda, and Sinopi upper-level education and arts flourished under the protection of a cosmopolitan middle class. In the inland cities such as Argyroupolis, the economy was based upon agriculture and mining, thus creating an economic and cultural gap between the developed urban ports and the rural centers which lay upon the valleys and plains extending from the base of the Pontic alps.
Pontic's linguistic lineage stems from Ionic Greek via Koine and Byzantine Greek with many archaisms and contains loanwords from Turkish and to a lesser extent, Persian and various Caucasian languages.
The rich cultural activity of Pontian Greeks is witnessed by the number of educational institutions, churches, and monasteries in the region. These include the Phrontisterion of Trapezous that operated from 1682/3 to 1921 and provided a major impetus for the rapid expansion of Greek education throughout the region. The building of this institution still remains the most impressive Pontic Greek monument in the city.
Another well known institution was the Argyroupolis, built in 1682 and 1722 respectively, 38 highschools in the Sinopi region, 39 highschools in the Kerasounda region, a plethora of churches and monasteries, most notable of which are the St. Eugenios and Hagia Sophia churches of Trapezeus, the monasteries of St. George and St. Ioannes Vazelonos, and arguably the most famous and highly regarded of all, the monastery of Panagia Soumela.
During the 19th century hundreds of schools were constructed by Pontic Greek communities in the Trebizond Vilayet, giving the region one of the highest literacy rates in the Ottoman Empire. The Greeks of Caykara, who according to Ottoman tax records converted to Islam during the 17th century, were also recognized for their educational facilities. Teachers from the Of-valley provided education for thousands of Anatolian Sunni and Sufi students in home schools and small madrassas. Some of these schools taught Pontic Greek alongside Arabic (and to a lesser extent Persian or Ottoman Turkish as well). Although Atatürk banned these madrassas during the early republican period, some of them remained functioning until the second half of the 20th century because of their remote location. The effects of this educational heritage continue to this day, with many prominent religious figures, scientists and politicians coming from the areas influenced by the Naqshbandi Sufi orders of Pontic Greek extraction in Of, Caykara and Rize, among them president Erdogan, whose family originates from the village of Potamia.
Pontian music retains elements of the musical traditions of Ancient Greece, Byzantium, and the Caucasus (especially from the region of Kars). Possibly there is an underlying influence from the native peoples who lived in the area before the Greeks as well, but this is not clearly established.
Musical styles, like language patterns and other cultural traits, were influenced by the topography of Pontos. The mountains and rivers of the area impeded communication between Pontian Greek communities and caused them to develop in different ways. Also significant in the shaping of Pontian music was the proximity of various non-Greek peoples on the fringes of the Pontic area. For this reason we see that musical style of the east Pontos has significant differences from that of the west or southwest Pontos. The Pontian music of Kars, for example, shows a clear influence from the music of the Caucasus and elements from other parts of Anatolia. The music and dances of Turks from Black Sea region are very similar to Greek Pontic and some songs and melodies are common. Except for certain laments and ballads, this music is played primarily to be danced to.
An important part of Pontic music is the Acritic songs, heroic or epic poetry set to music that emerged in the Byzantine Empire, probably in the 9th century. These songs celebrated the exploits of the Akritai, the frontier guards defending the eastern borders of the Byzantine Empire.
The most popular instrument in the Pontian musical collection is the kemenche or lyra, which is related closely with other bowed musical instruments of the medieval West, like the Kit violin and Rebec. Also important are other instruments such as the Angion or Tulum (a type of Bagpipe), the davul, a type of drum, the Shiliavrin, and the Kaval or Ghaval (a flute-like pipe).
The zurna existed in several versions which varied from region to region, with the style from Bafra sounding differently due to its bigger size. The Violin was very popular in the Bafra region and all throughout west Pontos. The Kemane, an instrument closely related to the one of Cappadocia, was highly popular in southwest Pontos and with the Pontian Greeks who lived in Cappadocia. Finally worth mentioning are the Defi (a type of tambourine), Outi and in the region of Kars, the clarinet and accordion.
Pontian dance retains aspects of Persian and Greek dance styles. The dances called Horoi/Choroi (Greek: Χοροί), singular Horos/Choros (Chorus) (Greek: Χορός), meaning literally "Dance" in both Ancient Pontian and Modern Greek languages, are circular in nature and each is characterized by distinct short steps. A unique aspect of Pontian dance is the tremoulo (Greek: Τρέμουλο), which is a fast shaking of the upper torso by a turning of the back on its axis. Like other Greek dances, they are danced in a line and the dancers form a circle. Pontian dances also resemble Persian and Middle Eastern dances because they are not led by a single dancer. The most renowned Pontian dances are Tik (dance), Serra, Maheria or Pyrecheios, Kotsari and Omal. Other, less common, dances include Letsina, Dipat, Podaraki, and Atsiapat.
Pontic Greek history with organised sports began with extra-curricular activities offered by educational institutions. The students would establish athletics clubs providing the Pontic Greek youth with an opportunity to participate in organised sporting competition. The Hellenic Athletic Club, Pontus Merzifounta, founded in 1903 was one such example formed by students attending Anatolia College in Merzifon near Amasya. The college's forced closure in 1921 by the Turkish government resulted in the schools relocation to Greece in 1924, along with much of the Greek population of Asia Minor in the aftermath of genocide and a subsequent treaty that agreed upon a population exchange between Greece and Turkey. This resulted in the establishment of Pontic and Anatolian Greek sporting clubs in Greece, of whom football is the sport in which they are most commonly associated. Today a number of these clubs still compete; some at a professional and intercontinental level. Such as:
- Apollon Pontou FC
- AE Pontion Verias
- AO Ellas Pontion
- AE Ponton Evmirou
- AE Ponton Vatalakkou
- AEP Kozanis
- Pontikos Neas Santas'
Outside of Greece, due to the widespread Pontic Greek diaspora, association football clubs also exist. In Australia, the Pontian Eagles SC are a semi-professional team based in Adelaide, South Australia and in Munich, Germany, FC Pontos have an academy relationship with PAOK FC.
Pontic Greeks have also contributed to sporting successes internationally, not limited to but mostly representing Greece, with several team members a part of sports triumphs in major international basketball (2006 FIBA World Championship, Eurobasket 2005) and football tournaments (UEFA Euro 2004). Champion individuals of Pontic Greek origin have also emerged in World Championship and Olympic levels of competition for athletics (Katerina Stefanidi, Voula Patoulidou), gymnastics (Ioannis Melissanidis), diving (Nikolaos Siranidis), taekwondo (Alexandros Nikolaidis) and kick-boxing (Mike Zambidis, Stan Longinidis).
Pontic cuisine specialities include:
- Felia (φελία), Pontian French toast
- Kinteata (κιντέατα), nettle soup
- Otía (pnt) (ωτία), fried dessert
- Pirozhki (πιροσκί)
- Pishía (pnt) (πιςία), Pontian boortsog
- Pita, flatbread
- Sousamópita (σουσαμόπιτα)
- Tanoménon sorvá or Tanofái (τανωμένον σορβά, τανοφάι), soup made with onions and yogurt
- Tsirichtá (pnt) (τσιριχτά), type of loukoumades
- Siron (pnt) (σιρόν), pasta
- Varenika (βαρένικα), type of ravioli
- Sourva, wheat or barley porridge
- Tan, drink
- Stupa or stupa torshi, pickled vegetables
- Pilav, rice dish. In coastal Pontus, it was sometimes made with mussels. Other versions included pilav with saffron, chicken, or anchovies.
- Dolmades, stuffed leaf dish
- Kibbeh made with lamb and/or beef
- Briami, roasted vegetables
- Havitz (pnt) (Χαβίτς), porridge
- Perek (Περέκ), pie similar to the Greek tiropita
- Avgolemono, egg-lemon soup
- Kebab, roasted meat
- Mantía (Μαντία), dumplings
- Lalággia (Λαλάγγια), pancakes
- Foustoron, type of omelette
- Mavra laxana, cabbage soup
- Lavashia (Λαβάσια), bread similar to Armenian lavash
- Tsatsoupel, a condiment similar to salsa made from quince, tomato, chili peppers, bell peppers, and a variety of spices
- İmam bayıldın, stuffed eggplant; shared with Turkish cuisine
Pontic Greeks in popular cultureEdit
- In the 1984 movie Voyage to Cythera (Ταξίδι στα Κύθηρα), directed by Theodoros Angelopoulos, the protagonist is a Pontian Greek who was deported to the Soviet Union after the Greek civil war. He returns to Greece after 32 years.
- In his 1998 movie From the Edge of the City (Από την άκρη της πόλης), the film director Constantinos Giannaris describes the life of a young "Russian Pontian" from Kazakhstan in the prostitution underworld of Athens.
- In the 1999 movie Soil and Water (Χώμα και νερό), one of the characters is a Pontian Greek from Georgia who works as a woman's trafficker for a strip club.
- In the 2000 memoir Not Even My Name: From a Death March in Turkey to a New Home in America, A Young Girl's True Story of Genocide and Survival by Thea Halo, life in the Pontus region is described by her mother Sano Halo before and after the Greek genocide.
- In the 2000 movie The Very Poor, Inc. (Πάμπτωχοι Α.Ε.), one of the characters is a Pontian Greek from the Soviet Union named Thymios Hloridis. A mathematician with a specialty in chaos theory, Hloridis is forced to make a living selling illegal cigars in front of the stock-market.
- In the 2002 novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, one of the side characters is a Pontian-American career criminal named Zizmo.
- In the 2003 Turkish movie Waiting for the Clouds (Bulutlari Beklerken, Περιμένοντας τα σύννεφα), a Pontian Greek woman who didn't leave Pontus as a child with her brother during the population exchange, meets Thanasis, a Pontian Greek man from the Soviet Union, who helps her to find her brother in Greece. The movie makes some references to the Pontic genocide.
- In the 2008 short movie Pontos, written, produced, and directed by Peter Stefanidis, he aims to capture a small part of the genocide from the perspective of its two central characters, played by Lee Mason (Kemal) and Ross Black (Pantzo).
- A 2012 poetry collection, The Black Sea by Stephanos Papadopoulos, depicts the imagined trials and voyages of the Pontic Greek exodus from the region. It was published by Sheep Meadow Press.
Notable Pontian GreeksEdit
- Diogenes of Sinope
- Bion of Borysthenes
- Philetaerus (ca. 343 BC–263 BC)
- Mithradates VI Eupator
- Marcion of Sinope
- Aquila of Sinope
- Evagrius Ponticus
- Alexios II of Trebizond
- Ecumenical Patriarch John VIII
- Ecumenical Patriarch Maximus V
- Michael Panaretos
- George Amiroutzes
- Gregory Choniades
- George of Trebizond
- Basilios Bessarion
- Ioannis Amanatidis
- George Andreadis
- Peter Andrikidis
- Diana Anphimiadi
- Antonis Antoniadis
- Joannis Avramidis
- Konstantin Bazelyuk
- A.I. Bezzerides
- Georges Candilis
- Alexander Deligiannidis
- Lefter Küçükandonyadis
- Alex Dimitriades
- Odysseas Dimitriadis
- Ioannis Fetfatzidis
- Adonis Georgiadis
- Georgios Georgiadis (footballer, born 1972)
- Georgios Georgiadis (footballer, born 1987)
- George Gurdjieff
- Nikos Kapetanidis
- Michael Katsidis
- Stelios Kazantzidis
- Yevhen Khacheridi
- Matthaios Kofidis
- Savvas Kofidis
- Venetia Kotta
- Arkhip Kuindzhi
- Filon Ktenidis
- Mike Lazaridis
- Angeliki Laiou
- Dufoix, Stephane (2008). Diasporas. University of California Press. p. 40. ISBN 9780520941298.
For example, there are 2 million Pontic Greeks worldwide, mostly in Russia, Ukraine, Greece, Germany, and Sweden.
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Οι ξεριζωμένοι και διασκορπισμένοι στα πέρατα της οικουμένης έλληνες του Πόντου συμποσούνται σήμερα γύρω στα 2.500.000.
- Fann, Patricia (1991). "The Pontic Myth of Homeland: Cultural Expressions of Nationalism and Ethnicism in Pontos and Greece, 1870-1990". Journal of Refugee Studies. 4: 346.
- Georgije Ostrogorski (1969). "The Early Byzantine State". History of the Byzantine State. Rutgers University Press. p. 28. ISBN 9780813511986.
- Ascherson, Neal (1995). Black Sea. MacMillan. p. 181. ISBN 9780809015931.
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Pontic Greeks An ethnic Greek minority found in Georgia and originally concentrated in the breakaway republic of Abkhazia. The Pontic Greeks are ultimately descended from Greek colonists of the Caucasus region (who named the Black Sea the Pontic Sea)
- Totten, Samuel; Bartrop, Paul Robert; Jacobs, Steven L. (2008). Dictionary of Genocide: A-L. ABC-CLIO. p. 337. ISBN 978-0313346422.
Pontic Greeks, Genocide of. The Pontic (sometimes Pontian) Greek genocide is the term applied to the massacres and deportations perpetuated against ethnic Greeks living in the Ottoman Empire at the hands of the Young Turk government between 1914 and 1923. The name of this people derives from the Greek word pontus, meaning "sea coast," and refers to the Greek population that lived on the south-eastern coast of the Black Sea, that is, in northern Turkey, for three millennia.
- Topalidis, Sam (March 2019). "An Introduction to Pontic Greek History". p. 1.
Today, Pontic Greeks are most probably descendants of these Greek colonists, indigenous Anatolians, Greeks who had moved relatively recently to Pontos, or other people who migrated to Pontos and converted to Christianity.
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It is not clear how many of them [Romeika speakers] were assimilated native Caucasians or Turks entering Pontus together with the Ottomans from 1460 onwards, who adopted Greek.
- Andriadze, Giorgi; Bitadze, Liana; Chikovani, Nino; Chitanava, David; Kekelidze, Mirab; Khmaladze, Eka; Laliashvili, Shorena; Shengelia, Ramaz (2017). "Comparative Y-Chromosome Research in East Georgia Population" (PDF). Bulletin of the Georgian National Academy of Sciences. 11 (4): 121.
- Andriadze, Giorgi; Bitadze, Liana; Chikovani, Nino; Chitanava, David; Kekelidze, Mirab; Khmaladze, Eka; Laliashvili, Shorena; Shengelia, Ramaz (2017). "Comparative Y-Chromosome Research in East Georgia Population" (PDF). Bulletin of the Georgian National Academy of Sciences. 11 (4): 124.
High incidence of L haplogroup in Pontic Greeks strengthened the theory about close genetic affinity between the Lazs residing along the Black Sea shore and the Greeks who migrated to Georgia.
- Connor, Steve (2011). "Jason and the Argot: Land Where Greeks' Ancient Language Survives". Independent.
One possibility is that Romeyka speakers today are the direct descendants of ancient Greeks who lived along the Black Sea coast millennia ago – perhaps going back to the 6th or 7th centuries BC when the area was first colonised. But it is also possible that they may be the descendants of indigenous people or an immigrant tribe who were encouraged or forced to speak the language of the ancient Greek colonisers.
- Kieran McGreevy. "Tongue Tied III - Pondering Pontic Greek". Cambridge Language Collective. Archived from the original on 17 April 2022.
- Saint-Guillain, Guilaume; Herrin, Judith, eds. (2016). Identities and Allegiances in the Eastern Mediterranean After 1204. Taylor & Francis. p. 177. ISBN 9781317119135.
It is rather surprising that the Armenians in Matzouka were least numerous in comparison with Greeks, Lazs, Italians and Asians.
Wood, Michael (2005). In Search of Myths & Heroes: Exploring Four Epic Legends of the World. University of California Press. p. 109. ISBN 0520247248.
THE PONTIC GREEKS In the valleys running down to the Black Sea shore around Trebizond, the Greek presence lasted from 700 BC until our own time. Only after the catastrophe of 1922, when the Greeks were expelled from Turkey, did most of them migrate to Greece, or into Georgia where many had started to go before the First World War when the first signs of burning were in the air. The Turks had entered central Anatolia (the Greek word for ‘the east’) in the eleventh century, and by 1400 it was entirely in their hands, though the jewel in the crown, Constantinople itself, wasn’t taken till 1453. By then the Greek-speaking Christian population was in a minority, and even their church services were conducted partly in Greek, partly in Turkish. In Pontus, on the Black Sea coast, it was a different story. Here the Greeks were a very strong presence right up into modern times. Although they had been conquered in 1486, they were still the majority in the seventeenth century and many converted to Islam still spoke Greek. Even in the late twentieth century the authorities in Trebizond had to use interpreters to work with the Muslim Pontic-Greek speakers in the law courts, as the language was still spoken as their mother tongue. This region had a thriving oral culture into the last century and a thriving oral culture into the last century and a whole genre of ballads comes down from the Ancient Greeks…
- Pontian Diaspora, 2000.
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Today, around 500,000 Pontics live in Greece – around 5% of the total population...
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The Pontians are a population that originate from the historical area of Pontus in Anatolia, originally located around the southern and eastern coasts of the Black Sea.
- Mackridge, Peter (10 October 1991). "The Pontic dialect: a corrupt version of Ancient Greek?". Journal of Refugee Studies. Academia. 4 (4): 335–339. doi:10.1093/jrs/4.4.335.
These people originate from the eastern half of the southern shores of the Black Sea.
- Travis, Hannibal (2009). "The Cultural and Intellectual Property Interests of the Indigenous Peoples of Turkey and Iraq". Texas Wesleyan Law Review. 15: 601. doi:10.2139/ssrn.1549804.
The U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires states to provide an effective remedy to indigenous peoples deprived of their cultural, religious, or intellectual property (IP) without their free, prior and informed consent. The Declaration could prove to be an important safeguard for the indigenous peoples of Iraq and Turkey, the victims for centuries of massacres, assaults on their religious and cultural sites, theft and deterioration of their lands and cultural objects, and forced assimilation. These peoples, among them the Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, and Yezidis of Turkey and Turkish-occupied Cyprus, and the Armenians, Assyrians, Yezidis, and Mandaeans of Iraq, have lost more than two-thirds of their peak populations, most of their cultural and religious sites, and thousands of priceless artifacts and specimens of visual art.
- Travis, Hannibal (2009). "The Cultural and Intellectual Property Interests of the Indigenous Peoples of Turkey and Iraq". Texas Wesleyan Law Review. 15: 637. doi:10.2139/ssrn.1549804.
Prior to their conquests by Turkic peoples, the ancient Greeks were one of several indigenous peoples living in Anatolia, modern Asian Turkey.
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In essence, an ethnic group is a named social category of people based on perceptions of shared social experience or one's ancestors' experiences. Members of the ethnic group see themselves as sharing cultural traditions and history that distinguish them from other groups. Ethnic group identity has a strong psychological or emotional component that divides the people of the world into opposing categories of "us" and "them".
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Philetairos of Tios on the Black Sea, son of a Greek father and a Paphlagonian mother, a high-ranking officer in the army of King Lysimachos and also his confidant, was the actual founder of Pergamon.
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BESSARION, JOHN (c. 1395–1472) + Greek scholar, cardinal, and statesman. One of the foremost figures in the rise of the intellectual Renaissance
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The genocide was committed by two subsequent and chronologically, ideologically, and organically interrelated and interconnected dictatorial and chauvinist regimes: (1) the regime of the CUP, under the notorious triumvirate of the three pashas (Üç Paşalar), Talât, Enver, and Cemal, and (2) the rebel government at Samsun and Ankara, under the authority of the Grand National Assembly (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi) and Kemal. Although the process had begun before the Balkan Wars, the final and most decisive period started immediately after WWI and ended with the almost total destruction of the Pontic Greeks
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Pontic Greek men (aged 18-48) were forcibly conscripted into the amele taburları and died in great numbers, sometimes upwards of 90 percent. Beginning in the countryside and later urban areas, the Turks raided Pontic Greek homesteads and initiated the deportation caravan process. The Turks marched the remaining Pontic Greeks towards Der Zor in caravans, and they experienced death rates of approximately 80 to 90 percent.
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ATHE'NAE (Atenah), a city and port of Pontus (Steph. B. s. v. Άθήναί), with an Hellenic temple.
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...the small Church of St. Anne, the oldest extant Byzantine building in Trabzon, rebuilt during the reign of Basil I (AD 867-86).
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