# Macedonia (Greece)

Macedonia
Μακεδονία
Anthem: Μακεδονία ξακουστή
Makedonia Ksakousti
(Famous Macedonia)
Macedonia (blue) within Greece
Coordinates: 40°45′N 22°54′E﻿ / ﻿40.750°N 22.900°E
CountryGreece
Regions
Established1913
CapitalThessaloniki
Government
• Deputy MinisterStavros Kalafatis [el] (New Democracy)
Area
• Total34,177 km2 (13,196 sq mi)
Highest elevation2,917 m (9,570 ft)
Lowest elevation
(Sea level)
0 m (0 ft)
Population
(2020)
• Total2,366,747
• Density69/km2 (180/sq mi)
Demonym(s)Macedonian

## Tourism

A beach in Chalkidiki
Polyphytos artificial lake on the Haliacmon, the longest river in Greece

Central Macedonia is the most popular tourist destination in Greece that is not an island, and its fourth overall, outperforming all other regions of the Greek mainland with 9.7 million overnight stays in 2017. There were a further 2.1 million stays in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace and 294 thousand in Western Macedonia.

Macedonia is a diverse region which allows it to cater to a variety of different types of tourism. The Chalkidiki peninsula is Macedonia's most popular beach destination, combining 550 kilometres (340 mi) of sandy beaches with dense forests. There were 116 Blue Flag beaches in Macedonia in 2018, 85 of which were in Chalkidiki. Additionally, the region was home to three Blue Flag marinas and one sustainable boating tourism operator. Kavala is an important economic centre of Northern Greece, a center of commerce, tourism, fishing and oil-related activities. Pieria combines extensive plains, high mountains and sandy beaches and the region's beauty gives it a great potential for further tourist development. The island of Thasos, lying close to the coast of eastern Macedonia, is another tourist destination. Chalkidiki is home to Mount Athos, which is an important centre of religious tourism. The mountainous interior allows for hiking activities and adventure sports, while ski resorts like Vasilitsa also operate in the winter months. Macedonia is home to four of Greece's 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Vergina is best known as the site of ancient Aigai (Αἰγαί, Aigaí, Latinized: Aegae), the first capital of Macedon. Aigai has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status. In 336 BC Philip II was assassinated in Aigai's theatre and his son, Alexander the Great, was proclaimed king. The most important recent finds were made in 1977 when the burial sites of several kings of Macedon were found, including the tomb of Philip II of Macedon. It is also the site of an extensive royal palace. The archaeological museum of Vergina was built to house all the artifacts found at the site and is one of the most important museums in Greece. Pella, which replaced Aigai as the capital of Macedon in the fourth century BC, is also located in Central Macedonia, as well as Dion in Pieria and Amphipolis. Philippi, located in eastern Macedonia, is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. These are important poles for cultural tourism. Thessaloniki is home to numerous notable Byzantine monuments, including the Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as several Roman, Ottoman and Sephardic Jewish structures. Apart from being the cultural centre of Macedonia, Thessaloniki is also a hub for urban tourism and gastronomy. Macedonia is also home to various lake and wetland tourist destinations.

## Culture

### Religion

Saint Gregory Palamas Metropolitan Cathedral in Thessaloniki

The main religion in the Greek region of Macedonia is Christianity, with majority of population belonging to the Eastern Orthodox Church. In early centuries of Christianity, the see of Thessaloniki became the metropolitan diocese of the ancient Roman province of Macedonia. The archbishop of Thessaloniki also became the senior ecclesiastical primate of the entire Eastern Illyricum, and in 535 his jurisdiction was reduced to the administrative territory of the Diocese of Macedonia. In the 8th century, from Rome it came under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and remained the main ecclesiastical centre in the historical region of Macedonia throughout the Middle Ages, and up to the modern times.

### Macedonian cuisine

Fanos, an old carnival custom of Kozani

Macedonian cuisine is the cuisine of the region of Macedonia in northern Greece. Contemporary Greek Macedonian cooking shares much with general Greek and wider Balkan and Mediterranean cuisine, including dishes from the Ottoman past. Specific influences include dishes of the Pontic, Aromanian, Armenian and Sephardi Jewish population. The mix of the different people inhabiting the region gave the name to the Macedonian salad.

### Macedonian music

Music of Macedonia is the music of the geographic region of Macedonia in Greece, which is a part of the music of whole region of Macedonia. Notable element of the local folk music is the use of trumpets and koudounia (called chálkina in the local dialect).

## Demographics

Population pyramid of Macedonia from the 2011 census

In 2011 the permanent population of the region stood at 2,406,393 residents, a decrease from 2,422,533 in 2001. As of 2017, the population of Macedonia is estimated to have further decreased to 2,382,857. In the 2011 Greek census the capital city, Thessaloniki, had an urban population of 824,676, up from 794,330 in 2001, while its metropolitan population increased to over a million. 281,458 people in Macedonia (or 12% of the population) were born in a foreign country, compared to 11.89% for the whole of Greece. 51.32% of the population was female, and 48.68% male. Like the rest of Greece Macedonia is faced with an aging population; the largest age group in the region is that of the over 70, at 15.59% of the population, while the 0–9 and 10–19 groups combined made up 20.25% of the population. The largest urban centres in Macedonia in 2011 were:

Largest cities and towns in Macedonia (Greece)
Rank Pop. Rank Pop.

Thessaloniki

Serres
1 Thessaloniki 824,676 11 Oraiokastro 20,852
Katerini

Kavala
2 Serres 58,287 12 Naousa 18,882
3 Katerini 55,997 13 Peraia 18,326
4 Kavala 54,027 14 Edessa 18,229
5 Drama 44,823 15 Florina 14,279
6 Veria 43,158 16 Thermi 16,004
7 Kozani 41,066 17 Alexandria 17,686
8 Ptolemaida 32,127 18 Kastoria 13,387
9 Giannitsa 29,789 19 Grevena 13,137
10 Kilkis 22,914 20 Diavata 9,890

### Demographic history

Ethnic map of the Balkans in 1876, showing the mix of nationalities in Macedonia

The inhabitants of Greek Macedonia are nowadays overwhelmingly ethnic Greeks, and most are also Greek Orthodox Christians. From the Middle Ages to the early 20th century, the ethnic composition of the region of Macedonia is characterised by uncertainty both about numbers and identification. The earliest estimation we have is from the Greek consulate of Thessaloniki in 1884, which according to it the nowadays Greek region of Macedonia had 1,073,000 Greeks (Grecophones, Slavophones, Albanophones), 565,000 Muslims, 215,000 Bulgarians and 16,000 Aromanians. The 1904 Ottoman census of Hilmi Pasha people were assigned to ethnicity according which church/language they belonged, it recorded 373,227 Greeks in the vilayet of Selânik (Thessaloniki), 261,283 Greeks in the vilayet of Monastir (Bitola) and 13,452 Greeks in the villayet of Kosovo. Of those 648,962 Greeks by church, 307,000 identified as Greek speakers, while about 250,000 as Slavic speakers and 99,000 as "Vlach" (Aromanian or Megleno-Romanian). However, these figures extend to territories both inside and outside of Greek Macedonia. Hugh Poulton, in his Who Are the Macedonians, notes that "assessing population figures is problematic" for the territory of Greek Macedonia before its incorporation into the Greek state in 1913. The area's remaining population was principally composed of Ottoman Turks (including non-Turkish Muslims of mainly Bulgarian and Greek Macedonian convert origin) and also a sizeable community of mainly Sephardic Jews (centred in Thessaloniki), and smaller numbers of Romani, Albanians, Aromanians and Megleno-Romanians.

When Macedonia was first incorporated in Greece in 1913, however, Greeks were a marginal plurality in the region. The treaties of Neuilly (1919) and Lausanne (1923) mandated a forceful exchange of populations with Bulgaria and Turkey respectively, and some 776,000 Greek refugees (mostly from Turkey) were resettled in Macedonia, displacing 300,000–400,000 non-Greeks who were forced to move as part of the population exchange. The population of ethnic minorities in Macedonia dropped from 48% of the total population in 1920 to 12% in 1928, with the Great Greek Encyclopedia noting in 1934 that those minorities that remained "do not yet possess a Greek national consciousness".

The population of Macedonia was greatly affected by the Second World War, as it was militarily occupied by Nazi Germany while its ally, Bulgaria, annexed eastern Macedonia. Germany administered its occupation zone by implementation of the Nuremberg Laws, which saw some 43,000–49,000 of Thessaloniki's 56,000 Jews exterminated in the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. In its own zone of annexation, Bulgaria actively persecuted the local Greek population with the help of Bulgarian collaborationists. Further demographic change happened in the aftermath of the Greek Civil War, when many Slavs of Macedonia who fought on the side of the Democratic Army of Greece and fought to separate Greek Macedonia from the rest of Greece under the auspices of Yugoslavia, left Greece. These expatriates were the primary source of ethnic Macedonian irredentism and the appropriation of ancient Macedonian heritage.

### Regional identity

"I myself am a Macedonian, just as 2.5 million Greeks."
A man in Macedonomachos uniform

Macedonians (Greek: Μακεδόνες, Makedónes [makeˈðones]) is the term by which ethnic Greeks originating from the region are known. Macedonians came to be of particular importance prior to the Balkan Wars, during the Macedonian Struggle, when they were a minority population inside the multiethnic Ottoman Macedonia. The Macedonians now have a strong regional identity, manifested both in Greece and by emigrant groups in the Greek diaspora. This sense of identity has been highlighted in the context of the Macedonia naming dispute in the aftermath of the break-up of Yugoslavia, in which Greece objected to its northern neighbour calling itself the "Republic of Macedonia". This objection is the direct result of this regional identity, and a matter of heritage for northern Greeks. A characteristic expression of this self-identification was manifested by Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis at a meeting of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in January 2007, declaring that "I myself am a Macedonian, and another two and a half million Greeks are Macedonians".

In the early-to-mid 20th century Greece was invaded by Bulgaria three times with the aim of capturing portions Macedonia; during the Second Balkan War, during the First World War, and during the Second World War. Additionally, Nazi Germany had promised Thessaloniki to Yugoslavia as a reward for joining the Axis powers. The perceived existence of a foreign danger had a particularly strong effect on the emergence of a distinct regional identity in Macedonia. The representation of the Macedonian Struggle in Penelope Delta's popular 1937 teen novel Secrets of the Swamp solidified the image of the chauvinist clash between Greeks and Bulgarians in Macedonia in the minds of many Greeks. Bulgaria was specifically mentioned as the enemy in Greek Macedonia's unofficial anthem, Famous Macedonia, the reference only being replaced by vague 'Barbarians' with the normalization of Greco-Bulgarian relations in the 1970s. During the same period, Manolis Andronikos made major archaeological discoveries at Aigai, the first capital of ancient Macedonia, which included the tomb of Phillip II, Alexander the Great's father. His discoveries were drawn upon as evidence of ethnic and cultural links between the ancient Macedonians and southern Greek city-states by Greeks in Macedonia.

The distinct regional identity of Greek Macedonians is also the product of the fact that it was closer to the centres of power in both the Byzantine and Ottoman period, was considered culturally, politically, and strategically more important than other parts of Greece during these two periods, and also the fact that the region had a far more ethnically and religiously diverse population in both the medieval and Ottoman periods. In the late Byzantine period Greek Macedonia had also been the centre of significant Byzantine successor states, such as the Kingdom of Thessalonica, the short-lived state established by the rival Byzantine emperor, Theodore Komnenos Doukas, and – in parts of western Macedonia – the Despotate of Epirus, all of which helped promote a distinct Greek Macedonian identity.

In the contemporary period this is reinforced by Greek Macedonia's proximity to other states in the southern Balkans, the continuing existence of ethnic and religious minorities in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace not found in southern Greece, and the fact that migrants and refugees from elsewhere in the Balkans, southern Russia, and Georgia (including Pontic Greeks and Caucasus Greeks from northeastern Anatolia and the south Caucasus) have usually gravitated to Greek Macedonia rather than southern Greece.

### Languages and minorities

Right: The Megleno-Romanian and the Aromanian linguistic area.
Left: Map of the Megleno-Romanians settlements.

Greek is the majority language throughout Greece today, with an estimated 5% of the population speaking a language other than Greek, and is the only language of administration and education in the region. Greek is spoken universally in Greek Macedonia, even in the border regions where there is a strong presence of languages other than Greek. The Greek government exhibits some tolerance toward the use of minority languages, though Greece is one of the countries which has not signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages; a number of court cases have been brought to the attention of the European Parliament regarding the suppression of minority linguistic rights.

Apart from Standard Modern Greek, a number of other Greek dialects are spoken in Macedonia. This includes Pontic Greek, a language spoken originally on the shores of the Black Sea in northeastern Anatolia and the Caucasus, as well as a dialect indigenous to Greek Macedonia and other parts of Northern Greece known as Sarakatsánika (Greek: Σαρακατσάνικα); spoken by the traditionally transhumant Greek subgroup of Sarakatsani.

Macedonia is also home to an array of non-Greek languages. Slavic languages are the most prevalent minority languages in the region, while Aromanian, Arvanitic, Megleno-Romanian, Turkish, and Romani are also spoken. Judaeo-Spanish, also known as Ladino, was historically the language of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki, although the Holocaust nearly eradicated the city's previously-vibrant Jewish community of 70,000 to a mere 3,000 individuals today.

The Aromanian (Vlach) village of Nymfaio, example of traditional architecture

The exact size of the linguistic and ethnic minority groups in Macedonia is not known with any degree of scientific accuracy, as Greece has not conducted a census on the question of mother tongue since 1951. Aromanians form a minority population throughout much of Macedonia. They largely identify as Greeks and most belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, many refusing to be called a minority group. In the 1951 census they numbered 39,855 in all Greece (the number in Macedonia proper is unknown). Many Aromanian villages can be found along the slopes of the Vermion Mountains and Mount Olympus. Smaller numbers can be found in the Prespes region and near the Gramos mountains. Megleno-Romanians can be found in the Moglena region of Macedonia. The Megleno-Romanian language is traditionally spoken in the 11 Megleno-Romanian villages spread across Greece and the Republic of North Macedonia, including Archangelos, Notia, Lagkadia, and Skra. They are generally adherents to the Orthodox Church while the former majority in Notia was Muslim. Arvanite communities exist in Serres regional unit, while many can also be found in Thessaloniki. There are three Arvanite villages in the Florina regional unit (Drosopigi, Lechovo and Flampouro) with others located in Kilkis and Thessaloniki regional units. Other minority groups include Armenians and Romani. Romani communities are concentrated mainly around the city of Thessaloniki. An uncertain number of them live in Macedonia from the total of about 200,000–300,000 that live scattered on all the regions of Greece.

#### Ethnic Macedonian minority and language

Distribution of the Macedonian and other languages in the Florina and Aridaia regions of Greek Macedonia

The Macedonian language, a member of the South Slavic languages closely related to Bulgarian, is today spoken mostly in the regional units of Florina and Pella. Due to the sensitivity of the use of term 'Macedonian', the language is euphemistically referred to as dópia (ντόπια, 'local') or nasi (Macedonian: наши or naši, 'our (language)').

The exact number of the minority is difficult to know as Greece has not collected data on languages as part of its census since 1951. The 1928 census listed 81,984 speakers of 'Slavomacedonian' in Greece, but internal government documents from the 1930s put the number of Macedonian speakers in the Florina prefecture alone at 80,000 or 61% of the population. A field study conducted in 1993 in these two regions under the auspices of the European Parliament found that of the 74 villages studied, Macedonian was spoken in various degrees of vitality in 49 villages and was the primary language in 15 villages. To a lesser extent Macedonian is also present in the regional units of Kastoria, Imathia, Kilkis, Thessaloniki, Serres, and Drama. The Greek language remains dominant in all regions, even in those where Macedonian and other minority languages are present. The total number of 'slavic speakers' in Greece is estimated to range between as low as 10,000 and as high as 300,000.

Greece has had varied policies toward the Macedonian language. In 1925 the Greek government introduced the first Macedonian alphabet book, known as the Abecedar, based on the Florina dialect of the language; this never entered classrooms due to opposition from Serbia and Bulgaria, as well as an outcry against it in Greece. Efforts to assimilate resulted in instances of populations rejecting their Slavic language, as in the village of Atropos in 1959, where the villagers took "the oath before God" to cease speaking the local Slavic idiom and to only speak Greek. The Macedonian language has survived despite efforts by Greek authorities to assimilate the population into the Greek majority. The vast number of Macedonian speakers are ethnic Greeks or possess a Greek national consciousness. It is difficult to ascertain the number of those with a different national consciousness, but estimates of the number of people within Greece that possess an ethnic Macedonian national identity range between 5,000–30,000.

Greece claims to respect the human rights of all its citizens, including the rights of individuals to self-identify, but also claims its policy of not recognising an ethnic Macedonian minority is based "on solid legal and factual grounds". However, reports by organisations such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe, and the United States Department of State have all concluded that Greek authorities are actively discriminatory against the existence of a Macedonian language, minority, or national identity, even if the situation has improved markedly. An ethnic Macedonian political party, Rainbow, has competed in Greek elections for the European Parliament since 1995. In the 2019 election it received 6,364 votes or 0.11% of the national vote and came 35th in the results table, with most its support coming from Florina where it received 3.33% of the vote.

#### Jews of Thessaloniki and other cities

Jewish woman from Thessaloniki, gravour of late 19th century

Northern Greece has had Jewish communities since ancient times, including the historically-significant and Greek-speaking Romaniote community. During the Ottoman era Thessaloniki became the centre of a Sephardi community which comprised more than half the city's population, as Ottoman authorities invited Jews who had been expelled from Castille in the aftermath of the Alhambra Decree of 1492 to resettle in the Ottoman Empire. The community nicknamed the city la madre de Israel (the mother of Israel) and Jerusalem of the Balkans, and brought with it the Judaeo-Spanish, or Ladino, language which became the mother tongue of Thessaloniki Jews. By the 1680s about 300 families of Sephardi followers of Sabbatai Zevi had converted to Islam, becoming a sect known as the Dönmeh (converts), and migrated to Thessaloniki, whose population was by that time majority-Jewish. They established an active community that thrived for about 250 years. Many of their descendants later became prominent in trade. Thessaloniki Jews later became pioneers of socialism and the labour movement in Greece.

Between the 15th and early 20th centuries, Thessaloniki was the only city in Europe where Jews were a majority of the population. The Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 destroyed much of the city and left 50,000 Jews homeless. Many Jews emigrated to the United States, Palestine, and Paris after the loss of their livelihoods, being unable to wait for the government to create a new urban plan for rebuilding, which was eventually done. The aftermath of the Greco-Turkish War and the expulsion of Greeks from Turkey saw nearly 100,000 ethnic Greeks resettled in Thessaloniki, reducing the proportion of Jews in the total community. Following the demographic shift, Jews made up about 20% of the city's population. During the interwar period, Greece granted the Jews the same civil rights as other Greek citizens. In March 1926, Greece re-emphasised that all citizens of Greece enjoyed equal rights, and a considerable proportion of the city's Jews decided to stay.

The Jewish synagogue of Veria

According to Misha Glenny, such Greek Jews had largely not encountered "anti-Semitism as in its North European form". Though antisemitism was used both by the Metaxas dictatorship and by newspapers such as Makedonia as part of the wider mechanism for identifying leftists, Greek Jews were either neutral or supportive of Metaxas. By the 1940s, the great majority of the Jewish Greek community firmly identified as both Greek and Jewish. World War II was disastrous for Greek Jews; the Battle of Greece saw Greek Macedonia occupied by Italy, Bulgaria, and Nazi Germany, with the latter occupying much of Central Macedonia and implementing the Nuremberg Laws against the Jewish population. Greeks of the Resistance and Italian forces (before 1943) tried to protect the Jews and managed to save some. In 1943 the Nazis began actions against the Jews in Thessaloniki, forcing them into a ghetto near the railroad lines and beginning their deportation to concentration camps in German-occupied territories. They deported 56,000 of the city's Jews, by use of 19 Holocaust trains, to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, where 43,000–49,000 of them were killed. Today, a community of around 1,200 remains in the city. Communities of descendants of Thessaloniki Jews – both Sephardic and Romaniote – live in other areas, mainly the United States and Israel. Other cities of Greek Macedonia with significant Jewish population (Romaniote or Sephardi) in the past included Veria, Kavala and Kastoria.