Albanian-speakers of Western Thrace

Albanian-speakers form a linguistic minority in Greek Macedonia and Western Thrace along the border with Turkey. They speak the Northern Tosk subbranch of Tosk Albanian and are descendants of the Albanian population of Eastern Thrace who migrated during the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s.[1][2] They are known in Greece as Arvanites, a name applied to all groups of Albanian origin in Greece, but which primarily refers to the southern dialectological group of Arbëreshë. The Albanian-speakers of Western Thrace and Macedonia use the common Albanian self-appellation, Shqiptar.[2]



During the Ottoman Empire, Albanian communities migrated towards today's European Turkey (Eastern Thrace), especially near Istanbul.[3] Many Muslim Albanians achieved high office in Ottoman society and many of them, most notably the Köprülü family, became Grand Viziers of the Empire. The majority of the Albanian emigration came from Northern Kosovo and the Korça region of Albania. Descendants of this immigrants would later play an important role in the National Renaissance of Albania.[3] The number of Albanians that resided in the region is unknown, as statistical data of the Ottoman Empire were based on religious identification (millets). Thus, the Orthodox Albanians were part of the Rûm millet, while Muslims were categorised alongside Turks.[4]

Among this population, Orthodox Albanians in Eastern Thrace resided in partly homogeneous communities, either villages or neighborhoods, and were mainly descendants of immigrants from the Korça region.[3] At the conclusion of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922, Greece and Turkey signed the Treaty of Lausanne, which included a population exchange between the two countries. The treaty used religion as the indicator of national affiliation, thus including populations without ethnic provisions, even Albanians, in the population exchange. Under this treaty the Muslims of Greece were exchanged with the Christians of Turkey, with an exception of the Muslims of Western Thrace and the Christians of Istanbul.[5]

Under this provision, the Albanian Orthodox community of Eastern Thrace, was re-accommodated in Western Thrace, where they settled mainly in new and ethnically homogeneous villages built in order to receive the refugees.[2] Today, this population lives in the same villages, but a part emigrated to bigger towns such as Thessaloniki and Athens, making the Albanian language less used.[1]


Albanian-speakers inhabit 15 homogeneous and 14 mixed villages:[2]

Prefecture No. of villages
Evros 4 homogeneous
and 14 mixed
Rhodope 1
Xanthi 3
Serres 5
Thessaloniki 1
Kilkis 1

In the 1953 census in Greece, albanians formed around 3% of the total population in the Evros, and 0.4% in Xanthi regional unit. In the whole Western Thrace they counted 1.3% of the total population.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Greek Helsinki Monitor (1995): "Report: The Arvanites". Online report
  2. ^ a b c d Euromosaic (1996): "L'arvanite / albanais en Grèce". Report published by the Institut de Sociolingüística Catalana.
  3. ^ a b c Berisha, Mal (November 2000), Diaspora Shqiptare në Turqi (in Albanian), New York: ACCL Publishing, p. 13
  4. ^ Psomiades, Harry J. (2000), The Eastern question: the last phase : a study in Greek-Turkish diplomacy (2 ed.), Michigan: Pella Pub. Co., p. 138, ISBN 0-918618-79-7, 9780918618795
  5. ^ Haddad, Emma (2008), The Refugee in International Society: Between Sovereigns, Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, p. 121, ISBN 0-521-86888-2, 9780521868884

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