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From «Pax Ottomanica» to «Pax Europaea»

The growth and decline of a Greek village’s micro-economy

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Dimitrios Konstadakopulos

The macroeconomic development of south-eastern Europe has been profoundly affected not only by the region’s major historical events – for example, liberation from the Ottoman Empire, the outbreak of civil wars, and the birth of new nations – but also by global events, such as the world-wide conflicts of the twentieth century, and the recent transnational processes of globalisation and European integration. The rationale of this book is to employ a comprehensive micro-history – that is, the history of one particular community: in this case, the village of Tsamantas, in north-western Greece – as a means of providing a detailed picture that will permit extrapolation to a wider context. Situated in one of the most isolated parts of the region of Epirus, Tsamantas has a complex history and a rich folk culture. At times, it has been a textbook example of how decision-making within a community can impact upon the success of the local economy. Its inhabitants have been rational problem-solvers, with a sense of what is in their family’s best interests, rather than passive victims of circumstance, and their choices at critical points in the village’s history have resulted either in growth or decline. The author focuses his groundbreaking analysis on these choices, drawing upon publications, archived materials, and illuminating oral accounts of local events.
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Chapter 5: The First Waves of Emigration

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← 127 | 128 → CHAPTER 5

The First Waves of Emigration

During the early part of the twentieth century, numerous young men from the Ottoman region of Epirus – along with many of their counterparts elsewhere in Mediterranean Europe – were swept up by the growing trend of emigrating to the United States of America. Although there are no statistics on emigration from Epirus at this time, the figures are likely to have been significant, given that approximately 170,000 individuals in neighbouring Greece – representing one tenth of the country’s population – left their homes and journeyed across the Atlantic (Kitroeff, 2004: 346; Voultsos, 1992: 8). What we know for certain is that the destination of the vast majority of Epirot emigrants was the industrialised north-east of the States. Many of them originated from Tsamantas and its sister villages on Mount Mourgana; most of the rest came from other remote communities in the Pindus mountains. Large-scale migration was not a new phenomenon within these communities: the men of Tsamantas, for instance, had sometimes been obliged by lack of work to move to the major commercial centres of Epirus and the rest of the Ottoman Empire, as well as those of Greece and other countries around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. But by the early 1900s the population of Tsamantas had increased to such an extent that a significant number of men were unable to find work in the fields and pastures, and as the wider region of Epirus lacked the...

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