History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


XII. The emigration of Macedonians to lands outside Greece


1. Routes, caravans and organization of commerce amongst the emigrants


 __1_   —   __2_


1. The continuing poverty and tyranny throughout Macedonia drove a stream of emigrants to those parts of the Ottoman empire where political and economic conditions were somewhat better. At the same time the development of commercial relations between East and West after the taking of Constantinople gave an opportunity to Macedonians, Epirotes and Thessalians to travel abroad and by working hard and saving money to become wealthy. In their adopted countries they were able to live in political and cultural surroundings incomparably better than those in their homelands.


This tendency of the Macedonians to migrate was favoured by the geographical position of their cities, townships and villages. From Western Macedonia they travelled to Italy and Venice via Durazzo; to the countries of the northen Balkans and to Central Europe they followed the valleys of the Aliákmon, the Axios, the Morava and the Danube.


In its upper reaches the Aliákmon forms a long, narrow valley, which has always served as a natural means of communication for the inhabitants of these regions (see map 8). During the Turkish occupation it was the direct route for the tatars (couriers) and for the caravans which left Grevená for Monastir [1], the headquarters of the Rumeli Valesi. The natural configuration of the country and its administrative divisions were not entirely unconnected with the movement of emigrants towards Serbia and further north.


After 1600 emigration to Serbia, Rumania, and moreso to Austria



1. Pouqueville, Voyage, vol. 2, p. 487.





Map 8. The Upper Aliákmon Basin

Map 8. The Upper Aliákmon Basin.   [[ large map ]]






and Hungary, was on the increase [1]. Large caravans used to set out from Siátista, Kastoriá or Moschópolis, loaded with merchandise of the lο-



Map 9. Principal routes of Greek emigration into Hungary, Austria, Wallachia and Moldavia

Map 9. Principal routes of Greek emigration into Hungary, Austria, Wallachia and Moldavia.   [[ large map ]]



1. For details see Vacalopoulos, Δυτικομακεδόνες ἀπόδημοι, pp. 7 ff. For the likely reasons for the emigration of Macedonians to Austria and Hungary see I. K. Boyatzides, Αἱ ἑλληνικαὶ κοινότητες τῆς Αὐστροουγγαρίας, ΗΜΕ 1926, pp. 73 ff. The writer draws lıis observaüons from material compiled by Lampros. Half the inhabitants of the township of Palanka of Hasan Pasha at Kola were Greeks and the other half Tukrs (Deshayes, Voyage, p. 66).





cality and of the whole of the Near East. Passing by Monastir they entered the Vardar valley, which they followed until they reached the valley of the Morava that brought them to Belgrade. In the middle of the 16th



Fig. 116. John Kottoúnios

Fig. 116. John Kottoúnios.

(Archives of John Vasdravellis)



century the suburbs of this city were inhabited by Turks, Greeks, Jews, Hungarians, Dalmatians, etc. [1]. The caravans then crossed the Sava River to enter Austrian territory at Zemun (Semlin) [2]. This was but a



1. Busbecq, The life and letters of Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, London 1881, vol 1, p. 93.


2. Theod. M. Natsinas, Οἱ Μακεδόνες πραματευτάδεζ εἰς τὰς χώρας Αὐστρίας καὶ Οὑγγαρίας, Thessalonica 1939, pp. 11-12. This book is based mainly on the researches of the historian S. Lampros.





small village at the end of 16th century; [1] later it was to develop into an important centre of communications. Both Belgrade and Zemun carried on a considerable trade with the lands of EuropeanTurkey, of which Macedonia was the principal one. Hence a good number of Greeks were established in these two cities among whom Macedonians were in the majority. From Zemun the emigrants followed the road to Budapest and Vienna [2].


From Thessalonica three routes led to Austrian and Hungarian possessions. One road passed through Bosnia, but because it was very mountainous it was seldom followed. The second passed through Sérres, Melnik, Sofia and Vidin, crossing the Austrian frontier at Orsova; thence it went via Temesvar, Pest, and Rab to reach Vienna [3]. There was a branch route from Vidin going to Wallachia and Moldavia (see map 9) [4]. (This explains, in my opinion, how John Kottoúnios — one of Veroia's brilliant offspring, who later distinguished himself as a professor of philosophy in Padua University (fig. 116)—perhaps following in the footsteps of his merchant father, found himself with his brother Lambos (Charalambos) in Wallachia [5]). The third route also started in the Struma Valley, but after leaving Sofia it carried on via Nis to Belgrade. It was the last two routes that were the most frequented [6].


Α great number of emigrants thus reached Wallachia and Moldavia and went through Central Europe to Germany. They established trade relations with various cities in these countries and even settled there on a permanent basis. The Greek merchants participated in the trade-fairs, where their colourful and picturesque costumes attracted the attention of the visitors. This was especially so at Leipzig, where there exists to this day an inn called "Das Griechenhaus" (well-known after 1700) where these Greeks used to stay [7]. At a later date they formed a permanent settlement in this city and even acquired a church of their



1. See Gerlach, Tagebuch, p. 531.


2. P. Μ. Kontoyannis, Ἱστορικαὶ διηγήσεις, Athens undated, p. 26.


3. H. Holland, Travels in the Ionian Isles, Albania, Thessaly, Macedonia etc. during the years 1812 and 1813, London 1815, pp. 324-325.


4. Holland, ibid., pp. 324-325.


5. See B. A. Mystakides, Οἱ Κοττούνιοι, ΕΦΣΚ. Παράρτ. Πεντηκονταετηρίδος 1861-1911, (Constantinople 1913-1921) 281, 285.


6. Holland, ibid., pp. 324-325. Maximos - Voreios, Ἡ αὐγὴ τοῦ ἑλληνικοῦ καπιταλισμοῦ, p. 76.


7. For details see Ch. Netta, Die Handelsbeziehungen zwischen Leipzig und Ost- und Südosteuropa bis zum Verfall der Warenmessen, Zurich 1920, pp. 39 ff.





own [1]. Particularly interesting details have come to our knowledge ahout the organization of the Greek merchants of Leipzig [2].


The migrant could be away for months or even years at a time. The purely seasonal workers were usually builders, carpenters, metal-workers, and the like, who carried their essential tools with them. They would leave home usually on St. George's day (23 April) to return on the day of St. Demetrius (26 October) or at Christmas. The women and children with the old folk would escort them for a certain distance outside the villlage or town, imparting suitable and good wishes. Those who stayed away for many years usually returned after making their fortunes, which could be anything between five and twenty years [3].


N. Moutsopoulos gives us an excellent description of the departure of these seasonal workers and master buiders (Κουδαραῖοι as they were otherwise known). "The master builder with his workmen, animals and apprentices left home without a word before dawn. All their relatives, tiny children and all, followed them as far as the turning of the road to give them a send-off. Every now and again the builders stopped to say a word to their women-folk. As soon as the heavily-loaded horses were lost to view in the wooded ravines, the families turned back to the village. Observing an ancient custom, the women secretly let water run from their buckets along the road so as to leave a trail for the master to find his way back. In contrast, the company's return was full of gladness. The date was known beforehand; bits of news had been learnt from some fellow-villager who had fallen in with the band some way off, whence he had learnt the day of their return. The whole village would be waiting on the ridge, and lucky was the one who should catch the first glimpse of the company on the far horizon. The builders brought back with them presents for all: shoes for the son, a skirt for the wife, a kerchief for the daughter".



2. The merchandise loaded at Thessalonica and destined for Central Europe used to be carried on horses. Sometimes camels were used, but only over certain distances outside the city. True, camels could carry twice the load of a horse, but their pace was slower and they met with many obstacles on the roads of European Turkey. The merchandise was packed into loads weighing 1 1/4 kantária (about 65 kilos) each, and each horse carried one on either side. These caravans had no fixed number of horses; some had one hundred to two hundred animals, while others



1. S. Eustratiades, Ἀρχὴ καὶ σύστασις τῆς ἐν Λειψίᾳ ἑλληνικῆς ἐκκλησίας, Reprint from «Ἐκκλ. Φάρος» 6 (1910) 5-15.


2. See Netta, Die Handelsbeziehungen, pp. 96 ff., 122.


3. D. I. Popović, On the Cincari (in Serbocroat), 2nd edit., Belgrade 1937, pp. 84-85.


4. Nik. Moutsopoulos, Ἡ λαϊκὴ αρχιτεκτονικὴ τῆς Βέροιας, Athens 1967, p. 52.





might have a thousand or even more. The journey from Thessalonica to Vienna took about 35 days without making allowance for quaranteen at Orsova, which meant for the travellers another 38 days. The caravans were usually on the road for 8 hours out of 24. Armed men guaranteed their safe passage. Others looked after the horses (usually one man to five animals), waited on the travellers, and found provisions at the stopping-places. As soon as they reached a stopping-place, towards evening, in the vicinity of some town or village, the men would unload the packages and place them all together in a central spot, where they were guarded by the armed men during the night. But Holland is surely exaggerating when he writes that at the beginning of the nineteenth century there had been no attempt to plunder the caravans nor had any material damage ever been suffered over the course of this very long journey [1].


These caravans were not only a means of transporting goods and riches; they carried civilization and progress to the isolated Greek provinces. The role they played in the awakening and revival of the Greek nation was far from insignificant, as we shall see presently.


Throughout the whole of the Balkan lands the caravan trade was in the hands of Greeks and Koutsovlachs, mostly from Zagorá and Métsovo in Epirus and from Kozáni and Siátista in Macedonia [2]. The same could be said of the inns and caravanserais. "The Koutsovlach carriers", writes Cousinéry, "were those who transported goods to the various trade-fairs and who looked like warriors in their striking costumes and with their weapons and tall black woollen hats" [3]. In later days the inn-keepers were also descended from Pisodéri near Flórina [4].


In the course of their passage through Turkish territory the merchants had to pay a tax on their goods to the paşas or other local authorities, though this would not exceed 5 paras per package. To the paşa of Vidin, however, the rate was considerably higher [5].



1. Holland, Travels, p. 326. On the subject of stopping-places see also Natsinas, Οἱ Μακεδόνες πραματευτάδες, p. 12. On the inn at Vienna (still standing at the beginning of the 20th cent.) see Sp. Lampros, Σελίδες ἐκ τῆς ἱστορίας τοῦ ἐν Οὑγγαρίᾳ καὶ Αὐστρίᾳ Μακεδονικοῦ Ἑλληνισμοῦ, ΝΕ 8 (1911) 295-296. Regarding the dangers the caravans faced, Lampros writes ( ibid., p. 281): "From the 19th century onwards the dangers encountered during transportation were considerable, particularly during the Russo-Turkish war of 1806-1812, and quite large losses were incurred".


2. G. Th. Lyritzis, Αἱ μακεδονικαὶ κοινότητες τῆς Αὐστροουγγαρίας ἑπὶ τουρκοκρατίας, Kozani 1952, p. 17. Cousinéry, Voyage, 1, p. 18.


3. Cousinéry, ibid., 1, p. 18.


4. Lyritzis, ibid., p. 20.


5. Holland, ibid., pp. 326-327.





The most important Iocal products in this trade consisted of furs from Kastoriá; thread (red or white) from Ambelákia and Tírnavos; raw cotton from Sérres; the famous carpets of Moschópolis with their byzantine motifs; [1] hides from Macedonia and the Levant (sheep- and goatskings); textiles from Náousa; quality cottons from Kozáni, wine from Siátista and Náousa; knives from Samarína and Hrupista; tobacco, red pepper, salt, silk-thread; [2] saffron from Tsiarsabá (a district between the Aliákmon River and the mountains of Kozáni) carried by the merchants of Kozáni, etc. [3].


The task of dispatching the goods, especially cotton and textiles, was undertaken by Macedonians in Budapest, Temesvar and Zemun. This was particularly so after the establishment of dye-works at Ambelákia and the increase in trade between Greek lands and Vienna. These Macedonians were called 'speditori' or 'commissionari'. They had representatives in Rustava and Vidin, and had organized on sound lines the export and transit of merchandise along these routes. "The main business of the 'speditori' of Budapest and a number of other stations", writes Lampros, "was the careful packing and safe transport of goods. The organization of all these mercantile companies was axcellent for their purposes. They had expert and devoted drivers with draught-animals of exceptional quality, captains experienced in river-navigation, fixed tariffs for every kind of merchandise ('provisioni'), capable and intelligent agents who could exploit the weaknesses and interests of the Turkish, Rumanian, Serb and sometimes Russian officials. These all helped to support Greek trade and promote confidence in Greek commerce. Strict honesty had to be the basis of all trade exchanges" [4]. In certain towns of Austria and Hungary the merchants used to stay at well-known hotels, which had storerooms for their goods [5]. Others taking part in this transit trade included Albanians, Bulgars and Serbs [6].



1. See interesting questions relating to the folk tradition in weaving and the decorative arts in Alki Kyriakides - Nestoros, Τὰ ὑϕαντὰ τῆς Μακεδονίας καὶ τῆς Θράκης, Athens 1965.


2. Lyritzis, Αἱ μακεδονικαὶ κοινότητες, p. 17. Lyritzis' book is popular in form written with great devotion, and based only partially on sound historical material.


3. Leake, Travels, 3, p. 302.


4. Lampros, Σελίδες, ΝΕ 8 (1911) 280-282.


5. E. Füves, Ἕνα ἄγνωστο χειρόγραϕο τοῦ Γεωργίου Ζαβίρα στὴν βιβλιοθήκη τοῦ Σαιντέντρε τῆς Οὑγγαρίας, «Μακεδονικὰ» 6 (1964-1965) 100 : «...we repaired to the lodging-house; the company had a house set aside, where the merchants could lodge...».


6. On these and on the movement of all the Orthodox merchants of the Balkans see J. Stoianovich, The conquering Balkan Orthodox Merchant, «The Journal of Economic History» 20 (1960) 234-313.


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