History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


XIII. The economic, cultural and political influences of Macedonian emigrants upon their native towns



The economic advancement enjoyed by the Macedonian Greeks in Venice, Wallachia, Moldavia and, most of all, Austria and Hungary was bound to have repercussions upon the economy of the districts they had come frora originally. There was a noticeable improvement in the trade in woollen goods, in cotton and in thread; and this in turn occasioned a rise in the production of such goods within Macedonia itself. The increase in the area under cotton in the fertile plain of Sérres is a case in point [1]. Then again, once they had enlarged the circle of their operations, Greeks abroad would often invite young men to go out and join them, engaging them on the staff of their businesses and later taking them on as partners. These young men would quite often start up businesses for themselves and so, in their turn, invite other young Greeks to join them abroad. In this manner links with the homeland were maintained without interruption [2].



1. At Sérres and Melnik



There is no shortage of interesting information bearing on the economic and cultural influences exercised by Macedonian emigrants upon the districts from which they had originated. In Eastern Macedonia the cities of Sérres and Melnik merit particular attention. Sérres' position as an important cultural and ecclesiastical centre was owed both to its ancient Byzantine traditions and to the benificence of its citizens settled



1. See Beaujour, Tableau, vol. 1, p. 55.


2. See Lampros, Σελίδες, ΝΕ 8 (1911) 277.





abroad. The district produced a significant amount of tobacco and an even larger amount of cotton [1], of which the local ağas held a virtual monopoly [2]. At the end of the 18th century 30.000 bales of cotton were exported to Germany, 12.000 to France, 4.000 to Venice, and 1.500 to Leghorn. Unspecified quantities were also dispatched to London and Amsterdam. The total amount of cotton exported reached 50.000 bales, valued at 5.000.000 kuruş [3]. The Sultan received a tax of 1 akçe on every oka, which was paid at Sérres. When cotton was exported from Thessalonica, a further tax of 1 1/2 akçes was levied on every oka. Goods carried overland were exempt from the latter tax [4].


Sérres' growing importance as a cultural centre was, of course, not unconnected with her economic development. We have already mentioned the information provided by the priest Synadinos (a senior member of the Metropolitan clergy) about the schools at Sérres in the 17th century. Α number of details are preserved concerning teachers at Sérres between 1696 and 1730 [5]. But this does not mean the city's scholastic activity was able to proceed without interruption or hindrance during this period. From a chrysobul of the ruler of Transylvania, Nicholas Mavrokordatos, we learn that he presented to the Metropolitan of Sérres a sum of 360 kuruş, out of which 250 were designated for the salary of the teacher at the 'school', "in as much as in the district of Sérres there are few faithful and devout Orthodox Christians and they possess neither school nor schoolmaster on account of the present circurmstances" [6].


In the following century a school was founded in Sérres (in 1735) by the city's cultured Metropolitan, Gabriel (1735-1745) [7]. This fact we learn from some minutes signed by the Metropolitan along with other city dignitaries on 18th October 1742. Up to 1748 the director of the school was a man named Nicholas, who was later to become a bishop (with the name of Nektarios) of Litzá and Agrapha [8]. There had, however,



1. Lascaris, Salonique, p. 26. See also Beaujour, Tableau, vol. 1, p. 217.


2. Svoronos, Commerce, p. 113.


3. Beaujour, ibid., vol. 1, p. 71. See also Lascaris, ibid., p. 26.


4. Beaujour, ibid., vol. 1, p. 70.


5. Elli Angelou - Vlachou, Ἡ παιδεία εἰς τὰς τουρκοκρατονμένας Σέρρας, Athens 1935, pp. 7-8.


6. Ibid., pp. 6-7.


7. Papageorgiou, Αἱ Σέρραι καὶ τὰ προάοτεια, ΒΖ 3 (1894) 265. Ε. Stratis, Ἱστορία τῶν ἐκπαιδευτηρίων τῆς πόλεως Σερρῶν, «Μακ. Ἡμερολόγιον» 2 (1909) 144-154. See also Pennas, Σερραϊκὰ Χρονικά, 1938, p. 18. See list of Metropolitans of Melnik in Spandonides, Μελένικος, pp. 45-48.


8. Pennas, ibid., p. 18,





been another school in function, but this was closed down when Gabriel became Metropolitan, as he himself confirms [1]. Between 1780 and 1785 the school was closed once more. In order to re-open it the sum of 4.500 kuruş was raised from gifts and other sources in 1785 [2]. Two years later we find the schoolmaster, Theodore, proposing that "a board of trustees" should be formed to ensure the smooth running of the school and to see that the contributions towards the teacher's salaries are duly collected [3].


At the beginning of the 19th century, after ceasing to function because of lack of funds, the school was revived thanks to the contributions of merchants and other natives of Sérres settled in Vienna and Braşov. Thus John Konstas of Vienna, we hear, made available capital worth 10.800 florins, the interest on which was to be used to pay the teacher's salary. In 1808 Emmanuel Pappas, destined later to be the leader of the Greek insurrection in Macedonia, made over to the school 1.000 kuruş [4]. Between 1815 and 1819 Menas Menoïdes of Édessa taught philosophy and grammar in Sérres; he was an excellent Greek scholar and an expert in palaeography. While he was teaching at the school, Menoïdes compiled a list of the manuscripts to be found in the monastery of the Venerable Forerunner, and this is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale of France. He is also known for his subsequent activities while resident in France, his connections with Koraës, his journeys throughout the Levant and the catalogue of manuscripts he made at the behest of the French Ministry of Education. In carrying out this commission he ransacked the libraries of the Athos monasteries, and the manuscripts he plundered enriched the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris. Menoïdes is in literary circles further notorious as a clever forger of ancient Greek texts [5].


The school at Sérres continued to function even during the period of the War of Independence. Between 1823 and 1830 Argyrios Papa Rizou was teaching there, one of the most eminent teachers of the day. His successful teaching made a favourable impression, and recollections of his service were handed down to succeeding generations. Papa Rizou also organised the very first library of Sérres, for which he purchased



1. Papageorgiou, Αἱ Σέρραι καὶ τὰ προάστεια, p. 265.


2. Ibid., p. 280.      3. Ibid., p. 280.


4. Evangelides, Παιδεία, vol. 1, p. 140. See also Angelou - Vlachou, Ἡ παιδεία, pp. 11-13.


5. Angelou - Vlachou, ibid., pp. 13-17. See also Pennas, Σερραϊκὰ Χρονικά, part Ι, p. 10.





out of his own pockets books to the value of 1.113 kuruş [1].


The city of Melnik was to enjoy a similar period of economic and cultural progress (see fig. 133). The processing of goat- and sheep-skins was an important industry (there were no less than 30 tanneries in the city); but cericulture wa sMelnik's chief occupation. Silk was manufactured in one large and six smaller factories, and was exported to Austria and France [2]. As a result of this flourishing trade, from around the middle of the 18th century to the end of the 19th century, merchants from Melnik established themselves in numerous cities outside Greece — Vienna, Bucarest, Pest, Braşov, Sibiu, Ruschuk, Temesvar, Giurgiu, etc. [3].



Fig. 133. Melnik. The cathedral district and the monastery of St. Nicholas

Fig. 133. Melnik. The cathedral district and the monastery of St. Nicholas.



As with Sérres, Melnik's commercial prosperity was reflected in the cultural sphere. Up till the end of the 18th century there is not a great deal of information available about education in the city; but material becomes more abundant from the beginning of the 19th century,when the names of teachers start to be recorded. Thus, for instance,we learn that in 1810 Adam Zapekos, formerly a fellow-student of Neophytos Doukas, taught at Melnik. After him came Christopher Philetas, to be succeeded by Demetrius Kalambakides, who taught for two periods: 1830?-1840, and 1847-1850 [4]. Kalambakides had been headmaster of the "Ἑλληνικὸν Σχολεῖον" [5], which possessed quite an extensive library (destroyed, unfortunately, at the beginning of the 20th century) [6]. He



1. Angelou - Vlachou, Ἡ παιδεία, pp. 17-22.


2. Spandonides, Μελένικος, p. 25.


3. Ibid., p. 27, where there is a list of names of these immigrants.


4. Spandonides, ibid., p. 35.


5. Ibid., p. 36.


6. Ibid., p. 37.





had studied at Vienna, where in 1814, in collaboration with Constantine Kluts (also of Melnik), he had published a work on calligraphy entitled "Νέαι Ἐπιτηδειγμαί". In 1840 he founded the Melnik printing-press, which published various works by him: " Ἔλληνικὴ Πρακτικὴ Γραμματική" (1839), "Στοιχειώδης Ἱερὰ Κατήχησις" (1840) and "Χρηστομάθεια" (1840). Kalambakides was also secretary of the Melnik City Council from the middle of the 19th century up to 1876 [1].


But it was not only the leading members of the Melnik community who benefitted from this period of economic prosperity: it brought an end to the old forms of social organization and created new conditions that were an improvement on the old. Up to the beginning of the 19th century the people of Melnik were divided strictly into two classes based on lineage and property. There were the "τσορμπατζῆδες" (notables) and the "ποχειριοὶ" (the poor). Marriage between the two classes was not permitted. But as the commercial class developed, it was inevitable that through their wealth the new bourgeoisie would acquire the power to break down the old class barriers and contract marriages with the ancient families [2].


Α number of new ideas for the improvement of social conditions were brought back to Melnik by one of its citizens established in Vienna. By this man (his name, alas, unknown) was drawn up the first written "community" statutes known in Northern Greece. The original document (with the signatures of the Metropolitan, the foremost burghers and members of the guilds) has not survived, though we have two copies of it [3].


Up to this time there had existed at Melnik a"City Council" (Κοινὸν) whose functions and development had been based on laws that had never been committed to writing. As was the case with many other Greek cities, the Metropolitan was ex officio the president of the community and handled, with the co-operation of the leading citizens, all matters of common interest. The new statutes were ratified at a general assembly of all the inhabitants of Melnik, on 1st April 1813, in the presence of the Metropolitan Anthimus. The whole citizen body took an oath to the effect that they would maintain an "unshakeable observance" of all its articles. According to the provisions of the written code, during



1. Spandonides, Μελένικος, pp. 35-36. See also T.A.B., Μία πτυχὴ τῆς Μακεδονικῆς γῆς, «Μακεδονικὸν Ἡμερολόγιον» 1908, p. 125.


2. Spandonides, ibid., p. 107. Pennas, Σερραϊκὰ Χρονικά, p. 19.


3. See Pennas, ibid., p. 12. See also Spandonides, ibid., p. 108.





the first week of each year an assembly should be held, composed of "twenty sensible and prudent brethren drawn from every class" [1]. This body of twenty electors, drawn from the "τσορμπατζῆδες" and the "ποχειριοὶ" [2] were to choose a watch committee of three, together with three superintendants of the school. These two bodies were invested with equal authority. To them was entrusted the handling of all the property of the "Community" [3]. At the end of their yearly term of duty these officers would render an account to the people [4].


This was indeed a momentous occasion in Melnik's history. By the ratification of these statutes was recognised the equality of the two citizen classes. Moreover, as regards the running of the community, the Metropolitan was left with the role of merely observing the operations of these two supervisory bodies, his sole function being to give his formal sanction to their decisions [5].


This constitution—"Τὸ Σύστημα τοῦ 1813"—remained unchanged up till 1860, when the Turkish government ratified a "Code of National Regulations", which enforced, through the medium of the Oecumenical Patriarch, a unified system of local government [6].


By the 19th century all the professions at Melnik had been organized in guilds. Those of the housepainters, cobblers, furriers, tailors, goldsmiths and grocers are represented in a document of 1813 carrying the city statutes; the signatures of the guild-members are appended at the end, after the names of those on the roll of citizens [7]. In 1845 we find added the guilds of sesame-vendors, tanners, and makers of woollen garments [8].



1. Pennas, Σερραϊκὰ Χρονικά, p. 16.


2. Spandonides, Μελένικος, p. 108.


3. Spandonides, ibid., p. 108. See also Pennas, ibid., p. 16.


4. Pennas, ibid., p. 16.


5. Spandonides, ibid., p. 108. See also Pennas, ibid., p. 20.


6. Pennas, ibid., pp. 20-21.


7. Spandonides, ibid., pp. 111-112. See also Pennas, ibid., p. 44.


8. Spandonides, ibid., pp. 111-112.


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