Albanian communities in Greece

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Albanians in Greece are divided into distinct communities as a result of different waves of migration. Albanians first migrated into Greece during the late Middle Ages (late 13th century). The descendants of populations of Albanian origin who settled in Greece during the Middle Ages are the Arvanites, who have been fully assimilated into the Greek nation and self-identify as Greeks. Today, they still maintain their distinct subdialect of Tosk Albanian, known as Arvanitika.

The Cham Albanians are a group that also migrated to Greece during the same period and formerly inhabited coastal parts of Epirus, in northwestern Greece. They were expelled from Epirus during World War II after large parts of their population collaborated with the Axis occupation forces,[1] while Greek Orthodox Chams remained in Greece and have assimilated into the Greek nation.[citation needed]

Alongside these two groups, a large wave of economic migrants from Albania entered Greece after the fall of Communism (1991) and forms the largest expatriate community in the country.

Cham Albanians[edit]

Groups of Albanians first settled in Epirus during the late Middle Ages. Some of their descendants form the Cham Albanians, which formerly inhabited the coastal regions of Epirus, largely corresponding to Thesprotia. The Chams are primarily distinguished from other Albanian groups by their distinct dialect of Tosk Albanian, the Cham dialect, which is among the most conservative of the Albanian dialects.[citation needed] During the rule of the Ottoman Empire in Epirus, many Chams converted to Islam, while a minority remained Greek Orthodox.


When Epirus joined Greece in 1913, following the Balkan Wars, Muslim Chams lost the privileged status they enjoyed during Ottoman rule and were subject to discrimination from time to time. During World War II, large parts of the Muslim Chams collaborated with the Axis occupation forces, committing atrocities against the local population.[1] In 1944, when the Axis withdrew, many Muslim Chams fled to Albania or were forcibly expelled by the EDES resistance group.

Linguistic and cultural communities[edit]

In addition to the formerly sizeable communities in Epirus, there exist in Greece communities of Albanian origin who no longer identify as such. Although they retain a distinct Arvanitic ethnical identity,[2] nationally they identify as Greeks. These are communities created by Albanian settlers during the Middle Ages (Arvanites) and during the first half of 20th century (Albanian-speakers of Northeastern Greece).


The main part of these groups is composed of the Southern Greek dialectological group of Arvanitika speakers, known as Arvanites. They are a population group in Greece who traditionally speak Arvanitika, a form of Tosk Albanian. They settled in Greece during the late Middle Ages and were the dominant population element of some regions in the south of Greece until the 19th century.[3] Arvanites today self-identify as Greeks and have largely assimilated into mainstream Greek culture, they retain their dialect Arvanitika and cultural similarities with Albanians, but refuse any national connection with them and do not consider themselves an ethnic minority.[4][5] Arvanitika is endangered due to language shift towards Greek and large-scale internal migration to the cities in recent decades.

Albanian-speakers of Western Thrace[edit]

Another small group is to be found in northeastern Greece, in Greek Macedonia and Western Thrace along the border with Turkey, as a result of migration during the early 20th century. They speak the Northern Tosk subbranch of Tosk Albanian and are descendants of the Orthodox Albanian population of Eastern Thrace who were forced to migrate during the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s.[6][7] 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.[7]

Albanian (Arvanitika) speaking communities in Northwestern Greece[edit]

The small Arvanite-speaking communities in Epirus and the Florina regional unit are considered part of the Greek nation:[8]

Villages of Florina with speakers of Arvanitika in yellow

A small community is concentrated in the Ioannina regional unit, where they form a majority in two villages of the Konitsa district.[9] This population speaks the Lab branch of the Albanian language. The city of Ioannina in the past had a substantial minority of Albanian-speakers, where a dialect intermediate between Cham and Lab was spoken .[10] Notable Albanian writer, publicist and politician, Faik Konica, and his brother, Mehmet Konica, former Albanian Foreign Minister, were both born in Konitsa.

Another small group of Albanian-speakers, speakers of a Northern Tosk Albanian dialect is to be found in the villages Drosopigi, Flampouro, Lechovo in Florina regional unit.[11]


After the fall of the communist government in Albania in late 1990 and early 1991, a large number of economic immigrants from Albania arrived in Greece, mostly illegally, and seeking employment. Recent economic migrants from Albania are estimated to account for 60-65% of the total number of immigrants in the country. According to the 2001 census, there are 443,550 holders of Albanian citizenship in Greece.[12] However, the total Albanian migrant population in Greece is as high as 600,000. These include temporary migrants, seasonal workers and also undocumented individuals.[13] In this total, 189,000 Greeks of Albania, who hold Albanian nationality and are 'co-ethnics' have also immigrated to Greece in the same wave as their Albanian compatriots.[14] Likewise, it is important to note that since the Greek economic crisis started in 2011, the total number of Albanians in Greece has fluctuated.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hermann Frank Meyer. Blutiges Edelweiß: Die 1. Gebirgs-division im zweiten Weltkrieg Bloodstained Edelweiss. The 1st Mountain-Division in WWII Ch. Links Verlag, 2008. ISBN 978-3-86153-447-1, p. 702
  2. ^ Trudgill/Tzavaras 1977
  3. ^ Trudgill (2000: 255).
  4. ^ Botsi (2003: 90); Lawrence (2007: 22; 156)
  5. ^ Greek Helsinki Monitor - The Arvanites
  6. ^ Greek Helsinki Monitor (1995): "Report: The Arvanites".
  7. ^ a b Euromosaic (1996): "L'arvanite / albanais en Grèce". Report published by the Institut de Sociolingüística Catalana.
  8. ^ Laurie Kain Hart. Culture, Civilization, and Demarcation at the Northwest Borders of Greece. American Ethnologist, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Feb., 1999), pp. 196-220. (article consists of 25 pages). Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association "There are also long standing... unquestioned identification with the Greek nation."
  9. ^ Euromosaic project (2006). "L'arvanite/albanais en Grèce" (in French). Brussels: European Commission. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  10. ^ Xhufi, Pëllumb (February 2006). "Çamët ortodoks". Studime Historike (in Albanian). Albanian Academy of Sciences. 38 (2). 
  11. ^ Gordon, Raymond G.; Gordon, Jr., Raymond G.; Grimes, Barbara F. (2005) (in English), Ethnologue: Languages of the World (15 ed.), Dallas, Texas, United States of America: Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) International, p. 789, ISBN 1-55671-159-X,, retrieved on 2009-03-31
  12. ^ Mediterranean Migration Observatory - Tables Archived March 25, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^,000+Albanians+in+Greece&source=bl&ots=GOXkfB2ZLr&sig=M2ADQ3T3az8gD1bU2ljNggUysfQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCcQ6AEwA2oVChMIjJyj3pjnxgIVqFKmCh22wQuf#v=onepage&q=600%2C000%20Albanians%20in%20Greece&f=false
  14. ^ Κonsta, Anna-Maria; Lazaridis, Gabriella (2010). "Civic Stratification, 'Plastic' Citizenship and 'Plastic Subjectivities' in Greek Immigration Policy". Journal of International Migration and Integration / Revue de l'integration et de la migration internationale. 11 (4): 365. doi:10.1007/s12134-010-0150-8. 
  15. ^