Geographical name changes in Greece
The geographical name change in Greece was an initiative by the Greek government to replace non-Greek geographical and topographic names within the Greek Republic with Greek names as part of a policy and ideology of Hellenization. The main objective of the initiative has been to assimilate or hide geographical or topographical names that were deemed foreign and divisive against Greek unity or considered to be "bad Greek". The names that were considered foreign were usually of Turkish, Albanian, and Slavic origin. Most of the name changes occurred in the ethnically heterogeneous northern Greece and the Arvanite settlements in central Greece. Place names of Greek origin were also renamed after names in Classical Greece.
The policy commenced after the independence of Greece from the Ottoman Empire in the early 1830s, after the territorial expanses of Greece and continued into the Greek Republic. To this day use of the old Turkish, Albanian, or Slavic placenames by authorities, organisations, and individuals is penalized under Greek law.
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The area that is today Greece was inhabited by various peoples throughout history, and the country's toponyms reflect their diversity of origins. The hellenization of toponyms in Greece started soon after Greek independence, as part of the process of shaping Greek national identity. Many placenames in Greece of non-Greek origin were replaced by "ancient or pseudo ancient names that were supposed (sometimes erroneously) to have some connection to the area". For example, the ancient name of Piraeus was revived in the 19th century, after it had been called Drakos in Greek, Porto Leone in Venetian, and Aslan Limanı in Turkish for centuries, after the Piraeus Lion which stood there.
In 1909, the existence of large numbers of non Greek place names were a nuisance to the government. In 1909 the government-appointed commission on toponyms report that every one village in three in Greece (30% of the total) should have its name changed (of the 5,069 Greek villages, 1,500 were considered as “speaking a barbaric language”.
During the Balkan Wars, Greece doubled its territory and population, but it brought various large non-Greek populations into its border, especially in Macedonia and Epirus. Notably were the Slavic speaking Orthodox, the mostly Turkish-speaking Muslims from Macedonia, the Albanians and Aromanians in Epirus. After the war against Bulgaria in 1912 the majority of Slavic speaking Christians were also expelled from the country. After 1922, all Muslims except Western Thrace, were exchanged for all Orthodox in Turkey except for those in Istanbul. After World War II the remaining Muslim Albanians were expelled, the remaining Christian Albanian and Wallachians today proclaim themselves as Greeks. By 1928, Greece's demography had drastically changed from the position in 1830: the country had turned into a nation-state, non-Greeks had been removed, and most of the population spoke Greek and considered themselves to be by free will or pressure as "Greeks". Even the remaining Arvanites, Aromanians and the Orthodox Albanians in Epirus have conformed, as most members of these groups consider themselves Greeks today.
As Greece transformed rapidly from a multi-ethnic to a mono-ethnic state the Greek government renamed many places with revived ancient names, local Greek-language names, or translations of the non-Greek names. The non-Greek names were officially removed. Although the bulk of the population was Greek the renaming was considered a way to establish a collective ethnic consciousness. A lot of historical Greek names from Asia Minor were also introduced in the region mainly by the resettled refugees. Many Demotic Greek names were also replaced by a Katharevousa Greek form, usually different only morphologically. This process started in 1926 and continued into the 1960s.
Name changes by region
Many settlements in the Macedonia region in Northern Greece had Greek and non-Greek forms. Most of those names were in use during the multinational environment of the Ottoman Empire. Some of the forms were identifiably of Greek origin, others of Slavic Macedonian, yet others of Turkish, Vlach or Albanian origin. Following the First World War and the Graeco-Turkish War which followed, an exchange of population took place between Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Turkey (Treaty of Neuilly, between Greece and Bulgaria and Treaty of Lausanne, between Greece and Turkey). The villages of the exchanged populations (Bulgarians and Muslims) in Greece were resettled with Greeks from Asia Minor, and the Balkans (mainly from Bulgaria and Yugoslavia).
According to ongoing research being carried out at the Institute of Neohellenic Research in Athens, between 1913 and 1996, the names of 4,413 settlements were legally changed in Greece. In each case, the renamings were recorded in the official Government Gazette. The regional breakdown in renamings is: Macedonia: 1,805 renamings; Peloponnese: 827 renamings; Central Greece: 519 renamings; Thessaly: 487 renamings; Epirus: 454 renamings; Thrace: 98 renamings; Crete: 97 renamings; Aegean Islands: 79 renamings; Ionian Islands: 47 renamings.
Central Greece is home to the Arvanites, an Albanian speaking people who migrated to the area in the 14th century. Till the 19th century most of Attica and Boeotia was populated by Arvanites, many of the placenames were also Arvanite, after the establishment of Greece in 1830 most of the names have been changed, especially to unused names since antiquity, from Classical Greece.
|Old name||Named changed to:||Notes|
|Liopesi||Paiania||Old name was Arvanitic. Liopesi: 'Place of cows' or 'of the cow'. From the Albanian word lopë or cow and the suffix ës indicating belonging to a place, object or quantity of something.|
|Menidi||Acharnes||Old name was Arvanite.|
|Kriekouki||Erythres||Old name was Arvanite. Kriekouki: 'Red Head'. From the Albanian word Krye/Krie(in some dialects) meaning 'head' and Kuq or red.|
|Dervenosalesi||Pyli, Boeotia||Old name was Arvanite . Dervenosalesi: 'The thigh mountain pass'. From the word Derven meaning 'mountain pass' (itself a local borrowing of the Turkish word 'Dervend' meaning the same thing) and Shalës or 'thigh', due to the narrowness of the area resembling the length or shape of a thigh.|
Epirus had a Greek majority population prior to annexation to Greece (1913), with minorities of Aromanians and Albanians, while the majority of the toponyms in the region are ancient Greek. A part of the Albanian minority, known as Cham Albanians, resided in the coastal area and were expelled from the area after World War II by the EDES resistance group. An unknown number of Aromanians and Orthodox Albanians, in some sources called Arvanites, still live in the area, who today identify mostly as Greek. Since the early 20th-century Albanian place names of Epirus have been systematically changed to Greek, thereby erasing the former Albanian presence in the landscape.
|Old name||Named changed to:||Notes|
|Densko, Denicko||Aetomilitsa||Old name was in Aromanian|
|Briaza||Distrato||Old name was in Aromanian|
|Skéferi||Myloi||Old name was in Albanian. Skéferi: 'Saint Stephen'. From the Albanian word for saint shën in its contracted form sh/ë used in the toponym and the Albanian forms Stefani/Shtjefni for the name Stephen which became contracted in the toponym.|
|Soúvliasi||Agios Vlasios||Old name was in Albanian. Soúvliasi: 'Saint Blaise'. From the Albanian word for saint shën in its contracted form sh/ë used in the toponym and the Albanian form Vlash for the name 'Blaise' which became contracted in the toponym.|
|Liogáti||Agora||Old name was in Albanian. Liogáti: 'ghost'. From the Albanian word Lugat for 'ghost' or 'ghoul'.|
|Ríziani||Agios Georgios||Old name was in Albanian. Ríziani: 'at the feet of the side (of the mountain)'. From the Albanian word rrëzë for 'feet' or 'alongside' and the Albanian word anë for 'side' or 'edge', due to the settlement being located close to the edge of a mountain.|
|Várfani||Parapotamos||Old name was in Albanian. Várfani: 'poor place'. From the Albanian word varfër/vorfën for 'poor'.|
|Goúrza||Ano Paliokklision||Old name was in Albanian. Goúrza: 'a place where a shallow channel cut in the surface of soil or rocks by running water'. From the Albanian word gurrë for 'source' or 'rill' and the Albanian suffix ëz/za/zë denoting 'smallness'.|
|Liópsi||Asprokklision||Old name was in Albanian. Liópsi: 'place of cows' or 'of the cow'. From the Albanian word lopë for cow and the suffix ës indicating belonging to a place, object or quantity of something.|
|Likoúrsi||Mesopotamo||Old name was in Albanian. Likoúrsi: 'place of flaying animal hides or skinners'. From the Albanian word lëkurë for 'skin' and the suffix ës indicating belonging to a place, object or quantity of something.|
|Rápeza||Anthousa||Old name was in Albanian. Rápeza: 'place of small plane trees'. From the Albanian word rrap for 'plane tree' and the Albanian suffix ëz/za/zë denoting 'smallness'.|
|Skémbo||Vrachos||Old name was in Albanian. Skémbo: 'place of boulders, a rocky crag or a cliff'. From the Albanian word shkëmb for 'cliff, rock or peak', due to the settlement being located on the coast on hilly terrain.|
|Riniása||Riza||Old name was in Albanian. Riniása: 'rooted place'. From the Albanian word rrënjë for 'root' and the suffix as/ë indicating belonging to a place, object or quantity of something, due to the settlement being located on the coast on hilly terrain.|
|Boulmét Zervó||Galata||Old name was in Albanian. Boulmét: 'dairy'. From the Albanian word bulmet for 'dairy'. The name Zervó was attached to the settlement for administrative purposes and is the name of a nearby village.|
|Dára||Elia||Old name was in Albanian. Dára: 'place resembling a pincer or tong form'. From the Albanian word darë for 'pincer' or 'tongs', due to the settlement being in a valley and mountainous area.|
|Barkmádhi||Kastritsa||Old name was in Albanian. Barkmádhi: 'place resembling a big stomach'. From the Albanian word bark for 'stomach' and the Albanian word madh for 'big'.|
|Kourtési||Mesovouni||Old name was in Albanian. Kourtési: 'Kurt's place'. From the Middle Eastern male name Kurd and the suffix ës indicating belonging to a place, object or quantity of something.|
Greek region of Macedonia
Till 1912, the area had a very heterogeneous population consisting of Slavic, Turkish, Greek, Jews and Wallachian people. Most of the geographical names were of non Greek origin, the Greek government planned to change this. Between 1913 and 1928 the Slavic names of hundreds of villages and towns were Hellenized by a Committee for the Changing of Names, which was charged by the Greek government with "the elimination of all the names which pollute and disfigure the beautiful appearance of our fatherland" Between 1912 (Balkan Wars) and 1928 (after the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey), the non Greek inhabitants were largely gone and instead of them Greek refugees from the Ottoman Empire settled in the area thereby changing its demography.
|Old name||Named changed to:||Notes|
|Gümülcine||Komotini||Gümülcine was the Ottoman version which derives from the older original Byzantine name, Koumoutzina|
|Dedeagach||Alexandroupoli||Turkish name of Dedeagach remained the official name of the city until 1920 when it was renamed Alexandroupoli in honor of King Alexander of Greece.|
|Sari Saban||Chrysoupoli||During the Ottoman era, population was mostly Turkish, the old name was Sari-Saban in Turkish, it was renamed from 1913 till 1929 as Sapaioi, later renamed again.|
- Prontuario dei nomi locali dell'Alto Adige, a massive renaming of German toponyms in the Austrian territory annexed by Italy after World War I (today's South Tyrol)
- Commission for the Determination of Place Names, massive renaming of toponyms in the territory annexed by Poland after World War II
- Former toponyms in Drama Prefecture
- Former toponyms in Florina Prefecture
- Former toponyms in Grevena Prefecture
- Former toponyms in Imathia Prefecture
- Former toponyms in Kavala Prefecture
- Former toponyms in Pella Prefecture
- Former toponyms in Pieria Prefecture
- Former toponyms in Xanthi Prefecture
- Tsitselikis, Konstantinos (2012). Old and New Islam in Greece: From Historical Minorities to Immigrant Newcomers. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 49. ISBN 9789004221529.
- Zacharia, Katerina (2012). Hellenisms: culture, idenitity, and ethnicity from antiquity to modernity. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 230–233. ISBN 9789004221529.
- Tsitselikis, Konstantinos (2012). Old and New Islam in Greece: From Historical Minorities to Immigrant Newcomers. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 50. ISBN 9789004221529.
- Peter Mackridge, Language and National Identity in Greece, 1766-1976, Oxford, 2009, p. 21
- Elisabeth Kontogiorgi, Population Exchange in Greek Macedonia: The Forced Settlement of Refugees, Oxford University Press, 2006, “The influx of Greek refugees coupled, with the departure of Muslims and pro-Bulgarian Slav Macedonians, produced a radical ethnological impact: whereas Macedonia was 42 per cent Greek in 1912, it was 89 per cent in 1926.”
- Todor Hristov Simovski, The Inhabited Places of the Aegean Macedonia (Skopje 1998), ISBN 9989-9819-4-9, pp. XXXVIII-XLII.
- Bintliff, "The Ethnoarchaeology of a 'Passive' Ethnicity", in K.S. Brown and Yannis Hamilakis, The Usable Past: Greek Metahistories, Lexington Books, 2003, p. 138 “This denial of the multiethnic composition of the rural landscape has been helped by state-imposed systematic place-name changes throughout this century, many as late as the 1960s, through which a wonderful scatter of traditional Greek, Slav, Albanian, and sometimes Italian village names has been suppressed—wherever conceivable—in favor of the name of any ancient Greek toponym remotely connected to the neighborhood.
- Anastasia Karakasidou's paper on "Politicizing Culture: Negating Ethnic Identity in Greek Macedonia", Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 11 (1993), 22-23 notes 2-3. "the bulk of the population in Greek Macedonia is nothing less than Greek"
- Vlassis Vlasidis - Veniamin Karakostanoglou. "Recycling Propaganda: Remarks on Recent Reports on Greece's "Slav-Macedonian Minority"".
- Elisabeth Kontogiorgi, Population Exchange in Greek Macedonia: The Forced Settlement of Refugees, Oxford University Press, 2006, “The influx of Greek refugees coupled, with the departure of Muslims and pro-Bulgarian Slavs, produced a radical ethnological impact: whereas Macedonia was 42 per cent Greek in 1912, it was 89 per cent in 1926.”
- Elisabeth Kontogiorgi, Population Exchange in Greek Macedonia: The Forced Settlement of Refugees, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 292-294. “The policy of Hellenizing toponyms was fundamental to the more comprehensive process of establishing a collective ethnic consciousness and a sense of national identity rooted deeply in the profundity of time and history.”
- "Pandektis: Name Changes of Settlements in Greece". Retrieved 2009-04-27. List compiled by the Institute for Neohellenic Research. Click on [ + ] to reveal general information about the site.
- Seymour Forster, Edward (1957). A Short History of Modern Greece, 1821-1956. Taylor & Francis. p. 68. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
the district has remained predominantly Greek
- Cohen, Getzel M.; editors, Martha Sharp Joukowsky, (2006). Breaking ground : pioneering women archaeologists (1st pbk. ed.). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. p. 202. ISBN 9780472031740.
Macedonia and Epirus on the mainland, and Crete, where the population was predominantly Greek, deeply resented Turkish rule, and the desire for union with Greece was strong.
- Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond, Nicholas (1973). Studies in Greek history. Clarendon Press. p. 32. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
The toponyms of Epirus are predominantly Greek — for instance the river-names
- Silverman, Helaine (1990). Contested Cultural Heritage: Religion, Nationalism, Erasure, and Exclusion in a Global World. Springer. p. 114. ISBN 9781441973054.
- M. Danforth, Loring (1997). The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World. Princeton University Press. p. 69. ISBN 9780691043562.
- Whitman, Lois (1990). Destroying Ethnic Identity: The Turks of Greece. Human Rights Watch. p. 1. ISBN 9780929692708.
- For a comprehensive list and database of place name changes in Greece (by settlement, date and year of change), see Institute for Neo Hellenic Research: Name Changes of Settlements in Greece
- "Pandektis: Name Changes of Settlements in Greece". Retrieved 2009-04-27. List compiled by the Institute for Neohellenic Research