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Panorama of Metsovo.
|• Municipality||366.8 km2 (141.6 sq mi)|
|• Municipal unit||177.7 km2 (68.6 sq mi)|
|Elevation||1,160 m (3,810 ft)|
|• Municipality density||17/km2 (44/sq mi)|
|• Municipal unit||3,469|
|• Municipal unit density||20/km2 (51/sq mi)|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|• Summer (DST)||EEST (UTC+3)|
|Postal code||442 00|
Metsovo (Greek: Μέτσοβο; Aromanian: Aminciu) is a town in Epirus on the mountains of Pindus in northern Greece, between Ioannina to the north and Meteora to the south. The largest centre of Vlach life in Greece, Metsovo is bypassed by GR-6 (Ioannina - Trikala) and also by Egnatia Odos Motorway.
- 1 Name
- 2 History
- 3 The privileges of Metsovo
- 4 The merchants of Metsovo
- 5 Municipality
- 6 Province
- 7 Attractions
- 8 Demographics
- 9 Notable people
- 10 Gallery
- 11 Sources
- 12 References
- 13 External links
From medieval times till well into the 19th century, Metsovo is referred to in the various sources with the word Metzovo. From the end of the 18th century on, the literary form Messovon starts appearing in the sources.
Ottoman census records
In the Ottoman census records we see the word form Mcwh which is usually pronounced as Miçova. In the Vlach language Metsovo is called Aminʤu, a word formed by the preposition "a", meaning “to, into” and the word Minʤu.
From the word Minʤu derive the terms of ethnic origin Miʤanu-Miʤanə, meaning “Man from Metsovo – woman from Metsovo” as well as the adjectives miʤənescu - miʤəneascə, meaning “Metsovite – of Metsovo”, which are used today by the residents of Metsovo. Furthermore, the Vlach speaking part of the population, that does not know the word form Aminʤu, uses the name Meʤova.
The etymology of the name “Metsovo” from the words Mitsous, Mesovounon or from the unattested Slav word *Mẹčovo, meaning bear-place, which have been proposed at times by academics and historians, are not accepted by linguistic research. On the contrary, there appears to be an etymological relation between the Vlach form Minʤu and the Greek form Metsovo, which is formed by the theme Mets and the Slav ending ovo.
In 15th century Metsovo came under the Ottoman rule and became part of the Sanjak of Ioannina. Throughout the late period of Ottoman rule (18th century-1913) the Greek and Aromanian population of the region (Northern Pindus) suffered from Albanian raiders. Also, in one occasion in the local Greek revolt of 1854 the town was plundered by Ottoman troops and the men of Theodoros Grivas, former general of the Greek military, during their struggle for control of the town. During the First Balkan War, Metsovo was burnt by bands. In the last 10 days of October 1912, troops of volunteers from Crete together with about 340 soldiers of the tactical Greek Army under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Mitsas advance through Thessaly to the then Greek-Turkish border on the peaks east of Metsovo.
On October 31, 1912, the Greek troops assisted by rebel groups from Epirus and volunteers from Metsovo, having crossed the Katara-Zygos mountain ridge overnight, attack the Turkish garrison of Metsovo, which then comprised 205 soldiers and two cannons. The battle lasted until 4 p.m. when the Ottoman soldiers inside the besieged Turkish garrison raised a white flag and surrendered.
According to the social standards of the residents of Metsovo, the population of the mountain town, up until the beginning of the 20th century, was divided into three social classes: the arhontzi (arxondzɨ), the vinitsi (vinitsɨ) and the algi (alɟi) or, mockingly, gizari (ɟizari). This particular stratification derived from socioeconomic processes that took place during the Ottoman occupation and was mainly based on economic criteria.
Basically, the arhontzi were the wealthy part of society. Their revenues derived from wholesale and retail commercial activities. Although locally very powerful, they were not a ‘closed’ group in terms of social mobility. Wealth gave the right to anybody to climb up the social ladder to the next higher level, although such ascent often gave rise to serious conflicts.
On the contrary, the social differences between the two lower classes were not based on income criteria but on the fact that their members came from very different exonomic structures. Namely, the algi were the socioeconomic class of traveling sheepherders. They were a solid group whose exclusive occupation was large scale sheepherding/livestock breeding, woodcarving and they had very strong set rules regarding the social role of their members, which was defined by the strict patriarchal structure that governed their class.
On the other hand, the vinitsis comprised the middle and lower classes of the settlement that were not occupied in livestock breeding. It mostly included farmers, small business owners, technicians, mule drivers and small-scale merchants. Despite the economic and professional diversification among the Vinitsi, they saw themselves as a unified social class which was evident in their social relations. For example, they would marry among themselves but never with members of the algi class.
In the past, this distinction between sheepherders and non-sheepherders existed in all developed Vlach settlements of Pindos, and could possibly be concealing, in a latent form, the socioeconomic reality of past times. This was not a ‘class’ distinction based on wealth, since in most cases the members of both groups belonged to the poor segments of the population, but a differentiation related to the establishment process of the settlements during the Ottoman period, which produced the co-existence of populations with the same linguistic base but with clearly different economic and social structures.
Chorion (Karye-iMiçova) defines the tax district of the timar that constitutes the area of Metsovo. Six settlements are recorded in it. Each settlement’s name is preceded by the indication karye and followed by the phrase tâbi‘-iMiçova meaning “subject to Metsovo”.
The word karye, as a term in the organizational structure of the Ottoman Empire, defines a settlement or a group of settlements constituting a unified tax district. In the Greek language it is usually translated with the word chorion. However, it does not correspond to the term “settlement” as it is used by modern statistical terminology but rather to the meaning of community. In other words, it does not signify a group of buildings, but a well-defined geographical area with a self-contained legal entity. A karye could include more than one settlements regardless how far apart they were from each other.
In the 1506 census, the indication Karye-iMiçova is followed by the phrase tâbi‘-i Τirhala meaning “subject to Trikala”. The names of eight settlements appear in it. Before the name of each settlement, the indication karye of the 1454/55 census has been replaced by the indication mahalle. The specific administrative structure of the area constituted the basis for its administrative organization in the centuries to come. In administrative documents of the 18th century, the present settlement of Metsovo is mentioned as “Chora” and the other villages as “mahalades”.
The privileges of Metsovo
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Starting in the mid-17th century, the residents in the region of Metsovo were relieved from the obligation to pay the regular and ad hoc taxes that were usually paid by Christian residents in other regions, on the condition that they would pay a lump sum per year. The Ottoman administration often applied such arrangements for groups of its subjects that offered a special service to the state.
The case of Metsovo
The special service provided by the Metsovo residents was the guarding of the local mountain passages and the servicing of travelers. This special tax regime did not constitute any form of land, political or taxation self-government. The notion of autonomy was unknown to the Ottoman understanding of polity.
The management of lasa, described as bequests left to a community, constitutes one of the most important municipal functions already since the 18th century. The love for their birthplace and the social altruism of the Metsovites leaving abroad resulted in the amassing of significant benefactor funds in Metsovo. There was actually a special log in place as early as the beginning of the 19th century where the wills and testaments of the benefactors were recorded. The log was destroyed in 1854; it was then redrafted by the patriarchal exarchate of Metsovo and destroyed again in 1941.
Management of state property
In theory, the sultan was the undisputed owner of all land in Metsovo and had the right to dispose of it as he wished. That is why the firmans issued at times were only temporarily applicable and defined the area as the property of Ottoman officials, to whom the Sultan granted tenure rights. In practice, however, the granting of tax exemptions was equivalent to self-governance of the area.
The reduction of taxes left a higher surplus product of the local crop production and, regardless of the theoretical framework that governed the land ownership and political regime of the Ottoman Empire, the lands of Metsovo were gradually falling under the absolute possession, ownership and management of its residents, which corresponds to political self-governance. This development had a disproportionate cost. Every year, the corresponding taxes and other contributions had to be timely pre-paid to the Ottoman landlord of the area, otherwise the mukata’a of Metsovo could fall under the dominion of powerful neighboring Ottoman regions.
The phenomenon of Beneficence
Beneficence by Metsovites is a powerful phenomenon, the dimensions of which were formed through the processes relating to the socioeconomic growth of Metsovo during the Ottoman period. It is mainly the expression of the cultural notions that governed the ruling class of Metsovo at the time. Despite the community men’s long absence from Metsovo due to their business and commercial activities, their hometown remains in their hearts as their financial and family seat. Consequently, a large part of their revenue is channeled into the local economy by themselves or their families, as charity or investment capital to be used for the conservation of the social and political superiority of their “class.”
Beneficence as a notion is directly connected with the special political regime granted by the Ottoman state to the Chora Metsovou. The demonstration of altruism, signaling and confirming their social distinction and status, provides Metsovites with the option to have social and economic control of their homeland. At first, their social solidarity is expressed as a sponsoring-church fundingactivity according to the standards of a cultural notion that derives from the medieval past of the Orthodox church.
The Exarchate of Metsovo
After 1659, the area of Metsovo, thus far under the bishopric of Stagoi, formed its own church authority under a patriarchal exarch. In theory, the exarch of Metsovo was a person appointed by the Patriarch of Constantinople and given the title “Catholic Exarch of Metsovo,” resided in Constantinople and was paid 15 kuruşs annually for his role as supervisor of the region. In reality, however, his duties were performed by a local clergyman, who was elected by the people of Metsovo and approved by the Patriarchate, and had the obligation only to mention the name of the “catholic exarch.” From 1818, the election of the above clergyman was performed by vote of the ephors of the schools of Metsovo and then his election was ratified by the Patriarchate. The spiritual jurisdiction of the exarch of Metsovo included the settlements Metsovo, Anilio, Derventista (now Anthohori), Votonosi, Milia, Koutsioufleani (now Platanistos) and Malakasi. In 1924, the Patriarchal Exarchate of Metsovo was temporarily upgraded to Metropolis in order to accommodate the placement of clergy from Asia Minor who had lost their seats. In 1929 the Metropolis was abolished without reinstating the exarchate status. The region of Chora came under the Metropolis of Grevena until 1932, when Metsovo, Anilio, Votonosi and Derventista were annexed to the Metropolis of Ioannina. The exarchate of Metsovo, functioning as the local representative of the ideologies of the Patriarchate, played a major part in the formation of the religious and national conscience of the higher social classes of Metsovo.
The scholars and clergy of Metsovo
The economic and social growth of the residents of Metsovo during the 18th century is directly reflected in their efforts to upgrade their level of education. Indicative proof of these efforts is the establishment of a school as early as in the beginning of the 18th century, the continuous care to maintain its operation and their studying abroad in European universities in order to be able to receive higher education. The result of this process is the appearance of a class of scholars, teachers and clergymen who participate actively in the intellectual trends that are being formed at the time in territories of Modern Greece. Among these scholars we find: Parthenios Katzoulis, Anastasios Metsovitis, Konstantinos of Metsovo, Tryfon of Metsovo, Demetrios Vardakas, Adam Tsapekos, Anastasios of Metsovo, Dositheos Driinoupoleos, Konstantinos Peltekis, Konstantinos Tzikas, Triantafyllos Hatzis Stergiou, Christoforos Varlamitis, the Kyriakos brothers, Konstantinos and Theofilos Tzarzoulis as well as their father Nikolaos Tzartzoulis who is considered one of the “Teachers of the Nation” by Greek historians.
The merchants of Metsovo
The merchants in Metsovo were peddlers that became very active in commercial trade, in both the Ottoman Empire and the greater region of Europe.
Socioeconomic growth of Metsovo
The impressive socioeconomic growth of Metsovo during the Ottoman occupation is mainly due to the involvement of a large part of its population in the commercial activities of both the Ottoman Empire and the greater region of Europe. Taking into account the fact that the residents of Metsovo had been migrating for a very long time, it is difficult to determine the beginning of its commercial growth.
Testimonies - sources
Substantial information about the commercial development of Metsovo are found from the mid-17th century onwards, when we see testimonies about the presence of peddlers from Metsovo in Constantinople and Venice, a fact which indicates an early phase of their involvement in commercial trade in the Eastern Mediterranean. During the 18th century we see testimonies of the presence of Metsovite merchants in Constantinople, Bucharest and Vienna. By the end of the 18th century there is an established community of merchants in Metsovo, which, through a collaborative or overlapping trade network, spread its operations in a rather extensive geographic area.
The first decade of the 19th century signals the beginning of the most dynamic phase of commercial activity by the Metsovites. Now the geographic and economic spectrum of their activity exceeds its initial range by a bundle. The activity is recorded to reach as far as Moscow, Cairo, Malta, Livorno and Trieste.
Cities of activity
Records show that Metsovite merchants had a permanent presence in the following cities and towns: Corfu, Serres, Filippoupoli, Odessa, Brody, Moscow, Petersburg, Sevastopol, Nizna, Thessaloniki, and in the Romanian cities Orsova, Chisinau, Iasi, Ismail (Bessarabia), Craiova, Focsani, Galatsi, and Odessa, and random presence in the trade fairs and open air markets of Perlepe, Sistov, Uzungiova, Rostov, Smyrna, Cyprus and Damascus. Naturally, the old trade strongholds of Constantinople, Bucharest and Vienna continue to present the largest concentrations of Metsovite merchants.
Another significant overseas hub of commercial activity for Metsovites was the port of Alexandria in Egypt. The latest records show that the nature of their trading has changed dramatically from the times of their traditional land transport and trade fairs of the Balkans. Although the traditional method of commerce still occupies the merchants that are based in Metsovo or Ioannina, a large number of Metsovite merchants has established trading companies and agencies in distant places where they are occupied with all types of import and export trade.
The present municipality Metsovo was formed at the 2011 local government reform by the merger of the following 3 former municipalities, that became municipal units:
The province of Metsovo (Greek: Επαρχία Μετσόβου) was one of the provinces of the Ioannina Prefecture. Its territory corresponded with that of the current municipality Metsovo, except most of the municipal unit Egnatia. It was abolished in 2006.
The town is famous for its local cheeses (Metsovone and Metsovela) and winemaking industries, including the Katogi vineyard of the Averoff family. A museum named Averoff Gallery is dedicated to Georgios Averoff. Metsovo is also a popular winter vacation destination and a ski resort.
The Metsovo Ski Centre is situated not far from the centre of Metsovo. In the 1980s, a tunnel was under construction and was the longest in Greece. It alleviated traffic and does not use twisting roads. In 2006, the connection with Via Egnatia has made the section of GR-6 (Ioannina - Trikala) into this superhighway and had two interchanges for Metsovo.
Metsovo is the home of the benefactors Nikolaos Stournaras, Eleni Tositsa, Michael Tositsas and Georgios Averoff, in whose honour the National Technical University of Athens is called Metsovion in Greek. Another notable individual from Metsovo is the former minister and former leader of the New Democracy party Evangelos Averoff.
- Georgios Averoff (1815–1899), businessman and philanthropist
- Evangelos Averoff (1910–1990), politician
- Nikolaos Stournaras, national benefactor
- Michael Tositsas, national benefactor
- Adam Tsapekos, scholar
- Nikolaos Zerzoulis (1710-1773), scholar and director of several Greek schools
- Dimitrios Zamanis (Δημήτριος Ζαμάνης) businessman, donor and supporter of Filiki Eteria or Society of Friends 
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Sancaks Yanya (Kazas: Yanya, Aydonat (Paramythia), Filat (Philiates), Meçova (Metsovo), Leskovik (war kurzzeitig Sancak) und Koniçe (Konitsa)
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- PDF (39 MB) (Greek) (French)
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