The Greeks

"We do not hate the Greeks; quite to the contrary, we love them and we share the same heritage: a nationality to build; for we have the same interests, the same pains, the same hopes; and when we say 'we love them' we can bring proofs to support this statement: Romania's bosom hospitably welcomes Greek trade from everywhere; thousands of Greeks are greeted here with a handshake..."Dimitrie Bolintineanu, 1863 Brief historical background Repeated contacts with the Greek civilization and its representatives have occurred ever since Antiquity, mediated by the Greek colonies at the Black Sea, of which Istros (Histria), Callatis (Mangalia) and Tomis (Constanta) were the most prominent. They had strong economic and cultural influence on the local population, particularly after the 7th century BC. The colonists came mainly from Milet, Rhodos, Megara and Corinth. These Greek colonies in Dobruja maintained close contact, to a larger or a smaller extent, with the centres, depending on the evolution of the political situation in the Mediterranean area, up to the age of Alexander the Great. Byzantine civilization (institutions, culture etc.) penetrates the Romanian Principalities in a first phase through direct contacts (9th – 13th centuries AD) – again through Dobruja – and later through ecclesiastical relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople as well as with the other religious centres (Mount Athos, Meteora, Sinai etc.). The surrender of Romanian monasteries, together with their assets, happened more and more frequently after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, when Byzantium exercised great influence over the Orthodox and, implicitly, the Romanian space. The endurance of Byzantine lifestyle after 1453 led Nicolae Iorga to call this period "Byzantium after Byzantium". Present in all three Romanian principalities beginning with the 16th century, either as merchants or as high officials at princely courts in Moldavia and Walachia, the number of Greeks increased appreciably in the 17th century, favoured by the domination of the Ottoman Porte, where Greeks from Constantinople had managed to hold lucrative economic positions and even some high offices. The Greek diaspora in Moldavia and Walachia had a special, idiosyncratic character, owing to the fact that individuals originating from various regions of the Greek world – Thessaly, Epirus, Macedonia, the isles in the Aegean and Ionic Seas, or Asia Minor (especially Constantinople, Trapezus / Trebizond and Sinope) – were integrated in the social-political life of the two provinces and became naturalized, enjoying thus the social status there from derived. In Transylvania, up to 1742 – when Empress Maria Theresa granted Greeks that came from the Habsburg Empire the right to receive Austrian citizenship and bring over their families – neither Greeks employed by companies in Sibiu or Brasov, nor others, despite their travelling frequently to Vienna on business, were entitled to purchase properties or hold high offices (with the rare exceptions of those who were raised into nobility, like Kalo Iani Peter). Greek merchants were the most numerous and active category of the Greek diaspora on Romanian land. They came not only from the great economic centres of the Ottoman Empire (Constantinople, Trapezus, Ianina, Castoria, Melenic, Filipopolis, Tarnovo etc.), but also from Crete and the isles in the Aegean and Ionic Seas. They set up, together with other merchants originating from the Balkans, a network along the commercial routes that linked the Orient with Central Europe. Some of these tradesmen amassed fortunes and bought estates in Moldavia and Walachia, married into local boyars' families, acquired high offices and even took Romanian names. Dimitrie Cantemir tells how dynast Vasile Lupu had ordered Greek monks be brought to "all the great monasteries" to teach Greek to the sons of the boyars. Not before 1646 did the first high school with a strong humanistic character appear in Targoviste, owing largely to the Greek scholar Paisie Ligaridis, who had Ignatie Petritis of Chios by his side. The two royal Academies in Bucharest and Jassy were at once important both to Romanian and Greek culture. As far back as 1728, by reforming the Academy in Jassy, Hrisant Notara introduced in the curriculum a "Moldavian, that is to say Romanian language teacher", clarifies the learned patriarch. Affiliation to the Orthodox Church, which benefited from material and political support on the part of Romanian dynasts, favoured the presence of high Greek hierarchs in the Romanian space, some of them intellectuals who had completed their education in western cultural centres. In Transylvania, the two Greek companies in Sibiu and Brasov brought, starting with 1660, their own priests from the religious centres (Jerusalem, Sinai, Mount Athos), who worked as professors and were also the bearers of some Greek manuscripts, as the records the rich libraries of the above-mentioned companies prove. The emergence of Greek printing houses in Moldavia and Walachia was due to the initiative of some hierarchs of the Orthodox Church, prominent among which was Hrisant Notara. They were meant to print, above all, books that were necessary for the defense of the Orthodox Church and were to be provided to the Eastern Church. Alongside religious literature, which represented the largest part of all printed books, law treatises, philosophical works and school books were also published, thus contributing to the spreading of secular literature. Some of the Greek intellectuals who also lived in the Romanian space, such as Nicolae Chiparisa, Anastasie Comnen Ipsilanti, Dionisie Fotino and Daniel Philipide (in the 18th century) wrote historical works. Also, reference must be made to the existence of numerous translations. In the 17th century translations from old Greek or the Byzantine language into Neo-Greek predominated, complemented in the 18th century also by translations from Italian. Better known in the age were the Greek translators Ioan Aranios, Ieremia Cacavelas, Marcos Porphiropoulos, George Chrisogov, Mihai Crhistaris et. al. and the Romanians Radu Greceanu and Eustate the Chancellor. After the repression of the revolutionary movement in 1821, the Greeks who had settled in the Romanian Principalities were involved in the most important political events. Troops of Romanian pandours fought in the Russian-Turkish war of 1828-1829, which ended with the peace of Adrianople and acknowledged Greece's right to autonomy. After 1829, the favourable conditions created by the peace of Adrianople determined the arrival of new waves of Greek immigrants, periodically increasing the Greek diaspora in Romania. They settled especially in port-towns along the Danube, such as Galati, Braila, Giurgiu, Constanta, Tulcea, Sulina, Calafat or Corabia, where they dealt in trade. The Greek actor and playwright C. Aristia took part in the preparations for the 1848 revolution in Walachia, as member of the Philharmonic Society.After it won its independence, Greece carried on the traditional economic, political and cultural ties with the Romanian people. The Greek state continued the trade relations with the Romanian Principalities. Greek ships are present in ports along the Danube and in Constanta; as a consequence, in 1835, along with other European countries, Greece opened a vice-consulate in Braila. In the latter half of the 19th century the two independent states continued their traditional cultural relations. Greek communities in Romania had a lively cultural activity. By virtue of the Organic Regulations, schools in Moldavia and Walachia had become public, state-owned institutions. Classic Greek continued to be taught in secondary schools and high schools throughout the 19th century and the early 20th century. Neo-Greek was only taught in private teaching establishments. Thus, in the latter half of the 19th century, there were numerous private schools and boarding houses – Greek, Romanian-Greek, Greek-German etc.As private schools were constantly inaugurated and shut down, it was difficult to make an accurate assessment of the number of Greek schools in Romania. An 1891-92 statistic made by the Ministry of Culture and Public Education shows that there existed mixed private schools in Braila, Constanta, Galati, Tulcea and Vlasca County and schools for girls in Braila, Constanta, Bucuresti, Turnu Severin, Tulcea and Sulina. From a "Catalogue of private schools" issued in 1910 we find out that, at the beginning of the 19th century, appear the first Greek publications (31 newspapers and magazines). Most of the Greeks belonging to these communities came from Epirus, Macedonia, the Ionian Islands (Ithaca, Corfu, Cephalonia), or the Cyclades. At the end of the 19th century, as well as in the following century, the economic, social and political situation of the Greek communities was dependent, most of the times, on the extant relations between the Romanian and the Greek states. Thus, in 1900 the first trade convention between Romania and Greece was signed, which included a protocol granting legal status to Greek churches on Romanian territory. The circulation of cultural assets between the two peoples continued well into the 20th century. Early in the century, An Anthology of Greek Poetry 1800-1930 and An Anthology of Greek Lyrical Works, as well as other books, are translated into Romanian. At the same time, the works of Panait Istrati are translated from Romanian into Greek. And these are only a selection of the Romanian-Greek cultural events of the early 20th century. The last wave of Greek immigration into Romanian happened during the Greek civil war, whose disastrous consequences forced Romania, with the assistance of the International Red Cross and of several foreign governments, to give shelter to a significant number of children, women, elderly men and wounded soldiers. Approximately 12,000 Greek refugees arrived in Romania on that occasion and were offered accommodation and means of subsistence.  After 1990Citizens belonging to the Greek community in Romania are now organized in the Greek Union in Romania (UER). The Union was set up in Bucharest, on 28 December 1989 and was granted legal status on 26 February 1990. It is made up of 20 territorial communities with headquarters in various municipalities, towns or communes and set out to defend "the right to maintaining, developing and expressing the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of its members." The Greek Union in Romania has a representative on the International Council of Greek Diaspora, an independent organism set up in 1996 with support from the Greek state, and on the Coordinating Committee of Young Greeks in Europe. Of the Greek personalities who have made a significant contribution to Romanian culture we mention here Ion Luca Caragiale, the director Gheorghe Vitanidis, the composer Gherase Dendrino and the critic Dimitrie Panaitescu (Perpessicius).  Traditions The Greeks are a dignified, ambitious and religious people. People manage to overcome differences when a good cause is at stake. They benefit from the help of the Church, of their large numbers (over seven million Greeks are living outside the borders of the country), their pride and education. Finally their industrious nature, their merchant spirit and the fact that they have remained, at least partially, "the masters of the sea" – which accentuates their natural taste for freedom and brotherhood – contribute significantly to outlining a Greek typology of unity. The Greeks in Romania, Omonia, Bucharest, 2003

by Paula Scalcău