Monday, June 30, 2008

Anthropologic studies:Fieldwork Frames: Dhërmi/Drimades of Himarë/Himara Area

Fragment from the Ph. D of Dr. Natassa Griogorevic supported at 2008 in Academy of Science of Slovenia. Her Ph. D. is the most complete study for Himara region never realized by a foreign scholar up to now.

The last famous traveler in Himara was Hammond which traveled during 1930-year but he traverse the region very quick. Hammond is the author of "Epirous", a three-volume book.

The longer stay in Himara region was from the Bazilian monks from 1627 to 1750 (but with a lot of time-break)

(page 28-33)

Fieldwork Frames: Dhërmi/Drimades of Himarë/Himara Area

How are the dynamic processes of construction and reconfiguration of space and place

connected to the village of Dhërmi/Drimades? What are the relations between the village,

migrations, and transnational cultural flows? Part of the answer already stems from the old woman’s identification of being a Northern Epirote. When Entela asks, “Are you an Albanian or a Greek?”, she considers the elderly woman’s identification in national terms. Differently to Entela the elderly woman sees herself in local terms or in terms of ethnicity7, placing her identification in Northern Epirus. In this short example the individual identity is, along with other determinants such as language, religion and kinship, defined territorially. The identity is a mobile and unstable relation to difference which always includes the construction of space (Gupta in Ferguson 2001: 13). Therefore I will be mainly preoccupied with identification (a living process) rather than with identity as such (a fixed, often politically defined concept).

“Exactly where Northern Epirus begins and ends is another one of those contested issues

involving drawing lines on the map” (Green 2005: 15). While for some the Northern Epirus straddles the Greek-Albanian border, for others it also includes a part of the Southern Albania, where predominantly the Greek-speaking population of Christian Orthodox religion lives; and there are also others, especially the Albanian people, for whom Northern Epirus does not exist at all. The widest geographical and historical region of Epirus is considered to consist of Southern Albania and Epirus in Greece, regardless of the Greek-Albanian border (ibid.). After the foundation of the independent Republic of Albania in 1913, Epirus was divided between Southern Albania and Epirus in Greece. According to the mainstream public opinion in Greece the Greek speaking people of Orthodox religion living in Southern Albania are called Northern Epirots (Vorioepirotes) (see Triandafyllidou and Veikou 2002: 191). According to the public opinion in Albania they are often referred to by Greeks or Greku or pejoratively Kaure (non-believers) or Kaure i derit (non-believer-pigs, i.e. Greek pigs).

Throughout the centuries people living in Epirus have travelled to and from the area mainly because of trading, seasonal work, shepherding or due to their service in different armies (Winnifrith 2002, Vullnetari 2007). In the early 19th century the area of today’s Southern Albania and Epirus in Greece was part of the vilayet with a centre in Ioannina. For purposes of a tax collecting system Ottoman administration divided all non-Muslim people in special administrative and organizational units, millets, which incorporated people according to their religious affiliation, regardless of where they lived, what language(s) they spoke, or what was the colour of their skin (Glenny 1999: 71, 91-93, 112, 115, Mazower 2000: 59-60, Duijzings

7 In modern Greek language the term ethnicity derives from the word ethnos which virtually incorporate the

entire range of terminology for nationhood and nationalism (Herzfeld 2005: 113, see also Green 2005: 266 fn. 12). Similar meanings the word ethnicicy has among the people of Dhërmi/Drimades who predominantly use local Greek dialect and Albanian southern dialect in their day-to-day conversation. In order to avoid this semantic conflation that do not fully reflect the meanig of ethnicity as defined by Barth (1970 [1969], 1994), Eriksen (1993), Coen A. P. (1994), Knežević Hočevar (1999), Šumi (2000) in the continuing part of my thesis I do not use this term.

2002: 60, Green, 2005: 147). After 1913, the Ottoman principle of organizing people and

places was replaced with the nationalistic principle, which categorized people and places

according to their language and territory. Discordances between the Ottoman and nationalistic ways of dividing people and places led to tensions and territorial disputes, which since then continuously appear, disappear, reappear and blur (de Rapper and Sintès 2006, Green 2005: 148-149).

Politically raised tensions, which were mainly provoked by the pro-Greek party, began in

different places where both Greek and Albanian speakers lived. In accord with the claims of the Greek speaking people, the autonomous republic of Epirus with its centre in Gjirokastër was declared in 1914 by the pro-Greek party, which was in power in the south of Albania at that time. After the beginning of the World War I (1914-1918) the Republic soon collapsed (Winnifrith 2002: 130). When the war ended the tendencies to re-establish the autonomy of the territory known as Northern Epirus continued. In February 1922 the Albanian Parliament ratified the Declaration of minority rights proposed by Fan Noli. Declaration recognised the rights of Greek speaking people living in three villages of Himarë/Himara area (Palasa, Dhërmi/Drimades, and Himarë/Himara) and in the villages of Gjirokastër and Delvinë (Kondis and Manda 1994: 16, de Rapper and Sintès 2006: 22).

According to my discussions with the people of Dhërmi/Drimades the border between

Albania and Greece was quite irrelevant to the people living in Southern Albania and Epirus in Greece as they continued to travel until the end of the World War II. The same irrelevancy was also expressed by the people of Pogoni, in Epirus of Greece (Green 2005: 57). Green notes that for many inhabitants of that area, Gjirokastër or Argyrokastro was considered to be a lot wealthier than Pogoni itself in that time. Many people from Pogoni were regularly shopping in Argyrokastro which was geographically closer than Ioannina (Green 2005: 57).

During the communist dictatorship (1945-1990), the road, to dromo, which lead to the state border and which was used by the people living in Southern Albania for travel and trade, was closed following the Hoxa’s policy of suppression of a free movement across the state borders. In the period of Hoxha’s autarky the minority status, acknowledged to the people living in Palasa, Dhërmi/Drimades and Himarë/Himara in 1922, was revoked with the explanation that there are not enough Greek-speakers living in Himarë/Himara area (Kondis 31 and Manda 1994: 21). The districts of Gjirokastër, Sarandë and Delvinë were confirmed as “minority zones” (Kondis and Manda 1994: 21, de Rapper and Sintès 2006: 12).

Despite the restriction and control of even the in-country movements, Hoxha’s policy of

unification and homogenisation of Albanian citizens forced many Greek-speaking people to move to the places in the northern or central part of Albania (Kondis and Manda 1994: 21, see also Green 2005: 227). Besides that, many of Greek names for people and places were replaced by Albanian ones and it was forbidden to use Greek language outside the minority zones (Kondis and Manda 1994: 21).

During the period of communism the minority issues and irredentist claims raised by the

Southern Albanian pro-Greek party almost disappeared. They resurfaced again in 1990 after the declaration of democracy, opening of the borders, and massive migrations that followed (Hatziprokopiou 2003: 1033-1059, Mai and Schwandner-Sievers 2003: 939-949, Papailias 2003: 1059-1079). Nowadays, because of economic (capitalism), political (democracy, the rise of new nation-states and European Union), social and cultural (individuality) changes, these issues are reflected upon in a somehow different way as they were before. In Dhërmi/Drimades and Himarë/Himara the main differentiation is advanced by the people who claim to be of the village or the area identifying themselves with the term locals (horiani) or “of the place” (apo ton topo). Except for some elderly inhabitants of Dhërmi/Drimades, like the old woman with whom Entela and I spoke, declaration of being a Northern Epirot is nowadays rarely used in daily conversation. Following massive migrations to Greece and the stereotypes created and spread through the national Greek media (Vullnetari 2007: 51, Green 2005: 229), which depict Albania as a backward place, filled with backward people, Vorioepirotes are by people in Greece often perceived as being no different from Albanians.

Emigration was especially apparent in the places such as Gjirokastër, Sarandë, Delvinë and Himarë/Himara, where the Greek-speaking population lives. In order to control and regulate massive migration of people coming from Albania and other post-communist countries (i.e. USSR), and in order to deal with immigrants claiming to be of Greek origin, the Greek government introduced the immigration law 1975/1991 Triandafyllidou and Veikou 2002: 198). In one of its sections the law deals with the immigrants of Greek origin, namely Greek Albanians or Vorioepirotes and Pontic Greeks8, or so called co-ethnic or omogheneis.

According to the State Council9 the Greek ethnic origin can be granted on the basis of cultural ancestry (sharing “common historical memories” and/or links with “historic homelands and culture”), Greek descent (Greek Albanians have to prove that the birth place of their parents or grandparents is in Northern Epirus), language, and religion (ibid.). By the Ministerial Decision the Greek Albanians are after the recognition and confirmation of their Greek origin granted with a Special Identity Card of omoghenis Eidiko Deltio Tautotitas Omoghenous (Tsitselikis 2003: 7, Kondis and Manda 1994: 20-21). This provides them with an ambiguous but preferred status. They are people with Greek nationality and Albanian citizenship. Besides the legal status this special card gives them the right to reside in Greece, permits them to work there, grants them with special benefits (i.e. social security, health care, and education), and allows them a “free” crossing of the Albanian-Greek border.

While the Greek migration policy defines the Greek origin on the basis of language, religion, birth and predecessors from the region called Northern Epirus, the Albanian minority policy defines the Greek origin according to the language, religion, birth and predecessors originating from the areas once called “minority zones” (i.e. districts of Gjirokastër, Sarandë and Delvinë). As people who claim to originate from Himarë/Himara area do not live within the “minority zones” they are by the Albanian state not considered to be part of the Greek minority.

The contestations in Himarë/Himara area increased when the post-communist decollectivisation of property was made possible by Law 7501 on Land that passed in the Albanian parliament on 19 July 1991 (see Appendix). The law stated that the land, which was once taken from private owners by the communist government and managed by the agricultural production cooperatives, should be divided equally among the members of cooperative. This meant that each member of cooperative should get a portion of the land,with the size depending on the whole size of the land that used to belong to a particular agricultural production cooperative unit. The ownership, which existed before communism, was nullified. This kind of division was considered to be the most fair one by the new

8 In referring to Glytsos (1995), Triandafyllidou and Veikou define Pontic Greeks as “ethnic Greeks who either emigrated from areas of the Ottoman empire (the southern coast of the Black Sea in particular) to the former Soviet Union at the beginning of the 20th century or left Greece in the 1930s and 1940s for political reasons” (2002: 191).

9 State Council (no. 2756/1983) is the Supreme Administrative Court of Justice in Greece (Triandafyllidou and Veikou 2002: 204).

democratic government of the right Democratic Party of Albania (Partia Demokratike e

Shqipërisë). In the period between 13th and 15th century, except for some areas such as

isolated mountainous places of northern Mirdita area and strategically important open coast of Himarë/Himara area, most of the places throughout Albania were governed according to the rules of the feudal system which was based on the existence of few large landowners, while the majority of population were peasants (Jacques 1995: 164-177). In these areas decollectivisation went smoothly, while in Mirdita (de Waal 1996: 169-193) and Himarë/Himara area, this was not the case. Here the land used to be owned by small

proprietors whose successors nowadays object to the governmental distribution plans and
claim back the land of their fathers (Bollano 2006: 217-241).

According to the official population registration from 2005, the village of Dhërmi/Drimades conjoins approximately 1.800 residents, one half of whom lives in the emigration in Greece or elsewhere (mainly United States and Italy). Because of the massive emigration of youth, mainly the elderly population (born before 1950) and only a couple of young families live in the village of Dhërmi/Drimades. Besides them, the village is nowadays also inhabited by a growing number of families and seasonal workers from other parts of Albania. They moved to Dhërmi/Drimades after 1990. While most of the year the place is rather desolated, in summer months it bustles with tourists, among whom prevail the emigrants originating from Dhërmi/Drimades and other places throughout Albania. Tourists arriving from Vlorë and the capital Tirana, from Kosovo and sometimes from other parts of Europe, however, can also be seen.

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