Πέμπτη, 27 Ιανουαρίου 2011

Moscopole - Metropolis of Aromanians - Vlachs, Cradle of Greek Culture


~ Για ελληνικά:


Below, we give an extract from Asterios Koukoudis’ book (The Metropolis and the dispersion of Aromanians - Vlachs), which clearly shows that in the period of 18th century, the offered education in Moscopole was Greek (not only there), and that nationalistic trends were unknown meanings, the way they were formed later in the Balkans from the mid-19th century (Romanian propaganda). 
During the 18th century, Moscopole and its Aromanian-Vlachic settlements of its area experienced the climax of growth and prosperity, but also a series of remarkable circumstances that led to destruction and decay.
Certainly, the foundations for this glorious era had begun to shape during the 17th century, when Moscopole was strengthened not only in population, but in economy and culture. The building, of the monastery of St. John the Baptist around 1630 AD was indicative evidence of that evolution It is mentioned in some works (essays) that Moscopole, at that time, was the second largest city in the Ottoman Balkans, certainly after Istanbul. (A fact unlikely to happen, if we consider cities like Thessaloniki and Adrianople). However, it must have been the only city with so much exclusive Christian population. There were 6 large and organized neighborhoods and perhaps more than 70 churches, a number rather excessive. Although various sources often disagree on the exact number of houses and inhabitants, Moscopole around 1760, appears to have 20,000- 70,000 inhabitants, and perhaps about 12,000 houses. These numbers seem unlikely to be true for the data of those times and even more, when compared to the image that Moscopole presented from 1769 onwards. The city ran into a huge area and occupied much of the nowadays gap plateau and the surrounding lower slopes. Finally, it may not be risky to accept that, during the prosperity of the city, the population reached somewhere between 40,000 to 60,000.
The social stratification of Moscopole was divided into three main classes: 1). At the top there was the class of rulers that was consisted by the oldest and most powerful families. 2). Then, the rich and the often emigrant merchants and craftsmen followed, a group that formed the middle, but very dynamic class. 3) To the end there were the ordinary workers, the simple artisans, the mule drivers, the loggers, the farmers, the cattle breeders and the shepherds. The first and second class usually commanded the city. Each district (neighbourhood) appointed one provost so the Community board had 6 provosts led by the president. The president was elected by vote and this choice was validated a relevant (Turkish) firman (decision).
Later, the council members were added to 12, with landowners (kotzabasides) from each district, charged with collecting taxes. Except for the council of provosts, strong unions (or roufetia) played active role in the common city, they were organized groups of various tradesmen, (13 to 17 in number), although there are reports of even greater number. There was a small garrison (guard) of Turkish-Albanians and its tasked was guarding the surrounding passings (dervenia) leading to and from Moscopole for the smooth running of transport and trade.
Wealth and power of Moscopole was derived from trade and various craft activities. Like other and Armanian-Vlachic communities (eg Metsovo Syrrako, Kalarites etc.), cattle breeding was the first and highly productive agent for the progress that followed. However, Moscopole preceded (them) by far since 17th century and probably taught the path that other non-Vlach mountain communities followed.
The effective concentration of raw materials and hand led to a booming wool industry. The initial domestic wool craft items resulted in an organized craft production and the trade of final products and raw materials. The trade of their own production and concentration of capital (wealth) led to the gradual development of broader trade, resale (sell-trade) and craft activities and the birth of so-called class of merchants (or pramatefts or pramateftatz in Aromanian speech). The craftsmen organized and strengthened the institution of trade unions. There were grocers’, tailors’, goldsmiths’, butchers’, coppersmiths’, blacksmiths’, gunsmiths’, shoemakers’ etc trade unions, which played an important role not only in economic development and local politics, but in cultural progress, too. It is also mentioned that these unions paid for scholarships to privileged (pauper) children, studying in Moscopole and Europe schools.
However, the great economic and cultural wealth came with the development of contacts with Europe and the turn to sell-trade. It is unlikely to exist as early as 1537, some traders from Moscopole among the Greek community of Venice. That year, the community of Venice created Greek Church and Greek School. During the 17th century, Moscopolitans, through Durres (Dirahion), had developed particularly close trade contacts both with Venice and Ancona and other Italian ports of the Adriatic.
Efficient traders travelled up there carrying various kinds of goods from all parts of the Central Balkans, by Danubian. From there, they returned not only with other goods or funds, but also with valuable knowledge. Children from Moscopol followed these trade journeys to Venice, in order to study to its schools or to be apprenticed next to great traders. It is indicative that, between 1694-1703 and 1712-1716, the scholar priest, Ioannis Halkefs or Halkias, became School Principle of Flaginiou Tuition (Frontistirion). He also served as chaplain before to the Greek Community in Livorno. At the same time, Moscopolitans travelled to Istanbul, not only for their own or community affairs, but to perform services for the Venetians.
The contacts with Venice continued until about 1761. All these years many Moscopolitans entered the registers of the Greek community of Venice and did not seem to differ from other members. But as the trade of Venice began to decline, Moscopolitans, and other non-Vlach traders from different cities of Macedonia, turned to Central Europe, following the numerous caravans pulled to the north. 
The Treaties of Passarovich (1718) and Belgrade (1739), between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburgs, Austria-Hungary, particularly stood (became) favourable for this new orientation. Thus, from 1718 and until 1774, there was massive settlement of Moscopolitans to the territories of Austro-Hungary.
Some came to Warsaw in Poland and Leipzig in Germany, too. At the beginning, only men were found there and especially young people, who were looking for opportunities to trade or permanent establishment. Their multiple commercial and craft activities led them quickly to create communities both in Central Europe (Budapest, Vienna, Miskolcz, Novi Sad, Zemun, Szentendre, Kecskemet, Temesvar etc.) and various small and large commercial and administrative centers of Macedonia, Thessaly, Epirus and Albania. Active Moscopolitan traders and craftsmen traveled and worked in the most important of the annual bazaars of the Ottoman provinces. Travel, trade and money of these uneasy immigrants, quickly, brought them even greater progress.
The economic prosperity also improved conditions for cultural development. Particularly illustrative is the fact that, from 1715 to 1760, 9 new and glorious churches were built. Some of them still stand upright and this is an undeniable (until today) evidence of the prosperity (acme) and glory of Moscopole.
There was already, before 1700, an organized Greek school. This school had followed the developments and demands of the robust and forward-looking Moscopole society. Its teachers were of high education and radiation and Moscopolitans took care to call prominent scholars (for it) from other places, too. In 1744, after the addition of new courses, the School of Moscopole developed to the famous New Academy. In 1750, when it moved to a new building, similar to its reputation and its requirements, it was named Greek Tutorial (Frontistirion). The course of studies offered was perhaps the senior to a Christian who could like to attend in the Balkans, making Moscopole essentially one of the most important centers of the Greek Enlightenment. Its library was one of the brightest and largest in the Balkan provinces of that season.
Under the new Academy, Headquarters for orphans were created and a simple orphanage for housing and feeding of students, who come to study in schools of Moscopole almost from all the Balkans.
Among the social institutions that were developed, the so-called "poor class" was created, which was a ‘Community Fund’ for the relief of the less privileged residents of the city.
One of the most remarkable institutions in this unique city was the Printing Press, which firstly opened in 1720 or 1735. The writing symbols were Greek and hence were the second Greek printing press in the Ottoman Empire, after that of Constantinople (1627). Many young school students, from Moscopole and other places close to it, continued their studies in schools and institutions of Austria-Hungary, Germany, Italy, still up to the Netherlands.
Therefore, the title of "New Athens" was fairly given to Moscopole. Apart from Moscopole, vigorous educational movement developed to Vithkouki, Sipiska and Korce (Koritsa), the schools there, were called Greek schools (it is mentioned that they worked during the 18th century).

(Source: ‘The Metropolitan areas and the dispersion of the Aromanians-Vlachs, by Asterios J. Koukoudis, publications ‘ZITROS’, THESSALONICA, 2000)
John Tsiamitros - Teacher of Traditional dances



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