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« The Agony of Northern Epirus | Main | Revising History and Albanian Nationalism »

08 November 2006


Hermon Qilleri

Dear Stavros,
First allow me to introduce my self as an Albanian from Gjirokastra, that lives in NYC for 10 years. It looks like you are a history lover just like me, and what is very interesting, we share our passion for the same part of the world that some call it Northern Epirus, some Cameria and some Southern Albania.
I agree with you when you say that this strip of land its a really hot point in the Greco-Albanian history. I have been looking to find openminded people from both sides of the border to talk about this, but looks like they are very few. I realized that you are one of those from the way you describe yourself and your country's history.
I read with interes what you have described above, not because this is something new for me but because what I usually hear from the Greek side its not always pleasant. But I have to admmit that you are very close to the truth (at least the one that I know). There are very few things that I would like to comment but in general that is the real story of Epirus. For example, George Kastriot Scanderbeg was not converted to Christianity, He was born a christian as all the albanians of that time. He was forced to convert to Islam because he was abducted from his family when he was a child and he was raised as a jenicer. When he escaped from Sultan's army, he went back to his country and decided to take back the throne of his father John Kastrioti.
About the greek minority in the southern Albania, many greeks like to talk about but very few of them are really knowledgeble. I was born in that part of the world and i know the clear truth.
It is true that during the Hoxha's communist regime the greek minority in Albania suffered a lot, but believe me, they suffered as much as every Albanian, not more, not less. After the democratic changes in Albania, when many "vorioepirotes" fled to Greece, they tried to present tha sad story of suffering under Hoxha's regime, in order to have the mercy and the help of the Greek goverment and Greek people. Sometimes they over did it by saying that they did not even know what a tomatoe is. Of course some Nationalistic circle in Greec took advantage of that and tried to miss-lead the public opinion. they started to talk about killing and dicrimination of the Greeks from Albanians in order to create a political fog. They also took advantage of that time powerless Albanian goverment.
This are stories that we can spend hours and hours of discussions.
I am closing here by saying that I would be very happy to disccuss with you about these things. So please feel free to e-mail me anytime.
Best Regards
Hermon Qilleri



Northern Epirotes do not hate Albanians, we have been living as neighbors too long to do so. The Albanian State however, is another matter. Both the Zog regime and the Albanian Communists tried very hard to erase the fact that many of us (perhaps not all) consider ourselves Greek, first and foremost. I agree that all Albanians suffered collectively, some benefited.

Having lived in Greece (maybe you spent some time there also) I can tell you that Albanians in general, can be divided into two groups: those that are hardworking, honorable and want to improve their lot in life and those that are criminals willing to do anything in order to obtain what they do not have. I personally believe that the former is much larger than the latter. Unfortunately, most Greeks would disagree with me. Enver Hoxha destroyed much more than the Albanian economy and political democracy. He destroyed the spirit of his people and it will take a long time to revive it. As for those who came to power since his demise. They have done precious little to improve their standing in terms of Greek-Albanian relations. Albanians seek self-determination for other Albanians in Kosovo and FYROM but deny it to the Greek minority.

Personally I hope that the people of the Balkans can work out their differences and live in peace. I am responding in the comments section because I would like readers to read what we have to say. It's part of the learning process. You can email if you prefer, that's ok too.

As for Skanderberg, thanks for clearing up my poorly worded description. Was he Catholic or Orthodox? I know that he received support from the Pope and the Italians in his struggle against the Ottomans.


Not a bad summary on the northern Epirotes. Some factual errors i.e. iun much Greek mythology Epirus was considered the home of the Hellenes, and strange statements like:

"The attack was two pronged, destroy the Greek language and more importantly,the Orthodox religion".

Nevertheless, it is important to raise awareness amongst apostate Hellenes.

What about the Greeks of southern Italy, the remaining Greeks in Egpyt, Russia, Ukraine


You claim – because you lived in Argyrokastro – to have unique knowledge of the recent history of Northern Epirus that no one else possesses or is capable of possessing.
Personally, I didn’t detect a great deal of objectivity in your remarks and Stavros has dealt with them well enough. Just a couple of questions from me, though:

Can you explain in what ways the repression the Albanians endured under Hoxha corresponded, or were equal in ferocity, with the forced deprivation of Greek ethnic identity endured by the Northern Epirotes?

It strikes me that the suffering endured by the Northern Epirotes was of a specific kind – related to ethnicity, the attempt by the communist regime to annihilate their ethnic identity – and was something Northern Epirotes had to endure IN ADDITION to the political and economic depredations which, you rightly state, were inflicted on everyone who had the misfortune to live in Stalinist Albania.

Was there a particular kind of repression Albanians endured that was not endured by the Northern Epirotes?

My point is that, despite your claims of superior knowledge and objectivity, you are in denial of the specific nature of the repression endured by the Northern Epirotes. This is disappointing and dangerous, because it indicates that you will continue to view with suspicion (and repress) the legitimate aspirations of the Northern Epirotes to express their ethnic identity.

Also, can you explain precisely how non-Northern Epirot Greeks have been led astray by the wild exaggerations of Northern Epirotes regarding the repression they experienced – without making facetious remarks about tomatoes? I’m assuming you have knowledge of the Greek language and have lived in Greece to know how Northern Epirotes described to other Greeks what it was like living in Albania under Hoxha.



It was not my intent to to give the impression that the Epirote tribes were anything but Hellenized. The statement about the two pronged attack against language and Orthodoxy was accurate. These two elements were in fact the determining aspect of Greekness for those living in Northern Epirus. It was not meant to tweak those who disdain either determinant.

All Greeks living outside of Greece have had different experiences, some good, some bad. I did not mean to slight anyone else, just to bring attention to the plight of those in Northern Epirus.


Stavros, I have issue in that you believe that quashing Orthodoxy was worst than the quashing the language.

The second statement was simply a suggestion for future posts.


I wasn't really trying to say one was more important than the other. They were both important and they were both targeted for elimination. I don't know if you were following the comments related to the post entitled: "The Agony of Northern Epirus." I am planning an upcoming series on the experiences of a family friend, Minas Paras, who recently passed away. He spent 40 years in the Albanian Gulag. His crime was teaching the Greek language.

I like your suggestion about developing posts about the Greeks of Italy, Egypt and Russia. I will make it happen. Right now I am working on posts about the Halki issue, the Greek schools of Constantinople and the Cretan Resistance. I am also preparing a post on the systematic destruction of every trace of Greek civilization in Occupied Cyprus. So much to do, so little time.


The ‘n’ in ‘Northern’ Cyprus should be lower case.
I explained why to Hermes, who made the same mistake a couple of months ago,
but you clearly weren’t paying attention!

On the destruction of Greek culture in occupied Cyprus: it’s one of the most disgusting and heartbreaking consequences of the Turkish invasion. Coincidentally, Tassos is on his way to Rome today to meet with the Pope, where no doubt the subject of the Turkish onslaught on churches, cemeteries, monasteries, etc, will come up.

And here’s an extract from an article that appeared in The Cyprus Weekly on 20 October, indicating that even now, 32 years into the occupation, and with the Turks clamouring to be let into the EU, the Turks are as hate-filled and barbaric as ever:

‘BISHOP Pavlos of Kyrenia has sent a letter to the UN and European institutions protesting the conversion of a church in his diocese into a dance school.

‘The church of St Luke in [occupied] Lapithos underwent extensive modifications to its interior for the new use with the official opening of the dance school taking place this week.

‘In his letter to the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the Council of Europe and Unesco, the Kyrenia Bishop said the continuing unacceptable treatment of religious and cultural heritage in the occupied part of Cyprus has exceeded all boundaries of shamelessness.

“These actions by the Turkish occupation forces will undoubtedly convince even doubting Thomases, of the systematic Turkish practice of obliterating every trace of rich religious and cultural heritage of our island,” Bishop Pavlos stressed, noting that this was a flagrant violation of the 1954 Treaty on the Protection of Cultural Heritage, international law and UN resolutions.’



It will never happen again now that I know better and the fix is complete. Appreciate the info, it will come in handy. BTW, I tried to comment regarding your "Axios" post which I thought was quite informative. For some reason despite Ted's heroic efforts Phylax sometimes considers my comments spam (maybe Hermes does too?) and fails to publish them. I wanted to tell you that Bishop Athanasios is very impressive. Two very fine books written by Kyriacos Markides, a Cypriot who teaches sociology at the University of Maine, are basically built around extensive dialogues that Kyriacos had with Bishop Athanasios. They are really worth reading (see links in recommended reading section). The Church of Cyprus missed a golden opportunity to revitalize itself. God-willing things will work themselves out eventually. I know you are not enamored with religious books but give at least one of them a try. Trust me on this one.


I will trust you on this one and will certainly investigate the links you mention. I didn’t know Markides and Athanassios were connected.
Without going into too much detail, I have family who are close to Athanassios – who are devoted to him and regard him as a spiritual inspiration and will be disappointed that he didn’t prevail. Nevertheless, my family members also tell me that Paphos, while lacking Athanassios’ spiritual qualities, is an extremely hard-working and scrupulous administrator, who will sort out the ‘temporal’ difficulties the Church of Cyprus has been experiencing.
Athanassios is also young – 47 – and Paphos – who is 65 – did say he would resign the throne after five years – so Athanassios’ time will no doubt come.

On a personal note, as I mentioned in my extremely long piece on the elections, Chrysostomos will be the third archbishop in a row to come from the mountain villages around Paphos. My father is also from one of those villages, so Chrysostomos’ victory is another accomplishment for us Paphites to boast about.

I just remembered something Athanassios said after losing the election on Sunday, which I liked very much. He was asked by a journalist how he would respond to the injustice of losing the election in the way that he did, to which Athanassios said: ‘Just because I suffered an injustice, my child, doesn’t mean I’m going to change my way of life.’

If Hermes is reading this, I’m sure he’s beginning to feel ill.


I suspect if he hasn't read those books, he is ordering them right now. If for no other reason than to fill his quiver with arrows which he will let fly at first opportunity. Of course he will swear up and down that he never read them but I have figured out his modus operandi.

A word of clarification, when you read the books, Bishop Athanasios is referred to as Maximos, but you will easily recognize him from the details given. Read both books and start with Mountain of Silence, first. Both my copies are quite worn out. I've lent them out to all my family members and friends.


I greatly appreciated demonax's correction on 'Northern Cyprus' and have started to implement the same strict order on people around me!

As for the the post on the Cypriot 'elections'. That post only confirms my prior held views. A great advertisement for ridding the Greek people of that stain, the Church. An institution that holds nothing sacred unless it supports in agenda.

I've read Maximos the Confessor but not Maximos. The new modern day trendy priests and their flag wavers are not really interesting except for Florovksy and Yannaras.


"That which is asked of every Orthodox person is to instill a good uneasiness into the heterodox, that they might understand that they are in delusion. This is so they will not falsely calm their conscience and thus be deprived in this life of the rich blessings of Orthodoxy and in the life to come of the even greater and eternal blessings of God."

Elder Paisios the Athonite


How does my Kirios Paisios know he is right and others a delusion? This is complete rubbish and more suitable for the people to the East. And the God he is talking about is YAHWEH, a Jewish God.

Check out the Ayotollahs of Greece:


Hermes, we finally agree, God should have applied for Greek citizenship. Have you talked to him lately, someone should tell him.

Thanks for the link. I thought the pictures were great but they are not exactly the kinds of photos I would advertise since they depict your "people of the future" in a rather poor light. As for our prelates talking to the ayatollahs, I would have thought you would be pleased.

Really, You win again, I apologize for bringing in the elder. I will try not to discuss religion with you in the future because it brings out your worst side (perhaps mine too). We did much better when we were sharing poetry.

Hermon Qilleri

Dear Demonax,
Thank you for your remarks. I never said that I posess knowoledge about Greeks of Southern Albania that no one poesses. My point is that some things I know better than what you have heard from both sides propadanda. For example, I bet you never knew that even during Hoxha's regime all elementary schools had all the text books in Greek language up to the 4th grade. I also want to tell you that there was an University in Gjirokastra and one of its branches, was specially designed to train teachers for greek elementary schools. Also, I bet you didnt know that the averege income per capita was much higher on the villages of the greek minority due to the preferencial status that they had to work for the state owned enterprises.I am not making it up. You can check this information any time.
I am not trying to say that they were happy because no one was happy under Hoxhas regime. My point is that they were used by certain Greek political groups, in order to achieve their political and economical goals. And you all know how true is that. Even when they were in Greece, the so called "vorioepirotes" were struggling to get a decent paper that would guarantee their status in there. You dont know how many of them were deported to Albania, just because of the fact that they had no identity papers to prove to the authorities who they were.
As per who suffered more under Hoxhas regime i never said that Albanians suffered more than Greeks. They had exactly the same problems. All of them had no freedom to speak their minds, no freedom of speech and no other human rights. Albanian prisons of that time were full of albanian political prisoners but very few of them were from the greek minority.
All of the above is to give you a little bit more understanding of what the reality was at that time no matter what politicians of both sides say. But it really doesnt matter now. We all know our destiny and we all know that that dark part of our history is gone for ever.
I urge you all, Please be openminded and dont fall into the trap of propaganda. We all know that being an narrominded nationalistic is the worst that can happen to a nation. Serbia is the best example for that.
Peace for all



I don't agree with your contention that Enver Hoxha singled out the Greek minority for "preferential" treatment. The Hoxha regime was paranoid about external threats, allowing any minority to represent anything but an Albanaian ethnic identity would be too ludicrous to even contemplate for the Communists.

Many Greeks were executed and spent years in Communists jails. This is a documented fact. One of those Greeks was Minas Paras, a close family friend. He spent 40 years in Communist jails. His offense? Teaching the Greek language.

As you are well aware, democracy in Albania is still elusive. Habits die hard. Here is what Human Rights/Helinki Watch has to say:

"At the center of the dispute between the two countries is the treatment of the Greek minority living in Albania. The Greek government claims that Albania is repressing the rights of ethnic Greeks, who live primarily in the south. The Albanian government claims these rights have been respected in accordance with international norms, and that Greece is fomenting separatism in the region. Despite these external pressures, relations between the local Greek and Albanian communities in Albania have, on the whole, been peaceful.

This report documents the current human rights situation of the Greek minority in Albania. The report is based on visits to Albania between July 1993 and January 1995 during which time Human Rights Watch/Helsinki consultants interviewed numerous individuals in the Albanian and Greek governments, representatives of the Greek minority, Albanian and Greek journalists, and human rights activists.

Based on its research, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki concludes that the Greek community in Albania has experienced an increase in minority rights, in accordance with the general democratic changes that have taken place in Albania since 1990. Political representation in local and national politics, the right to practice the Orthodox faith and some improvements in Greek-language education have all been a result of Albania’s democratic reforms. In addition, ethnic Greeks living in Albania have benefitted economically due to the special relationship they enjoy with Greece.

Nevertheless, as with the general level of democracy in Albania, many serious problems remain. The organization representing the Greek minority, Omonia, and the predominantly Greek political party, Union of Human Rights, experienced some obstacles to fair participation in the 1992 national elections. There have also been restrictions on freedom of assembly, religion and expression for ethnic Greeks.

More serious, however, are the actions of the Albanian police and secret service in the south of Albania, where most ethnic Greeks live. Particularly before the trial of the five Omonia leaders charged with espionage, many people were improperly detained and interrogated, creating an atmosphere of fear among the Greek minority.

The trial itself, which began in August 1994, contained many violations of Albanian and international law regarding the conditions of arrest and treatment under detention, inadequate due process guarantees and denial of a fair and public trial. These violations lend credibility to the claim that the trial was a targeted attack against a legal organization representing the Greek minority.

The increased tensions between the Albanian government and the ethnic Greek minority are especially evident in areas of cultural and educational policies, particularly as they impact on education in the Greek language. While Human Rights Watch/Helsinki does not take a position on the specific remedies that the government must provide for minority language education, it is incumbent upon the Albanian government to address the concerns of the Greek minority in consultation with the Greek community, in order to reduce tensions in the region and to fulfill its obligations to promote and preserve the Greek minority’s culture."

BTW, Albanian nationalism poses a much greater problem to the newly emerging Albanian democracy than Greek nationalism ever will.

Hermon Qilleri

I totally agree with the above report, which is by the way too old. As you know, on that period 92-95 Albania was struggling with 1001 social and economic problems and of course the minority problems were on the bottom of their list, but nowdays things are totally different.
Regarding your friend, I dont know him and I am not sure if he was jailed "for teaching the Greek language". The reason for my doubt is the fact that I described above. Albanian goverment had a special branch of Gjirokastra's University for preparing teachers for the Greek language. However, I do not insist on that.
By the way, what is your opinion on Cham Albanians? Do you know anything about them??



My opinion of the Chams is that they allied themselves with the wrong side in World War II and paid a heavy price, as did their numerous Greek victims.

What is your opinion of the Waffen SS Skanderberg Division made up of Kosovo Albanians who willingly committed atrocities against the Serbs?

Everyone has blood on their hands. It is a continuous unbroken cycle in the Balkans, which is, frankly, very disheartening.

Hermon Qilleri

Thats what I found out recently:
Beginning on June 27, 1944, and continuing through March 1945, EDES resistance partisans operating under British orders, led by Napoleon Zervas, launched a series of attacks on Muslim Cham villages which resulted in the death of roughly 5,000 chams. The surviving Muslim Chams fled to Albania and settled in villages of southern Albania, where today they number over 100,000. The Greek government then brought Greek, Vlach and Roma populations to settle in the region.

Joseph Jacobs, head of the US Mission in Albania (1945-1946) wrote:

In March 1945 units of Zervas's dissolved forces carried out a massacre of Chams in the Filiates area, and practically cleared the district of the Albanian minority. According to all the information I have been able to gather on the Cham issue, in the fall of 1944 and during the first months of 1945, the authorities in north-western Greece perpetrated savage brutality by evicting some 25,000 Chams - residents of Chameria - from their homes. They were chased across the border after having been robbed of their land and property. Hundreds of male Chams from the ages of 15 to 70 were interned on the islands of the Aegean Sea. In total 102 mosques were burnt down.
The Orthodox Cham Albanians were not expelled, but were placed under tight restrictions. Speaking Albanian in public was prohibited, and as a result, was reduced to a home language spoken only in private. Since then, Greece has not recognised any minorities, with the notable exception of the Greek Muslim minority, whose recognition was guaranteed under the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923."
Any comments????


Like Stavros said – and apologies for speaking on your behalf, Stavros – but since the Chams allied themselves with the worst barbarians known in human history – i.e. the Nazis – then they had to expect to pay the consequences. After World War II, Nazi collaborators suffered all over Europe. If the Chams had supported those on the side of freedom and democracy in this monumental war, then no doubt their fate would have been different.

Dritan  Seda

My name is Dritan. I am Albanian and I have read very carefully your reviews. I like this forum a lot. Can anyone explain to me why almost all Ancient Greek and Roman writers said that the tribes living in Epirus are " of barbaric origin " and "barbar" were called anyony who was not able to speak the Greek language, in terms of Greek history? I personally think that the problem with the today Greeks is that they do not believe or trust the old Greeks or old Greek manuscripts. I also believe that the old Greeks ( whom I truly respect ) were far more open minded than the modern Greeks who are influenced by the Orthodox Church. If ethnicity is mixed up with religion I can gurantee you that we are going to have a never ending discussion about who is Who in Balkan. Insted I would suggest that The Mosque & Church mind their own business and let us as Albanians, Greeks, Serbs, Macedonians, Bulgarians etc. live in peace as brothers. Balkan is NOT Greek, is NOT Albanian, is NOT Slavic or any other nationality. The Balkan is what it is with everything in it.


Hi Dritan,

Thanks for a thoughtful comment about a contentious issue.

The answer to your question can be found in a previous post I wrote:

I have to disagree with your comment regarding religion. I do not believe it is the cause of all the strife in the Balkans. Blaming it all on religion is a simplification. The Bulgarians and Greeks for example are both Orthodox yet much blood has been spilled between the two peoples over land. Blame nationalism, territorial ambitions, greed.

I am Orthodox and I can guarantee you that the Church has never advocated or conducted a religious war. If religion was used as a pretext to stir up the population it was used for this purpose by former Communist atheists like Milosevic. Muslims in the Balkans, on the other hand have been influenced by the jihad mentality that prevails among many Muslims these days.

Modern Greeks seem to have forgotten the role played by Albanian speaking Arvanites in their War for Independence and I plan to write about this soon.

My personal opinion is that peace will not come to the Balkans until everyone accepts the principle that borders are not subject to change and the development of democratic institutions like a free and unencumbered press.


there is not difference about albanian and greek just modern names Rrofte Arvanitia !!


Chams like the whole Greeks society was devided in Right Wings and Left Wings.
The majority of the population stayed neutral.

However like loyalists and Sessionist,were and Chams and Vllachs of Thesally and slav-Macedonians.
Many people took the opportunity.The case case of Chams was diffrent in the sense that Greece has not respected at all the the e january 1913 Treaty between her and Leage of Nations.With that treaty The Kingdom of Greece was rewarded with added Territories on the conditions that all the rights of equal treatment,justice and liberties.
Greece did not obey such treaty with any of such minorities including Ethnic Albanians of Chameria.
No schools were allowed in Albanian language,movable and immovable properties were dispossed without any legal justifications.
Even though Greece had another Treaty in place with Turkey in Athens that all registred Agrarian land of Ottoman time to be recognized.
Albanians of Chameria never had the right to vote,language,local participation governance,no right to serve in the Greek army.
They were treated as second class citicens in every respect.
Another thing was the encourgment of other groups in Chameria to practically de facto posses any property of Chams.this was done on purpoese incited by the Greek Church to divide Albanians of Chameria in religious lines.
It has to be noticed that Germans did not allow the partiction of Greece and Chameria stayed with Greece,(not like Kosovo and Albania that become de facto one country ).
The reason was that Germany found good support from right wingers in Greece and for its advancemet and reprisials against Albanian territories.
However, on the other side germans allowed what greeks were denying Albanians of Chameria the right of education in their own language,local governace,and in some cases it enabled the Chams to restoration of their belonging by other groups that were encouraged by the greek state and Church.
This in itself made GREEKS MADE to order a massive Genocide on all Albanian race of Islamic faith.

We hope that Greece improves for his own benefit,becuase it has remained in its politcs and national thinking in the realm of the Byzantine Empire.More sofisticated nations have moved beyond that Impire ideology in order to face the new world chllenges.

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