Greeks have always been travelers and explorers. Perhaps it was their restive nature, their innate curiosity about the world beyond or maybe it was just their adventuresome spirit. Ancient Greek traders set out to explore the world around them, to find new trade routes and to colonize areas that would expand their military and economic power. Wherever they went, Greeks brought a little bit of Greece with them. These connections in the form of religion, language, and customs, have been maintained with varying degrees of success. What is particularly impressive is that some communities have been able to do so for centuries and are still recognizable as essentially Greek.
Recently, I stumbled upon a blog that features travelogues by a young Greek who wanders throughout the "Greek world." When I refer to the Greek World, I refer, of course,to the many places where "Greek" communities outside of Greece still survive. As the editor points out: "What the people of these Hellenic communities have achieved seems to defy logic. Hellenic culture surviving against a background of a dwindling diaspora and the absence of government assistance and the Hellenic language enduring despite native speakers being a rarity in these regions."
Hellenic Travels to the Past is a blog that will take you to Greek enclaves in the most unlikely of places; places like the Ukraine, Georgia, and southern Italy. Here's a taste:
"It is estimated that there are 260,000 Greeks living in the Ukraine. What makes this figure even more incredible is when you compare how many descendants of ancient and Byzantine Greeks remain in other places such as southern Italy (Magna Graecia), which has approximately 35,000, or Georgia with 50,000. The Greeks of Ukraine have had to deal with the loss of Greek independence when Constantinople was captured in 1453; living in a foreign empire (under Russia and Ukraine); Russian wars with Turkey; famine and poverty; world wars; and communist rule. Perhaps it was communist rule that should have destroyed Hellenism in the Ukraine. Minorities under communist rule were not allowed to learn or speak their respective language, and for many Greeks, it wasn’t until 1991 that they were able to learn to speak their mother tongue. I am amazed at how well many Greeks have learnt modern Greek and how the ancient dialect has somehow survived despite the best efforts of the former communist regime to suppress the cultures of minorities.
One can’t help being inspired by visiting Marioupolis and the towns that surround the city, and the Greek towns. Despite the obstacles in their path, such as lower income rates (compared to the rest of Europe) and the effects of communism, there are many amazing people that I encountered who are a credit to the cause of maintaining Hellenism in their special region. There are 25 Greek towns and villages outside of Marioupolis and I had the pleasure of visiting six of them. From the moment I arrived until the day I departed from this country, I was impressed by the determination of the Greeks and their villages to survive. Many of these villages and towns have sizable populations. Sartana for example has 10,000 with 70% being of Greek origin. A visitor is immediately struck and impressed by how the Greeks paint the houses white with either blue or green windows and doors to signify their ancestry. This is the local Greek way of displaying their determination and willingness to show the whole world where their hearts lie."
Read the whole thing here.