Greek diaspora

Greek diaspora

The Greek diaspora ( _el. ελληνική διασπορά, "elliniki diaspora") is a term used to refer to the communities of Greek people living outside of the traditional Greek homelands worldwide, but more commonly in southeast Europe and Asia Minor. Members of the diaspora can be identified as those who themselves, or whose ancestors, migrated from the Greek homelands.


Ancient Times

In ancient times the trading and colonising activities of the Greek tribes and city states spread people of Greek culture, religion and language around the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins, especially in Sicily, southern Italy, eastern Spain, the South of France, and the Black sea coasts. Under Alexander the Great's Empire Greek ruling classes were established in the Middle East, India and in Egypt. The Hellenistic period is characterized by a new wave of Greek colonization which established Greek cities and Kingdoms in Asia and Africa. Under the Roman Empire movement of people spread Greeks across the Empire and in the eastern territories Greek became the lingua franca rather than Latin. The Roman Empire became Christianized in the fourth century AD, and in the Byzantine period practice of the Greek Orthodox form of Christianity became a defining hallmark of Greek identity. [Peregrine Horden, Nicholas Purcell, "The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History",2000, Blackwell Publishin, ISBN 0631218904]

7th Century

In the seventh century Emperor Heraclius adopted Greek as the official language. Greeks continued to live around the Levant, Mediterranean and Black Sea maintaining a Greek identity amongst local populations as traders, officials and settlers. Under the Ottoman Empire these populations generally remained.

15th Century - Fall Of Byzantium, Exodus to Italy

Many Greeks fled Constantinople after its fall in 1453 and found refuge in Italy, bringing with them many ancient Greek writings that had been lost in the West. These helped contribute to the European Renaissance. Most Greeks settled in Venice and are indeed now lost to history.

Modern Times

19th Century

During and after the Greek War of Independence, Greeks of the Diaspora were important in establishing the fledgling state, raising funds and awareness abroad. Greek merchant families already had contacts in other countries and during the disturbances many set up home around the Mediterranean (notably Marseilles in France, Livorno in Italy, Alexandria in Egypt), Russia (Odessa and St Petersburg), and Britain (London and Liverpool) from where they traded, typically in textiles and grain. Businesses frequently comprised the whole extended family, and with them they brought schools teaching Greek and the Greek Orthodox church. [Ina Baghdiantz McCabe, Gelina Harlaftis, Iōanna Pepelasē Minoglou, "Diaspora Entrepreneurial Networks: Four Centuries of History", 2000, p.147, Macmillan, ISBN 0333600479] As markets changed and they became more established, some families grew their operations to become shippers, financed through the local Greek community, notably with the aid of the Ralli or Vagliano Brothers. With economic success the Diaspora expanded further across the Levant, North Africa, India and the USA. [Vassilis Kardasis, "Diaspora Merchants in the Black Sea: The Greeks in Southern Russia, 1775-1861",2001, Lexington Books, ISBN 0739102451]

After the Treaty of Constantinople the political situation stabilised somewhat, and some of the displaced families moved back to the newly-independent country to become key figures in cultural, educational and political life, especially in Athens. Finance and assistance from overseas were channelled through these family ties, and helped provide institutions such as the National Library, and sent relief after natural disasters.

20th Century

In the twentieth century many Greeks left the traditional homelands for economic reasons resulting in large migrations from Greece and Cyprus to the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Germany and South Africa, especially after the Second World War (1939-45) the Greek Civil War (1946-49) and the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Richard Clogg, "The Greek diaspora in the twentieth century", 2000, Macmillan, ISBN 0333600479]

After the First World War most Greeks living in the territory of modern Turkey were forced or coerced into leaving areas occupied by Greek people since antiquity. Many came to modern Greece, but The Russian Empire (later USSR) was also a major destination.

After the Greek Civil War some left wing activists and their families moved to the Communist Countries of Europe due to the political situation. Hungary even founded a whole new village, Beloiannisz, for Greek immigrants. While many immigrants returned later, these countries still have numerous first and second generation Greeks who maintain their traditions.

The Arab Nationalism of President Nasser of Egypt led to the expulsion of a large Greek population from that country in the 1950s. Until that point Alexandria had been an important centre of Greek culture since antiquity, with the business life of the city dominated by Greeks.

With the fall of Communism in eastern Europe and the USSR, numbers of Greeks of the Diaspora whose Greek ancestry was "removed" for many generations, immigrated to modern Greece's main urban centres of Athens and Thessaloniki, and also to Cyprus. Movements from Georgia were most numerous.Richard Clogg, "The Greek diaspora in the twentieth century", 2000, Macmillan, ISBN 0333600479]

The term Pontic Greeks is used to refer to those who have come from the countries around the Black Sea.

Greek Nationality

See Greek nationality law for more details.

Any person who is ethnically Greek born outside of Greece may become a Greek citizen through naturalization, providing he/she can prove a parent or grandparent was born as a national of Greece. The Greek ancestor's birth certificate and marriage certificate are required, along with the applicant's birth certificate, and the birth certificates of all generations in between until the relation between the applicant and the person with Greek citizenship is proven.


Important centres of the Greek Diaspora today are Chicago, London, New York, Melbourne and Toronto.

The General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad is a dependency of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and has compiled several studies on the Greeks of the diaspora.

The total number of Greeks living outside Greece and Cyprus today is a contentious issue. Where Census figures are available it shows around 3 million Greeks outside of Greece and Cyprus. Estimates provided by the Council of overseas Greeks {SAE} put the figure at around 7 million worldwide. Integration, intermarriage and loss of the Greek language also influence the definition and self-definition of Greeks of the Diaspora.

Number of Greeks outside of Greece

Well known Greeks of the Diaspora

Well known people in the Greek diaspora include:

*George Averoff,
*Maria Callas,
*Jennifer Aniston,
*George Michael,
*Telly Savalas,
*Doménicos Theotokópoulos (El Greco),
*Georges Corraface,
*John Varvatos,
*Elia Kazan,
*Constantine Lascaris,
*Marcus Musurus,
*Yiannis Pharmakis,
*Queen Sophia of Spain,
*Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,
*Jake and Dinos Chapman
*Sir Alec Issigonis,
*Michael Dukakis,
*Olympia Dukakis,
*Michael Dertouzos,
*George Bizos,
*Mario Frangoulis,
*Spyros Skouras,
*Arianna Huffington,
*Panayiotis Zavos,
*Nicholas Negroponte,
*Spiro Agnew,
*George Stephanopoulos,
*Peter Andre

ee also

*Antiochian Greeks
* List of Greek Americans
* Greek Australian
* Greek Canadians
* Greeks in Great Britain
* Greeks in New Zealand
*Cappadocian Greek language
*Church of Greece
*Cypriot Orthodox Church
*Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
*Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
*Greek Byzantine Catholic Church
*Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria
*Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch
*Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem
*Greek-Calabrian dialect
*Griko language
*Hellenistic civilization
*Orthodox Church in America
*Pontic Greeks
*Kalash of Pakistan
*Grecheskaya Operatsiya



External links

* [ General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad]
* [ Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs]
* [ Popular International Greek diaspora blog]

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