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Greek minority in Northern Epirus (Albania)

Last modified: 2011-11-12 by ivan sache
Keywords: eagle: double-headed (black) | greek minority in albania | cross (blue) | epirus | omonia | bull (brown) |
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Presentation of Epirus

Petit Larousse Illustré says:

Epirus. Area on the borders of Greece and Albania. The Kingdom of Epirus was established at the end of the 5th century BC, and became powerful under Pyrrhos II (295-272 BC). It was subjected to the Romans in 168 BP. Under the Byzantine Empire, a Despotate of Epirus was set up for the Komnenos family (1204-1318).

The mythic founder of the Kingdom of Epirus is Pyrrhos (a.k.a. Neoptolemos), Achilles' son, who married Andromache, Hector's daughter, after the fall of Troja. Pyrrhos is one of the main character of the classical tragedy Andromaque, by Jean Racine (1667), in which he is called "Pyrrhus". The tragedy takes place in Pyrrhos' capital city, Buthrote, whose ruins can still be visited in Southern Albania (Butrinti). The historical Pyrrhos (Pyrrhos II, mentioned above), invaded the south of Italy and defeated the Romans in Heraclea (280) and Ausculum (279). These victories, helped by elephants, caused great human losses in the Epirus army, recalled in the expression "Pyrrhic victory" (According to Plutarch's Lives, Pyrrhos said: "Such another victory and we are undone!") In 275, Pyrrhos was defeated by the Romans in Benevento and came back to Epirus, where he died a few years later during a campaign against Sparta. Still according to Plutarch, Pyrrhos was wounded by a javelin through his breast-plate. The wound was not grave, but he turned against the thrower, an Argive man (from Argos) of no note, the son of a poor woman. This woman looked upon the scene from a rooftop and got furious when she saw what was happening, took a large tile with both hands, and threw it on Pyrrhos' head, crushing the vertebrae of his neck.

In Les Illyriens, the French historian P. Cabanes explains that it is difficult to define objectively the status of the kingdoms that existed before the Roman conquest in what is now modern Epirus. According to the ancient authors, Epirotes were not an Illyrian tribe. Epirus was inhabited by the Molossians, famous for their watchdogs (a huge dog is still called in French a molosse). The Aeacidae dynasty, which claimed to be descended from Achilles, incorporated several neighbouring tribes to form the Kingdom of Epirus. In 232, the royalty was suppressed and the state was renamed Koinon (Community) of the Epirotes. The word koinon highlights the ethnical composite status of Epirus at that time. The ancient authors were not able to make it clear if Epirus was Illyrian or Greek. Epirus was already on the borders of two civilizations.

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 9 March 2002

Recent history of Northern Epirus

Northern Epirus was disputed between Albania and Greece until 1922.

In 1922, when the border between Albania and Greece was set up, Greeks living north of the border were incorporated into Albania, in what is called Northern Epirus by Athens, whereas Albanians living south of the border were incorporated into Greece. Most of these Albanians left Greece in 1944.

In 1993, the deportation of the Greek Archimandrite of Gjirokaster (the main town in the South of Albania) by the Albanian authorities caused an Albanian-Greek crisis. The Greek government deported 300,000 Albanian immigrants. After a few violent episodes on both sides of the border, the crisis calmed down. However, the Epirus question is still controversial both in Albania and Greece.

Ivan Sache, 9 March 2002

Flag of Omonia party

[Omonia Party]

Flag of Omonia - Image by Konstantinos Kalymnios, 19 Septembre 2004

The proportion of Greeks in Albania is currently assessed at 10%. Omonia is a member of the Human Rights Party in Albania, which is currently in coalition with the ruling Socialist Party of Albania. The flag of Omonia is blue with a white cross. The bull in the centre represents the crest of Pyrrhos, King of Epirus in ancient times and is the traditional symbol of Epirus. Similar symbols can be found over the border.

Konstantinos Kalymnios, 19 September 2004

Reported flag of the Greek minority

[Greek Minority in Albania]

Reported flag of the Greek minority in Albania - Image by Jaume Ollé, 14 September 1999

The flag is white with a thin blue border and a blue cross. The black Albanian double-headed eagle is placed in the middle of the flag.

This flag appears in the Flags of Aspirant Peoples chart [eba94], #35, with the following caption:

NORTH EPIRUS (Vorios Epiros)
Southern Albania

Ivan Sache, 14 September 1999