Albanians in Greece are divided into distinct communities as a result of different waves of migration. Albanians first migrated into Greece during the late Middle Ages (late 13th century). The descendants of populations of Albanian origin who settled in Greece during the Middle Ages are the Arvanites, who have been fully assimilated into the Greek nation and self-identify as Greeks. Today, they still maintain their distinct subdialect of Tosk Albanian, known as Arvanitika.
The Cham Albanians are a group that also migrated to Greece during the same period and formerly inhabited coastal parts of Epirus, in northwestern Greece. They were expelled from Epirus during World War II after large parts of their population collaborated with the Axis occupation forces, while Greek Orthodox Chams remained in Greece and have assimilated into the Greek nation.
Alongside these two groups, a large wave of economic migrants from Albania entered Greece after the fall of Communism (1991) and forms the largest expatriate community in the country. They form the largest migrant group in Greece, but most of them don't want to be noticed as Albanian. Many Albanian newcomers change their Albanian name to Greek ones and their religion from Islam to Orthodoxy: Even before emigration, more and more people in the south of Albania are pretending to be Greeks and even are changing their Muslim names to Greek ones in order to not being discriminated against in Greece. By this way, they hope to get a visa for Greece. After migration to Greece, they get baptized and change the Albanian names in their passports to Greek ones.
Groups of Albanians first settled in Epirus during the late Middle Ages. Some of their descendants form the Cham Albanians, which formerly inhabited the coastal regions of Epirus, largely corresponding to Thesprotia. The Chams are primarily distinguished from other Albanian groups by their distinct dialect of Tosk Albanian, the Cham dialect, which is among the most conservative of the Albanian dialects. During the rule of the Ottoman Empire in Epirus, many Chams converted to Islam, while a minority remained Greek Orthodox.
When Epirus joined Greece in 1913, following the Balkan Wars, Muslim Chams lost the privileged status they enjoyed during Ottoman rule and were subject to discrimination from time to time. During World War II, large parts of the Muslim Chams collaborated with the Axis occupation forces, committing atrocities against the local population. In 1944, when the Axis withdrew, many Muslim Chams fled to Albania or were forcibly expelled by the EDES resistance group.
Linguistic and cultural communities
In addition to the formerly sizeable communities in Epirus, there exist in Greece communities of Albanian origin who no longer identify as such. Although they retain a distinct Arvanitic ethnical identity, nationally they identify as Greeks. These are communities created by Albanian settlers during the Middle Ages (Arvanites) and during the first half of 20th century (Albanian-speakers of Northeastern Greece).
The main part of these groups is composed of the Southern Greek dialectological group of Arvanitika speakers, known as Arvanites. They are a population group in Greece who traditionally speak Arvanitika, a form of Tosk Albanian. They settled in Greece during the late Middle Ages and were the dominant population element of some regions in the south of Greece until the 19th century. Arvanites today self-identify as Greeks and have largely assimilated into mainstream Greek culture, they retain their dialect Arvanitika and cultural similarities with Albanians, but refuse any national connection with them and do not consider themselves an ethnic minority. Arvanitika is endangered due to language shift towards Greek and large-scale internal migration to the cities in recent decades.
Arvanite communities in Epirus and Western Macedonia
A small community is concentrated in the Ioannina regional unit, where they form a majority in two villages of the Konitsa district. This population speaks the Lab branch of the Albanian language. The city of Ioannina in the past had a substantial minority of Albanian-speakers, where a dialect intermediate between Cham and Lab was spoken. Notable Albanian writer, publicist and politician, Faik Konitza, and his brother, Mehmet Konica, former Albanian Foreign Minister, were both born in Konitsa.
Albanian-speakers of Western Thrace
Another small group is to be found in northeastern Greece, in Greek Macedonia and Western Thrace along the border with Turkey, as a result of migration during the early 20th century. They speak the Northern Tosk subbranch of Tosk Albanian and are descendants of the Orthodox Albanian population of Eastern Thrace who were forced to migrate during the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s. They are known in Greece as Arvanites, a name applied to all groups of Albanian origin in Greece, but which primarily refers to the southern dialectological group of Arbëreshë. The Albanian-speakers of Western Thrace and Macedonia use the common Albanian self-appellation, Shqiptar.
After the fall of the communist government in Albania in late 1990 and early 1991, a large number of economic immigrants from Albania arrived in Greece, mostly illegally, and seeking employment. Recent economic migrants from Albania are estimated to account for 60-65% of the total number of immigrants in the country. According to the 2001 census, there are 443,550 holders of Albanian citizenship in Greece. Some other estimates put their number to 600,000 including also temporary migrants, seasonal workers and undocumented individuals. In this total, 189,000 Greeks of Albania, who hold Albanian nationality and are 'co-ethnics' or Vorioipirotes (from Northern Epirus) have also immigrated to Greece. Likewise, it is important to note that since the Greek economic crisis started in 2011, the total number of Albanians in Greece has fluctuated.
- Minorities in Greece
- Albanians in the Republic of Macedonia
- Albanians in Kosovo
- Albanians in Central Serbia
- Albanians in Montenegro
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