Abstract detail

Title History, identity and culture of the borderland community of Tsamantas in Epirus, northwestern Greece

Before the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in the early part of the 20th century, nationality was not of great significance to the people of Epirus; instead, various elements – cultural, historical, social and spatial – combined to form the identity of local communities, which differed from each other in terms of religion and language. However, the creation of Albania, and the long-overdue delimitation of the Greek-Albanian border (1913-1925), brought about differing interpretations of ethnic identity and national consciousness amongst the people of the contested territories. In this paper, we consider how historical events influence local identities, cultures and images, and how these events can help us to understand the social and economic decline of the border community of Tsamantas during most of the 20th century. The village’s history is reconstructed through the memories of its people, especially of key events, such as the creation of the Greek-Albanian border. It was the eventual complete closure of the border in 1945 that deprived Tsamantas of its northwestern economic hinterland. Moreover, urban aspirations, and successive waves of major emigration – to the United States in the 1920-30s, and then to Australia and West Germany in the 1950s-60s – resulted in depopulation of the village. However, the re-opening of the border in the early 1990s, and the possible future expansion of the EU to include Albania, could diminish differences in ethnicity in the region and facilitate the re-emergence of a distinct Epirote identity and culture.

Primary author
Dimitrios Konstadakopulos