AN ETHNOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION
*Prefecture of Thessaloniki, Greece: Center for the Study and Development of the Greek Culture of the Black Sea
*Sponsor: Greek Telecommunications Organization (OTE)
*With the cooperation of the Community and of the Cultural Association of Nea Messimvria,
as well as of the people of Nea Messimvria and of Nessebur in Bulgaria
*Research team can be reached by email at (firstname.lastname@example.org) :
* Photography by Angeliki Avgiitidou
*Web Design by Anthony Patrinos, (email@example.com) Computer man
Table of Contents
The village of Nea Messimvria in the Balkan context
Messimvria in Bulgaria, the contemporary Nessebur, is a coastal town of the Black Sea, built on a small peninsula in the sea and connected to the mainland with a narrow piece of land. In the summer and autumn of 1925 the Italian ship "Gabriella" transported 340 Greek families from the Bulgarian town of Messimvria to Greece. This transfer of Messimvrians from Bulgaria to Greece took place in the context of a voluntary exchange of populations, which occured in the Balkan countries in the beginnings of the 20th century, as part of the process of the creation of homogeneous nation-states. A number of approximately 100 families of Greek Messimvrians decided not to leave Messimvria and were gradually incorporated in Bulgarian society. The Messimvrian refugees, who came to Greece, settled at the community of Bugharievo (29 kms. west of Thessaloniki), which was later renamed as New Messimvria.
Messimvrians boarding Gabriella on August 1925
This exhibition shows various aspects of the Messimvrian identity in Greece, as these are expressed in the different forms of communication, which were established between the two places and between the two people, in Greece and in Bulgaria. The aim is to demonstrate these forms of communication, of relationships, of continuity, and of change between the towns of Messimvria (Nessebur) in Bulgaria and of Nea Messimvria in Greece.
The research for this exhibition was conducted by a group of social anthropologists in the summer of 1996 in Nea Messimvria, Greece, and in Messimvria (Nessebur), Bulgaria. Based on this research an ethnographic exhibition takes place from November 14th to December 6th of 1996 in the Cultural Center of the Prefecture of Thessaloniki. The material presented at this WWW site is part of this ethnographic exhibition. The exhibition and its presentation at the WWW site do not offer an overall theoretical documentation of the studied case. This WWW site is a synopsis of the project and the exhibition, aiming to a comprehension of the experiences of the Messimvrians by a wider audience.
The development of any kind of communication requires first of all the existence, and/or the construction of relationships. In fact, there can be no communication without the prior existence, or the formation of relationships. In that sense, communication becomes almost co-terminous with the existence of relationships, which in turn rely on the actuality of different kinds of bonds. Communication is not merely when people write or talk to other people, who are, or are not in the vicinity. Communication is also what people see, and let others see in them, as to who they are.
In Nea Messimvria everyday forms of behavior, discussions, visits to Bulgaria, contacts with people there, etc., all rely on the prior existence of relationships and on the present mobilization of memories. The "stories" about "life there in Messimvria" are part of people's everyday lives in Nea Messimvria. Objects which were carried from "there" (holy icons, pieces of furniture, trousseau items, objects of household use, jewelry, etc.), as well as the technical knowledge of cultivating vineyards and making wine were transported from the old hometown to the new one and became an intangible form of contact with, and the point of reference for, what they left and what they rediscover there now in their visits.
What people in the Bulgarian Messimvria and in the Greek Nea Messimvria do today, 70 years after they were separated, constitute common cultural places, which not only provide the basis for communication, but they are communication in themselves. This exhibition displays that people's everyday lives constitute ways of remembrance, which are not just memories for the older ones, but create relationships for the younger ones. Objective of this exhibition is to present the relationships which existed, or which were created between the two places and which were, for the people who inhabited them, then and now, simultaneously both present and absent. The exhibition demonstrates how communication, continuity, but also change are constructed not only in proximity and in the facility of reaching easily the other side, but also in conditions of distance and of absence. It is in all these senses that this exhibition demontrates the communication between the Greek Nea Messimvria and the Bulgarian Messimvria or Nessebur.
<- The Byzantine church of St. John the Baptist (Velkov, 1989) Messimvrian bourgeois in the early twenties Baptism Certificates of Greek Messimvrians issued at Messivria and Constanza dating from the beginnings of the century
Despite the new political reality, Messimvrians continued the economic activities that they had and their bourgeois everyday lives. Commerce, wine-production, fishing and shipping were the mainest of their economic practices and they carried them on with zest. The economic ease of the Messimvrians enabled them to have a western European bourgeois lifestyle, which they kept until the time of their departure in 1925. This lifestyle included trips abroad, as well as western European forms of entertainment and of conspicuous consumption.
"Our last picture in our home-town Messimvria of Efksinos (Black Sea) at the day of the migration 22-9-1925 [...]" House Evaluation and Transfer Protocol issued by the Refugee Settlement Commission in Greece 1926-1940 1940-1950 1950-1960 Couples with both spouses of Messimvrian origin 90 47 37 Couples where only one spouse is of Messimvrian origin 26 30 56
The coexistence of all those different groups of people within the same community initially became the cause of controversies and animosities among them. Main causes for controversies were the distribution by the local government of land for cultivation, of pasture land, of water, and of community funds. In the course of time, these issues were settled and the contentions evaporated.
Blessing of the fishermen's boats at the beginning of the fishing season
"... the parents of the bride promise to the groom and to their daughter ... a vineyard at the place alonia, ..., the right for [the produce of] two double fish nets in the middle season ...."
Wine storage barrels in contemporary Nea Messimvria Distillery in contemporary Nea Messimvria Women's hand-made pieces of work were and are highly valued in Nessebur and Nea Messimvria Grandmother's hand-made notepad
These memories are realized in the objects that the Messimvrians who came to Greece carried with them, or inherited from their parents or grandparents, in the values and in the forms of knowledge that they had, or acquired from their parents. When, however, people realized that year by year things get all the more distant, then the need to testify their own memories became urgent. An old woman in Nea Messimvria made a little booklet with her own hands and testified the place: the churches in Messimvria, the shops, the people.
Memory, nonetheless, while it realized Messimvria for those who wanted and want to remember, it also became a burden for those who wanted and want to forget the past and to move on. Several objects of memory (pictures, old pieces of furniture, letters, etc.) found their places in the basements of the houses, in the backyards, in bonfires.
Picture from one of the first visits of Greek Messimvrians to Nessebur in the late fifties Picture of Messimvrians of Nessebur visiting Acropolis (Front) (Back) Picture of Messimvrians of Nessebur. Message on back side: My dear sister, I send you a photograph. You don't have your eyes to see us; we also grew old. Your sister and your brother-in-law, Nikolas
This exhibition was initiated by the desire of people of Nea Messimvria, Greece, and of Nessebur, Bulgaria, to talk about this shared part of their lives called Messimvria. For people both in Bulgaria and in Greece, Messimvria constitutes a significant part of their identities, a common point of reference. Memories and stories about their past lives, photos of relatives, and pictures of Messimvria on the walls in every house testify the importance and the presence of the relationships with people and with objects, which do not belong to the past, but are part of an active present. The common places of memory become, for those who share them, open lines of communication between the past and the present, while they open up the way for the continuation of communication and the reformation of relationships in the future.
As already mentioned, this WWW page is created for an audience of non specialists to the subject. The following titles can provide the reader with a wider ethnographic and historical knowledge of the studied case. No theoretical work related to the subject has been included.
Further reading on the exchange of populations between Greece and Bulgaria
Eddy C.B., 1931, "Greece and the Greek Refugees", G. Allen & Unwin Ltd., London.
Ladas S., 1932, "The Balkan Exchange of Minorities", McMillan Co, N.Y.
Pentzopoulos D., 1962, "The Balkan Exchange of Minorities and its Impact upon Greece", Mouton, Paris.
Further reading on Messimvria
Velkov V., 1989, "Nessebur", Sofia Books Press, Sofia.
Venedikov I. - Velkov V. and others, 1969, "Nessebre", Editions de l' Academie Bulgares des Sciences, Sofia.
Megas G., 1945, "Anatoliki Roumelia" (in Greek), Sillogos pros Diadosin ton Ellinikon Grammaton, Athens.
Konstantinidis M., 1945, "I Messimvria toy Efxeinou" (in Greek), Estia, Athens.
Kotzageorgi X., 1997, "Oi Ellines tis Voulgarias: Ena istoriko tmima tou Perferiakoou Ellinismou" (in Greek), Geniki Grammatia Apodimou Ellinismou, Athens.
Agelopoulos G., 1994, "Zontas Anamesa: Taftotita kai Politikes mias Chorismenis Koinotitas" (in Greek), Ethnologia, Vol. 2, pp. 147 - 163.
Further reading on mixed villages of Greek Macedonia
Agelopoulos G., 1997, "From Bulgarievo to Nea Krasia, From the "Two Settlements" to the "One Village": Community Formation, Collective Identities and the Role of the Individual", in P. Mackridge and E. Yanakakis (edit.) "Ourselves and Others", Berg, New York.
Boeshoten van R., 1993, "Politics, Class and Identity in Rural Macedonia: a Comparative Perspective" Paper presented at the conference "The Anthropology of Ethnicity: a Critical Evaluation", University of Amsterdam.
Brown K., 1993, "When Ink Trumps Blood: Nation and Identity in a Greek and Macedonian Family", Paper presented in the Modern Greek Studies Association International Symposium, Berkeley University, California.
Cowan J., 1997, "Idioms of Belonging: Multiethnicity and Local Identity in a Greek Town", in P. Mackridge and E. Yanakakis (edit.) "Ourselves and Others", Berg, New York.
1990, Dance and the Body Politic in Northern Greece, Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton N. J.
Damianakos S. - Nikolakopoulos I., 1978, "Vergina. Georgikos Eksichronismos kai Koinonikos Metaschimastismos" (in Greek), The Greek Review of Social Sciences, Vol. 33 - 34, pp. 432 - 478.
Danforth L.M., 1989, "Firewalking and Religious Healing", Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Danforth L.M, "The Macedonian Conflict. Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World", Princeton University Press, Princeton N.J., 1995.
Drettas J.G., 1977, "Les Notres": Un example de contacts interethniques en Macedoine, village de Hrisa", Etudes Balkaniques, Vol. 3, pp. 76 - 90.
Lafazani D., 1991, "Cultures frontalieres en Grece: la question sociale locale de la difference culturelle", Paper presented at the confernce "Cultures et regions transfontaliere en Europe a l' aube du marche unique", Colloque International de Geographie Politique, Andorre, 27 - 29 May 1991.