Pontic Greeks

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Pontian Greeks
Έλληνες του Πόντου (Ρωμιοί)
Flag of Pontus.svg
One of the Pontic flags
Total population
c. 2,000,000 [1] – 2,500,000 [2]
Regions with significant populations
Greece, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Armenia, Cyprus, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Germany, United States, Uzbekistan, Australia, Canada, Syria, Romania, Bulgaria, Egypt
Predominantly Modern and Pontian Greek. Also the languages of their respective countries of residence (Those include Russian, Turkish, Georgian and Urum language)
Greek Orthodox Christianity, Russian Orthodox Christianity, Sunni Islam (Mostly in Turkey)

The Pontic Greeks, also known as Pontian Greeks (Greek : Πόντιοι, Ελληνοπόντιοι, Póntioi, Ellinopóntioi; Turkish : Pontus Rumları, Karadeniz Rumları, Georgian :პონტოელი ბერძნები, P’ont’oeli Berdznebi), are an ethnically Greek [3] [4] group who traditionally lived in the region of Pontus, on the shores of the Black Sea and in the Pontic Mountains of northeastern Anatolia. Many later migrated to other parts of Eastern Anatolia, to the former Russian province of Kars Oblast in the Transcaucasus, and to Georgia in various waves between the Ottoman conquest of the Empire of Trebizond in 1461 and the second Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829. Those from southern Russia, Ukraine, and Crimea are often referred to as "Northern Pontic [Greeks]", in contrast to those from "South Pontus", which strictly speaking is Pontus proper. Those from Georgia, northeastern Anatolia, and the former Russian Caucasus are in contemporary Greek academic circles often referred to as "Eastern Pontic [Greeks]" or as Caucasian Greeks, but also include the Turkic-speaking Urums.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Turkish language Turkic language mainly spoken and used in Turkey

Turkish, also referred to as Istanbul Turkish, and sometimes known as Turkey Turkish, is the most widely spoken of the Turkic languages, with around ten to fifteen million native speakers in Southeast Europe and sixty to sixty-five million native speakers in Western Asia. Outside Turkey, significant smaller groups of speakers exist in Germany, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Northern Cyprus, Greece, the Caucasus, and other parts of Europe and Central Asia. Cyprus has requested that the European Union add Turkish as an official language, even though Turkey is not a member state.

Georgian language Official language of Georgia

Georgian is a Kartvelian language spoken by Georgians. It is the official language of Georgia. Georgian is written in its own writing system, the Georgian script. Georgian is the literary language for all regional subgroups of Georgians, including those who speak other Kartvelian languages: Svans, Mingrelians and the Laz.


Pontic Greeks have Greek ancestry and speak the Pontic Greek dialect, a distinct form of the standard Greek language which, due to the remoteness of Pontus, has undergone linguistic evolution distinct from that of the rest of the Greek world. The Pontic Greeks had a continuous presence in the region of Pontus (modern-day northeastern Turkey), Georgia, and Eastern Anatolia from at least 700 BC until 1922. [5]

The Greeks or Hellenes are an ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus, southern Albania, Italy, Turkey, Egypt and, to a lesser extent, other countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world.

Pontic Greek is a Greek dialect originally spoken in the Pontus area on the southern shores of the Black Sea, northeastern Anatolia, the Eastern Turkish/Caucasus province of Kars, southern Georgia and today mainly in northern Greece. Its speakers are referred to as Pontic Greeks or Pontian Greeks.

Evolutionary linguistics Study of the psychosocial and cultural factors involved in the origin of language and the development of linguistic universals

Evolutionary linguistics is a subfield of psycholinguistics that studies the psychosocial and cultural factors involved in the origin of language and the development of linguistic universals. The main challenge in this research is the lack of empirical data: spoken language leaves practically no traces. This led to the abandonment of the field for more than a century, despite the common origins of language hinted at by the relationships among individual languages established by the field of historical linguistics. Since the late 1980s, the field has been revived in the wake of progress made in the related fields of biolinguistics, psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, evolutionary anthropology, evolutionary psychology, universal grammar, and cognitive science.


Nowadays, due to extensive intermarriage (also with non-Pontic Greeks), the exact number of Greeks from the Pontus, or people with Greek ancestry still living there, is unknown. After 1988, Pontian Greeks in the Soviet Union started to migrate to Greece settling in and around Athens and Thessaloniki, and especially Macedonia. The largest communities of Pontian Greeks (or people of Pontian Greek descent) around the world are: [6]

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a Marxist-Leninist sovereign state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Athens Capital and largest city of Greece

Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence starting somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennium BC.

Thessaloniki City in Macedonia, Greece

Thessaloniki, also known as Thessalonica, Saloniki or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece, with over 1 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area, and the capital of Greek Macedonia, the administrative region of Central Macedonia and the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace. It is also known in Greek as η Συμπρωτεύουσα, literally "the co-capital", a reference to its historical status as the Συμβασιλεύουσα (Symvasilévousa) or "co-reigning" city of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, alongside Constantinople.

Country / regionOfficial dataEstimateConcentrationNote(s)Article
Flag of Greece.svg  Greece 240,695 (1928). [7] 400,000-1,000,000 [ citation needed ] Athens, Macedonia, Thrace Greek refugees
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey 4,540 (1965)345,000[ citation needed ] - 464,530(1919) [8] Trabzon, Rize, Sakarya, Few: Giresun, Gümüşhane, İstanbul Greeks in Turkey, Greek Muslims
Flag of the United States.svg  USA 40,000 (1919) [9] - 200,000 Greek American
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 100,000 Greeks in Germany
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 97,827 (2002)650,000 (1918) [10] 34,078 in Stavropol Krai
26,540 in Krasnodar Krai
Greeks in Russia
Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine 91,548 (2001)77,516 in Donetsk Oblast Greeks in Ukraine (Taurica)
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 56,000 Greek Australian
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 20,000 Greek Canadians
Flag of Cyprus.svg  Cyprus 20,000 Greek Cypriots
Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czech Republic less than 3,500; 12,000 (1949–1974) Greeks in the Czech Republic
Flag of Georgia.svg  Georgia 15,166 (2002)7,415 in Kvemo Kartli
3,792 in Tbilisi
2,168 in Adjara
Greeks in Georgia
Flag of Kazakhstan.svg  Kazakhstan 12,703 (2010)2,160 in Karagandy
1,767 in Almaty
1,637 in Zhambyl
Greeks in Kazakhstan
Flag of Uzbekistan.svg  Uzbekistan 10,453 (1989) [11] Greeks in Uzbekistan
Flag of Armenia.svg  Armenia 900 (2011) [12] 2,000[ citation needed ] Greeks in Armenia


Funerary stele of two Greek warriors found on the Black Sea coast, Taman peninsula, 4th century BC Grave stele 03 pushkin.jpg
Funerary stele of two Greek warriors found on the Black Sea coast, Taman peninsula, 4th century BC

In Greek mythology the Black Sea region is the region where Jason and the Argonauts sailed to find the Golden Fleece. The Amazons, female warriors in Greek Mythology lived in Pontus and minority lived in Taurica, also known as Crimea which is also the minor unique settlement of Pontic Greeks. The warlike characteristics of Pontic Greeks had once said to have been derived of Amazons of Pontus.

Greek mythology body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks

Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks. These stories concern the origin and the nature of the world, the lives and activities of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures, and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own cult and ritual practices. Modern scholars study the myths in an attempt to shed light on the religious and political institutions of ancient Greece and its civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.

Jason Greek mythological hero

Jason was an ancient Greek mythological hero who was the leader of the Argonauts whose quest for the Golden Fleece featured in Greek literature. He was the son of Aeson, the rightful king of Iolcos. He was married to the sorceress Medea. He was also the great-grandson of the messenger god Hermes, through his mother's side.

Argonauts a band of heroes in Greek mythology

The Argonauts were a band of heroes in Greek mythology, who in the years before the Trojan War, around 1300 BC, accompanied Jason to Colchis in his quest to find the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from their ship, Argo, named after its builder, Argus. "Argonauts" literally means "Argo sailors". They were sometimes called Minyans, after a prehistoric tribe in the area.



Greek colonies of the Euxine Sea, 8th to 3rd century BC Greek colonies of the Euxine Sea.svg
Greek colonies of the Euxine Sea, 8th to 3rd century BC

The first recorded Greek colony, established on the northern shores of ancient Anatolia, was Sinope on the Black Sea, circa 800 BC. The settlers of Sinop were merchants from the Ionian Greek city state of Miletus. After the colonization of the shores of the Black Sea, known until then to the Greek world as Pontos Axeinos (Inhospitable Sea), the name changed to Pontos Euxeinos (Hospitable Sea). In time, as the numbers of Greeks settling in the region grew significantly, more colonies were established along the whole Black Sea coastline of what is now Turkey, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania.

Colonies in antiquity Aspect of history

Colonies in antiquity were post-Iron Age city-states founded from a mother-city, not from a territory-at-large. Bonds between a colony and its metropolis remained often close, and took specific forms during the period of classical antiquity. Generally, colonies founded by the ancient Phoenicians, Carthage, Rome, Alexander the Great and his successors remained tied to their metropolis, but Greek colonies of the Archaic and Classical eras were sovereign and self-governing from their inception. While Greek colonies were often founded to solve social unrest in the mother-city, by expelling a part of the population, Hellenistic, Roman, Carthaginian, and Han Chinese colonies were used for expansion and empire-building.

Sinop, Turkey Municipality in Black Sea, Turkey

Sinop, historically known as Sinope, is a city with a population of 36,734 on the isthmus of İnce Burun, near Cape Sinope which is situated on the most northern edge of the Turkish side of the Black Sea coast, in the ancient region of Paphlagonia, in modern-day northern Turkey. The city serves as the capital of Sinop Province.

Miletus Ancient Greek city

Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia, near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria. Its ruins are located near the modern village of Balat in Aydın Province, Turkey. Before the Persian invasion in the middle of the 6th century BC, Miletus was considered the greatest and wealthiest of Greek cities.

Ancient Greek coin from Sinope, coast depicting the head of a nymph and an eagle with raised wings, 4th Century BC Pontus Eagle Coin.jpg
Ancient Greek coin from Sinope, coast depicting the head of a nymph and an eagle with raised wings, 4th Century BC

The region of Trapezus (later called Trebizond, now Trabzon) was mentioned by Xenophon in his famous work Anabasis , describing how he and other 10,000 Greek mercenaries fought their way to the Euxine Sea after the failure of the rebellion of Cyrus the Younger whom they fought for, against his older brother Artaxerxes II of Persia. Xenophon mentions that when at the sight of sea they shouted "Thalatta! Thalatta!" – "The sea! The sea!", the local people understood them. They were Greeks too and, according to Xenophon, they had been there for over 300 years. [13] A whole range of trade flourished among the various Greek colonies, but also with the indigenous tribes who inhabited the Pontus inland. Soon Trebizond established a leading stature among the other colonies and the region nearby become the heart of the Pontian Greek culture and civilization. A notable inhabitant of the region was Philetaerus (c. 343 BC–263 BC) who was born to a Greek father [14] in the small town of Tieion which was situated on the Black Sea coast of the Pontus Euxinus, he founded the Attalid dynasty and the Anatolian city of Pergamon in the second century BC. [14]

Trabzon Metropolitan municipality in Turkey

Trabzon, historically known as Trebizond, is a city on the Black Sea coast of northeastern Turkey and the capital of Trabzon Province. Trabzon, located on the historical Silk Road, became a melting pot of religions, languages and culture for centuries and a trade gateway to Persia in the southeast and the Caucasus to the northeast. The Venetian and Genoese merchants paid visits to Trebizond during the medieval period and sold silk, linen and woolen fabric. Both republics had merchant colonies within the city – Leonkastron and the former 'Venetian castle – that played a role to Trebizond similar to the one Galata played to Constantinople. Trabzon formed the basis of several states in its long history and was the capital city of the Empire of Trebizond between 1204 and 1461. During the early modern period, Trabzon, because of the importance of its port, again became a focal point of trade to Persia and the Caucasus.

Xenophon Ancient Greek historian and philosopher

Xenophon of Athens was an ancient Greek philosopher, historian, soldier, mercenary, and student of Socrates. As a soldier, Xenophon became commander of the Ten Thousand at about 30, with noted military historian Theodore Ayrault Dodge saying of him, “the centuries since have devised nothing to surpass the genius of this warrior.” He established the precedent for many logistical operations and was among the first to use flanking maneuvers, feints and attacks in depth. He was among the greatest commanders of antiquity. As a historian, Xenophon is known for recording the history of his time, the late-5th and early-4th centuries BC, in such works as the Hellenica, which covered the final seven years and the aftermath of the Peloponnesian War, thus representing a thematic continuation of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War.

<i>Anabasis</i> (Xenophon)

Anabasis is the most famous book of the Ancient Greek professional soldier and writer Xenophon. The seven-tome book of the Anabasis was composed around the year 370 BC, and, in translation, Anabasis is rendered as The March of the Ten Thousand and as The March Up Country. The narration of the journey is Xenophon's best known work, and "one of the great adventures in human history".

Mithridates VI.jpg
Diogenes of Sinope (c. 408–323 BC) and Mithridates VI, King of Pontus (135–63 BC)
Roman Diocese of Pontus, 400 AD Dioecesis Pontica 400 AD.png
Roman Diocese of Pontus, 400 AD

This region was organized circa 281 BC as a kingdom by Mithridates I of Pontus, whose ancestry line dated back to Ariobarzanes I, a Persian ruler of the Greek town of Cius. The most prominent descendant of Mithridates I was Mithridates VI of Pontus, who between 90 and 65 BC fought the Mithridatic Wars, three bitter wars against the Roman Republic, before eventually being defeated. Mithridates VI the Great, as he was left in memory, claiming to be the protector of the Greek world against the barbarian Romans, expanded his kingdom to Bithynia, Crimea and Propontis (in present-day Ukraine and Turkey) before his downfall after the Third Mithridatic War.

Nevertheless, the kingdom survived as a Roman vassal state, now named Bosporan Kingdom and based in Crimea, until the 4th century AD, when it succumbed to the Huns. The rest of the Pontus became part of the Roman Empire, while the mountainous interior (Chaldia) was fully incorporated into the Eastern Roman Empire during the 6th century.

Middle Ages

Pontus was the birthplace of the Komnenos dynasty, which ruled the Byzantine Empire from 1082 to 1185, a time in which the empire resurged to recover much of Anatolia from the Seljuk Turks. In the aftermath of the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the Empire of Trebizond was established by Alexios I of Trebizond, a descendant of Alexios I Komnenos, the patriarch of the Komnenos dynasty. The Empire was ruled by this new branch of the Komenos dynasty which bore the name Megas Komnenos Axouch (or Axouchos or Afouxechos) as early rulers intermarried with the family of Axouch, a Byzantine noble house of Turkic origin which included famed politicians such as John Axouch

Alexios III Megas Komnenos.JPG
Bessarion 1476.JPG
Alexios III (1338–1390), Emperor of Trebizond and Cardinal Bessarion of Trebizond (1395–1472), a Pontian Greek scholar, statesman and cardinal. [15]

This empire lasted for more than 250 years until it eventually fell at the hands of Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire in 1461. However it took the Ottomans 18 more years to finally defeat the Greek resistance in Pontus. During this long period of resistance many Pontic Greeks nobles and aristocrats married foreign emperors and dynasties, most notably of Medieval Russia, Medieval Georgia, or the Safavid Persian dynasty, and to a lesser extent the Kara Koyunlu rulers, in order to gain their protection and aid against the Ottoman threat. Many of the landowning and lower-class families of Pontus "turned-Turk", adopting the Turkish language and Turkish Islam but often remaining crypto-Christian before reverting to their Greek Orthodoxy in the early 19th century. Between 1461 and the second Russo-Turkish War of 1828-29, other Pontic Greeks from northeastern Anatolia migrated as refugees or economic migrants (especially miners and livestock breeders) into nearby Armenia or Georgia, where they came to form a nucleus of Pontic Greeks which increased in size with the addition of each wave of refugees and migrants until these eastern Pontic Greek communities of the South Caucasus region came to define themselves as Caucasian Greeks.

During the Ottoman period a number of Pontian Greeks converted to Islam and adopted the Turkish language. This could be willingly, for example so to avoid paying the higher rate of taxation imposed on Orthodox Christians or in order to make themselves more eligible for higher level government and regular military employment opportunities within the empire (at least in the later period following the abolition of the infamous Greek and Balkan Christian child levy or 'devshirme', on which the elite Janissary corps had in the early Ottoman period depended for its recruits). But conversion could also occur in response to pressures from central government and local Muslim militia (e.g.) following any one of the Russo-Turkish wars in which ethnic Greeks from the Ottoman Empire's northern border regions were known to have collaborated, fought alongside, and sometimes even led invading Russian forces, such as was the case in the Greek governed, semi-autonomous Romanian Principalities, Trebizond, and the area that was briefly to become part of the Russian Caucasus in the far northeast.


The area claimed for the Republic of Pontus after World War I, based on the extent of the six local Greek Orthodox bishoprics. Map of Pontus.jpg
The area claimed for the Republic of Pontus after World War I, based on the extent of the six local Greek Orthodox bishoprics.
Pontian Greek family.JPG
Pontus Greek family.JPG
Pontic Greek families of the early 20th century

Large communities (around 25% of the population) of Christian Pontic Greeks [16] remained throughout the Pontus area (including Trabzon and Kars in northeastern Turkey/the Russian Caucasus) until the 1920s, and in parts of Georgia and Armenia until the 1990s, preserving their own customs and dialect of Greek. It's estimated 345,000 Pontic Greeks live in Turkey as of 2018,[ citation needed ] although many still are in hiding and afraid of exposing their identity and religion due to ethnic tension, there are also converted ethnic Pontic Greeks whom after several generations have additionally been Turkified and assimilated.

Prior, during the second half of the nineteenth century a large numbers of pro-Russian Pontic Greeks from the Pontic Alps and Erzerum province resettle in the area around Kars (which together with southern Georgia already had a nucleus of Caucasian Greeks). The mountainous vilayet (province) of Kars was ceded to the Russian Empire following the Russo-Turkish war that culminated in the 1878 Treaty of San Stefano. They had declined the expedient of conversion to Islam, abandoned their lands, and sought refuge in territory now controlled by their Christian Orthodox "protector", which used Pontic Greeks, Georgians, and southern Russians, and even non-Orthodox Armenians, Germans, and Estonians to "Christianize" this recently conquered southern Caucasus region, which it then administered as the newly created Kars Oblast (Kars Province). On the eve of World War I, the Young Turk administration exerted a policy of assimilation and ethnic cleansing of the Orthodox Christians in the Empire, which affected Pontian Greeks, as well as Armenians, Assyrians and Maronites. In 1916 Trabzon itself fell to the forces of the Russian Empire, fomenting the idea of an independent Pontic state. As the Bolsheviks came to power with the October Revolution (7 November 1917), Russian forces withdrew from the region to take part in the Russian Civil War (1917–1923).

Trabzon Greeks 1915.JPG
Pontian Greek women.JPG
Pontic Greek professionals and businesspeople of the early 20th century

In 1917–1922, there existed an unrecognized state by the name Republic of Pontus, led by Chrysanthus, Metropolitan of Trebizond. In 1917 Greece and the Entente powers considered the creation of a Hellenic autonomous state in Pontus, most likely as part of a Ponto-Armenian Federation. [17] In 1919 on the fringes of the Paris Peace Conference Chrysanthos proposed the establishment of a fully independent Republic of Pontus, but neither Greece nor the other delegations supported it. [18]

Greek population in Anatolia and Asia Minor in blue color, 1911 Ethnicturkey1911.jpg
Greek population in Anatolia and Asia Minor in blue color, 1911

While most Christian Pontians were forced to leave for Greece – avoiding nearby Russia, which in the decade post-1917 was plunged into the chaos of revolution and civil war – those who had converted to Islam (and in accordance with historical precedent were considered to have "turned Turk") remained in Turkey and were assimilated into the Muslim population of the north and northeast, where their bi-lingual Greek- and Turkish-speaking descendants can still be found.

Rumca, as the Pontian Greek language is known in Turkey, survives today, mostly among older speakers and crypto-Pontic Greeks in Turkey [19] . After the exchange most Pontian Greeks settled in Macedonia and Attica. Pontian Greeks inside the Soviet Union were predominantly settled in the regions bordering the Georgian SSR and Armenian SSR. They also had notable presence in Black Sea ports like Odessa and Sukhumi. About 100,000 Pontian Greeks, including 37,000 in the Caucasus area alone, were deported to Central Asia in 1949 during Stalin's post-war deportations. Big indigenous communities exist today in former USSR states, while through immigration large numbers can be found in Germany, Australia, and the United States.

Genocide and population exchange

Dead bodies of Pontic Greeks, 1916 PONTIC-GENOCIDE.jpg
Dead bodies of Pontic Greeks, 1916
Photo of Greek victims taken after the Great Fire of Smyrna Smyrna-massacre greeks-killed line.jpg
Photo of Greek victims taken after the Great Fire of Smyrna

Like Armenians, Assyrians, and other Ottoman subjects, the Greeks of Trebizond and the short-lived Russian Caucasus province of Kars (which, in 1918, fell back under Ottoman control) suffered widespread massacres and what is now usually termed ethnic cleansing at the beginning of the 20th century, first by the Young Turks, and later by Kemalist forces. In both cases, the pretext was again that the Pontic Greeks and Armenians had collaborated or fought with the forces of their Russian co-religionists and "protectors" before the termination of hostilities between the two empires that followed the October Revolution. Death marches [20] through Turkey's mountainous terrain, forced labour in the infamous "Amele Taburu" in Anatolia, and slaughter by the irregular bands of Topal Osman resulted in tens of thousands of Pontic Greeks perishing during the period from 1915 to 1922. In 1923, after hundreds of years, those remaining were expelled from Turkey to Greece as part of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey defined by the Treaty of Lausanne. In his book Black Sea , author Neal Ascherson writes:

The suffering of the Pontian Greeks did not end upon their violent and forceful departure from the lands of their ancestors. Many Pontian Greek refugees perished during the voyage from Asia Minor to Greece. Notable accounts of these voyages have been included in Steve Papadopoulos’ work on Pontian culture and history. Pontian Greek immigrants to the United States from that era were quoted as saying:

According to the 1928 census of Greece, there were in total 240,695 Pontic Greek refugees in Greece. From Russia 11,435, from the Caucasus 47,091, [7] and, from the Pontus region of Anatolia, 182,169.

In Turkey, however, together with Crypto-Armenians surfacing it has also given the Pontic community in Turkey more attention, estimates are up to 345,000 [22] [19] Pontic Greeks (Turkish:Pontus Rumları), presumably more, since ethnic minorities in Turkey have been through persecution. [23]


Some of the settlements historically inhabited by Pontian Greeks include (current official names in parenthesis):

Traditional rural Pontian houses Evler2b.jpg
Traditional rural Pontian houses
In Pontus proper
Amasea, Samsunda (Amisos), Aphene, Argyrion (Akdağmadeni), Argyropolis (Gümüşhane), Athina (Pazar), Bafra, Comana Pontica (Gümenek), Etonia (Gümüşhacıköy), Fatsa, Galiana (Konaklar), Gemoura (Yomra), Hopa, Imera (Olucak), Kakatsis, Kelkit, Cerasus(Giresun), Kissa (Fındıklı), Kolonia (Şebinkarahisar), Nikopolis (Koyulhisar), Kotyora (Ordu), Kromni (Yağlıdere), Livera (Yazlık), Matsouka (Maçka), Meletios (Mesudiye), Myrsiphon (Merzifon), Mouzena (Aydınlar), Neocaesarea (Niksar), Ofis (Of), Oinoe (Ünye), Platana (Akçaabat), Rizounta (Rize), Santa (Dumanlı), Sinope (Sinop), Sourmena (Sürmene), Therme (Terme), i.e. the ancient of the Themiscyra, Evdokia (Tokat), Thoania (Tonya), Trebizond (Trabzon), Tripolis (Tirebolu), Cheriana (Şiran).
Outside Pontus proper
Adapazarı, Palea (Balya), Baiberdon (Bayburt), Efchaneia (Çorum), Sebastia (Sivas), Theodosiopolis (Erzurum), Erzincan (see below on Eastern Anatolia Greeks) and in the so-called Russian Asia Minor (see Batum Oblast, Kars Oblast' and Caucasian Greeks) and the so-called Russian Trans-Caucasus or Transcaucasia (see Černomore Guberniya, Kutais Guberniya, Tiflis Guberniya, Bathys Limni, Dioskourias (Sevastoupolis), Gonia, Phasis, Pytius and Tsalka).
In Crimea and the northern Azov Sea
Chersonesos, Kerkinitida, Panticapaeum, Soughdaia (Sudak), Tanais, Theodosia (Feodosiya).
On the Taman peninsula and Krasnodar Krai, Stavropol Krai (in particular Essentuki)
Germonassa, Gorgippa (Anapa), Heraclea Pontica, Phanagoria.
On the southwestern coast of Ukraine and the Eastern Balkans
Antiphilos, Apollonia (Sozopol), Germonakris, Mariupol, Mesembria (Nesebar), Nikonis, Odessos (Varna), Olbia, Tira.

Eastern Anatolia Greeks

Ethnic Greeks indigenous to the high plateau of Eastern Anatolia to the immediate south of the boundaries of the Empire of Trebizond - essentially the northern portion of the former Ottoman Vilayet of Erzurum between Erzinjan and Kars province, that is the western half of the Armenian Highlands - are sometimes differentiated from both Pontic Greeks proper and Caucasian Greeks. [24] These Greeks pre-date the refugees and migrants who left their homelands in the Pontic Alps and moved onto the Eastern Anatolian plateau after the fall of the Empire of Trebizond in 1461. They were mainly the descendants of Greek farmers, soldiers, state officials and traders, who settled in Erzurum province in the late Roman and Byzantine Empire period.

Unlike the thoroughly Hellenized areas of the western and central Black Sea coast and the Pontic Alps, the Erzinjan and Erzerum regions were primarily Turkish- and Armenian-speaking, with Greeks forming only a small minority of the population. [25] The Greeks of this region were consequently more exposed to Turkish and Armenian cultural influences than those of Pontus proper, and also more likely to have a strong command of the Turkish language, particular since the areas they inhabited had also been part of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum and other pre-Ottoman Turkish powers in Central and Eastern Anatolia. [26] Many are also known to have "turned Turk" in both the Seljuk and Ottoman periods, and consequently to have assimilated into Turkish society or reverted to Christian Orthodoxy in the 19th century. Erzurum province was invaded and occupied by the Russian Empire several times in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and large numbers of Eastern Anatolia Greeks are known to have collaborated with the Russians in these campaigns, particularly that of the 1828-9 Russo-Turkish War, alongside Pontic Greeks inhabiting areas to the immediate north of Erzinjan and Erzurum.

As with Pontic Greeks proper, those Eastern Anatolia Greeks who migrated eastwards into Kars province, Georgia, Armenia and Southern Russia between the early Ottoman period and 1829 generally assimilated into the branch of Pontic Greeks usually called Caucasian Greeks. [27] Those who remained and retained their Greek identity into the early 20th century were either deported to the Kingdom of Greece as part of the Exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey in 1923-4 or massacred in the Greek Genocide that occurred after the larger Armenian Genocide in the same part of Anatolia. [28]


Close-up view of Sumela Monastery Sumela From Across Valley.JPG
Close-up view of Sümela Monastery

The culture of Pontus has been strongly influenced by the topography of its different regions. In commercial cities like Trebizond, Samsunda, Kerasounda, and Sinopi upper level education and arts flourished under the protection of a cosmopolitan middle class. In the inland cities such as Argyroupolis, the economy was based upon agriculture and mining, thus creating an economic and cultural gap between the developed urban ports and the rural centers which lay upon the valleys and plains extending from the base of the Pontic alps.


The Phrontisterion of Trapezous, early 20th century Phrontisterion of Trapezous.JPG
The Phrontisterion of Trapezous , early 20th century

Pontic's linguistic lineage stems from Ionic Greek via Koine and Byzantine Greek with many archaisms and contains loanwords from Turkish and to a lesser extent, Persian and various Caucasian languages.


Pontian Greek students and teachers of the Alumni Tuition 1902-1903 in Trebizond Pontus Rum 1903.JPG
Pontian Greek students and teachers of the Alumni Tuition 1902–1903 in Trebizond

The rich cultural activity of Pontian Greeks is witnessed by the number of educational institutions, churches, and monasteries in the region. These include the Phrontisterion of Trapezous that operated from 1682/3 to 1921 and provided a major impetus for the rapid expansion of Greek education throughout the region. [29] The building of this institution still remains the most impressive Pontic Greek monument in the city. [30]

Another well known institution was the Argyroupolis, built in 1682 and 1722 respectively, 38 highschools in the Sinopi region, 39 highschools in the Kerasounda region, a plethora of churches and monasteries, most notable of which are the St. Eugenios and Hagia Sophia churches of Trapezeus, the monasteries of St. George and St. Ioannes Vazelonos, and arguably the most famous and highly regarded of all, the monastery of Panagia Soumela.

During the 19th century hundreds of schools were constructed by Pontic Greek communities in the Trebizond Vilayet, giving the region one of the highest literacy rates in the Ottoman Empire. The Greeks of Of and Caykara, who according to Ottoman tax records converted to Islam during the 17th century, were also recognized for their educational facilities. Teachers from the Of-valley provided education for thousands of Anatolian Sunni and Sufi students in home schools and small madrassas. Some of these schools taught Pontic Greek alongside Arabic (and to a lesser extent Persian or Ottoman Turkish as well). Although Atatürk banned these madrassas during the early republican period, some of them remained functioning until the second half of the 20th century because of their remote location. [31] [32] The effects of this educational heritage continue to this day, with many prominent religious figures, scientists and politicians coming from the areas influenced by the Naqshbandi Sufi orders of Pontic Greek extraction in Of, Caykara and Rize, among them president Erdogan, whose family originates from the village of Potamia.


Traditional Pontian musical instruments: kemence, davul, zurna. Photo from 1950s in Matzouka, Trabzon, Turkey. Matzouka macukali.jpg
Traditional Pontian musical instruments: kemençe, davul, zurna. Photo from 1950s in Matzouka, Trabzon, Turkey.

Pontian music retains elements of the musical traditions of Ancient Greece, Byzantium, and the Caucasus (especially from the region of Kars). Possibly there is an underlying influence from the native peoples who lived in the area before the Greeks as well, but this is not clearly established.

Musical styles, like language patterns and other cultural traits, were influenced by the topography of Pontos. The mountains and rivers of the area impeded communication between Pontian Greek communities and caused them to develop in different ways. Also significant in the shaping of Pontian music was the proximity of various non-Greek peoples on the fringes of the Pontic area. For this reason we see that musical style of the east Pontos has significant differences from that of the west or southwest Pontos. The Pontian music of Kars, for example, shows a clear influence from the music of the Caucasus and elements from other parts of Anatolia. The music and dances of Turks from Black Sea region are very similar to Greek Pontic and some songs and melodies are common. Except for certain laments and ballads, this music is played primarily to be danced to.

An important part of Pontic music is the Acritic songs, heroic or epic poetry set to music that emerged in the Byzantine Empire, probably in the 9th century. These songs celebrated the exploits of the Akritai, the frontier guards defending the eastern borders of the Byzantine Empire.

The most popular instrument in the Pontian musical collection is the kemenche or lyra, which is related closely with other bowed musical instruments of the medieval West, like the Kit violin and Rebec. Also important are other instruments such as the Angion or Tulum (a type of Bagpipe), the davul, a type of drum, the Shiliavrin, and the Kaval or Ghaval (a flute-like pipe).

The zurna existed in several versions which varied from region to region, with the style from Bafra sounding differently due to its bigger size. The Violin was very popular in the Bafra region and all throughout west Pontos. The Kemane, an instrument closely related to the one of Cappadocia, was highly popular in southwest Pontos and with the Pontian Greeks who lived in Cappadocia. Finally worth mentioning are the Defi (a type of tambourine), Outi and in the region of Kars, the clarinet.


Folk dances in Turkey. Horon in blue. Verbreitungskarte der turkischen Volkstanze.png
Folk dances in Turkey. Horon in blue.

Pontian dance retains aspects of Persian and Greek dance styles. The dances called Horoi/Choroi (Greek : Χοροί), singular Horos/Choros (Chorus) (Greek : Χορός), meaning literally "Dance" in both Ancient Pontian and Modern Greek languages, are circular in nature and each is characterized by distinct short steps. A unique aspect of Pontian dance is the tremoulo (Greek : Τρέμουλο), which is a fast shaking of the upper torso by a turning of the back on its axis. Like other Greek dances, they are danced in a line and the dancers form a circle. Pontian dances also resemble Persian and Middle Eastern dances because they are not led by a single dancer. The most renowned Pontian dances are Tik (dance), Serra, Maheria or Pyrecheios, Kotsari and Omal.


Pontic cuisine specialities include:

Notable Pontian Greeks

Alexander Ypsilantis Alexander2.jpg
Alexander Ypsilantis
Markos Vafeiadis General Markos.jpg
Markos Vafeiadis
Voula Patoulidou Voula Patoulidou.JPG
Voula Patoulidou
Mike Zambidis Mike Zambidis.png
Mike Zambidis





See also

Related Research Articles

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