multi ethnic thessaloniki then and today
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Multi-ethnic Thessaloniki then and today. Thessaloniki. Good strategic position, at the crossroads of the East and the West Mediterranean and Europe with Asia.

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Good strategic position, at the crossroads of the East and the West

  • Mediterranean and Europe with Asia

The turbulent history, wars and migrations brought people of different nations, cultures, religions and mentalities to the city that was not only known as “the mother” of the Greeks, but also of all those people who were forced to leave their homes and find a new home there (Lilic, 2012).


In the Byzantine period, it was the Empire’s second most important city.

  • After the fall of Byzantium in the 15th century, the city fell into the hands of Ottoman Turks
  • In the 17th century the first Jews came to Thessaloniki, organized the city, founded schools, hospitals, synagogues etc.

In 1923, with the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, Christians remained in Greece, while Muslims returned to Turkey, the Jews went to America and France, but for the majority Thessaloniki remained their home.

In April 1941 the Germans occupied Thessaloniki. Thousands of Jews were persecuted by the Nazis and their community (counting 60,000 members) was destroyed.


The presence of Muslims, mostly Turks, is very noticeable in the art, cuisine, music and language of the city.

  • Most of the Muslims came to Thessaloniki after the fall of Constantinople and lived their lives next to Christians and Jews. They had their own community, school, organization.
  • After the Asia Minor Catastrophe in 1922 and due to the exchange of populations, they were sent to Turkey, which they could not consider home since they were born in Thessaloniki, but unfortunately the exchange was based on the religion and not the origins and the language. Equally difficult was for the Greeks to leave Asia Minor and come to Thessaloniki and start a new life (Iwannou 1964).

The element of refugees is also very important. The city, also known as the “Capital of refugees”, accepted all those without homeland and hope, and “hugged” them like a mother. They made this city their new home. They managed to adjust, but most of them, longing for their homeland, tried to keep their roots and their heritage, their tradition, their dialect and music. The refugees brought something new, another “air”, and influenced the culture, the lifestyle and the mentality of Thessalonians. These refugees had first roles in the short stories of the writers who considered them an important part of history and culture of the city (Kyriakidou 1988).


The occupation of the Germans is something that is written with black letters and remained in the dark history of the city. In their stories we see one different Thessaloniki, of different colour and atmosphere, so dark and negative.

  • The Germans, who practiced violence and sowed fear, are described as cruel and ruthless, and their countless crimes have been described in many books and short stories (Lilic, 2012).

All the books I used for my research describe Thessaloniki as a distinctive city, unique in the Balkans owing to its history and culture, but also to all the nations, which left their mark.

Despite of that they had passed through different wars and atrocities, they lived for a long time in peace and mutual respect.