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Anon, commenting on my post mentioning the προσκυνημένοι, “those who have Bowed Down” (converts to Islam), responded:
> Φωτιά και τζεκούρι, ε;
Yup. And that made me think of Hamidiyah.
… yes, it was. From an online copy of Kolokotronis’ Memoirs:
Εγώ, οντας εβγήκα εις τον Αγιoν Γεώργιo, έγραψα γραμματα εις το Γενναίo καί εις τον Κoλιοπoυλoν, οπού ήτoν συναγμένoι, καί επεταχθηκαν εις το Λιβαρτζι, την επαρχία την προσκυνημένη (Καλαβρύτων) καί τούς διέταττα: «Τζεκούρι καί φωτιά εις τούς προσκυνημένoυς». Καί έτζι επέρασαν εις το Λιβαρτζι. Τοτε έστειλεν ο Μπραΐμης καταπατηταδες νά ιδεί πού είμαι καί τί ασκέρι έχω, καί έδωσε ενος Ρωμηού 300 μπαρμπούτια διά νά μαθει πού είμαι νά μού ριχθεί επανω, καί εγώ τον έπιασα καί έστειλα εις την δημoσιά καί τον εκρέμασα εις τά Καλαβρυτα, δύο ώρες απέξω. Τον εκρέμασα μέ ένα χαρτί πού έλεγε το φταίξιμο τoυ «προδοτης τού έθνoυς» καί τούς άλλoυς δύο τούς έστειλα εις το μoναστήρι, εις το Μέγα Σπήλαιoν, διοτι δέν ήτoν βεβαιωμένoι προδοτες, καί επήγα καί εγώ εις το Σπήλαιoν.
When I went out to Hagios Georgios, I wrote letters to Gennaios and Koliopoulos, who had gathered, and they advanced to Livartzi, the district that had Bowed Down [= Kalavryta], and I ordered them: “Axe and fire to those who have Bowed Down”. And so they passed over to Livartzi. Then Ibrahim sent “squatters” to see where I am and what sort of an army I had, and he gave a Greek [Romios] 300 guns [coins?] to learn where I am and attack me. And I seized him and sent him to the public road and hanged him, two hours out of Kalavryta. I hanged him with a piece of paper that spoke his fault, “traitor to the nation”. The other two I sent to the monastery, to Mega Spilaio, for they were not proven traitors; and I went to Spilaion too.
The Greek Revolutionary War was a war between millets, credal communities, not ethnicities; so there were Albanians on both sides, and Greek Muslims were an especial target. I don’t know if the Romios he hanged was Muslim or Christian—the choice of word suggests Christian. And Christians fighting with the Ottomans would have gotten even more wrath.
OK, that’s some context. Let’s turn back to my blogging propensities now.
There are of course personal reasons as well as intellectual for why Quebec and Acadia intrigue me: not just the rationale behind how to construct identity in Australia, but also how I reflect on the construction of Greek identity. As I’ve said many a time, I see the world through Australian rather than Greek eyes; so I occasionally think wistfully, as a multiculturalist ideologue, on what a Greece might have been like in which Those Who Have Bowed Down were allowed to stay, and could contribute to Greek national life. Because through Australian eyes, that is righteous and proper.
There are at least a couple of Greeks guffawing at what they’ve just read, and I’m also Greek enough to know why. Greek Muslims before 1922 could have participated in national life in an ideal world, but didn’t; same goes for the remaining minorities in Thrace and the Dodecanese. With fault on both sides, and even more fault on history’s side. I said discourses of purism are no way to run a North American country; but they are how you run a Balkan country.
And this stuff isn’t just cooked up by the politicians, and “if only we could talk like brothers and sisters all would be well”. This stuff is bred into you. I recall my own bewildered reaction, the one time I met a Greek-Australian convert to Islam (complete with skullcap, at a Muslim wedding). I was thinking as we talked: “But, but… we’re talking in Greek, he’s come from where I’ve come from… but he’s The Other! What do I say to him?!”
I’ve talked to ethnic Turks, and have felt no awkwardness: it’s been fun in fact to ferret out the cultural commonalities. But in this case, the awkwardness was precisely in that there was too much cultural commonality.
Crete had a substantial Muslim population, and from what we can tell they were converts, who kept speaking Greek. (This inevitably is disputed at Wikipedia, which is why the article is currently redirected to “Cretan Turks”.) There’s a guesstimate that in 1800 they were half the population. By the end of the century, they were more like a third: Crete had become autonomous after the latest rebellion, with the successor to the Greek throne as regent, and some Muslims were seeing that staying Muslim was not a good long-term strategy in Crete.
Crete was united with Greece in 1913, and the Cretan Muslims left in 1923, with the population exchanges between Greece and Turkey. (The population exchanges were run on credal rather than ethnic grounds, because that’s how identity worked in the Ottoman empire.) But twenty-six years before that, when autonomy was granted, things were already uncomfortable enough that (apparently) a group of Muslims had already petitioned Sultan Abdülhamid to let them settle elsewhere in the empire. The settlement they founded in Syria, they named after the Sultan.
I don’t know enough about intercommunity relations in Ottoman Crete. Diver Of Sinks does, but he shouldn’t have to read the books on my behalf. Kazantzakis’ novel Freedom and Death, which I have read, weaves his childhood reminiscences of Ottoman Iraklion into a grand nihilist epic. His Muslims are human, they are neighbours, they talk to his heroes in the street. But they are not his heroes, and they are not his brothers. There’s an awkwardness to their relationship. And as Cretan Christian identity has become Hellenic, and Cretan Muslim identity has become Turkish, that awkwardness has been compounded. It’s even more compounded with Hamidiyah, because the footage does not show them acting like Syrian Muslims.
That awkwardness that Cretan Christians feel (or at least, that I feel) when they see such footage goes something like, “They speak my dialect better than I do, they have maps of Crete on the wall, they long to be allowed to return home, they’re obviously my countrymen”—and the Greek researchers who’ve been over to Hamidiyah approvingly note that at this point that they have remained monogamous, and have not assimilated into the Arabic culture around them…
“…but they’re The Other!”
That’s the best reaction you’ll get out of a Greek Christian, btw. A couple of comments at the YouTube video were like that. Notably the one Cretan saying the Hamidiyah Muslims were more his countrymen than the damned Athenians, Vive la Crete Libre!
Most of the comments at the YouTube video, on the other hand, were variations of “Fire and axe!” Like I say: This stuff is bred into you.
Infuriatingly, the YouTube videos that I’d seen (and read the comments on) are already offline. There is another thread about the same video, and “Fire and axe” does make it to the comment thread there too.
The original poster claims that according to them and their documents, the Hamidiyah Cretans were Christian rebels exiled, not fleeing Muslims, and they converted when in Syria. A Cretan online journal claims they were Muslims beforehand, but had joined the Christians in rebellion. I’m skeptical about that, especially if they left after Cretan autonomy in 1897, and this could be the Hamidiyah Cretans reinventing their past (which everyone gets to do), to idealise their homeland.
There’s complexities galore if they were Muslims and have convinced themselves they had been Christians. But even if they did only convert in Syria as dispossessed exile—they’re The Other now. And even if the Hamidiyah Cretans aren’t the Other, the Muslim Cretans of Turkey certainly are. So the awkwardness does not go away.
It doesn’t get resolved either; it just gets forgotten, as nation-building goes about its work. But when Greeks express satisfaction that they did not become ’90s Yugoslavia because they are ethnically homogeneous—it’s a useful reminder that homogeneity came at a cost. And just like me at that Muslim wedding, that homogeneity doesn’t quite know what to do with challenges like Hamidiyah.
Other than refuse to grant them tourist visas.