Giurgia and the Greek vlachs - Popsb reply - by Mavrommati Vaso

Larissa 10-10-2005

1. The Society Farsarotul – U.S.A
2. Arnold SUPPAN, Supervisory Board, Osterreichisches Ost- und Sudosteuropainstitut, Wien, Austria
3. Dr. Hans-Christian Maner, Wiesbaden, Germany


Honourable Sirs, 

    With reference to the publication of Mr Thede Kahl’s article entitled “Aromanians in Greece: Minority or Vlach-speaking Greeks?” permit us to convey our thoughts and doubts regarding what Mr Kahl has written and his activities in general. As elected president of the Panhellenic Federation of Cultural Associations of Vlachs, numbering 94 member-associations from all over Greece, it is our right and obligation to support the history of the Vlachs in the face of whatever we consider to be a distortion of reality. 


   The members of the Associations have known Mr Kahl for at least some decades.  He first appeared in the Vlach communities of our country as a young researcher with good intentions, motivated by purely scientific interest.  Throughout those years, he enjoyed the disinterested hospitality of simple people offered with generosity and on repeated occasions.  They opened their homes and their hearts to him, offering him witness accounts of their cultural heritage and entrusting him with a large part of its richness that they had inherited from their ancestors in the belief that they were dealing with a disinterested researcher, a reputable and objective scientist.  Associations and organizations have invited him on occasions to conferences and meetings to hear the findings of his scientific research.


   However, to our great disappointment, resentment and regret it is now certain that Mr Kahl has ignored in the most unethical manner the discretional lines separating – as they should – science from politics; lines he would have done well to strictly observe and respect.  His statements are of an undisguised political nature and have shown him to be a cheap activist.


   It is characteristic that behind the scientific façade of the article, an objective observer discerns that the writer is unable to conceal his personal displeasure at the fact that the vast majority of Vlachs in Greece, as well as all the democratically elected, bodies that represent them, have a different approach to the real events from that which he considers they should have.

   A researcher should respect the object of his study and even more so, whatever “guinea pig’ he uses as raw material for his research.  In this case, the guinea pig is not a spineless creature with no will of its own, prey to the experimental acrobatics and alchemy of every erudite scientific mind.  It is a whole world, which in the past and the present has left its mark indelibly throughout Greece. Since the Vlachs are the object of the research and activity of Mr Kahl, we ask that you consider this letter as a booming voice of protest raised by all those whose conscience Mr Kahl considers he can lead at will.

   One of the problems to be found in the work of Mr Kahl is his strange inability to reveal to the reader various estimates and numbers.  In addition, he has a tendency to confuse events, situations and groups.  How else can we interpret to make the difference he refers to between the Vlachs of Greece, who continue to live in the places of their ancestors, with the Vlachs of the Diaspora both today and in the past.

   It is claimed that the Vlachs who prospered in Austro-Hungary two hundred years ago and those who live in Germany, France, the U.S.A. and Australia today, took and still take a greater interest in preserving their Vlach identity and traditional culture than we, the Vlachs of the ancestral homelands.   If this were indeed the case, why did the Vlachs of Vienna and Budapest die out so quickly, and for how much longer will the voices of the few hundreds living in the countries he refers to continue to be heard? We, who continue to live in Greece, exist in stubborn resistance to Mr Kahl’s views and even though he considers that the political and cultural environment does not favour us!  He contradicts himself of course, and some paragraphs later mentions and is forced to admit that the Vlach tradition in Greece has been preserved to an outstanding degree in comparison with other countries.  Which of the two views finally prevails?

   It is also strange that our Federation is compared with the essentially inactive company- of Mr S. Bletsas.  It would seem that Mr Kahl loves exceptions, that he “sees the rock but remains indifferent to the mountain!”  There have been Vlach associations in Greece since the end of the 19th century and our Federation has been active since from the early 80s, when the Vlachs in the Socialist Balkan states were not in a position to even think of such an organisation.  In addition, we must stress that we acknowledge whatever concerns our cultural evolution in contrast to the Vlachs who live in, for example, Romania.  There, as Mr Kahl well knows, factions and intense confrontations are rife owing again to personal ambitions and economic funding.

   He attempts, for reasons we do not understand, to persuade the Vlachs in Greece to feel less proud of the large number of benefactors and heroes of Vlach descent, who have made such great contributions to the founding and establishment of our homeland.  Why does he have a tendency to over-emphasise whatever could be characterized as negative?  Could it be because he believes that in this way he can diminish the Vlach contribution to Greek historical, cultural and political reality, which he reluctantly acknowledges in his article?  He refers to pupils who were supposedly punished because they spoke Vlach in school as recently as the 70s and 80s!  What used to happen if a child spoke Greek in a school in south Yugoslavia or Romania prior to the collapse of the Iron Curtain?  Similar (strictly isolated) pedagogic blunders and phenomena were not unknown in so-called progressive countries like Germany and others that have received waves of foreign speaking immigrants.  He also speaks of extreme rightists, who burnt books at a book exhibition in Salonica!  We are the first to unanimously condemn now and in the past such extreme, behaviour, which unfortunately groups of the extreme right cause from time to time, but it seems Mr Kahl, considers that such behaviour occurs only in Greece.  He demonstrates however a selective amnesia with regard to his own country, in which there was and still is no shortage of such phenomena, as is also the case in the rest of Europe.  What kind of arguments are these and why does he point to the case of Greece?

   Mr Kahl evokes “recommendation” 1333 (1997) of the Council of Europe, which was submitted by the Catalonian, Mr L.M. de Puig.  We never invited the intervention of either Mr de Puig or the Council of Europe.  Nonetheless, in the early 90s, the supposedly impartial observer Mr de Puig happened to be traveling for a few days in Greece, he visited one or two Vlach Associations and one or two Vlach villages, from among the scores that exist.  He did not go at all to the larger, thriving, ancestral Vlach villages, which are only to be found in Greece.  With no regard for the principles and positions of the organizations that we legally represent, without serious research and with a light heart he proceeded to write a report, which was shortsightedly adopted by the Council of Europe.  Since then, so-called «activists», supporters of rights and scientists, like Mr Kahl, have presented this recommendation as Greece’s undischarged duty.  The Vlachs of Greece however, consider it to be an uninvited and provocative intervention into their affairs.  We have sent a letter of protest at this report to the Council of Europe and to Mr L.M. de.Puig, in which we demolish his feeble arguments and lay out our historically sound positions, intentionally ignored by Mr Kahl, who in every sense thus breaches the ethics of science. (See enclosed letter of protest to the Council of Europe.) 


   Mr Kahl “informs” us that in the early 20th century the interventions of the interested Great Powers played a supporting role in the Ottoman recognition of the so-called “Vlach millet” (nation), the product of a “divide and rule” policy.   The 1333 proposal is a modern version of the same intervention as far as we are concerned, since the Council of Europe appears to function like the Great Powers at that time.  The proposal attempts to impose upon us “Vlach” minority educational programmes for radio and television, even including church services in the Vlach language.  We consider all this and the methods used as unacceptable and completely foreign to our centuries old cultural tradition.   We have never had such ambitions or sought changes foreign to our cultural tradition.  Is it possible for us to accept such changes just to please certain Brussels-weaned bodies operating under the pompous title of “Non Government Organisations” (N.G.Os), which try to mislead and replace us and are motivated only by desire for prestige and financial gain.  At a time when Europe professes to believe in and respect self-determination, for what reasons do certain outsiders dare to impose on us an imported identity?   Mr Kahl has the same aim when he reproaches us for our will to identify ourselves as Aroumanians, as Vlachs or as Vlach–speaking Greeks!  Moreover, as he very well knows, such information programmes on the media have led to the creation of minorities in someone’s pay.  Bombastic exaggerations like “their language is never heard” on Greek radio or television are an insult to his own knowledge.

   Why does he omit to mention that there are web-sites for the Vlachs in Greece, belonging to the Panhellenic Federation, to various associations and even to ordinary citizens?  And with regard to newspapers and magazines, does Mr Kahl believe that those, which for so many decades have been published by our associations, cannot be considered Vlach since they do not use a written Vlach language?  That is taking a political and not a scientific position.  In that case, he evidently believes that a German language newspaper printed in Switzerland or Austria is German and not Swiss or Austrian!  Language cannot be the only criterion unless he believes that science is the convenient handmaid of politics.

   At some point he agrees the view that the Vlachs are the “chameleons of the Balkans”.  He also knows however, that there are many Vlachs in Greece and the surrounding countries, which attribute the same qualities of a chameleon to Mr Kahl himself.  It is common knowledge that, depending upon his public and the argument he confronts on each occasion, he cultivates an image as attractive as possible to his audience.  Despite the projected objectivity of his article, we  have known for a considerable time that Mr Kahl has chosen his political camp and it is certainly not that of the majority, in other words, that of the Vlachs in Greece.

        If some are offended by the remark that “a minority behaves like a majority”, how do they react to Mr Kahl choosing to support the negligible minority of Vlachs who try to present their views as mainstream and impose them on the majority?  And if the nationalism that penetrated the Balkans from Europe produced conflict and problems for the Balkan peoples, then why does he try to promote the growth of yet another non-existent ethnic nationalism?  And this when on many occasions the Greek Vlachs themselves with their elected organs and bodies (the Panhellenic Federation of Cultural Associations of Vlachs, the Union of Vlach Scientists, their Associations locally here and abroad and the organs of Local Authorities and the Mayors of Vlach towns and villages) have publicly stated their position with regard to the issue cultivated by Mr Kahl and have condemned attempts over the years to define them as a minority.  


   He also refers to the issue of the publication in Greek of the work by G. Weigand “Die Aromunen” and continues to complain about the commentary work carried out by Mr A. Lazarou.  When the translation, and only that, was assigned to Mr Kahl, he knew that the commentary had been assigned to Mr A. Lazarou.  He also knew that both the works and the views of Mr Lazarou differed significantly from his own.  Why therefore did he agree to the collaboration?  Can Mr Kahl’s use of, definitions such as extreme right (which in no way represent the view of Mr Lazarou), undermine the credibility of someone in the democratic, politically pluralistic Europe of today?  Problems also arose in another case of Mr Kahl’s collaboration in Greece, when the book about the village of Koutsoufliani was published.

   Mr Kahl is wrong if he thinks that he is redeeming himself and his attitudes to science by approving or disapproving of the unfortunate comments concerning “the condition and repression” of the Vlachs made by the Turkish writer Demirtas-Coskun, who has never made research on location among us, in contrast to Mr Kahl with his numerous journeys to Greece.  It is not of course the first time that we have been confronted by the views of petty political alchemists of his ilk, or with the self-appointed interventions of saviours and patrons, who naturally acted with profit in mind. Many who underestimated and purposely distorted our views have built their careers and made their livelihoods at our expense.  To the disappointment of all of them, we, the Aroumanians, Vlachs, HellenoVlachs, Vlach-speaking Greeks, Vlachs of Greece or whatever, are still here and will stay to demonstrate the truth.  Whatever appertaining to Vlachs is projected supposedly on our behalf but without our backing, by certain individuals paid to further the interests of others, it will always remain a despicable slur.

   How regrettable it is that some prefer a cheap substitute to the real thing and that there are self-interested interpretations and falsifications of history!

   At a time when corrupting movements aiming to split social fabrics has become a fabulously paid profession, there also still exist anti-bodies which resolutely resist the intentions of higher powers to change the geopolitical scene.  Those anti-bodies comprise a multitude of thinking and selfless scientists, an enormous history of service to the nation, but in the main, they are legions of simple people, proud of their origin and ethnically unshakable and they will all be ranked against those who attempt cheap scientific (but apparently costly in financial terms) distortions and falsifications of history.

    You are evidently obliged by reasons of basic professional ethics to publicise this critique upon our demand as those who have suffered offence.

   We are certain that far harsher critics of Mr Kahl will be the scientific community and the ordinary reading public, while even more painful for him, and those like him, will be history itself and it is with regret that we hold him up to its ridicule.

For the Executive Committee

The President                            The General Secretary

Constantinos Adam                         Herakles Chasiotis