Aug 19, 2010

Nikos Deja Vu - The Greeks in Romania - Historical Document

The Greeks in Romania

Historical Document

There has been a Greek presence in Romania for at least 27 centuries. At times, as during the Phanariote era, this presence has amounted to hegemony; at other times (including the present), the Greeks have simply been one among the area's other ethnic minorities.

Ancient and Medieval Period

The Greek presence in what is now Romania dates back as far as the apoikiai (colonies) and emporia (trade stations) founded in and around Dobruja (see Colonies in antiquity and Pontic Greeks), beginning in the 7th century BC. Starting with the Milesian colony at Istros, the process reached its height after Tomis was founded in the 5th century BC. Although forever subject to the Dacian interference and easily disrupted by changes in the politics of neighbour tribal chieftains, the colonies prospered until being briefly submitted in various forms by King Burebista (late 1st century BC). Immediately after, and for the following centuries, they were stripped of their privileges by their new Roman masters, and followed the Empire into its crises.

The Byzantine Empire was a living presence north of the Danube, maintaining a cultural hegemony over the lands virtually until its disappearance (one doubled by certain periods of political dominance in such places as Tomis and Tyras).

Early modern Period

After the fall of the Empire, the Hospodars of Moldavia and Wallachia (the Danubian Principalities) often took on the patronage of many Greek-proper cultural institutions such as several monasteries on Mount Athos, gestures guaranteed to provide prestige in an Eastern Orthodox culture. To this was added the exodus of Byzantine officials and commoners to the two countries, which were at the time under a rather relaxed Ottoman tutelage. They took opportunities to advance in office, and from early on included themselves in the inner circle of power. This meant not only the reliance of Princes on a new elite (more often than not, also one to provide it with the funds needed by the administrative effort), but also the gradual ascendancy of Greeks to the thrones themselves.

The rapid change brought them much hostility from traditional boyars. Landowners in a rudimentary economy, accustomed to have an important say in political developments, these found themselves stripped of importance in the new structure, and became bitterly hostile to the immigrants. However, this was not the only notable trend: there were numerous cases of intermarriage at the top of the social scale (and not only), the arguably most famous of which being the ones inside the very powerful Cantacuzino family.

The Phanariote period

With the early 18th century emergence of Phanariote rule, Greek culture became a norm. On one hand, this meant a noted neglect for the institutions inside the countries; on the other, the channeling of Princes' energies into emancipation from Ottoman rule, through projects that aimed for the erasing of inner borders of the Empire, moving toward the creation of an all-Balkan, neo-Byzantine state (seen as the extended identity of Greekdom). To these was added the omnipresence and omnipotence of Greek ethnic clerics at all levels of the religious hierarchy, with many monasteries becoming directly submitted to similar institutions in Greece, after being gradually granted by successive Princes.

Thus, the emergence of Greek nationalism opened the two lands to revolution, as the main concentrations of political power available to it at the time, and the ones sharing a border with the expected supporter of the cause - Imperial Russia. The Wallachian stage of the Greek War of Independence consumed itself in a conflict between the initially supportive Anti-Ottoman Revolt led by Tudor Vladimirescu and the Philiki Etaireia, while Moldavia was under Greek occupation for a limited duration. The outcome only served to stir up animosity, and the Ottomans were receptive to the demands, putting an end to the Phanariote system in 1822.

19th and 20th centuries

In time, most Greeks lost their specificity and became fully integrated (for example, a sizable portion of noble families considered "Phanariote" contributed to the adopted culture more than local ones).

With new trends of migration, Romania became a less important target for exiled Greeks, and this became limited to people of lower social status—with ethnic Greeks being most visible as entrepreneurs, middlemen traders, and especially sailors (both on the Danube the Black Sea—in the case of the latter, after the integration of Dobruja in 1878, which also gave Romania a new population of Greeks, already on the spot).

The communities were largely prosperous and maintained specific cultural institutions; they attracted a new wave of arrivals when Greece was hit by the Civil War, in the late 1940s. This situation was challenged by Communist Romania, with the properties of most organizations and many individuals being confiscated, and hundreds of Greek ethnics being imprisoned on sites such as the Danube-Black Sea Canal.

Present situation

According to the Romanian census of 2002, the Greek community numbered 6,472 persons, most of whom live in Bucharest and its surrounding area. Next in line come the Dobruja counties of Tulcea and Constanta, and the Danube-facing ones of Braila and Galati. The 1992 census however found 19,594 Greeks; this shows the tendency of ethnic Greeks outside of Greece to acquire Greek citizenship and immigrate to Greece as homogeneis (ïìïãåíåßò - persons of Greek descent). According to the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad (a dependency of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs) the Greek community in Romania numbers 14,000.

The Hellenic Union of Romania, founded in 1990, represents the political and cultural preservation interests of the community, notably by providing its representatives in the Chamber of Deputies of Romania.

Greco-Romanian relations

Greco–Romanian relations are foreign relations between Greece and Romania. Diplomatic relations were established on February 20, 1880, at the legation level, and were raised to embassy level on January 1, 1939. There has been a Greek presence in Romania for at least 27 centuries. At times, as during the Phanariote era, this presence has amounted to hegemony; at other times (including the present), the Greeks have simply been one among the area's many ethnic minorities. Since the fall of communism and the return of democracy in Romania, many Romanians have emigrated to Greece for economic reasons. Both countries are full members of the European Union, the Council of Europe, the NATO and the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC).

The level of Romanian-Greek bilateral relations is considered exceptionally good as Greece has warmly supported and contributed to Romania's entry into NATO and prompt accession into the European Union. Greece was the fifth member state of the EU and first among the old members to ratify the Treaty of Accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU. Greece is among the three top investors in Romania, with almost 800 active businesses and invested capital totalling 3 billion euros. About 6,500 ethnic Greeks live throughout Romania.

Hellenic – Romanian Defence Cooperation

The Defence cooperation between the Armed Forces of the Hellenic Republic and Romania has reached a high level and is defined by the bilateral Military Cooperation Agreement signed on 2002. The Agreement foresees the execution of several activities in the framework of an annual bilateral military cooperation program. The program indicatively includes the execution of joint military exercises, exchange of port visits, participation of staff officers in regular meetings and conferences, exchange of instructors and students in various military courses, exchange of vacationers e.t.c.

Greek Business in Romania (April 2010)

With over 4,000 Greek companies in Romania and a combined investment of EUR 3 billion, the Greek community in Romania has grown and strengthened over time, permanently looking for new opportunities and projects. Greek businesspeople are among the most long-standing foreign direct investors in Romania. Many of them started operations on the local market as long as 15 years ago, a period in which most of them adapted to the colorful local economic climate. The Romanian market has seen considerable expansion in the past years, making it a favorable one among Eastern European countries.


Romtelecom is the largest telecommunications company in Romania; the majority of shares are held by the Greek telecommunications company OTE (54.01% of shares). The Romanian state also has a minority stake of 45.99% in the company. The company had a monopoly for the provision of fixed telephony services until January 1, 2003. Currently, according to the OTE Group 2006 1st Quarter Results Press Release, Romtelecom has 3,835,647 fixed telephony lines, down from 4,279,038 at the end of 1st quarter 2005. Romtelecom has also the second CDMA network in the country.

Greek banks in Romania (June 2010)

Hellenic banks in Romania report total profits of over EUR 32.5 M in Q1 of 2010, Hotnews reports. Banca Romaneasca had the biggest profit - EUR 12 M, followed by Piraeus Bank, with a net profit of EUR 10.3 M. Alpha Bank came in third with EUR 8.1 M profit, Economic Daily reported.

Twenty-two per cent of the local banking sector is covered by banks with Hellenic equity having major real estate exposures. However, recent difficulties in Greece do not seem to have had powerful direct effects in Romania because the Romanian banking industry, including Greek banks, is well-capitalised. Romanian banks' average capitalisation rate is now 14 per cent, a lot above the minimum requirement, and Hellenic banks are also soundly capitalised and closely watched by the Romanian central bank BNR.

Under the said conditions, Piraeus Bank Romania's gross profit posted for Q1 this year grew to EUR 10.3 M. The bank yesterday informed that managed assets on March 31, 2010 had been up by 2 per cent from year earlier, topping EUR 2 bln. In addition, in Q1, attracted deposits' volume rose by 7 per cent from year earlier. Piraeus Bank Romania's total deposits attracted had exceeded EUR 1.19 bln in March 2010.

Alpha Bank also posts a profit before tax of EUR 8.1 M, with bad loans up to 4.3 per cent. In a report to the Hellenic stock exchange, the Greek lender currently has 8.3 per cent market share in Romania compared to 8.9 per cent at the beginning of 2010. The bank has awarded total loans of over EUR 4 bln and raised deposits of over EUR 1.5 bln. The bank's profit was down by 62 per cent from year earlier in the context of bad loan losses amounting to EUR 24.5 M according to disclosures to Athens-based stock exchange.

Another Greek bank, Emporiki, in April 2010 injected EUR 25 M into its Romanian subsidiary after a previous equity injection of RON 78.5 M performed in February. Shareholders find that Emporiki Bank Romania has consolidated its position on the local market as its lending portfolio has gone up by 61 per cent and deposits by 21 per cent in the last two years.

Hellenic financial group National Bank of Greece (NBG) - majority shareholder in Banca Romaneasca - posts net profit of EUR 12 M for Q1. Earnings were higher by 71 per cent on a year over year basis, according to the groups' reporting in Athens. The same Hellenic group also operates a leasing company, a stock brokerage company and an insurance brokerage company, with reported results being consolidated for all subsidiaries. The hike in net profit came from the growing operating income especially the fee and commission income registering a four-fold increase at EUR 12 M.

Notable Romanian people of Greek origin


the Callimachi family
the Caradja family
Nicolae Caradja
Jean Georges Caradja
the Mavrocordatos family
Nicholas Mavrogenes
Constantin and Alexandru Moruzi
Alexander and Constantine Ypsilanti
Constantine and Alexander Hangerli

Non-Phanariote rulers over the Danubian Principalities

Ioan Iacob Heraclid
Gheorghe and Constantin Duca
the Cantacuzino family

Modern-day persons of Greek origin or heritage

Cezar Bolliac - writer and political activist
Elie Carafoli - engineer, pioneer in aerodynamics
Ion Luca Caragiale - writer and playwright, his uncles Costache Caragiale and Iorgu Caragiale - actors, and his son Mateiu Caragiale - novelist and poet
Radu Beligan - Romanian actor
George Ciprian - actor and playwright
Jean Constantin - actor
Noti Constantinide - diplomat
Elena of Greece - Queen Mother and Regent of Romania
Elena Farago - writer
Panait Istrati - writer and political activist
Antigone Kefala - poet
Nicolae Malaxa - industrialist
Jean Moscopol - singer
Alexandru Paleologu - writer, diplomat, politician
Dimitrie Panaitescu Perpessicius - literary critic
Calin Popescu-Tariceanu - Prime Minister of Romania
Iannis Xenakis

Nikos Deja Vu

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