Τετάρτη, 4 Μαρτίου 2009

Theofanis Malkidis. The Pontian dialect and the the ‘Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger' of UNESCO

The Crypto-Christians issue and parallel the Greek speaking moslems issue can be met in Pontos (Black Sea) since 1650 due to the fanatism of certain Ottomans officials.
The head of those areas, in many cases, showed exceedingly high fanatism, which was practised with oppression to Christians and forced them to become Moslems. The early attempts towards the islamization of the Pontos Greek population first appears at the Ofis region, followed by the Surmena and Argyropolis, Ionia and others. Publicly the Christians appeared in a Muslim appearance and in public took part in Islamic rituals as if they were genuine Moslems but at the same time they could be found to places where under covey priests held liturgies and all other mysteries of the Christian Orthodox creed.
The Crypto-Christians evaded matchmakings to Moslems on many pretexts and this way matrimonies went on among them. This lasted till February 1856 when pressed by the European powers the Sultan signed the “Hati-Humayium” by which any Ottoman Empire citizen was allowed to change his/her creed and be a Christian again, in May 1856.
Until the mass expulsion of the Greek population from Pontos, Ionia and Thrace, Kappadocia - the muslimized - greekspeaking of Pontos kept their touch with the Greek Christians live and lasting. The prior of St. John’s convent Panaretos in his report to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs writes the following about the Greek speaking people «They are Greeks who were forcedly islamized during the pitch black centuries of slavery and even today adopt mohamedanism but their mother tongue is Greek, are aware of their Greek origin, and islamized by force keep it as a shrine and do not compromise with it by any means to the alienation of them. Turkish is taught at school as for their women speak greek more fluently. And this is in spite of the fact that they live enclosed by a Turkish environment».
But the expulsion of Greek populations with Moslems from Greece after 1923 and the upcoming mass crime of genocide against Greeks,left those people with no contact with either their Greek environment or the church. Also with the only exception of those who migrated to Constantinople, where they created strong Greek speaking communities which kept and are still keeping their traditions and mainly the Pontos dialect. In spite of the absence of contact the well planned policy of a forced embodiment in the Turkish society reflected from the side of Greece those people still preserve elements, consciousness which are beginning to be being sought for, since the last 70’s when they took their share in the big migration rush in great number from Turkey to the Western Europe. There, they met with Greeks from Pontos region, immigrants, and gradually their first contacts are restored, through their common changeable throughout the centuries, language, customs and tradition, dances, songs and other things. At the same time the contact of Crypto-Christians-Greek speaking with the Pontians of Greece is re-enforced through the effort of bringing again to life the Pontos problem in all its dimensions in the Greek area and the organizing of their first visits to Pontos.
Nowadays there are almost no Crypto-Christians in Turkey with the sense of keeping creed. But there are families which were of weak religious belief and stayed in Pontos area for various reasons. To-day their (unknown) number of Greek speaking Moslems-Crypto-Christians, pioneered by college youths, in their attempt to find answers about their ancestors’ culture history identity are leading a hard path of self-determination and search of identity concerning the present situation, about numerical data of Greek-speaking Crypto-Christians but only presumptions can be made.
The restrictions in Turkey to-day, against freedom of Islamized Ponteans has been denounced by a non- governmental organization «International Union for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples» [53] with a written memorandum to the Organization for the European security and co-operation (O.E.S.C.) and also the Human Rights Bereaux of the U.N.O. in Switzerland there was also a verbal intervention at 58th meeting of the U.N.O. on the same subject to the committer for the Human Rights and by the French non government «AMRAP - Movement against racism- for friendship among peoples». The non government organization of the International Union for Liberation, made a special statement - against the systematic attempts being made for banishment of the Pontian dialect, as being the one nearest to the ancient Greek, spoken to-day but also the persecutions against Pontian thinkers (intelllectual people) like the writer Omer Assan. Describing this situation the International Union for the Rights and Liberation of People expresses their wish to insist on the problem of inexistence of freedom of speech of Pontian people Turkey in to-day whilst that statement was also made to give information on the conditions of life of its people as the international community should know the situation. Furthermore as it has been pointed out in the statements of the non-goverment Organizations, the interventions towards the abolishment of discriminations against that people, it all consists a step towards the preservation of a live civilization that has enriched the whole of the humanity.
In 21th of February UNESCO (The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) published an interactive digital Atlas (www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?pg=00206) based on information collected by 30 linguists as part of International Mother Language Day. The ‘Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger' lists 15 languages in Turkey which now face extinction. The Pontic language was included in the list as being ‘definitely endangered', whilst Cappadocian Greek is extinct. The study, the degree to which a language faced extinction was put into 5 categories • unsafe • definitely endangered • severely endangered • critically endangered • extinct UNESCO states on it's website , that ..... "Languages are humankind's principle tools for interacting and for expressing ideas, emotions, knowledge, memories and values. Languages are also primary vehicles of cultural expressions and intangible cultural heritage, essential to the identity of individuals and groups. Safeguarding endangered languages is thus a crucial task in maintaining cultural diversity worldwide." Also article 42, of Turkey's constitution states.... "No language other than Turkish shall be taught as a mother tongue to Turkish citizens at any institutions of training or education. Foreign languages to be taught in institutions of training and education and the rules to be followed by schools conducting training and education in a foreign language shall be determined by law." The Network for Education and Academic Rights states that whilst Article 42 was changed in 9 August 2002 to allow for the "learning of different languages and dialects used traditionally by Turkish citizens in their daily lives", this right is subject to numerous restrictions. Mother Tongue education in Turkey is similarly restricted as it's seen as a national security issue.
Nowadays that problem of Greek-speaking Crypto-Christians is part of a constituent which has lately become part of a talk between Greece, Turkey, Europe, U.S.A. and world organizations. Roughly speaking there can be a statement to situations that are connected with the contact of Greeks and particularly Pontian immigrants to western European countries with Pontians from Turkey, visits that have been made during the last years to Pontos, meeting one another and a mobilization against the Turks’ demand of deportation of all Greek-speaking students settled in Greece. Anyway, that last parameter resulted that the problem became known beyond the narrow margins of a Pontian printed matter and be spread about to stratums of the Greek, Turkish, Europe - and even American society which either ignored it or went past it acknowledging it.