LANGUAGE CONFERENCE - ATHENS
On October 31 - November 1, 1998, a conference on "The Slavonic dialect in the territory of Macedonia" was held at the Panteion University in Athens. The conference fell within the framework of the project "Language and Difference," financed by the European Commission.
Minority Groups Research Centre (MGRC)
The Minority Groups Research Centre is a non-profit association formed in 1996. The reason for its creation was the political bias and lack of systematic scientific enquiry in Greece dealing with minority groups and languages. The members of MGRC are younger scientist as well as established academics.
MRGC aims at the multidimensional study of minority groups, minority languages and every form of religious or cultural diversity at a general theoretical level as well as with regard to specific minority groups in Greece and elsewhere in the world. This will be pursued through several scientific disciplines and methodologies which contribute to further scholarly research on such questions. Our point of departure is a multi-disciplinary approach. Law, political science, economics, sociology, history, linguistics, social anthropology can shed light on the minority question.
Our approach is characterised by the following:
- pragmatic criticism to counter the apologetic line
- scientific enquiry instead of amateurism
- social sensitivity and political courage instead of abstention
To further its aims, Minority Groups Research Centre organises scientific conferences, speeches and debates, field research, and publishes monographs or collective works. Contact and collaboration with other organisations, domestic and international, is regarded as essential, particularly insofar as it contributes to a fertile debate.
So far the scientific conference "Greece, Europe, Minorities" has been held in Delphes (1-3 November 1996) followed by a publication of the summary of minutes and formulation of conclusions. Furthermore a collective work has been published (Kritiki) in 1997 entitled "The Minority Phenomenon," comprising ten articles written by members of MGRC. In 1998 the project "Language and Difference," financed by the European Commission, has been assumed. Within its framework, four conferences dealing with the lesser used languages in Greece as well as the publication of a relevant book (1999) are considered to be held.
- Nicos Alivizatos - professor of constitutional law, University of Athens Law School
- George Varouxakis - political scientist
- Christos Giakoumopoulos - legal expert, Council of Europe
- Christina Yiannouli - lawyer
- Vassilis Gounaris - historian, Museum of the Macedonian Struggle
- Dimitris Dimoulis - jurist, University of Saarbrucken
- Lena Divani - historian, senior lecturer, University of Athens Law School
- Alexis Heraclides - senior lecturer in international relations Panteion University
- Eleni Kanakidou - sociologist, University of Thrace
- Marilena Coppa - political scientist, Institute of International Relations, Panteion University
- Ioanna Kourtovik - lawyer
- Dora Lafazani - political geographer, University of the Aegean
- Yiannis Milios - senior lecturer in economics, Metsovio Polytechio
- Simos Minaides - senior lecturer in constitutional law, University of Thrace
- Iakovos Mihailides - historian, Museum of the Macedonian Struggle
- Lambros Baltsiotis - lawyer and educationalist
- Stamatis Beis - linguist
- Sotiris Papouzis - lawyer
- Christos Rozakis - professor of international law, University of Athens
- Eleni Sella-Mazi - linguist, senior lecturer, Ionian University
- Elsa Stamatopoulou - legal expert, United Nations
- Yiannis Tassopoulos - lawyer
- Dimitris Tsatsos - professor of constitutional law, Panteion University
- Constantine Tsitselikis - lawyer and doctor of international law
- Dimitris Christopoulos - lawyer and doctor of international law
Conference on "The Slavonic dialect in the territory of Macedonia"
October 31 - November 1, 1998
The main topics:
Demographic, historical and geographic information regarding the language
a) old residents and newcomers
b) the status of the language in relation to the education system: the differences from community to community, what is happening in the Macedonian villages and the villages with mixed immigration
c) historical information, written documents, historical facts, events that have influenced the language: migration, politics, changes
d) the post war position of the authorities in relation to the language
The condition and requirements of the language today
a) reasons for the necessity of the language: heritage, social contacts, opportunities to learn it, opportunities to use it for writing
b) source of the language, spoken tradition, written texts
The behaviour of the authorities towards this language
a) bilingualism in relation to the language
b) the relationship between the official language and mother tongue
c) perspectives and problems for its continuity
This two day conference in Athens was attended by several members of the RAINBOW party: Trifon Bukuvalas and Thomas Daskalou from Edessa (Vodensko), Giannis Punios from Seres (Sersko), Pavlos Voskopoulos, Stavros Anastasiadis and Ilias Dafopoulos from Florina (Lerinsko), Done Traikos from Kilkis (Kukusho), Nikos Sakellaris from Thessaloniki (Solunsko). Mr. Petros Votsis, a sympathiser of minority issues from Florina (Lerinsko) was also in attendance and participated in the discussions. The presentations on behalf of RAINBOW were made by Pavlos Voskopoulos, Ilias Dafopoulos and Nikos Sakellaris.
The participants on behalf of the MRGC included: Lampros Baltsiotis, Dimitris Christopoulos, Leonidis Empirikos, Alexandra Ioannidou, Dora Lafazani, Iakovos Mihailides and Konstantinos Tsitselikis.
Invited guests included: Professor Hill, linguist from the University of Hamburg, Gertrude van Boeschoten from Holland who has previously made an investigation into the minority languages and the Macedonian minority in Greece, Evangelos Kofos, former advisor to the Greek Ministry of External Affairs, Faidon Malingoudis, linguist and professor at the University of Thessaloniki, Andreas Andreou, professor at the Pedagogical Academy of Florina and Ilias Zafiropoulos of the political party OAKKE.
The discussion revolved around the issue of the existence of this Slavonic language in the past and present. Of interest was the inter-relationship between the language and the state as well as the people who speak it. This was the first time such a conference has been organized.
At this forum, RAINBOW expressed its position citing the national character of the language. Some participants skirted around the issue of the national character and spoke of a so-called unified or singular Slavonic tongue especially in relation to a "Slavo-Macedonian" tongue and identity. Such a position was held by Mr. Evangelos Kofos, the former advisor to the Greek government.
Other participants, however, had no difficulty referring to the language properly as Macedonian without the addition of prefixes or suffixes. RAINBOW'S presentation focused precisely on this matter. In its presentation RAINBOW reiterated the position that as a Macedonian national minority in Greece it seeks to bring proper recognition to the Macedonian language and have the literary standard Macedonian included within the framework of the Greek educational system.
Some in Greece today admit that there is a Slavonic language that is spoken. However, they take the position that this language is not well developed and that it is only spoken by a small number of people. They go on to add that these people should not be punished and discriminated against because they speak this language -- as has been done in the past.
RAINBOW'S presentation stressed the national character of the language as that of the Macedonian minority in Greece. RAINBOW made it clear that this minority will be satisfied with nothing less than its full rights and the proper recognition of the Macedonian language as one of the established languages of the world.
The organizers of the conference sent a press release to all Greek media. Unfortunately, not even a single newspaper reported on the conference. Therefore it is even more important that we report on it here.
Perhaps there was a concern by the Greek media that if they began to talk about recognizing the Macedonian language, then the next logical step would be to formally recognize the Macedonian national minority living in Greece.