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Emigration from Macedonia in the Early Twentieth Century Basil C. Gounaris Emigration from Macedonia during the first decade of the 20th century was particularly strong and deeply influenced the economic and social developments in that region. Although contemporaries stressed the depressing sight of abandoned fields, the lack of labor, and the rising prices, the overall picture of the economy did not however appear to be as grim as has been presented. This paper investigates the development of Macedonian emigration to the New World in its particular political context and evaluates its social and economic repercussions . It is argued that, given the adverse political situation, emigration was beneficial to a large part of the local population and in fact supported the feeble economy of the region. The first part of the paper describes migration as it was shaped during the last decades of the 19th century. The second examines the growth of emigration in relation to the political situation. The study of the migrants' social stratification and the mechanisms of emigration constitutes the third part of the paper. The last part deals with economic aspects and consequences.1 A shortage of laborers has not marked the labor market of Macedonia , at least not in modern times. Especially in the western highlands, a surplus labor force appears to have existed quite early due to the population movement to mountainous terrain during the first centuries of the Ottoman occupation.2 Inevitably the limited areas of cultivable land, the absence of large urban centers, as well as the general state of insecurity had stimulated emigration from these districts as early as the 15th century. Movement intensified, however, during the 17th and 18th centuries when it assumed the character of a mass exodus which involved people in a wide range of occupations. Although initially Vlachia and Transylvania attracted the interest of the emigrants, later on the bulk of them settled in central Europe, chiefly within the domains of Austria-Hungary.3 By the early 19th century emigration from western Macedonia to central Europe had Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 7, 1989. 133 134 Basil C. Gounaris already been replaced by the tendency to migrate annually within the sultan's domains. In fact seasonal urbanization was encouraged by the restoration of commercial activities in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Balkans after the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the cessation of local warfare (Vakalopoulos 1958: 32). By the 1860s, migration had become extremely widespread among the Christian highlanders of western Macedonia as well as some Albanian districts, but it was completely unknown among the agricultural class (AP 1870 67: 854). Organized according to traditional practices, annual migration developed into a financial factor of paramount importance for the local economy. The migrants, or gourbetch ü, used to leave their homes in early spring and return in October, but the migration cycle could be prolonged whenever conditions were favorable. Permanent settlement in the place of emigration was not a popular option. Destination was as a rule fixed according to place of origin. Routinely, gourbetchü of the same origin used to regularly visit the same districts. For instance, the residents of the Resan (Resna) districts preferred to emigrate to both sides of the Dardanelles and to the Sea of Marmara. It appears that, at least until the early 1870s, migration was always confined within the Ottoman territories and in fact was restricted only to the European provinces. The occupation of the migrants was also related to their place of origin, though more loosely. Prespa sent out carpenters, sawyers, masons, hucksters and day laborers, while Resan provided gardeners, hucksters and day laborers. The overwhelming majority of the western Macedonian migrants, however, were general artisans, either masters or apprentices; a fact probably related to the control exercised by the guilds over the professions (Koliopoulos 1983: 489). In Todorov's case-study of immigration to north-eastern Bulgaria and Dobruja between 1868 and 1872, it was estimated that 63% of the Macedonian migrants were artisans, chiefly masons, bakers and millet beer makers. Unemployed agricultural and other day laborers also used to migrate. In Todorov's study half of them were of urban origin, a fact that indicates the growing urbanization of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 133-153
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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