Western Thrace

Western Thrace

Thrace ( _el. Θράκη, "Thrákī", IPA2|ˈθɾаkʲi; _bg. Беломорска Тракия, "Belomorska Trakiya"; _tr. Batı Trakya) is a geographic and historical region of Greece, located between the Nestos and Evros rivers in the northeast of the country. Together with the regions of Macedonia and Epirus, it is often referred to informally as "northern Greece". It is also called "Western" or "Greek Thrace" to distinguish it from Eastern Thrace, which lies east of the river Evros and forms the European part of Turkey, and the area to the north, in Bulgaria, known as Northern Thrace. Thrace is divided into the three prefectures of Xanthi, Rodhopi and Evros, which together with the two Macedonian prefectures of Drama and Kavala form the Periphery of East Macedonia and Thrace. Furthermore, the prefectural authorities of Drama, Kavala and Xanthi have been combined into a single administrative unit in recent years, as have those of Rodhopi and Evros.

Area - Demographics

The approximate area of Thrace is 8,578 km² with a population of 368,993 (2006 est.). Around two-thirds of the population are Orthodox Christian Greeks, while the remainder (approx. 120,000) are Muslims who are an officially recognised minority of Greece. Around half are of Turkish origin, while another third are Bulgarian Muslim, or Pomaks who mainly inhabit the mountainous parts of the region. The Roma of Thrace are also mainly Muslim, unlike their ethnic kin in other parts of the country who generally profess the Orthodox faith of the Greek majority. Since 1990 and the end of the cold war Thrace (along with the rest of Greece) has seen an influx of both legal and illegal economic immigrants (most of them being Albanians) seeking work mainly in the urban areas of the region. Thrace is bordered by Bulgaria to the north, Turkey to the east, the Aegean Sea to the south and the Greek region of Macedonia to the west. Alexandroupoli is the largest city, with a population of around 52,720 (2001 census). Below is a table of the Largest Thracian towns and cities.


The region had been under the rule of the Ottoman Empire since 14th century and till the 19th century. Before the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, Thrace had a mixed population of Turks and Bulgarians, with a strong Greek element in the cities and the Aegean Sea littoral. A smaller number of Pomaks, Jews, Armenians and Roma also lived in the region.

During the First Balkan War, the Balkan League (Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Montenegro) fought against the Ottoman Empire and annexed most of its European territory, including Thrace. The victors quickly fell into dispute on how to divide the newly conquered lands, resulting in the Second Balkan War. In August 1913 Bulgaria was defeated, but gained Western Thrace under the terms of the Treaty of Bucharest.

In the following years, the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire) (with which Bulgaria had sided) lost World War I and as a result Western Thrace was given to Greece (which had sided with the Entente) (mainly the United Kingdom, France, Russian Empire) under the terms of the 1919 Treaty of Neuilly.

Throughout the Balkan Wars and World War I, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey each forced respective minority populations in the Thrace region out of areas they controlled. A large population of Greeks in Eastern Thrace, and Black Sea coastal and southern Bulgaria, was expelled south and west into Greek-controlled Thrace. Concurrently, a large population of Bulgarians was forced from the region into Bulgaria by Greek and Turkish actions. Turkish populations in the area were also targeted by Bulgarian and Greek forces and pushed eastward. As part of the Treaty of Neuilly, and subsequent agreements, the status of the expelled populations was legitimized. This was followed by a further population exchange which radically changed the demographics of the region toward increased ethnic homogenization within the territories each respective country ultimately was awarded. This was followed by the large-scale Greek-Turkish population exchanges of 1923 (Treaty of Lausanne), which finalized the reversal of Western and Eastern Thrace region's pre-Balkan War demography. The treaty granted the status of a minority to the Muslims in Western Thrace, in exchange for a similar status for the Greek Orthodox minority in Istanbul and the Aegean islands of Imbros and Tenedos. The Treaty of Lausanne was gradually violated from the Turkish side, and was crowned by the Istanbul Pogrom in mid 50's.

When Bulgaria invaded Western Thrace as one of the Axis Powers during World War II, it further changed the demographics by arresting the region's Jews and deporting them to death camps administered by Germany.


The Muslim minority of Thrace has been a source of diplomatic tension between Greece and Turkey. Turkey considers the whole of the Muslim minority a strictly Turkish minority. Greece, on the other hand, considers the whole minority to be Greek citizens of diverse origins and a recognised religious minority under Greece's international obligations (Treaty of Lausanne). Athens affords no official recognition to a Turkish or any other ethnicity.

In fact, there are ethnic differences within the Muslim minority. The estimated numbers of its constituent ethnic groups are given in a document of the Greek Consulate Berlin as follows:

* total number: 120,000
* Turkish origin: 50%
* Pomak origin: 35%
* Roma origin: 15%

Such documents as the said paper of the Greek Consulate Berlin have no effect on the minority politics of Greece concerning the concession of any ethnic identity to the Muslim minority and they primarily serve as information publications about Greece to the world.


The economy of Thrace in recent years has become less dependent on agriculture. A number of Greek-owned high-tech industries belonging to the telecommunications industry have settled in the area. The Via Egnatia motorway (which is planned to be completed by 2008) which will pass through Thrace, is a promise for further development of the region. Tourism is slowly becoming more and more important as the Aegean coast of Region of Thrace boasts quite a few beautiful beaches. Additionally, there is the potential for winter tourism activities in the Rhodopi mountains, the natural border with Bulgaria which are covered by dense forest.


*Abdera, an ancient Greek coastal town in the prefecture of Xanthi is the birth place of the Greek philosophers Democritus, considered by some the father of the atomic theory, and Protagoras, who is credited with having invented the role of the professional sophist or teacher of "virtue".
*Thrace and in particular the Rhodope mountains, its northern mountainous part, is home to one of the two surviving brown bear (species "Ursus arctos") populations in Greece (the other is in the Pindus mountains, in central Greece).
*The Greek-Turkish border is a major entering point of illegal immigrants from Asia (Kurds, Afghans, Pakistanis) trying to enter Europe.

ee also

* East Macedonia and Thrace
* Xanthi Prefecture
* Rhodope Prefecture
* Evros Prefecture
* Democritus University of Thrace
* Muslim minority of Greece
* Republic of Gumuljina

External links

* [http://www.remth.gr Periphery of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace]
* [http://www.nestos.gr Combined Prefectural Authority of Drama, Kavala and Xanthi]
* [http://www.nare.gr/ Combined Prefectural Authority of Rhodope and Evros]
* [http://www.xanthi.gr Prefecture of Xanthi]
* [http://www.thrakiki.gr Thrakiki.gr]
* [http://www.ndiamrodopis.gr/euro/ Prefecture of Rhodope]
* [http://www.nomevrou.gr/ Prefecture of Evros]
* [http://www.duth.gr Democritus University of Thrace]
* [http://www.feres.gr Municipality of Feres]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Western Thrace — West′ern Thrace′ n. geg See under Thrace 2) …   From formal English to slang

  • Western Thrace — geographical name see Thrace …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Western Thrace. — See under Thrace (def. 2). * * * …   Universalium

  • Western Thrace. — See under Thrace (def. 2) …   Useful english dictionary

  • Turks of Western Thrace — Turks ( tr. Batı Trakya Türkleri) form an officially unrecognized minority group in Greece, traditionally settled in the northeastern region of Thrace, also known as Greek or Western Thrace to distinguish it from the parts of Thrace which belong… …   Wikipedia

  • Albanian-speakers of Western Thrace — Note: For an overview of different communities of Albanian origin in Greece, see Albanian communities in Greece. Albanian speakers form a linguistic minority in Greek Macedonia and Western Thrace along the border with Turkey. They speak the… …   Wikipedia

  • Thrace — ( bg. Тракия, Trakiya or Trakija or Trakia , el. Θράκη, Thráki , tr. Trakya) is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. Today the name Thrace designates a region spread over southern Bulgaria (Northern Thrace), northeastern Greece… …   Wikipedia

  • Thrace — /thrays/, n. 1. an ancient region of varying extent in the E part of the Balkan Peninsula: later a Roman province; now in Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece. 2. a modern region corresponding to the S part of the Roman province: now divided between… …   Universalium

  • Thrace — geographical name region SE Europe in Balkan Peninsula N of the Aegean; as ancient country ( Thrace (or Thracia) ), extended to the Danube; modern remnant divided between Greece ( Western Thrace) & Turkey ( Eastern Thrace, constituting Turkey in… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Thrace — [[t]θreɪs[/t]] n. 1) geg an ancient region of varying extent in the E part of the Balkan Peninsula: later a Roman province; now in Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece 2) geg a modern region corresponding to the S part of the Roman province: now divided… …   From formal English to slang

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