Genealogy and Oral History Department – Foundation of the Hellenic World

The “Ίδρυμα Μείζονος Ελληνισμού” or “Foundation of the Hellenic World” is an international organization trying to maintain and support the Hellenic traditions alive wherever Greeks are found, anywhere in the world.

Greeks have set forth and populated lands far and wide, away from the tiny peninsula that is Greece, following a tradition of immigration that started thousands of years ago. Most of the Mediterranean coast as well as that of the Black Sea was first colonized by Greek settlers and the Greek spirit remained vibrant, through religious and political upheavals for over 2500 years and well into the 20th century!

Greeks spread out far beyond the confines of the Mediterranean and into the New World, settling in the Americas, as well as all the other continents.

Considering the very tumultuous history of the region Greece is in, it is not surprising that there has been so much movement throughout the centuries. However, Greeks have always tried to maintain the Hellenic spirit alive, through the generations, regardless of distance from Greece.

There have been three major migrations of Greeks to foreign lands:

  • In antiquity, when the Greek city-states would colonize the Mediterranean and the Black Sea
  • Around the time of the fall of Constantinople in 1453
  • After the end of World War 2

As a result of all this movement, about half of the total world population that identifies itself as “Greek” (without counting those that are of Greek descent but identify themselves otherwise) resides outside of Greece.

The table below is a demonstration of the distribution of Greeks around the world. This table was taken from the Wikipedia article on Greeks and though it is fully referenced, the usual Wikipedia caveats apply.

Total population
at least. 14 – 17 million
Regions with significant populations

 Greece

10,280,000 (2001 census)

 United States

1,390,439-3,000,000a (2009 est.)

 Cyprus

792,604 (July 2008 Est.)

 United Kingdom

400,000 (estimate)

 Australia

365,120 (2006 census)-700,000a

 Germany

294,891 (2007 est.)

 Canada

242,685b (2006 census)

 Albania

approx. 200,000

 Russia

100,000

 Ukraine

91,500 (2001 census)

 Italy

90,000c (estimate)

 South Africa

55,000 (2008 estimate)

 Brazil

50,000d

 France

35,000(2009 est.)

 Argentina

30,000 (2008 estimate)

 Belgium

15,742 (2007)

 Sweden

12,000–15,000

 Kazakhstan

13,000 (est)

 Switzerland

11,000 estimated

 Uzbekistan

9,500 estimate

 Romania

6,500 2002 census

 Armenia

9,000

 Turkey

2,500

 Syria

1,500

 Chile

1,500

By the way, notice how few Greeks are left in modern day Turkey: 2500. Whoever is familiar with the region’s history would realize what this means.

In recognition of this wide distribution around the world, the “Foundation of the Hellenic World” was created as a central organization to bring all these communities together and make sure contact with Greece is not lost.

As part of the work this foundation has undertaken is to record the oral histories of Greeks in their senior years and try to create some sort of genealogical reference database to assist those who are trying to find their roots. By making copies of documents, journals, periodicals and, most importantly, oral records of the senior most (in age) a database can be developed to be referenced by future generations.

As I have mentioned before, in my own genealogical research, finding records for Greek ancestors is a herculean task. Some of the highlights, in reverse chronological order:

  • Turkish invasion of Cyprus of 1974: All records of the norther half of the island are lost
  • Greek Civil War of 1945-1950: Government and Communist forces were destroying records to either take land or to hide family ties
  • Nazi Occupation of 1940-1944: Nazi forces and Nazi collaborators were destroying records so as to steal lands legally owned by others
  • The Greek Genocide of 1914-1923 by the Turks in modern day Turkey: Destroyed all remnants of Hellenism there (also check the table above to see how successful they were)
  • Ottoman rule 1400’s to early 1900’s: Destroyed records of Christians, had a formal plan of Islamization and also violently suppressed any attempts to teach Greek or Greek history in an organized matter.

This is why it is so important for organizations such as these to continue their work and get all the support they need both from individuals and the Greek government.

The link to the Foundation’s home page is: http://www.ime.gr/

The link to the Genealogy and Oral History department is: http://genealogy.ime.gr/

 

 

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