Χάρτης Εθνογραφικός της Βορείου Ηπείρου των 1913.
A work of cartographic propaganda submitted to the Paris Peace Conference (1919) as part of a successful lobbying campaign to have the region awarded to Greece.
Northern Epirus is the term, preferred by Greeks, to refer to what is today Southernmost Albania, and which in the 1910s-20s was a hotly disputed borderland between Greece and Albania. The region had mixed demographics, with an Albanian majority and a large Greek minority (of disputed size). The controversy over the ownership of Northern Epirus transcended regional importance, as in the wake of World War I it drew in the Great Powers, threatening renewed conflict.
The present map was made as a key part of Greece’s lobbying campaign to convince the Great Powers to award Northern Epirus to Greece at the Paris Peace Conference (1919). Examples of the map were included in Greece’s official submission to the proceedings, and the work is considered the definitive graphic representation of the North Epirus dispute (despite its Hellenic bias).
The map was drafted by Lieutenant Colonel Dimitrios Botzaris, a controversial figure who hailed from a famous military family, and who was a member of the Greek Army General Staff, for whom the map was published in Thessaloniki in the summer of 1919. Made primarily for diplomats, the map is titled in both Greek and French, while most of the toponymy is in Greek transliterated into Latin characters.
At the time of the map’s creation, Northern Epirus was under Italian administration, in preparation for its transfer to either Greek or Albanian sovereignty (as the Paris Conference was to decide). Prior to this point, after a brief period of Albanian control (1913-4), the territory was taken over by pro-Hellenist forces, forming the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus (1914-6), a Greek puppet state, before coming under Italian control.
The map embraces all of Northern Epirus in resplendent color, and covers the greater area from Corfu and Ioannina (Greece), in the south up to Lakes Ohrid and Prespa in the northeast. Northern Epirus runs diagonally north-eastwards, from the shores of the Adriatic almost up the aforementioned lakes, and includes the historic cities of Gjirokastër, Korçë, and the port of Sarandë.
As explained in the detailed text below the title, in the upper left, the map shows the southern boundary of Northern Epirus, as defined in 1913, with a red dashed line, while the northern boundary, as defined by the Greek incursion of 1914, is represented by a dashed and doted red line. Within the territory, every city, town and village of any significance is labelled. Each settlement name is accompanied by population boxes of which one square kilometer represents 400 people, while the ethnic composition of each is color-coded into Greek (blue) and Albanian (brown) squares. Additionally, a blue line snakes across parts of the northern and eastern areas of the the region, segregating the two parts of Northern Epirus that had an almost homogenous Albanian population, while the rest of the region is shown to have a mixed (but overall Greek majority) population.
The map’s pro-Hellenic propagandist purpose is clear, as the color-coding on the map gives the impression that Northern Epirus is a majority Greek region and so logically it should be awarded to Greece, and not Albania. As a security measure, if the argument that all of Northern Epirus should be awarded to Greece was not fully convincing, then the areas that had Albanian supermajorities in the north and east (as segregated by the blue line), could be given to Albania as a compromise, while the lion’s share of the region could go to Greece.
The text employs mini-graphs to assert that in 1913 Northern Epirus, taken as a whole, was 51.1% Greek (116,888 persons) and 48.9% Albanian (11,534), while if one excludes the Albanian supermajority areas, the remaining parts of the region had a 58.1% Greek (115,900 persons) and a 41.9% Albanian (83,539) population.
Importantly, the statistics provided on the present map, both textual and graphic, greatly exaggerate the size and percentage of the Greek population in Northern Epirus. While the proportion of Greeks vs. Albanians in the region cannot be reliably estimated, all serious evidence clearly indicates that the region had a pronounced Albanian majority. However, an element of ambiguity existed in that thousands of Orthodox Christians were of mixed blood and did not identify with either group exclusively. This allowed Lieutenant Colonel Botzaris to ‘massage’ the data, counting everyone who did not explicitly self-identify as Albanian as being Greek.
In any event, the present map and the overall lobbying campaign in Paris were resoundingly successful. In 1920, Greece was awarded all of Northern Epirus. However, this victory proved short-lived, as the following year Albania seized control of the region, maintaining possession of Northern Epirus up to the present day.
A Note on the Circumstances of Issue and Rarity
The circumstances of publication of the present map are somewhat unclear, in good part due to the work’s rarity. As best as we can tell, the present edition of the map is the first (of two) editions, and was published as a separately issued map in Thessaloniki by K. Panas Lithographers. This edition is very rare; we can trace examples in only two institutions, at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the National Historical Museum of Greece.
A second edition of the map included some revisions (i.e. adding ‘buffer zones’ to Northern Epirus) and was issued along with a 19-page pamphlet which was printed by a different publisher than was the map, Εθνολογική στατιστική της Βορείου Ηπείρου τω 1913 / Statistique Ethnologique de l’Epire du Nord en 1913 (Thessaloniki: Typois Ankyras, 1919), the text of which was comprised of tables exhaustively detailing statistics on the ethnographic make-up of the region.
The Greek Army General Staff followed their general ethnographic map of the Northern Epirus a year later with the map, Χάρτης των Ελληνικών εκκλησιών και σχολείων της Βορείου Ηπείρου το 1913 / Carte des églises et des écoles helléniques d l’Epire du Nord en 1913 (Thessaloniki: K. Panas, 1920), which details the presence of Greek churches and schools in the region, so further justifying Greece’s sovereign claim.
Northern Epirus: The Greco-Albanian Flashpoint
Northern Epirus (Greek: Βόρειος Ήπειρος, Vorios Ipiros,) is a term used to refer the northern part of the historical region of Epirus, which in the 1910s-20s came into dispute between Greece and Albania. For five centuries, Northern Epirus had been ruled by the Ottoman Empire, latterly as part of the Janina Vilayet. The area was demographically mixed, dominated by ethic Greek and Albanian populations (the latter group was further divided onto those of Orthodox Christian and Muslim faiths). As nationalist sentiments surged throughout the Balkans during the 19th Century, so did tensions between the Greek and Albanian communities in Northern Epirus. The Albanians harboured dreams of self-determination, while the Greek community dreamed of enosis (union with Greece). The assassination of Archbishop Photios of Korytsa, in September 1906, at the hands of a band of Albanian Muslims, dramatically escalated tensions.
The only quasi-reliable statistics we posses on the demographics of Northern Epirus during the early 20th Century come from the 1908 Ottoman census, which recorded households only by religion, not their ethnic/language identities. The census counted 95,000 Muslims (mostly Albanians) and 128,00 Orthodox Christians (although only about 30-47,000 of these spoke Greek exclusively, while many were Albanians) in the region. A point of confusion arose from the fact that there had long been intermarriage between ethnic Albanian and Greek Orthodox Christians, making the ‘national allegiance’ of these families hard to discern. In any event, self-identified Albanians (of either faith) were certainly the majority in Northern Epirus, although to what extent it has never been clear.
During the First Balkan War (1912-3), the Ottoman Empire was driven out of almost all of its European domains. Albania gained her independence, while Greece conquered much territory, including most of Epirus. Notably, the Treaty of London (1913), which ended the conflict, awarded Northern Epirus to Albania.
However, in 1914, the Greek community of Northern Epirus, led by Georgios Christakis-Zografos of Gjirokastër, mounted a well-organized campaign against the London decision. They succeeded in severing the region from Albania, forming the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus. The fledgling country was (reluctantly) recognized by Albania, due to a combination of strong Italian diplomatic pressure and a desperate need to avoid war with Greece (Albania was weakened by severe internal cleavages). The Northern Epirus republic was a puppet state of Greece, and Athens tried unsuccessfully to annex the country in 1916.
In 1917, Italy invaded Albania and took control of Northern Epirus, the status of which became ambiguous under international law.
Following World War I, Greece was determined to regain possession of Northern Epirus and mounted a vigorous lobbying effort at the Paris Peace Conference (1919), in order to convince the victorious Entente Powers to award them the region on permanent basis. The present map, which seeks to exaggerate the size of the Greek population of Northern Epirus, was an important element of propaganda employed during this campaign.
The Paris Conference granted Northern Epirus to Greece, which formally annexed the area. However, Hellenic rule was to be short-lived, as in November 1921, as Greece was being throttled by Turkey during the Greco-Turkish War (1919-22), Albanian forces moved in and took over the entire region.
Albania permanently retained Northern Epirus and stripped the ethic Greek community of many of their civil rights and social privileges, causing most of their number to leave the country. In the wake of World War II, the persecution of the Greeks intensified under the hard-core Communist regime of Enver Hoxha.
Since the 1980s relations between Albania and Greece, and the treatment of the Greek community in Northern Epirus, has dramatically improved. It helped that Greece agreed to formally recognize Albania’s title to the region, while the post-Communist Albanian regime was more tolerant than its predecessors. Today Albania supports education and certain services in the Greek language, but only in certain parts of Northern Epirus.