Western Thrace

From Academic Kids

Western or Greek Thrace is the part of the region of Thrace located between the rivers Nestos (Mesta) and Evros (Maritsa, Meriš) in northeastern Greece. It 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. With an approximate area of 8,200 km² and a population of 362,038 according to the 2001 census, Greek Thrace is bordered by Bulgaria to the north, Turkey to the east, and the Aegean Sea to the south. KomotinÝ is the largest city, with a population of 63,774 (2001 census).

Before the Balkan Wars of 1912-3, Western Thrace had a mixed population of Turks and Bulgarians, with a strong Greek element in the cities and the Aegean Sea littoral. Smaller number of Pomaks, Jews, Armenians and Roma also lived in the region.

In the First Balkan War, the Balkan League (Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, and Montenegro) wrested control of most of the Ottoman Empire's European territory, including Thrace. The victors quickly fell into dispute on how to divide the spoils of war, leading to the Second Balkan War. In August 1913 Bulgaria was defeated, but gained Western Thrace under the terms of the Treaty of Bucharest.

A 1920 population census carried out by the Allies indicated that the Bulgarians in the region numbered 81,000, the Turks 73,000 and the Greeks 52,000 [1] (http://knigite.abv.bg/en/hg/gh_2c.html).

Despite the preponderance of Bulgarians and the region's key significance for the economy of Bulgaria as its only outlet to the Aegean Sea, Western Thrace was given to Greece as war compensation under the terms of the 1919 Treaty of Neuilly following World War I.

After the Greek-Turkish population exchanges of the 1920s, ethnic Bulgarians in Western Thrace came under severe pressure from the Greek refugees from Asia Minor and were either forcefully or voluntarily resettled in Bulgaria under a population exchange agreement between Greece and Bulgaria. The Treaty of Lausanne granted, however, the status of a minority to the Muslims in Western Thrace, in exchange for a similar status for the Greek Orthodox minority in Constantinople (later Istanbul).

Western Thrace is nowadays home to some 120,000 Muslims, who form around a third of the region's population and are the only officially recognised minority in Greece.

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