Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What's in a name

So who am I? I mean deep down... My first name (or Christian name as we would say in Australia) is Vassili, which is Greek and derives from the word King. (Did you know that the herb Basil is the King of herbs?) But then we come to my surname, Hatzidakis. What many might not know is that it is a Turkish derivative. My grandfather was actually a refugee from Asia Minor, and was born and raised in a little village outside Smyrna (Izmir) called Sevdiki. When he arrived his surname was in some dispute but among the survivors it was agreed that he was a Hatzidakis.

So why is it Turkish? Well it's not Greek... some have told me that the Hatz is a sort of bastardisation of the word Hadji - a title given to pilgrims who have visited Mecca and the -akis is a diminutive, in other words it means 'little pilgrim'. Others have told me that Hatzis is the Greek form for the Ghazi - who were the warriors of Islam. Who knows for sure, records and memories are a blank as to this history.

But in part it epitomises some of the problems with Greek-Turkish relations. Greece won its independence from a largely Turkish controlled Ottoman empire. Following this Greece tried to instill a 'Greek Idea' into its citizens to try to unify this new nation. Despite this however, there are still signs around to remind us that once our destiny was not ours to decide. These signs are in the land registry laws, Ottoman title deeds put forward by the church to claim land, the power structures whereby certain politicians and rich land owners can trace their wealth to Pasha's and tax collectors, and then in our very surnames. Even Greece's Prime Minister, Karamanlis, has Turkish sounding name. Karamanlides is the name given to the Turkish speaking Greek Orthodox people of Cappadocia.

While such similarities could be reason for close relations, in an excessively nationalistic environment, they are also the reason for tense relations. And for this reason perhaps Greek-Turkish relations need to be slow and steady, giving both sides time to adjust as they dispel myths and come to terms with a history which is still raw.

7 comments:

mirdifderya said...

Interesting:)) we know everything about your surname now! You are still a mystic man, know nothing about you:)

William Hermansen Lien said...

you are a man with words, but also a man of deeds.
Thank you

Metin said...

'patates,' 'domates,' 'dolma' 'kofte(des)' are some of my favorite ingredients of some of the choices on the 'meze' enjoyed by a glass of ouzo. And subsequently be driven home in a 'taksi' to avoid drinking and driving and barfing.

Greeks and Turks may be closer to each other than they realize they are apart.

I wonder where the allegiances of Christian Turks and the Muslim Greeks toward Turkey and Greece . . .

Sincerae said...

Very fascinating. I like this piece. A lot to think about.

Ardent said...

Vassili,
Our good friend's name is Michael Hadjialexiou. A lovely guy of Greek descent. We call him Hadji and tell him he was previously a Turk that converted to Christianity. We all laugh and joke about it.

Hans A.H.C. de Wit said...

Vassili, (ultra) nationalism is indeed a disease.

afro turks? said...

knowledge is power.

learn about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkification