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Salonika and the Jews

Thessaloniki - Copyright © by Alan Grant Thessaloniki - Copyright © by Alan Grant
Church of Agia Sofia - Queen Olga Street

Misha Glenny is one of Europe's foremost Balkan specialists. His survey of the Balkans is one of the best modern histories of the region, which he originally covered as a journalist. Here he discusses the now vanished world of Jewish Salonika.

Since the Jewish colonization of the town in the first two decades of the sixteenth century, Salonika had been the hub of the Sephardic world in the Balkans. Settlers moved along the spokes of a wheel which radiated out to Üsküb (Skopje), Sarajevo, Kosovo, Split and Valona (Vlorë) before reaching further to settle in Belgrade, then later in Sofia, Plovdiv and Smyrna (Izmir). The more adventurous traders built new maritime networks across the Aegean to the Near East, the Maghreb and western Europe. Their commercial success was based on the strong bonds which linked the Salonika community with their co-religionists in the Balkan hinterland and on the establishment of loose but effective trade monopolies in Salonika.

Above all the Sephardim were masters of the cloth trade. Their most important customers were the janissaries. The Salonika Jews enjoyed the exclusive right to supply the vanguard of the Sultan';s military power with all their clothes. So when Murad ll instigated the destruction of the janissaries in 1826, the consequences for the Salonika Jews were severe, and the compounded by the penetration of cheap mass-manufactured British garments into the Empire.

The Balkans 1804-1999: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers. Misha Glenny. 1999.
[pp:180-1 / Granta Books]

April 2007
Tim Judah

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  1. Istanbul: Pamuk's City
  2. Istanbul: Swimming across the Bosphorus
  3. Salonika and the Jews
  4. Salonica: Slaves and Trade
  5. Thessalonika: 1923
  6. Ohrid: Rise and Fall
  7. Tornado of Dust - 1944
  8. Awake Romania - 1989
  9. Novi Sad: Nest of the Serbian nation
  10. Nis: War Capital, 1915
  11. Belgrade and the Selenites
  12. 1996: Serbia Calling
  13. Belgrade Train Station - 1964
  14. Srebrenica: Vengeance
  15. Srebrenica: Blood
  16. Srebrenica: July 1995
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  23. Mitrovica: 1908
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  26. Durham in Pristina - 1908
  27. Tirana: 1962
  28. Zog's Tirana
  29. The Kotor - Constantinople Express
  30. Kotor and the Montenegrins
  31. The Rabbi of Stolac
  32. Dubrovnik: England, Wine and Wool
  33. Cetinje: Nikola Under the Elm
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  35. Dalmatia: Ships & Grapes
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  41. Kosovo
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  43. Istanbul: Food and the frugal Turks
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