Means of living

At the beginning of the 19th century it was mainly Bulgarians gurbetchii (men who earned money somewhere ‘away’ from home), who came from Western Macedonia to Thessaloniki. In this early period the strongest and biggest communities were those of the builders from Debar and tailor immigrants from Kichevo and Krushevo. Craftsmanship remained the main means of living for the Bulgarians in the city in the beginning of the 20th century as well. A significant number of Bulgarians were engaged in construction, tailoring and shoe making, transportation of goods and metal working. Traders were the second biggest professional Bulgarian community in Thessaloniki. The most numerous among them were the shop owners – grocer’s, milkmen, pastry shops, bakers etc. However, there were also wholesale traders – the broker’s houses and commercial houses, run by Bulgarians in the city were 57 and 21, respectively. In addition, Bulgarians worked in the service sector – innkeepers, landlords, cooks, barbers, café owners. Thessaloniki was also the centre of the Bulgarian intelligentsia in Macedonia. Apart from the priests and teachers at Bulgarian primary and secondary schools in the city, there were also booksellers, doctors, pharmacists, clerks, lawyers. Around one third of the community were hired workers – wage workers and servants. The income of these categories varied considerably, which accounted for the diverse social structure of the Bulgarian community in the city.


The Bulgarians in Thessaloniki were concentrated in the Christian quarters St. Athanasiy and Panaguda in the city centre, the western parts near the Vardar Gate and in the eastern quarter Pirgi, which began to develop in 1867. Pursuant to Ottoman legislation the properties of the Bulgarian Exarchate were registered on the name of private persons and for this reason, together with the properties of the Bulgarians living in Thessaloniki, they constituted part of the financial matters that arose between Bulgaria and Greece after signing the convention for voluntary emigration of ethnic minorities in 1919. According to the Moloff-Kafantaris Agreement (1927), which settles the financial issues related to the liquidation of Bulgarian properties in Greece and respectively Greek ones in Bulgaria, Greece owed a bit more than BGN 1 million to the Bulgarian citizens. On the other hand, Bulgaria owed reparations to Greece for World War I and for World War II. Disputes about financial issues between the two countries were settled in 1964 with the signing of the Agreement for settling outstanding financial matters and development of economic cooperation. It postulates that Bulgaria will pay to Greece USD 7 million, thus liquidating all mutual financial claims prior to the signing of the agreement, as well as the claims of physical and legal persons, who had left property, rights and interests on the territory of the other country. These properties, rights and interests become property of the state, on which territory they were located.


Until mid-19th century Thessaloniki, surrounded by solid fortified walls, was a typical medieval city with narrow streets, where filth in combination with the warm and humid climate caused epidemic diseases. In the Tanzimat period (1839-1876) the city began to change – the fortified wall was demolished, the central streets were expanded, an underground sewage network was built, electricity was installed and public transport was introduced. Bulgarians actively participated in the transformation of Thessaloniki into a modern European city. Their pride is the one of its kind weather station in the region, whose daily weather reports were published in the local newspaper, while its annual reports, printed in Bulgarian and French languages (1895-1911) were much sought after. Its observer, Georgi Stoyanov, was even awarded a diploma and a medal by the astronomic department of the Royal Russian Academy of Sciences. Bulgarians stand out among other nationalities also by their wind orchestra, the model cabinet of geometric drawing, their gymnastic association etc.