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Salonica, located in northern Greece, was long a fascinating crossroads metropolis of different religions and ethnicities, where Egyptian merchants, Spanish Jews, Orthodox Greeks, Sufi dervishes, and Albanian brigands all rubbed shoulders. Tensions sometimes flared, but tolerance largely prevailed until the twentieth century when the Greek army marched in, Muslims were for Salonica, located in northern Greece, was long a fascinating crossroads metropolis of different religions and ethnicities, where Egyptian merchants, Spanish Jews, Orthodox Greeks, Sufi dervishes, and Albanian brigands all rubbed shoulders. Tensions sometimes flared, but tolerance largely prevailed until the twentieth century when the Greek army marched in, Muslims were forced out, and the Nazis deported and killed the Jews. As the acclaimed historian Mark Mazower follows the city’s inhabitants through plague, invasion, famine, and the disastrous twentieth century, he resurrects a fascinating and vanished world.


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Salonica, located in northern Greece, was long a fascinating crossroads metropolis of different religions and ethnicities, where Egyptian merchants, Spanish Jews, Orthodox Greeks, Sufi dervishes, and Albanian brigands all rubbed shoulders. Tensions sometimes flared, but tolerance largely prevailed until the twentieth century when the Greek army marched in, Muslims were for Salonica, located in northern Greece, was long a fascinating crossroads metropolis of different religions and ethnicities, where Egyptian merchants, Spanish Jews, Orthodox Greeks, Sufi dervishes, and Albanian brigands all rubbed shoulders. Tensions sometimes flared, but tolerance largely prevailed until the twentieth century when the Greek army marched in, Muslims were forced out, and the Nazis deported and killed the Jews. As the acclaimed historian Mark Mazower follows the city’s inhabitants through plague, invasion, famine, and the disastrous twentieth century, he resurrects a fascinating and vanished world.

30 review for Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    The history of this city contains so many of the Big Human Themes. Exile, nostalgia. The course of empire. The maintenance of collective memory. The ways in which religions in close contact melt into each other. Nationalism vs. the Cosmopolis. The limits of tolerance, and the fated vulnerability of coastal, syncretic cities (I’m thinking of St. Petersburg and New Orleans, too). And most infuriatingly, the ludicrous imposture of the scoundrels who believe in tribal purity and uncomplicated cultur The history of this city contains so many of the Big Human Themes. Exile, nostalgia. The course of empire. The maintenance of collective memory. The ways in which religions in close contact melt into each other. Nationalism vs. the Cosmopolis. The limits of tolerance, and the fated vulnerability of coastal, syncretic cities (I’m thinking of St. Petersburg and New Orleans, too). And most infuriatingly, the ludicrous imposture of the scoundrels who believe in tribal purity and uncomplicated cultural continuity. Mazower calls Salonica a “city of ghosts” because the postwar, self-consciously Greek city of high rises sits on the site of other Salonicas, the Ottoman and Jewish Salonicas that aren’t even touristically visible in attenuated but picturesquely restored quarters—these other Salonicas have vanished, either by natural disaster (a fire in 1917 destroyed 75% of the old Jewish neighborhoods in the city center) or by the deliberate dynamiting of mosques and the bulldozing—done with the Nazi’s approval but not at their insistence—of the one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe (it was 35 times larger than that of Prague’s). Salonica was also nicknamed “City of Refugees,” which could just as easily have been Mazower’s subtitle. Not only was the city a refuge, over many centuries, for millions of the displaced, huge portions of its citizens were driven away, forced to become refugees. The first were the thousands of Byzantine Christians the Ottomans sold into slavery after the 1430 conquest. The city lay barren and depopulated until 1492, when Sephardic Jews expelled by Ferdinand and Isabella in their own homogenizing nation-building project settled in the city. The Ottomans were concerned with taxation and practiced a hands-off kind of governance, the Christians were still a small minority, so Salonica thus became a predominantly Jewish city, and a vibrant center of their learning and commerce. Politically Ottoman, ethnographically Jewish, geographically Bulgarian is how one 19th century observer described it. With the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire the city’s Muslim population became the refugees. The Greek state, which had taken Salonica in the first Balkan War of 1912, and the now-Turkey, agreed in 1923 to exchange populations: the Greeks would send all the Muslims to Turkey, and Turkey would “repatriate” their Christians. Here is religious-tinged nationalism at its most farcical. The “Greeks” expelled from Turkey thought of themselves as “Eastern Christians”—they had no sense of themselves as Greeks, and didn’t usually speak Greek; they spoke Turkish, as one would expect of communities that had existed for centuries in Anatolia, Thrace, and around the Black Sea. The Muslims expelled from Salonica were in a similar position: they’d been rooted in the city and in the Macedonian and Bulgarian hinterlands for centuries, thought of themselves as Ottoman subjects, and did not understand—and when they did, scarcely approved of—the secularist Kemalist nation state of “Turkey.” The refugees from Turkey now tipped the balance of power in the city, which hadn’t rebuilt after the 1917 fire and now had trouble housing and employing all the newcomers. This scarcity of resources affected the city’s Jews as well: after the Nazis deported 45,000 to Auschwitz, the new “Greeks” wasted no time expropriating Jewish property and destroying the Jewish cemetery, over which a new university was built (its administrators to this day refuse to erect some kind of acknowledgement). The few thousand Salonican Jews who survived to return found it impossible to get much back. In time, after a few generations, the refugees from Turkey assimilated to Greek culture (Mazower writes that there is some nationalist embarrasment at being of refugee stock--and with understandable reason, as the refugees were not Greeks), and the city is now what the nation-builders of early 20th century Greece had envisioned: an ethnically and religiously homogenous “Greek” city, with its statue of Alexander the Great (he died before the city was founded), its Ottoman and Jewish pasts relegated to a hiccup between the imagined continuity of the Byzantine Empire and Modern Greece. This is the spine of the book but there is much more, of course. Mazower gives a fascinating account of the functioning of the Ottoman Empire, its policies for the ruling of a polyglot, religiously diverse empire. I really enjoyed the picture of the golden age of Salonican Jewry, and of the community’s durably Hispanic character; the chapter on the Orientalisms that fueled European tourism and amateur archeology was excellent as well. There’s also great stuff on Levantine commerce, and its attendant nuisances, piracy on the seas and brigandage in the hills. Mazower knows his Great Powers diplomacy; he also knows urban planning, the psychology of charismatic false messiahs, Balkan cabaret music, and the intricacies of rabbinic controversy. I learned more about the rise of modern Greece and the two Balkan Wars than I had previously suspected. If Salonica was a crossroads of nations, then it follows that its history will embrace much of the world.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    I've been wanting to write a proper review of Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950 since I finished it some weeks ago, but have been so sidetracked by other reading that I'm not going to achieve that goal. Here are some notes: Salonika’s central paradox – its 2000 years of continuous urban life has been marked by sharp discontinuities and breaks. The Ottoman city has effectively vanished from sight. So has the Jewish presence in the city, whose life, Mazower says, they I've been wanting to write a proper review of Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950 since I finished it some weeks ago, but have been so sidetracked by other reading that I'm not going to achieve that goal. Here are some notes: Salonika’s central paradox – its 2000 years of continuous urban life has been marked by sharp discontinuities and breaks. The Ottoman city has effectively vanished from sight. So has the Jewish presence in the city, whose life, Mazower says, they had dominated for centuries and Jews were still the largest ethnic group in 1912. Some were wealthy business men but many more were poor. Here, as elsewhere, it was the Nazis who brought centuries of Jewish life to an abrupt end. Although Greeks, Jews and Muslims lived in Salonika simultaneously for centuries, the historians of each community have ignored the other groups, and they have taken sharply different views of the same events, reflecting ethnic and national divisions. The real challenge, Mazower says, is ‘not merely to tell the story of this remarkable place as one of cultural and religious co-existence - … - but to see the experiences of Christians, Jews and Muslims within the terms of a single encompassing narrative’, to include all what he calls ‘the radical discontinuities – the deportations, evictons, forced resettlements and genocide’ as well the long continuities. He traces arrival and collapse of empires, the shift from identities based on religion into those based on ‘nation’ – Muslims turned into Turks, Christians into Greeks, and in the end the Greeks won the territory. The book ends in 1950, by when Salonica’s Muslims had been deported to Turkey, Turkish Christians had been deported to Greece, and the Jews had been deported by the Germans to their deaths. I have also read Mazower's The Balkans: A Short History in the last couple of weeks, and will review that as it is much shorter, easier to read and deals with all the main themes that set the history of Salonica apart from most histories of individual cities. I was fascinated most by beginning to see what it meant to be an Ottoman city, with the Ottoman system of government delivered through religious communities as well as the central government. I was also fascinated to learn of the late rise of nationalism in the Ottoman Empire, in which people identified themselves as Muslims, Christians or Jews rather than Turks or Greeks, until the final collapse of the Empire, with many re-drawing of borders in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and forced expulsions of religious groups between territories in the old Ottoman lands. Mazower pays a lot of attention to the rise of Greek nationalism. I was astonished to learn, for instance, that the Greeks invaded Turkey in 1921, with great notions of reclaiming territories of ancient Greece and the Byzantine empire. Far from winning, they were utterly defeated and the Orthodox Christians who had lived for hundred of years in Anatolia or Thrace were forced to flee to Greece, from which Muslims were expelled in turn. It's a fascinating book, and one I'm likely to revisit. August 30 2018 Update I've just finished reading Mazower's The Balkans: A Short History and would have got more out of the history of Salonika if I'd read the wider, much shorter, history of the region first.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cat {Wild Night In}

    Mazower writes in the introduction that this book is the product of nigh on 20 years of research and writing after a trip to Salonica with the army. His passion for and knowledge of seemingly every aspect of the city’s history was breath-taking. The city’s changing architecture was explored in the same loving detail as the changes in the city’s religious communities. This wealth of knowledge and detail is even more fascinating when taking into account the fact that parts of the city and their res Mazower writes in the introduction that this book is the product of nigh on 20 years of research and writing after a trip to Salonica with the army. His passion for and knowledge of seemingly every aspect of the city’s history was breath-taking. The city’s changing architecture was explored in the same loving detail as the changes in the city’s religious communities. This wealth of knowledge and detail is even more fascinating when taking into account the fact that parts of the city and their respective histories have been obliterated by successive conquerors and natural disasters (the conquering Greeks back in 1912, a fire in 1917 that wiped out three-quarters of the city, the Nazis who approved of the destruction of mosques and one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe to name but a few). But Salonica, City of Ghosts, does not just confine itself to the early to mid-20th century (although the 20th century is the era in which Mazower specialises). Instead it encompasses the city’s early years, even straying back to pay homage to a certain memorable Roman before working its way up until (and including) the Balkan conflicts. Mazower brought up issues that the current administration would probably prefer to be swept under the carpet. The destruction of the Jewish cemetery, mentioned above, has still not been acknowledged or apologised for. Ironically a university, a building that should be a beacon of light and knowledge and of truth has been built over it, without a word written about the building’s foundations. With knowledge like that ringing in my ears, it is at times hard to imagine this now thoroughly Greek place as being the ethnically and culturally diverse place of refuge for groups hounded in other parts of Europe. To paraphrase Mazower, only ghosts keep the memories now. But in reading this book, the ghosts of the past- of the truth- stirred and walked with me for a while down the streets of memory in a city I may never walk through. Soupy as that may sound, it feels true.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    And here I thought that Los Angeles was a city that flew in the face of history! In its thousand plus year history, Salonica was a Roman city, a Byzantine city, a Muslim city, a Jewish city, and finally a Greek Orthodox city. At several points over the last hundred years or so, a deliberate attempt was made to pave over the past and pretend it did not exist:The history of the nationalists is all about false continuities and convenient silences, the fictions necessary to tell the story of a rende And here I thought that Los Angeles was a city that flew in the face of history! In its thousand plus year history, Salonica was a Roman city, a Byzantine city, a Muslim city, a Jewish city, and finally a Greek Orthodox city. At several points over the last hundred years or so, a deliberate attempt was made to pave over the past and pretend it did not exist:The history of the nationalists is all about false continuities and convenient silences, the fictions necessary to tell the story of a rendezvous of a chosen people with the land marked out for them by destiny. It is an odd and implausible version of the past, especially for a city like Salonica, most of whose inhabitants cannot trace their connection to the place back more than three or four generations. They know that whatever they are taught at school, their own family experiences suggest a very different kind of story -- a saga of turbulence, upheaval, abandonment and recovery in which chance, not destiny, played the greater role.Mark Mazower has dealt lovingly and in detail with all the pasts of Salonica, even when, like the current official Hellenic version, they represent a wishful falsification. This cannot have been an easy book to write. For some half a millenium, Salonica was part of the Ottoman Empire, and the concept of Ottoman historian is something of an oxymoron. (Partly, this is because books were not printed in the empire, according to Lord Kinross's The Ottoman Centuries, until the late 18th century.) Still, Mazower has put together hundreds of sources from European travelers who dropped in and wrote about the strange multicultural city that is now only known as Thessaloniki.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    In his introduction Mark Mazower writes that he wants to do more than tell the story of Salonica as a remarkable place of cultural and religious co-existence, but to see the experiences of Christians, Jews and Muslims who competed and cooperated with each other over the centuries "within the terms of a single encompassing historical narrative” essentially narrating from no particular point of view except that of the empathetic observer. His history of Salonica evokes the voices of political and In his introduction Mark Mazower writes that he wants to do more than tell the story of Salonica as a remarkable place of cultural and religious co-existence, but to see the experiences of Christians, Jews and Muslims who competed and cooperated with each other over the centuries "within the terms of a single encompassing historical narrative” essentially narrating from no particular point of view except that of the empathetic observer. His history of Salonica evokes the voices of political and religious leaders, peasants and laborers, generals and conscripts. It is an absorbing chronicle, beautifully written and meticulously researched (Mazower seems to have read everything and mastered the sources in three languages) he illustrates the physical, economic and even spiritual aspects of the city over five centuries. Salonica was a Byzantine city initially, a synthesis of imperial Rome, the Greek language and Orthodox Christianity. Its people called themselves Romans, claiming a lineage that extended back through the Eastern Roman Empire. Roman Catholics, on the other hand, were disdainfully called “Franks”, barely civilized semi-barbarian crusaders who sacked Constantinople in 1204, set up the Crusader State of Thessalonica and then retreated back to Rome, Venice and Paris. With the final defeat of Byzantium at Constantinople in 1453 the Ottoman Empire controlled the Greek mainland including Salonica and its hinterlands. The Ottoman sultans belonged to the Hanafi school, the most tolerant and flexible in its attitudes toward non-Muslims. They married Greek and Serbian princesses, built new synagogues, and governed their multi-confessional city lightly so long as tax collectors were regularly paid. The Sultan provided a haven for Jews fleeing the Reconquista and Inquisition in Spain—they were happy to take it and prospered. While there were no Jews on the population register in 1478, by the early 1500's they were Salonika's largest religious group. If the Christians and Jews chafed under the vassalage of the Ottoman they were slow to express it—with freedom to exercise their religion, various niches in the economic life of the Empire and even high positions in the courts of various sultans, Jews and Christians were not unhappy as suzerains of the Sublime Porte. Mazower sticks with his formula of telling the history of the people of Salonica from various, often competing points of view and in bringing it down to 1950 introduces other players: the Hapsburgs with their own sprawling, multi-ethnic and polyglot empire that was not unlike their deadly and constant rivals in Constantinople. The rise of the Young Turks and the Greek nationalists as well as the rumblings of mono-ethnic nation states throughout the Balkans and the deadly warfare among all three groups before and after World War I had a substantial impact on Salonica. Muslim refugees were followed by Christian refugees into the slums and warrens of the city creating unstable populations who were easily inflamed and prepared to seize what they considered theirs. The discipline of empire that had held the city together--an empire that specifically recognized the right of the three religions to coexist under its aegis –collapsed. The end came when the Wehrmacht swept all before it during World War II with the Gestapo in its wake. They first imposed restrictions on the Jewish population—loss of property and livelihood, forced into ghettos, wearing the yellow Star of David—and then carried out the Final Solution for Greece. The deportation to death camps of Salonica’s Jews—by far the largest Jewish community in Greece began in March, 1943. Over the centuries Salonica was beset by bandits, plagues, wicked janissaries, apostates in one direction or another, calamitous fires, floods of impoverished refugees, massacres, famines, vagabond monks little more than bands of criminals, false messiahs, murders and assassination, endemic and open corruption and more than one failed city plan. It was a thriving seaport, an essential way station on the roads that linked Asia and Europe, a center of Jewish learning, the home of fresco laden Greek Orthodox churches that had been turned into mosques and then back again to Christian churches. Mazower does a masterful job in describing the soul of the city. Highly recommended.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dimitris Hall

    A history of Salonica that might be forever lost in the bloody mists of nationalism in the Balkans. A unique and very pleasurable combination of historical writing and prose, it makes imagining life in Salonica of yesteryear, a feeling almost unimaginable if looking at the city today, this much more enticing. It is an ode to a historical period that every country involved seems all too willing to forget. Salonica City of Ghosts invites us to remember.

  7. 4 out of 5

    NickdjSero

    Powerful narration of a true story, that the greek governments really tried to hide. Living in the city of Thessaloniki, i discovered that few people know its history and its great importance. As Mark Mazower pointed that up nicely, only ghosts are left behind to restore these memories..

  8. 4 out of 5

    Athan Tolis

    The author claims that this book was 20 years in the making, and you have to believe him. It is a powerful masterpiece. For a week of my life it has transported me to the Salonica of 1430 to 1949. I can close my eyes and pretend I was there. As a Greek of Orthodox Christian Vlach provenance I can also attest to the fact that the author's account of my very narrow ethnic group is fair, accurate and sympathetic. My great grandfather moved from the mountains of Pindos and maintained a restaurant in The author claims that this book was 20 years in the making, and you have to believe him. It is a powerful masterpiece. For a week of my life it has transported me to the Salonica of 1430 to 1949. I can close my eyes and pretend I was there. As a Greek of Orthodox Christian Vlach provenance I can also attest to the fact that the author's account of my very narrow ethnic group is fair, accurate and sympathetic. My great grandfather moved from the mountains of Pindos and maintained a restaurant in Salonica, though to this day many Vlachs remain nomads and move with their flocks. I do indeed have an uncle Themistocles, just like the author surmises I might, what with Vlachs going out of their way to be truly Hellenized. And my dad learned Greek properly in school, but spoke a Romance-language dialect, Vlach, at home, just like the author describes. I consider myself conversant with Greek history (it is mandatory back home, and you are taught each period three times) but I learned tons from this book. Incidentally, every fact that I can adjudicate on checks 100%. I picked up the book with some reservations, because I'd been told the author is too harsh on us Greeks, but quite to the contrary I found him to be, if anything, a bit too lenient on us, always giving us the benefit of the doubt and trying to see things from our angle. Overall, this book was a masterpiece. It's most evidently a labour of love. The ending is extremely sad, of course. It had me crying. And, of course, it's shameful. But that's history for you. I think I might read it again.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael Kotsarinis

    It is a great book, in fact it is how I consider history books should be written especially when dealing with areas of the world plagued by nationalist hate. Personally, combining it with my knowledge of history and other books I 've read, I think that this book is as close to the truth as one can get. And as it is always the case with the truth it's not always pleasant for everyone and it tends to dispel various self-assuring myths. The book is about Salonica and its history but the ideas, acts It is a great book, in fact it is how I consider history books should be written especially when dealing with areas of the world plagued by nationalist hate. Personally, combining it with my knowledge of history and other books I 've read, I think that this book is as close to the truth as one can get. And as it is always the case with the truth it's not always pleasant for everyone and it tends to dispel various self-assuring myths. The book is about Salonica and its history but the ideas, acts and ideologies it examines, apply to the whole region of Balkans and serve to explain much to the modern reader about how and why things are shaped today.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dimitris

    A moving narration of the history of my hometown. It describes how three major communities (Ottomans, Greek Christians and the exiled Iberian Jewish) ended up living together and created one of the major cities in East Europe. The rise of nationalism in the Balkans, two World Wars, two Balkan Wars, the muslim-christian population exchange and the Holocaust put a huge burden on all three communities and brought the city to its knees. This was both an exciting and a difficult read for me. Born and A moving narration of the history of my hometown. It describes how three major communities (Ottomans, Greek Christians and the exiled Iberian Jewish) ended up living together and created one of the major cities in East Europe. The rise of nationalism in the Balkans, two World Wars, two Balkan Wars, the muslim-christian population exchange and the Holocaust put a huge burden on all three communities and brought the city to its knees. This was both an exciting and a difficult read for me. Born and raised in Thessaloniki, I recognize names and locations mentioned in the book, I have a visual reference of the city and now this book connects all of them to the spectacular history of the city and the tragic stories of its people. The book itself is a pleasure to read, easy and welcoming. It is clearly written from a Jewish perspective - a very interesting point for me, given that the history of the Salonica Jewish community is not something that is well known, even in Greece. The population exchange of '23 is also approached from a different angle, more humanistic than the regular nationalistic approach you hear about in school. Eye-opening read. Highly recommended, especially for Greeks and neighbors.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    Salonica, City of Ghosts, which won the 2004 Duff Cooper Prize, is a wonderful history book especially for readers who are not history buffs but who are interested in European culture in a broad sense. Salonica (currently Thessaloniki) has legendary status in many cultures. It is the birth-place of Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. It is the city whose Christian community received two extremely important epistles from St. Paul Thessalon was also the home of the Ladino language and had the la Salonica, City of Ghosts, which won the 2004 Duff Cooper Prize, is a wonderful history book especially for readers who are not history buffs but who are interested in European culture in a broad sense. Salonica (currently Thessaloniki) has legendary status in many cultures. It is the birth-place of Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. It is the city whose Christian community received two extremely important epistles from St. Paul Thessalon was also the home of the Ladino language and had the largest Jewish population of any Jewish city on the Mediterranean at the beginning of World War II. Mazower follows the city through all its many transformations explaining which winds blew away the old and which ones brought in the new. Salonica, City of Ghosts is a great reflection on the course of European history and how cultural, linguistic, political and religious boundaries have shifted over the centuries. The mood is profoundly elegiac as Mazower finds that the current city is simply not worthy of its great past. This is a good book and a great lamentation.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dave O'Neal

    The city now called Thessaloniki already had me completely fascinated before I read this book. I'd visited once in 1994 and still dream of going back. When I do make it there again, it will be a hundred times more interesting to me for having read this book. The subtitle "City of Ghosts" will feel especially apt if you ever go there to experience the modern, thoroughly Greek, city, and consider that until the 20th century it was hardly Greek at all. A cosmopolitan mix of religion and nationality The city now called Thessaloniki already had me completely fascinated before I read this book. I'd visited once in 1994 and still dream of going back. When I do make it there again, it will be a hundred times more interesting to me for having read this book. The subtitle "City of Ghosts" will feel especially apt if you ever go there to experience the modern, thoroughly Greek, city, and consider that until the 20th century it was hardly Greek at all. A cosmopolitan mix of religion and nationality that bears little relation to what one sees now. You'd have been as likely to hear Spanish or Ladhino on the street as you would Greek, or maybe Turkish. The book is readable and fascinating throughout, with some great pics. I had the wildly unexpected pleasure of meeting the author (and his charming Egyptian wife, also a scholar) at a party in Boston. A nice, normal guy, in case an author's niceness matters to you.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Yes yes yes yes, this sounds right up my alley, I must read this!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    History of Salonica is one of those places like Triest on the borders of many an empire overrun and filled with people from other places. It is going to have lots of ghosts and lots of imagined communities be they national or religious or some sort of ideology. Makes for rich history but for lots of trouble in it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Mazower's research here across languages and centuries and sources is a wonder and this book is a dense and elaborate delight. In Salonica, he follows the city from its Muslim conquest from the Byzantines in 1430 through the end of WWII. The Byzantine city was remade as Ottoman, but heavily flavored by Sefardic Jews around 1500, so that they were the largest group in the city in the 17th century. Mazower reconstructs this city of competing and cooperating religious and ethnic groups revealing de Mazower's research here across languages and centuries and sources is a wonder and this book is a dense and elaborate delight. In Salonica, he follows the city from its Muslim conquest from the Byzantines in 1430 through the end of WWII. The Byzantine city was remade as Ottoman, but heavily flavored by Sefardic Jews around 1500, so that they were the largest group in the city in the 17th century. Mazower reconstructs this city of competing and cooperating religious and ethnic groups revealing details of more than oriental splendor. The task of reconstruction is difficult because after the city was captured by the Greeks in 1912, its entire Ottoman culture was eliminated. In part by deliberate destruction, but also by fire in 1917, the effective ethnic cleansing of Macedonia and Western Anatolia after World War I (removing most Muslims and adding Turkish-speaking Eastern Christian refugees), and the deportation of most of the large Jewish population to Auschwitz in 1943. He points to the complicity of the city's leadership in the Holocaust and the lack of any repurcussions for that complicity. Mazower does not glorify the Ottoman past, but despite its impotence and crime it seems much more alive than the 20th century state. As in his other books, he finds much to fault in the creation of the modern nation-state, coming as it did in Greece and throughout the Balkans with ethnic-cleansing and the reappropriation of the past. These paragraphs come at the end of the book: "And yet that older city may turn out to serve the living in new ways only now coming into view. Nation-states construct their own image of the past to shore up their ambitions for the future: forgetting the Ottomans was part of Greece's claim to modernity. But today the old delusions of grandeur are being replaced by a more sober sense of what individual countries can achieve alone. As small states integrate themselves into a wider world, and even the largest learn how much they need their neighbor's help to tackle the problems that face them all, the stringently patrolled and narrow-minded conception of history which they once nurtured and which gave them a kind of justification starts to look less plausible and less necessary. Other futures may require other pasts. The history of the nationalists is all about false continuities and convenient silences, the fictions necessary to tell the story of the rendezvous of a chosen people with the land marked out for them by destiny. It is an odd and implausible version of the past, especially for a city like Salonica, most of whose inhabitants cannot trace their connection to the place back more than three or four generations. They know that whatever they are taught at school, their own family experiences suggest a very different kind of story - a saga of turbulence, upheaval, abandonment and recovery in which chance, not destiny, played the greater role." (439) Overall, an absolutely marvelous book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chebotarov Oleksii

    must-read book!

  17. 5 out of 5

    SSC

    I red the conclusion to this book today on a friend’s balcony in Athens, in Paleo Faliro, a suburb populated by Greeks from Constantinople-‘urbanised people’ as described to me. The night before I had a long conversation with a relative regarding Greece’s fate and the continuing battle between the ‘Western’ Greek, European in thought and measuring success based on individual achievement-what she identified as a minority in the country- and the pervasiveness of the ‘Anatolian’ or Ottoman culture I red the conclusion to this book today on a friend’s balcony in Athens, in Paleo Faliro, a suburb populated by Greeks from Constantinople-‘urbanised people’ as described to me. The night before I had a long conversation with a relative regarding Greece’s fate and the continuing battle between the ‘Western’ Greek, European in thought and measuring success based on individual achievement-what she identified as a minority in the country- and the pervasiveness of the ‘Anatolian’ or Ottoman culture on the Greeks, which may be ignored in the mainstream history of the country but is reflected in the behaviour of Greeks today-the reliance on the State by these Greeks, the entitlement of the ministerial class and those close to it. Greece is a Balkan state and the Ottoman rule for 500 years has not been eradicated notwithstanding the efforts described in the latter sections of the book-to encourage the Hellenisation and ‘lookback’ approach to Byzantium times or further the Golden Age of Hellenism in ancient times. This book is extremely detailed and provides an account of Salonica over 500 years where it was largely under Ottoman rule but at the same time a multicultural city; sizable Jewish, Muslim and Christian populations inhabiting the same space yet holding on to their individual identities (which was tolerated by the Ottoman empire but not under the nation states of Turkey and Greece). This book is relevant as it assists one to understand the influences of the people residing in the modern Greek state, especially in the context of questions regarding Greece’s inclusion under one European currency, its governance and institutions and whether it is truly a European state.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Travelin

    It's incredibly admirable that the author states he was first inspired to learn about the city after a visit with the military years ago. It's incredibly strange that I've spent so much time in today's version of the city based on this book. The city does seem to have a history thick with possibility, being a border city with many new immigrants over the years. Still the focus of the chapters leads me to believe that it is the city's apparently unique status as a Jewish centre of power in the Ba It's incredibly admirable that the author states he was first inspired to learn about the city after a visit with the military years ago. It's incredibly strange that I've spent so much time in today's version of the city based on this book. The city does seem to have a history thick with possibility, being a border city with many new immigrants over the years. Still the focus of the chapters leads me to believe that it is the city's apparently unique status as a Jewish centre of power in the Balkans which also motivated his interest. That isn't something he's trying to hide and it is an absolutely understandable focus for Salonica. But as he mentions in the book, the Jewish populace expressed a desire to stay with the Ottoman Empire. This is something he condones and even supports by minimizing the so-called time of slavery the Greeks describe under the Ottomans. I don't know enough about the Ottoman Empire or the Greek alternative, but it would seem the Greeks who took over Salonica and the Jews who used to form its majority may have been working at cross-purposes. It almost seems that the author should be thankful the Greeks were not more hostile than evinced by the digging up of a Jewish cemetery to build a university during Nazi occupation. It would seem the Greeks didn't have much patience for Turkish or ethnically Bulgarian citizens for one reason or another. The author alludes to nationalism becoming ethnic in the 19th-century and one wonders if it got its start in the Balkans and why. The book was thick with ideas, in short, fascinating spurts, so it was well-worth dipping into various sections, even if there are doubts about its overall focus. More details in the updates...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Overall, I really enjoyed this book, with a few minor misgivings. This is an incredibly dense book which is to be expected given the breadth and width of the history being covered. Mazower does a lovely job of including first-hand accounts from the journals, letters, and other surviving documents of this famous city's various inhabitants, breathing life and soul into the historical account. Like many recent history books dealing with Muslim rule, Mazower tends toward a rosier view of Ottoman rul Overall, I really enjoyed this book, with a few minor misgivings. This is an incredibly dense book which is to be expected given the breadth and width of the history being covered. Mazower does a lovely job of including first-hand accounts from the journals, letters, and other surviving documents of this famous city's various inhabitants, breathing life and soul into the historical account. Like many recent history books dealing with Muslim rule, Mazower tends toward a rosier view of Ottoman rule, pointing out the many ways in which a spirit of cooperation was encouraged among its' Muslim, Jewish, and Christian subjects. Despite the missteps of the Ottomans and what would appear to the modern Western mind as the subjugation of Jews and Christians, the years under Ottoman rule are a friggin' picnic when contrasted with the plague of nationalism that sweeps through the city, alas the whole world, leading up to the world wars. It's a dense and challenging read, but well worth it for history buffs, those who are politically minded, or just the curious.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Zayn Gregory

    "They all claimed the city for themselves in God's name. But is it not said: Where God is, there is everything?" Nearly five hundred years of history for a city I had never heard of in a land I knew next to nothing about could have been overwhelming, but the book is so well-written and the story so colorful. Three things that struck me: 1. The residents of Salonica lived a remarkably ungoverned life. The Ottoman state simply did not interfere all that much in the lives of its citizens. The benign "They all claimed the city for themselves in God's name. But is it not said: Where God is, there is everything?" Nearly five hundred years of history for a city I had never heard of in a land I knew next to nothing about could have been overwhelming, but the book is so well-written and the story so colorful. Three things that struck me: 1. The residents of Salonica lived a remarkably ungoverned life. The Ottoman state simply did not interfere all that much in the lives of its citizens. The benign neglect described seems benign indeed compared to the all-encompassing modern states we live in. 2. The Jews of Salonica fled the ethnic cleansing of Christian Spain, lived 450 years untroubled under Muslim rule only to be wiped out within 45 years of falling under the Christians again. 3. The 20th century rise of the nation-state and the ideal of separate pure homelands for each group of people on earth was and is such a huge ugly disaster. Our pasts are so long and our futures so short. I hope I live to see the post-nationalist future emerge.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    This is an absolutely excellent book - engaging and clearly written. Fascinating study of the relationship between the three religions Christianity, Islam and Judaism and the people in Thessaloniki, Greece. It covers history of the area from about the 1300s. It IS detailed, very detailed, but not dry. But I need something lighter right now, so I am putting this aside. I will finish the remaining 2/3 when I am more up to it. I am giving it 4 stars for the portion I have read. When I pick it up agai This is an absolutely excellent book - engaging and clearly written. Fascinating study of the relationship between the three religions Christianity, Islam and Judaism and the people in Thessaloniki, Greece. It covers history of the area from about the 1300s. It IS detailed, very detailed, but not dry. But I need something lighter right now, so I am putting this aside. I will finish the remaining 2/3 when I am more up to it. I am giving it 4 stars for the portion I have read. When I pick it up again I can adjust the stars if necessary. No need to change those stars.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I give up. I really want to learn about the history of Salonica. I really enjoyed reading parts of this book. I'm sure there is a very interesting book that could be written about Salonica, but Mazower just got too bogged down in minutiae. I appreciated the richness of the discussion of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and interaction among different Jewish communities that settled in Salonica and their relationship with the Ottoman Empire. I usually have a high tolerance for historical deta I give up. I really want to learn about the history of Salonica. I really enjoyed reading parts of this book. I'm sure there is a very interesting book that could be written about Salonica, but Mazower just got too bogged down in minutiae. I appreciated the richness of the discussion of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and interaction among different Jewish communities that settled in Salonica and their relationship with the Ottoman Empire. I usually have a high tolerance for historical details, but somehow I kept losing the thread. Maybe you will have better luck.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Well-written history of a city whose history has always fascinated me. Salonika has been at the crossroads of geographic, politics and culture straddling a divide that waxed and waned in the last five hundred years. A must read for anyone interested in Greece, the Ottoman Empire/Turkey, the Balkans and Jewish history.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    This was really a book written by a historian. Way too much detail. For a broad audience, it should have been edited down to about 1/3 its size. Still, it was interesting to hear about the history of the area.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Filitsa

    Almost a five star here. Great research, clear and evocative style, many perspectives on the same issues, but the Jewish perspective is slightly predominant.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marina Leonidhopoulos

    It made me understand what this city is all about...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mustafa Aktar

    Excellent book for those who want to know more about the cosmopolitain life in Ottoman history.

  28. 5 out of 5

    John A.

    Great biography of a city, and a perfect window into the Greek / Macedonian name conflict.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    A book review I wrote for a History class: In a country where most young adults don’t read for pleasure anymore, to read a book about a foreign city’s history isn’t common. For a majority of high school or college students, reading a book like Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims, and Jews 1430-1950 by Mark Mazower is unheard of unless doing so is required for a class. I love books, but stick rigorously to fiction. To read Salonica sounded like a bore to me; however, once I began readin A book review I wrote for a History class: In a country where most young adults don’t read for pleasure anymore, to read a book about a foreign city’s history isn’t common. For a majority of high school or college students, reading a book like Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims, and Jews 1430-1950 by Mark Mazower is unheard of unless doing so is required for a class. I love books, but stick rigorously to fiction. To read Salonica sounded like a bore to me; however, once I began reading the book, the 500-year history of a city on the other side of the world suddenly intrigued me. Before Salonica was invaded by the Ottoman Empire in 1430, it was a prosperous city full of peaceful diversity. After the Ottoman Empire took control of Salonica, the city remained fairly diverse, but tensions grew high. Throughout the rest of Salonica, those tensions rage in the form of massacres, revolts, gangs, house raids, and more. Some of the people discussed in this history book include: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, leader of the Young Turks; Saint Dimitrios, a Roman officer who’s legend lived on hundreds of years after his death; an important, but rather stupid archeologist, Emmanuel Miller; and a false Messiah named Sabbatai Zevi. The rest of the book is full of more interesting facts about how life in Salonica developed over the next few hundred years. Janissaries, or military gangs, practically ruled the city for over a hundred years. Trade with Europe greatly increased since the city was on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, which brought brothels and family feuds in the modernization of the 1930’s. Robbers and murderers, as well as the causes/results of the two Balkan wars are just two more of the many interesting topics found in Mazower’s book. Mazower wrote Salonica well. In one chapter, he covers multiple points, creates a mostly smooth flow, uses an incredible amount of sources, and manages to not bore the reader despite his wordiness. All of these traits are fantastic for a history book. They worked together to keep me engaged in the text, even though I don’t have a good memory to remember names, places, and some events. One section of the book (in chapter six) stood out to me as I read because of a nice transition made between an event’s occurrence, use of a primary source of the event, and how the primary source was found. The man who was the Muslim judge of Salonica at the time of the 1821 massacre was “briefly imprisoned” but then released, and wrote about the event he’d witnessed. The way that Mazower used that piece was brilliant! Certainly, it was the best account of what happened in 1821 (and therefore probably the only one he would have used), but his placement of the judge’s story and narrative could not have been positioned into a better spot. Throughout the entire book, a scad of sources are used to effectively communicate all that the author has to say. Despite Mazower using up to fifty-seven sources in a single chapter, he still manages to keep the flow of the story steady and, frankly, beautiful. Accompanying the story were interspersed maps of Salonica, and almost seventy photographs, paintings, and drawings showing styles of dress, people mentioned in the book, and basic city life. The only two qualms I have about the book are the way its pages are cut (jaggedly) and how I don’t always know for sure what year I am reading about. I get frustrated flipping back in the story a few pages to find a map because of how the pages are cut (I read Knopf’s hardback version), and because Mazower’s book covers so many topics, I can be reading about events twenty years apart in time, but only three pages apart in the book. Even though I am an avid (yet slow) reader, I would recommend this book to people who aren’t too keen on reading! Perhaps a well-written history book will appeal to them instead of the usual angst book or lengthy classic. I wouldn’t recommend people below the age of sixteen reading this simply because anyone younger may not be at the proper reading level yet. Also, to have even a smidgen of a background on some of the topics would be good; my history class helped me understand what was going on in certain parts of the book. This book can be purchased new for $13.14 on Amazon in paperback or for $13.99 at either Amazon or Barnes and Noble for Kindle and Nook, respectively.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    A very good read on this city, though I often wished for more context. In other words, a mostly accessible book written by a real regional specialist. In Mazower's conclusion he discusses how nationalist whitewashing obscured the many histories of the city over the 20th century. So many historical shifts and contingencies brought about a massive transformation of the face of the city. Key is that what may persist as a ghost in the city is subject to the effects of shifting political winds. The Je A very good read on this city, though I often wished for more context. In other words, a mostly accessible book written by a real regional specialist. In Mazower's conclusion he discusses how nationalist whitewashing obscured the many histories of the city over the 20th century. So many historical shifts and contingencies brought about a massive transformation of the face of the city. Key is that what may persist as a ghost in the city is subject to the effects of shifting political winds. The Jewish graveyards were erased after the Nazis exterminated their population. The Muslim past was erased first through fire and then through the razing of minarets after the population transfer of "Turks" in the first days of Turkey. Religious structures with shared pasts can be eliminated of one of their memories (Islam) while another is promoted (Orthodox). But even what survives is subject to a revised remembering. While Orthodox came to mean Greek over the 19th and 20th centuries, religious categories were more important under the Ottomans than racial, ethnic, or national categories, which gained more importance over time. When new categories arose, there were periods in which the ideas of the old orders disappeared (such as the fading away of the "Old Turks" with Ottoman ideology). New lines could form out of old antagonisms (the Excharate vs. Patriarchate which became Bulgar(ian) vs. Greek). And finally, the speed of political change and successive waves of migrants could make new pressing problems (the recent Turkic Greek immigrants in the 1920s) become yesterday's news (as when post-war Greeks entered the city). Another interesting insight is the way that many populations groups were divided within themselves at different points in time. One can't simply talk of historical antagonism between the Jews and the Muslims. Sometimes the Jewish community was divided (wanting more Jews in Salonica w/ Ottomans vs. Zionists). The Greeks could disagree on political lines and factions could form alliances with, for instance working class Jews.

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