Ottoman times



The Ottoman domination of Drama for almost five and half centuries (1383-1912) assured stability, at least theoretically, and an end to the frequent changes in power, which had marked previous periods. Nevertheless, at the same time, Ottoman domination meant a serious threat to the continuation of the presence of a Greek population in the area. Drama, for a long time, was part of the wider administrative unit («beylerbeylik» in Turkish) of Roumeli (later an «egialeti») and so it remained an agricultural region within the Ottoman Empire. The settlement of Muslims from the east in the area and the retreat of the Christian population to the mountainous areas of the region changed the demographic data with the number of Christians constantly, declining up to the mid 16th century.
Fearful of the religious fanaticism of the conquerors as manifested in the case of the monks’ massacre - of Ikosifinissa Monastery in 1507 - meant that the Christians gathered together in the mountains north of the area, though they did not completely abandon the city of Drama. The Muslim population lived in the former Byzantine castle and in the countryside, occupying themselves, mainly with the production of rice - as the abundant running water - which favoured the growth of the paddy fields of Drama - and the latter, as a result, fed other areas of the Empire.
Economic development, thanks to the rice trade, increased the Muslim population - as occurred in other Macedonian cities - during this high point of the Empire that lasted up to the mid 17th century. Perhaps it was during the period that the Christian population began to return to the valleys and plains. From the mid 17th century, the Sultan lost control over the provinces of the Empire and the residents of Drama suffered much from heavy taxation and the corrupt government of local rulers, who also owned large tracts of land. Raids carried out by mountain-living tribes, causing much suffer. During the 18th century, supporting the traditional cultivation of rice, the operation of textile industries and cotton dye, gave to the area a new lease of commercial life. The area was associated with mainland and trading routes that were followed by large caravans to the centre of the Empire, the Balkans and Central Europe, supplying centres in the internal market of the Empire, such as Thessaloniki, with their goods.

The economic development, during this period, was particularly favourable to those, who controlled the administration and the land and in particular, for Mahmut Dramalis Pasas (1780-1822) and his sons - after the death of their father, in his campaign against the Greek revolutionaries. At least, until the mid 19th century, despite the fact that «kazas» of Drama was the administrative and military centre of the local imperial administrative unit- named «santzaki» - which was stretched as far as Xanthi is - the economic importance of the city of Drama was steadily decreasing. This may have brought about the reduction in population, which was noted at this time. The repression from the governors and the suffocating control of economic life by the large landowners, favoured the development of the region's harbour, Kavala, which connected the whole area with commercial sea routes. Real changes in the region of Drama began to occur with the development of tobacco cultivation that commenced around the 1840s. First economic growth was gradual, but by at the end of 19th century, the economy had taken off. The whole modern history of the area has been marked by tobacco. The economy took off, the population increased - mainly the Ottoman population - but increases were noted too in the number of Greeks, with people, coming here to work from other areas of Macedonia and from Epirus. The city and the tobacco-producing towns of the countryside, such as Prosotsani, Choristi, Doxato, Adriani and Kyria, became wealthy and grew, thanks to tobacco production and trade. With a stronger economic footing, the Greek communities in the city, the towns in the southern plain - where many Greeks lived - and the villages on Mounts Falakro and Menikio, took a strong interest in cultural matters. In particular, in the latter villages the local dialect was used with its mixture of three languages. Churches were built, schools and fraternities were established, helping to keep alive and reinforce the sense of what it meant to be Greek, among the majority of the population.
The Boundaries redraw in the 20th century From 1880 to 1908 groups of Bulgarian guerrillas carried out violent attacks against the city and the northern villages of the prefecture with their Greek or mixed populations, in order to gain control over the Christians, in the area. The formation of Greek guerrilla groups saw the beginning of the Macedonian Struggle, a violent guerrilla war carried on, under the indifferent and even guilty «eye» of Ottoman authorities. From the beginning of the 20th century, the Macedonian Struggle took on shocking proportions in the north of the city with many local Greek residents with nationalistic sensibilities, fighting hard for national unification. Among many victims was the young Armen Kouptsios from Volakas. The Bishop of Drama and later of Smyrni, Chrysostomos (1868-1922), was the leader of a secret organization of Greeks, who acted in cooperation with the defence committees of the local villages and the guerrilla units. The intense nationalist activity in Drama, 1902-1910, led the Ottoman authorities to his temporarily ejecting from the Empire (1907-1908). The area came under Bulgarian Occupation for the first time in October 1912, during the First Balkans War. The occupation has been marred by the group massacre of 600 Greeks from Doxato and the setting on fire of the wealthy town on 30th June 1913 - one day before the liberation of Drama by the Greek army. A second Bulgarian Occupation, during the First World War (1916-1918), tested the resolve of the Greeks more, due to starvation, epidemics and the obligatory transportation of the male population to work camps in Bulgaria. The exchange of populations among Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey, during the early 1920s, was a new starting point for Drama. At least 85,000 Greeks from Asia Minor and Thrace settled in the Prefecture, tobacco production increased thanks to the marshes in the southern plains of the prefecture, which were drained and with trade picking up, Drama flourished and enjoyed a «Golden Age», until the end of the 1920s. Following the negative repercussions of the world economic crisis of 1929 on exports of tobacco, the economic climate improved again until the Second World War. During the German invasion of Greece, launched from Bulgarian soil on 6th April 1941, the defensive line of forts in Nevrokopi basin was hard tested, while the few soldiers there were defending Greece – after a valiant struggle.
In the same month, the area passed into the administrative and military control of the Bulgarian authorities, attempting to - until the liberation, came in 1944 – the systematically alter of the population. Greeks put up fierce resistance on the plains and the mountains of Drama with the leading acts of resistance - the resurrection of September 1944 and the battle on Papades bridge, on May of 1944. After the war, there was a reduction in rural economic activity, due to the wave of emigration from the area, mainly to West Germany, which began during the 1960s, causing the depopulation of the area. Following the political changes in Eastern Europe and the improved relations among the Balkan states at the end of the 20th century, the population of Drama, now, hopes to be able to take part in the large economic changes, which take place in Europe.