The Department of History and Ethnology: An introduction…



The Department of History and Ethnology is located on one of the two campuses at Komotini of the Democritus University of Thrace. Komotini is the chief town of the Prefecture of the Rhodopi, in northeastern Greece, and stands on a coastal plain beneath the rolling Rhodope range, an area of outstanding natural beauty. It is linked by motorway to Thessaloniki, about two and half hours away to the west, and to Istanbul, about three and a half hours away to the east. It is about 50 km away from Xanthi and about the same distance from Alexandroupolis, on the coast, both of which host other departments of the Democritus University. There is an airport at Alexandroupolis, with regular flights to Athens and other regional centres.

Komotini thus looks both south to the Aegean and southeastern Mediterranean and north, into southwestern Europe, a fact that is reflected in the academic orientation of the Department of History and Ethnology. The Department was founded by in 1990 and was given a formidably wide intellectual remit. According to the Presidential Decree that defined its operations, it was to teach and research the ‘progress of peoples through history from the beginning and the factors that influence them’, ‘the ways in which mankind forms groups, particularly those of peoples without writing’, ‘behavior relating to the intellectual, social and moral life of peoples and folk culture’ and to provide its graduates with ‘the necessary theoretical and practical preparation for their academic and professional career and development’.

The Department fulfills this mission with currently 24 teaching and research staff. All of Greek history and many areas of Balkan and other European history is taught by the historians in the Department, whilst the archaeologists and anthropologists specialize mainly in southeastern Europe and Greece itself. The Department also takes extremely seriously its mission to offer its students preparation for their academic and professional career. It has recently redesigned its syllabus with the needs of its students in mind, in order to offer the maximum amount of flexibility, combined with the need for the student to acquire a firm grounding in his or her discipline. It also offers its students the chance to do courses in other faculties of the university, such as the Department of Greek Language and Literature.

It also offers numerous study trips to destinations in Thrace and Macedonia and beyond the borders of Greece. Recent study trips have included visits to Istanbul, Edirne and ancient Pergamon. It also has a vigorous programme of internships that involve observation and teaching in schools and work in archives, museums and participation in archaeological excavations throughout northern Greece and as far as Athens and the Peloponnese, in southern Greece. It also sends numbers of its students to various universities in the rest of Europe and Turkey with which it has agreements, such as the university of Groningen, the university of Florence and the university of Erfurt in Germany (For details of the Democritus University’s participation in the Erasmus programme, click here.

Apart from training its students, however, the Department sees itself, and the Democritus University in general, as playing a vital part of the intellectual life of the region. For this reason, it energetically promotes conferences centred on subjects that it believes will interest both its students and the local community. Over the past three years, for example, it has hosted conferences on subjects as diverse as Population Movement in Greece during the 1940s, Ancient Greek Technology, Social and Cultural Aspects of Bektashism-Alevism in the Contemporary Islamic World and Nazism, Neo-Nazism and History Education, all of which drew large audiences.

The Department has about 1000 students, with an annual intake of about 200, some of whom live in accommodation on the out-of-town campus.

For contact details of the Department of History and Ethnology, click here