Zagalisa, the first newspaper in the Pomak language
The fifteenth edition of Zagalisa has just been published in Komotini, Greece, by the Pomak Research Centre. Zagalisa is the first newspaper in the Pomak language and its launch in 1997 was a major development for the Pomak community. The Pomaks live in Western Thrace (Greece). In the past two decades, a few thousands of them have migrated to the prefecture of Attici. They speak the Rhodope dialect of Pomak, a Indo - European language, part of the eastern subgroup of the South Slavic Branch. According to estimates, about 27.000 Pomaks lived in Western Thrace in 1971. Under the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), the Muslims of Western Thrace (viz. Turks, Pomaks and Gypsies) enjoy protection and rights and are allowed to maintain their own religions institutions. Pomaks enjoys no official status. Pomak children attend Muslim schools where subjects are equally divided between Greek and Turkish. The use of the mother tongue is therefore relegated to family and colloquial interaction only.
According to its publishers, Zagalisa reflects the unique culture and language of the Pomaks and therefore encounters opposition amongst those who fear cultural diversity. In spite of this and financial constraints, they are however determined to pursue their efforts to improve the quality of the publication. They do not wish to use advertising as a source of financing even though the decision to translate articles into Greek has caused an increase in production costs. The presence of the language on a printed document is of practical significance and instills for the first time a feeling of pride in speakers of the language.
Hamdi Omer "
Contact Bulletin (The European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages), February 1999, Volume 15, Number 2.