(c)The socio-economic diversity

The first Armenians have middle to high socio-economic status without important socio-economic differences among them or compared to the local population of Thessaloniki. They also have a high educational level. They are professionally successful, especially in the field of commerce and jewellery trade. At the same time, they contribute to science, particularly medicine and architecture, as well as literature and the arts. Despite the fact that the Greek-Armenians are firmly oriented towards their community, they have not chosen to live in ghettos.

The first Armenians have been fully integrated into Thessaloniki’s society and their settlements have been incorporated into the fabric of the city. The cultivation of the Armenian language is important but does not prevent them from fully embracing the Greek language and culture. The church plays a significant role in the conservation of the Armenian identity. However, Armenians’ participation in religious ceremonies and their degree of religiosity may vary following the secularisation tendency of the Greek population. Exogamy is discouraged, but increasingly practised. The percentage of mixed marriages, according to community records, is quite high with a tendency to increase. The non-Armenians are seen as “strangers” (odars), but they are accepted in the community.

In contrast, the new Armenian immigrants living in Thessaloniki may be characterised as labourers. Despite the fact that they have a high educational level, as all migrants coming from the former Soviet Union countries, they make a living doing hard and unskilled jobs. Often, they work and live in the country without a residence permit. They reside in the centre and on the western outskirts of the city (Neapolis, Polichni and other western suburbs of Thessaloniki), which are usually inhabited by newly arrived immigrants from the Balkans and Eastern Europe. They face the increasingly restrictive policies of the European Union and the ineffective accession policies of the Greek state that do not facilitate their integration into Greek society.

The recent economic crisis has aggravated the situation, so some of the new migrants have been forced to return home. Most of them, however, still remain in Greece because they have organised their personal and family life in the city, despite the adversities and difficulties. As a consequence, the contrasts that are observed in the Greek society between the “locals” and the “foreigners” are also reproduced within the Armenian community. In spite of the fact that the new Armenian immigrants have benefited from the existence of institutions and community organisations, at least in the early stages of their settlement in Greece, they generally remain in the margins and rarely participate in community life.

 
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