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Elafotopos (Tservari)

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On the slopes of Stouros at 1100 m. built amphitheatrically, is located one of the traditional villages of Central Zagori , Elafotopos or Tservari (according to its old name). It is a village with a long history that starts from a very old age.

It is unknown when the original settlement was created. However, the grave goods (handmade clay pots, etc.) found in the valley between Elafotopos and Kato Pedina, testify to the inhabitance of the wider region from the end of the 13th century BC (Prehistoric Bronze Age) and are dated around 1200 BC. Also, on a hill in NW (Kastro place) there are remnants of a tumultuous Molossian settlement, which date back to the 4th-3rd century. e.g. X. (Classical Era).

History and Information

The cradle of the settlement was the fertile valley of Kalpaki, from which the inhabitants moved to the present location.

Two were the main reasons for the move:Firstly, the barbarian raids of the Bulgarians, Serbs and Normans, which were accompanied by robberies, arson, grabs, catastrophes, killings and captivity. Therefore, the inhabitants of the valley of Kalpaki left for the mountainous areas, away from the passage of the barbarians. Some of them, of course, because they grazed their flocks in in that area, knew the place and the passages, as well as the living conditions. Moreover, the monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin was a powerful reason for the creation of the first settlement of the village around 1100 AD and with the servants of the monastery (two, three families living there grazing the flocks of the monastery and cultivating its estates) constituted the first settlement with the name Mikro (Small) Tservari, which over the years increased its population . In 1200 AD the Norman raids forced a new and larger wave of chased people to reach the area of ​​the settlement and build next to Mikro (Small) Tservari a second largest settlement known as Megalo (Big ) Tservari.

Secondly, because of the marshes that existed in the area, malaria had plagued people. For this reason, those who had health problems left their villages Vastania (in today’s Tservariotika Kalyvia) and Smoliaso (at Paliourgies place) and settled permanently in Elafotopos, contributing to population growth.

In historical sources the settlement is mentioned for the first time in the second Edict (1321) of the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos (1282-1328). And it is mentioned again in the Edict (1361) of the Serbian Despot Simeon Uros Palaiologos with which he conceded the settlements Tservari,  Ano (Upper) Pedina, Kato (Lower) Pedina and  Vitsa  to Duke Ioannis Chafa Orsini.

The period of the Despotate of Epirus is considered for Zagorohoria as the first period of their life and existence, because in addition to building new settlements, the installation of the inhabitants in the villages is also consolidated. The Zagorian people maintained good relations with the Epirus Despots and they were always a prominent military force of the Despotate and their presence was always noticeable.

The Greek word Elafotopos ( Ελαφότοπος) means a place with deer. When it comes to the old name of the village of Chervari– ( Tservari greek Τσερβάρι) there are several versions. The most prevalent version is that the name is very old and comes from the Slavic words terbu (= deer, cervus in Latin).  


The urban origin of the habitant from the ancient multi-human Molossian estates which were in the today’s plain of Kalpaki, have largely influenced the character, the way of life and behavior, the education as well as the architecture of the village. The first community of the village was organized in generations or tribes with large families with the same surname and strong kinship ties, and like the other societies of Zagori ,it was closed, autonomous and self-conscious.

Apart from the natives, other social groups were also installed in the village at times. The village, like all Zagorohoria, was divided into zones defined by racial criteria that determined the social condition of each. The Zagori residents lived in the center of the settlement in mansions and good homes, the foreigners lived a little more out, while the Gypsies (ironworkers, instrumentalists, basket knitters) lived outside the settlement. The Sarakatsans lived outside the boundaries of the settlements, organized in their own, autonomous social form.

  1. The immigrants who came from the villages of Souli, Lakka originally came as expert warriors to serve in the militia of Zagori that protected the villages of Zagori from the bandits and the thugs. Some of them married in the village, made families, assimilated fully with the locals and evolved socially and conomically.
  2. The Gypsies or Roma who settled permanently in the village after abandoning nomadic life, formed a peaceful group of people. It is said that the Gypsy or Roma people come from northern India and sometime settled in all the Balkans, and especially in Pogoni, at the northern tip of Epirus.  They consisted of a few families, mainly dealing with iron and steel, shoemaking and music. Their willingness for any job due to their financial poverty made them irreplaceable and helped them to integrate into the social environment of the village. Despite the fact that until the middle of the 20th century they were marginalized without the right to vote and their own land, their productive role in the local economy has been significant. However, the sector in which they were unique was music. Exercising this profession made them indispensable at festivals, celebrations and weddings.
  3. The Sarakatsans who settled permanently in Elafotopos. Initially they stayed in huts or tents. Their life was very hard and almost primitive and their permanent occupation with livestock far from the village, kept them isolated, by minimizing the possibility of contact with the inhabitants of the village. It was expected that their difficult character met the villagers’ hostility. They lived a conservative life adhering to their own ethics and customs. They married people of their own race and had a lot of kids.

Administrative organization

During the Roman-Byzantine period (167 BC-1430 AD), the administration of the villages of Zagori was dominated by the feudal system. The land, since it had been merged administratively into large areas (fiefs), passed into the hands of strong landowners along with all the wealth and political power and with the people living under miserable conditions.

During the siege and occupation of Ioannina by the Turks (1430) headed by Sinan Pasha or Kara Sinan Pasha (Islamic christian), the village still consisted of the two districts Mikro and MegaloTservari and together with other Zagorohoria, they spontaneously surrendered and signed a treaty of subjugation, which was in Greek and was known in history as “Definition of Sinan Pasha” or “Treaty of Voiniko” , ensuring a substantial autonomy and self-government status with tax burdens, among which the most important is the obligation of certain subordinate regions to provide services as ostlers to the stables of the Ottoman army each spring for a certain period of time.( Note: The word “voinik” comes either from the word voinak, referring to Christian soldiers who had begun to form military corps from Bulgaria as early as 1375, or from the Slavic voinik (= soldier) from the time (15th century) that some Slavic tribes inhabited Zagori and provided military services to the sultan, and which later hellenized and assimilated. Since then, the name Vojniko has remained for Central Zagori and Voinakides or Voinikides).

This treaty, at least in its majority, was maintained until the second revolution of Dionysius Philosopher (1611), when it was abolished .However, during this period the Turks broke it many times, especially after the fall of Constantinople, in 1453, However, during this period the Turks broke it many times, especially after the fall of Constantinople, in 1453, when they had no longer the threat of the Byzantines. After the treaty of 1431 with Sinan-Pasha the Zagorisian League or Koinon of the Zagorisians (Κοινόν Ζαγορισίων) was formed by the villages of Central Zagori, in which Western and East Zagori joined later (1684).

In 1583 a terrible plague epidemic decimated Central Zagori. The Ottoman State in an attempt to strengthen the community system of Zagori, which had been shaken by desolation due to pest, ordered many mergers of settlements in larger communities. So, the two settlements Mikro ( small) and Megalo (big) Tservari merged into a community by name Tservari. At the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century, the number of inhabitants grew considerably with the installation of many families from the village Vastania, but they retained their property and accommodation, with the new name Tservariotika Kalivia.

Occupations – Economic life

The main occupation of the inhabitants was livestock farming. Besides, the mountainous territory favored livestock farming and the altitude differences in the same area (the places for overwintering flocks were in the area of ​​Kalivia and Kalpaki and the summer pastures in the area of ​​the village), allowed shepherds to remain in their area throughout the year. The forms of livestock breeding were two, the tseligata ( extended families, financially robust, with significant flocks at their disposal and with the concept of the productive cooperative ) numbered many thousands of bovine animals and the domestic livestock which consisted of the animals of the village ( that was he community herdσ of goats, the herd of horses, mules and donkeys and the community herd from sheep that was created after the Civil War). The grazing of the animals of the village was undertaken by shepherds, appointed by the elders.

The second occupation was agriculture. Cereals, grain legumes ensured their diet, while they were trading the surplus products with products that they didn’t produce themselves. In 1690 the phenomenon of immigration began, which increased in 1740 and was generalized in 1850. Agriculture now goes to the hands of women, who, besides the family, are also involved in the land. In 1923 the Agricultural Credit Cooperative of Tservari was established, which was self-dissolved in 1970. At this time, agriculture had experienced its greatest flourish with the use of the fertilizers and machinery in cropping and harvesting, ensuring not only livelihoods for households but also a monetary income from the extra production which they handed over to the Agricultural Bank. After 1970 began the decline of agriculture and the withering land were handed over to livestock farming.

Also remarkable was the engagement with viticulture. The first attempts did not work, but eventually the area of ​​Kalpaki was the most suitable and the vineyards found suitable ground, developed and yielded until 1965 they were destroyed by phylloxera.

Beekeeping also flourished until 1940, which is confirmed by the existence of evidence of tax payment paid by the villagers for their honeybees.


Many factors prompted the inhabitants not only of Elafotopos but also of all the villages of Zagori to seek solutions beyond agriculture and away from Zagori: the lack of confidence in the economic and social conditions, the obligation of Voiniko, the strong landowners (kozambasides) and monasteries that kept 43 of the 46 villages as aurums, the plague epidemic, the abandonment of the area due to high tax burdens and economic distress, the spread of robbery.

The trips abroad begun in 1690, rose in 1740 and was generalized in 1850. Destinations were cities in Greece, America, Albania, Africa, Wallachia,Bulgaria, North Epirus, Asia Minor, Serbia. Certainly Serbia was the first country of preference because, since the Serbian domination of the Epirus Despotate (1349-1385), the inhabitants of Tservari had developed special relations with the Serbs and, moreover, Serbia was one of the closest countries. Thus, the Chervariot settled in the cities of Serbia, but mainly in Vrania, where half the hills and workshops belonged to the inhabitants, and even the governor and the mayor of the town were from Tservari. Other countries of business development have been Bulgaria, Wallachia, Romania. In 1856, Elafotopos had the largest population among the villages of Zagori that reached 1,330 inhabitants.

In 1912-1913 the Balkan Wars ended the Ottoman domination in the Balkan Peninsula, and new factors regulate the existing situation. The national conscience of the Balkan people is awakened and foreigners are now considered as intruders. The climate is now negative for Greeks who no longer have the profits they had before. Many are forced to sell their property and return to their homeland poorer. The village is now losing the most important source of wealth. Of course, most of the descendants of the first migrants squandered the fortunes they found. In 1945, after World War II, with the political change that took place in these countries, they lost their real estate, which the Communist regime was nationalizing.

In the village since 1800, there was a Monitor School and, since 1848, the Scholarchio (an older type of school that covered the last two classes of today’s primary school and the first class of today’s high school) where the children attended and then completed their education at the Zosimaia School of Ioannina. The education for young people in general of Zagori was not only the way of survival but also the love for the letters. Nowadays the most migrated deal with the letters (teachers, professors, doctors engineers). Also the village had scientists who practiced the profession of doctor.

In 1913, in the same year after liberation from the Turkish yoke, World War I was declared. The inhabitants participated in the First War (1914-1018) and the Asia Minor Campaign (1919-1922). In December 1916, the allied forces of Antant, in an effort to force Greece to go into war on their side, ordered a general “peaceful” blockade in all its ports. The country was tested due to lack of goods. Zagori , as a mountainous area,  suffered more from the great hunger in 1917 and from the fatal influenza epidemic and the typhoid fever in 1918.  Thirty-nine people died. In 1919 the Greek army liberated the area. 

In 1940 the Greek-Italian War began and on 6 April 1941 the German attack against Greece was launched. On April 9, Thessaloniki was captured, the 27th of Athens and 28 to 30 April the occupation of the Peloponnese was completed. The Battle of Crete (20-30 May) ended with the occupation of the island and the triple (German-Italian-Bulgarian) occupation of Greece began.

Tservari during the occupation (1941-1944), and between 1941 and 1943, when Italy underwent with the Allies, was under Italian occupation and then under German occupation until the date of the German withdrawal. The village was one of the few lucky villages in Zagori area where no house was burned .

Since the beginning of the occupation in Epirus, two patriotic organizations, which also created armed guerrilla groups, the EDES (National Democratic Hellenic League) and the EAM (National Liberation Front), acted against the conquerors. The two patriotic organizations of EAM and EDES, apart from their remarkable combat action against the conquerors, have also developed political activity, which was natural to create ideological contradictions between the people of the cities and the countryside.

The end of the war found the country weakened by dissolving the social and political fabric. At a time when the country had to retreat, a second war and this time a fratricide began.

The Civil War that followed had disastrous consequences at every level, national, political, economic and social. The massive wave of migration of the new and dynamic part of the Greek population has resulted in the countryside being deserted by its human resources. The sad elements of Statistics testify the dramatic decline in the population which exceeded 50%. In 1951 there were 210 permanent residents, in 1991 , 88 residents and in 2011 only 53 inhabitants.


Elafotopos is a quiet village but it testifies to the strong presence of man in its architecture. The settlement, like most of the mountainous Epirus and throughout mountainous Greece, developed around the square in a circular arrangement. The square is the point of reference for both the community and the visitors and is admittedly one of the most beautiful squares that one meets. The square is located in the center of the village and around there are the café, the church, the school and the neighborhoods where the rich lived. Where the cobbled streets cross over, there are built terraces and staircases, which operated and operate until today as places for attitude, meeting, discussion and relaxation of the inhabitants.

The first houses of the village simply covered the housing needs. For the construction, the villagers dug a hole in the rocky slope of the area and removed the stones. The underground opening that was formed they covered with quercus trunks (a kind of oak with sparse leaves). They were small with a space that used to sit and sleep, without windows for the fear of bandits, and with small orthogonal skylights for lighting and aeration. The floor was paved with slabs and covered with dirt for dampness. Within each house at that time, a vaulted hidden basement was opened that was the hiding place of the house.

Since 1300, the year of prosperity of West Zagori, and since 1400, all three parts of Zagori flourish, the houses are well-made and the living conditions are human. Since the 1690’s when residents are invaded and the money flows abundantly, the houses now have another aspect and they look like the present ones. They were two-storeyed, built next to each other communicating with secret passages, so when the robbers were entering the houses the residents can escape to avoid being arrested and paying ransoms for their release. The doors were thick and locked with large locks and secured internally. The windows were ironed and the walls of the courtyard very high. In all the houses they had dogs for guarding. In the mansions they lowered the light of the hanging lamps and drew down the curtains, so that they would not be perceived by the bandits.

The houses were built with white chipped stone, a building material that is abundant throughout the area. In the building of the house the whole village participated and, depending on the animals, everyone had the materials for the building as a gift to the new owner. The housekeeper brought the various craftsmen from the surrounding areas, depending on their specialty.

In the course of time, on the one hand, the needs of people and, on the other, the technical evolution, contributed to the construction of more complex buildings, two-storey or three-storey, surrounded by an enclosed courtyard. The outdoor courtyard was vital to everyday living, since part of the activities took place there. It was always surrounded by a high , stone wall that protected privacy from the public space, while at the same time it workeed defensively . Functionally it was the intermediate space, the smooth transition from the outside (public) to the inside (private). Functionally it was the intermediate space, and helped smoothly from the outside (public) to the inside (private). A feature of this is the intimacy of the interior, the mobile furniture (clothes storing chests and low tables) which are few, and the furniture (beds, drawers, libraries, wardrobes) which were embedded in the walls.

The village houses that remain up to date were built between the 18th and the 20th century.



Grigoris Kapsalis: Wikipedia

FOLKLORE AND HISTORICAL MUSEUM OF ELAFOTOPOS http://www.elafotopos.gr/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13&Itemid=36 

ELAFOTOPOS ZAGORIOU  http://www.elafotopos.gr/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1 


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