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Eretria - Nea Psara (1834)

The history of modern Eretria is closely linked to the Greek War of Independence (1821-1827). During the night of June 18, 1822, sailors from the island of Psara, near Chios, led by Konstantinos Kanaris (1790-1877), burned the ship of the Ottoman admiral, Kara Ali. The Ottomans avenged themselves for this act by destroying Psara in 1824. The tragedy of the Destruction of Psara was described in a poem by Dionysos Solomos (1798-1857), the author of the Greek national anthem, and represented by the painter Nikolaos Gysis (1842-1901). At the end of this conflict, and in accord with the protocol of London (1830), the Ottomans gave up Euboea to Greece in 1833. In order to give refugees from the island of Psara a new homeland, the Greek government decided in 1834 to establish them at Eretria, which from that time until 1960 was called Nea Psara. However, malaria and probably also the proximity of Chalkis, an important urban center only 18 km away, explain the slow growth of the new locality during the 19th century.

Famous painting by Nikolaos Gysis showing the tragic fate of the refugees of Psara in 1824

The 20th century

In the 20th century, the development of Nea Psara is again closely connected with violent events: the Greco-Turkish war of 1921-1922. The Greek army suffered a serious defeat at the hands of Kemal Ataturk's forces, which ended in the burning of Smyrna (today Izmir). The military disaster in Asia Minor resulted in the exchange of minorities between the two countries, and led to the arrival of a million and a half refugees in Greece, in accordance with the Treaty of Lausanne (July, 1923). Just as happened at the end of the War of Independence, refugees were resettled in Eretria. Rows of contiguous houses, located in the southeast (Elpinikou Nikomachou street) and southwest (Eudemou Krataimenou street) of the city, today bear witness to this resettlement.

Since the 1960s, notably thanks to the inauguration in 1956 of a ferry service linking Eretria and Oropos in Attica, and to the eradication of malaria by swamp drainage during the 1940s, this provincial town has become a favorite tourist site for Athenians fleeing summer heat waves.

The 2001 census lists 5969 inhabitants for the district of Eretria, including the city of Eretria, the island of Aghia Triada, Gerontas (27 inhabitants), Magoula (1331 inhabitants), and Malakonda (1455 inhabitants).

by Ferdinand Pajor

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