| Stephanos Papanastasiou|
| University of Western Macedonia, Florina|
TEI of Western Macedonia, Florina
Florina (Greek: , known also by several alternative names) is a town and municipality in mountainous northwestern Macedonia, Greece. Its motto is, Where Greece begins. It is also the Metropolitan seat for the region. It lies in the central part of Florina regional unit, of which it is the capital. Florina belongs to the region of West Macedonia. The towns population is 16,771 people (2001 census). It is in a wooded valley about 13 km (8 mi) south of the international border of Greece with the Republic of Macedonia.
It is the gateway to the Prespa Lakes and, until the modernisation of the road system, of the old town of Kastoria. It is located west of Edessa, northwest of Kozani, and northeast of Ioannina and Kastoria cities. Outside the Greek borders it is in proximity to Korçë in Albania and Bitola in Macedonia. The nearest airport is situated to the east. The mountains of Verno lie to the southwest and Varnous to the northwest.
Winters bring heavy snow and long periods of temperature below freezing point. During the hot summer months it becomes a busy market town.
Even though Florina was the site of the first rail line built in the southern Ottoman provinces in the late 19th century, its rail system remains undeveloped. Today, Florina is linked by a single track standard gauge line to Thessaloniki and Bitola, and to Kozani (meter gauge) where it was intended to continue south and link up with the terminal in Kalambaka, in Thessaly but this did not proceed due to the 1930s financial crisis.
Florina is passed by GR-2 (Lake Prespa - Edessa) and GR-3/E65 (Kozani - Florina - Niki - Bitola). The historic Via Egnatia is situated to the east. The new GR-3 superhighway will run east of Florina.
Within the boundaries of the present-day city lie the remains of a Hellenistic settlement on the hill of Agios Panteleimon. Archaeologists excavated on the site in 1930-1934, but a hotel was later built over the ruins. Excavations began again in the 1980s and the total excavated area is now around 8000 metres square. The buildings uncovered are mostly residential blocks, and the range of finds suggests that the site was continuously inhabited from the 4th century BC until its destruction by fire in the 1st century BC. Many of these finds are now on display in the Archaeological Museum of Florina.
The town is first mentioned in 1334, when the Serbian king Stefan Dušan established a certain Sphrantzes Palaeologus as commander of the fortress of Chlerenon. By 1385, the place had fallen to the Ottomans. An Ottoman defter (cadastral tax census) for the year 1481 records a settlement of 243 households.
Austrian diplomat Johann Georg von Hahn visited the city in 1861 and wrote about it in his travel log From Belgrade to Salonica. In it he writes that "[a]bout the houses in Florina, we should indicate that there are at most 3000, with half of the population Albanian and Turkish Muslims and the other half Christian Bulgarians."
The demographic composition of the area the 19th and early 20th centuries is unclear as many factors contributed to the ethnic orientation of the people; out of these religion was particularly important thus giving rise to a proselytism struggle between the Greek Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Bulgarian Exarchate (established in 1870). In 1886, 78.4% of the Christian population of the Florina kaza (district) - a part of Manastir Vilayet (province) - was aligned with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and 21.6% with the Bulgarian Exarchate, however by 1900 the Patriarchatists had dropped to 50.9% and Exarchatists had risen to 49.1%. The actual Greek-speaking element in this area was concentrated in urban centres where it participated in the religious, administrative, social, and educational sectors of life, this presenting to the outside world a "Greek-like" picture of the area.
Florina and its inhabitants greatly contributed to the Macedonian Struggle. Prominent leaders included Nikolaos Pyrzas, and Petros Chatzitasis. Former President Christos Sartzetakis originates from Florina through his mother.
In the late 19th century, it became a centre of Slavic agitation for independence from the Ottoman Empire, but in 1912 it became part of Greece following the First Balkan War. The town was again in the firing line during World War I, during which it was occupied by Bulgaria, and during the Axis Occupation in World War II, when the town became a centre of Slavic separatism.
For part of the Greek Civil War (1946–1949) the mountains of the Florina area were under communist control. The Slavic-Macedonian National Liberation Front, later simply the National Liberation Front or NOF, had a significant presence in the area: by 1946, seven Slav Macedonian partisan units were operating in the Florina area, and NOF had a regional committee based in Florina. When the NOF merged with the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE), many Slav Macedonians in the region enlisted as volunteers in the DSE. When the Communists withdrew from Florina in 1949, thousands of people were evacuated or fled to Yugoslavia and the Eastern Bloc.