Mariupolitan Greek
Native toUkraine
RegionNorthern coast of the Sea of Azov
Native speakers
(20,000 cited 1989 census)
17 villages (2017 estimate)[1]
Cyrillic, Greek
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguasphere56-AAA-ak (?)
Near monument to Mykola Chudotvorets (Nicholas the Miraclemaker) in Ukraine

Mariupolitan Greek, or Crimean Greek also known as Tauro-Romaic[3] or Ruméika (Rumaíica, from Greek: Ρωμαίικα, "Romaic"; Ukrainian: Румейська мова, romanizedRumeyska mova), is a Greek dialect spoken by the ethnic Greeks living along the northern coast of the Sea of Azov, in southeastern Ukraine; the community itself is referred to as Azov Greeks. Although Rumeíka, along with the Urum language, remained the main language spoken by the Azov Greeks well into the 20th century, currently it is used by only a small part of Ukraine's ethnic Greeks.[4]


Ancient Greek colonies of the Northern Black Sea

The Crimean peninsula was Greek-speaking for more than two and a half thousand years as a part of the ancient Greek colonies and of the Byzantine Empire. Greek city-states began establishing colonies along the Black Sea coast of Crimea in the 7th or 6th century BC.[5] The majority of these colonies were established by Ionians from the city of Miletus in Asia Minor.[6] After the Fourth Crusade's sacking of Constantinople fragmented the Byzantine Empire, Crimea became a principality within the Greek Empire of Trebizond. When that state, which was centered on the eastern Black Sea coast and Pontic Alps of northeastern Anatolia, fell to the Ottomans in 1461, the Crimean Greek principality (Principality of Theodoro) remained independent, becoming subject to the Ottomans in 1475. The beginning of large-scale settlement of Greeks in the steppe region north of the Sea of Azov dates to the Russo-Turkish War (1768–74), when Catherine the Great of Russia invited Greeks of Crimea to resettle to recently conquered lands (including founding Mariupol) to escape persecution in the then Muslim-dominated Crimea.[7]

Due to the centuries living under Tatar and Turkish rule, many of the Greeks no longer spoke the Greek language; thus the community was divided into the Greek-speaking Rumeis and the Turkic-speaking Urums (see Urum language).

In the 20th century, Rumeíka was the Greek dialect used by most Greek-speaking villages in the North Azov Sea Coast region. There are about 17 villages that speak this language today. Modern scholars distinguish five subdialects of Rumeíka according to their similarity to standard Modern Greek.

The Rumeíka is not the only Greek variety spoken in the northern Azov regions: the village of Anadol speaks Pontic proper, being settled from the Pontos in 1826.[8]

Dialectal affiliation

Ethnic Greeks (including Urums) in Donetsk Oblast

Rumeíka is often described as a Pontic dialect. According to modern researchers, the situation is not so simple: arguments can be made for Rumeíka's similarity both to Pontic Greek and to Northern Greek dialects. In the view of Maxim Kisilier, while Rumeíka shares some features with both Pontic Greek and Northern Greek dialects, it is better considered on its own terms, as a separate Greek dialect, or even a group of dialects.[8]



In the 1920s, an alphabet based on Greek Alphabet was developed for Mariupol Greek. In many ways, it was similar to the Pontic Greek alphabet and had the following form:[9]

Α α Β β Γ γ Δ δ Ε ε Ζ ζ Θ θ Ι ι Κ κ Λ λ Μ μ
Ν ν Ο ο Π π Ρ ρ Σ σ,ς Τ τ Υ υ Φ φ Χ χ

In 1969 A. A. Beletsky developed a new version of the Mariupol Greek alphabet, this time based on the Cyrillic alphabet. In 1973, this alphabet was first used in print and has been regularly used ever since. This alphabet looks like this:[9]

А а Б б В в Г г Гк гк Д д Дъ дъ Е е Ж ж Дж дж
З з Дз дз И и Й й К к Л л М м Н н О о П п
Р р С с Т т Тъ тъ У у Ф ф Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш
Ы ы Э э Ю ю Я я

Research and literature


After the October Revolution of 1917, a Rumaiic revival occurred in the region. As part of the general policy of korenizatsiya, the Soviet administration established a Rumaiic Mariupol Greek theatre [uk], several magazines and newspaper and a number of Rumaiic language schools. The best Rumaiic poet Georgis Kostoprav created a Rumaiic poetic language for his work. However, starting in 1926, the Soviet authorities opted to conduct the korenizatsiya more specifically as a policy of Hellenisation, which aimed to transfer the education and cultural life of local Greeks to Dimotiki (as used in Greece proper), as opposed to the non-standardised Rumaiic dialects. This approach was controversial and met with difficulties and some resistance.[10] Both of these processes were reversed in 1937 as Kostoprav and many other Rumaiics and Urums were killed as part of Joseph Stalin's national policies. A large percentage of the population was transported to Gulags.[citation needed]

The Rumeíka dialect became subject of linguistic study in the late 1920s and 1930s, as part of the general program of identifying and describing languages of the USSR.[8] However, linguists studying the language became victims of Stalin's repressions by 1937, and the research on the Rumeíka did not resume until the 1950s and 1960s.[8]

Scholars of Greek from Kyiv, led by Andriy Biletsky compiled a detailed description of the language and recorded the folklore. As the Azov Greeks had apparently lost literacy in Greek already during the Crimean period of their history, Biletsky developed a Cyrillic writing system, based on the Russian and Ukrainian Cyrillic for them in 1969.[11] [4]

A number of books have been published in the Rumeíka Greek using this Cyrillic orthography. Besides native works, they included translations of the Lay of Igor's Campaign and of Taras Shevchenko's Kobzar.[4]

A new attempt to preserve a sense of ethnic Rumaiic identity started in the mid-1980s. Though a number of writers and poets make use of the Cyrillic Rumeíka alphabet, the population of the region rarely uses it; the majority of self-identified ethnic Greeks of Ukraine now consider Russian their mother language.[4] The Rumaiic language is declining rapidly, most endangered by standard Modern Greek, which is taught in schools and at the local university. Nonetheless, the latest investigations by Alexandra Gromova demonstrate that there is still hope that elements of the Rumaiic population will continue to use the dialect.[12]

See also



  1. ^ Borodo, Michał; House, Juliane; Wachowski, Wojciech (2017-04-19). Moving Texts, Migrating People and Minority Languages. Springer. p. 34. ISBN 978-981-10-3800-6.
  2. ^ "Про затвердження переліку мов національних меншин (спільнот) та корінних народів України, яким загрожує зникнення". Official webportal of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. 7 June 2024.
  3. ^ Moseley, Christopher (2008-03-10). Encyclopedia of the World's Endangered Languages. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-79640-2.
  4. ^ a b c d Pakhomenko, S.P., Література греків Приазов'я та проблема збереження культурних традицій грецької етнічної групи (1960-1980-ті рр.) (PDF) (in Ukrainian) (Literature of the Azov Greeks and the problem of the preservation of the cultural traditions of the ethnic Greeks)
  5. ^ Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond (1959). A history of Greece to 322 B.C. Clarendon Press. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-19-814260-7. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  6. ^ Twardecki, Alfred. "The Bosporan Kingdom". Polish Archaeological Mission “Tyritake”. Archived from the original on 8 April 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  7. ^ "Greeks of the Steppe". The Washington Post. 10 November 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d Kisilier, Maxim, Is Rumeíka a Pontic or a Northern Greek Dialect?
  9. ^ a b Лингвистическая и этнокультурная ситуация в греческих сёлах Приазовья (PDF). СПб.: Алетейя. 2009. pp. 11–15. ((cite book)): Unknown parameter |agency= ignored (help) Archived 2020-09-20 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Л. Д. Якубова. Еллінізація грецького населення України 1926—1938 // Енциклопедія історії України: Т. 3: Е-Й / Редкол.: В. А. Смолій (голова) та ін. НАН України. Інститут історії України. — К.: В-во «Наукова думка», 2005. — 672 с.: іл.
  11. ^ Kisilier, M. L., ed. (2009). Literaturicheskaya i etnokul'turnaya situatsiya v griecheskih tselah Priazov'ya (Literature and ethnocultural situation in Greek settlements in Pryazovia) (PDF). p. 0.2.3. Retrieved January 12, 2022.
  12. ^ Kissilier, Maxim, ed. (2009), Language and Ethno-Cultural Situation in Greek Villages of Azov Region (PDF), St. Petersburg((citation)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link). The work is based on field research in the Greek villages in Mariupolis region. The expeditions were carried out in 2001–2004 and were organised by St. Petersburg State University