Parcharidis, Ioannis

1. Origins, family and early years

Ioannis Parcharidis was born in Trebizond in 1858. His father, a merchant from Kromni, traveled to Kerch of Crimea, but was unfortunate in his business; after he died prematurely, he left his family into a dire financial situation. Ioannis was only six years old and saw many privations in his school education, but the director of the Frontistirion of Trebizond, G.K. Papadopoulos, distinguishing “his sharpness and his other talents”,1 took him under his protection and patronage. Thus Parcharidis managed to conclude his studies at the Frontistirion, which, however, was not yet a proper gymnasium but had only three grades. Then he worked for two years at the village of Zisino at the valley of Of.

2. Acquaintance with M. Deffner

In the summer of 1876 Michael Deffner2 was sent to Trebizond by the Berlin Academy in order to study the Pontic dialect. There Parcharidis approached him and offered to help him in this study. Their meeting was a turning point in the life of the Pontic scholar. Deffner reports on that: “[He told me] that not only did he know the dialect of his homeland, but also the one of the Of region, much different than the first one, and that during his stay there he collected some songs and proverbs and started compiling a small glossary […]. I then recognized that the young man was quite aware of this kind of study and he was a capable connoisseur of ancient Greek, whereas his character gained my trust […]. Since then the young teacher spent much time of the day with me”.3

3. The Of adventure

In the framework of this collaboration Parcharidis made alone a linguistic research at Of, a region with an important number of Greek-speaking Muslims, notwithstanding the contrary advice of the governor of Trebizond Ahmet Rasim pasha towards Deffner: “The agitation of this province, he told me, is so great, that it is impossible to go there”.4 Initially he went to the village Zisino, where he believed he would not be in any danger, due to his former stay there as a teacher. After three weeks he decided to move to the hinterland, to the village of Saracho, because he learned that “the Greek dialect of the Muslim inhabitants of this village and of the ones around it was much different than that of the villages nearest to it”.5 However, he met there a hostile reception by some of the inhabitants, mainly by an ağa who accused him of being a Russian spy (a diplomatic crisis between the Ottomans and the Russians had broken out at that time and led to the war of 1877). Parcharidis thought it would be wiser to leave Saracho and to move to Solakli, from where he intended to sail for Trebizond. He would, however, arrive to his birthplace under escort, since he was arrested by the kaymakam of Solakli (Of) for espionage. Deffner and the Greek consul Napoleon Betsos had to mitigate for his freedom.

4. Studies

After Parcharidis’ adventure in Of, Deffner took him to Athens with him, offering him shelter and food, as well as the possibility to supplement his studies. According to Oikonomidis,6 the common elaboration of the linguistic material collected in Of was the repaying of Deffner’s help towards Parcharidis. Thus, between the autumn of 1876 and the summer of 1881, Parcharidis finished high school and studied for three years in the School of Philosophy, but returned to Trebizond before graduating. Our sources do not make clear why he interrupted his studies; nevertheless, right after he left Athens and for the four next years (school years 1881-1882 until 1884-1885), he directed the School of Trebizond. During this period he married and went again7 to Athens, where he passed the final exams of the university.

5. Educational and social activity

Parcharidis’ educational activity lasted for more than twenty years, covering almost half of his life. Apart from the two years teaching at the school of the village Zisino, and after, as a director of the School of Trebizond he graduated from the University, he continued his educational activity as a director of Greek schools in Rhodes (school year 1885-1886) and of the Maroulis’ boarding school at Serres (school year 1886-1887), whereas next year he taught at Larnaka. In 1888 he was again invited to his birthplace, where he served as a professor at the prestigious Frontistirion for two years. In 1890 he assumed its direction, a position he maintained until 1895, when the Athens University recognized the school as a gymnasium equal to the classical ones in Greece. Parcharidis continued teaching at the Frontistirion until 1904. As part of his educational activity he wrote a series of books for all the classes of the elementary school, which were to be used for at least twenty five years in the schools of Trebizond and of the villages of the city’s province. His activity was extended to Kromni, a place he loved as a second home. Having reanimated the Educational Association of Kromnians, he organized the schools there, in order to be financially independent and to offer free tuition to every student. Parcharidis, finally, occupied himself with other public works, such as the irrigation works at Kromni and the construction of the road to Gimora (Yomra).8

6. Collection of linguistic and ethnographical material - Works

In 1880 Parcharidis submitted his Grammar of the dialect of Trebizond (Grammatiki tis dialektou Trapezountos) to the linguistic competition of the Greek Philological Association of Constantinople. This study, although not completed, was eventually awarded. In 1879, and while he was studying at the University of Athens, he published an article at Parnassos journal entitled “Statistics of the Of province” (Statistiki tis eparchias Ofeos). Also, from 1881 until 1885 he collaborated with Th.E. Grammatikopoulos for the publication of the journal Astir tou Pontou; there he published pedagogic articles, folk tales of the Pontus, proverbs etc. Oikonomidis and Papadopoulos9 agree that his most important work was the collection of linguistic material from Trebizond, Kromni and Of, which makes him along with Periklis Triantafyllidis one of the most important researchers of the Pontic dialect and places him next to Ioannis Valavanis as a researcher of the so-called "living monuments". They, however, disagree about the final form this work took. According to Papadopoulos, the collection was delivered by Parcharidis to be published in the Archiv für mittel- und neugriechische Philologie of Michael Deffner, who, however, interrupted the publication of the series without publishing the collection.10 Instead, Oikonomidis believes that during the two years Parcharidis lived at the village of Zisino, he compiled his Of glossary, which was awarded by the Greek Philological Association of Constantinople. He also adds that “the Of glossary andthe Dictionary of the language of Trebizond, alleged to be Deffner’s works, are mostly, if not totally, a product of the work of the indefatigable I. Parcharidis”. Oikonomidis appears to infer11 that Deffner in a way stole Parcharidis’ work, something that would explain why the former suddenly abandoned Athens in 1881, before graduating from the university. Nevertheless, we have no more information considering this case.

Parcharidis died on January 17, 1910. The Educational Association of Kromnians buried him at the public expense, proclaiming him a grand benefactor. All the unions of the Greek community of Trebizond attended his funeral.

1. Οικονομίδης, Δ.Μ., «Βιογραφικό σημείωμα του Ιωάννη Παρχαρίδη», Ποντιακά Φύλλα 11 (1937), p. 5.

2. Deffner, Michael (Donauwörth in Bavaria 1848- Athens 1934): A German philologist, archaeologist and Hellenist. He settled in Athens in 1871. He worked as a lecturer of comparative linguistics at the University of Athens (1872-1878) and as an assistant director of the National Library (1877-1910). Under an order from the Berlin Academy he made linguistic researches, mainly in Tsakonia. He also made archaeological excavations at Methana and Skyros. He was the editor of Archiv für mittel- und neugriechische Philologie, of the German journal Bezzenberger’s Beiträge, as well as of the weekly Greek-German newspaper Νέα Ελλάς.

3. Δέφνερ, Μ., «Πέντε εβδομάδες παρά τοις αρνησιθρήσκοις εν Όφει», Εστία 4 (1877), p. 547.

4. Δέφνερ, Μ., «Πέντε εβδομάδες παρά τοις αρνησιθρήσκοις εν Όφει», Εστία 4 (1877), p. 547.

5. Δέφνερ, Μ., «Πέντε εβδομάδες παρά τοις αρνησιθρήσκοις εν Όφει», Εστία 4 (1877), p. 548.

6. Οικονομίδης, Δ.Μ., «Βιογραφικό σημείωμα του Ιωάννη Παρχαρίδη», Ποντιακά Φύλλα 11 (1937), p. 6.

7. The exact date of this trip is not reported by the sources examined.

8. A small city east of Trebizond.

9. Οικονομίδης, Δ.Μ., «Βιογραφικό σημείωμα του Ιωάννη Παρχαρίδη», Ποντιακά Φύλλα 11 (1937), p. 6; Παπαδόπουλος, Ά.Α., «Ιωάννου Παρχαρίδου Ποντικά Παραμύθια», Αρχείον Πόντου 16 (1951), p. 80.

10. However, he delivered his cards before 1915 at the “Archive of the Historical Dictionary” of the Academy of Athens. They were incorporated into the “Great Archive”.

11. It should be noted that D. Oikonomidis knew Parcharidis well. This is inferred by the introduction of his dissertation Lautlehre des Pontischen (Leipzig 1888, 2nd edition Leipzig 1908), where he writes: “Also my fellow citizen and my good friend I. Parcharidis offered me an Ophitic and a Trebizondian Dictionary, for which I thank him”. In a note he stresses that the “Ophitic glossary, published in 1880 in the Archiv für mittel- und eugriechische Philologie of M. Deffner” comes from Parcharidis himself (p. VI).