2016 | Nov
Dourgouti is a neighborhood that belongs to the City of Athens and specifically to the Neos Kosmos district (ΦΕΚ80Δ 4/2/1988). According to older residents (descendants of refugees from Asia Minor and internal migrants who themselves or their ancestors settled during the period 1922 to 1974), within the limits of the neighborhood one has to include the slum and the so called “Italika“. However, the neighborhood suffered major changes and acquired its present form in the mid-1970s.
Dourgouti is located in a very central point, 2 km from the center of Athens, Syntagma Square, and is easily accessible since many buses pass through Syggrou avenue. Moreover Dourgouti is served by the Metro network (stop “Neos Kosmos“) and the tram network (stops “Kasomouli” and “Neos Kosmos“). Also within the bounds of Dourgouti or in a small distance from this there are some uses of wider metropolitan importance which interact with the neighborhood such as the Intercontinental Hotel, Ethniki Asfalistiki, the Onassis Cultural Center and the Panteion University.
The movie “Magic City”
In 1954 the famous Greek director Nikos Koundouros filmed “his Magic City” in Dourgouti (Thanos 2015). Some of the characteristics of the neighborhood that newspaper reports (Photos 1 & 2) of that time mentioned for Dourgouti, are present at that movie. In particular, one can find there the shacks that were built next to each other resulting to a labyrinth-like structure of the neighborhood , the issue of space adequacy, the issue of lack of privacy since the public space was not sufficiently separated from the private as well as the sense of solidarity and mutual help among residents.
Photo 1: Newspaper article TA NEA, “Research in settlements. The needs of Dourgouti” (4/11/1948, 3)
Photo 2: Newspaper article TO VIMA, “The eternal unsolved housing problem. Thirty whole years living into wretched shacks” (8 /11/1952, 3)
The etymology of Dourgouti designation
According to the prevailing view, the name Dourgouti came from an Athenian family Dourgouti or Dourouti  who had owned land in the region (Zacharakis 2016). According to a resident the name of the neighborhood may be due to the manufacturer, founder of silk factory in Metaxourgeio, Dourouti who had estates in the region (Θάνος, Νικολαϊδης 2013).
The first settlers and the refugee character of the neighborhood (1920-1949)
Dourgouti is one of the settlements that were created “arbitrarily” in the early 1920s, in the sense that they were constructed by the refugees themselves, outside the official city plan. The refugees who did not have the financial ability– to be quartered either in homes (made of wood, brick) or in some of the refugee settlements  that were built by the state and its institutions , – settled in Dourgouti waiting the future inclusion of the area into the city plan  (Μπίρης 1999, 286, 322).
The first residents were Armenian refugees who resorted to Greece just before the Asia Minor Catastrophe. Before refugees settlement, the area was almost uninhabited and there were only farms (Photo 1). The Armenian element was maintained although many Armenians left for various reasons in the 1930s from the neighborhood towards the former Soviet Republic of Armenia (Εγκυκλοπαίδεια Πάπυρος Λαρούς Μπριτάνικα, 1986/1996, 299). The main reasons of the Armenian association with the area is of course the fact that the first residents of the neighborhood were Armenian refugees and also the foundation of the Armenian Catholic Church in 1925, which helped maintain the links that they had developed with the neighborhood (Αντωνίου 1995, 98).
In 1922 due to the Asia Minor Catastrophe in Dourgouti Greeks from various regions of Asia Minor (Smyrna, Aivali, Sully, Trapezounda, Sampsounta, etc.) but also from Constantinople settled in Dourgouti. The settlement of refugees in the area was not organized, because the shacks were built arbitrarily and not in the base of a design. In fact wherever there was empty space the refugees themselves used to build a shack. New waves of refugees continue at least until 1928. The result of this was the continuous expansion of the boundaries of Dourgouti with the construction of new shacks and the creation in a very short time of an entire settlement of shanty houses (a slum) (Παπαδοπούλου και Σαρηγιάννης 2006, 56-58, Leontidou 1989/2001, 156).
Map 1: Residents settlements
The first organized constructions the “Italika” and subsequently refugees apartment blocks of Welfare Ministry.
The “Italika” buildings were built in 1924 with money paid by Italy to Greece as war claims and so they took their name . They were a group of 24 single-storey houses in 6 rows. Approximately 100 families of refugees from Asia Minor (Greeks or Armenians) settled there (Θάνος, Νικολαϊδης 2013 & Μεγάλη Ελληνική Εγκυκλοπαίδεια, 386).
The “Italika” was stone-built and according to residents’ narratives they were better constructions compared to those in the shantytown. However the socio-economic profile of those who lived in these houses did not differ from that of the residents in shacks.
Since the mid-1930s the Welfare Ministry made a first attempt at clearing the settlement of the shacks with the construction of eight apartment blocks (Photos 3-5). According to Vassiliou (Βασιλείου 1944, 83) “Dourgouti with interesting constructions is the largest center with apartment buildings for refugees” . These blocks are the first ever constructed in the neighborhood and they constitute the group of the old apartment blocks of Dourgouti the neigborhood (Map 2). Despite the fact that some shacks were demolished, in order for the rebuilding to take place, there were still several shacks next to apartment buildings(Βασιλείου 1944, 78).
Photo 3: The first 4 of the apartment blocks for refugees that were built during the period 1935 to 1936 (Source: Myofa N. 2016)
Photo 4: This apartment block for refugees was built during the period 1938 to 1940 (Source: Myofa N. 2015)
Photo 5: This apartment block for refugees was built during the period 1938-1940 (Source: Myofa N. 2015)
Map 2: Relocations of one family of refugees from Asia Minor (narrator’s grandparents) from 1922 to 1940 (1st and 2nd generation). Settlement in the neighborhood, before the outbreak of the Second World War
Settlement of internal migrants at Dourgouti (1950-1974)
In the period from the end of Civil War until the early 1970s urbanization rates were very intense. Populations from different places of Greece abandon the rural areas for various reasons (civil war, job searching, etc.) and settle in the cities, especially in Athens (Maloutas 2003, 98). Natives from Ioannina, Evia, Ilia, Messinia, etc. seek for a shelter at Dourgouti (Maps 3, 8, 14). The new populations were being housed in shacks that had been abandoned from previous settlers mostly Armenians:
Map 3: Relocations of one family of internal migrants from Evia and settlement in a shack at Dourgouti. During the period of apartment buildings construction they relocated to Nea Smyrna and then returned to the neighborhood (1st and 2nd generation). The parents left from Dourgouti, after they had rented the apartment, in the 1970s, and settled in Porto Rafti
|“And then, an opportunity appeared, as an Armenian told [to my father] about a shack, that belongs to his relative who was going to leave for America, to buy it and to be close to each other. And indeed he bought for a very small amount. We hadn’t even seen it. We carried everything with a truck of that time, three wheels, and went. The first thing I saw was the number…” (Matina 10/12/2014).|
But the social profile of the neighborhood does not change because the internal migrants are also poor people:
|“Meanwhile, because there was poverty all around, they [migrants] were coming. They had already listened about Dourgouti, “lets go, there are houses to stay there.” And so poor men were coming, they were “sneaking” in a shack, not paying a rent […] and everbody who found the opportunity and could with the help of each other- with the help of each other everything got occupied! Armenians had not yet all gone” (Christina 3/11/2015).|
This continuous alternation of population in shacks was the reason that the program of shacks’ demolition and construction of new homes, for families that lived in, took so much time to be implemented (Παπαϊωάννου 1975, 56-57).
Program of “shantytown’s regeneration” in Dourgouti: Construction of public housing apartment blocks
Prime Minister George Papandreou with the slogan “Shacks’ death” in 1965 laid the foundations for apartment’s block construction at Dourgouti (See video with this particular issue by the Hellenic National Audio Visual Archive) with the demolition of shacks and “Italika” for housing refugees and internal migrants (Photo 6).
Photo 6: Newspaper article TO VIMA, “The Prime Minister founded a new settlement in Dourgouti” (10/6/1965, 1)
The implementation of the final program of the Welfare Ministry in the area began in 1967 and ended in 1971, in the period of dictatorship. According to residents of the neighborhood a census of residents at the shacks was preceded. The distribution of the 865 apartments to beneficiaries became after a draw that was taking into account the number of members of each family (Παπαϊωάννου 1975, 59, 83). It is noteworthy that, the construction of 12-storey building (Photo 7) has symbolic value because “this construction closes the issue of housing refugees“.
Photo 7: The 12-storey building at Sfiggos 8 street is the last construction of public housing that was built by the State for those who lived in shacks (Source: Myofa N. 2015)
This transition from shacks to apartment buildings despite the fact that it meant better housing conditions for residents, it brought about significant changes in other characteristics such as neighborhood’s social cohesion and the sense of solidarity among residents. One resident describes the changes that occurred in the neighborhood:
|“They changed since, the demolition of all of them and the construction of the apartment blocks, they came from Tavros here, from Kountourgioti […]And from Drapetsona […] And as you understand they had not the same outlook on life. The neighborhood broke down after that, spoiled!” (Vlasis 22/11/2014).|
As for Armenian refugees they did not belong to the apartment beneficiaries with the particular state program. Those who were not housed in a 4 storey building at the street Rene Puo 2 (Photo 8)- that was built with the assistance of the Armenian Catholic Church in 1958- relocated to other refugee neighborhoods at Karea, at Nea Smyrni and elsewhere in the greater Athens area (Αντωνίου 1995, 107).
Photo 8: The building of Rene Pyo 2 street was constructed to house the Armenians refugees who lived in shacks. Today apart from older residents also Armenians, who settled in the neighborhood over the next decades, housed there (Source: Myofa N. 2016)
Since the early 1980s new residents’ inflows in Dourgouti are observed, not as intense as in the previous period. New residents are– either Armenians from Syria, Iran, Livanon, or internal migrants from various parts of the country– settled in apartments they buy or rent from the owners, former beneficiaries of the Welfare Ministry. The new wave of Armenians (Maps 4 & 5), of this period, are settled in Dourgouti because of the strong hostorical ties with the neighborhood.
Map 4: Relocation of one family of Armenians from Iran directly to Dourgouti in 1986
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