Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 17.COM 7.b.11

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Greece has nominated August 15th (Dekapentavgoustos) festivities in two Highland Communities of Northern Greece: Tranos Choros (Grand Dance) in Vlasti and Syrrako Festival (No. 01726) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The Tranos Choros (Grand Dance) and Syrrako festival are celebrated nationwide in Greece to commemorate the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. Historically, these Orthodox festivities originating in Vlasti and Syrrako marked the annual reunion of pastoral communities before the sheep or cattle farmers moved to their winter pastures. Although the population of most highland communities has greatly diminished, today the festivals are associated with the reunion of the communities whose inhabitants have migrated to cities. The main feature of both festivals are the ritualistic dances. For the Tranos Choros in Vlasti, dancers of all ages form a large open circle, holding hands and dancing to a slow and imposing rhythm while singing a cappella. In the Syrrako Festival, a band and singers accompany the dance. In the communities, youth learn the customs by watching the participants and preparations from an early age. Today, cultural organizations also play a key role in transmitting the dances and cultural context. The festivities are viewed as a celebration of both villages' identities, providing an opportunity for younger generations to connect with their cultural heritage. In Syrrako, the festival is also an opportunity for older villagers to speak their native language, Vlach, which is in gradual decline.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The Tranos Choros and Syrrako Festivals are performed on August 15, when the Orthodox Church celebrates the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (Theotokos). The element is celebrated nationwide with diverse dances and rituals. The bearers are the members of the two communities who are versed in the tradition, principles and formalities governing the two festivals. The knowledge and skills are transmitted within families and through the dance groups of cultural associations, which organize regular dance workshops. The festivals are a symbol of identity and enable the practitioners to retain bonds with their land of origin. It provides an opportunity for younger generations to meet, communicate and make friends, and to listen to and familiarize themselves with their ancestors' language (Vlach).

R.2:   At the local level, the festivals highlight the role of the Vlach language, which is in danger of extinction, as carrier of cultural meanings to the community. At the national level, inscription will enrich public debate on the protection of cultural heritage. It will also contribute to national self-awareness and a more pluralist narrative of Greek culture. At the international level, inscription will highlight the importance of preserving a ‘sense of belonging’ in adverse situations, which is particularly valuable for migrant or displaced populations. Inscription will also promote intangible cultural heritage in general as drivers and enablers of social cohesion and sustainability, while highlighting the elements of intangible cultural heritage of Vlach-speaking populations living in Southeast Europe.

R.3:   The nomination file provides information about past and current safeguarding measures, such as apprenticeships for the dance and song traditions of both communities, documentation and the publication of books and audio-visual materials. The State Party supported the safeguarding of the element through its inscription on the national inventory and by creating two ethnographic films and organizing an exhibition. The proposed safeguarding measures included transmission through initiation, non-formal and formal education, social media networks, research, documentation, enhancement and promotion. The State Party will also facilitate the implementation of the proposed measures and provide financial support for projects submitted by the communities concerned. The proposed safeguarding measures were prepared with the involvement of the communities and of the Vlatsiotes' and Syrrakiotes' Cultural Associations.

R.4:   The nomination file was prepared with the participation of representatives of the two communities as well as cultural associations and local authorities in both villages. The representatives of the Directorate of Modern Cultural Heritage were invited to share information about the 2003 Convention and the nomination process with the people in both villages. The villages' cultural associations and local authorities also invited the communities to work on the inscription of their element on the Greek National Inventory before preparing the nomination file. Fifty- six consent letters were submitted, including seven letters from the heads of respective Cultural Associations of the bearers' communities all over Greece, and three letters expressing the support of the local authorities from the two villages. There were also letters by older populations who have lived in the villages most of their lives, as well as by village youth.

R.5:   The element is included on the National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Greece, which is maintained by the Directorate of Modern Cultural Heritage, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports. Existing elements on the National Inventory are revised every six years after their initial inscription. Communities are also asked to document initiatives undertaken since the inscription and to update the safeguarding measures. New elements are inscribed every year, based on a three-step process.

  1. Decides to inscribe August 15th (Dekapentavgoustos) festivities in two Highland Communities of Northern Greece: Tranos Choros (Grand Dance) in Vlasti and Syrrako Festival on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for a file that highlights the role of intangible cultural heritage in fostering social cohesion and a sense of identity in small rural communities that are facing the challenges of migration and urbanization.