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Municipality of Iraklia

Municipality of Iraklia

The city of Iraklia used to exist one kilometer further east of the current settlement and was called Tzoumaya. The city was completely destroyed during 1916 – 1918 due to the fact that it happened to be in the center of a sector of the Macedonian front during World War I, between the German-Bulgarians and the English-French. Most of the then inhabitants moved to Bulgaria and Serbia and upon their return in 1918 they settled in the current location of the city. The design concept adopted for the reconstruction of Tzoumaya was that of the garden cities prevailing in Europe, perhaps not by chance since the plans were made in the period 1919-1921 by the architect Dejon (probably French or Belgian) and supervised by Ebrard (English urban planner – architect). The Tzoumaya plan was the only one that was implemented in the context of the reconstruction of the settlements of Eastern Macedonia due to political developments at that time and probably because Tzoumaya was the most important settlement in the area at the time. The plans predate 1923, a year when many refugees were received due to the Asia Minor disaster (1922), and for whom a number of settlements were built on the edges of the old city for their settlement. The reconstruction of Tzoumaya actually began in 1929 after the issuance of a national loan.

The Municipality of Iraklia is the second in population after the Municipality of Serres and according to the last census of 2001 it has 13,173 inhabitants and 24,424 registered citizens. Its inhabitants are natives and refugees, while in terms of their origin they are local, Vlachs, Gypsies, Gagauz, Thracians, Pontians, Asia Minor, Sarakatsans and Roma.
From 1971 until the last census, there was a decrease in the population of our municipality by 2,300 people, which is mainly attributed to internal and external migration but also to the gradual decrease in the number of births. Indicatively, it is stated that while in the year 1991 we had 234 births, ten years later the number decreased to 220.

The headquarters of the Municipality, in all the years of its existence, had a population between 10,000 and 3,609 inhabitants which it has today, while at the same time it was a commercial center of the wider area for more than three hundred years. The declining course of agricultural income, as well as the mechanization of crops, significantly increased the migration flow. During the 70s and perhaps a little earlier, several residents immigrated to America, Australia, Canada, Germany, France and Belgium. Most immigrants of this period came left Chrysochorafa and Koimisi. These people succeeded with great effort in dominating the economic and social life of these countries, without, however, severing their ties with the homeland.
Two decades later, a new immigration wave is created by young people towards urban centers such as Thessaloniki, Athens and Serres. As a matter of fact, some of those who left in the 90s have returned, while there are others who are seasonal migrants to Rhodes and Crete. Today, it is estimated that our Municipality has around 11,251 non-residents.
The internal migration of the last decades has significantly weakened the region, not only because its total population has decreased, but mainly because most people migrating are young. Based on data published by the registry office referring to the people of the municipality of Iraklion, it is found that 19.5% of the people are between the ages 0-19 years old, 30% are 20-39 years old, 27.5% are 40-59 years old, while 23% are 60 years and above.
In recent years, efforts have been made through the grants and investment programs of the European Union to provide incentives for new people to return and give life to the area.

Iraklio has always been primarily agricultural and secondarily livestock. Productions such as corn, cotton and sugar beets form the basis of the local economy to this day, while approximately 70% of the population is engaged in agriculture as a main or supplementary occupation. Of course, given that Iraklia in the past was and is still to a point a commercial center of the region, there were not a few who were involved in trade, handicrafts and the tertiary sector of services.

Until about 1985, agriculture was the main occupation while households supplemented their income with the work of women in the local handicrafts and home crafts of clothes that reached about 70.

In recent years, however, there has been a reduction in agricultural income, and thus few are those who take the risk of farming the land. Indicative in this direction are the data of the Directorate of Agriculture of Serres which state that there were only 64 new farmers in the municipality in a period of 12 years (1993-2005). 
This had an impact on the local market as well. Shops and industries are closing. The craft industries, on the other hand, are languishing through the general crisis they are going through, due to production units relocating to countries with cheaper labor and low production costs, such as neighboring Bulgaria. Thus, of the 60-70 listed in the municipality, today not even 10% of them remain. This whole situation works as a deterrent for the youth who choose to move to urban centers to find work. 
New life to the economic of the region can be given by new crops (such as vetch, soybeans, lentils and beans) and utilization of its natural peculiarities and riches. Agritourism, for its part, has begun to take its first steps, especially in the area of Lithotopos, with the establishment of new hotel facilities, agritourism cooperatives and information centers. However, Iraklia’s strong card is its geothermal field. Not only new job posititions but also money saving (from space heating, crops, etc.) will significantly improve the quality of life of the residents.

The municipality of Iraklia is “multicultural” as it was the point of convergence and fermentation of traditions, morals and customs of residents of different origins and temperaments. The people of Iraklia have long been interested in saving their cultural heritage and that is why there were not a few who recorded the traditional wealth and way of life of the inhabitants of the municipality. Individuals and cultural clubs collect elements from the past, manage the traditions and try to pass them on. Today there are cultural clubs in Dasochori, Lithotopo, Limnochori, Chrysochorafa, Pontismeno, Koimisi and Heraklia. Also, DEPATI is coming to be added to cultural initiatives and more.
Irakla’s tradition in music, theater, cinema and literacy is never ending. Names such as “Paragkes”, “Kentrikon”, “Rex”, “Alexantros”, “Metanastis”, “‘Astron” evoke strong cinematic memories for the old-timers as the history of cinema in Iraklia begins long before the war and fades in the decade ’80. However, the “cinephile” public that remained, created the summer season of Iraklia, with over 1000 tickets per season. But when people hear of Iraklia, they think of its zournades. The craftsmanship of the zournatzides of Iraklia is unique, making them stand out not only in our country but also worldwide. It is also worth mentioning the festivals and celebrations of Iraklia, with the highlight being the great trade fair in August. People’s participation in each of the events above is more than encouraging. However, what is missing from Iraklia today is the warmth and enthusiasm of the youth that will once again make it a cultural cradle and will give it a new life.

The current settlement of Iraklia used to be called Tzoumagia during the 19th  century and until the beginning of the 20th. It was the most important town in the area and according to one version of the story, it had 5,506 inhabitants in 1913. It is also known that Koimisi was called Spatovo​​  and numbered 1,167 inhabitants in 1913, Valtero Barakli   with 711 inhabitants, and Dasochori  Ormanli, with 318 inhabitants, was called Pontismeno Erni-Kioi  with 631 inhabitants in 1920, Karperi  Elsianli  with 759 inhabitants, Lithotopos Kagiali  with 359 inhabitants and finally Chrysochorafa was called Chaznatar   and numbered 606 inhabitants in 1928 and Limnohori Kogchylia (Porlida)   with 216 inhabitants, while on the other hand its population was about twice as large (10,000 inhabitants in 1910)

 Tzoumagia had a normal street layout with wide and straight unpaved roads. For this reason, they got filled with mud during winter. In particular, the central square of the schools turned into a big swamp after the first autumn rains. Due to this fact, the square got named “Bara“.

The main squares of Tzoumagia were:

1) Bara square   (the school square) Around the square were the kazina ​​(large old school coffeehouses), one of which had a stage for a theater, while a hotel operated on the upper floor. Apart from the kazina, there were also other shops such as a patisserie, a grocery store, a ginhouse, etc.

2)  Tsesme square, around which were many shops, such as a cookhouse, inns (chania), etc. From the western   side, a covered street (portico) started, which was the covered market (with grocery stores, rope shops, etc.)

3)   Baluk bazaar square  , southwest of the covered market, where the fishmongers, butchers and fruitmongers used to gather.

4)   Asir bazaar square  , where mats, baskets, nets, etc. were sold.

5)  Att bazzar square was located east of the covered market on the south-west side of the city, where the animal trade was carried on. The square was surrounded by rich shops and large inns (chania), while in its center was the Police Station (Karakoli).

In addition to the central market squares, there were other public open spaces, which were used for gatherings and dances, such as Altantzi Square, Monia Square, Teneketzi Square, Tsai Square   (exoches), Mirades Square, and others.

Around 1903, all the central streets of Tzoumagia were paved with kalnterimia (cobblestones) following the order of the police commander of Tzoumagia to the street shopkeepers.