«The village council of Karitsa came into being on Saturday 31 August 1912"

According to Karitsa folklore during the first period of Turkish rule, from 1453 to 1685, the original and head house of the village was the Tsembelis household. Unfortunately there is nothing in writing to support this.

The earliest known written record is one showing figures of the 1700 census by the Venetians. The census lists Carizza (Karitsa), Gierachi (Geraki) and Allupocori (Alepohori) along with 13 other neighbouring villages of
Territorio de Eleos Provincia di Laconia. From the census we learn that Karitsa of 300 years ago was made up of 37 families and 152 people, 83 male and 69 female. Four years later, in 1704, the province of Elos was disbanded and Karitsa was brought into the larger province of Mistras.

Another written record shows the administrative divisions by the Sultans during the second period of Turkish rule (1715-1820). We are informed that from 1780 onwards Karitsa belonged to a cluster of villages known as Kounoupohoria that were deemed to be wholly owned by the Sultan of the Court of Argos. In addition to Karitsa the cluster included the neighbouring villages and settlements of Kounoupia, Niohori, Giotsali, Mari, and Alepohori. This cluster of villages was under the administration of the Court of Argos.  Geraki was part of another group known as Glimbohoria.  Along with Geraki this group embraced Ai-Vasilis, Platanaki, Paliohori and Kosmas.

For many years before the revolution of 1821, at least as early as the 1720's and 1730's, a steady stream of Karitsiotes was leaving the village to settle in more well-off areas including Spetses, Astros of Kinouria, Gramousa and Molaous. Many of these would then assume the surname "Karitsiotis".  Hence people by that surname now living in the rest of Laconia and in Arcadia are all likely to trace their ancestry to Karitsa.  The most famous of these is Dimitrios Karitsiotis, a national benefactor, who was born in 1741 in Astros. He amassed great wealth in Trieste Italy and was a close collaborator of Rigas Fereos. 

Karitsiotes took part in the 1821 revolution for national liberation from Turkish rule and welcomed the first Governor of liberated Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias. The first demographic count in liberated Greece shows Karitsa inhabited by 20 families. In line with the ratios of the era we estimate that to be around 80 to 100 souls. If we were to accept the Venetian figures of 1700 and the figures of the first Greek census in 1830, we would draw the conclusion that within 130 years the village suffered a decrease of 17 families amounting to around 50% of the population. Undoubtedly, despite the steady exodus of villagers, one needs to be wary of such conclusions. It needs to be borne in mind that at that time the state apparatus was underdeveloped. Consequently the figures of the first Greek census may perhaps be incomplete. During the period of the Kapodistrias government the administrative division of Kounoupohoria was disbanded. Thus Karitsa discontinued its ties with Argos and was attached fully in the Prefecture of Laconia.

In the first subdivision of liberated Greece into administrative regions in 1833 councils could be formed by villages of 300 or more people. Clearly Karitsa did not qualify to have a council in its own right. In the new set up Karitsa, Alepohori, Velota, Vrondamas and Geraki joined together to form the municipality of Geronthres, which, in any case remained one of the smaller councils in Laconia. Records from that era show Karitsa to be a distance of two hours travelling time, on muleback or by donkey, from Geraki the capital of the new area council whilst nine hours was the denoted travelling time to Sparti, the capital of the prefecture of Laconia. Geraki identity, Dimitris Ikonomou, was elected Mayor. From then on, Geraki as the capital hosted the mayoral elections every four years. Regrettable behaviour, anger and threats unfortunately characterised the mood during these elections when voters from all four villages would converge on Geraki to vote. Karitsa folk along with those from Alepohori and Vrondamas would come down with flags, ribbons, banners, and bells and whistles showing open support for the candidate of their choice. The mayor at that time was considered to be the lord and master of his region. He would oversee and decide upon most community issues. As a result mayoral elections were of vital interest to all villagers.

Living essentially in a subsistence economy where bartering was the chief means of exchange, instead of demanding poll taxes mayors often required locals to work on community projects. Most often this involved opening up and repairing roads, paths and tracks and attending to water works such as taps for people's needs, troughs for livestock and digging irrigation ditches to share any leftover water among the village vegetable plots. In the 1840s for instance it was usual for the Mayor of Geronthres to require eight days work each year from all adult males of Karitsa for village works. Those with money were able to "pay off" their quota at the rate of three drachmas for each day owing.

Along with the civil reorganization of the fledgling state came the reorganization of dispute settling mechanisms and the court system.  Jury lists of the time included the names, municipalities and villages of those eligible to serve on jury panels in criminal courts.  Interestingly not one woman appears on the lists.  Details in the lists included the age, occupation and annual income of eligible jurors.  Thus in the list issued in Sparti by the Nomarch, K Dariotis, on 12 October 1855, out of 878 Laconians eligible to serve on juries, nine resided in the municipality of Geronthres, two of whom came from Karitsa.  They were:  Konstandinos Malavazos, land tiller, aged 60, with annual income of 900 drachmae; and, Anargiros Tsembelis, land owner, aged 48, with annual income of 500 drachmae.  In comparison the wealthiest resident in the area, Anagnostis Rafakos, a 55-year-old landowner from Alepohori declared an annual income of 1500 drachmae; while the doctor from Geraki, Ioannis Kalomiris, aged 60, had an income of 1000 drachmae. By the standards of the time an annual income of 500 drachmae was sufficient to adequately and comfortably meet the needs of a family of four.  Assuming Malavazos and Tsembelis to be among the better-off Karitsiotes one can only speculate on the scale of poverty and hardship among their less well off villagers.

Even though the four villages belonged to one council they each maintained separate birth registers for males. First on the Karitsa register is Georgios, son of Dimitris Tsembelis, born in 1841. We are not certain if birth registers existed before then. Records found only go as far as that.

In the years after the liberation we note a rapid growth in the population of the village.  From a book published in 1853 by Ioannis Ragavis we learn that at that time Karitsa had 34 dwellings and a population of 174.  In comparison neighbouring Alepohori had 44 dwellings and a population of 224 while the regional centre, Geraki, had 194 dwellings and a population of 906.  These figures show that within twenty or so years from 1830 to 1853 both the number of houses as well as the number of people in Karitsa doubled.  Significant increase in the population is also recorded in the next twenty-year period; in 1879 reaching 280.  Ten years later, though, the upward trend tapers off.  The 1889 census showed a slight increase of four souls with a population of 284. It is worth noting that a number of Karitsiotes had already started migrating overseas to the new world of the United States of America. In 1896, during the year of the rebirth of the Olympic Games in Athens, Karitsa showed figures of 327 people and in the following census of 1907 its population had risen to 354.

Hence during the 19th century we note a rapid increase in the population of Karitsa. Naturally this meant a corresponding increase in the number of dwellings and work-animals as well as in the need for water, gardens, vineyards, olive trees, stock animals, land for tilling, and land for grazing; all this within the confined and not so fertile Karitsa lands.

The table on the left shows the figures of the first census by the Venetians in 1700, the early censuses of liberated Greece, and the regular censuses of the 20th century, from 1920 onwards. Repercussions on the village brought about by such demographic changes will be discussed later.

1912 saw a general shake-up of local government in Greece. Most area councils throughout the land were done away with and replaced by village councils. In our region the Council of Geronthres was broken up into the village councils of Alepohori, Vrondamas, Geraki and Karitsa. Karitsa was recognised as a self-managed village council on Saturday 31 August 1912, an event welcomed and no doubt excitedly, wholeheartedly celebrated on the preceding Wednesday and Thursday during the Feast of “Agianniou”, the annual two-day festival in Karitsa on 28-29 August.

Old timers say that they had heard that a Hristos Tsembelis was elected village president of the newly established council. All in all, in the last century, some 14 presidents were elected or appointed to lead the various village councils. We do not have any written records for the period up to 1950. Unfortunately many records were destroyed on New Years Day of 1947. On that day rebel fighters torched nine houses in Karitsa. One of them was the home of the then village president, Leonidas Malavazos, who was holding all council records at home. Hence our information on village presidents is based on the fading recollections of older villagers. The table on the left lists those remembered to have served as village presidents since 1912. We are not totally certain that the first few are in correct time order.

Kostandinos Rozaklis, one of the earliest presidents of the village council, is regarded amongst the most memorable personalities of Karitsa. In addition to his contribution in civic matters, Rozaklis was a self taught verse writer committing in storylike poetry, in the simplest of language and wonderful Karitsa idioms, incidents that stirred the village either in joy or in grief. The village poet would end each of his creations with the tag, "O Piitis, Kapa Pi ke Rozaklis" (The Poet Kapa Pi and Rozaklis).

Ioannis Andoniou, president of the village at the time of the German and Italian occupation, was killed along with fellow-villagers Leonidas G Toundas and Leonidas H Toundas in 1944 near the Monastery of Elona by forces of EAM; Ethniko Apeleftherotiko Metopo (National Liberation Front). He is the only Karitsa president to have died during his term of office. At the time of the occupation the overwhelming bulk of Karitsiotes of all political persuasions supported the armed struggle and the contribution of all main resistance organisations. But whilst at the beginning the resistance organisations worked closely together, from the middle of 1943 and early 1994, as liberation was drawing closer, contradictions surfaced between groups. Such contradictions led to open rifts and civil war. The village, like Greece in general, came out of that ordeal deeply distressed. The loss of Andoniou along with that of a number of other fellow-villagers, from both sides, devastated and tore at the heart of the village.

Following the death of Andoniou, Leonidas Malavazos took over as village president. He held office for 11 years from 1944 to 1955. Malavazos was succeeded by Alexis Profiris until 1959.

Kostandinos Andoniou, the son of Athanasios, served as president from 6 May 1959 until 10 July 1968 when he was dismissed by order of the new dictatorial regime. Georgios Lambros was handpicked by the regime to serve as president for the next seven years. He was sworn in on 25 July 1968 and dismissed sometime in 1974 when the village schoolteacher, Kostandinos Giannakouras, was called upon to act in a caretaker capacity. It should be pointed out that despite the widespread unpopularity of the dictatorship Lambros was above reproach in his dealings with the villagers and kept their confidence even in the most testing times.

Kostandinos Giannakouras differs from all other presidents. He was in charge of the single teacher village school. He was not a Karitsiotis. Thus he stands alone as the only non-Karitsiotis to carry out the duties of village president. He was appointed by the dictatorship during its death throes, apparently as caretaker president until fresh elections could be arranged for a new village council.

Leonidas Katsambis was elected on 30 March 1975 and sworn in on 23 May. He was the first village president in the post-dictatorship period and had as his understudy the up and coming Panayiotis Andoniou.

Panayiotis Andoniou, or «Dimarxos» (Mayor) as he is affectionately known, took over as president in 1982. Andoniou  the longest serving president in the history of the village. He was elected four times in a row to four-year terms, carrying out the duties of president for 16 years without a break. He is considered by many as the most effective of all Karitsa presidents. For a long time during his years in office Andoniou benefited from the whole-hearted teamwork of council clerk, Mihalis Rigas.

In 1999, after 86 years of separate local government, Karitsa joined Alepohori, Kalithea and Geraki to make up a new modern council with a very ancient name Geronthres. Panayiotis Andoniou metaphorically handed over the baton to the first mayor of Geronthres, Lambros Vourvouriotis, and to all future successors with the hope and the expectation of all Karitsiotes that the developmental program continues. At the same time a new body, the three member local committee of Karitsa, comprising a local chairperson and two councillors was to be responsible for the upkeep of water supplies, roads and common land. It would also have responsibility for the management of grazing lands and fields. Everyone was optimistic a new leaf in the history of Karitsa had been turned over; a leaf with the most promising of prospects.  The present mayor (2003-2006) is Philippos Piliouras and the local committee of Karitsa is made up of Stelios Malavazos, chairperson, along with Karitsa councillors Stelios Hagias and Panayiotis Hagias.

Karitsa Families then and now

Families that have maintained a continuing presence in the village from the olden days to the present are: Andonis or Andoniou, Katsambis, Kritikos, Malavazos, Profiris (later Porfiris), Rigas, Rozaklis, Toundas, Tsembelis and Hagias.

Old families that are no longer represented in the village are: Vlahos, Vourvouriotis (later Lambros), Gramatikakis, Zaharakis, Kondogianis, Kourtesis, Ikonomopoulos, Giovanis, Triandafilos and Hronis.

Newer families that settled in the village or that have left after an extended stay:

Georgandonis Family
Mihalis Georgandonis came to Karitsa towards the end of the 19th century to marry Fotini, daughter of the village priest papa-Hronis.

Georgostathis Family
Hristos Georgostathis from Houni married Katingo Katsambis in the early fifties and settled permanently in Karitsa.  Their first son Nikos is the first Georgostathis to be recorded in the births register in 1955

Theodorakakos Family
The Theodorakakoses are originally from Agios Dimitris. Georgios came to marry Hrisoula Malavazou and they raised a large family in the village. First son in the register was Theodoros in 1924.

Mazis Family
The Mazises from Kalithea are the newest «immigrants» in the village. They settled in the last 30 years.

Stavrianos Family
The Stavrianoses came from Kosmas. Theodoros settled in the village when he married Karitsa girl Nikoleta Rigas. Their first son, Georgios, is the first Stavrianos recorded in the births register in 1923.

Tsolomitis Family
Georgios, from the neighbouring settlement of Velota, came to marry in the early years of the last century. In the 1960s another Tsolomitis, Yannis married Despina Tounda in the village and they raised a large family in Karitsa.

Tsipouras Family
Spiros Tsipouras came to the village via Sourbanou to marry Yianoula Kourtesi. Their eldest son Panayiotis was registered in 1936.

Heliotis Family
Thanasis was one of the shopkeepers and taverners in the village. All his family have left for good.

Piliouras Family
Georgios Piliouras married Thodoroula Malavazou and for about twenty years was a dual inhabitant of Kosmas during the summer months and Karitsa during winter. He migrated with his family to Adelaide Australia in the 1960's.

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