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Agios Efstratios (Saint Efstratios)

Geography

The island has an area of 44km2 and a coastline of 30km; it is in the heart of the North Aegean, southwest of Limnos. With a population of 371, it is offered for calm vacations. Picturesque beaches, rare geological formations, sea caves, small oak forests compose the natural environment of the island. The bird population of Agios Efstratios is of great interest that includes, among others, the Eleonora's falcon (Falco eleonorae), a migrant falcon. The tallest tops of the island are Lemoni Rachi (288m) and Simadi (298m).

History

The island was inhabited during the Prehistoric times (possible since the Early Bronze Age, 2800-1900 BC). Relics of antiquity have been found at the hills of Agios Minas, of Agios Alexios and Profitis Helias. According to a version, the island was named after Saint Efstratios, who came to the island from Vithynia at Byzantine Iconoclasm; he cloistered himself and died there. With a Golden Bull (chrysobull) of Byzantine emperor Basil II (976-1025), Agios Efstratios was granted to the Monastery of Great Lavra on Mount Athos and it was greatly developed. After a period of depopulation due to pirates' raids, the island was inhabited anew around the middle of the 16th century. Agios Efstratios was liberated on October 18th 1912, during the First Balkan War.

Exile land

Agios Efstratios was known for 4 decades as a land of exile. In 1928, the first prisoners, persecuted for political, but also criminal offenses, arrived. In the years 1936 -1948, the exiled reached 300 and they were all political prisoners. In the years 1948 – 1963, the exiled along with the guards-gendarmes reached 4.000 and lived separately from the locals in huts and tents. Among them were, Varnalis, poet Yannis Ritsos, Karouzos, actor Manos Katrakis, Patrikios, Liivaditis. Manos Katrakis put on the play "Perses" by Aeschylus.

Earthquake of 1968

In 1968, a strong earthquake hit the island that left 24 dead and 100 injured. The old settlement was almost completely destroyed and a new one was built where the locals had their orchards. The old settlement had approximately 500 houses, stone-built loggia resting on wooden columns, and many fine examples of neoclassical architecture in the northeastern Aegean. Among them stands Marasleios School, which was erected with funds of the expatriate community and operated as a primary school during 1912 -1968. Now it's being renovated to house the "Museum of Democracy".

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