Endowments of the Viennese Greek Communities (18th-20th century)

In the last two decades, endowments have become a desideratum for the historical research as social and religious phenomena. Donors, as members of the various charity circles, are being considered as patrons of art, culture and education, but also social welfare. In addition, endowments are being integrated in a religious context, which is connected with memorial ceremonies and traditions of remembrance.

The archives of the two Greek Orthodox communities in Vienna - St. George's  brotherhood/community of the Ottoman subjects (since 1723/26) and the Holy Trinity's community of the Austrian subjects (since 1787) - have become accessible after a reconstruction and archiving of the documents during  the period 2005-2010. However, new ''unexplored'' material has been emerged since the first attempt (of the period ca. 1780 - 1918). Along with the individual/personal endowments and their documentation, three additional groups of documents can be added: the ''Poor people's fund'', the ''church fund'' and the ''school fund''.

Through this project, endowments are used as indicators for the construction of the donor's identification, but also as a senior strategy of the ''diaspora'' communities' members for their integration to the local society. Through this long period of research it is possible to observe the continuation as well as the changes and the breaks in endowments' practices along with their relationship to the socioeconomic modernization of Vienna. For the analysis of  endowments' practices' effect of the greek-orthodox merchants to the Viennese caring system and to the recipients in the Ottoman Empire and the other newborn states of South-East Europe, a microhistorical approach through case studies has been suggested. At the same time an approach has been attempted through the quantification and statistical evaluation of the large amount of material of the investment conditions, which were imposed by the Habsburg Administration to the endowments. Thus, it is expanded to the connection of the donors with the organizational structures of the communities which were managing the endowments, as well as with the State.

The project focuses on the interconfessional research of the memory function through the endowments' establishment and proposes a pioneer three-dimensional (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox) perspective of the European endowments' history in modern times.  The contacts with the Jewish and Islamic traditions are taken into consideration. Likewise, a focal point of the project is the comparison with other ethnic or religious groups - and their relevant endowment institutions - in the Habsburg Empire, as well as the valuation of the role postbyzantine and Ottoman traditions in the formation of the Viennese Greek endowments.

The main tasks of the project are, on the one hand to develop an interpretation of the European endowments' history, which is more integrated with intercultural transfers, on the other hand to examine the economical and social changes in Vienna from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century, focusing especially on the history of migration.