Yanaki and Milton Manaki

"Manaki" redirects here. For the international film festival, see Manaki Brothers Film Festival.
Yanaki and Milton Manaki
Native name Miltiade (Milton) and Ienache (Yanaki), Manachia (Manaki)[1] (Aromanian)
Born 1878 (Yanaki)
1882 (Milton)
Avdella, Monastir, Ottoman Empire
Died 1954 Thessaloniki, Greece
1964 Bitola, SR Macedonia, Yugoslavia
Occupation Filmmakers, photographers
Years active 1905 - 1964 [2]
Religion Eastern Orthodox

The Manaki brothers, Yanaki and Milton were photography and cinema pioneers who brought the first film camera and creating the first motion pictures on the Balkan Peninsula and in the Ottoman Empire. Their work was done in the city of Manastir (modern Bitola, Republic of Macedonia), an economic and cultural center of Ottoman Rumelia.[2] They started their film career with a 60-second documentary of their grandmother spinning and weaving entitled The Weavers;[3] this is regarded as the first motion picture shot in the Balkans.[4] The Manaki brothers did their work with a 35 mm Urban Bioscope camera that Yanaki Manaki imported from London.[5]

In 1904, the two Aromanian brothers[6] moved from their birthplace Avdella to the town of Manastir. One year later, they open their own atelier for photographic art.[7] After their work became known, in 1906 they received an invitation from King Carol I of Romania to participate in the Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition, where they won a gold medal for their collection.[8] Later, they become the official photographers of the Ottoman Sultan, and in 1929 to the King of Yugoslavia Alexander Karađorđević.[9] According to the memoirs of Milton Manaki, in 1905, his older brother traveled through several European capitals. In London, he bought a Bioscope 300 film camera from the Charles Urban Trading Company.[10] With this camera, they filmed their 114-year-old grandmother Despina; this was the first film shot in Southeastern Europe. The film was made only 10 years after the first Lumière brothers film, which influenced the brothers.[11] Living in a time of transition from the 19th to 20th century, during the Ilinden Uprising, the Balkan Wars, and the First World War, the development of Manastir as a consulate and military center of the Ottoman Empire, the brothers Manaki with their films helped to record these historical events.[12]

Yanaki and Milton recorded a number of films, mostly documentaries about various aspects of life in the city of Manastir.[12] Apart from their activity in filmmaking and photography, in 1921 they built an outdoor cinema named "Manaki" on the main street Shirok Sokak.[13] They later transformed it into a movie theater; which was destroyed in 1939 in a fire.[13]

The National Archive of the Republic of Macedonia preserves more than 17,000 photos and over 2000 meters of movie film frоm the brothers Manaki.[14] They left a rich legacy of important documentary value of the historical and cultural development of Eastern Europe. In their honor the Manaki Brothers Film Festival is held every year.[15]


Early life

The brothers were born in the village of Avdella near the town of Gerebena (modern Grevena, Greece), in the Ottoman Empire. Milton Manaki was born in 1882 and Yanaki was born in 1878 into a wealthy Aromanian family of land owners. Their parents were well-off livestock dealers and lenders. In the 1860s, the area became a center of the Romanian national movement among the Aromanians,[16] in which their father Dimitrios was involved,[17] and to some extent the brothers developed a sense of Aromanian identity.[18][19][20] They both attended Romanian elementary school in their birthplace. After that, Milton studied at the Romanian high school in Yanya (modern Ioannina) and Yanaki at the Romanian high school in Manastir. Yanaki showed great signs of interest for painting, calligraphy, and photography during his high school years. Milton, not engaged by school, dropped out of high school after completing his first year. His parents then sent him to Gerebena to learn a craft, but he left that and returned home, where he was supported by his parents. Having a high school education, Yanaki worked as a teacher.

Career in photography and film

Portrait of Yanaki Manaki in his photographic studio.
Golden medal certificate won by the Manaki brothers in Romania by the king Carol.
The Manaki Brothers Studio after being bombed in 1916.
Poster from a Manaki brothers film.
Milton Manaki filming with Bioscope Camera 300 in a valley near Manastir.

Yanaki was employed as an art teacher in a Romanian school in Yanya. Here he opened his first photographic studio in 1898, where he asked his brother to go along and learn photography. Manaki gained interest for photography and quickly achieved to learn the craft. At this time in a number of negotiations, Yanaki managed to buy a plot on the main street of the capital of the Rumelia Eyalet and the Vilayet of Monastir, Manastir. In 1904 both brothers got working on the construction of their independent workshop named Atelier for Photographic Art. In 1905, Yanaki moved permanently to Manastir and opted for permanent residence in the city. Milton at first worked as a cleaner in the studio, maintaining the equipment. But later he started to study photography and quickly became a "master of photography". At this time, it is assumed that Milton started participating in the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. Here he made around 50 photographs of Aromanian revolutionaries in the organization. Besides that, it is believed that he also helped transport arms from Albania to Macedonia in the 2nd Revolutionary Committee of Bitola.

The Manaki's had a passion to travel. They traveled separately through many of the European capitals. When the brothers went together to Bucharest in 1905, they were told that film cameras could be purchased in London. Interested in the idea, while traveling in Paris and then Vienna, Yanaki made a quick stop in England, where he bought a Bioscope 300 camera from Charles Urban.

In 1906, during a second visit to Romania under the official invitation of the king Carol I of Romania, they attended a photographic contest held from the 5–12 November 1906. In this contest, they won a golden and a silver medal for their work. With this achievement, they were named Official Photographs of the Romanian King. The brothers traveled in the region to take photographs, mostly in Aromanian-populated villages. Parallel to their photography work, the brothers started filming their first documentaries. During the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 and 1909, they took around 450 photographs and a short film, recording every significant event of that period. In 1909, they filmed the arrival of the royal Romanian delegation in Manastir and made a series of photographs of this event. They also filmed the visit of the Turkish Sultan Mehmed V to Manastir in 1911. For this purpose, Milton traveled to Thessaloniki where at the port he recorded the arrival of the Sultan by boat, then his journey by train on the route Selanik-Manastir, his reception on the railway station in Manastir, as well as events held in honor of the visit of the Sultan. The same year they were honored as Official Photographs of the Ottoman Sultan.

On October 18, 1912, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece started the First Balkan War, and in 1913 with the Treaty of Bucharest the town of Manastir where the Manaki brothers lived was occupied by the Serbian army on the 6th November 1912. In this period Milton and Yanaki made over 200 photographs capturing this events. Besides the great number of portraits of Serbian officers and soldiers, they photographed important political figures of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

In early 1914, Milton Manaki made a trip to Grevena and Advella to see his parents and relatives. After returning home he was recruited by the Serbian armed forces, but he was soon released as an account of his contacts with the high Serbian authorities. Their work reduced in the period from 1914 to 1915 because of the conflicts and wars happening at that time. Then being in a financial trouble the brothers started borrowing money from different clients. During period with the withdrawal of the Serbian army from Bitola and the coming of the Bulgarian officers in an inspection of the atelier the Bulgarians found three shotguns that Milton had bought. This resulted with Yanaki being interned in Bulgaria. Yanaki bought property in the Bulgarian village Straja and started breeding horses. Because of the bombing of Bitola in the First World War Milton constantly traveled through Korçë to Thessaloniki.

In 1916 the photography work revives for a short period when Bulgarian and German officers started to be clients in the atelier. In this period Milton made a wide range of portraits from Bulgarian, German, Serbian, French, Italian officers and soldiers and Russian volunteers. But in the second half of 1916 the city of Bitola was again occupied by Serbian and French soldiers. This resulted with the bombing of the city by German and Bulgarian forces. The bombings struck the atelier of the Manaki brothers which destroyed their camera and other equipment. In 1919 Milton and Yanaki, who returned from internment in Bulgaria, with a collaborative effort retired the destroyed atelier and started with their work.

As a new source for existence in 1921 the two brothers make a decision to expand their activity in cinema. For this purpose they bought а film projector and made an outdoor cinema on the Shirok Sokak street. With few efforts and some difficulties in 1923 they open the first movie theater in Bitola called "Manaki". Their next movies included the multiple greetings of Alexander I of Yugoslavia to Bitola, the gratitude giving to the lost French and Serbian soldiers, the 1922 explosion in Bitola, the wedding of Petar Gerass, and the wedding of the first Macedonian artist Risto Zerda in Prilep.

In 1928 the Manaki brothers sent a letter to the Marshal of the Serbian Royal Court with an appeal to be named as official royal photographers by the credibility they had as photographers of the Romanian king and Ottoman sultan. Their request was accepted and in 1929 they were invited by the office of the royal court.

In 1935 Milton married Aromanian compatriot Vasiliki Dauka and their son Leonid was born on 10 May the same year. In 1937 Yanaki left and Milton was left to work alone as a photographer. In 1940 he made one of his most famous documentaries titled The Bombing of Bitola. During the World War II the area was annexed by Kingdom of Bulgaria and Milton searched from the authorities to be given a license to work as a photographer. After he got it he remained with his work and made over 1200 photographs. On the 4th November 1944 the Yugoslav Partisans took over Bitola after retreating Germans. The entering of the Partisans in the town was caught on camera by Milton as an important historical collection of photographs. In this period Milton made around 5000 photographs of many themes: politics, weddings, armed forces, sport etc. As the most important photosmade by him in this time were considered the entering of Josip Broz Tito in Bitola.

Later life

Yanaki Manaki in 1935 leaves photography and moves to Thessaloniki, Greece where he remains for the rest of his life. Milton Manaki in a number of negotiations achieved to sell all of his 1500-meter film footage to the government of SR Macedonia for 1 000 000 dinars. He also worked with the Cinematique of Yugoslavia in Belgrade. After duplicating, all of the Manaki brothers movies were returned to Milton in 1954. Milton continued to work with authority institutions until his death giving them required photographs or film footage. As the first filmmaker in the region in 1957 the Organization of Yugoslav Film Makers made him an honored member. Zagreb Film made a documentary film about Milton's work and career in 1958. At this time the National Technique of Macedonia awarded him with memory diploma. Milton remained in Bitola, Yugoslavia till his death in 1964.


Film Year Running time Theme Milton Yanaki
Grandmother Despina 1905 60 seconds weaving Yes Yes
Weavers 1905 60 seconds weaving Yes Yes
Outdoor School 1905 120 seconds school Yes Yes
Parade of Military Band, Carriages and Horsemen 1908 60 seconds Young Turk Revolution Yes Yes
Events marking Hurriyet 1908 120 seconds Young Turk Revolution Yes Yes
Turks Hold Speech 1908 120 seconds Young Turk Revolution Yes Yes
Parade to Mark Hurriyet 1908 4 minutes Young Turk Revolution Yes Yes
Manifestations (With Greek Inscriptions) 1908 60 seconds Young Turk Revolution Yes Yes
Events Marking the Young Turk Revolution 1908 120 seconds Young Turk Revolution Yes Yes
The Funeral of the Metropolitan Aimilianos of Gravena 1911 6 minutes funeral Yes Yes
Panorama of Grevena 1911 60 seconds Grevena Yes Yes
Romanian Delegation Visiting Bitola, Gopesh, Resen 1911 120 seconds Yes Yes
Turkish Sultan Mehmed V Reshad Visiting Bitola 1911 16 minutes Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V Yes ??
Church in grevena 1911 60 seconds Grevena Yes Yes
Alexander Karađorđević Visiting Bitola 1912 4 minutes Alexander I of Yugoslavia Yes Yes
Opening the City Restaurant in Bitola 1912 120 seconds Bitola Yes Yes
Welcoming of the Greek King and Heir to the Throne Paul by General Bojovic, in Bitola 1912 60 seconds Paul of Greece Yes Yes
Bombing of Bitola 1940 unknown World War II Yes
Entering of the National Liberation Army in Bitola 1944 unknown World War II, Socialist Yugoslavia Yes
Greeting of Tito in Bitola 1963 20 minutes Josip Broz Tito Yes
Source: Cinematheque of Macedonia


Statue in honor of Milton Manaki in Bitola.

The Manaki brothers are regarded as the starters of the cinematography in many countries, but in general - the Balkans. The films that they made mark the start of ethnographic documentary in the Balkans.[21] They are credited for perpetuating the notable historical event happening on the Balkan and the Macedonia region in the time before, during and in between the First and Second World War.[12] Their work is mostly concentrated in the film archives of the Republic of Macedonia and Greece.[14][21] Some amount of their film footage and photographs has been lost or destroyed in the bombing of their studio in 1916 and the burning of their theater in 1939.

The plot of Theo Angelopoulos's film Ulysses' Gaze revolves around the fictional and metaphoric quest for a lost, undeveloped reel of film taken by the Manaki brothers before the Balkans were split by the forces of nationalism. It opens with the images of their grandmother spinning wool. The first documentary about the Manaki brothers was from Zagreb Film in 1958, and in 1988 a Greek-language documentary was released.[22]

In their honor in the hometown of Bitola where Milton Manaki resided for 60 years until his death, the Manaki Brothers Film Festival was first organized on 21 May 1950. The main winner prize of the festival is the Golden Camera 300 named in honor of the legendary camera of the Manaki's.[15] The "Manaki Brothers" is the main and oldest film festival in the Republic of Macedonia and former SFR Yugoslavia. In 2011 the local government announced the restoration of the Manaki Brothers Film Theater on the Shirok Sokak street that was destroyed in a fire in 1939.[13][23][24][25] In 2012 the Cinematheque of Macedonia announced that the Manaki brothers films will be put under restoration and digitizing.[26]

Further reading

  1. Lumina, №10 festival, Octombrie 1905, p. 304, # 84.
  2. Milton Manaki: first filmmaker on the Balkans;
  3. Yanaki Manaki: pioneer of photography and cinematography;
  4. Distinguished people for Bitola, ISBN 998927830X, NUUB St. Clement of Ohrid, Bitola, 2007, page 124 and page 126;
  1. Macedonian National Archives - Brothers manaki;
  2. Macedonian National Archives, Igor Stardelov - Milton Manaki;
  3. Unet - Biography of Milton and Yanaki Manaki;
  4. Distinguished people for Bitola, ISBN 998927830X, NUUB St. Clement of Ohrid, Bitola, 2007, page 124 and page 126;
  5. Balkan Border Crossings: First Annual of the Konitsa Summer School, Border Crossings Network, ISBN 3825809188, LIT Verlag Münster, 2008;
  6. Manaki Brother Film Festival - Biography of Milton and Yanaki Manaki;
  7. Journal of Film Preservation, Preservation of Manaki Brothers Film Heritage;
  1. Milton Manaki: first filmmaker on the Balkans;
  2. Yanaki Manaki: pioneer of photography and cinematography;
  3. Macedonian National Archives - Brothers manaki;
  4. Macedonian National Archives, Igor Stardelov - Milton Manaki;


  1. Manakia Bros: Pioneers of Balkan Cinema, Claimed by Six Nations, Marian Tutui, Romanian Film Archive.
  2. 1 2 Macedonia, 4th Edition, Thammy Evans, Bradt Guides, 2004; page 207
  3. Filmland Griechenland - Terra incognita: griechische, Elene Psoma, Logos Verlag Berlin GmbH, 2008, ISBN 3832516182, S. 23. (Ger.)
  4. Katerina Zacharia, "'Reel' Hellenisms: Perceptions of Greece in Greek Cinema" in Katerina Zacharia, Hellenisms, p. 323
  5. Vecer Online - One century of the Macedonian seventh art (Macedonian)
  6. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Macedonia, Historical Dictionaries of Europe, Dimitar Bechev, Scarecrow Press, 2009, ISBN 0810862956, p. 234.
  7. Kolektiv, Distinguished people for Bitola, NUUB St. Clement of Ohrid, Bitola, 2007, page 123
  8. "In 1906 the brothers participated in a big exhibition in Romania, from where they return with a golden medal"
    Makedonska Nacija - Biography of Milton Manaki. (Macedonian)
  9. Po povod Manaki, Tomislav Osmanli, Skopje, 2006, page 27
  10. "Moving through the European capitals Yanaki stays a short time in London where he finds what he was searching for. That was a historical event for him, and he buys the Bioscope 300 camera from Charles Urban Trading."
    Makedonska Nacija - Yanaki Manaki pioneer in the Balkan's photography and cinematography. (Macedonian)
  11. The Cosmopolit - The Manaki Brothers
  12. 1 2 3 Utrinski Newspaper - Archive monument from the creation of the Manaki's
  13. 1 2 3 Loza - article on the "Cinema of the Brothers Manaki" (Macedonian)
  14. 1 2 Journal of Film Preservation, page 27
  15. 1 2 The official website of the festival in Macedonian and English.
  16. Rethinking Violence: States and Non-State Actors in Conflict, Erica Chenoweth, Adria Lawrence, MIT Press, 2010, ISBN 0262014203, p. 105.
  17. Christodoulou, Christos K., "The Manakis brothers, the Greek pioneers of the Balkan cinema", Organization for the Cultural Capital of Europe Thessaloniki 1997, p. 33.
  18. Cinema of flames: Balkan film, culture and the media, Dina Iordanova, British Film Institute, 2001, ISBN 9780851708485, p. 213.
  19. The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film, Ian Aitken, Routledge, 2013, ISBN 0415596424, p. 71.
  20. According to Jane K. Cowan (University of Sussex) "Fixing National Subjects in 1920’s Southern Balkans": Born in the 1880s as Ottoman subjects, they were the sons of a bourgeois, multilingual Vlach family... By the 1860s, long before their birth, the boys’ father, Dimitrios, had become attracted to the Romanian national movement. As a young teacher in the early years of the new century, Yannakis also became involved in the Romanian national movement which emerged in Avdela... Both brothers allegedly supported 'Balkan Federation'. For years, they lived peripatetically between Avdela, Yannina, Bitola, Plovdiv, Bucharest, and London. But ultimately, national borders rigidified and separated them for good... Yannakis died in Salonika in 1954 a Greek citizen, while his brother Miltos died in Monastir (now Bitola) a Yugoslav citizen."
  21. 1 2 History of Greek Cinema - Manaki Brothera - page 4, Vrasidas Karalis, 2002 ISBN 1441194479
  22. Marian Tutui, Romanian Film Archive, Manakia Bros Pioneers of Balkan Cinema claimed by six nations. Balkan cinema versus cinema of the Balkan nations.
  23. Build.MK - Restoration of the Manaki film theater. (01.05.2013
  24. Dnevnik (Skopje)-Bitola will re-build the Manaki cinema. (23.11.2012)
  25. Zurnal.MK - Manki cinema to be rebuilt in Bitola. (20.03.2013)
  26. Dnevnik - Digitizing of Manaki brothers films. (30.08.2012)
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