Monday, April 30, 2007


The other day, on the eve of ANZAC Day, I saw an advertisement on television that read as follows: “They fought, not for King, not for Country, but for their mates.” This of course, is a novel twenty-first century spin on a defining myth of national identity. So powerful is the emphasis on ‘mateship’ as deriving from the ANZAC tradition and exemplifying the supposed very best of the Australian character, through the weaving together of such strands as Simpson and his donkey in order to create an enduring legend, that the august Prime Minister ventured to have it enshrined for all time in our Constitution.
Myths of mateship aside, the ANZACS fought at Gallipoli, a Greek peninsula ethnically cleansed of its Greek inhabitants by the Ottomans at the instigation of their German advisers Colonel Liman von Sanders and Ambassador Wangenheim, because Australia was an enthusiastic and patriotic component of the British Empire, which was embroiled in a World War. The Australians fought willingly in what the spin doctors of the time termed “the Great War for Civilisation,” because “Teutonic barbarism” had to be stopped and the world made safe for benign monarchies like the British Empire. Barely having been given self-government some thirteen years previously, Australians went to war to serve British strategic interests, in the firm belief that these were also there own.
Gallipoli is the Australian Thermopylae, a place where Australians distinguished themselves through their valour and ingenuity, thus permitting the creation of cultural stereotypes to boost the self-esteem of a young nation, even though their efforts were ultimately futile and absolutely useless in serving their military aim: the capture of Constantinople. For the Turks, the battle is seen as one of the finest and bravest moments in the history of the Turkish people - a final surge in the defense of the motherland as the centuries-old Ottoman Empire was crumbling; which laid the grounds for the so-called Turkish War of Independence and the foundation of the new Turkish Republic eight years later, led by Atatürk, a commander in Gallipoli himself.
This is significant because the Gallipoli campaign could, according to scholars, have been the catalyst not only for the creation of the Turkish republic and the Australian national identity, but also the first genocide of the twentieth century. According to an essay by Robert Manne, Professor of Politics at LaTrobe University in ‘The Monthly’ magazine, what the Turkish genocide of the Armenians (and in parallel that of the Pontians and Assyrians) and the battle of Gallipoli have in common is that they started on almost the same day, within a few hundred kilometres of each other. He poses the question, one which is pertinent considering blatant attempts to recast the Ottomans as Turks and in that guise, as an ‘honourable enemy’ in a manner not attempted with Australia’s other historical military opponents, such as the Germans, Japanese and Vietnamese, why we don’t know this as a nation and why Australian historians and literati have apparently never made the connection between the two events, except for Les Murray, who used Armenian genocide victim Atom Yarjanian’s poem: ‘In shock I slammed my shutters like a storm,/ Turned to the one gone, asked: ‘These eyes of mine/ How shall I dig them out, how shall I, how?’ in his work ‘Fredy Neptune.’
In “The Monthly,” and more recently on ANC Radio, Professor Robert Manne, explains that “in 1915, the Ottoman Government began one of the first really systematic genocides in history, certainly of the twentieth century. And within a year or so, perhaps one million Armenians had been killed because they were a Christian minority in the Muslim Ottoman Empire, which was in its point of crisis. And there’d been persecution for a long time, but this the attempt to eliminate a people.”
The genocide of the Christian peoples of Anatolia has been consistently denied by the Turkish government. As Professor Robert Manne posits: “The Turkish Government has always utterly denied that a genocide took place, although they admit that some massacres took place. But the largely blame the Armenians for that saying they were a rebellious,subversive element at a time of wartime crisis. But it's at the heartof Turkish identity to deny the meaning and the reality of that genocide.”
Of course, the fact that modern day Turkey is a vast economy of some seventy-two or so million people that pays lip-service to Democracy and is, apart fromIsrael, the only non-Arab ‘democratic’ state in the Middle East, could possibly explain why the West would be willing to overlook a painfully obvious crime that inspired Hitler to perpetrate the Holocaust, famously remarking “Who remembers the Armenians?” Realpolitik is also compounded by the difficulty the West would experience in sympathising with such Middle Eastern peoples with unpronounceable names as the Pontians, Armenians and Assyrians, to be paralleled with the outpouring of grief and sympathy for the thirty three senselessly slain victims of the Virginia Tech massacre compared with the relative indifference displayed by the West to the partly western-incited deaths of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq.
The inconsistency of such indifference has not escaped Professor Robert Manne, who stated to the ABC: “It seems to me the strangest thing. We have Anzac Day as April the 25th 1915 is remembered; the Armenians have April the 24th 1915 astheir day of mourning, which they take to be the beginning of the genocide. The two events not only coincided in territory and in time, but thereis quite a lot of evidence that the genocide was pushed on because ofthe Dardanelle campaign of the Anglo-French forces in which theAustralians were involved.
So despite the fact that the things happened at the same time and inthe same place more or less, and they were even kind of connectedwith a causal link, I looked through book after book about Gallipoli,and there's no end of books that Australians have written about it,and virtually none of them mention it for more than a passingparagraphs or a couple of lines”.
Yet as Professor Manne states, the evidence linking the two events, seems to be incontrovertible: “[T]here are some contemporary historians, there's awonderful Turkish historian, Tanner Akcam, who think that when theGallipoli campaign began, or when the Dardanelles were first bombedby the Anglo-French in March 1915, that was the final moment ofreckoning, and that the Turkish regime, which was run by two or threeyoung Turks were the dominant figures, they set upon and decided on asystematic extermination of the Armenians, saying that at this momentof crisis, where Constantinople might fall, we can't afford to have asubversive minority within our country.
So, the Dardanelle campaign and the Gallipoli landings pushed on andmaybe not exactly caused, but at least triggered the final eventsthat led to the genocide…. My point is how strange it is that the event that'sreally by far the most important historical event in the nationalimaginary in Australia, which is the Gallipoli campaign, ourhistorians have never thought to ask the obvious questions about theconnection between the two events, or even to comment on the factthat the two events took place at the same time.Apart from the poet Les Murray, I've not come across an Australianwriter who's really thought imaginatively about the connection of thetwo events in whatever they've written.”
The causal link between the two events is further cemented when one considers that just twenty days after the Gallipoli landing, on 14 May 1914, Talaat Pasha, a member of the ruling Young Turk triumvirate ordered the forcible evacuation of all Greek settlements on the Dardenelles as far as Kyssos and the re-settlement of the region with Muslim refugees from the Balkans: “For political reasons it is urgently necessary that the Greek inhabitants of the coast of Asia Minor are forced to abandon their villages… If they refuse to move… please give oral instructions to Muslim brothers how to force the Greeks to remove themselves ‘voluntarily’ by any means possible. In that case, don’t forget to obtain confirmations from them that they are abandoning their homes of their own free will.”

Consequently, in May and June 1914, there were massacres of Greeks in Erythrae and Phocaea in Ionia, while in Pergamon on 27 May 1914, the Greeks were given just two hours to leave the city. This ethnic cleansing, along with the simultaneous massacres of Armenians and those of the Assyrians in inaccessible areas such as the mountains of Hakkari, were widely reported by diplomatic personnel and missionaries. U.S Ambassador Morgenthau, who had the ear of the Young Turk Pashas and was also privy to their boasting about what they would do to the Christians in their realm, was one of the first to link ethnic cleansing with the Gallipoli landings in his memoirs. Arnold Toynbee, who worked for the British secret service wrote as early as 1915: “The scheme was nothing less than the extirmination of the whole Christian population within the Ottoman borders…”
As always, there was no mention of the millions of innocent Christian victims of bungled western policy in this year’s ANZAC Day commemoration. Nor was there any mention of the thousands of Greeks who assisted and nursed wounded Australian soldiers from Gallipoli on the island of Lemnos. Homage instead, was paid to that ‘honourable enemy army’ that, upon German instruction, cleansed the coastline of its Christian inhabitants in order to better defend it against the ANZACS and who, as the campaign dragged on, engaged in their wholesale slaughter.
But then again, Gallipoli was never about justice, or historical fact. It is a national myth within the confines of which other people, especially vicitms of its aftermath who may sully the noble pure page of its epic with their blood, have absolutely no place. In the words of Robert Manne:
“… I think always Gallipoli has been tied up with identity andalmost never been really connected to a kind of interest in thehistory of the First World War, let alone an interest in the OttomanEmpire. And so it's not really pessimism so much as kind of trying toidentify the difference between history and myth, that I think it'llnever become a matter of great interest in Australia, except perhapsfor some intellectuals…. The historians that move time and again backto Gallipoli, I think, are driven by the interests of myth. Even ifthey want to revise the story, what they're doing is revising themyth. But they're not really interested in the kind of overallhistorical questions that are connected to it.”
Rest in peace, our slaughtered ancestral lambs. In the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will carry on your names. LEST WE FORGET.


First published in NKEE on 30 April 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007


In the mid-summer of 1999, I was sitting on a balcony of an apartment in Ambelokipoi, uncharacteristically sipping a frappe, totally engrossed in the footage displayed on the television screen by an obscure local channel. A motley group of persons holding up Greek flags that displayed a phoenix at their centre were clapping, as a casket was being lowered into the ground. Were they clapping because they were glad to have safely disposed of a potentially occupation and safety hazard according to the regulations, or was this indeed their way of honouring the occupant of the sarcophagus? I sighed, scratched my leg and took another sip of my frappe, changing the channel to MAD in order to appreciate Madonna singing ‘Beautiful Stanger’ in the company of Austin Powers. It was only later that day when I chanced upon some strangely unrepentant juntists, (strange as they had all been born after the fall of the Greek Junta) that I discovered that I had been witnessing the final chapter of a most bizarre period in Greek history: the funeral of the 1967 coup leader, Giorgos Papadopoulos.
Indeed, such indolently indulgent behaviour as that aforementioned would not at all have been possible some thirty or so years previously. For it was then, on 21 April 1967 that the «εθνοσωτήριος επανάστασις» (nation-saving revolution) took place, ostensibly to make Greece safe for democracy. Greece had enjoyed a stormy period of political turmoil after the close of the Civil War. Governments rose and fell at whim, the more liberal and democratic politicians were perpetually squabbling with the King and the reactionary right, who were determined to perpetually marginalise those elements of society that fought on the wrong side in the Civil War and cement their rule over Greece through any means, constitutional or not. Sections of the military with Colonel Giorgos Papadopoulos at their head, had, in the heady years immediately prior to the coup, made various intricate plans to seize power, while the young and inexperienced King too, had made plans to subvert the Constitution, replacing elected governments with other more compliant ones of his own liking, plunging the country into chaos.
When Papadopoulos seized power in 1967, just prior to an election, he did so citing the danger of an imminent take-over of Greece by Communists. His coup therefore, was justified by the fact that in unconstitutionally taking control of the country, he was saving Greek democracy. Enough evidence has emerged since, to suggest that the United States were, if not complicit, then at least cognizant of the coup’s orchestration. Amusingly, while Phillip Talbot, the US ambassador in Athens, disapproved of the military coup, complaining that it represented ‘a rape of democracy,’ Jack Maury, the CIA chief of station in Athens, characteristically riposted, ‘How can you rape a whore?’ a telling exposition of the state of our greatest export within its own birthplace.
For some reason, the coup came to be popularily termed ‘the Junta’ and its supporters “juntikoi.” That this terminology remains with us still to denote any perceived subversion of democracy or foul play in general can be evidenced by the charming linguistic morphing of the word, here in Melbourne. Thus, the current regime reigning in Lonsdale Street is referred to by its detractors as the “Founta” and its supporters, as “Fountists.” At any rate, the baptism of the coup with a Meso-American name possibly ensued its downfall. For a Junta to be successful, it needs to be run by oily, dark-skinned men with deep tan lines, long, drooping mustaches who smoke Cuban cigarettes and wear a multitude of gold rings on their fingers, the value of which, could purchase a small Balkan country. Such Juntas are invariably run by personages with impressive hispanic sounding names such as Pedro Paulino Hermenegildo Reodulo Francisco y Salgado Araujo, who wear jodhpurs dark sunglasses and slap their adjutants wit riding crops. Had Papadopoulos changed his name to Jorge Hijo de Sacerdote, we would now all be singing the national anthem to a samba beat. Unfortunately, Papadopoulos was too concerned with dancing with foustanella clad, burly Hellenic types and all the accoutrements of petty fascism were left by the wayside.
Apart from the usual torturing and imprisoning of political enemies, the exiling of dissidents to Long Island and the general curtailing of public freedoms, the Junta, exhibiting the sort of general malaize that only the genius possess and the insane lament, made lasting constributions to linguistics. Its ideology was followed by the creation and use of terms that were employed as propaganda tools. The revised Junta lexicon included unique expressions that provide a glimpse into its mindset and government structure. For example, the word anarchist was expertly contorted by the Junta to mean any opponent of only their archi (αρχή) meaning, exclusively, any opponent of the Junta regime. Ingenious compound words such as ‘anarchokommounistes’ were employed to signify that there was absolutely no difference between communists and anarchists. An ‘ethnikofron’ was a person who was ‘Nation-minded’ or a patriot ie. a supporter of the Junta. Conversely, the term ‘antethnikos’ signified the opposite of an ‘ethnikofron,’ meaning against the nation. This invariably described anyone that declared to be or acted against the Junta. The term usually, but not exclusively, was reserved for those out of junta's reach as, for example, in antethniki propaganda (from abroad) against the Junta, or distinguished and well known personalities that could not be labelled otherwise. For lesser personalities and domestic resistance, especially students, anarchokommounistes was, more often, the label of choice. As a corollary, was another distinguished phrase: ‘antethiniki drastiriotis’ or activity against the Nation indicating resistance action against the Junta. Distinguished Greeks such as poet Giorgos Seferis, Mikis Theodorakis, Melina Mercouri and many others were placed into this category.
By far my favourite phrases employed clumsily by Papdopoulos were the following: “Όταν εγώ θα αποφασίσω θα γίνουν εκλογές,» showing that Papadopoulos’ commitment to democracy was a precursor of Presdient Pervz Musharaff of Pakistan’s own, «Ησυχία, τάξις και ασφάλεια» (peace, order and security) which was said to reign throughout the land, and «αποφασίζομεν και διατάσσομεν» (we decide and we order), prefacing all of the Junta’s announcements. Papadopoulos’ raspy voice and his struggle to extricate his tongue from the mesh of pretentious artificially created katharevousa that he imposed upon the populace is today, side-splittingly funny. One of his speeches, where he refers to Greece as «ασθενής στο γείψο» (a patient in a plaster cast) and implies that he and his cronies were doctors sent to cure Greece of her ills, after which time he launches into a detailed description of the medical procedure entailed is surreal and almost made me crash into a telephone pole when I happened to listen to a re-broadcast of it one day in the car.
Perhaps the most enduring as well as reviled Junta political slogan was «Ελλάς Ελλήνων Χριστιανών» (Greece of Greek Christians) as it is a concept that Greek society has been grappling with, both in Greece and in this country, ever since the conversion of the Greeks in the dawn of Christianity. Is Christianity synonymous with being Greek? Can the concept of being Greek thus preclude those who do not espouse Christianity? The Junta seemed to think it did and it is arguable that a vast number of Greeks, quite possibly the majority, still think so today. Indeed, it could be argued that the Junta’s treatment of such questions of identity, rather than cement them in the popular consciousness, caused doubts to be cast upon them. Guilty by association your honour.
When the Junta fell, it did so pathetically after attempting fecklessly to organize a coup in Cyprus, thus provoking the Turkish invasion of that island. Its legacy is with us still. The anti-Junta movement fostered a belief in the right to protest, culminating in the tragic self immolation of geology student Kostas Georgakis in Matteoti Square, Genoa, that has been transformed from a well-intentioned peaceful voicing of an opinion to a violent and destructive riot at the slightest pretext. Right up until the present day, one of the electoral tactics of the centre left has been to scare citizens into voting for them by maintaining that by voting for the right, they are voting for Junta sympathizers, though the centrist politics of the Simitis and current conservative government have largely destroyed the distinction between right and left, finally bringing to an end a conflict and division in Greek society that began during the Second World War.
The phoenix, an old symbol of the original Greek revolution has been tainted by the Junta and banished from public display except for the bus terminal at Ionnina,. wher e a large phoenix, lying on its side, could be glimpsed through the doors of a storeroom as late as 1998. From time to time, prominent Greek personalities, such as Archbishop of Athens Christodoulos are accused of collaborating with the Junta and it was only recently that one of the last members of the Junta, the infamous Stylianos Patakos, died in extreme old age, bitter and unrepentant, maintaining to the last that his Junta could have ‘saved’ Greece.
An entire generation defined itself by its anti-Junta stance. Here in Australia, Neos Kosmos played a historic role at the forefront of anti-Junta sentiment. This was the generation that was nourished upon Theodorakis’ protest songs, Ritsos’ poetry and Maria Farantouris’ girth. They believed that they would change the world and make it a better place and indeed one of the major complaints of these now aging activists is that the youth of today have nothing to fight for. Perhaps it is still early to tell whether this is in fact the case. Regardless of the Junta’s repression and ridiculousness, one of George Papadopoulos’ statements still may ring true to this day: «Ο δρόμος τον οποίον οφείλομεν να διανύσωμεν είναι μακρύς και θα παραμείνει επίπονος, το τέλος του, όμως, κατοχυρώνει ένα λαμπρόν μέλλον δια την πατρίδαν μας.»


First published in NKEE on 23 April 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Football is all very well as a game for rough girls, but is hardly suitable for delicate boys.

Oscar Wilde

If the Greek National Soccer Team were the U.S.S.R National Soccer Team back in the heady days when the Iron Curtain effectively stopped the icy red blasts of the Siberian steppes creeping under the doorstep of the Free, Capitalist World, they would have been taken out and shot. Their relatives, nay anyone who had ever associated with them or spoken to them, would have been named Enemies of the State, purged, and exiled to the Arctic gulags, there to labour the rest of their sorry days away in building soccer stadiums in the permafrost and developing Lysenko-like ways of propagating the peanut through penguin manure.
Sadly, the Greek National Soccer Team is not the U.S.S.R National Soccer Team. Nor is it the Colombian National Team, for it was, then the State, paying homage to liberalist laissez-faire principles, would permit any law-abiding citizen who is not in arrears with his tax, to select which of the members of that wretched Team were responsible for the inexcusable loss to Turkey on Greek National Day Eve and assassinate them. But then again, as Luis Suarez relates, in Latin America the border between soccer and politics is vague. There is a long list of governments that have fallen or been overthrown after the defeat of the national team and rightly so. In Greece, this usually takes an invasion of Cyprus or the complete embezzlement of the Bank of Crete, though recent indications are that as a result of our national humiliation at the hands of the valiant Turkish national team, the Karamanlis government is tottering upon its last legs. But then again, that aforementioned government has appeared to be tottering upon its last legs ever since PASOK lost the last election. As an aside it is not without coincidence that the cranial dimensions of a large number of Greek parliamentarians match those of the FIFA approved football, giving rise to the urban myth that Greek parliamentarians have been genetically engineered to answer Eric Morcambe’s pious prayer: “I think football would become an even better game if someone could invent a ball that kicks back.”
The importance of winning is enshrined within the human psyche. Winners are people who win. People who do not win are Losers. Losers are those people who cannot claim the respect of the rest of the members of their species. They bear a mark on their forehead in the shape of an L and no one wants to mate with them, lest their miserable line be perpetuated. Winners are macho. They can kick, jump, maim and injure more effectively than their weaker, effeminate rivals and as a result, get to be feted on morning talk-shows, host serious documentaries, take drugs while eliciting sympathy and mate with a selection of the most nubile and aethereal mating counterparts ever to have been created. If the rumours are anything to go by, it is no wonder that the then victorious and beloved Greek National Team is experiencing times of weakness and diminished ardor for victory, for in the aftermath of their visit Down Under, our community is populated by a number of immensely cute babies that show a remarkable propensity for kicking and all of whose mothers for some reason will not pose with them in front of a photograph of the National Team. It follows logically that the same will not be the case for them now. Eventually winners are admitted to that wider football game known as government, where they attempt, with the same vigour, to assist the government in achieving its goals.
Some people maintain that soccer is a matter of life or death. Far from it. It is much more important than that. To the aesthete it is an art form, an athletic ballet. To the spiritually inclined it is a religion. Just how important a tenet it is to the faith of mankind is evidenced by Anthony Burgesses’ fine scriptural exegesis: “Five days shalt thou labour, as the Bible says. The seventh day is the Lord thy God's. The sixth day is for football.” Therefore, the members of Greek National Team are not only losers, they are also heretics and apostates and just as the venerable Archbishop Christodoulos, who reputedly gets a kick out of soccer, (pardon the pun) triumphantly welcomed them into the Kallimarmaro Stadium in 2004, fresh from their European Championship, so should he now excommunicate them and cast them out of the fold of true believers, for the problem with losers is this: When one is an individual loser, they are identified as such and dealt with accordingly. However, a National Team by virtue of its very title, purports to represent a whole nation and by implication, us as well. Therefore, when that Team wins championships, we can also claim vicariously to be champions. Similarly, when that team loses, we too are losers and the team that renders as losers an entire nation is a traitorous team, whose members should be drawn and quartered and their decomposing heads displayed from Eleutherios Venizelos Airport as a warning to others.
Just how terrible the tragedy of Greece’s loss to it’s arch rival Turkey was keenly felt in Greece, can be evidenced by the way in which innumerable politicians graced Greek chat shows and provided their own expert commentary as to how and why everything went so horribly wrong. Then it was the turn of a multitude of unrelated sports coaches who proceeded to provide a chronicle of the national calamity so heart-wrenching and tear-jerking in character, that the likes of it have not been seen since Ibrahim Pasha’s invasion of the Peloponnese.
It comes as an enormous surprise that while great emphasis was placed upon the loss to national prestige that ensued as a result of the National Team’s defeat, the conduct of Greek fans during the match was glossed over and largely ignored. Our valiant compatriots, worthy descendants of Kolokotronis, Markos Botsaris and Lystarchos Davelis expressed their righteous anger at the Turkish National Team for having the temerity to challenge their own team’s natural superiority (which stems from the fact that we invented democracy, the bouzouki, baklava, Greek coffee, kataifi, loukoumia, imam baildi, yaprakia, the baglama, tsifteteli and of course Lefteris Pantazis). Picking up where our brave freedom fighters left off (from memory, that was where they had killed each other, shut up whoever was left in prison in Nauplio, allowing the Egyptian army to burn their way through the Peloponnese and requiring the intervention of Britain to save Greece from annihilation) they proceeded to throw bottles, refuse and other projectiles at the Turkish players. Other patriotic fans thought to overawe Turkey through the use of propaganda. They chanted slogans and held aloft banners proclaiming: “Kemal is Gay,” (not that there’s anything wrong with that,) “A Good Turk is a Dead Turk,” “Constantinople, Capital of Greece” accompanied by exquisite sketches reminiscent of Dali in his pubist period, depicting a stylized Kolokotronis grabbing a Turk (and you can tell he was a Turk because he was wearing a turban and looked mean) by the throat. All in all they did their bit to ensure that the Turks were fully apprised of the inherent greatness of the Greek. After all, we invented filoxenia and through the Olympic Games, the idea of friendly competition. And anyway, remember the time when the Greek basketball team’s bus was attacked by glass bottles in Turkey? What about the time when Turkish fans held aloft a banner of Mehmet the Conqueror entering Constantinople or another atrocious banner reading: ‘Greece: Gold medal swimming 1922’ ? I mean, are we just supposed to sit there? What kind of superior race are we? Of course the Turks abused our hospitality by winning. As gracious hosts we let them winning, so they won’t feel too bad and take over western Thrace in revenge. The only problem is that now, Xavier Solana is proposing that rather than tax the European Court with our interminable wrangling, that the issue of the Aegean Continental shelf and the No-Fly Zone be determined through another soccer match. Appeals to the European Union to have this mitigated to a lesser competition of tavli, prefa, birimba or Zorba ‘till you drop, have at the time of writing, fallen upon deaf ears which means that we, as a nation are facing annihilation and we have our inept National Team to thank, though it has since their vanquishment, managed at least to stave off a surreptitious invasion by Malta.
It is thus particularly hurtful to read sentiments like those recorded by George Orwell in ‘Such, Such Were the Joys’: “I loathed the game, and since I could see no pleasure or usefulness in it, it was very difficult for me to show courage at it. Football, it seemed to me, is not really played for the pleasure of kicking a ball about, but is a species of fighting.” Of course it is a species of fighting. Through it we realize all our national aspirations and obtain revenge for past wrongs without having to lift a finger. In the split second that a goal is scored, we assume the identities of Leonidas, Miltiades, Themistocles, Papaflessas and Koskotas and taste greatness. In that second, all the iniquities of the past are blotted out and we are forged anew. That these sentiments are also shared by Turkish fans is evidenced by the amount of jeering that has transpired between both sets of fans on international forums like Youtube, proclaiming to the world just how brave, mature and infinitely inventive we both are. For example, the Turkish newspaper ‘Fanatik’ rejoiced in the Turkish victory for two reasons: 1) because it took place on a Christian religious holiday and 2) because it took place in Karaiskakis stadium, Karaiskakis being a known rebel against Turkey, and possibly wethinks, distantly related to Abdullah Ocalan. Hurriyet newspaper on the other hand, granted the victors the title: “Conquerors of Athens,” thus avenging a defeat at the hands of Androutsos almost two hundred years ago. Don’t let the whinings of the timid traitors and those that those alphabetically-inspired artificial leagues whose agenda is the cleansing of ethnic conflict from the game fool you: Soccer is by far the most appropriate forum for the airing of ethnic discord, far better and more civilized than say, invading Iraq. Now we should all insist on the next Greece-Iran match to be held at Thermopylae. Diatribe leaves you this week, with the following periapt gem from the immortal J. B Priestley in 'The Good Companions': “To say that these men paid their shillings to watch twenty-two hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink.” Until next time, Ellas Ole, allez, oime.


First published in NKEE on 15 April 2007

Monday, April 09, 2007


Χριστός Ανέστη. I have to admit that the Romanovs, (Романов) one of the world’s longest ruling dynasties have exercised a great fascination over me. They presided over a period, which saw Russia transform itself from a petty Asiatic backwater into an Empire and World Power. During that period, the Romanovs extended their protection to multitudes of Christians fleeing the discriminatory policies of Persia and the Ottoman Empire and it is thus no mean coincidence that hundreds of thousands of Pontians flocked to the coast of the Ukraine and the Kuban during their rule, there to thrive until relatively recently. Nor is it a coincidence that the Filiki Etaireia, the society whose aim it was to liberate Greece from the Ottomans was formed in Romanov Russia. Indeed, Romanov Russia loomed large in the irredentist fantasies of the enslaved Greek people. According the prophecy of Agathangelos, the «ξανθόν γένος» interpreted as being the Russians, would liberate Greece and indeed, many of the Romanovs, notable Catherine the Great did toy with re-establishing the Byzantine Empire, ordering her lover Count Orlov to attempt to incite a revolution in Greece and occupying several Aegean islands. This is unsurprising given that the Romanovs claimed their ancestry at least in part. It says much for the pluralistic and multicultural fabric of the Romanov court that many of its nobles, including Count Ioannis Kapodistrias and Prince Ypsilantis were Greek and were permitted to descend to Greece and assist in her struggle for self-determination. Romanov Russia was also a protector of Orthodoxy. With the treaty of Kucuk Kainarca, the Russians obtained the right from the Ottomans to intervene on behalf of the rights of Christians in that Empire. Romanov gold was also responsible for the renovation and restoration of Mount Athos and many of the Orthodox holy sites in Jerusalem.
The above notwithstanding, Romanov Russia, spanning the period between 1613 to 1917, was the place where ethnic minorities were often mistreated. It was the home of the Pale of Settlement, restricting the free habitation of Jews, the home of the pogroms, the “Prison of the Peoples” and the country where, especially under the reactionary Alexander III, freedom of expression did not exist, the poor and dispossessed were forcibly compelled to remain so and the lower classes were exploited. In its twilight, in the reign of the kindly but inept Nicholas II, the Romanov dynasty ruled Russia as if it was a type of vast family business. However so ingrained within the Russian psyche was the Romanov tradition of despotism that upon the Romanovs' removal in the 1917 Revolution, they were replaced by an equally despotic regime that assumed for itself, all the trappings of Tsardom. Interestingly enough, a significant portion of twentieth century Greeks looked to the new Red Tsar’s as fervently for ‘liberation’ as the enslaved Greeks looked to the Romanovs, some hundred years previously. The legacy of the Romanovs is one of romance and mystery. The myth that some of the Romanovs managed to escape their murder in Yekaterinburg in 1918 inspired the imagination of those who sought to assume the identity of the Princess Anastasia, sparking numerous telemovies with a good sprinkling or Romanov Faberge eggs to boot.
It is this lasting legacy, the myths and romance of the Romanovs that have captivated Historia Events, which is organizing: “The Romanovs,” a powerful live performance using original letters, memoirs and images to reveal the dramatic story of the last imperial family of Russia. Historia Events, formed in 2003, concerns itself with commemorating and bringing to life, elements of history that have fallen into relative obscurity. Their track record for professionalism is a proven one; they were the organizers of the successful multicommunal Project 1453 event, which commemorated the Fall of Constantinople. Two of the faces behind Historia Events, Terry Papadis and actor Philip Constan are Greek and passionate about history and the legacy it can leave in all spheres of life. Terry Papadis in particular, has very strong views as to the relevance of the Romanovs to Australia, 90 years after their demise. Quoth he:
“The fall of the Romanov dynasty 90 years ago cannot be seen outside the broader historical, political and social context of the Russian Revolution, the series of political events that caused the downfall of Imperial Russia. The year 1917 as it turned out, was an incredibly important year, not only for Russia and Europe but also for the whole world at large. Marxism, widely debated in the mid 19th century as a political theory became a political reality. Of course, many would argue that the implementation of Marxism in Russia was not what the original founder intended but nevertheless it was the first systematic and comprehensive attempt in world history to impose what became to be known as the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' that is the control of power by a political intellectual class in the name of Russia's workers and peasants.
Communism, the political system that evolved in Russia after the fall of the Romanovs, was to play a pivotal role in the history of the 20th century, influencing political and social movements in nearly every part of the globe. Even Australia saw the foundation of a Communist Party in the early 1920s. Similar political systems, modelled on revolutionary Russia took power in China, Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam, just to name a few. Most people reading this article were born at a time where the world was effectively dominated by two rival political ideologies: liberal capitalism and communism. The relationship between these ideologies vacillated from cautious alliance during the Second World War to the verge of nuclear conflict at the height of the Cold War with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, an event that many Australians still remember as a political thriller. Perhaps the world would be a different place today, if in 1917 the Romanov dynasty had not collapsed, bringing communism into political existence.”
When asked whether the Romanovs have largely been overshadowed by the Red Tsars, Lenin, Stalin and the like, he is quick to respond:
“To an extent, one could argue that Lenin, his Bolshevik Party and the Revolution have overtaken the legacy of the Romanovs because of the ideological, political and social influence that Soviet Russia exerted throughout the world in the 20th century, a century where most of us have spent most of our lives. However, we tend to forget that Imperial Russia during the 300-year reign of the Romanov dynasty was a formidable global power and an empire of astonishing wealth, often deciding the fate of European history and beyond. Two of its leading monarchs are now called Great, Peter I and Catherine II. Alexander I defeated Napoleon's legendary invasion of Russia in 1812, a turning point in Europe's history. Throughout the 19th century, Imperial Russia was engaged in an expansionist policy, especially in Central Asia and the Far East. Visitors to Queenscliff and Fort Nepean in Victoria are often surprised to discover that one reason for the fortification of Port Phillip Bay was the fear of a Russian invasion, as part of its imperial ambitions in the Asia Pacific region.
The last Romanov Tsar, Nicholas II was a complex personality, often misunderstood and misrepresented… Nicholas was brought up to be an autocrat, an absolute ruler with absolute political power; any diversion from that principle was seen by him, his family, the social elite and many others as betrayal of the very essence of what it was to be an Orthodox Russian. Vast sections of the Russian people revered him as the nation's Father and Protector. Examining the original sources of the era, one detects however that his own family identified some limitations in the personality of Nicholas II as an absolute monarch. In letters and memoirs from his wife, the Empress Alexandra, his mother the Dowager Empress Marie and others, the Tsar is perceived as vulnerable, easily influenced and vacillating. On the other hand, revolutionary intellectuals and left wing activists demonised him as a stubborn and recalcitrant tyrant. Moderate democrats were often frustrated by Nicholas' failure to emulate well-established Western European models of constitutional monarchy in Russia.
On a personal level, one thing is certain: Tsar Nicholas II was an attentive husband and a wonderful father. His devotion to his wife and children is one of the most moving aspects of this tragic family story. This is the story of a loving and extremely close knit family set against a background of upheaval where the traditions, values and beliefs of the past are being swept away by rapid and relentless change. In Russia today, the Tsar and his family are venerated as passion bearers and saints by the Orthodox Church, commemorated in cathedrals and icons while many statues and monuments of Lenin and the Bolshevik leadership are demolished or are dumped unceremoniously in dark and inaccessible sections of public parklands.”
Finally, asked, how he perceives the Romanovs to pertain to his own sense of Greek identity, the irrepressible Terry Papadis postulates:
“The emergence of communism as a political reality in 1917 was also a key factor in the genesis of Communist Party in Greece and all that followed after WWII with the Civil War right up to the legalisation of that party with the 1974 Karamanlis government.One could argue that none of the above would have occurred if it wasn't for the emergence of the socialist international movement so definitive in the core values of the Soviet Union. 'Workers of the World Unite' was a fundamental principle of Marxism and Leninism. As you know, the Bolsheviks during WWI viewed the Great War as a conflict between the imperialist bourgeoisie while in their stated rhetoric the real battle should have been at a class level of the workers / peasants / intelligentsia against the ruling class and its client urban bourgeois and land owning rural classes. As we know all too well, Greece sadly got caught up in all of this, at a great cost to the nation, its people and its economy. The fall of the Romanovs opened up the way for all of this to occur! How many of us are here as immigrants (or descendants of) as a direct result of this transplanted socio-political struggle in Greece?”
All in all “The Romanovs” promises to be as captivating and moving an event as all those we have come to expect from Historia Events. “The Romanovs” will take place on 7 pm Saturday 14 April and 2pm Sunday 15 April 2007 at Primelife Lexington Gardens, 114 Westall Road, Springvale. Bookings: 9547 2700 Tickets: $20 including refreshments at interval and post performance. Definitely a historic event not to be missed.

First published in NKEE on 9 April 2007

Monday, April 02, 2007


"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures; and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve; after that, He was seen of above five thousand brethren at once." 1 Cor. 15:3-6
If one is to follow the morning and evening church services of Holy Week, it soon becomes evident why that week is referred to in Greek as “Long, or Large Week” («Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα.») These services, commencing with the resurrection of Lazarus and Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, take us through the suffering of Christ, linking prophecy with its fulfillment, through the use of some of the most beautiful, compelling imagery and poetry ever to have been written in the Greek language, only to have us arrive at the remarkable Resurrection. The entire Christian confession is contained in the words "Christ is Risen.” The Apostle Paul, referring to this fact, clearly and emphatically says: "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" in his epistle to the Corinthians.
The Holy Monday service (sung Sunday night) commemorates the fig tree which was cursed and withered by Jesus. The withering of the fig tree was a miracle of special symbolism, since the tree had leaves, but no fruit, a post-modern reference to those who claim ethical and religious identity, but who in reality have empty lives that yield no fruit. On that evening, the passionate Hymn of the Bridegroom, is sung: "Behold the Bridegroom comes in the midst of the night... beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be borne down in sleep..... and lest thou be shut out from the Kingdom . . ." The canticle hymn also has a symbolic exhortation: "I see thy bridal hall adorned, O my Savior, and I have no wedding garment. . . O giver of Light, make radiant the vesture of my soul and save me". At this time the solemn procession of the Icon of Christ-Bridegroom takes place around the church. The people, anticipating the sufferings of Christ, sing: "Thy sublime sufferings, on this day, shine upon the world as a light of salvation".
Holy Tuesday commemorates the parable of the Ten Virgins in the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus stressed the importance of ethical preparation and wakefulness. The parable of the Ten Virgins is developed around the theme of the Bridegroom: "Why are Thou heedless, O my soul? . . . Work most diligently with the talent which has been confided to thee; both watch and pray". The hymnologist reminds us, "I do not possess a torch aflame with virtue, and the foolish virgin I imitate when it is the time for action"; and, "Into the splendor of thy saints, how can I, who am unholy, enter?" The exhortation is then given: "Come Ye faithful, let us work earnestly for the Master . . . increase our talent of grace ... Wisdom through good works".
On Wednesday (Tuesday night) commemoration is made of the anointing of Christ with myrrh by the woman in the house of Simon the leper, in Bethany. On this evening, the powerful "Hymn of Cassiane", probably a work of Patriarch Photius is sung. It begins: "The woman who had fallen into many sins recognized thy Godhead, O Lord; Woe to me, saith she; receive the sources of my tears, O Thou who doth gather into clouds the water of the sea. Who can trace out the multitude of my sins and the abysses of my misdeeds? "O Thou whose mercy is unbounded".
The sacred ceremony of the Sacrament of Holy Unction takes place on Wednesday evening, following an old custom. This is the evening of repentance, confession and the remission of sins by Christ, preparing the faithful to receive Holy Communion, usually the next day, Holy Thursday morning. Holy Unction is the Sacrament for cleansing sins and renewing the body and the spirit of the faithful. Holy Unction is one of the seven Sacraments of the Church, and it has its origin in the practice of the early Church as recorded in the Epistle of James. At the end of the service, the priest anoints the people with Holy Oil, the visible bearer of the Grace of God. The orthros of Thursday morning is also usually sand in anticipation on Wednesday evening. It contains the powerful exhortation: "Let no fear separate you from Me....."
The service of Great Holy Thursday Morning is sung in the morning by anticipation. Jesus drew His last breath of freedom on this Thursday night. Christ knew all the incidents which were about to take place, and called to Him His Apostles to a Supper in order to institute the Holy Eucharist for them and for the Church forever. The institution of the Holy Eucharist and its re-enactment through the centuries, both as a sacrifice and sacrament, along with the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, constitutes the basis of salvation for the Christian. The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil is officiated on this day and Christians come for Holy Communion singing: "Receive me Today, O Son of God, as a partaker of Thy Mystic Feast; for I will not speak of the Mystery to Thine enemies, I will not kiss Thee as did Judas, but as the thief I will confess Thee. Lord, remember me when I comest to Thy Kingdom."
On Holy Thursday Evening, the Passion of Chris is remembered and re-enacted. This service is long, but its content is dramatic and deeply moving for the devout Christian. Participation in the prayers and the historical sequence of the events, as related in Twelve Gospel readings and hymns, provides a vivid foundation for the great events yet to come. After the reading of the fifth Gospel, the Crucifix is processed around the church, while the priest chants the 15th antiphon: "Today is hung upon the Tree, He Who did hang the land in the midst of the waters. A Crown of thorns crowns Him Who is King of Angels. He is wrapped about with the purple of mockery Who wrapped the Heavens with clouds. He received buffetings Who freed Adam in Jordan. He was transfixed with nails Who is the Bridegroom of the Church. He was pierced with a spear Who is the Son of the Virgin. We worship Thy Passion, O Christ. Show also unto us thy glorious Resurrection".
According to Hebrew custom, the "Royal Hours", four in number, are read Good Friday morning. These services consist of hymns, psalms, and readings from the Old and New Testaments, all related prophetically to the Person of Christ. The Vespers of Friday afternoon are a continuation of the Hours. During this service, the removal of the Body of Christ from the Cross is commemorated with a sense of mourning for the terrible events which took place. Excerpts from the Old Testament are read together with hymns, and again the entire story is related. The Apostle Paul, interpreting the dreadful event, exhorts the Church: "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God . . . we preach Christ crucified . . . the power of God and the wisdom of God", As the priest reads the Gospel, “and taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in a white cloth", he removes the Body of Christ from the Cross, wraps it in a white cloth and takes it to the altar. The priest then chants a mourning hymn: "When Joseph of Arimathea took Thee, the life of all, down from the Tree dead, he buried Thee with myrrh and fine linen . . . rejoicing. Glory to Thy humiliation, O Master, who clothest Thyself with light as it were with a garment". The priest then carries the cloth to the Epitaphios. Perhaps the most famous and best attended Holy Week service is the Good Friday Evening Lamentation. It consists of psalms, hymns and readings, dealing with the death of Christ and in expectation of His Resurrection. One of the hymns relates: "He who holds all things is raised up on the Cross and all creation laments to see Him hang naked on the Tree". The profoundly moving Odes compare the compassion and might of God with the cruelty and weakness of man, portraying all Creation as trembling when witnessing its Creator hung by His own creatures: "Creation was moved . . . with intense astonishment when it beheld Thee hung in Golgotha". During this service the Body of Christ in the Epitaphios is carried in procession around the church andthe entire congregation joins in singing the “Encomia” After these hymns are sung, the priest sprinkles the Epitaphios and the whole congregation with fragrant water.
On Holy Saturday Morning, psalms are read and Resurrection hymns are sung which tell of Christ's descent into Hades. "Today Hades cried out groaning" is the hymn's description of the resurrection of Adam and the conquering of death. Thus this day's celebration is called "First Resurrection". Most of the readings of this day are from the Old Testament on the prophesies of the conquering of death. On this day the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil is officiated. Apostle Paul exhorts the faithful: "We were buried, therefore, with him by baptism unto death, so we, too, might walk in newness of life", After the reading of the Epistle, the priest follows the custom of tossing of laurel, saying: "Arise, O God, and judge Thou the earth: for Thou shall take all heathen to Thine inheritance". The Cherubic hymn of this day is: "Let all mortal flesh keep silence and stand with fear and trembling......", a thoughtful hymn of adoration and exaltation. The Divine Liturgy ends with the Communion Hymn: "So the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and He is risen to save us".

On Easter Sunday (Saturday midnight) the life-giving Resurrection of Christ is celebrated. Before midnight, the Odes of Lamentation of the previous day are repeated. The Orthros of the Resurrection begins in complete darkness. The priest takes light from the vigil light and gives it to the faithful, who are holding candles. The priest sings: "Come ye and receive light from the unwaning life, and. glorify Christ, who arose from the dead", and all the people join him in singing this hymn again and again. From this moment, every Christian holds the Easter candle as a symbol of his vivid, deep faith in the Resurrection of Jesus The priest leads the people outside the church, where he reads the Gospel which refers to the Angels statement: "He is Risen; He is not here." Then comes the breathless moment as the people wait for the priest to start the hymn of Resurrection, which they join him in singing, repeatedly: "Christ has Risen from the dead, by death trampling upon Death, and has bestowed life upon those in the tombs". From this moment the entire service takes on a joyous Easter atmosphere. The hymns of the Odes and Praises of Resurrection which follow are unparalleled in intensity. The people confess, "It is the Day of Resurrection, let us be glorious, let us embrace one another and speak to those that hate us; let us forgive all things and so let us cry, Christ has arisen from the dead". The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is then officiated. At the end of the Liturgy, a part of the marvelous festival sermon of St. Chrysostom is read, which calls upon the people to "Take part in this fair and radiant festival. Let no one be fearful of death, for the death of the Savior has set us free . . . O Death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is Thy victory? Christ is Risen and Thou art overthrown. To Him be glory and power from all ages to all ages".
From the Diatribe, have a holy, Holy Week and ΚΑΛΗ ΑΝΑΣΤΑΣΗ.


First published in NKEE on 2 April 2007