Friday, 27 February 2009

Stelios Foustalieris: Τα βάσανα μου χαίρομαι

In Radio Akritas, I’ve made available some old recordings of Cretan songs by Stelios Foustalieris, Yiannis Baxevanis and Manolis Lagos. Foustalieris is a particularly interesting character and musician and the best-known exponent of Cretan rembetika, or tabachaniotika. Tabachaniotika reflects the strong relations on all levels that existed between Crete and Smyrna in the 19th century and the influence of the Asia Minor refugees who settled in Crete after 1922. Foustalieris was also unusual in that he didn’t play the Cretan lute or lyra, but the boulgari, a long-necked instrument related to the saz. After Foustalieris, boulgari playing virtually died out in Crete, though recently there has been a revival, as the two videos above indicate; the first one is Stelios Laidakis playing boulgari and singing Foustalieris’ Τα Δάκρυα, and the second is Karolos Kouklakis and Irene Derembei performing Συρτός ‘Χαραυγή’.

The songs in Radio Akritas are:

1. Όσο βαρούν τα σίδερα;
2. Κλαίω κρυφά τον πόνο μου;

3. Τα βάσανα μου χαίρομαι;

4. Την μάννα μου την αγαπώ; and

5. Κρυφά γιά σένα θα πονώ.

The first three songs are Foustalieris’ while the other two are from Baxevanis and Lagos. The female vocalist is Lavrentia Bernidaki.

The lyrics to Τα βάσανα μου χαίρομαι (I welcome my troubles) are interesting not only because they reflect Crete’s renowned defiance and darkness of spirit, but also because, more prosaically, for the final refrain:

Γυαλένιος είσαι μαστραπάς,
κι όποιον κι αν δεις τον αγαπάς.

You’re like a glass jug
Whoever you see, you fall in love with.

(That is, you’re as hollow and fragile/fickle as a glass jug…)

The refrain doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the rest of the song and is probably just padding; although the same refrain exists in a classic Yiannis Papaioannou song, Πώς θα περάσει η βραδιά (How is this night going to pass?), which has been most notably recorded by Sotiria Bellou and also by Anna Chrysafi – except that both versions omit the refrain and only in more modern interpretations of the Papaioannou song does it appear again, as in the version sung by Yiota Nenga in the video below. Papaioannou, it should be stressed, was from Ayvali in Asia Minor and it may be that the refrain originated in songs from that region before making its way to Crete along with other influences that shaped tabachaniotika.

Τα βάσανα μου χαίρομαι
Τα βάσανα μου χαίρομαι, τις πίκρες μου γλεντίζω
Κι αν περιμένω εγώ χαρές, θαρρώ δεν τσι γνωρίζω

Τα βάσανα με τρέφουνε, και οι καημοί με ζούνε
Μα εγώ ζωή δεν καρτερώ, στον κίνδυνο (α)που (ει)μαι

Γυαλένιος είσαι μαστραπάς, κι όποιον κι αν δεις τον αγαπάς.

I welcome my troubles, my bitterness I celebrate
And if joys do come to me, I don’t think I’d recognise them

My troubles nourish me, my sadness gives me life
I’m not waiting for a life, not in the danger I’m in

You’re like a glass jug, whoever you see you fall in love with.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Great and not so great Greeks, part two

The second part of Skai TV’s Great Greeks was shown last night, purporting to present the leading 50 representatives of our exalted race. There will now be one-hour documentaries shown for each of the top ten before a final winner is declared by public vote on 18 May. I know I shouldn’t take seriously a programme on which the half-wit Maria Damanaki is invited to give her opinion on anything, let alone who is a great Greek, but we Greeks are known for our love of categories and categorisation and I guess I am no different.

Last week, I discussed Great Greeks from 51-100, and expressed my shock and disappointment that the talentless Melina Mercouri and the disastrous Konstantinos Karamanlis (above left, sharing a joke with the butcher of Cyprus, Bulent Ecevit) had evidently made it into the top 50 and I hoped and expected that they wouldn’t make it out of the high forties. Unfortunately, they did.

Mercouri came in at 13 and as such is regarded not only as a greater Greek than Homer (17), but also as the greatest Greek woman of all time, more glorious than Sappho, Cleopatra and Hypatia – none of whom made it in the top 100. Mercouri, unless I’ve missed something, is known for her large mouth – literally and figuratively – and her film roles as a big-hearted prostitute, in the tawdry, febrile Stella and the utterly insufferable Never on Sunday.

Mercouri got through the Axis occupation of Greece thanks to a clever marriage to a much older husband and his considerable wealth and the friendships she developed with many of the high-ranking German and Italian officers responsible for Greece’s prostration.

Karamanlis, another person with a dubious war-time record – ‘health problems’ prevented him from fighting at the Albanian front and he was later accused of being a German informer – was judged by the great Greek public – or a large enough portion of the 36,000 who voted – to be a greater Greek than Leonidas (19), Themistolces (41) and Pavlos Melas (45), and, in fact, Karamanlis who was prime minister of Greece three times between 1955 and 1963 and once again from 1974 to 1980 and president from 1990 to 1995, made it through to the top ten.

I think it’s fair to say that if you wanted to pin the blame on one man for Greece’s catastrophic transition from the ‘traditional’ to the ‘modern’, in which the country for the sake of ‘modernisation’ has ditched any number of worthwhile values and virtues, developed a dysfunctional and rotten society, an unproductive and inert economy, sacrificed national independence and allowed Hellenism’s borders – mental and physical – to shrink, then that man would be the ‘ethnarch’ (sic, sick) Konstantinos Karamanlis.

More than anyone else I know of, Karamanlis has represented the self-loathing Greek political class and its outrageous view that what is holding Greece back is the Greek people themselves, their outmoded Byzantine ways, who need to be ‘Europeanised’, and what Greece has to do to secure progress and prosperity is to put aside its history, traditions and the innate patriotism of Greeks and mimic the social and ideological models of the ‘West’.

As for the other nine who made it into the top ten: Giorgios Papanikolaou shouldn’t be there and nor should Capodistrias. I even have my doubts about Venizelos. It cannot be overlooked that when the once-in-a-millennium chance to create a Megali Ellada presented itself, the Cretan made choices and decisions that resulted in calamity, which has set Greece back centuries.

The argument against Venizelos could also be made against another top ten Greek, Pericles – since the Athenian’s brilliant career was also marred by the pursuit of an ultimately disastrous war – in Pericles’ case, war against Sparta, which resulted not only in the loss of Athens’ empire but also the city’s independence.

Kolokotronis is rightly in the top ten, as a representative of the 1821 revolutionaries – who with their bravery, willpower and patriotic zeal restored to Greece the state it had lost in 1453 and offered the chance to future generations to establish the independence the country had snatched away from it in 1204. (Since 1832, Greece has flirted with independence, achieved it once or twice, then thrown it away again) – but I wouldn’t want to put the Old Man of the Morea higher than five.

And then there were four: Alexander the Great, Plato, Socrates and Aristotle. In terms of brilliance, influence and complexity you could make a good case for any one of this group to be declared greatest Greek; but in the end, if I had to pick, then it would probably be Alexander. I say ‘probably’ because I’ve never been convinced that Alexander cared that much about Greece, Macedonia or any other part of the Hellenic world. Alexander cared about one thing and one thing alone, and that was Alexander, who saw himself not only as superhuman but supra-Greek. But if Alexander is not the greatest Greek of all time, then who is? Me? Maybe. Why not? I’ve had my moments. No Greek likes to admit he’s not the best.

■ I’ve already mentioned that Cleopatra, Sappho and Hypatia didn’t make it into the top 100; but neither did Yiannis Xenakis, Diogenes of Sinope or Zeno of Kitium. If Epikouros got in at 63, then surely Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy – one of the high points of Hellenistic culture – should have made it too.

To watch Great Greeks 21-50 go here, and for 1-19 go here. You can vote for your Great Greek here; the winner will be announced on 18 May.

The list from 1-50 is as follows, with 1-10 in alphabetical order:

1. Alexander the Great
2. Aristotle

3. Ioannis Capodistrias

4. Konstantinos Karamanlis

5. Theodoros Kolokotronis

6. Georgios Papanikolaou

7. Pericles
8. Plato

9. Socrates

10. Eleftherios Venizelos

11. Mikis Theodorakis
12. Konstantinos Karatheodoris
13. Melina Mercouri
14. Andreas Papandreou
15. Nikos Kazantzakis
16. Odysseas Eltyis
17. Homer
18. Manos Hadjidakis
19. Leonidas
20. Hippocrates
21. Pythagoras
22. C. P. Cavafy
23. Maria Callas
24. Archimedes
25. Aristotle Onassis
26. Harilaos Trikoupis
27. Domenikos Theotokopoulos
28. Konstantinos Paleologos
29. Giorgios Seferis
30. Rigas Pheraios-Velestinlis
31. Aris Velouchiotis
32. Ioannis Metaxas
33. Nikos Gallis
34. Giorgios Karaiskakis
35. Demokritos
36. Plethon
37. Dionysios Solomos
38. Ioannis Makriyiannis
39. Adamantios Korais
40. Yiannis Ritsos
41. Themistocles
42. Heraclitos
43. Thucydides
44. Euclid
45. Pavlos Melas
46. Archbishop Christodoulos
47. Athanassios Diakos
48. Theodoris Zagorakis
49. Dimitris Nanopoulos
50. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Monday, 23 February 2009

Solomou's murderer: 'I'd do it again'

In an interview published Sunday in the Greek newspaper Proto Thema, Kenan Akin, the Turk wanted for the murder of Solomos Solomou during the Dherynia protests in August 1996, expresses no remorse over the killing and says he would do it again.

Akin, who is standing in forthcoming 'parliamentary elections' in occupied Cyprus as a candidate with the Freedom and Reform party, which is part of the coalition 'government' in occupied Cyprus, revealed in the interview that he is regarded as a hero among Turkish Cypriots and said he doesn't understand why so much fuss has been made over the death of 'a dog', as he refers to Solomou.

Above is the report that appeared on RIK news on Sunday (my English subtitles) with comments from President Dimitris Christofias, leader of the House of Representatives Marios Karoyian, and Solomou's father, who draws attention to the fact that the actions of Akin, a settler, with connections to the Turkish secret services and who at the time of the murder was 'minister of agriculture' in the occupation regime, were not those of a lone 'barbarian' – as Christofias rightly calls Akin – but the product of the occupation of northern Cyprus, which is rooted in barbarism and that, every day of its existence, cultivates and justifies barbarism.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Konstantinos Karamanlis: the man who betrayed Cyprus

Someone has asked me why in my post on Great Greeks I said I would resign my membership of the Hellenic race if Konstantinos Karamanlis came out anywhere near the top of the list. The reason is simple: the man betrayed Cyprus – and by extension Greece – not once, but twice. Firstly, he betrayed Cyprus by forcing Makarios in 1959 to sign the Zurich and London agreements that granted Cyprus a poisoned and restricted form of independence; and, secondly, in 1974, Karamanlis, as prime minister of Greece after the junta fell, in the crucial period between the first and second Turkish invasions of Cyprus, did not send one Greek soldier, ship or aircraft to defend the island even as the Turks openly reinforced their Kyrenia bridgehead and made clear their intentions to force partition on Cyprus. Karamanlis' sole response to the Turkish invasion was to withdraw Greece from the military wing of NATO, although he was soon begging that Greece be allowed to rejoin and, in 1980, it did.

Anyway, below is an
article that appeared in Ethnos last week by Giorgos Delastik on the treacherous role of Karamanlis during the negotiations that resulted in 1959 Zurich-London agreements. (My translation).

Zurich: the treacherous agreement
Exactly 50 years ago, in the second fortnight of February 1959, the tragic fate of Cyprus was irrevocably sealed: Konstantinos Karamanlis, prime minister of Greece at the time, just before midday on 11 February 1959, put his signature to the disgraceful Zurich Agreement, dictated by the British and Americans, which granted Cyprus a mutilated form of independence and will pass into history as a 'betrayal'.

One week later, on the afternoon of 19 February 1959, the London Conference was convened with the participation of the leaders of Britain, Turkey and Greece as well Archbishop Makarios as the representative of the Greek Cypriots and Fazil Kuchuk, representing the Turkish Cypriots. The London Agreement put the finishing touches and made concrete the Zurich Agreement.

With the Zurich and London agreements, the Republic of Cyprus, before it was even born, was ushered in front of the firing squad establishing, as it did, a regime that gave so many rights to the Turkish Cypriot minority as to make it impossible for the new state to function and for Cyprus to be governed.

And, indeed, by 1963, Greek and Turkish Cypriots were massacring each other, the two communities were divided de facto, and the Republic of Cyprus effectively ceased to be a unitary state. The road to the Turkish invasion in 1974 was opened.

On the morning of 18 February 1959 in London, there took place a dramatic meeting of the Greek Cypriot delegation chaired by Makarios to discuss whether or not the Greek Cypriot side should sign the London Agreement. Of the 35 delegates, 27 voted to authorise Makarios to do as he thought fit, while just eight delegates unequivocally came out against the agreement – the leftist Greek Cypriot mayors, Vassos Lyssarides and Tassos Papadopoulos.

Konstantinos Karamanlis exerted strong pressure on Makarios. Observing that Makarios was leaning towards rejecting the agreements, Karamanlis angrily told the Cypriot leader: 'At this point, I'm ending the Cyprus policy of the Greek government. If you want to carry on the struggle [for Enosis], you must look elsewhere for support.' (Στο σημείο αυτό τερματίζω την κυπριακή πολιτική. Αν θέλετε εσείς να συνεχίσετε τον αγώνα, θα πρέπει να αναζητήσετε αλλού συμπαράσταση).

With the Zurich and London agreements, Karamanlis unscrupulously sacrificed Cyprus to the interests of the USA and NATO. Writing in Difficult years – 1950-1960, a book indispensable to anyone wanting to understand the Cyprus issue, Nikos Kranidiotis, for decades close associate of Makarios and Cyprus' ambassador to Greece, tells us that: 'Greek governments… enduring continuous pressure (direct and indirect) from America and NATO sought a peaceful solution to the Cyprus problem within the "framework of NATO"… Many times the view prevailed that narrow national interests should be subordinated to the wider interests of NATO… [Karamanlis] didn't want to jeopardise relations with Greece's traditional ally, Great Britain, or come into conflict with America or Turkey.'

And as Bishop Kyprianos of Kyrenia put it in a letter to the president of the Greek parliament: 'The regime imposed by the Zurich and London agreements is infinitely worse than the colonial regime. The sacred and inalienable right of self-determination, which is even exercised by the blacks in Africa, has been eliminated.'

The 'Gentleman's Agreement'
Cyprus, in the final analysis, fell victim to the rabid anti-communism of the period, as revealed by the secret 'Gentleman's Agreement' between Konstantinos Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Adnan Menderes, signed in Zurich and published years later.

Article One of this agreement stated that: 'Greece and Turkey will support the Republic of Cyprus' entry to NATO;' while Article Two said: 'It is agreed by the two prime ministers… that the communist party and communist activities will be made illegal in Cyprus.'

The Gentleman's Agreement between Athens and Ankara exposes the real motives behind Konstantinos Karamanlis' Cyprus policy. [Preserving Greece's relations with its NATO partners] is all that bothered him. He was indifferent to the fate of Cyprus.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Kostas Karyotakis: impressions of a drowning man

Thanks to Hermes for drawing my attention to the recent ERT series on the poet Kostas Karyotakis, one of the most troubling figures in modern Greek literature, who committed suicide in 1928, aged 32.

I watched the first episode of Karyotakis earlier and it was very good. Watch all six episodes (in Greek) here. Above is the opening sequence from episode one (with my English subtitles), in which Karyotakis tries to drown himself, fails, then succeeds in taking his life using a revolver. In between suicide attempts, Karyotakis wrote this suicide note:

It is time for me to reveal my tragedy. My greatest faults were unbridled curiosity, a diseased imagination, and my attempts to become acquainted with every emotion without being able to feel most of them. However, I despise the base act that is attributed to me. I experienced but the ideation of its atmosphere, the ultimate bitterness. Nor am I the suitable person for that profession. My entire past will show that much. Every reality to me was repulsive.

I felt the rush brought on by danger. And with glad heart I shall accept the coming danger.

P.S. And, to change the tone: I advise those who can swim never to try to commit suicide in the sea. All night and for ten hours I was battered by the waves. I drank much water but, by and again and without me knowing how, my mouth would surface. Perhaps some time, given the opportunity, I shall write down the impressions of a drowning man.

Karyotakis' last poem, written a month before his death, was Preveza.

Death is the crows clattering

on dark walls and roof-tiles;

death – those women who make love

as if they were peeling onions.

Death these grimy, insignificant streets

with their great, illustrious names,

the olive grove, in all directions the sea,
and even the sun – death amid deaths.

Death – that cop who wraps up

an 'Insufficient' serving and weighs it;

death – these hyacinths on the balcony

and that teacher with the newspaper.

Base, Garrison, Platoon of Preveza.

On Sunday we'll hear the band.

I got a savings book from the bank,
first deposit – thirty drachmas.

Walking slowly on the wharf you say,

'Do I exist' and then, 'You do not exist!'

The ship arrives, Raised flag.

Perhaps His Honor the Governor is coming.

If, among these people, just

one would die from disgust…
Silent, sad, decorous,

we'd all have fun at the funeral.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Skopjan clowns help to lift gloomy Greek

Here among the barbarians in Hyperborea, the economy has collapsed, the news is dominated by a reality TV star really dying of cancer and we haven't seen the sun for two and half years. It's all doom, tawdriness and misery.

Thank god, therefore, for the Skopjans, who we can rely on to lift our spirits with their hilarious historiography and surreal antics.

I saw the pictures above and below on the Strategy-Geopolitics blog. They refer to the 'official' visit last July of a Hunza delegation from Pakistan to Skopje, at the invitation of that shit-hole's prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, who sought to impress his guests – who claim to be descendants of Alexander the Great – with a display of 'ancient Macedonian' military prowess. Looking at these fearsome warrior simulacrums, it's easy to see how, with them at his disposal, Alexander crushed the Persians and conquered Asia. The woman in white in the third photo down is not an extra from Star Trek, but an incarnation of Queen Cleopatra; though I don't know why she's surrounded by out-of-work shepherds – my imagination is obviously not as developed as that of the Skopjans.

More seriously: why are we even sitting down with these Skopjan clowns and conceding the name Macedonia to them in any way, shape or form; and what are we to make of a world in which more than 100 states are prepared to lend credibility to Skopje's certifiable fantasies by agreeing to refer to that country as the 'Republic of 'Macedonia'? Is the international community stupid, anti-Hellenic or, in these times of economic depression, just urging on the Skopjans for the laughs they provide?

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Great Greeks: why aren't I on the list?

Thank God I was born a man and not a beast
A man and not a woman

And a Greek and not a barbarian.


Skai TV in Greece has presented the first part of its programme, Great Greeks, from 51-100, as voted by the public. The top fifty Greeks will be revealed next week.

The programme got off to a bad start when someone mentioned Costas Simitis in the same breath as Pericles, and didn't get much better with, among many other shockers, Vangelis coming in at 66, 25 places ahead of Vasillis Tsitsanis and 23 ahead of Markos Vamvakaris!! How perverse and stupid is that? What kind of dumb fuck reckons Vangelis is the Greatest Greek who’s ever lived? And how come Philip the Great only came in at 96, while Otto the Bavarian was 65 and the dictator Giorgos Papadopoulos made it in at 62? Hellenic humour, no doubt.

There were a couple of Great Greeks on last night's 51-100 list who I'd never heard of: Eleni Mouzoula (95) the Cypriot pianist; and Nikolaos Margiris – 'the Patriarch of Greek Occultism' – (60). I haven't appeared on the list yet, which is a surprise since, in all Hellenic modesty, I believe myself to be the Greatest Greek who's ever lived.

All kidding aside, next week we can expect to see the dreadful Melina Mercouri on the list as well as the merchant Aristotle Onassis and, worst of all, Konstantinos Karamanlis (the uncle, not the nephew). If KK comes anywhere near the top, then I will renounce my membership of the Hellenic race and put myself up for ethnic auction on ebay.

Great Greeks is based on the BBC series, Great Britons (sic), on TV over here a couple of years ago, the winner of which, if I remember rightly, was Lady Di, with Victoria Beckham in second place.

Anyway, to watch the first part of Great Greeks (76-100) go here, and for 51-75 go here.

The list from 51-100 is as follows:
100. Praxiteles
99. Thales
98. Laskarina Bouboulina
97. Dimitris Horn
96. Philip the Great
95. Eleni Mouzoula
94. Manolis Glezos
93. Manos Loizos
92. Pyrrhos Dimas
91. Vasillis Tsitsanis
90. Grigoris Lambrakis
89. Markos Vamvakaris
88. Aliki Vougouklaki
87. Katina Paxinou
86. Eleni Glykatzi-Ahrweiler
85. Thanassis Vengos
84. Herodotus
83. Lakis Lazopoulos
82. Justinian the Great
81. Karolos Kuhn
80. Euripides
79. Harilaos Florakis
78. Stelios Kazantzidis
77. Nikos Xylouris
76. Theodoros Angelopoulos
75. Dimitris Mitropoulos
74. Nikolaos Plastiras
73. Kostas Simitis
72. Ion Dragoumis
71. Constantine the Great
70. Basil II, the Bulgar-slayer
69. Aeschylus
68. Cleisthenes
67. Solon
66. Vangelis
65. King Otto
64. Alexandros Papadiamantis
63. Epikouros
62. Giorgos Papadopoulos
61. Alexandros Panagoulis
60. Nikolaos Margiris
59. Giorgos Papandreou (the pappou, not the current version)
58. Cornelius Castoriadis
57. Nikos Belayannis
56. Sophocles
55. Manolis Andronikos
54. Cosmas of Aetolia
53. Kostis Palamas
52. Aristophanes
51. Pheidias

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Support Armenian genocide recognition

Thanks to the excellent Cyprus Action Network of America for bringing to my attention the campaign currently underway to ensure that Barack Obama sticks to his pre-election promise of recognising the Armenian genocide. For details of how to support the just cause of the Armenians read below and to put yourself on the e-mailing list of CANA – highly recommended – forward your name and e-mail address, with the subject heading "Add e-mail to CANA distribution list", to or go here.

NEW YORK: The Cyprus Action Network of America (CANA) encourages Cypriot activists, and all Hellenes and Phil Hellenes around the world to send in letters of support and participate in actions to make 2009 the year of Armenian Genocide Affirmation.

Emails and letters to President Obama are being sent in from around the world, the Armenian Genocide Affirmation website, has a quick and easy form for us to send in our emails of support, with the following call to President Obama:

Dear Mr. President
America needs your leadership. Throughout your career, you have been a strong proponent of affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. In a January 2008 letter to the Armenian-American community you vowed that as President you would affirm the Armenian Genocide. The threat of genocide has not been eliminated and the consequences of genocide are a continuing reality. Please take a strong stand to prevent its occurrence and to stop its denial. April 24, 2009 is the 94th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. I urge you to honor your commitment and affirm the Armenian Genocide.

Please send your message in to Armenian Genocide Affirmation:

Many Hellenic organizations have already included the link above to their websites, including ours. Please include the link to your own personal web pages, blogs and message boards. Let’s make 2009 the year of Armenian Genocide Affirmation, and help to bring about full justice for Turkey’s Crimes.

Updates and further actions and news on the Armenian Cause are also available from the Armenian National Committee of America ANCA, website:

Monday, 16 February 2009

The Palekythro massacre

Above is a report from Saturday's RIK news (my subtitles) on the funeral of Sotira Georgiou, 28, and her two children Mary, 7, and Yiannakis, eight months, murdered in the village of Palekythro during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Some 18 Greeks were slaughtered in Palekythro and the remains of 11 of the dead were recently discovered in an olive grove in the occupied village and identified using DNA matching.

The RIK report suggests that it was the Turkish 'Attilas' (i.e. invaders) who were responsible for the Palekythro murders; but this is not accurate. The truth is that the murderers were three Turkish Cypriot teenagers from the neighbouring Turkish village of Epiho, who took advantage of the second Turkish invasion of 14 August 1974 to descend on Palekythro first to steal livestock and farming machinery from Greek villagers before returning the next day to round up the elderly and the women and children – who had stayed behind, assured by their Turkish Cypriot co-villagers that they wouldn't allow any harm to come to them – where they were systematically massacred, the elderly first, followed by the women and children.

The clip below is from Michalis Cacoyiannis' film, Attila '74, Rape of Cyprus, which provides more details on the Palekythro murders, with two of the four survivors, Petrakis and Costakis Souppouris, recalling the massacre of their family and their own escape.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Dimitris Tsafendas: ‘The wandering Greek’

I want to add a couple of things to the interesting piece Dean Kalimniou has put together on Dimitris Tsafendas, who stabbed to death in 1966 Henrik Verwoerd, the South African prime minister and architect and chief exponent of apartheid.

Tsafendas was born in Mozambique, the illegitimate child of a Cretan father and a mixed-raced local woman, who after an apparently happy early childhood with his paternal grandmother in Alexandria returned to the Portuguese colony and his father's new all-Greek family, which felt uncomfortable with the prodigal son and farmed him out to a boarding school in South Africa. Despite intelligence – Tsafendas spoke eight languages – the young adult quadroon found it hard to bear the numerous stigmas and symptoms of his outsiderness in racially conscious southern Africa and drifted into menial employment – and became a defiant, belligerent, uncompromising, opinionated and unstable character, attracted to radical politics and Christianity.

A remarkable period of adventures and wanderings followed, which took Tsafendas all over the world, and from one prison and psychiatric institution to another – Tsafendas suffered from schizophrenic episodes – before he managed to return to South Africa, where he precariously flitted between jobs and white and coloured communities, finally finding employment as a messenger in the all-white parliament in which he committed the murderous deed that landed him in prison and psychiatric care for the rest of his life – he died in 1999, aged 81.

Tsafendas' slaying of Verwoerd was denounced as the act of a madman, an interpretation the numerous filmmakers and writers who became interested in Tsafendas' story after apartheid collapsed, objected to, insisting instead on the political dimension to his crime. On the wreath she sent to his funeral, the documentary filmmaker Liza Key described Tsafendas as 'Displaced Person, Sailor, Christian, Communist, Liberation Fighter, Political Prisoner [and] Hero'.

However, this rehabilitation of Tsafendas as a political hero doesn't do justice to his story either. Reading Tsafendas' tragic narrative – superbly documented in Henk van Woeden's book, A Mouthful of Glass – it's hard not to regard Tsafendas as some sort of perverse Odysseus, driven from his native land by his family's hostility, desperate to return to kin and country but rejected and denied at every turn, exuding not cunning and intelligence but madness, who makes it back 'home' but fails to fit in, boring and alienating friends and family – who wish he'd never returned – with his outlandish tales of the world and high seas, and driven in the end to a brutal act of violence, which doesn't restore order but condemns him instead to the living hell of apartheid's prison and mental institutions.

There are also elements of Tsafendas' story that make us think of the specific experience of Greeks in the 20th century. In particular, van Woeden's book provides a fascinating glimpse into Hellenism in colonial Africa – in Mozambique, Rhodesia and South Africa – which is, perhaps, the least well-known of the Greek diasporas; and, as the 'Wandering Greek', Tsafendas also becomes an extreme symbol of modern Greece’s failure to fulfil its promise to become a country capable of providing security and opportunity for its tekna, disgorging them instead to the four corners of the world and exposing them, in one way or another, to annihilation.

The video clip is from Liza Key’s film, The Furiosus, which briefly features Tsafendas, describing the killing of Verwoerd.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

The murders of Tassos Isaac and Solomos Solomou

In my previous post, I mentioned the murders in 1996 of Tassos Isaac and Solomos Solomou, and above are two videos that remind us of the nature of the Turkish occupation of Cyprus and the barbarism of the Turkish state and Turkish nationalism. Isaac was beaten to death by a Turkish mob on 11 August during an anti-occupation protest in the UN buffer zone while, three days later, also in the buffer zone, following Isaac’s funeral, his cousin Solomou was shot to death trying to pull down a Turkish flag.

I’ve provided English subtitles for the second video, even though some of the commentary details have subsequently proved inaccurate. In particular, the film suggests that it was a Turkish soldier who killed Solomou; but the Cypriot investigation into the crime showed that the fatal shots were actually fired by Kenan Akin (see picture) and Erdal Haciali Emanet, who were positioned on a balcony overlooking the Turkish sentry post where Solomou was shot.

Emanet, a Turkish settler, was commander of the so-called security forces in the occupied areas, while Akin, another settler, was serving as the occupation regime's ‘minister of agriculture and forests’. Interpol warrants have been in place against the two since 1996, but neither has been handed over. Indeed, it emerged earlier this week that Akin, who used to belong to Serdar Denktash's Democratic Party, will be standing in this April’s 'parliamentary elections' in Turkish-occupied Cyprus as a candidate for the Freedom and Reform Party, which is currently part of the occupation regime's coalition ‘government’.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

‘Don’t show any mercy; burn and destroy’

Following the confession of Turk actor Attila Olgac that he murdered 10 Greek Cypriot prisoners during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, above is a report (with English subtitles) from RIK news (02/04/09) in which further details of Turkish war crimes in Cyprus are described. The accounts are by Turkish soldiers and officers, who spoke to the Kurdish journalist Roni Alasor for his book, Order: execute the prisoners.

Below is an article by Dinos Avgoustis (my translation) that appeared in Simerini on Tuesday, which also discusses the revelations in Alasor’s book and rails against successive governments in Athens and Nicosia for failing to bring Turkey to account for its war crimes in Cyprus, and not only those committed in 1974, but also the murders of Theophilos Georgiades, president of the Cyprus-Kurdistan solidarity committee, gunned down by the Turkish secret services outside his home in Nicosia in 1994; and those in 1996 of Tassos Isaac and Solomos Solomou, murdered during protests against the Turkish occupation at Dherynia.

Order: execute the prisoners
‘Ayshe can start her holidays.’
With this coded order given by Turkey’s ‘democratic’ prime minister Bulent Ecevit to the Turkish military on 13 August 1974, Ankara broke off the Geneva peace talks and began the second phase of its invasion of Cyprus. At the same time in Athens, the celebrations [for the end of the junta] had not yet died down. The self-exiles returned and drunk with the sweet nectar of power they absolved themselves of responsibility for the events in Cyprus. Their justification simple: the dictators are to blame for everything. There didn’t exist the appropriate military preparedness, they told us. Unfortunately, however, for them, the facts and the accounts of Turkish veterans who took part in the invasion prove them wrong.

This is what Mahmoud Renas, eyewitness and leader of a group of Turkish commandos said: ‘The first Turkish invasion of Cyprus [on 20 July] was a fiasco. The head of the operation made terrible tactical mistakes, which wouldn’t be found in any army in the world. If Greece had decided to respond militarily, believe me, not only would the Turkish army not have occupied half the island, but it would also have suffered huge losses. The “success”of the Turkish army was based on there being no organised resistance by the Greeks.’

This is by way of a small introduction and response to those who shamelessly insist that we couldn’t have thrown the Turks into the sea. Those who continue to stick to the biggest lie of all and persist with their ignorance and misinformation…

Even if it is now 35 years since the barbaric Turkish invasion, one by one, the blood-soaked pages are being turned…

Some of the most tragic incidents took place in the villages of Assia and Aphania. Assia counts 83 missing and Aphania 15. Thirty-five years on, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot witnesses indicate that 70 of the missing from Assia were executed in cold blood by the Turkish army in 1974.

These memories have only been revived because Attila Olgac spoke up… but it’s worth remembering that there are other, even more shocking, revelations that have gone unremarked.

‘Don't show any mercy; burn and destroy. Even if they don’t strike you, strike them; even if they don’t threaten you, kill them.’ These were the orders of Captain Toufan Anli, according to Hassan Kofen, head of a heavy weapons unit during the invasion.

And this is the shocking admission of Mustafa Onkan: ‘In the village of Mora, near Nicosia, there was a mass execution of 100 Greek Cypriots… Among those killed were the elderly, women and children. After the massacre, the corpses remained unburied for a week…’

And there is no end to the cold-blooded killings. This is how another eyewitness, lieutenant, and later professor, Yalcin Kucuk, describes events: ‘For those who were taken prisoner, the method of murder varied: some were shot on the spot, others they told to run and with sadistic satisfaction they shot them in the back. Others were placed against the wall in groups and mowed down with automatic weapons… There were just a few officers who behaved properly and honourably in Cyprus. The majority were bloodthirsty and barbarian, hell-bent on theft and looting… The worst atrocities I saw took place in the village of Tymvou… The village was almost empty. Suddenly, there was a commotion and then a voice: “I've killed, sir, I’ve killed.” They’d unloaded two magazines into the uterus of a young woman, whose hands were tied behind her back and legs spread… she was a handicapped girl. I saw many murders in Cyprus, but this one shocked me the most.’

All the above and countless other shocking incidents are described in Roni Alasor’s book, Order: execute the prisoners, which Alasor dedicates to Theophilos Georgiades [president of the Cyprus-Kurdistan solidarity committee], ‘who devoted his life to the idea of an independent Cyprus, which, as he himself said, passes through the mountains of a free Kurdistan…’

Theophilos Georgiades was gunned down by agents of the Turkish secret services [in 1994] and Hellenism has done nothing to put the killers before a court. Just like we’ve done nothing about the cold-blooded murders of [Tassos] Isaac and [Solomos] Solomou. All we did and continue to do is pave with rose-petals genocidal Turkey’s European road.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The historical origins of the Skopjans: from Turks to Aztecs to Macedonians

I'd like to respond to the impressive historiography of the Skopjan Risto Stefov whose outpourings on Balkan – and particularly Greek history, on which the man has an unhealthy fixation – often appear on the internet, and particularly on American Chronicle. Following the same rigourous standards of intellectual honesty and historical accuracy as Mr Stefov, here's my version of the history of the Skopjans in the Balkans:

The Skopjans or Vardaskans or Fyromians or Bulgarians – a Turkish tribe from Mongolia – took a wrong turning looking for stray horses on the Central Asian steppes and wound up in the Balkans on Friday the 13 November 698 AD; and soon became famous, according to the great Byzantine historian, anthropologist and stand up comedian Steve Archimedes, for indulging in goat worship, playing music with their armpits and eating the toenail clippings of their sisters-in-law. Archimedes writes; 'Of all the barbarian tribes, we [the Byzantine Greeks] encountered, these proto-Skopjans made us laugh the most. I made a fortune in Constantinople regaling the emperor with stories about their funny ways.'

The proto-Skopjans carried on with their bizarre, primitive customs and way of life for the next few centuries, gradually shedding their Turkish identity and adopting a Slavic one – until the Greek monks Kyrillos and Methodios, from the Greek city of Thessaloniki, the second most important city, after Constantinople, in the Byzantine Empire, took pity, decided enough was enough, the joke had gone too far and introduced the uncouth tribe to Greek letters and Hellenic Christianity.

In the nineteenth century, an escapee from an Adrianople insane asylum, named Darko Kokov, a Skopjan from the village of Skataov in Illyria, started to have visions that he was the great Aztec leader Montezuma and that the Skopjans were not Turko-Bulgarians but Aztecs.

The well-known nineteenth century English traveller Lord Alfred Bigwig, who befriended Kokov, describes in his 1877 classic, Travels among the deluded spacemen of the Balkans, his first encounter with Kokov: 'He was a squat man with long arms and big teeth, his hair grown to three feet in length. He wore animal skins, lipstick and expressed great interest in what the fashionable women in Piccadilly Circus were wearing this season. He drank cat urine, just as he claimed his ancestor Montezuma did, and had a virulent, paranoid hatred of all things Spanish, even though he admitted he had never met a Spaniard and thought Spain was in India. "The Spaniards stole my country and are trying to destroy me," Darko, or the Son of Montezuma as he now insisted his fellow Skopjo-Aztecs call him, declared to anyone who would listen.'

In a short space of time, Bigwig records, Darko, or Montezuma, by sheer force of personality and a good line in mother-in-law jokes, was able to attract a number of followers among the Skopjan peasantry, and rallies and celebrations were held in which old Aztec customs – goat races, nose picking contests and the 'is it a dog or is it a bitch' festival, were revived; or at least Darko said they were Aztec customs, since Bigwig – a pre-Columbian dilettante – notes that his pet monkey Charlie knew more about Aztec civilisation than Kokov.

At the height of his powers, Bigwig writes, and just as he was preparing to embark on a military campaign to recapture Mexico City from the Spanish, Darko caught a cold and died, but not before a strange deathbed confession – that Bigwig witnessed – in which Darko admitted he was not the reincarnation of Montezuma and that the Skopjans had nothing to do with the Aztecs. 'I am, in fact,' Darko declared, according to Bigwig, 'the reincarnation of Alexander the Great and a myrtle tree named Branka and my people are not Aztecs but Macedonians. Tell my people, a five-headed chicken in a dream made this revelation to me. I repeat: tell my brothers and sisters that we are not Aztecs, we are Macedonians. Also tell them to put five pounds to win on Bonzo the Bulgarian in the Grand National.'

Darko the Great soiled his bed, then passed into the next world. Bigwig writes: 'Never has there been a crazier cat than Darko Kokov. My pet tortoise Frank made more sense than he did.'

Baron Fritz von Dingledoff, the freelance German archaeologist, who was in the Balkans at the same time as Bigwig, records in his classic Aryan excursions among the Skopjans and other fantasists that there was much grieving among Darko's followers on the news of their leader's sudden end, but also confusion after it was revealed to them that they were not Aztecs and the descendants of Montezuma but Macedonians, descended from Alexander the Great.

Von Dingledoff says 'Darko's followers had grown accustomed to their Aztec identity and wanted proof that it had been revealed to Darko that he was Alexander the Great and they were now Macedonians. There were dark murmurings and strife in the air. Surely Macedonia is and always has been Greek and the Macedonians are and always have been Hellenes. Then a man with only one leg emerged from a cave and spoke to the crowd: "Brothers and sisters, I was there when Darko copped it," Bisto Jerkov said, "and I can confirm that my sheep – who is my constant companion – addressed Darko and revealed to him that he, Darko, was Alexander the Great and that we, the Skopjo-Bulgarians, are not Aztecs but Macedonians. I admit there was confusion over whether the sheep said Macedonians or Mozambicans, and we all had to cock our ears to hear better, but I am certain, as certain as I am of my one leg and bladder condition, that the sheep, who has been my closest friend for 25 years, said we are Macedonians. In all the time we have been lovers, the sheep has never lied to me or let me down. We are what the sheep says we are. If the sheep says we are Macedonians, then we are Macedonians. Long live the sheep!"'

Von Dingledoff goes on to record that on revealing the pronouncements of the sheep, some in the crowd threw stones at Jerkov, but others said Jerkov was an honest man and they would be condemned to hell if they went against the sheep.

Since the Skopjans could not decide whether they were Aztecs or Macedonians and the rivalry between the different camps threatened to spill over into violent confrontation, it was decided by the leading Skopjans of the day to hold a wrestling match between the strongest Skopjan at the time, Madam Svetlana Titsov, and a bear.

If Madam Titsov won, the Skopjans would be Aztecs, if the bear prevailed they would proclaim themselves Macedonians. A circle was formed and a long struggle ensued. After three hours, 30-stone Madam Titsov finally managed to pin the bear to the ground and sit on the poor animal's face, suffocating him with her fleshy rear. It seemed all over for the bear, the end was near, until, drawing on its last reserves of strength, it dislodged Madam Titsov and bit her head off.

Thus, it was, according to Von Dingledoff – who went on to become Hitler's favourite manicurist – that the Skopjans came to believe they were Macedonians. 'If Madam Titsov had managed to keep sitting on the bear's face for five more seconds,' Von Dingledoff writes, 'the bear surely would have perished and the Skopjans rather than regarding themselves as Macedonians would be promulgating the idea that they are Aztecs. On such small details,' the German concludes 'are the fates of crazy peoples decided.'

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Occupied Cyprus to be transformed into Mediterranean Las Vegas

The Turkish occupation of Cyprus is a classic case of colonialism. Kill or throw off its land the local population, then seize its property and exploit it for strategic advantage and/or primitive economic gain. I've written previously, here and here, about how in the last few years the occupation regime in northern Cyprus has, through the usurpation of Greek land, shown itself for the avaricious and rapacious entity it is.

Below are extracts (my translation) from an article in today's Simerini, The Turks are building a new Las Vegas on our occupied land, by Dimitris Manousakis, which describes the shameless plan of the occupation authorities, with the collaboration of investors mostly from Britain and Israel, to transform the pristine wilderness of the remote Karpasia peninsular into a vulgar Las Vegas-style paradise for gamblers and wealthy Arabs.

'The Turkish-occupation regime is turning the pristine wilderness of Karpasia, from the Greek villages of Vokolida to Yialousa, into an all-green valley dedicated to gambling and luxury. Hotel-casinos, a huge shopping centre, a marina and a desalination plant – exclusively for the irrigation of the project – will create a new Las Vegas on our occupied land.

'The grandiose plans of the pseudo-government to secure much-needed income for itself from the usurpation of Greek Cypriot property has been boosted by the interest of businessmen, particularly from Britain and Israel. Works that three years ago were considered pipe dreams have now secured viable investment.

'The pseudo-state is unscrupulously handing out building permits fuelling an unprecedented construction boom that will transform, in less than two years, the wilderness of Karpasia… into a Las Vegas of the Mediterranean, hoping to attract all-year-round, high-end tourism and gamblers from all over Europe and the Middle East…

'Following on from the 'Temple of Artemis' (the five-star hotel-casino opened in 2007, picture right) in the Turkish-occupied village of Vokolida, it is intended that by 2010 another 16 hotel-casinos will open, along with a huge shopping centre [the Big Old Bazaar], a marina and three or four huge apartment complexes with a capacity of 52,000 beds…

‘Adjacent to the 'Temple of Artemis' will be the 'Colosseum' hotel. Modelled on the Colosseum of Rome, the hotel has cost 60m euros and will be followed by the hotel 'Babylon', with a Hanging Gardens of Babylon theme… and then by the hotel 'Noah', styled on Noah's Arc, which will boast 150 rooms, 20 suites and four presidential suites, available only to heads of state or super rich Arabs.

'The pseudo-government has also given the green light for the construction of a series of apartment complexes, with the largest being 'Thalassa' and the 'Karpasi', in the Turkish-occupied village of Yialousa. A marina in Yialousa is already under construction, a joint British-Israeli-Russian project, which will be ready by the end of 2010 and have berths for 400 pleasure craft and a special facility for the large yachts of the rich and famous…'

Friday, 6 February 2009

'Greece has no future'

Above is a good discussion (in Greek) between Professor Neoklis Sarris and Kostas Hountas regarding the truly pertinent issues facing Greece and which, in fact, have been facing Greece for the last 100 years. The full four-part programme can be seen here.

Sarris starts off discussing the demographic problems confronting Greece and reminds us that at the beginning of the 20th century, there were 6.5m Turks compared to 5.5m Greeks. This figure is now 70m and 11m respectively, with Turkey enjoying the added advantage of a young population compared to Greece's ageing population.

Sarris goes on: 'Everything indicates that we've taken the decision to "close the shop". All we've said today on the programme clearly shows that in the Aegean we've surrendered to Turkey; the game in Thrace has been lost; and, most importantly, we've lost the game ideologically.'

Sarris expands on his view that Greece has 'lost the game ideologically' by contemptuously referring to some of the better-known intellectuals in Greece, the gurus of 'modernisation' – Sotos Triantafyllou, Nikos Dimou and (ex-PM Kostas Simitis' chief adviser) Nikos Themelis, whose latest novel is revealingly called 'The Truth of the Other'.

In 'The Truth of the Other', Sarris says, Themelis wants to revise the view that has Constantinos Paleologos fighting the Turks to the death at the walls of Constantinople in 1453 and portray instead the emperor escaping the City by boat for the West where he lives happily ever after. Sarris suggests that Themelis' intention is to debunk the myth of the 'Marble Emperor' and the 'crude and idiotic nationalism' behind it.

Sarris goes on to ask how on earth Greeks can be expected, when the time comes, to vote for Pasok, given that party's ideological corruption. Giorgos Papandreou might be a good man, Sarris says, but 'I have doubts about his knowledge of Greek history and his position on, and emotional commitment to, certain issues that form the "soul" of Hellenism.'

Sarris sums up Greece's condition: 'We are a country that economically is doing badly; is collapsing demographically; is ideologically bankrupt. This is how things are. What future is there for Greece? What future is there for Greece? Greece has no future. We'll leave from this life with bitterness. We are on the verge of disaster. The situation is sad and desperate.'

Hountas disagrees with Sarris' pessimistic analysis and reminds us of the words of 19th century PM Charilaos Trikoupis: 'Η Ελλάς θέλει να ζήσει και θα ζήσει' (Greece wants to live, and will live).

Sarris replies Greece has been crippled, its will denied it and that if Greeks continue to vote for certain political parties, then it will be Greeks themselves, of their own volition, who will have ruined Greece.

Hountas says Greeks would like to vote differently and Sarris is describing only five percent of Greeks and that the other 95 percent agree with Sarris. And yet, Sarris says, that five percent prevails over the 95 percent and this is dictatorship.

'We're living under a weird dictatorship,' Sarris concludes.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Far from our native soil

Here among the barbarians in Hyperborea, it's been snowing. Above are some pictures of the effects of the snow in my local park in London. (For Athenian readers, the tall objects you see are 'trees'). Even though these are pretty scenes, I still can't help wondering what the hell our parents were up to when they left civilisation to live in northern climes. I've heard the argument that emigrating fits in with the Greek spirit of adventure, going back to Odysseus and reflected in Cavafy's Ithaki

As you set out for Ithaki
hope the voyage is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery

– but let's not forget that the last half of The Odyssey consists of Odysseus back in Ithaki, re-establishing order and justice; and as for the great ironist Cavafy, he was no Kazantzakis, constantly on the move, seemingly determined to see and experience the whole world. Rather, Cavafy led, according to Seferis at least, an uninteresting life, not existing outside his poems, devoted to and trapped in Alexandria, which he hardly ever left, settling for spiritual wanderlust, which you don't have to move a muscle for.

Anyway, below is Cavafy's poem, The City, which is a counterpoint to IthakiPoseidonians is another Cavafy poem on the catastrophe of leaving your native land – and because it's cold in Hyperborea and I've been thinking about warm clothing, I've also made available in Radio Akritas three rembetika songs about coats and jackets. Coats and jackets are a popular theme in rembetika and this stems, I suppose, from the coat being a prized asset for the impoverished and yet sartorially proud manga or rembete. On sartorial pride, I also recommend reading Gogol's short story, The Overcoat. In the mp3 player (below), Elli Lambeti reads Cavafy's The City (in Greek).

1. The Jacket – Anestos Delias:
2. The Overcoat – Giorgos Mitsakis (vocals Sotiria Bellou); and
3. My Jacket's Worn Out – Vasilis Tsitsanis (vocals Stella Haskil).

The City
You said: 'I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,

find another city better than this one.

Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong

and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead.

How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?

Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,

I see the black ruins of my life, here,

where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.'

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.

This city will always pursue you. You will walk

the same streets, grow old in the same neighbourhoods,

will turn gray in these same houses.

You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:

there is no ship for you, there is no road.

As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,

you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world.