Monday, 21 February 2011
Skai’s 1821: undermining national feeling
I’ve been watching Skai’s much-touted series on the Greek War of Independence – 1821. Its revisionism, distortions and political motivation have aroused a lot of outrage, largely justified in my opinion. Nevertheless, the series – and the discussion programmes that take place after each episode – is worth watching, since it’s always valuable to immerse oneself in the most important events and personalities of modern Greek history. (The series and discussion programmes can be seen here and on youtube).
A couple of points emerging from the third programme (first part, above), which concentrated on the siege and fall of Tripolitsa and the events at Agia Lavra that began the insurrection.
Regarding Agia Lavra, the programme was at pains to stress that Bishop Germanos’ raising the flag of revolution surrounded by Greek fighters led by Kolokotronis is a myth. Apparently, such an event never happened; it was an invention of the French historian of the Greek War of Independence François Pouqueville.
Now, whether the events at Agia Lavra happened as they’ve entered Greek national consciousness, or happened at a different time, in a different place, with different participants, is irrelevant; and for the programme-makers to make such a big deal of this exposes their agenda, which is to cast aspersions on the entire 1821 project and imply that generations of Greeks have been raised on lies.
And on the massacre of 8,000 Muslims and Jews that took place after Greek forces took Tripolitsa in the summer of 1821, it is despicable to suggest that this brutality was equivalent to the massacres against civilian Greeks that took place in Smyrna, Constantinople, Crete, Cyprus, Chios, Macedonia and so on, and that Greeks and Turks are therefore equally culpable when it comes to atrocity and barbarism.
There is no attempt to contextualise the Greek violence, committed by a long-oppressed people seeking to liberate their country; nor any attempt to put into context Turkish violence, which was ingrained in the Ottoman system whose subject peoples lived under permanent threat of massacre and even extermination, their physical existence only being tolerable to the Turks as long as they remained passive.
Permeating the Skai series is an implication that the Greek War of Independence and the formation of a Greek nation-state was not a necessary and righteous enterprise; the suggestion that in their historical relations Greeks and Turks are morally equivalent; and that, and here’s the rub, all this tension and potential for conflict that still exists between Greece and Turkey is artificial and it is only nationalist lies and myths – typically purveyed in more ‘traditional’ Greek historiography – preventing ‘friendship’ between the two peoples.