To be able to better understand the present “chaotic” situation in Greece’s “Political Culture”, we would first have to record, clarify and then analyze the “real events”, political, social and economic which contributed towards the liberation of part that country’s territory (Central Greece, Peloponnesus, the Cycladic Islands in the Aegean Sea) from Ottoman rule, leading to the creation of the first modern Greek nation-state in 1830. What becomes evident early on, is the fact that most of the “official” Greek Historiography which refers to Greece’s struggle for Independence( in essence initiated late in the 18th century), withholds or ignores purposefully all the historical data which demonstrates a lack of a “common” national consciousness and fighting spirit by the majority of the “protagonists” of the Revolution against Ottoman political tyranny which had lasted for almost 400 years.
The “first priority” of the leaders of the many “clans” who inhabited the various regions of Greece’s present national territories was not the liberation of all Greek subjects from the political, economic and military hegemony of the Ottomans, but the departure of the local military and political Ottoman officials from greek ancestral lands, so that they (greek feudal lords and military chieftains) could take over their place, while maintaining the same type of political control and exploitation of the local populations, in exactly the same despotic and authoritarian manner as had been applied by their Ottoman rulers for hundreds of years. One of the most important military figure of the Greek Revolution and one of its most patriotic politicians( in relative terms due to the “political chaos” of that historical epoch), Ioannis Makrigiannis (1794-1864), had recorded in his “Memoirs” a conversation he had had with another very powerful Greek military leader, Ioannis Gouras (1771-1826), who like Makrigiannis originated from Central Greece (Roumeli) and who was equally ambitious and covetous (p.15. special supplement, “The other 1821”, greek Sunday newspaper “Veto”, March 28, 2010), where he makes the following commentary to his “fellow comrade” in arms, telling him that”…Your friends and your relative governors are acquisitioning lands and goods. From what I can see and sense, you will soon become a Mohammed Ali (the powerful Turco-Albanian ruler of Egypt then) and your adviser an Ibrahim(the son of Mohammed Ali of Egypt who tried to repress militarily the Greek Revolution, following the direct orders of his master, the Ottoman Sultan). And you will quickly turn us into your slaves. The hell with this type of liberation, where I shall make you a master over me!…” (trans. from greek)(p.204.Tsimbidaros, Vassos, “The epic of 1821, without laurels and wreaths.”, editing house “Iolkos”, Athens, 2004).
As a Greek person, I personally believe that two of the most “deadly” shortcomings in the “persona” of modern Greeks are their “personal egocentrism” and also their abhorrence towards some type of “rational thinking” and “rational behavior”. With “personal egocentrism” one does everything to “mythicize” or to “exorcise” whatever touches us personally, while “personal egocentrism” distances us from a truly dialectic (rational) personal confrontation concerning our everyday lives, whether this entails a mental process of self-criticism or self-knowledge on a personal but also on a collective level. Human Egocentrism but also the absence of a Dialectic (rational) Thought Process have a “common denominator” which is “the lie”, “the conscious lie” relative to “an objective existential reality” which may reflect the extraordinary creative abilities of all human beings but also their destructive capacities. The “lie” we first learn it “at home”, then as we grow older we learn it through our social interactions, our education (within and outside school), and of course through the counseling of our various religious and political “spiritual guides”. Nevertheless, “a lie” remains “a lie”, which represents a “total disrespect” towards the real “nature of things” in life, a disrespect to our “human nature” and finally a great disrespect to “our fellow human beings”!!! Concluding, we could say that “a lie” is “destructive” at all levels and in all contexts, while the mainspring or its real instigator are our personal insecurities concerning our real identity, our nature and our traits as unique individuals; personal insecurities which have been instilled in our hearts and in our minds by everyone around us from the moment that we came into this World!!!
In the Modern Official Greek Historiography, a lot of “lies” and factual inaccuracies have been recorded, all this under the guidelines and auspices of an autocratic economic and political social establishment but also under the direct and institutionalized (Greek Constitution) intervention of the Greek Orthodox Church of Greece. A Church so powerful socially, culturally, economically but also politically, that it has “all the means at its disposal” to be able to dictate “up to a certain degree” the History which is being taught in Greek public schools and in public universities. The Greek Orthodox Church of Greece has been able to exclude from the “official” Greek Historiography all historical references and all historical personalities which “call into question” the social and cultural contributions of its “antiquated religious dogma” towards the “general welfare” and “progressive evolution” of Modern Greek Society. Omissions and half-truths or even historical lies have been identified in major Greek historical themes such as the murder of the First Head of the modern Greek nation-state, Ioannis Kapodistrias (1776-1831), the personal economic and political ventures of “the Fathers” of the Greek Nation, the real political role which was enacted by the leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Greek Independence Political Movement in the beginning of the 19th century, the real political causes behind the Greek military campaigns in Asia Minor and the subsequent destruction of the Greek communities there by the Turkish Nationalist Forces in 1922 and 1923, the real ideological motives for the bloody Greek Civil War after WWII, the real Greek political instigators in Turkey’s military invasion of Cyprus in 1974, and the many other historical themes, events and data which had to be “screened out” officially and publicly. I personally believe that the main reason for this type of “censorship” by the “official” Greek State, the “official” Greek Academic Bodies and of course by the “official” Church of Greece is that the “official” institutional guardians of the modern Greek nation-state could not permit any of the modern political “protagonists” and “heroes” to appear in the “official” Greek historiography as “middle-men” for the political and economic interests of Western Powers in our region; sacrificing their country’s political and economic self-determination for a ” few crumbs” of power for themselves. This “forbidden” historical information would have revealed that the great majority of the Greek political protagonists who had defined the image of Modern Greek History functioned and still function as “servile subjects” (as in Byzantine and Ottoman Rule) and not as “free” and “independent” Greek citizens who respect their own country and nation, and of course themselves!!!
To make myself clearer as to what I have been denoting up to now, I shall make use of 3 extracts from texts which have been written by 3 Greek citizens who represent different professional capacities but who nevertheless use the written word to express their political beliefs and their social consciousness as Free Individuals and Free Thinkers. The 3 extracts make references to the distortions imposed in Modern Greek Historiography, and more precisely to the distortions of those historical events and historical personalities which had formulated the Greek National Independence Movement in the beginning of the 19th century.
Vassos Tsimbidaros was born in the region of Mani in Peloponnesus in 1919, and professionally he worked as a political reporter and as a history writer, but most importantly he served as chief officer of the Press Bureau of the Greek State during the government of viceroy Archbishop Damaskinos (1944-1946), as King George II of Greece was in exile in Great Britain at that time. He also worked as a political correspondent for many Greek embassies around the globe. What this all really means is that Vassos Tsimbidaros had official operational relations with Greece’s state apparatus but also with the very powerful leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church of the country. In his book entitled “1821, without laurels and wreaths”(trans. from greek) published in 2001 by the editing house “Iolkos”, he makes the following commentary in the introduction.”…But we here in Greece have transformed into a myth the Revolution of 1821. In order for someone(a greek person) to arrive at the truth, they would have to complete Secondary School and University, and then to personally take the proper initiatives to search for it. Only then, can a person free himself or herself from the shackles of the fickle official history texts, glorifying the Nation, where everything is presented as ethereal and rosy but is naturally false…”(trans. from greek) (p.13.,Tsimbidaros, Vassos, “1821 without laurels and wreaths”, editing house “Iolkos”, Athens, 2004).
Theodoros Panagopoulos was born in Corinth in Peloponnesus, studied Law at the University of Athens and entered the judicial branch, serving for many years as judge in the Greek Civil Courts. Now that he has retired, he is occupied with writing articles, essays and books which deal with subjects such as History, the Science of Religion and the Social Sciences related to modern Greece. With Theodoros Panagopoulos we have a high ranking state official of the judicial branch of the Greek State who has a multi-dimensional knowledge of how Greek justice functioned in the immediate past and how it functions today; in a country which calls itself “modern” and “democratic”. Theodoros Panagopoulos in his book “The Fine Print in History”(trans. from greek) published in 2009 by the editing house “Enalios”, where he describes the unknown historical aspects of the Greek Revolution of 1821 in 500 pages, he makes the following comments in the prologue of this text.”…The reason why I have written this book is because of the uneasiness I felt every time I confirmed the amount of hypocrisy, mainly hypocrisy, but also the lies, the misinformation and the distortion which existed within every written historical event. I have never been shy at showing and expressing my displeasure when “Official Greek History” and its architects have tried to hide the truth. It disturbs me enormously when they are hiding the truth from us. This in a democratic state where its citizens demand, deserve and have to know the truth!…”(trans. from greek) (p.16.,Panagopoulos, Theodoros, “The Fine Print in History”, editing house “Enalios”, Athens, 2009).
The third writer is Panos Ba.ilis who is the modern reporter who drafted all the texts which make up a special written supplement of the greek Sunday newspaper “Veto”, commemorating the Greek National Holiday of March 25 which celebrates Greece’s National Independence of 1830. This textual tribute which was published by this greek newspaper on March 28, 2010, is composed of 16 written pages and presents a variety of articles which provide a lot of historical information related to the Greek Independence Revolution of 1821; information which has not been included in the Official Historiography of Greece. These deliberate historical gaps exist because such information demystifies the historical events and the protagonists of the Greek Revolution, and naturally “puts into question” the socio-political, economic and cultural foundations of the modern Greek nation-state. The merits of the opinions and thoughts of Panos Ba.ilis stem from the fact that he is a young reporter and not a professional historian or academician. In his introductory article he expresses clearly his political opinion when he says that”…And they(Greek state apparatus) took great care to teach(and they still do) to the new generations this “ready made” superficial Modern Greek History, who may never learn “officially” that there were (Greek) individuals, groups of people, families(clans) and whole regions who went on a rampage, stealing, raping, murdering, slandering and making themselves rich using unlawful and inhuman means. They(Greek state apparatus) excluded anything which could have produced any “personal distress” to the social ranks of the feudal lords, the high officials of the Church(Greek Orthodox Church of Greece), the Church itself as an institution, but also anything which could have blemished the “image” of the protagonist-heroes of the Revolution(trans. from greek)(p.2.,Ba.ilis, Panos, special written supplement, greek Sunday newspaper “Veto”, March 28, 2010).
These three “different” authors of these texts who “paint in dark colors” not only the “credibility” of the Official Greek Historiography by the state educators and academicians but also of the Modern Greek State Apparatus in general, have no real personal interest in doing it, and I am certain they are not acting in a subversive way with respect to their country’s national interests. On the contrary, they are consciously “putting themselves on the firing line” of the largest proportion of their country’s “educated” citizens, who as a whole have espoused a type of thinking and attitude which are based on “lies”, “hypocrisy”, “diplomacy”, “myth”, “personal self-interest” and a general disrespect for life itself. Therefore these three authors are willing “to put at risk” their social and professional status for the sake of the “historical truth”, because they deeply believe that only through self-knowledge and self-criticism can a modern Greek citizen get rid of the “unnatural human rottenness” and the “existential distortion” that they have inherited from their “barbarian” modern forefathers and educators. These three different authors want the modern Greek citizen to be “really” free, wholesome and creative.
An extraordinary historical reference (end of 1st century A.D.) as to how critical “truth” is to the quality of human social life is the statement made by Jesus Christ to his apostles found in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. In “saying”(Λόγιον) 33 of the Gospel, Christ explains to his close “spiritual friends” the following:
“Yeshua(Jesus) said :
What you hear with your ears,
tell it to other ears
and proclaim it from the rooftops.
No one lights a lamp
so that it will be put under a basket
or hidden somewhere.
Rather, one puts it upon a stand
so that all who enter and leave
may see the light.
(p.115., Leloup, Jean-Yves, translation from french text by Joseph Rowe, Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont, 2005).
In the next part of our article concerning the “Modern Greek Political Culture”, we shall examine the real historical events and the real personalities of the protagonists of the Greek Independence Revolution of 1821, so as to better understand why today as a country and as a nation we find ourselves at a “historical impasse” which we as Greeks don’t really know where it could exactly lead us to!!!
As we have mentioned in the previous part of our article concerning the “Modern Greek Political Culture”, we plan to describe every time, a historical figure of Greek descent who has contributed creatively and dynamically in the “restoration” and the “development” of Greece’s modern civilization, based on that person’s spiritual virtues, free thinking and its intense Greek cultural consciousness. These are the historical personalities whom the Greek Social Establishment and a “nebulous” and “barbarian” Greek Society in its greatest part, pushed them “to the periphery” or even persecuted them.
Today, we shall talk about a woman, Manto Mavrogenous, the purest and the most genuine combatant in the Greek Revolution of 1821, compared to the great majority of her male Greek comrades in arms.
Manto Mavrogenous was born in 1796, in Trieste Italy, a region which at that time belonged to the Austrian Empire. Her father, Nicolaos Mavrogenous, was a very successful merchant in that European region but he was also a member of the Secret Society “Filiki Eteria” (Company of Friends), a Masonic type of a political organization like the “Carbonari” in Italy, whose secret political aims were the liberation of Greek lands from the Ottoman Empire. From a very young age, Manto Mavrogenous was initiated as a member in this Secret Society by her father (p.1. http://www.paidika.gr/index.php?). The family of Manto Mavrogenous had for many generations exercised enormous economic and political clout within the territories of the Austrian Empire as well as within the Ottoman Empire. In 1809, Manto Mavrogenous moved with her entire family to the greek island of Paros in the Cyclades (group of islands in the Central Aegean Sea), where she soon learned that this powerful Secret Society she belonged to, was making all the necessary preparations so that the Greek Liberation Movement could act in full force and at all fronts. After the death of her father, Manto Mavrogenous first went to the greek island of Tinos (Cyclades) and then established herself on the greek island of Mykonos (Cyclades) where she participated actively both as an organizer and as a combatant in the various Greek battles against Greece’s Ottoman political masters.
As a consequence of her aristocratic background, Manto Mavrogenous grew up in a civilized and refined family environment, where the ideas of European Enlightenment were points of reference for everyday life and personal development. Manto studied Greek Philosophy and History in a college in Trieste, while she was fluent in French, Italian and Turkish. She was an educated “cosmopolitan” who often traveled to various European countries (p.1-2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manto_Mavrogenous).
In the beginning, Manto Mavrogenous using her own vast money resources bought two ships which she armed with canons and fighting sailors, navigating them personally to sea-battles against pirate and Ottoman ships which were raiding many of the greek islands in the Aegean Sea, such as Paros and Mykonos. Manto Mavrogenous also financed small groups of soldiers to help with the capture by the Greek Liberation Forces of the Greek city of Tripoli (Peloponnesus) which was under Ottoman control, while also supporting economically the families of these Greek Revolutionary Fighters. In 1822, Manto Mavrogenous acquired a fleet of 6 ships and staffed them with 16 squads of army personnel, each squad representing 50 soldiers. This fighting force lead by Manto herself undertook strategic battles in Karistos (on the large island of Evia near mainland Greece) and on the island of Chios (northern Aegean Sea near Asia Minor), while she also hired (paid for) 50 more soldiers to help the chief army officer Nikitaras in blocking the movement of the Ottoman army forces to the north at the natural passage of Dervenakia in Peloponnesus in 1822. When the Ottoman fleet reappeared at full force close to the group of islands in the Central Aegean Sea (Cyclades), Manto Mavrogenous hired and armed 200 more soldiers who fought the Ottoman Turks on these islands but also in other regions of Southern and Central Greece. In order for this “splendid woman” to be able to finance and pay for these last army squads as well as helping the 2,000 Greeks who had survived in 1822, the first Ottoman siege of the region of Messolonghi in Central Greece, she had to sell off all her precious personal jewelry since she had already spent all her vast financial fortune (p.2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manto_Mavrogenous). Here we are obliged to make an important historical clarification concerning that period, which I believe that few modern Greeks are aware of, and it is that most of those “noble Greek freedom fighters” who battled against their Ottoman Turk oppressors on “Greek soil” did it “on condition of personal payment” (mercenaries) or for “booty” and “material possessions” coveted either from Greece’s Turkish inhabitants or from those Greek inhabitants who were opposing their hegemonic power ambitions. In reality, most of all of these “combatant heroes” of the Greek Revolution of 1821, from the highest military officer to the simple soldier, acted as “self-serving mercenaries” and as “predators” and not as “real patriots”. One “can count on the fingers of one hand” those who fought and struggled in an “altruistic way” and for their patriotic beliefs for an Independent Greek Homeland. One of these extraordinary, honorable and glorious “man-at-arms” was a Greek woman, Manto Mavrogenous, a truly “liberated person” with a social consciousness and progressive political ideals!!!
Manto Mavrogenous was not only a “political combatant” who had spent all of her enormous fortune to hire soldiers, to buy war vessels and to arm the Greek military forces who were battling against their Ottoman political oppressors, but she “personally” had participated in those battles, she “herself” had been an active contributor to the military strategies of the “top military leadership” of the Greek Forces, but was also the only woman representative in the Congress of Trizina in 1827 and in the Congress of Argos in 1829; congresses which in essence had defined the institutional infrastructure of the future “modern” Greek nation-state which would soon be established (1830) (p.2. http://whitewomenfront.blogspot./2008/02/m.htm).
Another very important historical information concerning the private life of Manto Mavrogenous was her open and long love relationship(in a conservative social environment) with Dimitrios Ipsilandis (1793-1832), a major political and military figure in the Greek Revolution who belonged to a powerful greek family-clan which resided in the capital of the Ottoman Empire, in Constantinople. Dimitrios Ipsilandis had served as a high-ranking military officer in the Russian Army, and had participated in the Napoleonic Wars (p.2. http://argolikivivliothiki.gr/2009/03/09/υψηλάντης-δημήτριος-1793-1832). Manto Mavrogenous wanted very much to marry Dimitrios Ipsilandis, but he as with all the rest of the high military and political leaders of the Greek Revolution, who were all men and who lived in a male-dominated, conservative and anachronistic Greek society, soon put this “dynamic” and “creative” woman “on the side-line” to all future political developments. They were fearful and jealous of this woman’s social status and the political influence she could exercise in the near future, when formulating the socio-political infrastructure of the new Greek nation-state. This I believe is also the main reason why there is no reference made of her “valuable contribution” in the Greek School Text of Modern History(from 1815 till the present) which is being taught in the last year of Senior High School to all Greek Students. I am also certain, that in this “official historical omission”, the Greek Orthodox Church of Greece has played an important role in it, since the “modern” and “democratic” Greek Constitution provides this “permanent religious institution” with the legal right to “oversee” and to “define” the criteria of all the teaching material which is destined to all of the public educational institutions, from elementary schools to state universities. Greece, which considers itself a Western nation, and is actually a full member-state of the European Community, has a Ministry of Education whose official title is the Ministry of National Education and Religious Sciences. I hope that as “modern” Greeks of the 21st century we are “proud” of this, but most importantly that we are proud of ourselves as modern and free thinking citizens!!!
Manto Mavrogenous was a person so sincere, so true to herself and honest that in the Congress Of Trizina in 1827 (the only woman representative) she put in the “agenda” of its discussions the subject of her lover’s “unethical” and “unmanly” stance towards herself, a person (Dimitrios Ipsilandis) who was one of the most powerful and influential political and military leaders in the Greek Congress. A truly liberated woman, who had sacrificed everything for her nation but also for “true love”!!! The general social response towards this free-thinking, creative and very generous person was that even her own mother and sister “disowned” her privately and publicly. (http://www.books.google.gr/books?id=Women and War), while the military and the political leaders of the Greek Revolution essentially “banished” her to the island of Paros (Cyclades), providing her with a financial “relief aid” of 30 piastres monthly, which at that time was worth approximately 2 British pounds. Manto Mavrogenous on the other hand had donated 700,000 piastres for the Greek Cause, which was a “vast fortune” then (p.2. http://www.mykonostour.com/greek/mykonos_history/manto_mavrogen…).
Manto Mavrogenous died on the greek island of Paros in 1840, at the age of 44 from an epidemic, financially distraught and with almost no economic resources except for a room she rented in her dilapidated family house so as to pay for her everyday expenses. She died alone, forgotten by her “comrades in arms” and by her “patriotic friends”, but also by her close relatives (sacred Greek family traditions) (p.1. http://el.wikipedia.org/wiki/Μαντώ_Μαυρογένους). This is then what Modern Greek Historical Reality is all about, and we modern Greeks are all supposed to feel awe and proud about it!!!
Manto Mavrogenous was not only a real patriot, a fighting spirit and a combatant, who gave everything that was most precious in her life for the idea of her Nation’s Freedom , but had also functioned as a “liberated woman” who could be considered in her time but even today, as a “vanguard” for the “progressive” and “liberal” Western World. That is the reason why we are here going to quote a section from a letter sent by Manto Mavrogenous(written in French) to the women of the elite class of France, trying to sensitize and bring them closer to the Just Political Cause of Greek Independence.
“…My love for my country, my devotion for my religion, my thirst for a just retribution, have inflamed my spirit and have instilled in me a passion for dynamic encounters. I crave for a moment of battle the way you yearn for a hour on the dance floor. On the whole, we are not only different in our inherent pleasures which God has provided us with, but we are also different in the way we utilize these. You utilize them against your real purpose in life and therefore you belong to the society of passive human beings. Happier am I compared to you, as I utilize them where it is imperative and just, and these(inherent pleasures) reciprocate by providing me with feelings of exaltation, unlimited gratifications and allegiances… You see men only as worshippers of your own physical beauty while I see them only as buttresses of my fatherland…” (trans. from greek) (p.2. http://whitewomenfront.blogspot.com/2008/02/m.htm).
Manto Mavrogenous (1796-1840)
A truly liberated woman