Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Ku Klux klan and the first Greek immigrants

The name Ku Klux Klan derives at its 2/3 from the greek word κύκλος=kyklos which means circle. Many of its founding members were admirers of the Greek civilization. However this didn't stop them from persecuting Greek immigrants.

The KKK was founded in 1865 in Tenesee but was disbanted 20 years later. In 1913 a second KKK was founded in Atlanta by a protestant pastor. During the height of its power it had 5 million members, but eventually this one was disbanted too under pressure of moral scandals and accusations of collaboration of the KKK with the Nazis. The organization was founded for a third time as a reaction to a law that the Congress implemented about tolerance and social equality.

The American perspective on Greek immigrants

One of the numerous national and religious communities that the KKK targeted were the Greeks. Many Greeks migrated to the U.S during the late 19th and early 20th century 

Although most of them were uneducated workers who were forced to leave because of the meagre economic prospects of Greece they kept their customs and traditions resisting to foreign influences. This proved to be a negative point towards their assimilation to  the American society and a very good pretext for the xenophobic KKK to turn against them.
All these young Greeks worked very hard in order to achieve a financial stability. Most of them came to America only with their clothes. Their hard work involved also some "less prestigious" jobs like sellers of small items at the streets without the permission of the authorities. Such illegal jobs caused troubles between the Greeks and the police.

1910, A greek immigrant wearing a Cretan outfit
In a report(D.Mingham Commission report,1911) the Greek immigrants were characterized as uneducated people without proper manners with bizarre names, language and customs.This harsh report represented the Greek immigrants as sub-human beings. 

The bad relations of the Greeks with the police led to the first and last pogrom conducted by KKK against Greeks. Particularly in 1919 after an argument between a Greek worker and an American policeman in the town of South Omaha in Nebraska  the worker killed the officer. This event along with the economic crisis and the unemployment increased the temper in the area and many Americans aimed to unleash their anger on the Greek community. The KKK accused the 2.500 Greeks who worked in the town for everything bad that happened to  U.S and compelled the rest of the town to turn against them by representing them as a threat who  steal jobs from Americans. A local newspaper following the tensions that prevailed wrote that "We must get rid of these hideous people for killing our officer. One drop of American blood is more valuable than the blood of all the Greeks in the world."

As a result in the evening of the 21rst of February in 1909 an angry mob invaded in the Greek quarter utterly destroying it. The Greek communities in the US protested to the the federal government for the incident, which in turn paid large  sums as compensation.

These  events made the Greek Americans to reorganise themselves. They had to aim at their successful integration in the American society so that they wouldn't be a target of xenophobic groups anymore. In 1922 a Greek organisation called Ahepa(American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) was founded in Atlanta under Georgios Nikolopoulos and Ioannes Aggelopoulos. At the beginning they were active in areas were the KKK was having a big influence but later they expanded all over the U.S with the purpose of making easier the settling of Greek immigrants in America and protect them from KKK.
At some point Ahepa reached the other side and was accused of dehellinizing the immigrants. However they achieved to change the image Americans had on the Greeks and made the Greek American community a progressive and respective element in the American society.

American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association
the symbol of AHEPA
The last reaction against Greeks by KKK was in 1970 during the electorial campaigns. Robert Shelton turned against the Greek descended vice president Spyro Agnew(Spyros Anagnostopoulos)  and despite that Agnew's mother was American and he himself was a Protestant ,Shelton characterized him as a malevolent Greek who is coming to give false promises in order to gain votes.However this was a weak attack from a weak organization which was only a shadow of what it used to be.
Spyro Agnew

source: magazine ιστορικά θέματα
translation made by me

Saturday, July 16, 2011

İsmet İnönü: The Second President of Turkey

     If you talk about the early years of Turkish politics, you are supposed to know İsmet İnönü as the close friend of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the Second President of Turkey. İsmet İnönü may be less popular compared to Atatürk, but he was also a very successful politician and brave soldier who deserved to be mentioned by history. I wanted to stress that before starting to write as he was less known abroad and people did not know about him very well. That's the reason why I and Spiros desired to introduce him to you.

    İsmet İnönü was born in 1884 at İzmir. It is known that he is originally from Malatya. There is also a university there dedicated to İsmet İnönü for that reason. In his early years, he attended the Ottoman military academy and became a splendid soldier. By the time he met Atatürk, Ottoman Empire was about to come to an end because of the WW1. He approved Atatürk's plans, and they initiated the Turkish war of independence together. They saved the country from the invasions due to İnönü's big efforts.

   He agreed on the new democratic Turkey idea and helped Atatürk in founding Turkey in 1923. He promoted democracy and reforms whole heartedly. He was always by Atatürk's side and did not leave him until his last breath. It is said that they disagreed sometimes about economics. Some historians claim İnönü was money-minded and Atatürk got mad at him because of that. There is not any official documents about this special detail among them, though.

   After Atatürk died in 1938, İsmet İnönü became the Second President of Turkey. During his early political career as a president, Turkey was in danger because of the begining of the WW2. Germany wanted Turkey to participate in WW2 on its side while England and Russia threatened the new government, as well. Turkey was not capable of coping with a new war and İsmet İnönü was surely aware of this case. He followed a  hard and neutral stance in order not to be involved in this war. That did the trick, and Turkey was rescued from the WW2 thanks to İnönü's political intelligence that was questioned by Churcill's England, Russia during the WW2 trials of Germany.

   That achievement mirrored to the International Press widely and was mentioned by important newspapers. For instance a quote by William L. Cleveland  said that “If one defines a successful foreign policy as the pursuit of national interest, then President Inönü‘s conduct of Turkish diplomacy during World War 2 must be considered as a triumph. Resisting pressures for an alliance by both the Allies and the Axis, Inönü guided his country along a cautious path of friendly neutrality until the outcome of the war was decided.”

   What about the Turkish society at that time? People were scared of a new war since they had already lost  everything so that Turkey could be saved in the previous decades . They made many economic sacrifices during İnönü's time, too. People even waited in line in order to buy bread or gas. They paid taxes and were exposed to a rough economical situation. Some people whined about the policy of İnönü that time. He answered the whinings: 'It is true that i caused starvation. However, I did not make your children lack  their fathers.' This saying of him is very popular in Turkish history.

   But, there is a fact that few people know in Turkey. It is not true that Turkey had no casualties during the WW2. Many Turkish soldiers died during the WW2 though they did not go to army officially. The soldiers died for Germany and its daydreaming failed attacks. It was not recorded as there would be a rebellion. Even today, it has been questioned by some historians and researchers. It is a strong possibility, so historians keep us updated about that phenomenon.

  Another detail about İnönü era would be related to the Jewish genocide. By the time Germany committed genocide, Turkey spoke out and defended the Jews' rights. Turkish embassies in Europe, especially the French and Hungarian ones, rescued many Turkish Jews from the genocide and helped them come to Turkey in care of İnönü. They also made a claim to other Jews who did not have Turkish identity, though. This event allured a Turkish author and directed her to write a book about this era. She dedicated her book to the embassy officers of that time helping the Jews.

  İsmet İnönü served the Turkish Republic during his life and he remained as one of the biggest political idols of Turkey. He is still considered an intelligent brave man by Turkish society. He died in 1973, but he is remembered and loved by everyone as much as Atatürk. His grave is at Anıtkabir, where Atatürk's grave is situated.



Thursday, July 14, 2011

Jerzy Iwanow Szajnowicz(Γεώργιος Ιβάνοφ)

Jerzy Iwanow

Jerzy Iwanow was born in the 14th of  December of 1911 in Warsow.His father Vladimir was an officer at the Czar's army and his mother a Polish.

In 1925 Iwanow settled with his mother in Thessalonica as she married for second time a Greek man called Ioannis Labrianidis(his father had died somewhere in Caucasus). In 1928 he  registered as an athlete in the athletic club Iraklis. Initially he was part of the football team of the club but later he joined the swimming team. In 1934 he won the first position at the panhellenic 100m free swimming race .

In 1935 he took a Polish identity and in 1938  he acquired his degree in agriculture from the university of Louvain in Belgium.He was able to speak perfectly many languages including English Greek and Polish.

When he heard about the German invasion in Poland he attempted to come into contact with the exiled Polish army in France in order to assist the Polish as a soldier. However he only achieved to become an intermediary for the transportation of Polish refugees in Palestine. Ironically he would take the same route two years later when the Germans invaded Greece.

In Palestine he was hired by the Polish intelligence which was based in Jerusalem. Seeing his potential abilities the Polish trained him for Sabotage and spying missions. Paradoxically Jerzy ended up working under the commands of the British intelligence in Egypt.

In Greece

Iwanow arrived in Marathon from Egypt with the submarine thunderbolt at the begining of 1941. He disembarked along with some other spies and a radio transmitter that they would have to hide somewhere nearby. He had orders to get in touch with some Greeks who were part of the resistance and would help him in his missions.

In Athens he created a fake identity under the name Nikolaos Tsenoglou. His code name was Athos. He achieved to bring  the radio trasmitter in the house where he was hosted without notice. He started gathering important information related to the presence of the German army in Athens.

In November of 1941 he met an old childhood friend called Giannis Pantos. The same night Gestapo entered his house and confiscated his radio transmitter. Iwanow suspected his friend as a traitor and arranged a new meeting with him in order to confirm it. However this meeting turned out to be a trap.

In 18th December Gestapo arrested Iwanow and put him into a prison in Athens. One day his jail-mate was about to be transferred but he was asleep and Iwanow took the chance and assumed his jail-mate's identity.
While he was transported by car Iwanow managed to exterminate his guard an jumped out running into the small streets of Athens in order to get lost.

After these incidents Iwanow stopped having a permanent residence.With the help of a Greek girl who was a chemistry student they decoded German messages sent to the Middle East. By this way they aided the allies to sink many German supply ships weakening Rommel's army in N. Africa. However after sometime the Germans spotted their trasmitter and they abandoned it.

After that Iwanov turned on more active methods of resistance. His first sabotage success was the destruction of a Greek factory that was repairing German air plane engines. He achieved this with the help of a greek resistance organisation called Panhellenic union of fighting youth.

Sabotage of the U133

A U-class German submarine
In January of 1942 after many victories of the allied navy against the Italians , the Germans sent a fleet to start patrolling in the Mediterranean  in order to protect the supply ships. Iwanow acquired a fake Greek sailor's identity in order to have access in the shipyard. His aim was to damage a German U133 which had achieved many victories against the British including sinking a British frigate. 

In order to familiarize with the area Iwanow worked as a shipyard worker. He had let his beard grow in order  to make his face unrecognisable. In this mission Iwanow used his swimming skills. One night under the cover of darkness he swam a big distance with a clock bomb attached in his back. He put the bomb on the side of the submarine some minutes before it was going to sail. After two hours in the middle of the sea the bomb exploded and the submarine along with 145 members of the crew went to the bottom of the Aegean.

Other activities and second arrest

Iwanow's great success with the u133 made him follow the same tactic on sabotaging vehicles. He was responsible for sinking the steamboat San Isidoro in the port of Piraeus. Later he continued sinking ships in the port of Patras with the assistance of the aforementioned chemistry student.

In Athens he achieved to destroy many German airfighters by putting explosives in the main airport of Athens. This is considered one of the greatest achievements of the Greek resistance.

Eventually Iwanow was arrested by Italian carabinieri in Athens. It is said that his position was revealed by a greek officer after the Italians promised him a large sum of money in exchange.

Iwanow's trial was a parody(like almost all trials conducted by the german court. He was condemned to death by execution.As he was escorted at the place of execution he made his last move and he exterminated two of his guards but his task to escape was really hard and a bullet injured him in the back and he fell down .
Almost dead he was put on the line along with other members of the resistance. Before the last signal of the german officer he shouted Long live Greece Long live Poland.

The German intelligence achieved to find many of Iwanow's collaborators and executed them.However noone knows what happened to the chemistry student and close partner of Iwanow. During the German occupation Iwanow had only a few chances to see his mother because of the fear of getting caught.After the WW2 ended the British queen Elisabeth order the donnation of 1000 pounds to Iwanow's mother. There is a basketball arena in Thessaloniki named after Iwanow(Ivanofeion)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Varangians:The enigmatic Byzantine imperial guards(2nd part)

the first part:

The Rus as a mercenary force in the Byzantine army(911-988)
Varangians in Skylitze's manuscript.

After the second unsuccesful attack of the Rus against the Byzantine empire in 907 and the Byzantine-Rus treaty of 911 many Rus soldiers flocked in Byzantine lands to serve as mercenaries.

The article 8 of the treaty allowed the Rus to be recruited by the Byzantines either for the purpose of an urgent military campaign or for a more permanent basis. However we cannot exclude that Rus soldiers may have been hired by the Byzantines before 911.

The first reference about Rus in the Byzantine sources is in the year 911. There are mentioned 700 Rus soldiers by Constantine Porphyrogenitos who were recruited by the Byzantine navy for a campaign against the Arab held Crete.For the record this campaign was catastrophic for the Byzantines.

Generally  as long as the Rus were used as a mercenary force they were deployed against Arabs in Crete and Sicily.Perhaps their Northern looks and their height caused terror in the ranks of the Saracens.

The Varangian guard
On the left a Danish  and on the right a Rus Varangian.

The creation of the Varangian guard as a special battalion is attested in 988. Emperor Basil's II land reforms had enfuriated many aristocratic land owners and this triggered a civil war.Vardas Skliros an Aristocrat from Asia minor created an army and marched towards Constantinople. Basil was occupied with dealing with the Bulgarians and couldn't spare forces to deal with Vardas Skliros.He invoked the Byzantine -Rus agreement of 971  by which the Rus were obliged to assist the Byzantine emperor in crucial situation.

At the begining of 988 an army of 6000 chosen warriors(Druzina) were sent  in Constantinople by the Kievan prince Vladimir. As an act of gratitude Basil arranged the marriage of his sister Anna with the Kievan prince initiating a very strong alliance that would have a longterm impact in Russian religious and cultural history.

The Varangians along with the Byzantine imperial army utterly crashed the rebel army in Chrysopolis and Avydos. Those rebellions made Basil to consider the creation of a military unit that would be  loyal to the emperor.As the chronicographer Michael Psellos writes: The emperor  aware of the tendency of the Romans(Byzantines) in treachery assembled an extraordinary force of Scythians(general term of the Byzantines for all the nations living in modern Russia) and he made them his imperial guards.

Nationality and command

The nationality of the Varangians varied according to the period and the circumstances. The majority were Vikings coming from Scandinavia Russia and Ukraine. The Byzantine sources refer to them as Rus or Scythians.However major events in Europe caused an influx of other nationalities in the Varangian guard,Particularly in 1066 when William of Normandy invaded England much of the Anglo Danish and Anglo Saxon population fled to continental Europe. Many of them sought a new begining in the Byzantine lands.

Since the 12th century we start having references about English soldiers in the Varagian guard. In fact by the begining of the 13th century until the fall of Constantinople by the Ottomans the majority of the Varangians were English(with some Danes in their ranks)

The Varangians were answering to the Emperor, the Heteriarches(commander of the palace guard) and the Akolouthos(commander of the foreigners of the imperial guard). It's worth to note that during the 11th century(1035-44) the akolouthos was Harald Sigurdson  who later became Harld Hardrada the king of Norway

General info

The salary of each Varangian was very high. Their monthly salary was between 10 to 15 golden coins per month.They were also having a big credit on spoil sharing . For example after the famous Byzantine victory in 1014 at Kleidion the share of the spoils was 1/3 for the emperor , 1/3 for the soldiers and 1/3 for the Varangians. By this way the Byzantine aknowledged their crucial contribution in the battlefield.

Byzantine coins found in Scandinavia
Many Scandinavian sagas contain information about the wealth and the life in Constantinople.Archaeological research in Norway has brought many Byzantine coins into light. They were likely conveyed by retired Varangians. An example of the wealth that the Varangians were making during their service in Byzantium was Harald Sigurdson who was able to create a whole army in Norway in order to take the throne.

The Varangians were very loyal to their emperor.They only turned against him if he commited a crime or an outrageous act. There was only one case with the emperor Michael Kalaphates who banished his own mother and this triggered a civil disorder in the city. Eventually Michael was condemned to be blinded and according to Scandinavian sources the process of punishment was commited by Harald Sigurdson. 

In war time the Varangians were used for the defence of the capital or the protection and escort of the Emperor in military campaigns. Sometimes if some battles were considered crucial the Varangians were deployed even though the emperor reamained in the city.

The basic weapon of the Varangians was a double edged Scandinavian axe. Another weapon they used was a long single edged sword(Scandinavian sword). Some Byzantine sources refer to spears and bows as additional weapons used by the Varangians.

Their basic defensive weapon was a shield. It was  round wooden with metal additions.Later influenced by the Byzantines they used triangular shields.

The defensive battle tactic of the Varangians was called (Skjaldborg). With this formation they created an unpenetrable wall with their shields and axes.Their offensive formation was triangular. They were charging on the enemy lines causing fear and panick to the enemies. They were so brave and bold according to the Byzantine sources that modern historians assume that there may have been Bersekers among the Varangians.Bersekers were  warriors who used drugs to come into some sort of war ecstasy during a battle.

source:magazine stratiotiki istoria(στρατιωτική ιστορία) 
translation is made by me.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Democracy’s Cradle, Rocking the World

Here's an interesting article of NY Times about the diachronic involvement of Greece in the major global events with a 200 years historical flashback

YESTERDAY, the whole world was watching Greece as its Parliament voted to pass a divisive package of austerity measures that could have critical ramifications for the global financial system. It may come as a surprise that this tiny tip of the Balkan Peninsula could command such attention. We usually think of Greece as the home of Plato and Pericles, its real importance lying deep in antiquity. But this is hardly the first time that to understand Europe’s future, you need to turn away from the big powers at the center of the continent and look closely at what is happening in Athens. For the past 200 years, Greece has been at the forefront of Europe’s evolution.

In the 1820s, as it waged a war of independence against the Ottoman Empire, Greece became an early symbol of escape from the prison house of empire. For philhellenes, its resurrection represented the noblest of causes. “In the great morning of the world,” Shelley wrote in “Hellas,” his poem about the country’s struggle for independence, “Freedom’s splendor burst and shone!” Victory would mean liberty’s triumph not only over the Turks but also over all those dynasts who had kept so many Europeans enslaved. Germans, Italians, Poles and Americans flocked to fight under the Greek blue and white for the sake of democracy. And within a decade, the country won its freedom.

Over the next century, the radically new combination of constitutional democracy and ethnic nationalism that Greece embodied spread across the continent, culminating in “the peace to end all peace” at the end of the First World War, when the Ottoman, Hapsburg and Russian empires disintegrated and were replaced by nation-states.

In the aftermath of the First World War, Greece again paved the way for Europe’s future. Only now it was democracy’s dark side that came to the fore. In a world of nation-states, ethnic minorities like Greece’s Muslim population and the Orthodox Christians of Asia Minor were a recipe for international instability. In the early 1920s, Greek and Turkish leaders decided to swap their minority populations, expelling some two million Christians and Muslims in the interest of national homogeneity. The Greco-Turkish population exchange was the largest such organized refugee movement in history to that point and a model that the Nazis and others would point to later for displacing peoples in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and India.

It is ironic, then, that Greece was in the vanguard of resistance to the Nazis, too. In the winter of 1940-41, it was the first country to fight back effectively against the Axis powers, humiliating Mussolini in the Greco-Italian war while the rest of Europe cheered. And many cheered again a few months later when a young left-wing resistance fighter named Manolis Glezos climbed the Acropolis one night with a friend and pulled down a swastika flag that the Germans had recently unfurled. (Almost 70 years later, Mr. Glezos would be tear-gassed by the Greek police while protesting the austerity program.) Ultimately, however, Greece succumbed to German occupation. Nazi rule brought with it political disintegration, mass starvation and, after liberation, the descent of the country into outright civil war between Communist and anti-Communist forces.

Only a few years after Hitler’s defeat, Greece found itself in the center of history again, as a front line in the cold war. In 1947, President Harry S. Truman used the intensifying civil war there to galvanize Congress behind the Truman Doctrine and his sweeping peacetime commitment of American resources to fight Communism and rebuild Europe. Suddenly elevated into a trans-Atlantic cause, Greece now stood for a very different Europe — one that had crippled itself by tearing itself apart, whose only path out of the destitution of the mid-1940s was as a junior partner with Washington. As the dollars poured in, American advisers sat in Athens telling Greek policy makers what to do and American napalm scorched the Greek mountains as the Communists were put to flight.

European political and economic integration was supposed to end the weakness and dependency of the divided continent, and here, too, Greece was an emblem of a new phase in its history. The fall of its military dictatorship in 1974 not only brought the country full membership in what would become the European Union; it also (along with the transitions in Spain and Portugal at the same time) prefigured the global democratization wave of the 1980s and ’90s, first in South America and Southeast Asia and then in Eastern Europe. And it gave the European Union the taste for enlargement and the ambition to turn itself from a small club of wealthy Western European states into a voice for the newly democratic continent as a whole, extending far to the south and east.

And now today, after the euphoria of the ’90s has faded and a new modesty sets in among the Europeans, it falls again to Greece to challenge the mandarins of the European Union and to ask what lies ahead for the continent. The European Union was supposed to shore up a fragmented Europe, to consolidate its democratic potential and to transform the continent into a force capable of competing on the global stage. It is perhaps fitting that one of Europe’s oldest and most democratic nation-states should be on the new front line, throwing all these achievements into question. For we are all small powers now, and once again Greece is in the forefront of the fight for the future.

Mark Mazower is a professor of history at Columbia University.

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