The night before the Dawn: historical roots of Greek fascism

Nationalism; xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism.
Nationalism; xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism.

Last year’s dramatic elections in Greece were marked by a significant political polarisation writes Piers Mostyn. New left party Syriza came second with nearly 27 % and the fascist Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) came fifth with nearly 7%. The far right as a whole (depending on how you define it) commanded over twice this amount of support. Since then GD support in opinion polls has grown to double figures, making it the third most popular party.

The rise of Syriza and GD reflects massive popular hostility to a political establishment which, at the behest of international financial institutions and the EU, has been hell bent on making ordinary Greek people pay the price for the country’s economic melt down. There has been continuous popular resistance, with mass demonstrations and strikes to an austerity offensive that has seen a continuous shrinking of the economy for five years.

Unemployment is spiralling towards 30% and there is mass pauperisation. By 2011 28.4% were unable to provide for basic needs and today its worse. Prime Minister Samaras last year warned of a Weimar Germany-style collapse.

Meanwhile the incompetence, corruption and venality of the ruling elite and its responsibility for the crisis have been laid bare.

The government has utilised violence, not only against trade unions and the anti-austerity movement, but increasingly against Greece’s immigrant community – thousands of who have been rounded up and detained in makeshift camps and thousands more deported – scapegoating them for the crisis and whipping up reactionary nationalism

This context illustrates the perils of taking for granted that a radicalisation to the right, not just to the left, can be triggered in these circumstances


The economic crisis and a consequent plummeting of confidence in the traditional ruling parties is the immediate cause of GD’s rapid growth. But other factors include the tainting of LAOS (previously the main far right party) by its participation in an earlier pro-austerity coalition government and a populist GD strategy of street campaigning and welfare work aimed at filling the vacuum left by the disappearance of state services.

With some government ministers and media commentators pushing the centre of political gravity to the right, GD’s reactionary politics have become legitimised. This has emboldened its supporters to engage in physical violence, particularly against immigrants. Protests against an allegedly “blasphemous” play with a “homosexual theme” led to it being pulled by theatre management. GD leaders are contemptuous of the law and talk of “civil war”.

Sections of the ruling class and the state appear to regard GD as a serious alternative. Talk of millionaire bankrolling may be as yet unproven, but few doubt the GD boast of over 50% support within the police given evidence that officers have been torturing anti-fascist demonstrators and collaborating with GD.


Whatever the immediate spark, mass fascist movements have social, cultural and political roots. To be effective, any opposition to GD will have to address this underlying foundation, which stretches back to be foundation of the modern Greek state.

The political formation of the ruling class was marked from the outset by under-development and dependence on the “Great Powers”. Although there were occasional liberal or progressive tendencies, this elite repeatedly resorted to nationalism and authoritarianism to compensate for this weakness and to crush challenges from the working class.

The 1829 victory in the war of independence that followed centuries of Ottoman rule was primarily the gift of Britain, France and Russia. Different factions of the Greek ruling elite were each identified with one of these competing powers. The head of state was a monarch, imposed from outside and constitutionally under great power control. This was a pale reflection of the European bourgeois revolutionary nationalism of the time which, for all its faults, at least made some claim to self-determination and democracy.

“Greece” in those days was much smaller than today and didn’t include the North or most islands. Its economic under-development and the state’s lack of political legitimacy generated a series of political and economic crises.

The main solution as the 19th Century progressed was the “Megali Idea” (The Great Idea). This was an ambitious strategy of territorial expansion to unify geographically, linguistically and culturally disparate “Greeks” who then co-existed cheek by jowl with other communities and whose main connection was adherence to the Orthodox Christian church. As the century neared its close, this church was itself riven by schisms and splits, expressing rival Balkan nationalisms.

Expansion did occur to the point where, by the 1920s, Greece as we now know it was broadly in shape. But the underpinning reactionary nationalist ideology and successive political splits and crises shaped a ruling class that, instead of unifying, strengthening and becoming more coherent was dysfunctional, divided and unable to break from its financial and military reliance on foreign intervention.

Nineteenth century Greek nationalism increasingly crunched up against competing nationalisms in neighbouring Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia and Albania. As the Ottoman empire disintegrated and declined, local newly-formed Balkan states attempted to fill the vacuum under the tutelage of rival imperial power blocs. Cultures and communities that had co-existed for centuries came to be seen as alien.

This process gave an increasingly sectarian, racist and xenophobic shape to the national identity being forged by the Greek bourgeoisie. This was ironic given the relatively cosmopolitan Ottoman legacy: a multi-centred communalism that, whilst institutionalising sectarian discrimination, involved a vibrant co-existence between communities based on mutual exchange.

Thus until the 1930s, Orthodox Christians were only the third largest community behind Jews and Muslims in Salonica, Greece’s second largest city. And in the 19th century the Plaka, Athens’ taverna-stuffed Mecca for tourists, was an Albanian quarter – its name meaning both Greek for paving-stone and Albanian for “old quarter”. Albanian was used in the law courts and for public business.


This historical dynamic culminated with a Greek invasion of Turkey in 1919, egged on by Britain. The invasion resulted in resounding defeat and a traumatic humiliation for Greek irredentism and bourgeois nationalism.

This then led to a massive “population exchange” sponsored by the imperial powers led by Britain at the Lausanne Convention of 1922. Hundreds of thousands of Christian Orthodox (ostensibly “Greek”) citizens of Turkey and Muslim (ostensibly “Turkish”) citizens of Greece were forcibly deported at short notice to their supposed respective “homelands”, under terrible conditions. This exacerbated an already dire post-war economic situation.

 A racial, religious and ideological monolith was being carved out in the name of “Greece”, a job finally finished with the German invasion in 1940 and the genocide of 96% of a Jewish community whose ancestors had fled there nearly five centuries before following its expulsion from Christian Spain.

Marking Holocaust Memorial Day this year, Julia Neuberger observed that mass acts of civil disobedience in Bulgaria during the war ensured that not a single Nazi deportation took place and it was the only country to end the war with a bigger Jewish population that at the start. In neighbouring Greece, by contrast, despite a heroic war of resistance in the later period, rightwing collaborationism and inaction ensured the almost total destruction of the Jewish population.


The Greek elite’s history of reactionary nationalism was periodically accompanied by authoritarianism and dictatorship as a substitute for its weak social base. Unlike the rest of Europe, there was no mass social democratic party until the 1970s. The Communist Party, for decades subject to illegality and repression, was characterised by a fatal combination of fanatical Stalinism and a tendency to split.

Facilitating this tradition of authoritarian nationalism has been a long-running tradition of rightist conspiratorial military organisation and linked terror campaigns. Arguably this goes back to the struggle for independence in which Philiki Etaira (The Friendly Society) played a key role. At end of the 19th century a group of army officers revived its traditions, establishing Ethniki Etaira (The National Association) as a new secret society. Within 2 years it claimed some 3,000 members with 56 branches in Greece and 83 abroad – described by one historian as a “virtual state within the Greek state”.

In the First World War the monarchist paramilitary League of Reservists engaged in terror attacks on establishments believed to be associated with the Republican wing of the ruling class, including press offices. The western-backed counter coup by liberal leader Venizelos led to purges of these monarchists from the armed forces and civil services. But a further series of crises led to the 1922 debacle, under the Venizelos leadership, resulting in its discrediting and collapse. The consequent political vacuum eventually gave rise to the Metaxas dictatorship in the 1930s.

Rightist military networks played a prominent role in the collaboration with Nazis in the Second War through the establishment of the Security Battalions. With the Nazi defeat, far from being dismantled, these forces were instead harnessed by the US and British-backed government to smash the Communist-led resistance in the civil war that followed.

This then fed into IDEA, a secret organisation of rightist officers, linked to an unsuccessful coup by Papagos in 1951. Many of these same officers a decade and a half later were involved in the “Colonel’s coup” in the 1960s.

World War Two collaborationism and the Civil War also threw up right wing paramilitary formations outside the state. These included the “Anti-Communist Crusade of Greece” set up in 1952 and a splinter organisation, the “Pan-Hellenic National Crusade” founded after the 1961 elections, during which a campaign of intimidation and ballot rigging by the gendarmerie and the TEA (National Defence Battalions) thwarted an anticipated left victory. Greek police officially co-operated with these paramilitary forces during state occasions when they were mobilised to assist with security.

The period since 1974 has been characterised by something approaching parliamentary democracy on the European model, with the newly-formed PASOK allowed to win elections and form governments.

But the anti-democratic rightist tradition remained deeply rooted in sections of the ruling class and its camp followers. Its resurgence at a time of crisis was predictable – the only question being whether this was through or outside the state.


This history is not one long-running fascist conspiracy. It is more of an ideological and organisational melange, with different elements combining in different ways in particular periods. Its great weakness has been the chronic inability by the ruling class to achieve a strategic consensus, over issues like the constitution, democracy and relations with foreign powers, which could form the basis for stable over-arching project.

This ideological mix has centred on nationalism; xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism; adherence to the Christian Orthodox church; anti-communism and (far less so in contemporary times) monarchism. At times aspects have garnered mainstream popular support to which the left has not always been robust or coherent in opposing. In the case of nationalism, sections of the left have on occasion acted as cheerleaders.

An upsurge of anti-Semitism, particularly after 1922 not only fed into collaboration with Nazis, but carried on after the second war. The tiny number of surviving Jews who sought to reclaim property was subject to a campaign of vilification – with a public prosecutor claiming that they were persecuting Christians; local liberal politicians making anti-Semitic comments and, by the summer of 1947, a full-scale press campaign against Jewish claims. Some courts decided that Salonica Jews, deported to the death camps, had “abandoned” their property

In the 1990s Balkan crisis, the break up of Yugoslavia fed into a sharp rise in a very reactionary nationalism based on Christian Orthodox solidarity with Serbia; rank hostility to the newly formed state of Macedonia; and a revival of irredentism in relation to southern Albania. Technically Greece had remained at war with Albania for decades and normality had only begun to return in the 1980s.

Manipulated by US-British Cold War power-play over Cyprus, the periodic eruption up of tensions with Turkey has been the focus for a similar combination of territorial claims and racism against Greece’s indigenous Muslim population in Thrace.

 The upsurge in Greek anti-Macedonian chauvinism played a notable role in early stages of GD’s formation in the 1990s. And one of the party’s main annual mobilisations commemorates the 1996 Imia military crisis in which three Greek soldiers died in the course of a clash with Turkey over tiny uninhabited Aegean islets.

 In addition there has been deepening islamophobia and anti-Roma prejudice. These substantial, mainly northern communities with roots dating back centuries have been subject to a campaign of state discrimination.

All fascist movements feed off pre-existing reactionary popular currents. Greek fascism has been able to draw on a broader and deeper range of ideological and organisational traditions located far more centrally in the political formation of the country’s ruling class and state. It comes as no surprise that GD leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos is a former marine reservist who in the 1960s had links to the colonels’ junta.

Self-defence and mass action on the streets are playing an increasingly vital role in the fight against GD. But unless these social and ideological roots are also tackled this many-headed hydra will only re-emerge in other forms.

Visit and Wikipedia on Golden Dawn for more info.

First published in Jewish Socialist No 66 Spring/Summer 2013. Email:


  1. Very interesting article. My friends in Greece suffered from some of the problems you deal with. Anna’s family were expelled from Turkey in the 1920s; her father (a Trotskyist) was in the resistance against the German Nazis, was arrested but his wife managed to find him and get him released. He was then active in the civil war. Vengelis, Anna’s husband, was a 16 year old messenger for the resistance on Kefalonia, fleeing to nearby Ithaka to escape capture.Even today, the residents of Neo Chori, a small village in the mountains in Kefalonia, summer home to Vengelis and Anna, are divided over the positions they took during WW2 and during the civil war.

  2. As a Greek, there is no excuse for extremists like Golden Dawn but likewise I find this article highly patronizing and frankly racist towards Greeks.

    It leaves out the fact that Greeks “co-existed” in Ottoman occupied Greece… as second class citizens not equals.

    Also missing is that the communists during the Greek civil war massacred many Greeks in an effort to spread communist tyranny and annex our country to the iron curtain.

    Then this article neglects to mention the “minor” point that what it frames as “Macedonians” are in fact ethnic Bulgarians (who have suddenly become “ancient Macedonians” while its lowlife apologists pretend not to notice).

    Pardon when did it become “human rights’ to attempt to ethnically erase Greeks by trying to delete our very identity?

    Racism is apparently alive and well in other countries too.

  3. How dare you put “Greeks” in quotes? Someone trying to ethnically eradicate Greeks lecturing about racism is hardly believable. How would you like it if we put your identity in quotes?

    Try opening a history book other than a communist one.

    “FOUR THOUSAND YEARS OF GREEK HISTORY have produced four Greek heritages, each of which has had an effect on the life of the Greeks in later stages of their history. The Hellenic Greeks received a heritage from the Mycenean Greeks, the Macedonian Greeks from the Hellenic, the Byzantine Greeks received on from the Macedonian Greeks, the Modern Greeks have received one heritage from the Byzantines and a second from the Hellenes.”
    – The Greeks and their Heritage AJ Toynbe

  4. • Greeks have lived in Anatolia for millennia, especially along the Aegean coast. For a while, under Alexander, they dominated the land. And for all intents and purposes, the Byzantine Empire was Greek.[.] The first Ottoman census, of 1477, counted half of Constantinople’s population as Greek, and four-hundred years later, even after the Greek War of Independence, it was still 21 percent Greek. – David Lowenthal, “The heritage crusade and the spoils of history. (1998)

  5. I wonder how the modern “British” would feel if they had their own identity put in quotes? How would the modern “British” feel if say western France renamed themselves “ethnic Scottish” and suggested the modern “British” were “occupying Scotland”… while others pretended not to notice?

  6. Like many of the former Yugoslavians apologists you seem to have left this out about what you now bizarrely frame as “Macedonians”.

    “This (US) government considers talk of Macedonian “nation”, Macedonian “Fatherland”, or Macedonia “national consciousness” to be unjustified demagoguery representing no ethnic nor political reality, and sees in its present revival a possible cloak for aggressive intentions against Greece” – US State Department Dec, 1944 (Foreign Relations Vol. VIII Washington D.C. Circular Airgram – 868.014/26)

    “The political and military leaders of the Slavs of Macedonia at the turn of the century seem not to have heard Misirkov’s call for a separate Macedonian national identity; they continued to identify themselves in a national sense as Bulgarians rather than Macedonians.” – US Anthropologist Loring Danforth, “The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World”, Princeton Univ Press, December 1995

    Is your plan to help the former Yugoslavians oppress their own ethnic Bulgarian heritage like Yugoslav communists once did? Are you planning on rewriting ancient history to suggest ancient Macedonians weren’t Greeks but actually slavic?

  7. Dear “A Greek”

    If I can find the time in the next few days I will make a more considered response to your six emails. I am sorry you did not feel able to identify yourself, and I note that your missives were sent in a succession of seperate chunks in the early hours of the morning. I will leave to others to work out why that may be.

    Unlike you I am not a nationalist, but an internationalist and this piece was written from that perspective. From that viewpoint there is nothing to defend in British or English nationalism and I reject your view that a critique of Greek nationalism is racist or patronising to Greek people. On the contrary it is essential to the liberation of the Greek working class.

    You claim that “there is no excuse for extremists such as Golden Dawn” but you attack an attempt to identify where it’s social, political and historical roots lie – without offering any alternative critique of your own.

    Your rejection of any suggestion that these roots might lie within a tradition of reactionary nationalism in Greece and your defence of the latter suggests that a root and branch challenge to Golden Dawn’s racist and xenophobic policies is not something you are prepared to engage with.

  8. I already said I don’t agree with Golden Dawn. However I also said I don’t agree with any patronizing bigots that are causally trying to ethnically Greece with “Macedonia” word games.

    I am working class myself, And I, like most of the people on this planet, find communists extremely oppressive and don’t wish to be “liberated” or “enlightened” by what I see as patronizing tyrants. Your pet theories on identity and nationalism are yours to live by. You are not entitled to force other families to live and think how you think. Whether you like it or not, most people on this planet have an identity.

    IMO many far leftists erroneously deconstruct identities until there is nothing left. This is like Heraclitus claiming a river doesn’t exist because of the changing water. People organizing themselves and identifying themselves is a natural aspect of living (typically via key identifying features like language, culture, regional association). We are the river that is Greece NOT the former Yugoslavians. We are “real” Greeks. (and many well accredited third party historians see us this was way even if the mob currently finds us unfashionable)

    Our language, our culture, and even our biology is far more related to ancient Greeks than the modern “British” or “Jews” are related to their claimed roots. We must have missed all your posts where you put the modern “british” and “Jewish” identity in “quotes”.

    How do you think the think most modern “Jews” would react if someone put their identity in quotes? (see Shlomo Sands “Invention of the Jewish People”) How do you think they would react if someone bizarrely claimed that Arabic was actually “the Hebrew language” and that Palestinians were the “real Jews” (which is effectively us what the Skopians are doing by now claiming to be related to anicent Macedonians”. Was not Israel forged out of the exact same Ottoman empire as Greece? Why don’t you call Israel and Jewish identity “reactionary nationalism” as you do Greeks?

    Do Greeks dictate to the modern “British” who they should should consider British? Where are your articles calling the modern “British” fascist for being hostile to illegal immigration? (with far far less illegals than Greece I would add)

    And why did you make no mention of the former Yugoslavians sudden identity change into “ancient Macedonians” from Slavs? Their own government claim the opposite only a few years ago no? Missed the giant Alexander statue did you? No mention of their citizens constantly manipulating the name to insinuate Greece is {“occupied Macedonia”). No mention of the former Yugoslavians ethnic Bulgarian past?

    As for WW2, no mention it wasn’t the Greeks that massacred “Jews” as this article incredibly offensively tries to imply. Seems to have missed the “minor” point that Greeks (under Metaxas) were one of the few countries that actually faced the Nazis military head on in 1940 (while the communists were busy dividing Poland with their friends… the national socialists).

    It was the Nazis that tried to erase modern “Jews” aided by occupying Bulgarians. This included some of the Bulgarians of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organzation (see Ivan Mihalov) At the time western powers used to claim there was no such thing as a “Macedonian” (calling it “communist demagoguery”). Are you accusing the UK and US of attempted genocide then?

    The pure one sided nature of your reporting speaks volumes about your prejudices. This may not be your intent but the result is the same. (PERSONAL ABUSE DELETED – EDITOR)

  9. I ask myself why is it every time one of the apologists for the former Yugoslavians “forget’ to mention “minor” details like this? The only answer I can arrive at is they have prejudices towards Greeks. They are patronizingly think they are far to clever for the inferior Greek to understand their “deep” wisdom. (effectively bigots lecturing about racism)

    “We are Slavs. There’s no connection between us an alexander the Great. ” – Kiro Gligorov first elected President of FYROM

    ‘We are not related to the northern Greeks who produced leaders like Philip and Alexander the Great. We are a Slav people and our language is closely related to Bulgarian.’ – FYROM´s Ambassador to Canada Gyordan Veselinov, Ottawa Citizen Newspaper, February 24 1999

    ‘We do not claim to be descendants of Alexander the Great.’ – FYROM’S Ambassador Ljubica Acevshka, speech to US representatives in Washington on January 22 1999

    “The creation of the Macedonian nation, for almost half of a century, was done in a condition of single-party dictatorship. In those times, there was no difference between science and ideology, so the “Macedonian” historiography, unopposed by anybody, comfortably performed a selection of the historic material from which the “Macedonian” identity was created. There is nothing atypical here for the process of the creation of any modern nation, except when falsification from the type of substitution of the word “Bulgarian” with the word “Macedonian” were made.” (Denko Maleski, former Minister of foreign affairs of FYROM from 1991 to 1993 in an interview to FYROM newspaper Utrinski Vesnik)

    Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Persians, Chinese and Japanese could be cited as examples of ethnic continuity, since, despite massive cultural changes over the centuries, certain key identifying components—name, language, customs, religious community and territorial association—were broadly maintained and reproduced for millennia. –
    Nationalism and Modernism: A Critical Survey of Recent Theories of Nations – Nationalism and Modernism, page 191, Anthony David Smith, Routledge, 1998

  10. Dear “A Greek”

    Tedious though it has been to read through your seven separate deeply reactionary, nationalist, racist and xenophobic rants – you have, in your own way, demonstrated perhaps a key point that is a commonplace in modern histories of Greece. That there is a long running schism in Greek society that has deep roots, remerging with periodic regularity at all points of crisis since independence and focussing on the national identiy,ethnicity,culture, language, education and territorial definition of the state. Golden Dawn draws from this deep well, as you do – which is why you have yet to provide an iota of an alternative critical explanation for their cultural,social and historical roots.
    In the process you have demonstrated quite vividly how so much is contested in Greek hstory. But your method – along with the authoritarian right as a whole – is one that denies legitimacy to the fact of that these issues are in dispute. Instead seeking refuge in immutable essentialism (for instance the biological continuity of the people). In this you are in company with the dictatorships such as Metaxas, the prison camps in which tens of thousands were detained without charge because of the their political views in the 1950s and the Colonel’s coup in the 1960s.
    Your description of Golden Dawn as “extremist” is an interesting formulation. It sidesteps the fact that they currently have mass support (polling as the third largest party). This in turn raises the question: what is happening to a society when a large proportion of its people supports a party like this? Surely this is no longer the politics of an “extreme” but of the mainstream.
    Is it sufficient to explain this sudden development as solely due to the economic crisis and the handling of it? Surely not, as GD is only one of seveal political alternatives on offer. There must be more to it than that. But labelling them “extremist” avoids this issue.
    The purpose of my piece was to start a discussion by throwing up some of the obvious historical dynanamics that might also be contributory factors. You do not address and do not seem interested in entering such a debate.
    I accept that Greeks were second-class citizens under the Ottoman Occupation. I am not sure anyone disputes this, at least. I would view the struggle for independence as a necessary and positive occurrence in and of itself. What was negative was that this was under the tutelage of great powers and that from the outset this state had a dysfunctional and divided ruling class, a weak economy and a periodic tendency to overcompensate for this through authoritarianism and nationalism. The growth of the original state was probably inevitable (to what extent is another matter).
    But what was neither inevitable nor positive was that ths was achieved through an escalating drive to homogenise the society on the basis of language, ethnicity and religion. In the process marginalising, discriminating against and excising Albanian-speakers, Muslims, Roma and others.
    Of course the judeocide in the Second World War was primarily the responsibility of the nazi occupiers, but anti-semitism and collaborationism (both the fruits of the his historical dynamic)ensured that the ruling elite’s passive acceptance (and in some cases active assistance)was a decisive factor. Those collaborationists then waged a war (encouraged by Britain and the US)against the heroic resistance forces on the left that had provided the sole opposition to the occupation.
    All nations have their foundational myths. It has long been part of the ideological mantra of this reactionary nationalism – as you show so clearly in your comments. That Greek society is homogenous and in direct continuity with ancient Greek civilisation is a classic example. Hardly surprising that the Nazis drew great inspiration from 19th century phil-hellenism – influencing their architecture, mythology etc. Part of this ideology involves defining minority communities and bordering societies as hostile entities that threaten the homogenous state. This is often symbolised by labelling. Thus the Muslims of northern Greece are labelled “Turks” and Macedonians (for that is how they define themselves) become “Bulgarians”.
    As I have emphasised, all these are highly contested issues and long have been. I am not suggesting that there are simple divisions between good and bad. As I indicate in the piece, from the late 19th century Greek nationalism “crunched up” against the rival growing nationalisms of neighbouring societies as the Ottoman edifice crumbled. We all know that the end product of this was the slaughter of millions in the First World War, following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.
    The use of quotation marks is a common means of denoting when issues are contested. It doesn’t mean that the subject concerned doesn’t necessarily exist. The question of what Greekness and Greek means is what is contested. This has been a constant terrain for disute over 150 years (perhaps less so more recently). Is it defined by religion or not? What is the language – archaic or demotic? What are its borders? What relations should it have with neighbouring societies and the imperial powers? What constitution and head of state should it have? Should it be democratic, if so how is this defined? How should its children be educated? etc. There has been very little of a consensus over these.
    Consequently, what it means to be Greek has been an open question as is how Greek citizenship is defined.
    Your references to the “Greek” population throughout the region, including Constantinople is fascinating – a laboratory specimen of the type of rightist, irredentist, xenophobic nationalism that I am drawing attention to. A direct descendant of what motivated the (British encouraged) war on Turkey in 1919 – founded on claims of a greater “Greece” with its capital in Constantinople, linking coastal orthodox Christian communities on the Black Sea and Aegean with those in parts of the Balkans.
    The still flickering embers of that tradition have been fanned, by the current austerity, into a roaring fire in the shape of Golden Dawn. Hence the central place in GD’s annual calendar for its commemoration of the handful of Greek soldiers who died in a pathetic, reactionary and dangerous attempt to seize an unpopulated island off the coast of Turkey.
    You write that “our language, our culture and even our biology is far more related to ancient Greeks than the modern “British” or “Jews” are related to their claimed roots.” Nonsense, of a type spouted in this country by the myths-makers of the BNP and EDL. Biological continuity to ancient Greece ignores intervening millenia and the successive occupation by no less than three empires (Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman) for most of that time. Consequences have included tumultuous changes and population movements leading to Albanian being spoken in Athens and Orthodox Christians being a minority in Salonica in the 19th century. The “us” you refer to is a homogonised, race and religion-based fantasy – of the type Hitler liked to disseminate when speaking of Germany as an Aryan society.
    By the way, if I am not mistaken, Shlomo Sand’s “The Invention of the Jewish People” has been a best seller in Israel. I feel sure that in all sections of Greek society these issues are being openly debated and recognised as contested – not immutable, biologically-determined and written in stone. At least, lets hope so.

  11. “It should be noted that there is NO CONNECTION between the Macedonians of the time of Alexander the Great who were a GREEK tribe and today’s so-called ‘Macedonians’ of the ‘Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’? or FYROM, who are of SLAVIC origin and related to BULGARIANS.” – David H Levinson, ‘The Encyclopedia of Ancient Cultures’

  12. Those who live in Skopje and say that that is Macedon and Alexander’s homeland are as ignorant and outrageous as? if someone was? to say that Oxford University was really in Belarus and Oxford was Minsk”
    Prof. Robin Fox Lane Oxford University?

  13. “Extreme Macedonian nationalists, who are concerned with demonstrating the continuity between ancient and modern Macedonians, deny that they are Slavs and claim to be the direct descendants of Alexander the Great and the ancient Macedonians. The more moderate Macedonian position, generally adopted by better educated Macedonians and publicly endorsed by Kiro Gligorov, the first president of the newly independent Republic of Macedonia, is that modern Macedonians have no relation to Alexander the Great, but are a Slavic people whose ancestors arrived in Macedonia in the sixth century AD” – US Anthropologist Loring Danforth

  14. “I suggested to Patrick Leigh Fermor to suggest in his article in the Independent the name of “Paeonia” as the most suitable for Skopje . […]”Therefore, given the struggle of the three ethnic groups (Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians) for the control of Macedonia and the absence of any local national movement, we can talk of Macedonia only as a geographical entity not as a nation.” – Ancient Macedonian historian Nicholas Hammond in an interview with the magazine “Macedonian Echo” in February, 1999)

  15. In the 1990s,Macedonians speak a language codified in 1946,spoken by less than two million people, and with a very slender literature. They are members of an Orthodox Church whose authority was established by a socialist political regime in 1968.They are heirs to a 1903 revolution that until the 1940s was described by almost all sources as being Bulgarian.- “The history of the Balkan Peninsula” Ferdinand Schevill page 432

  16. The legacy of the Greeks is under assault today thus deserves defence and celebration for the simple reason that much of what we are is the result of that brilliant examination of human life first begun by the Greeks: as Jacob Burckhardt says, “We see with the eyes of the Greeks and use their phrases when we speak.” We must listen to the Greeks not because they will give us answers, but because they first identified the questions and problems, and they knew too where the answers must come from: the minds of free human beings who have control over their own lives. And this, finally, is the greatest good we have received from the Greeks: the gift of freedom. – Bruce Thornton, US classicist, “Defending the Greeks”, Private Papers, 2005

  17. Both Greeks and Jews were the only people who were able to leave their homeland or birth city (natio) and maintain the identity through subsequent generations and both did so through the strength of their respective cultures (The phenomenon of empire as reflected in the experience of Carthage and Rome is of a different order. It is noteworthy that their respective Diasporas disappeared when the mother city lost its political control. ) Both people received a boost during the Hellenistic period: The Jews when they fell in love with Greek logic and the Greeks when they adopted Christianity, a variant of the Jewish religion. The national identity that emerged in the ancient times from the mix of language and religion was a unique kind of supranationalism that became a model for new peoples who entered Western civilization in the Medieval and modern periods.

    – Bowman, Robert, Skoggard, Ian A.; Ember, Melvin; Ember, Carol R. (2005). Encyclopedia of diasporas: immigrant and refugee cultures around the world. Berlin: Springer.

  18. “It is no wonder that, in matters of politics in the Balkans, Greece feels misunderstood. It cannot understand why, after it stood alone with the United Kingdom against the forces of fascism between 28 October 1940–Ohi day, as it is still called–and 27 April 1941, when Athens finally fell, its former allies now appear to be taking the part of forces against which it stood, especially when, after the second world war, it endured those further four years of civil war to hold the line against the communist advance to the Aegean. That was done for the United States and for the United Kingdom especially–the world powers of the time–and those Governments objected, in 1944, to Tito’s change of the name of Vardar Banovina.” – House of Commons Hansard Debates for 9 May 1995)

  19. And lets not forget ancient Macedonians themselves. Self-identifing Greeks, Competitors at pan-Hellenic only sporting events. Founders of the Hellenistic period. Leaders of the Hellenic League… now no longer Greeks either.

    Denied their Greek self-identification by the modern inhabitants of the former Yugoslavia (and their “reactionary”, “racist” and “xenophobic’ apologists.)

    “Men of Athens, that which I am about to say I trust to your honour; and I charge you to keep it secret from all excepting Pausanias, if you would not bring me to destruction. Had I not greatly at heart the common welfare of Greece, I should not have come to tell you; but I am myself a Greek by descent, and I would not willingly see Greece exchange freedom for slavery” Alexander I of? Macedonia, … self-identifying Greek denied his Hellenic self-identification by modern inhabitants of FYROM, Herodotus, Histories, book 9)

  20. Your theories are on Greek history are not sourced from academia. They are you personal pet theories that you’ve stitched together into a narrative.

    That your article you completely ignored what many many accredited third party academics say about Greek history only further reinforces the belief you harbour prejudices. Someone with prejudice would have also mentioned part that didn’t suit their narrative to at least try and create a more morally and intellectually balanced article. What this article amounts to is sophisty.

    Greeks do not ignore the time between the Roman invasion of Greece and the present as you patronizing stated. Much like the modern British and Israelis we have just incorporated that time into our national narrative. Albeit under Roman nomenclature, we can point to people that spoke some variet of our language, in our region, sharing many of our cultural attributes, in an unbroken chain leading back to antiquity.

    Here is some of the other side of the academic story that those that trying to talk Greeks out of existence, while simultaneously dishonestly pretending not to notice the former Yugoslavians sudden transformation from Slavs into “descendants of ancient Macedonians”. I’m pretty sure every academic on this list is far far more knowledgeable than you on Greek history


    Dear President Obama,

    We, the undersigned scholars of Graeco-Roman antiquity, respectfully request that you intervene to clean up some of the historical debris left in southeast Europe by the previous U.S. administration.

    On November 4, 2004, two days after the re-election of President George W. Bush, his administration unilaterally recognized the “Republic of Macedonia.”  This action not only abrogated geographic and historic fact, but it also has unleashed a dangerous epidemic of historical revisionism, of which the most obvious symptom is the misappropriation by the government in Skopje of the most famous of Macedonians, Alexander the Great.

    We believe that this silliness has gone too far, and that the U.S.A. has no business in supporting the subversion of history. Let us review facts.  (The documentation for these facts [here in boldface] can be found attached and at: danforht
    On November 4, 2004, two days after the re-election of President George W. Bush, his administration unilaterally recognized the “Republic of Macedonia.”  This action not only abrogated geographic and historic fact, but it also has unleashed a dangerous epidemic of historical revisionism, of which the most obvious symptom is the misappropriation by the government in Skopje of the most famous of Macedonians, Alexander the Great.

    The land in question, with its modern capital at Skopje, was called Paionia in antiquity.  Mts. Barnous and Orbelos (which form today the northern limits of Greece) provide a natural barrier that separated, and separates, Macedonia from its northern neighbor.   The only real connection is along the Axios/Vardar River and even this valley “does not form a line of communication because it is divided by gorges.”

    While it is true that the Paionians were subdued by Philip II, father of Alexander, in 358 B.C. they were not Macedonians and did not live in Macedonia. Likewise, for example, the Egyptians, who were subdued by Alexander, may have been ruled by Macedonians, including the famous Cleopatra, but they were never Macedonians themselves, and Egypt was never called Macedonia.

    Rather, Macedonia and Macedonian Greeks have been located for at least 2,500 years just where the modern Greek province of Macedonia is. Exactly this same relationship is true for Attica and Athenian Greeks, Argos and Argive Greeks, Corinth and Corinthian Greeks, etc.

    We do not understand how the modern inhabitants of ancient Paionia, who speak Slavic – a language introduced into the Balkans about a millennium after the death of Alexander – can claim him as their national hero.  Alexander the Great was thoroughly and indisputably Greek. His great-great-great grandfather, Alexander I, competed in the Olympic Games where participation was limited to Greeks. 

    Even before Alexander I, the Macedonians traced their ancestry to Argos, and many of their kings used the head of Herakles – the quintessential Greek hero – on their coins.

    Euripides – who died and was buried in Macedonia– wrote his play Archelaos in honor of the great-uncle of Alexander, and in Greek.  While in Macedonia, Euripides also wrote the Bacchai, again in Greek.  Presumably the Macedonian audience could understand what he wrote and what they heard.

    Alexander’s father, Philip, won several equestrian victories at Olympia and Delphi, the two most Hellenic of all the sanctuaries in ancient Greece where non-Greeks were not allowed to compete.  Even more significantly, Philip was appointed to conduct the Pythian Games at Delphi in 346 B.C.  In other words, Alexander the Great’s father and his ancestors were thoroughly Greek. Greek was the language used by Demosthenes and his delegation from Athens when they paid visits to Philip, also in 346 B.C.

    Another northern Greek, Aristotle, went off to study for nearly 20 years in the Academy of Plato.  Aristotle subsequently returned to Macedonia and became the tutor of Alexander III. They used Greek in their classroom which can still be seen near Naoussa in Macedonia.

    Alexander carried with him throughout his conquests Aristotle’s edition of Homer’s Iliad.  Alexander also spread Greek language and culture throughout his empire, founding cities and establishing centers of learning.  Hence inscriptions concerning such typical Greek institutions as the gymnasium are found as far away as Afghanistan.  They are all written in Greek.

    The questions follow:  Why was Greek the lingua franca all over Alexander’s empire if he was a “Macedonian”?  Why was the New Testament, for example, written in Greek? The answers are clear:  Alexander the Great was Greek, not Slavic, and Slavs and their language were nowhere near Alexander or his homeland until 1000 years later.  This brings us back to the geographic area known in antiquity as Paionia.  Why would the people who live there now call themselves Macedonians and their land Macedonia?  Why would they abduct a completely Greek figure and make him their national hero? 

    The ancient Paionians may or may not have been Greek, but they certainly became Greekish, and they were never Slavs.  They were also not Macedonians.  Ancient Paionia was a part of the Macedonian Empire.  So were Ionia and Syria and Palestine and Egypt and Mesopotamia and Babylonia and Bactria and many more.  They may thus have become “Macedonian” temporarily, but none was ever “Macedonia”.  The theft of Philip and Alexander by a land that was never Macedonia cannot be justified.

    The traditions of ancient Paionia could be adopted by the current residents of that geographical area with considerable justification. But the extension of the geographic term “Macedonia” to cover southern Yugoslavia cannot. Even in the late 19th century, this misuse implied unhealthy territorial aspirations.

    The same motivation is to be seen in school maps that show the pseudo-greater Macedonia, stretching from Skopje to Mt. Olympus and labeled in Slavic.   The same map and its claims are in calendars, bumper stickers, bank notes, etc., that have been circulating in the new state ever since it declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.  Why would a poor land-locked new state attempt such historical nonsense?  Why would it brazenly mock and provoke its neighbor?

    However one might like to characterize such behavior, it is clearly not a force for historical accuracy, nor for stability in the Balkans.  It is sad that the United States of America has abetted and encouraged such behavior. 

    We call upon you, Mr. President, to help – in whatever ways you deem appropriate – the government in Skopje to understand that it cannot build a national identity at the expense of historic truth.  Our common international society cannot survive when history is ignored, much less when history is fabricated.


    Narrate your behavior any way you wish, but know this, \any foreign government or nationalist that interferes in a hostile fashion with sovereign country Greece, can expect to receive similar treatment back.

    Communists had their chance. Even in “communist” China its a dying outlook(more capitalist than communist other than its that its a dictatorship) . The decades of failed economic policies of communist states coupled with the well documented oppression and brutality of communist rule during the cold war, is delegating communism to the dustbin of history. Much like 19th century anarchists, communists are typically viewed as a curiosity pr extremists these days.

    Likewise the days of British imperialism are as over as Hellenistic conquests. The days of one country, attacking and colonizing other countries and/or dictating to them how they should live and think are largely over as well.

    In short, you have absolutely no business interfering in my sovereign country’s affairs. We are not a colony of the UK nor satellite state of mass murder Stalin for you to be quite undemocratically and disrespectfully dictating terms about how we should run our country and think.

    Criticism is one thing. Colluding with extremists that are tying to subtlety ethnically delete us exceeds all bounds of civility.

  22. I’m obviously opposed to communism but not some sort of Randian capitalist. I just believe in moderation and inclusion not exclusion. If a communist wants to co-exist and have their own parties I’m fine with that The caveat is they do not use force to silence political opponents (as soviet era communists did with their one party system, government control of media and habit of sending critics to gulags.. or worse)

    I thank thy editor for allowed to me to post my views and criticisms. Shows maturity.

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