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Who was Liberated in 1912?

By Akis Gavrilidis
Last year, the city of Thessaloniki celebrated “one hundred years since its liberation”; though it would be more accurate to say that it was really the city’s authorities who were celebrating. Indeed there were some disputes about which authorities should possess the responsibility for organizing the festivities the Thessaloniki !ouncil alone or a wider collective involving the local authorities from the outlying regions, etc. "owever, far more important than the disagreements to do with that issue, there is a #uestion which needs to be posed and publically discussed$ what is the e%act meaning of the term &liberation’, as used in this conte%t' (rom the outset, it is clear that the usage of the term in this conte%t conflates liberty with the state, or more accurately, a particular state. In a way, this is perversely related to one of "egel’s elementary formulations identifying liberty and the state; a group of people and or a strip of land came to be regarded as )liberated* on the basis of a single criterion and that is whether they ended up in one particular state or another. The governing proviso being that the state in #uestion is )suitable*, which is determined on the basis of the ethnic origins+national character of the people and land. Thus it is obvious that here we have an e%ample of a nationalist misappropriation of the term &liberty’ ,or &freedom’-, which involves a severely limited, e%clusionary understanding of its meaning. .ll the same, even with this overly narrow definition, it remains highly problematic to assert that Thessaloniki was )liberated* when the /reek army entered the city in 0102. .t the time in #uestion, it does not appear that the inhabitants considered themselves to have been especially )liberated*. 3hen the /reek army invaded what was the 4ttoman 5mpire and took the city by force, Thessaloniki was and had for many centuries been, inhabited by a variety of ethnic groups; of which, the most numerous and influential from a socio6political, religious and economic perspective, were the 7ephardic 8ews whereas !hristian 4rthodo% /reek speakers, were numerically in third place and made up no more than 29: of the city’s population. Therefore, even on the basis of conventional ethno6state criteria, the most appropriate way to characterize what took place in 0102 would be to refer to it as a “military conquest of Thessaloniki by the Greek army”. The standardized usage of the term )liberated*, creates the false impression that prior to 0102, all was )slavery* and darkness or that in any case, the earlier period is of no interest the )true* history of the city begins post 0102. .nything that occurred earlier might be deemed relevant only if it contributed to the military con#uest and the creation of the current situation. "owever, if we attempt to sketch a picture, so to speak, of the last hundred years and e%amine the results of the city becoming a part of /reek state territory, we would definitely confirm that it is untenable to maintain that Thessaloniki was )liberated*, irrespective of which definition of the term is used. In the first place, two decades after the )liberation*, the largest ethnic group was almost totally &li#uidated’. It is true that this was planned and realized by the ;.<I’s, though the remaining

These events cannot be described as having anything to do with )liberation*. medical doctor and MP with EDA [Unified . because of concerns about its )#uestionable /reek conscience*.if we e%clude certain banners which appear at sporting stadiums-. by the military in 01CD. these people were strategically utilized as colonists to )/reekify* the wider territory. cynically. 4ne thing which continues to undermine the apparently complete control of social memory and the elimination of undesirable aspects of the past. 4n the contrary. Today. This event was used as a basis for !osta6/avras’s film Z.'. which carries the name ). are the Aeta%as Bbrutal dictator of /reece from 01CD 01EFG like demonstrations which were staged in the early 011F’s against the >epublic of Aacedonia’s declaration of independence.sia Ainor and it was on their back that the state was given the opportunity to test. were the 8ewish graves. . Hemocratic LeftG who was murdered by far6right thugs and whose assassination was presented as an )accident* by the police. These relentless attempts to convey a particular view indicate that the message has still not been completely accepted.and sometimes self inflicted ethnic cleansing. which were totally destroyed with a maniacal hatred in a short period of time. though an obvious e%ample demonstrating its continued e%istence. which caused the death of many strikers. tens of thousands of refugees from @ontus and . this concern is generally not so publicly perceptible .inhabitants do not appear to have been particularly concerned about this. The same military which supposedly )liberated* the city’s inhabitants and which seems to have aided in the murder of /rigoris Lambrakis in 01DC0. many of them.nother result was that a generation later. 4n the space these graves occupied.ristotle* and possesses a logo which represents a >oman soldier who was declared a !hristian saint after his death even though he wasn’t known for being a man of letters?.we need to mention the collapse of the multi6ethnic 7ocialist (ederation as a result of the blocking of demonstrations.the streets and city s#uares of Thessaloniki and even the names and former names of these streets and s#uares. along with the local authorities. it is necessary to continually impart just who is in command and the glare of both locals and visitors is constantly directed towards the manufactured )/reek reality*. that it has not yet become spontaneous and obvious. Today. 3hen observing the choice of statues which grace . is the arrangement of Thessaloniki’s landscape and especially the politicking on #uestions to do with collective memory and monuments. In addition to this sometimes silent and other times noisy ethnic cleansing . under strict surveillance. the /reek state placed in Thessaloniki and the wider area. the ma=ority of Thessaloniki’s inhabitants are not even aware that these graves e%isted.mong the latter and of very significant archeological interest. nationalists and collaborationists. the authorities erected the city’s university. 1 Lambrakis was an athlete. . . one forms the impression that the city is or has been until very recently.fter the obligatory symbolic and physical #uarantine. the technology of the concentration camp.. on a massive scale. under occupation. that one is in a town which is under a cloud of acute uncertainty and that therefore. hurriedly worked towards eliminating all signs of the previous 8ewish presence taking for themselves what they wanted and destroying the remainder.

on a horse-.otably. . for a military con#uest. someone recently went to the statue of Iolokotronis and sketched some interesting graffiti over its surface and no one made any effort to remove this graffiti. classic e%ample is the dozens of minarets which can be seen as part of the city’s skyline in all photos up to the second decade of the 2Fth century. rather. this doubt is strongly reinforced by the massive attempts of the authorities to control and drive the inhabitants into /reek parameters. @avlos Aelas Ba more famous leader in the so called )Aacedonian 7truggleG. The one building which could not be &ethnically cleansed’ from historical memory is the 3hite Tower. Aany of them represent various bandits. @hilip. they generally remain of no interest for the ma=ority of inhabitants.part from the addition of new monuments. These results in a need among the city’s citizens to continually test themselves and each other. If we turn our eyes and ears away from these attempts to /reekify the city and towards the discussion of what has been mentioned above. 5manuel @apas and Iolokotronis. so it was converted into a &symbol’ by giving it a new significance. we can view a demonstration of doubt. usage of which.In other words. the control of memory is carried out via the intentional demolition of all buildings and structures which could not be presented as /reek or at least >oman and which negate the modern /reek story+fiction. there are the obligatory statues of . would be seen as &polluting’ the city. which cannot be escaped. nearly all the statues one meets in Thessaloniki’s public spaces. 5ven though there are so many of these statues. which conveniently serves to hide the old one$ at its entrance there is an )e%planatory* pla#ue which informs the interested visitor that the structure is a )post6Jyzantine* monument all so as to avoid mention of the word &4ttoman’. . . . It seems more like slavery to me. for some practical doubt about the city’s ethno6/reek homogeneity. Thus it is that we had to wait 11 years to pass from the )liberation* of Thessaloniki+7alonika+7elanik+7olun. in a manner which I don’t think can be accurately or usefully described as )liberation*. . e%hibit honor for a militaristic remembrance of the past.part from them. to be e%hibited in the city’s public space.le%ander . leaders of the so called )Aacedonian 7truggle* at the beginning of the 2Fth century.