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ECPR Joint Sessions, Edinburgh 2003

Workshop 16: Politics and Memory

Context, Process and Strategy in the Use of Memory:

Remembrance, Neglect and Erasure in Greek Neo-Nationalism

Dr. Kostas A. Lavdas – Dr. Nikos Papadakis

Department of Political Science
University of Crete
74 100 Rethymnon


The paper explores the use of Greek history in the discourse of Greek neo-nationalism as a
case study of discursive practices involved in the management of collective memory. Against
a background of essentially monocultural state building, political and policy discourse in
today’s Greece faces two distinct but interrelated challenges: Europeanization, consisting of
interactions between European and domestic political and socio-economic patterns, and
multiculturalism, brought about in part through sharply increased levels of immigration from
the Balkans and Eastern Europe in the 1990s. The paper is a tentative attempt to identify the
ways in which Greek neo-nationalism uses collective memory in order to le gitimize its views
on inclusion/exclusion and the defining features of ‘‘Greekness’’. We search for both path-
shaping and path-dependency of neo-nationalism in Greece and focus on the programmatic
discourse of political, intellectual and religious actors. The paper is organized around three
sets of issues: (a) the contextually embedded discourses which constitute the neo-nationalist
field, (b) the use of memory as well as that of neglect and of erasure processes employed by
nationalist discourses, and (c) the attempted construction, within Greek neo-nationalism, of a
value system that represents a counterproposal to tolerance and agonistic respect, adopting an
aggressive stance vis-à-vis multiculturalism and drawing on selective readings as well as the
use of collective memory.

1. Introduction

What strikes one in comparative studies of contemporary Greek political culture is the
extent to which Greeks express an interest in politics and at the same time appear to
possess a rather positive view of politics (in fact, much more positive than the view
taken by respondents in other Southern European states – Italy, Portugal, Spain).
What makes this finding even more intriguing is that it is combined with
comparatively low levels of overall citizen satisfaction (for overviews see
Charalambis & Demertzis 1993: 219-240 and Demertzis 1997: 107-121). One
possible explanation can be sought in the prevalence in modern Greece of a certain
‘‘utilitarian approach that subjugates the public sphere to the exigencies of the
private’’. 1 Yet the centrality of conceptions of politics in Greek public life may also
be approached in terms which consider the possibility that expressed interest in
politics may be genuine (i.e., political) after all (see Contogeorgis 1998). It can be
suggested, from this perspective, that the aforementioned ‘‘utilitarianism’’ is
associated with a certain individualism which is in fact predicated on a historical
sense of a frustrated valued alternative. It is an individualism which evolves in a
cultural context which historically encouraged person-to-person contact in clientelistic
relations and in which the Protestant and especially Puritan conceptions of self-
control, duty and calling had been absent.
The interest in and the role played by politics in Greek society and in the
discursive mechanisms through which events, institutions and even subjects become
knowable in the Greek context has been noted by various writers. 2 Research on
interest in and concern with politics has usually been subsumed under studies aiming
to explicate different aspects of modern Greek political culture in terms of a dualistic
construction of the relations between traditionalism and Westernization

Charalambis & Demertzis (1993: 223). These authors argue that the underdeveloped conception of
the public character of the political (what they call ‘‘the privatization of the public’’) can account for
the fact that ‘‘Greek political culture is characterized by a merging of the public and the private […]
That is why the Greek [interest in politics] is really not paradoxical. Provided that politics is regarded
in private terms, there is no antithesis between high political interest and low political efficacy’’ (1993:
For different analyses which converge on this see Demertzis (1994; 1997); Contogeorgis (1998: 12,

(Diamandouros 1983; 1993). A different approach has aimed to avoid the neat
juxtaposition of traditional and modern and has viewed the relations between the
traditional and the modern elements in terms of a syncretism which evolves in
asymmetric ways (Demertzis 1994; 1997). From a different – anthropological –
perspective and one which aims to pursue the traditional – modern dualism a bit
further, Faubion investigates the relations between ‘‘cultural classicism’’ and
‘‘historical constructivism’’ as regimes of signification. The former concerns the ethic
of conviction which was associa ted with what Geertz has called nationalist
essentialism. The latter refers to the specifically ‘‘Greek modernity’’, the multitude of
structured dispositions and practices which signify the ‘‘way of being modern’’ in a
particular country (Faubion 1993). 3 It has been argued that in this context, and against
the background of changing stimuli, different conceptions of politics emerge and from
in distinct discursive contexts, constituting a complex and multi- layered political
culture (Lavdas 1997, 2000a, 2000b). In any event, the particular mix of religious
peace, individualism, relative tolerance and decreased state interventionism in
religious and cultural affairs which contribute to tie the new social welfare goals of
the state with to the new self-reflective and self-governing principles of
individuality in the context of the risk societies (Rose & Miller 1992: 173- 205
and Shapiro 1992) and came to characterize developments in various West European
contexts failed to become the dominant pattern in the making of the modern Greek
state (Chiotakis 1999, Papadakis 1998, 2001, 2002).
As a result, the dual challenges of multiculturalism and Europeanization
appear critical for contemporary Greek political culture. Ethnocentrism and
xenophobia appear strengthened while multiculturalism is considered a central issue
in political, intellectual and religious discourses. Do ethnocentrism and xenophobia
constitute a form of defense in the context of increased and increasing cultural
diversity? Or do they perhaps reflect primarily the action and strategies of specific

Faubion (1993), who locates his ‘‘historical constructivists’’ among the more cosmopolitan circles of
Greece’s urban elites, aims to ‘‘supplement Weber’s hermeneutics of technical rationalism with the
hermeneutics of another modernity, another way of being modern, which appears to come the more
fully into its own the farther one moves away from the Occident’s core […] the attempt itself seems to
me all the more urgent as more and more of the world’s peoples find themselves not simply at
modernity’s threshold but too often pushed abruptly and unceremoniously beyond it, at best
imperfectly aware of the diversity of alternatives they have available’’ (1993: 11).

interest groups? How is neo- nationalism legitimized and how does it attempt to utilize
collective memory and perceptions of ‘‘national history’’?

2. The issue

The present paper explores the use of Greek history and cultural legacy in the
discourses of Greek neo-nationalism as a case study of discursive practices involved
in the management of collective memory. Against a background of essentially
monocultural state building, political and policy discourse in today’s Greece faces two
distinct but interrelated challenges: Europeanization, consisting of interactions
between European and domestic political and socio-economic patterns, and
multiculturalism, brought about in part through sharply increased levels of
immigration from the Balkans and Eastern Europe in the 1990s. The aforementioned
interrelated challenges can be associated with a new strengthening of Greek
nationalism. But at the same time a new ideological trend appeared in the 1990s:
“Modernization”. It was based on a combination of several ideological dimensions
and trends (pro-Europeanism, individualism, need for strengthening civil society,
contraposition to national political “archaisms” etc) and involved an holistic critique
of any kind of nationalism, without however necessarily neglecting nationalistic
references from its own political discourse (Gavriilidis 2002: 566). In any case, a new
ideological enemy was “born” and nationalism needed new forms of legitimization.
The paper seeks to identify the ways in which Greek neo-nationalism uses
collective memory and cultural legacy in order to legitimize its views on
inclusion/exclusion and the defining features of ‘‘Greekness’’. It explores both path-
shaping and path-dependency of neo-nationalism in Greece and focuses on the
programmatic discourse of political, intellectual and religious mega-actors. It should
be noted at this point that the present paper is based on a preliminary conceptual-
definitional taxonomy regarding the trends and groups tha t constitute Greek neo-
nationalism (main sensitizing concept of the study/ see Strauss & Corbin 1990: 41-
47). Attempting a first grounded approach in the “researching field” and taking into
consideration the “self-definition procedure” of the several neo-nationalistic groups
and mega- actors, one can easily trace two main currents: (a) the radicals
(intellectuals and activists), whose political culture is marked by extremist elements
and who tend to adopt a pure nationalist point of view, and (b) the neo-orthodox

(mainly intellectuals but also certain church figures), who attempt to formulate a
political strategy, based on an active synthesis between ancient Greek political culture
(drawing from selective readings of the classic texts – see Lavdas 2000a-b) and the
Christian Orthodox conception of society, culture and nation.

3. Sketching the historical background

While it is undeniable that European political liberalism exerted considerable

ideological influence on nineteenth and twentieth century Greek political
developments (see Kitromilides 1994), and ideas of universalism, rights and rule of
law became central to political discourse after 1800, there were various factors which
ultimately constrained and limited the impact of liberalism. On the eve of the war of
independence a loose coalition around a ‘‘counter-enlightenment’’ proved successful
and was able to influence the direction also of the nationalist movement. As
Henderson put it in the conclusion of his study, ‘‘liberalism [was] not victorious’’
(1971: 199). But the stronger contender was, in fact, republicanism, and
republicanism was also not victorious. Not republicanism but frustrated republicanism
provides the discursive context for the new reconceptualization of politics after the
1840s. It was the frustration of republican ideas which gave birth to political as well
as conceptual transformations and the interlinking of established, emerging and
suppressed meanings in the development of Greek political culture.
The predominance of the ‘‘counter-enlightenment’’ coalition was facilitated
by the emerging discourse of nationalism. The transition to national identities, which
took place at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Southeastern
Europe, constrained certain aspects of the liberal ideas while also evolving in
interaction with some other aspects. It also marked the end of a shared ‘‘Balkan
mentality’’. 4 As Kitromilides notes, the ‘‘European Janus’’, wearing the two faces of
Enlightenment and of power politics, brought with it the logic of nationalism,
‘‘impregnated Balkan politics with violence, suspicion and fear and destroyed the
common world of Balkan Orthodoxy’’ (Kitromilides 1996: 186).
Elements of a ‘‘Balkan mentality’’, made possible through a framework of communication (Orthodox
religious culture) and a certain political context (Ottoman rule) shared by peoples across Southeastern
Europe, can be said to have existed among the Orthodox Christians in pre-nationalist Balkan society of
the eighteenth century (Kitromilides 1996).

The beginnings of exclusionary notions of politics and the political originate

with the articulation of nationalist discourse in the nineteenth century. There is a shift
from the approach to politics in terms of real or imagined continuities as an activity
worthy of Hellenism, to politics as activity in the context of a polity based on the
development of a statal- national consciousness. The declaration of independence in
1821 (and subsequent declarations and provisional constitutional documents) placed
the new state unequivocally in the European family of states (see, e.g., Varouxakis
1995: 16-19). At the same time, these declarations included strong republican
elements. As it turned out, experience with republican government after the formal
establishment of the modern Greek state in 1830 was considerable but interrupted.
There were declarations by Greek National Assemblies in republican directions even
before the establishment of the Greek state, during the war of independence. Despite
manifestations of a strong (although by no means unanimous) preference for a
republican constitution, geostrategic realities, foreign influences and domestic
complications eventually led to the imposition of monarchy in 1832. The domestic
conditions played a significant role: as I noted above, on the eve of the war of
independence a loose coalition around a ‘‘counter-enlightenment’’ was able to
influence the direction also of the nationalist movement. The idea of ‘‘founding’’
(Pocock 1988) implicit in the republican declarations was consequently defeated by a
combination of geostrategic realities, foreign interference and domestic coalition
After the 1830s, however, it became evident once again that different socio-
political factions championed different models of government. Those who favored a
stronger process of state-building pushed for a centralized state with strong executive
and rationalized administrative structures. On the other hand, those who wished to
retain the power of local notables had a preference for more decentralized
governmental structures. Despite the influence of the Enlightenment and of aspects of
liberalism, the power structure of the new state was based on a conservative coalition
that proved inimical to the widespread acceptance of liberalism and human rights
theories (see Kitromilides 1994).

4. “Greekness” as an imagined community: neglecting the reality of coexistence

and indicting multiculturalism

“human substance is….in its actuality the ensemble of

the social (and historical) relations”
(Karl Marx, 6th Thesis on Feuerbach)

“Cultural diversity”, the multicultural condition favors the tendencies towards the
collective release from traditional identities and the construction of post-traditional
identities (Habermas 1989: 317). This development, and the “need for resistance” are
the focal points of Greek neo- nationalist rhetoric. Subsequently, neo-nationalists
gradually turn to the type of ideology, more familiar to the identity-construction
process: namely to the «intrinsic» traditional dimension of ideology, based on
tradition, legacy and collective memo ry (see Rude 1995: 22). More specifically:
The concept of “Greekness” is based on the hypothesis of an orthodox way of
living that incorporates “difference” in a “careless hubbub”, while anything else that
is still culturally- politically different but not incorporated is a “hurricane of clans”
(Zouraris 1986: 336). An imagined community, in Benedict Anderson’s terms (1983),
is constructed in these terms. This construction is based on exclusionary procedures.
In the official site- mailing list of Greek nationalist networks (“Aspis”, “Hellada” and
so on), nationalism is conceptualized as both
-the individual well-developed national consciousness and
-the worldview based on the domination of the “National Interest ” upon every other
individual, collective or transnational interest.
Greek neo- nationalists seem to search for legitimization in “ideologically neutral”
references to citizenship as active membership of a polity5 . But this is not all.
According to the more radical Greek Neo-Nationalists, natio nalism is (a)
fundamentally linked to the Greek Orthodox doctrine, (b) combined by definition with
old “Greek virtues” such as patriotism, and (c) differs in a fundamental way from
European and American imperialism and various forms of internationalism. The
mission of any Greek neo-nationalist is the perseverance of collective memory, the
maintenance of Greek History in an active way and the constant fight against

For the use of the term “citizenship” in this study see Lavdas 2001: 3.

“globalization and neo-class universalism” (

and the effects of “the globalised information and image control” to governance and
national/ state independence (see Yannaras 2001: 141). Conditio sine qua non for the
achievement of the principal neo- nationalist aims is the struggle against the new intra-
systemic enemy, the new “Trojan Horse”: multiculturalism. It is worth quoting at
length: “It is extremely dangerous to permit the entrance and the habitation of the
hordes of stowawies. Do we really want our children to co-exist with 5 millions of
Albanians, overwhelming schools, streets, labor market, even our army? Let’s leave
the theory of tolerance behind us…The only actual superiority is the attempt to
protect national character and our historical heritage which are constantly threatened.
We claim the right to national independence and there is no state apparatus able to
defeat us. At least till there are Ancient Greek Columns standing un-defeated and
Greek people keeping alive the ancestral genes. The real dilemma is not nationalism
or multiculturalism but nationalism or barbarism”
( Professor Tzanis, an eminent member of the
nationalist ‘‘Network 21’’ 6 , appeals to Herodotus in order to claim that “alliance with
barbarians against Greek patriotism is the ultimate betrayal” (Tzanis 1988: 15).

Such forms of ordering and classification, based on the management of

collective memories and cultural heritage, are produced as the effects of specific
power-relations and function to govern individuals differentially, taking into
consideration their ethno-cultural origin (Popkewitz 2000: 190- 191 and
Popkewitz & Brennan 1998). But could this be legitimized in the context of a
rather successful sustained republic?

5. A Republic under fire

“The critical ontology of self….should be conceptualized as a

attitude, ethos, a philosophical life, where critique on what we
are is a simultaneous historical analysis of our (imposed)
limits….” (M. Foucault: 1984: 50).

The title of “Network 21” refers directly to the Greek National Liberation Struggle against the
Ottoman Occupation, begun in March 25th of 1821.

There can be little doubt that the Third Republic (since 1974) represents the
most successful period of sustained democratic government in the history of the
modern Greek state. One of the first gestures of the democratic regime of 1974, the
legalization of the Communist Party, proved a key development on the road to a
stable political order. It was also the first step in the recognition of the divisive
‘‘other’’ (the communists and the defeated bloc of the civil war).
The liberal political regime, however, has been far from immune from direct
and explicit attacks by neo- nationalist circles. In a sense, this is not unique to
contemporary Greek experience. When the supranational “enemy” ("communist
threat") disappeared, references to the universal values underpinning liberal regime
forms gradually weakened and many western states turned to their national features
and values, in order to legitimize their power structures (Papadakis 2002). The
coidentity between national competitiveness and state development, and the
conception of the new "geo - economists" that the economic prosperity of a country
and, ultimately, its systemic balance and growth are determined by its success in the
world markets (see Krugman 1994: 29-30), legitimize exclusions on a supra national
level and intensify systemic antinomies and collective fears. In Greece, rising levels
of unemployment maximize the threat that many Greek citizens feel, viewing
numbers of (usually undocumented) immigrants to “invade” and to form a new “labor
reserve army” (“Reservenarmee” in Marx’s terms) 7 . The Greek Government
facilitated the de jure integration of the immigrants (“green card” procedure). This
fact in combination with the increasing formation of distinct and stable minorities,
regenerate issues of power sharing, and probably will open the door to questions of
ethnic representation in government. These, contextually embedded, qualitative and
quantitative changes become apparent in neo-nationalistic discourse, which turns
more and more to the collective anxieties and insecurities of native Greeks, trying to
benefit from them. Greek nationalists usually attempt to
- turn to their advantage in their political rhetoric the perception shared by many
Greek citizens that the co-existence of different ethno- cultural groups in the
same national context can provoke socio-political and economic instability,

It is noteworthy that, as Thurow suggests, not a vacancy was created in Europe (in total) at the period
1975 –1995 (Thurow 1996: 55- 62).

- contextually legitimize their request on the economic marginalisation of

immigrant groups 8 .

It is useful, at this point, to focus on specific issues associated with Albanian

immigrants, who consist the vast majority of the immigrant population in Greece. The
rejective (usually hostile) references to Albanians are often
-combined with the demand for preserving national purity and
-encouraged by a broader contraposition to specific ethno—cultural groups (Hebrews
included) 9 .
Since race is a social construct rather than a biological fact (see, e.g., Omi &
Winant 1994) 10 , we can easily trace in these references the combination of the two
main forms of racism that attempt to smite the multicultural condition: Bigotry-hatred
racism and superiority racism (see Blum 1998: 94). Albanians have often been targets
of racial bigotry, in the context of Greek neo-nationalism,

Such a marginalisation could, of course, lead to legitimized discrimination in the work place
“which normally results in hardships more bitter than cultural imperialism” (Coulby 1997: 34).
Significant elements of anti-Semitism can be traced in the discursive context of Greek neo-
nationalism (including neo-orthodox circles). In several cases it is mixed with a broader criticism to
Israel’s Middle- East policy. Prof. Tzanis, referring to the “Old Testament”, ascertains that «it’ s rather
impossible to detail all the (religious and political) texts that develop hatred and racism among young
Israelites. Through the “chosen-doctrine”, young Israelites are provided with the alibi to misbehave
against Life and to commit crimes against Humanity” (Tzanis 1990). International Zionism is accused
§ utilizing the “chosen”-rational in order to “achieve global domination and manipulate other
people”, in cooperation with corrupted opinion makers in Greece and all over the world,
§ being “the actual racism and the original capitalism” (Tzanis 1998: 68- 69).
Prof. Yannaras accuses Greek politicians for their “admiration of the dynamic presence of the Hebraic
Diaspora…. But the real aim of this presence in the international context, is (and has always been) the
historic maintenance of an introvert nationality, and the protection and promotion of the interests of the
Israeli State all over the world. Hebrewism has never been a supranational cultural proposal. It
undoubtedly represents the more ancient and admirable monotheistic religious tradition….But it is
traditionally identified with a specific self-excluded national unity. On this ground, the aim of the
Hebraic Diaspora could be the securing of power in the international relations rather than the catalytic
role to the cultural development” (Yannaras 2001: 185- 187).
This leads us to recognise the “multiplicity of relations of power surrounding race” (Apple 1996: 15).

-either being thought of as national threats (bigotry-hatred racism based on, still
existing, memories of the Greek- Albanian War),
-or because of specific beliefs in their cultural and political inferiority.
The case of Ulysses Tsenay in 1999 can be used to illustrate the point. Ulysses
Tsenay, a 15th years old immigrant student in Greece, was offered by the school
administration the privilege of keeping the Greek flag for the school parade, in the
context of the official commemoration of Greek participation in the 2nd World War;
this is a typical gesture for the best student of each class. The fact that U. Tsenay was
an Albanian immigrant provoked an impressive polemic among politicians,
intellectuals, journalists, parent associations and teachers. The Greek Minister of
Culture considered it an explicit and welcome development towards tolerance, while
many radical neo-nationalists considered the fact that “Albanians vested the symbol
of the Liberation of OUR North Hepyrus from the Albanians” as an “horrible insult
and a unheard of historic paradox” (
In addition, a new kind of (intellectual) polemic was initiated on the occasion
of Ismael Kantare’s assault to Orthodox Christianity, during the crisis in Kosovo.11
This assault, combined with Julia Kristeva’s openly hostile critique of Orthodoxy (Le
Monde, 19/4/1999), was considered as the intellectual outcome of a coordinated
“public opinion making procedure” against both Orthodoxy in general and Greek
culture in particular (see Yannaras 2001: 140). At this point we should mention that
dogmatic religious differences (Filioque) were explicitly mentioned in the polemic
(legitimising management of collective memory).
Narratives of national alienation and potential “symbolic disclocation”
constitute substantial components of the aforementioned rhetoric. This is one of the
main similarities between the radicals and the more intellectual, milder neo-
nationalism. Prof. Zouraris’ discourse, ‘‘Network 21’’ views and neo-orthodox
rhetoric are rather illustrative.
The “glorious” ancient spirit is combined with the ‘‘emancipatory’’ dimension
of Greek Orthodoxy. They are both considered to be the substantial parameters of
Greek identity. “Greekness” should be collectively memorized as a global vision, as
the only alternative to the materialist, instrumental, now monetarist Europe: “Greece

According to Kantare “there is a kind of historical addiction of Orthodoxy towards the slaughtering
of its enemies” (Le Monde, 18-19/ 4/1999).

survived due to the national struggles and its constantly developing culture” (Ramfos
1996: 39). In this case, cultural history is reinvented in order to de- legitimise the
“European ghost ”. The main counter-argument to the new Europeanized political
culture is the “ancestral global modernism ”, that should never permit the “simulation
de l’ assimilation” (Zouraris 1986). Since a cultural decadence is ascertained in both a
national and international level12 , and no persuasive equivalent of a national identity
is provided in the context of EU, a return to cultural basics can provide Greece with a
remarkable comparative advantage: “Greece undoubtedly has an advantage over the
rest of western countries, due to the fact that its Ancient and Christian foundations are
the main western cultural substructures” (Ramfos 1996: 56 and Kalioris 1994). This
potential return is immersed in a context of political theology, that produces a
teleology: “Whoever is able to read the historical signs can easily detect a
significant turn, emerging as the inevitable necessity of the global community. A
turn towards the Hellenic word view, the Hellenic values” (Tzanis 1988: 7). In fact,
this teleology constitutes the legitimizing basis of the proposed ideology of
Hellenism, through the constant and multi-prismatic strategies in the use of
memory. However, policy and subsequent strategies are usually based on a
frame of teleological outlines in order to create ideology (see Laclau 1994).
The supposed cultural decadence is facilitated by the utilitarian dimension of
western democracies, that explains “the remarkable convenience regarding the
assimilation of the American modus vivendi” (Yannaras 2001: 148). The
utilitarian dimension has been instrumentalised by the political unification of Europe,
“neglecting both the ancient Greek claim for a political concurrence between «truth»
and «community» and the Christian political ideal” (Yannaras 1993: 27- 28 and
Yannaras 1990: §13, 16) 13 .
This new instrumentalism seems to be the explanatory basis for the de -
institutionalization of memory in the Greek Educational System14 : “We are

“Greece is deconstructed and collapses….We have in our souls the smell of the historical end of
our race” (Yannaras 1987: 11).
This ideal focuses on the political communication between persons and not individuals (see Yannaras
1983: 5.6 and Yannaras 1984).
The emphasis laid, by the neo-nationalists, to the educational policies and institutions can be
easily explained. Education in societies in transition, towards multiculturalism, challenges

proud of our ancient ancestors, while our vast majority never had the slightest
touch with their texts and thought; Our official education almost excludes such a
contact” (Yannaras 2001: 160). The official history taught in Greek schools is
accused of discharging references to main historical episodes (1821’s Greek
Libertarian Revolution, War against the German- Italian invasion during the
Second World War) from “any patriotic emotion”, in order to ensure the
“luxury of peace” by all means and national costs. This supposed ne glect of the
actual collective war memory from the official curricula is combined to the
“ongoing erasure of cultural pride, religious faith and folk devotion” (Yannaras
According to the Greek neo-nationalists, the strategy of neglect of war
memory and cultural- religious experiences in the name of peace,
- facilitates the “de -nationalization of the Greek youth”, promoted by “a
clan of fanatics in the Ministry of Education” (Yannaras 1998),
- is facilitated by the un-restricted use of Turkish in Greek schools
(especially in Thrace, where a Muslim minority exists/ see Pettifer 1994)
and the tendency of the Greek State towards a legislation that will
encourage an analogous treatment to the Albanian and other minority
languages15 ,
- deprives the nation from the necessary “alertness of anger” (Yannaras
For one more time, what is really asked is to return to the teaching of a history
that identifies the state with the city states of the fourth century BC and thus
with Hellenic civilization (see Psomiades & Thomadakis 1993), recapitulates and
institutionalizes the memory of heroic wars and tends to “bury the state’s recent

existing curricula, for it brings together the three main processes of political socialization (Bell
1996: 203 and Bell 1991):
§ promotion of citizenship, through initiating students into the rights and duties of a
citizen in a host culture,
§ “the process of intensifying cultural influence through mutual contact”, and
§ re-socialization of adults (see Mangan 1990).
Linguistic and religious issues are remarkably interrelated with the imaginary and actual
collective construction of national identities. Let’s not forget that in the French case, “by a
process of religious and linguistic intolerance the state of France has almost succeeded in
distinguishing itself as the nation of France’’ (Braudel 1990).

history of internal warfare and conflict” (Coulby 2000: 352- 353). Such a
restoration of a state-endoresed curriculum that promotes the formation of
nationalism while lacks cosmopolitanism (Massialas 1995) could easily
exacerbate tensions with internal minorities and bordering states. But such a
potentiality doesn’t seem to bother the Greek neo-nationalists.
In this line of thought, the only convincing counter- argument against this
“normative eudaemonism” (Yannaras 1993: 24) is a national strategy of exodus from
the constellation of utilitarian- political rationalism. The politics of memory (a
combination of the ancient legacy to the Christian political thought) are used here in
order to legitimize the contraposition to both the “doctrinal intellectualism (of the
European Enlightenment) and the juristic moralism of Romeo-Catholicism” that
promote the “claim for the individualistic self-containment towards the individual
finalism” (Yannaras 1993: 45). In other words, the contraposition to the civic religion
(in Daniel Bell’s terms/ 1962: 400), whose focal point is the modern type of
democracy: “«Democracy»” in modernity concerns individual rights that derive from
the institutionalized system of Justice….The norms of such rights refer to the
consolidation of both the individual and collective interests rather than the creation of
a society based on human relations…. Modern Democracy’s rationale is the rationale
towards the individual secureness against power” (Yannaras 2001: 101). This model
of democracy is not democratic enough, according to the intellectual neo-orthodox
circles. The politics of History and Memory are utilized in a comparative way in order
to construct their counter- argument: “Unlike the ancient Greek model of Democracy,
the modern one aims at utility rather than truth, at manageable usefulness rather than
substantive and genuine way of life” (Yannaras 2001: 101). The intellectual neo-
nationalist discourse adopts an “equivalence rationale”. It identifies Individualism
with Western Democracy and Modernity in order to reveal the structural causality (in
Althusser’s terms/ see Althusser 1965 and Scott 1995: 166) tha t over-determines the
ongoing cultural decline: “Democracy in Modernity preconditions human substance
as a self- interested, self-existent interest- unit, aiming at the disciplined symbiosis of
individuals, in the context of an utilitarian pattern” (Yannaras 2001: 101- 102).
What is systematically neglected in this discourse, is the reality of European
integration and its possibilities for cultural interaction. A whole series of discursive
strategies is predicated on this neglect. But any kind of discourse, in order to produce
and transmit new types of power and undermine the existing ones (Foucault 1984:

100), presupposes a framework of objectivity that comprises the polity and the
cultural sphere (Thompson 1990). The historical-comparative argument can play a
significant role here. And it does. Formal types of cultural interaction are accused of
being “the most effective form of cultural imperialism, through the cultural
interpenetration and citizen’s manipulation by a foreign country. The history of
institutions such as the French Institute, the Goethe Institute, and so on, in Greece
confirm the realism of such investments (in money and human recourses), in the
context of a broader political strategy ” (Yannaras 2001: 41).
It is interesting to note that, while Italian neo-nationalists and especially
Alleanza Nationale return to D’ Annuncio’s ideas in order to gain justification (see
Hamanmaa 2002), Greek neo-nationalists re- invent European intellectuals and ancient
Greek philosophers. In fact they selectively “re- invent” old references to the Greek
‘Universal” Uniqueness, in order to document the “inter-historical unity of the Greek
spirituality” (Karagiannis 2003). Prof. Zouraris evokes Rene Char’s hymn to the
Greek guidance to human emancipation, Prof. Ramfos approaches Russian Orthodoxy
and Dostoyievsky’s ideas on “individual consciousness of the holistic responsibility”,
while Prof. Yannaras recommends Greek politicians to be taught by the history
of the Russian Diaspora and take into consideration the Russian orthodox
heritage and its influence to the western intellectual “life-course” (Yannaras
2001: 186). Within this intellectual context, the Greek neo-nationalism
counterproposes an alternative, historically embedded internationalism in order
to reinforce its arguments against a united Europe, which “is rather an historical
coincidence than an idea” (Ramfos 1996: 15). Since Europeanness is contextually
divided, “we” (Greeks) need the political construction of a new national strategy than
the maintena nce of the disparities of the European ethnic co-existence in the name of
the EU. Ramfos points out that “national strategy is not of course a matter of
dealing… and of adaptation to the economic priorities of EU” (Ramfos 1996: 39 &
What is particularly interesting in this context is the fact that Greek intellectual
neo-nationalism uses arguments against European multiculturalism similar to the ones
used by segments of British Eurosceptic media. The lack of a European vision and the
symbolic “unmasking” of European realities can only be replaced by reinforced
national strategies (see Ramfos 1996: 14 & 21- 24 and Anderson 2002). A “mild”
form of nationalism could be the prime mover towards this strategy.

The “ex uterus of Europe…is nullified in the context of the E. U.…..Greece

and the Western World have a interrelated fate: For Greece the fate of desolation for
the Western World the most advantaged solutions” according to Zouraris (1986: 326).
And Greeks should take this into consideration. What is actually happening here is
that descriptive and interpretative discourse meet, revealing another aspect of the
relation between structure and action: the dimensions and the origins of the relation
between collective and individual will and the causes of their (real or constructed)
antinomies (see Thompson 1990: 127- 130). An inclusive culture could not be based
in exclusion. The abandonment of the European Vision (exclusion) is legitimized by
the appeal of the universalistic dimension of purely ‘‘Hellenic ’’ culture, mixed with
the inborn universalism of the Orthodox Religion. Prof. Yannaras ascertains:
“Greekness was always the historical flesh of the church universality, due to its
intrinsic universal dimension” (Yannaras 2001: 166). Greekness is panhuman
and modern Greeks, the native agents of the Greek spirit, should just preserve
their universalistic heritage and origin. Within this context, Greekness is re -
conceptualized as an a priori and undoubted inclusive culture: “Each individual
in this Earth has a potential, secret Hellenic insight. As soon as he/she become
aware of it, this insight is transformed in a insistent quest of the main duty”
(Tzanis 1988: 9), namely the maintenance of the values of the Greek
cosmopolitism, the “ideology of Hellenism” (Tzanis 1988: 17-18).
Simultaneously, a procedure is taking place; typical to nationalistic discourse.
The over-estimation of the national characteristics of a nationality facilitates its
isolation and introversion (see Arvanitopoulos 1997): Prof. Tzanis . Such phenomena
are not rare in the E.U., so long as economic integration takes precedence over
political integration. Still, the EU can already be considered “an emerging political
system of a non-state type, providing the stimulus and the framework for rethinking
the links between national political institutions, EU legitimacy and collective identity”
(Lavdas 2001: 1-2). Greek neo-nationalist strategy, based on patterns which recycle
introvert discourses, loose this specific historical opportunity to rethink and

6. Prometheus bound: Greek nationalism restated

To conclude this tentative discussion: it would appear that a certain discursive

strategy is constructed by different tendencies of Greek neo- nationalism. The theory
of nationalism is restated, while the evolving discourses of national identity and
-are based on a mixture of imaginary significances (perennial identity, reinvention of
the historical legacy, etc) and phylogenetic memories (that are encouraged by recent
international trends towards forms of a new genetic determinism),
-are virtualized by “constructed dilemmas”, usually transformed in the main
components of a political rhetoric against multiculturalism16 ,
-are contextually embedded, through strategic references to actual social problems,
such as unemployment,
-are activated by the neglect of EU realities and the simultaneous indictment of any
kind of multiculturalism (minorities, immigrants etc) and
-are legitimized through constant references to Greek History and Cultural Legacy,
which is (or at least it should be) the “ne plus ultra” limit (in Vico’s terms) to national
social and educational policies 17 .

We should take into consideration the fact that multiculturalism is, in any case, the most complicated
challenge to traditional models of democracy (see Dahl 2000: 240- 241). In addition, the analysis of the
recent French and Dutch elections has renewed discussions on the possible directions taken by a new
“working- class” or unemployed conservatism. In any case we shouldn’t forget that in nationalist
ideologies and discursive practices, cultural multiplicity is historically taken to be a threat, on the
ground that it means change or even splintering off (see Hertzfeld 1987: 41).
Prof. Yannaras has attacked state educational policy and specifically certain new Greek school
textbooks because of their perceived focus on “peace and tolerance” and the subsequent neglect of
- the references to the Greek national liberation wars and struggles against their traditional enemies,
- the lived aspects of national particularities, cultural pride and religious faith” (Yannaras 1998).


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