Greece and the Balkans: A Story of a Troubled Relationship (19th-20th centuries)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013
6:15 pm
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room (1219 IAB)

A talk by Vassilis Gounaris (Aristotle University)

Before the ideas of Enlightenment and Hellas were infiltrated in the Balkan world, Balkan peoples shared a common mentality. Greek- and Vlach-speaking merchants topped the Christian social pyramid and it was their self-esteem and their economic prosperity which transformed enlightenment ideas into Greek nationalism. The glory of ancient Hellas gave a special meaning to their superiority. Through education it became increasingly clear that Greeks had absolutely no relation with the Slavs, formerly thought to be their brethren in God and in servitude to Islam. In other words Hellenisation could not be accomplished and turned into effective nationalism unless all links with the Balkan peoples were cut off. This paper argues that this process of estrangement was no easier or smoother than the transformation of the Greek-orthodox society itself into a Modern Greek nation. In fact the Balkan peoples and states became for the Greeks the convenient point of reference for evaluating social modernisation, politics, financial progress and irredentistic efforts.  Furthermore it is argued that this troubled relationship reflects until today the endless political dispute as to the exact position of Greece within the European civilisation.

This talk is made possible by University Seminars Program of the Onassis Foundation (USA).