Image 1: Preparing to bury the large Sounion Kouros. © National Archaeological Museum
The hiding of the ancient treasures of the National Archaeological Museum on the eve of the German occupation of Athens, 1941.
by Kostas Paschalidis (1)
During a period of six months prior to the German invasion of Greece a group of workers and archaeologists was digging the floors of the National Archeological Museum to bury Athens’s most valuable treasures: its Kouroi and Lekythoi.
On Sunday 27th April 1941 the German troops occupied Athens. Early the next morning, when the German officers hurried up the marble steps of the National Archaeological Museum, they were surprised to discover that they were taking over an empty building. They couldn’t find a trace of the thousands of valuable exhibits that were housed in the country’s largest museum for the past sixty years of its existence. Instead of statues they saw before them the few frozen and expressionless archaeologists and guards who were on duty at the time. To the officers’ persistent questions, the latter answered enigmatically that antiquities are always where everybody knows they are: under the ground. And it was true. The antiquities had in fact returned underground – to the only ark in the world where they would be safe. Continue reading
Dear readers of this blog.
I don’t normally do this, but today I am reblogging a petition about democracy in my home country, Greece. I am very worried, not only because of the rise of the extreme (neo-Nazi) right, but also because its main tactics are increasingly incorporated into the mainstream. I would like to ask you to read the text carefully and if you agree, please go to the petition site and sign. Whether you are Greek or not, threats to democracy are threats to all of us.
Initiative for Democracy in Greece
A small group of us in London, Greeks of varied affiliations and political persuasions, have come together because we are very concerned about the rise of fascism, racism and the erosion of democracy and civil rights in Greece. Our aim is to raise awareness of the problem internationally, in the hope that this might help to put pressure on Greek politicians to address these issues. We have drafted a statement which we plan to send as an open letter to selected publications, initially in Britain but later also in Greece and the United States. We hope to collect as many signatures as we can from people with a personal or professional interest in Greece and/or human rights and civil liberties. We would be very grateful if you would sign the statement, if you feel you can do so, and also forward it to others who might be interested. Continue reading
by Nikos Belavilas*
“We can prove that we are entitled to dream with realism, defining together and putting into practice what until yesterday was deemed unattainable.”
We are experiencing the effects of market design, of a “casino-capitalism” that produces crises for many and wealth for the very few. Greece and the whole of Europe, while sinking in an economic and social chaos are suffering from the same nightmare. The commodification of land, the sale of public property, environmental disasters, the big transportation and energy projects, the «mega-projects» of urban regeneration are all part of it. Hailed as development tools they are in fact tools of the real estate bubble this side of the Atlantic. Behind them lies the highly unified corruption of the European political and economic elite as well as a plan to seize state, public and private resources, a plan to conquest public space in its constitutive and physical sense. Continue reading
by Ares Kalandides
The Athens-raised bi-national Berliner weighs in on the cultural animosity surrounding the euro debate.
Sometimes it’s hard to be a German, yet it seems that becoming one is even harder. I was doing well for a while. I got my own flat in Berlin’s most gentrified neighbourhood, assembled my little patchwork family and stopped smiling at unknown shop attendants. Things were going so well that in 2000, after 10 years in the country, I was even given German citizenship. I was finally home, as happy as any German can be.
Then two years ago everything started going downhill. In March 2010 Focus magazine published an issue that was to have considerable consequences. The cover showed the famous Louvre statue “Venus de Milo” giving the finger to the reader. The headline said “Crooks in the Euro Family” – and addressed Greece, the country where I was born and raised. Now, to be very honest, I do not much care for national symbols, so I was not offended by the statue’s rude gesture, but being called a villain – in a general, undifferentiated manner – was indeed shocking. The real blow though was the content of the main article. Practically every single piece of prejudice that can be conceived about a people was in there. Greeks (in general) were dishonest, lazy, and useless. Their civilisation was rubbish. Their islands overrated. Even their food was indigestible. That article was so stupid as to become ridiculous. Or so I thought. The global financial crisis, which had started in the fall of 2008, was producing its first visible victim among countries: Greece. The newly elected government under George Papandreou turned to Europe for help. National finances were so desolate that the state would soon be unable to meet its obligations. Greece was reduced to the role of a beggar, a role it is still playing. Continue reading
An interesting article by Alex Andreou on national stereotypes and their consequences. As I have argued before, there are probably few countries in Europe with a worse image than Greece at the moment. How much of it is true, how much constructed by media or politics is a matter of debate. The foloowing article compares image and reality and is worth your time:
New Statesman – Exploding the myth of the feckless, lazy Greeks.
Although this piece by economist Yanis Varoufakis is not directly linked to place branding, I find that it is an excellent account of how and why country stereotypes are produced, what the role of story-telling and of journalists is and what consequeces this may have.
by Ares Kalandides
We all know that in most cities there are neighbourhoods that are considered “better” and some whose reputation is so bad, that people tend to avoid them. We also know that this reputation has evolved over time and is sometimes so deeply rooted, that nobody knows if it corresponds to reality or not. Yet, even in cases where the hardest facts contradict the rumours, reputation seems to stick to the place like a leech. Indeed, the perceptions of places that people have in their mind can be so powerful that we can often not tell them apart from reality. Not only because we ourselves are not outside the social sphere and thus already have our own concepts in our minds, but also because the way people perceive a place can actually form it in exactly that direction. Let me explain: Continue reading
by Ares Kalandides and Mihalis Kavaratzis
Let’s face it: There are probably few countries in Europe right now with a worse image than Greece (we can’t really think of any that even come close). From what we hear, it is especially in Germany, the Netherlands and in Austria where that image is the worst. And even Greece’s southern neighbours (Italy for example) seem to be glaring at us with the fear of contamination. Greece is Europe’s joke. Both being Greeks who have been living abroad for a while and have left for different reasons, we know very well how much of what is said today is absolutely true – and partly a reason we are not living there. But also, we know Greece very well, we have our families and our friends back there, and we know that there is much more to the country than what the populistic central European media wants us to believe. The problem, as usual, are the stereotypes: extending what may be true for some (or many) to everybody. So any expression of the type “the Greeks are” or “the Greeks do” (it could be the Germans, the Brits etc.) is reductive and simply stupid. But it serves the goal of stigmatizing a whole people, making it look like humans of a lower category.
by Ares Kalandides
It sometimes happens in the middle of the night. I am woken up by a horrible racket and find myself fighting – with myself. “You are a lazy bastard” my German self is shouting to my Greek self. “You dirty Nazi” retorts my Greek self to my German one. Going in-between is useless. I even risk being beaten up by both of them at the same time. Now, how did all that start? Continue reading
Article by Gregory C. Pappas in the Huffington Post
“Yes, you’ve read the headline correctly. Greece’s brilliant marketers — the very agency responsible for promoting Greece’s image abroad — have resorted to adding the “visit Greece” slogan on seven million placemats that will grace the tables of thousands of diners up and down the Northeast corridor of the United States…”
Read the full article here:
Gregory C. Pappas: Greece Deserves Better Than Placemats and Paper Cups, Mister Minister.