Historical story

The Christian organization that nurtured the junta

Last updated:2022-07-25

What were the processes that prevailed in the intellectual circles of Greek scholars in the years before the outbreak of the Revolution of 1821 but also during its duration?

Two publications that "talk" to each other as a complement to each other, were released in mid-September, to shed light on lesser-known aspects of the pre-revolutionary and revolutionary years. The Lux Orbis series of iWrite publications in collaboration with the Public Historical Library of Andritsaina has republished a historical document of the utmost importance. This is the third issue of the magazine "Melissa" (published in 1821 in Paris), which conveys to the reader the thoughts and aspirations of the Greek Enlighteners of the time, with Constantine Agathofron Nikolopoulos prominent.

This issue conveys a part of the authentic records of the radical Greek thinkers of the 21st century, who were inspired by the ideas of Adamantios Korais, who found in front of them obstacles coming even from the highest hierarchy of the Church of the time, which functioned in several cases as a bulwark against enlightened ideas.

At the same time, in collaboration with the Movement of Greek Citizens for the Secularization of the State (KEPEK), the Lux Orbis series also revived the unfinished competition that had been announced in the third issue of Melissa in 1821, with the winner being the historian Kostas Katsapis.

The competition in question was announced in the spring of 1821. The third issue of "Melissa" was to be its last, since the magazine suspended its operation due to the declaration of the Revolution. The theme of the competition was "The evils that the high priests have caused to Genos".

The announcement of the new competition (diagonismos1821.gr) was made last year in September, with a deadline until the end of February 2021, and the texts were examined by a jury made up of Panagiotis Gennimata (honorary vice-president of the European Investment Bank), Giorgos Oikonomou (Dr. of Philosophy), Alexandros Sakellariou (Dr. Sociology of Religion) and the director of the Lux Orbis series, Minas Papageorgiou.

The ten total texts that were distinguished in the competition are published in the collective volume entitled "The Controversial Role of the Orthodox Church in Greece (4th-21st Century)". The book also includes the public dialogue developed between KEPEK and the metropolis of Piraeus, on the occasion of the announcement of the modern competition, which has its own special interest.

The modernized title of the contest was:

"The perennially controversial role of the Orthodox Church in Greece, from the 4th post-Christian century until today, the causes and ways of dealing with the problem today"

Youth, Church and the Dictatorship of the Colonels

The News 24/7 Magazine , on the occasion of the double edition, had the pleasure of talking with the historian Kostas Katsapis , which also received the first prize. In fact, it is worth mentioning that the prizes awarded this year to the first winner are very similar to those announced for the winner of the 1821 competition.

Kostas Katsapis is a historian. He teaches Cultural History of Post-war Greece and Youth History at the Department of Political Science and History of Panteion University. Among other things, he has published the books:Sounds and echoes. Social history of the rock and roll phenomenon in Greece, 1956-1967 (2007) and "The youth problem. Modern youth, tradition and contestation in post-war Greece, 1964-1974 (2013)".

In his distinguished publication, he deals with the issue of youth, the Church and the Dictatorship of the Colonels, through the lens of a work by Professor Dimitrios Pallas that deserves to be remembered and re-examined in a wider field.

Pallas himself worked for many years in the Archaeological Service, in 1965 he became a professor of Byzantine Archeology at the University of Athens and was dismissed in 1968 by the junta of the colonels. Investigating the ideological origins of the junta, Pallas had proposed as a fundamental component of the regime but also as the main cause of the April 21st coup, the action of the para-church organization ZOY, which was politicized as an anti-communist struggle body. Archbishop Ieronymos Kotsonis was also a member of the ZOY brotherhood, who was elected to office in the presence of the coup plotters Papadopoulos and Pattakos.

Pallas's study was written after the suppression of the Polytechnic rebellion, and while it was expected to be published in the BIMA newspaper, it was decided not to publish it for fear of censorship. In fact, this study of his was not published even during the Post-colonial period, except recently in the memoirs of Pallas.

Through a historical time machine that takes us from 1821 to the junta, and from the beginning of the Post-colonialism to today and the new challenges against the extreme right, Kostas Katsapis analyzes the essence of timeless maintenance that is directly linked to the established pathologies of the place.

-How important is your award in said competition to you, and what is its significance?

Although I love the late Dino Christianopoulos very much who was against any award, wherever it comes from, I confess to be honest with you that something in me was flattered by the jury's decision. All the more so since there were many participants in the competition and the submitted texts were excellent. However, really my main concern was to make known the work of Dimitrios Pallas, which in my opinion is remarkably accurate in terms of the analyzes he makes of the dictatorial regime of April 21st. I hope that the award of my study will direct attention to the main directions of D. Pallas's thought, i.e. to a deep, multi-level and mainly cultural reading of the dictatorship and its leaders.

-How timely would a publication of the work of Dimitrios Pallas seem today?

Of course it is current, I would say much more so than the era in which it was written. The early Postcolonial era was a time of intense politicization and the whole hard-line culture of the Church and para-church organizations found their backs against the wall. In recent years, however, an attempt has been made to discredit the Postcolonialism, it is assumed that its "culture" has been responsible for a series of ills, most notably the financial crisis of 2011. Dimitrios Pallas is more relevant than ever, precisely because now is the fullness of time to see in their real dimensions timeless pathologies of Greek society. And the embrace of state-politics and priesthood is one of the most important. In other words, it is located at the core of what we often describe as the "deep state". In addition, I consider that the dissemination of the work of Dimitrios Pallas is very important, quite simply because it is extremely apt, penetrating and, as I emphasize in the concluding paragraph of the text I wrote, decades ahead of its time.

-Could you detect dim or brighter traces of the ideologies and dynamics of LIFE in today's modern Greek age, and if so where?

ZOY certainly no longer has the strength and momentum it had during the post-war and post-civil period when it was one of the pillars of the right-wing government. Its ideas, as I said before, found themselves at the intersection of Post-colonialism so much on the fringes of society that it itself gradually turned into a marginal cult organization. The same happened with the hard-line speech of hierarchs (Kantiotis, Ambrosios, etc.) which, despite their noisy presence, was for decades emphatically out of season. Nevertheless, the influence of organization on the formation of the deep state should not be underestimated. ZOI, like other organizations in the parachurch space, for decades systematically cultivated anti-communism, hatred for the other, for the Jews, the homosexuals, the different. They largely continued to do so after the fall of the Junta. Some openly, some others, like LIFE suggestively and cautiously, treading on the fear of modernity, the West, tolerance, the new.

Extreme right-wing logic and hatred have nothing to do with authentic Christianity

All this anti-Christian activity at its core has been unleashed after the economic crisis in a tsunami of hatred, irrationality and conspiracy. The responsibility of the above for the existence in our country of a large (far beyond Golden Dawn) far-right audience is huge and undeniable. And of course, this alone shows their deep hypocrisy:apart from the minimum, this anti-Christian, as I said, activity does not bother anyone. Of course, the apparent Christians forget that according to Jesus, His face is recognized daily in the other, in the fellow man. Far-right logic and hatred have nothing to do with authentic Christianity, which they are supposed to serve.

-Does today's extreme right have differences with the junta of the Colonels? Where would you spot them? What permanences are there?

It is a bit difficult to answer, because today we should be talking about "extreme right" rather than extreme right. Between the different versions there are huge differences, not only political but also cultural. Let's say the Nazi version, which was expressed with the Golden Dawn, harbors hatred for Christianity but also for the Church, which it tolerates to the extent that it is useful to it. Its anti-Westernism is also not so intense, it does not allude to the tradition of the Greek race in the way we know. This allows it to incorporate into its culture and practices elements that the "traditional far right" would not tolerate, such as metal bands with hate speech, cultural symbols such as tattoos, etc. On the other hand, the extreme right, which has its roots in strong post-nationalist anti-communism, bets on its relations with institutions of the deep state, establishes strong enclaves within them, while respecting the traditional symbols of the nation, naturally proceeding to nationalistic banditry and their instrumentalization. In a world dominated by globalization, the overt anti-Westernism of the Colonels' regime has receded, how else could the rhetoric of the sixties be preserved in the age of technology and social networks? What has remained as a cohesive element for the largely heterogeneous far-right audiences is the belief in the exceptionalism of the "Greek race" and the emphasis on the superiority of Greek particularity. This is a phobic approach to the modern world, just as the attitude of the extreme right in the sixties towards (then) the developments of the post-war world was also phobic.

-In my eyes, the existence of the "Christian Union of Scientists" seems like an oxymoron. How would you comment on the timeless attitude of the church towards right speech in our country? Do you identify in this data, modern or if you want permanent pathologies of us as a country?

You are right to point out the oxymoron of her existence, but everything has its explanation. The manifesto of the Christian Union of Scientists was a milestone in the consolidation of a hardline conservatism about which we know little, since history, both academic and public, has for decades focused one-sidedly on its political dimensions. However, since the years of the Civil War, the consolidation of a network of strict control in education, artistic production, in the university area, seems to have been a crucial condition for the strengthening of the right-wing state in the decades that followed. The role of the Church here was enormous, since it actively mobilized a large part of the intellectual elite of the country with the aim of stopping the "destructive" ideas of the West. Why did they all agree with the Church by signing a deeply dark text? Was it just their panic from the emergence of EAM in the years before? Did their class origin play a crucial role since most of them belonged to the upper strata of the bourgeoisie (doctors, lawyers, etc.)? Did they see the benefit of joining powerful networks? I reckon the answer is in there somewhere. But let us note this for your readers:according to the anti-Western and anti-enlightenment worldview as it has been produced since the years of the French Revolution, it is humanism that leads to materialism and by extension to communism and not the latter that leads to atheism . This is a frighteningly important interpretation, which will lead to the adoption of strict measures in the years of the Seven Years for the return of society and especially the youth to the (receding) Greek Orthodox values. Of course, Dimitrios Pallas has spoken in detail and extensively about all this.

-What should change in Greek Education, regarding the inclusion of religious subjects, especially in a country that continues to live without Separation of State and Church?

Greek education as a whole and outside of formal school education, should learn to accept the truth. First, the historical truth. Myths which probably had a role to play at the time they were created, in the age of information and technological development it is tragic that they still exist. I accept that it might be reasonable to tell a three-year-old that babies are brought by storks, but if you're trying to convince an adult of that, there's obviously a problem. Patriotism cannot be based on myths, conspiracies and absurdities, if nothing else the Greek nation can be proud of many things, of heroic moments and magnificent achievements that generate admiration at the ends of the earth.

The embrace of Church and state only serves to preserve outdated logic

The Greek exceptionalism, the incomprehensible self-admiration and the indulgent consumption of non-existent myths, do not suit either our past or the future we desire. I hope that we are still a democratic society, with a history of struggle and contribution that must look at its future with honesty. Today we are indeed a multicultural society which is called upon to include others in it, respecting their own particularities and traditions. Religious courses, therefore, cannot be an arm of conversion. It doesn't make any sense. On the contrary, I would say, Christianity can play a big role in strengthening social cohesion, provided that its true meaning is proposed and authoritarian logics and Byzantineisms are put aside. An orthodoxy creatively updated in terms of its role is an orthodoxy that has a future because it has substance. The embrace of Church and state only does is to preserve outdated logics of the past and ultimately to discredit orthodoxy itself. The universe of fanatics and obscurantists who feed on her sermons, I don't think they have any respect for the Church. Those who really care about it should admit that it cannot be related to petty politics, nor function as the "right hand of the Lord" and even worse as a power lobby.

-How would you characterize the modern Greek Right, which in recent years is once again the ruling class? Do you see a conflicting narrative between the apparently liberal ideology and the association with the official Church of the land?

A la carte liberalism cannot exist, when it exists it exists as a presumption of hypocrisy. The Greek right throughout time played the "church" card, hoping to control the flock. But with the gendarme and the constable it is not possible. And Europeanism and turning a blind eye to obscurantism cannot go hand in hand. Of course, those who are concerned with true natura christiana cannot help but be outraged by this situation, but in the hierarchy of the Church it seems that the priorities are different. The Greek right, ostensibly liberal but deeply conservative in its core and historical origins, I believe that it learned its hard lesson during the Post-colonial period when it realized that ideological control is a prerequisite of the politician. The loss of ideological control was, moreover, the first step in the overthrow of the political structure. Ο απεγκλωβισμός μεγάλου μέρους της ελληνικής κοινωνίας από τις εξαρτήσεις της αγροτικής υπαίθρου, κύρια λόγω της εσωτερικής μετανάστευσης, ήταν το στοιχείο που πυροδότησε την πολιτική αμφισβήτηση, η οποία και στα χρόνια της Μεταπολίτευσης κατέστησε δυνατή την Αλλαγή, αλλά και την στήριξε. Αυτό άλλωστε δεν είναι και το περιεχόμενο της περίφημης «αριστερής ηγεμονίας» στην οποία αναφέρονται συντηρητικοί διανοητές και σχολιαστές; Τις τελευταίες δεκαετίες εκτιμώ ότι επιχειρείται εκ νέου ο εξανδραποδισμός της κοινωνίας μέσω της πολιτισμικής αποχαύνωσης και του επιδεικτικού ατομικισμού και καταναλωτισμού. Η κυριαρχία της δεξιάς δεν μπορεί να ερμηνευτεί ξέχωρα από την εξέλιξη αυτή, ενώ δεν θα πρέπει να παραλείψουμε να επισημάνουμε ότι βαθιά συντηρητικοποίηση της κοινωνίας διεφάνη ακόμη και στα χρόνια που κυβέρνησε ο Σύριζα. Φυσικά, η ελληνική δεξιά σε καμία περίπτωση δεν είναι διατεθειμένη να έρθει σε σύγκρουση με διαχρονικά προνομιακούς κοινωνικούς της συμμάχους, για τον λόγο αυτό οι όποιες εκδηλώσεις φιλελευθερισμού πραγματοποιούνται, εκτιμώ πως συνιστούν μικρά ανοίγματα τα οποία υπάρχουν στον βαθμό που δεν θίγονται τα πραγματικά συμφέροντα της ιεραρχίας και των πολιτικών της εταίρων.

Όπως σχολιάζει ο διευθυντής της σειράς Lux Orbis, Μηνάς Παπαγεωργίου, για τη κυκλοφορία της Μέλισσας του 1821:

"Η επανακυκλοφορία του τρίτου τεύχους του περιοδικού “Μέλισσα” (εκδ. iWrite) από την Σειρά Lux Orbis, ως αυτόνομο έντυπο, 200 ολόκληρα χρόνια μετά την έκδοσή του στο Παρίσι, αποτελεί ένα σημαντικότατο γεγονός για την εγχώρια βιβλιοπαραγωγή του 2021. Το περιεχόμενο του βιβλίου μάς φέρνει σε άμεση επαφή με τις απόψεις και τις θέσεις των ριζοσπαστών Διαφωτιστών της εποχής, που εμπνέονταν σε μεγάλο βαθμό από το έργο του Αδαμάντιου Κοραή, τη χρονιά που η Επανάσταση ξεσπάει στον Μοριά.

Το κρίσιμο στοιχείο, εδώ, είναι πώς οι θέσεις και ιδέες αυτές, παρατίθενται αφιλτράριστες, χωρίς ιδεολογικές ή άλλου είδους σκοπιμότητες, οι οποίες ξεκίνησαν να εμφανίζονται σταδιακά κατά τις δεκαετίες μετά τη συγκρότηση του νέου ελληνικού κράτους, διαμορφώντας την προβληματική νεοελληνική ταυτότητα. Έτσι ο σύγχρονος αναγνώστης θα έχει τη δυνατότητα να συλλάβει άμεσα την εικόνα που είχαν οι Έλληνες στοχαστές εκείνης της περιόδου, έπανω σε μια σειρά από ζητήματα, με προεξέχον εκείνο της στάσης της ανώτατης ηγεσίας της Εκκλησίας απέναντι στις αλληλένδετες έννοιες του φωτισμού και του ξεσηκωμού του έθνους. Πιο συγκεκριμένα, στη “Μέλισσα” μπορεί κανείς να διαβάσει -ανάμεσα στα άλλα- για την απόπειρα ελέγχου της ελληνικής βιβλιοπαραγωγής εκ μέρους του πατριαρχείου της Κωνσταντινούπολης, να ενημερωθεί για τις διώξεις που υπέστησαν Διαφωτιστές που δίδασκαν σε σχολές της Σμύρνης και της Λέσβου, να μάθει για το κάψιμο ενός βιβλίου που ασκούσε κριτική στην εκκλησιαστική διαφθορά και εντέλει να αποκτήσει μία πολύ καλή εικόνα για την “Ιερά Εξέταση” (όρος που χρησιμοποιείται από τους ίδιους τους λογίους της εποχής) που επέβαλλε ο Γρηγόριος Ε' κατά το διάστημα 1819-1821 στην Πόλη.

Η επανέκδοση του τρίτου τεύχους της “Μέλισσας” προλογίζεται από το Εφορευτικό Συμβούλιο της Δημόσιας Ιστορικής Βιβλιοθήκης της Ανδρίτσαινας (τόπο καταγωγής του συνεκδότη του περιοδικού, Κωνσταντίνου Αγαθόφρωνα Νικολόπουλου), το αντίτυπο της οποίας χρησιμοποιήθηκε για την αναπαραγωγή της σύγχρονης έκδοσης".