CULTURE

Lavish books explore Greek history and life

Two lavish editions published by Emporiki bank throw light on different periods of Greek history and life. Written by Kyriaki Arseni, «Athens Between the Wars – Through the Photographs of Petros Poulidis» is a bilingual edition (English translation by Dr David A. Hardy) focusing on the interwar years, while Vladimir Davidov’s «Atlas and Traveling Notes from a Journey in the Ionian Islands, Greece, Asia Minor and Turkey» is a two-book edition taking a look at a country reborn in 1835. Proceeds from both publications will go to charity. «Athens Between the Wars» focuses on a period in which Greece was forced to come to terms with the Asia Minor disaster and the subsequent years building up to World War II. Petros Poulidis (1885-1867) is known as the first Greek professional photojournalist who also helped found the Greek Union of Photoreporters and Cinematographers in 1929. Born in Epirus, he spent a few years in Istanbul, before moving to Athens and setting up his business of recording daily events for newspapers. Unlike many of his colleagues at the time, he was less interested in taking photographs of monuments and more keen on capturing moments in the lives of the people – how they lived, worked and enjoyed themselves. The Petros and Christos Poulidis Archive (including photographic material by Petros’s son Christos, also a photographer) became a vast collection which was eventually purchased by ERT. Essentially, it became the foundation for the development of ERT’s museum archive which was established in 1990. In the introduction, the author notes that from the archive’s 6,500 glass-plate negatives recording the pre-war period, some 385 photographs were selected for this particular publication. A few depict the Poulidis family, Petros and his wife Anthi and their eight children, while others show hard news, such as a military vehicle burning on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue during a military coup in 1926 – an image which the photojournalist sold to various agencies abroad. Photo ops of powerful politicians, Asia Minor refugees, but also snapshots from wedding banquets and festivals make up a panorama of Greek life during turbulent times. From Russia with love Travelers discovering Greece in the 18th century often gave thorough accounts of the Greek world, even before the arrival of archaeologists studying Greek history and culture. In 1835, only a few years after the establishment of the Greek state, Russian Vladimir Davidov (1809-1882) came to Greece accompanied by Prussian scholar Gustav Cramer, and fellow Russians Karl Briulov, an artist, and Nicolas Efimov, an architect. Complementing Davidov’s travel notes and published in the «Atlas,» Briulov and Efimov’s works capture what they came across: ancient sites, plenty of ruins and churches, among others. Raised in intellectual and liberal circles while nurturing a great love for the arts and architecture, Davidov was 26 years old when he came to Greece. Setting out from Rome in early May 1835, he and his fellow travelers arrived in Corfu and went on to visit the rest of the Ionian islands. They then crossed over to the mainland and arrived in Athens. From Piraeus they traveled to Smyrna, visited Istanbul and from there went on to discover the treasures of Mount Athos. Davidov returned to Istanbul, but for personal reasons was forced to curtail his journey. He left the city in October and took a Balkan route all the way to Berlin where he met up with his family. His journey experiences were eventually published in a few copies in 1839. What makes Emporiki’s new publication particularly exciting is the fact that few Russian works similar to this one have been approached, studied and eventually translated into Greek. In his notes, Davidov comes to the conclusion that while the rest of Europe is entering the industrial era and looking at a bright future, Greece’s glorious past is no less of an achievement. No matter how steam engines manage to shorten distances around the world, says the author, no mind will ever rival the perfection of the Parthenon.