The bicentennial of the start of the Greek War of Independence, which Greece will mark in 2021, is indeed important and we ought to celebrate it. It could also serve as a catalyst to bring Greeks of the diaspora closer to the homeland and an opportunity to rebuild the Greek brand, which has suffered tremendously as a result of the financial crisis. However, we must steer clear of tasteless displays of jingoism.
The 200th anniversary is also a very good opportunity to better learn who we are as a people. The history of the revolution includes countless events which are completely unknown to the vast majority of contemporary Greeks. Next to the infinite examples of the greatness shown by Greek revolutionaries such as Georgios Karaiskakis, Papaflessas and many others, there was civil strife, tribalism, nepotism and the repeated failures of the leading figures of the time to build a consensus.
Over time, all of this was forgotten, because we needed a national narrative without inconvenient footnotes. But considering that it’s been two centuries since then, and the same patterns of behavior keep re-emerging as if they were ingrained in our DNA, it would be a good idea to start relearning our story coolheadedly, without glossing over the difficult bits.
It would be useful, for example, for us to know and explain that the sacred cause of the revolution was put at risk at critical moments by civil strife. Who knows, it might make us more suspicious of the preachers of division, who irresponsibly – if not criminally – have dragged the country through crises every 30-40 years.
The anniversary of the revolution is yet another opportunity to see how wise Greek diplomacy was from the beginning. It cultivated philhellenism with mastery and played its cards right with the Great Powers of the time. This is a chapter of history we ignore, because we prefer to remember only the historical events in which we appear as victims. Greece became independent and grew because of an unbeatable combination of heroism and wise diplomacy.
In this sense, the bicentenary is a milestone. An opportunity to look back, deepen our self-knowledge and set goals for the future. We should not forget that a people who do not know every aspect of their history are doomed to relive some of its darker chapters.