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A celebration for all Balkan peoples, including Turks!
March 25, 1821 marks the beginning of a long struggle that led to the creation of modern Greece and the demise of the Ottoman Empire, which in turn led to the formation of a number of modern countries, including Turkey: the last state that came out of the process that lasted almost a century. So, it’s a day for celebration, inclusive to us, Greeks, but also all the other Balkan peoples. Turks should partake in our joy as well! Ottomans were a class in the empire and not a nationality. Countless Greeks, Arabs, Armenians, Georgians etc. were members of the Ottoman elite, which held absolute power over an array of nationalities. “Turk” at that time wasn’t a term to be carried with pride, but denoted someone inferior, like an arrogant peasant not be taken seriously. It was during the Young Turks movement in the early 20th century that Turkish nationalism was formed as a reaction to the other nationalisms in the area. Unfortunately it was exercised at the expense of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians with genocides and countless atrocities. But it was after all that that the term Turk found its place and Turkey became a menace for all her neighbors, but also for the many different peoples within that had to become by force something that they never were.
But as I said in the beginning, this is an occasion to celebrate, let us leave the particulars for another time. Besides the teachings that we’ve been hearing since our days in school, we need to look for new meanings and associations that will keep this holiday relevant for many generations to come. Let’s multiply the values we draw from it instead of restricting them, as the Committee for the Bicentennial of Greek Independence so ludicrously managed to do two years ago. Hellenism is about inclusiveness, cosmopolitanism is the core of our identity, whatever significant we have done during millennia reflects exactly that! So this national anniversary too, must be seen and explained according to the impact it had for us Greeks but also for other peoples as well. It ignited a process that created new realities for many! And more importantly perhaps, it’s still unfolding and we’d better be aware of that!