Bicentenary talk

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

Since its very start, year 2020 sees preparations blossom for the celebration for the Bicentenary of the Greek Revolution that started on 1821. While the official, State-mandated “Greece 2021” Committee for the 1821-2021 celebrations – headed by Gianna Angelopoulos of Athens 2004 Games fame and comprising three dozen luminaries (among which Mark Mazower, Roderick Beaton and Richard Clogg) – was established in late 2019, last week a  different “Initiative 1821-2021” was announced with quite a measure of pomp at the Athens Concert Hall.

This Bicentennial Initiative 1821-2021, jointly sponsored by 14 major Greek Foundations (among which prominent those of banks – spearheaded by the National Bank – and of shipping/major business concerns) has been in gestation for all of 26 months. It will mobilise, during the period 2020-2022, some 75 organisations, while 120 actions have been already announced as being underway by Yannis Manos of NBG who operates as coordinator.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis set the tone at the Concert Hall event calling 1821 “a breaking point and at the same time a defining moment”. He emphasized that in order for such a recollection of historic events and celebrations to serve as “a compass for us to take a positive look to the future”, the Bicentenary should in no way be approached in a uniform way – but rather as a platform of open self-reflection for Greeks today. Mitsotakis was careful to distinguish the two organizing initiatives, referring to the “Greece 2021” efforts in warm terms.

Speaking on behalf of the 14 foundations that are sponsoring the Initiative 1821-2021, Panos Laskaridis approached the challenge of the Bicentenary from a different angle: he shed light on the fact that modern Greek history is punctuated not only by great deeds and successes, but also by failures, setbacks, even disasters and civil strife. It’s quite enheartening to see that after every such setback, Greeks were able to start again; but the need for solidarity and joint efforts remains of central importance today. P. Laskaridis ended in stressing the importance for fresh leadership to emerge for Greece to face the future – a point which, given the concentration of personalities present per square foot at the Athens Concert Hall, struck a strange chord.