The Greek State and the Diaspora: Venizelism Abroad, 1910-1932

Alexander Kitroeff, Haverford College
The appeal of the great liberal statesman Eleftherios Venizelos among the Greeks outside Greece is not in itself very surprising. As Lily Macrakis has pointed out in her excellent study on Venizelos’ early career, he was a politician who combined a bold modernist vision tempered by a pragmatic approach along with an understanding of the need Greece had of maintaining strong ties to the West, especially Britain and France (Macrakis 1992). This type of program almost inevitably attracted the support of the major Greek communities outside the country’s borders. The Greeks of the Ottoman Empire and the Greeks in the diaspora, especially those settled in urban commercial centers, were almost by definition predisposed to endorse a pro-western stance because it strengthened their own status, and because they were already operating within a modernist framework culturally and economically. Yet beyond culture and economics, the ties that bound the Greeks outside Greece were also political, not only in an ideological sense but also because Venizelos, when in government, pursued a deliberate policy of attracting the support of these communities. In many ways this policy falls within the broader paradigm of the role played by so-called “sending countries” in preserving the ties between the homeland and its communities abroad, a topic that has recently gained a great deal of attention in studies that focus on issues of transnationalism.
“Sending” is a synonym for country of origin; obviously many migrants are not actually “sent” by their countries but take the decision to move for a variety of reasons, only in a few cases countries actively engineer or at least encourage a population outflow. Growing academic interest in transnationalism has led to an increasing focus on so-called sending countries in the field of migration studies. This represents a new area of research, because the field has primarily examined the policies and role of host countries and the ways these have shaped immigrant communities and their identity. The acknowledgement of transnational linkages affecting migrant communities, especially in the modern era, has brought a new interest in sending countries. Sending countries can be quite different, though a recent study that summarizes work in this area has suggested they more or less fall into three categories: labor exporting countries, homelands that have experienced out-migration prior to gaining independence, and countries that are experiencing conflict and draw upon their migrants abroad for support (Ostergaard-Nielsen 2003). Studies of the contemporary era have also noted the existence of sending country history in the early twentieth century in the case of immigrants in the United States (Vertovec 2009:11).
An emphasis on sending countries is especially appropriate in the case of the history of Greek emigration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The primarily cultural definitions of Greek nationhood since the establishment of the modern state in the early nineteenth century generated a vision and a set of policies based on the assumption that the Greeks outside Greece who may have had non-Greek citizenship are all part of the Greek nation and therefore duty bound to the Greek state and vice versa. Indeed, the involvement of the Greek state in the affairs of the Greek communities outside Greece has been well documented in several studies. In particular, Greek Consular authorities have been actively concerned with communal policies, both in terms of maintaining their ties to Greece and to shape their internal makeup and ideological orientation. For example, in the mid-19th century, the Greek Consulate in Alexandria launched a campaign to wrest control of the community organization from the Greek Patriarchate of Alexandria. The Greek Consular authorities in the United States were also closely involved in the affairs of the Greek immigrants in the United States, especially in the first two decades of the twentieth century, and the involvement of the Greek state in the affairs of the Greeks in the Ottoman Empire has been well documented in numerous studies (Kitroeff 1989a:15; Saloutos 1964).
This essay inquires about the ways the more recent focus on sending state adds to our understanding of Greek homeland-diaspora relations. After all, as we noted, the role of Greece and its close relations with its communities abroad has been extensively acknowledged and studied. But a great deal remains to be studied in terms of the nature of that relationship if we are not to accept, uncritically, the assumption that the Greek state can invoke the idea of the existence of a transnational Greek state in order to dictate to Greeks abroad how they should conduct their affairs. I have already suggested elsewhere that Greece’s ties with Greeks abroad can be generally divided into two broad historical phases (Kitroeff 1991:233–250). From the mid-nineteenth century through 1922, the state pursued the goal of the Great Idea, the incorporation of what were considered historically Greek lands and peoples within its borders. Toward that purpose, it embarked on an extensive campaign to strengthen the Greek identity of the Greek Orthodox populations in the territories it claimed. With regard to the Greek communities elsewhere, it did the same for the purpose of soliciting their help and support in the pursuit of the “Great Idea.” All this changed after 1922 when the “Great Idea” was officially abandoned. A different policy emerged in its place—one that was designed to help Greeks abroad maintain their identity and preserve their ties with the homeland. In a sense, the earlier political motivation and context of the ties to Greeks outside Greece were replaced by a different set of priorities that stressed cultural and economic connections.
Yet the differences between the pre-and post-1922 content of the Greek homeland’s policies towards the diaspora notwithstanding, it is not difficult to miss a crucial, common feature: in both those eras the homeland considered the diaspora an extension of itself, as an overseas part of a transterritorial nation. This concept is evident in the material presented in this essay. It consists of both older and more recent secondary sources, along with documentary evidence from the Venizelos papers that has been made available on the web by the Venizelos Institute in Chania, Crete. Yet if the basis for such policies on the part of Athens is the invocation of a culturally defined Hellenism that includes Greeks within and without Greece’s borders, there is also an inconsistency, in that the state appears determined to determine and engineer Greek consciousness abroad and indeed color it politically so as to guarantee loyalty to the ruling political party or, after 1922, to the state. In other words, Greece as a “sending country” grants relatively little autonomy to its communities abroad and acts in ways that ensure its hegemony over them. That is evident in the account that follows, irrespective of the fact that many of the Greeks outside Greece’s borders had an authentic self-motivated allegiance to Venizelos.

The Venizelist State and the Greeks Abroad

Venizelos’ career began in 1909 and ended in 1932. He is generally considered to be the greatest Greek statesman of the twentieth century because of his liberal, modernizing domestic policies, and because of the effectiveness with which he pursued the vision of the “Great Idea.” It generated its own brand of ideology, “venizelism,” which stood for support of those policies and loyalty to Venizelos’ charismatic person. This modernist orientation was also what guaranteed Venizelos’ strong following among the Greeks abroad, many of whom were on the whole more economically advanced than Greece. Yet the question remains whether those dual projects of modernity and a future greater Greece were in themselves enough to marshal that support for venizelism among the Greeks outside Greece. In other words, would this support be spontaneous or did it have to also be cultivated by the Venizelos administration? The support for venizelism elicited abroad—or, at any rate, for Venizelos and his program—based on economics and ideology became apparent very soon after he entered mainstream Greek politics in 1910. At that time, the largest concentrations of Greeks outside Greece were settled in the Ottoman-controlled provinces of Epirus and Macedonia and other parts of the Ottoman Empire, including the capital, Constantinople; the Anatolian littoral, including the city of Smyrna; central Anatolia; and all around the Black Sea, especially the Pontus region and southern Russia. There was also a large Greek presence in Egypt, a semi-autonomous Ottoman presence under de facto British control; a small but wealthy group of Greek merchants in London; and, finally, a rapidly growing number of Greeks emigrating to the United States at the rate of about 30 to 40 thousand a year. Aside from the geographical range, it is important to note the presence of a group of wealthy merchants based not only in London but also in Alexandria, Constantinople, and Smyrna. As Constantinos Tsoukalas has noted, these merchants had initially been lukewarm in their support of the “Great Idea,” but with the rise of Turkish nationalism following the Young Turk revolution of 1909 (and with the spread of nationalist ideas throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, including Egypt), they realized that their interests could be supported by a “greater Greece” in the region. Tsoukalas provides the example of Prodromos Bodosakis-Athanasiadis, an Anatolian Greek entrepreneur who supplied arms to the Ottoman army. In 1910, he stopped supplying the Ottomans and focused his commercial activities solely on arming the Greek military. A few years later, he purchased the famous Pera Palace luxury hotel in Constantinople, an initiative he took to help Venizelos demonstrate to the Anglo-French the wealth and dynamism of the Greeks in Constantinople (Tsoukalas 1897:362–371; Haziotis 2005).
Venizelos’ domestic policies included a reduction of the role of the state in the economy and the promotion of a more free market-oriented environment. These modernizations, coupled with his embrace of the “Great Idea,” made that reorientation all the easier and more logical for the wealthy bourgeoisie outside Greece. Significantly, their financial involvement in Greece included economic activity and support for the country’s foreign policy (Anagnostopoulou 1997:534–535).
As part of his domestic reforms Venizelos established the Ministry of National Economy, a new government department. Its head was Emmanouil Benakis, a wealthy Alexandrian Greek merchant who returned to Athens to take that position. Both Benakis and Bodossakis-Athanasiadis counted themselves as friends of Venizelos and were in political terms identified with his Liberal party; they were, in other words, “venizelists.” This dual affiliation, to state policy under Venizelos and to his Liberal party, was promoted through the establishment of “Liberal Clubs” abroad, supported financially by the party headquarters in Athens, wherever there was a large enough concentration of Greeks. Their purpose was primarily to support Venizelos’ foreign policy, and secondly to promote his liberal, modernizing domestic program. The local Greek Consulate in many cases affirmed the “patriotic activities” of these organizations and supported their requests for aid. [1]

The Greek State and the Greeks in Anatolia

After he led Greece through the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, which resulted in the incorporation of Epirus and a large part of Macedonia into Greece, the Greeks in Anatolia, who were facing a Turkish nationalist backlash, were very clear about the importance of backing Venizelos. The support among them for the Greek statesman became almost universal after 1915, when his opponents, the supporters of King Constantine, expressed doubts about Greece’s commitment to the “Great Idea” and tried to prevent Greece’s entry into WWI on the side of the Entente Powers. This pro-venizelist sentiment grew even stronger after the end of WWI. With the victorious Entente weighing plans designed to carve up the Ottoman Empire—which had joined the Central Powers during the war—Venizelos secured their support for a landing of Greek troops in Smyrna, the strategically important port city on the Anatolian coast. This was part of a wider arrangement that included temporary Greek control over a large area of the Anatolian coast around Smyrna. The Greek army landed in the city in May 1919. Unable to maintain control in the zone it was allocated due to attacks by Turkish nationalist irregulars, the government decided that the army should penetrate deeper into Anatolian territory to eliminate the nationalists. It was a fateful decision, because the Greeks came up against a reinvigorated Turkish nationalist movement determined to replace the discredited Ottoman government and establish a new nation-state under the leadership of Mustapha Kemal Ataturk. The Greco-Turkish war of 1919–1922, also known as the Turkish War of Independence, ended with a defeat for the Greek army and a disorganized retreat to Smyrna, where they were hastily evacuated, leaving thousands of local inhabitants unprotected. Ultimately, Smyrna was destroyed and all its non-Muslim inhabitants, including the Greeks (who were the largest ethnic group in the city), were either killed or fled to Greece as refugees, as did all Greeks in the Anatolian coastal region.
By examining the attitudes of the Greeks of western Anatolia, primarily Smyrna, towards venizelism, we can highlight the ways that connection was not merely based on Venizelos’ embrace of the “Great Idea,” but the result of a sustained set of initiatives on the part of the Greek state. The port city of Smyrna was a bustling commercial and cosmopolitan center inhabited by Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Levantines, and Muslims. The Greeks were the largest of those groups, and many of them tended to think of Smyrna as a “Greek city.” Several smaller towns along the Anatolian littoral had majority Greek populations, and many villages in the area were almost entirely Greek. This demographic situation helped create the impression of a Greek microcosm and encouraged close ties with Greece and Greek politics.
At almost the same time that Venizelos took power in Greece, the authorities began taking restrictive measures against the Christian minorities in Anatolia—it was a serious issue and one of the first he had to confront.
Venizelos, who was invited to Athens from Crete in 1909 following a reformist military coup, was elected prime minister in November 1910. At the same time, the Young Turks, who had taken power in the Ottoman Empire in 1908, were abandoning their original idea of transforming the Empire into a multiethnic entity and were instead beginning to embrace the concept of a “Turkey for the Turks” which would exclude ethnic groups such as Armenians and Greeks. One of the earliest signs that Venizelos was made aware of the situation is a letter he received from Smyrna from a local inhabitant in June 1911. [2]
The outbreak of WWI and increased pressure on Anatolian Greeks brought about a series of measures initiated in Athens that explicitly recognized those populations as “Greek” and meriting the protection of the Greek state. Previously, their Greekness had been recognized, but they were considered to be Greek Orthodox subjects of the Ottoman Empire. The new way of thinking was underlined when the Greek government began negotiations with the Ottoman authorities about the plight of all Greeks, whether they were Greek or Ottoman subjects. The assumption was that Athens was solely responsible for the Greek Orthodox in the Empire irrespective of their citizenship status. It was a part of a broader process of what Anagnostopoulou has described as the “de-Ottomanization” of Anatolia (Anagnostopoulou 1997:537). The policies that followed that assumption amounted to widespread involvement by local Greek Consular authorities in the affairs of local communities. The purpose was to “Hellenize” them, by either strengthening their Greek identity and attachment to Greece or, in the case of the more distant populations deep in Anatolia to begin at least to instill in them a Greek consciousness. This entailed surveying the area, counting the Greek Orthodox population, and monitoring and shaping the activities of community organizations. In the case of regions inaccessible to the Greek consular authorities, contacts were made with the local Greek Church with the request that they take on those tasks. The response of the Greeks on or near the Anatolian coastline was positive, as Anagnostopoulou notes, especially since they had faced growing difficulties—often with fatal consequences—because they were targeted by the Turkish nationalist irregulars. But in the case of the Greek Orthodox populations in the hinterland (such as for example the Turkish-speaking Greek Orthodox in Cappadocia), the hellenizers themselves were disappointed by the lack of any meaningful response by those communities (Anagnostopoulou 1997:538–543).
A second phase in the relationship between the Greek government and the Greeks of Smyrna and the surrounding area came in 1919, when Greek forces landed in the city. Precisely because there had been ethnic clashes upon their arrival, the person whom Venizelos appointed to be politically in charge of the Smyrna occupation zone, Aristides Stergiadis, adopted a strict set of policies. Venizelos’ interest in the situation there following the arrival of the Greek army was confirmed by how quickly and decisively he intervened after it became known that Greek troops had clashed with local Muslims upon their arrival and had mistreated those arrested following the incidents, including several fatalities (Alamani and Panayotopoulou 1980:119–172).
Surrounded by an entourage of civil servants brought over from Greece, but anxious to prove he was conscious that Smyrna was a cosmopolitan, not a Greek, city, Stergiadis ended up alienating most Smyrna Greeks. Venizelos, however, stood by his appointee. In July 1919 he wrote to one of his close associates, Alexandros Diomidis, that the Greek military and government authorities in Smyrna should treat Stergiadis with moderation, and that “It is not much to require from the Greeks in Asia Minor to show a similar spirit, so that their blind passion does not turn the national project into a shipwreck,” adding that he was really referring to the community notables (Tzanakaris 2007:125). Whether or not Stergiadis was too strict and dictatorial, which is a recurring concern in the literature on the Greek occupation of Smyrna, the point is that rule was exercised from Athens and there were no formal provisions for the local Greeks to express their views—let alone to partake in the administrative decisions and their implementation.
What little evidence exists of the Liberal party’s involvement in Smyrna shows that the venizelist partisans were also marginalized in the name of current Greek foreign policy concerns. Soon after Stergiadis’ arrival, a group of prominent Smyrniots who were members of the Greek Liberal party had sent a message to Venizelos about party policy. His reaction, conveyed via Stergiadis, was to say he could not address party concerns at a moment in which policies in the national interest were being implemented in Smyrna and the surrounding region. [3] Finally, a few months before the end of the Greek presence in Smyrna, leaders of the Liberal Party in Smyrna raised the issue of Stergiadis running for parliament on their party’s slate in the near future, a prospect that the governor turned down. [4]
There is an obvious irony in the contrast between the claims that Smyrna and the surrounding area were Greek, and the way they were treated by administrators appointed by Athens. The substantial local Greek presence and its not insignificant elite element were ignored, even though they were clearly supportive of Venizelos and his programs. One could say that this was due to wartime conditions, although one would have thought that precisely because Greece was claiming the region it should have allowed its local inhabitants to demonstrate their ability to govern themselves, and to make decisions that benefitted the entire region and all the ethnic groups it contained.

Venizelism and the Greeks in Egypt

The support Greeks in Smyrna and Anatolia offered Venizelos is not surprising, given that he was the main champion of the “Great Idea,” whose implementation would have provided them with safety and security from the dangers posed by the rise of Turkish nationalism. But much of Venizelos’ appeal was based on a broader ideological basis, and was strengthened by a set of policies emanating from Athens. Indeed, there were parallel processes among other Greek communities abroad, which were not affected directly by the “Great Idea.” A case in point is the Greek community in Egypt, where venizelism enjoyed broad popularity.
While the Greek population in Egypt was not the same size as that in western Anatolia, it was significant, numbering over 80,000 in 1917. Almost a third of these were in Alexandria, where, like Smyrna, the Greeks were one of the largest and most influential ethnic groups. This type of concentration, along with the presence of a wealthy merchant class, created there as well a sense of being in a Greek microcosm, the cosmopolitan context notwithstanding. A broad network of Greek community organizations, schools, churches, newspapers, clubs and societies, which also existed in Smyrna, reinforced this feeling (Kitroeff 1989a:11–35).
The Alexandrian elite maintained close contacts with Athens and the Greek political world, and soon enough Venizelos acquired two extremely strong and influential supporters among them: the cotton merchant Emmanuil Benakis, who as we saw became a government minister, and the lawyer Georgios Roussos, who would go and serve as Greece’s diplomatic representative in the United States under Venizelos. Both were leaders of the Greek community in Alexandria. There were many other Alexandrian Greeks, and Greeks in other parts of the country, that threw their support behind the Cretan statesman. Indeed, practically the entire merchant class was on his side, as were most of the white-collar professionals. In April 1915, in between his dismissal by the king and the formation of the provisional government in Thessaloniki, Venizelos traveled to Egypt and visited Alexandria and several other towns. His supporters organized a huge welcome; reports cited twenty-five thousand people greeting him in Alexandria. Clearly the trip was an excuse to orchestrate widespread public acclaim in order to bolster Venizelos’ domestic and international standing. In 1917, the British authorities in Egypt recognized the venizelist provisional government representatives in Egypt, giving Venizelos yet another boost. Meanwhile, a committee was formed to raise funds for the provisional government; several members of the executive board of the Greek Community organization of Alexandria were among its leading members (Kitroeff 1989).
In the wake of the Asia Minor Disaster, the Liberal Party in Athens decided that its branches in Egypt should suspend their operations. The first of those branches had been established in 1916 with the approval of the party authorities in Athens, and one of its first actions was to send its constitution to Venizelos along with a message of support. [5] The Liberal Party branches had been very active in Egypt, and continued to hold events even after Venizelos’ defeat in the 1920 elections. For example, in December 1921, the Alexandria branch organized a mass meeting to commemorate Venizelos’ name day. [6] Nonetheless, after the Asia Minor Disaster of 1922, and in the spirit of “depoliticizing” the relations between Athens and the diaspora, the Liberal Party branches in Egypt suspended their activities. The pro-venizelist Greek-language daily Tachydromos of Alexandria explained the move as an important step towards putting an end to party fanaticism among the Greeks in Egypt (Kitroeff 1989).
Following several years of political hiatus in the aftermath of the Asia Minor Catastrophe, Venizelos returned to power in 1928 with a landslide electoral victory. By then, however, homeland-diaspora relations had changed radically. Greece was concerned primarily with helping those communities maintain their Greek identity and their relationship with the homeland, but there was no need for any direct political support. Thus, the government was slow to react to appeals for help from Greeks in Egypt who were dealing with the rise of the local Egyptian movement, which planned to curtail the privileges of the foreign residents. If anything, Greece’s political priorities lay in establishing alliances that would offset Italy’s encroachments in the Eastern Mediterranean. Those were the concerns that led Venizelos to bring about the Greco-Turkish rapprochement of 1930, in the course of which Greece dropped its outstanding claims to the properties its refugees had left behind. In the same vein, it was considered impolitic to alienate the Egyptian nationalists, and therefore the Greeks in Egypt were told to try and find an accommodation that would not require any direct pressure being applied from Athens (Kitroeff 1989a:65–67).

Venizelism in the United States

In October 1916, an article in the New York Times announced the formation of a “Venizelos Party” in the United States. It reported that seven thousand people gathered outside a hall owned by the Panhellenic Union in New York City (the hall, which held three thousand, had been filled to capacity). In actual fact, the gathering was held to pledge allegiance to the provisional government Venizelos had established in Thessaloniki, with the support of Britain and France, after he had been dismissed from his post as prime minister by the king, who was the head of the Greek state. They had clashed over Greece’s attitude towards World War I; Venizelos wanted to Greece to side with the Anglo-French Entente, but King Constantine, who was related to the German Kaiser, wanted Greece to remain neutral—something that would have favored the Central Powers. The support offered Venizelos by New York’s Greek Americans was a continuation of the backing his foreign policy had received in the United States by the Panhellenic Union, an organization formed in 1907. The Panhellenic Union, as was the case with other Greek organizations abroad, was funded by the Venizelos administration. [7] The support for Venizelos, the article noted, was not limited to New York, but was spread throughout the United States. One of the organizers was quoted as saying, with a great deal of exaggeration, that “Practically 90 percent of the Greeks here…were heart and soul in favor of the Venizelos government.” [8]
Beginning in 1910, Venizelos’ government sought fairly regularly to influence the Greek American community and to solicit support for its domestic and, especially, foreign policy. Lambros Koromilas, Greece’s special envoy to the United States, did all he could to persuade the Panhellenic Union to prioritize support for the “Great Idea” over all other initiatives it was pursuing regarding the issues facing Greek immigrants in America. It was a view that not all the leading Greek Americans agreed with. One of the main opponents of that policy was Solon Vlastos, the owner of the Greek language daily newspaper Atlantis (Ατλαντίς) (Saloutos 1964:99–103). Also present at the meeting in New York, where he addressed the assembled crowd, was Kleanthes Vassardakis, the former Greek Consul General in San Francisco, a Venizelos appointee who had publicly clashed with Vlastos. [9]
The Venizelos administration sought to strengthen its standing among Greek Americans by other means. One of the most significant of these was the establishment of a pro-venizelist daily Greek-language newspaper. The National Herald (Εθνικός Κήρυξ), founded by Petros Tatanis, began its publication in April 1915 in New York City. Its purpose was to promote the view of Venizelos and his Liberal Party, and to counter the royalist positions taken by Vlastos’ Atlantis. Tatanis was also a senior official in the United States branch of the Greek Liberal Party, and maintained close contacts with the headquarters in Athens. The Liberal Party had branches in several American cities, including Boston, Chicago, Memphis, New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. In what was a fairly routine exchange between both sides, General Daglis, the chair of the Liberal Party organization in Athens sent Tatanis a message strongly recommending that he employ Ioannis Thiakakis as a columnist at the National Herald. Thiakakis, Daglis explained, was a Cretan who was held in great esteem by Venizelos and the Liberal Party, and who was related to two other senior party members, General Katehakis and Emmanuil Tsouderos. [10] Athens also directed the activities of the Liberal Party branches, and any changes of policy were made only after its approval. [11]
Between 1917–1920 there was something of a civil war within the Greek American community, with the venizelists going after the Atlantis and the royalists by claiming they were disloyal to the United States because they had supported Greek neutrality in World War I. Accusations that a segment of the Greek American community was supposedly “pro-German” naturally attracted the attention of the Office of the Attorney General of the United States and the State Department, and the resulting divisions and legal investigations dragged on through 1920. Saloutos concludes the segment in which he refers to those incidents by stating, “The Greek-Americans found it quite impossible to divorce themselves from the internal politics of the mother country” because they had left it so recently (Saloutos 1964:159). But we should add that the mother country encouraged those ties.
Yet in the United States, as was the case in Egypt, the overt “venizelist” initiatives from Athens ceased after 1922, even though Venizelos retained the loyalty of thousands of diaspora Greeks. A visit he made to the United States in 1921 created widespread enthusiasm and brought crowds to his few public addresses. [12] Those sentiments remained strong in the following years. Indeed, the National Herald newspaper maintained its pro-venizelist stance throughout the inter-war period, and Venizelos retained his popularity. In 1931, in a letter from Archbishop Athenagoras to Venizelos in 1931, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America assured him that the great majority of the Greeks in the United States supported him. [13] Nonetheless, the Venizelos government in Athens focused primarily on resolving the affairs of the church in the United States (with the appointment of Athenagoras) and assisting efforts to spread Greek education throughout the United States. While there was no overall policy of mobilizing the Greek Americans on the side of Greece, there is an example of a policy that caused harm. The government encouraged Greek Americans to put their money in Greek-owned banks in the United States, but when the drachma abandoned the gold standard, which was the equivalent of it being devalued, the government mandated that foreign currency holdings of Greek banks be changed into drachmas. This effectively meant that Greek American depositors lost a substantial part of the value of their savings. [14] It was an attitude consistent with the primacy accorded to the interests of the so-called national center.


After this survey of the attitudes of the venizelist administrations towards Greeks in Anatolia, Egypt, and the United States, one could almost suggest that venizelism’s appeal outside Greece’s borders was engineered from Athens. But this is not true, nor is it the argument offered in this essay. There is no doubt that Venizelos was widely popular because of his modernist administrative and foreign policy; this policy had a considerable appeal to Greeks abroad, who were thriving precisely because their respective economic and social milieux were more advanced than Greece’s. Having seen the benefits of modernization in places such as Alexandria, New York, and Smyrna, they were naturally supportive of a program that would yield similar benefits to their homeland. Yet at the same time, the Greek state was actively involved in fostering pro-venizelist sentiment, and the leaders of the Liberal Party in Athens—and Venizelos himself—directed and shaped the theory and practice of venizelism abroad. Prior to 1922, venizelism combined modernization with policies designed to achieve a Great Greece led by the national center. Following the Asia Minor Disaster of that year, the policy became explicitly more introvert; its purpose was to defend and further the national interest as it was defined and understood in Athens, Hellenism’s “national center.” In that sense, Venizelos’ approach was not that much different from the one Lily Macrakis found in studying his early career. It was a bold, idealistic vision that was tempered by a great deal of pragmatism along with a belief that the state was the vehicle that would guarantee the progress of Hellenism.


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[ back ] 1. Venizelos Institute, Eleftherios Venizelos Digital Archive, Correspondence between the Association des Hellénes Libèraux, Zurich and the Liberal Club in Athens, March 1919 &
[ back ] 2. Venizelos Institute, Eleftherios Venizelos Digital Archive, Letter to Venizelos from Smyrna, June 1911
[ back ] 3. Venizelos Institute, Eleftherios Venizelos Digital Archive, Letter from Venizelos to Stergiadis May 26/June 6 1919
[ back ] 4. Venizelos Institute, Eleftherios Venizelos Digital Archive, Note by the Parliamentary Group of the Liberal Party on Stergiadis’ political views, April 5, 1922
[ back ] 5. Venizelos Institute, Eleftherios Venizelos Digital Archive, Letter to Venizelos from the Union of Liberals in Alexandria 7/20 July 1916
[ back ] 6. Venizelos Institute, Eleftherios Venizelos Digital Archive, Letter from the President of the Union of Liberals in Alexandria to the President of the Union of Liberals in Benha (Egypt) 2/15 December 1921
[ back ] 7. Venizelos Institute, Eleftherios Venizelos Digital Archive, Letter from Panhellenic Union Headquarters to Ioannis Damvergis of the prime Minister’s office 2/15 August 1913.
[ back ] 8. “Greeks Here Form a Venizelist Party” New York Times October 16, 1916.
[ back ] 9. “Hold Greek Editor for Libel on Consul” New York Times August 24, 1916.
[ back ] 10. Venizelos Institute, Eleftherios Venizelos Digital Archive, Letter from Danglis to Tatanis, May 3, 1922.
[ back ] 11. Venizelos Institute, Eleftherios Venizelos Digital Archive, Letter from Federation of Liberal Clubs, New York to Venizelos March 5, 1923
[ back ] 12. “Venizelos Advises Greeks” New York Times October 21, 1925.
[ back ] 13. Venizelos Institute, Eleftherios Venizelos Digital Archive, Letter from Athenagoras to Venizelos September 25, 1931
[ back ] 14. This case is examined in Kostis Karpozilos’ doctoral dissertation on the Greek Americans, currently under completion at the University of Crete.