Director's Statement

Celebrating 1821: Statement from the SNF Centre's director on the 200th anniversary of modern Greece

March 25, 2021

How must we think of a modern nation with an ancient culture? What are we to make of a young country, just 200 years old, that was built on a land with millennia of history? What does it mean to celebrate a national revolution, in our modern time of multicultural societies and global movement? How do men and women, who spoke multiple languages and fought against an empire of many nations figure in our modern understanding of freedom and national idenity? We should be asking all these and many more questions as we celebrate 200 years of Greek statehood. Here at the SNF Centre for Hellenic Studies we do just that as part of our work!

We recognize that the Greek War of Independence was not some marginal event of regional significance, unfolding in a small corner of Europe. Much as the nation of Haiti recognized from early on that, as a revolution against foreign imperial rule, the Greek struggle for freedom fit in a wider global history of self-determination, we look at 1821 with a wide-angle lens. After all, European revolutionaries imagined Greece as a space where bold ideas could be put into action, while at the same time European empires feared the consequences of revolution but also saw Greece as part of a larger geopolitical game.

As Director of a Centre for Hellenic Studies situated at the edge of the North American continent and member of a far-flung Greek diaspora, I look at this moment in time, as a global event that mobilized diasporic Romioi and their foreign allies on the side of an emerging Greek cause. Despite our habitual griping and tendency to bemoan the fate of that state, created two centuries ago, there is much to celebrate. Hellenism is alive and kicking! Greek culture, both ancient and modern is still a global product, one that links that small corner of Europe and its people to the world. Furthermore, despite anxieties about the comparison to a distant glorious past, contemporary Greeks are open to the world. They are creative and contributing to global culture from their perch in the Democratic and increasingly diverse country in which they live and for which they fought, but also from the countries the world-over where they made new homes. Let us then remain critical of all ideas and institutions, like the best of Greeks in history, but also celebrate the first 200 years of Greece’s modern journey.

Dimitris Krallis (Director)
Professor, Humanities

Born and raised in Athens, where he lived until his college years, Dimitris Krallis studied political theory at the University of Athens and Byzantine History at Oxford and at the University of Michigan, where he obtained his doctorate. He teaches Byzantine history at Simon Fraser University’s Department of Humanities and is the Director of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies. He is the writer of two books, numerous articles, and has co-translated the work of a major Byzantine historian, Michael Attaleiates. His current research explores the politically destabilizing role of Middle Byzantium’s thriving urban centres.

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