31/8/08

THE UNION AND THE INCORPORATION OF THE IONIAN ISLANDS WITH GREECE: FOOD FOR THOUGHT



Every year, on May 21st, the inhabitants of the Ionian Islands celebrate the Union with Greece, which took place in 1864. Every year, on that day, the festivities are grand, with decorations, parades and various happenings. Nevertheless, one might hear some words about the unfavorable effects the Union carried for Corfu and the rest of the Islands.
No one can doubt the Hellenism of the Ionian Islands, nor the national belief of their inhabitants. Hence, the Union was a historical necessity, derived from the desires and struggles of the Ionians, their self-definition and the feeling of belonging to the Greek Nation.
Nevertheless, the mode that the Incorporation of the Islands with Greece took place caused a heavy shock to the local communities. The Incorporation, which was so passionately supported by many Ionians, with specific and definitely just expectations, not only did not repaid their efforts, but also left deep wounds on the locals.
A series of establishments and institutions – among others the Ionian Academy and the Archbishopric throne – stopped their operation, while others had to suffer under the constant poverty of the Greek State. The new political system was more democratic, but expanded the corruption and political clientele. In the same time, the agrarian reformation for the favour of which P. Konstantas and other Ionian politicians struggled for so many years, was never introduced until today.
Corfu, an important Mediterranean economical and cultural metropolis of the 19th century, was degraded into a small, remote town of the Greek territory. The wounds of WW II, probably the heaviest among other Greek towns, were never treated by the state, resulting to the current situation: no industrial infrastructure, minor (above the Greek usual, but far from the past status of Corfu) cultural development, insufficient services provided by the state and the local authorities.
The general looseness of the state institutions and the gradual disintegration of the local cultural elite had a negative effect on the local political and cultural civilisation. Perhaps, those negative effects are not so much a result of the situation in Greece itself, but rather of the turbulence of the “transplantation” of the Greek situation into the Ionian Islands.
In any case, it is a fact that, even decades after the Union and the Incorporation, those Ionians who blamed those procedures for the misfortune of the Island, weren’t few.
Among other references to the above, the one by Ambrosios, a monk from the monastery o Myrtidiotissa, written in the beginning of the 20th century, is of great value:

THE UNION WITH THE EYES OF A MONK (translated)

Archives of the monastery of Myrtidiotissa, Catastico 1, p. 168r

During the year 1814, the English conquered Corfu, and their occupation lasted until 1864, when the Union with the rest of Greece took place. It would be better if the earth were torn apart and swallowed us all alive. Three times damn, according to the Triode[1], to Bishop Athanasios who made (sic) the Union and doomed the Ionians.
In the times of England everything was good, and when the Greek nation came, God’s rage came with them, and all the expensiveness and all the great blasphemy. I remember, when I was a little schoolboy, in 1888, that my father – God rest his soul - used to tell me that at the time that the English were in Corfu, in the village of Synarades only two men used to utter profane oaths, a Stathes P. and another Petros, son of A, and no one else. And the Greek nation brought all the sins to the Ionian Islands.[2]


notes


[1] Greek Orthodox religious book.
[2] Extract from the book of Spyros Karydes Αμβροσίου Μοναχού Χρονικά Σημειώματα, η Κέρκυρα των αρχών του 20ου αιώνα μέσα από τα μάτια ενός μοναχού, 2004, p. 107.


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This article was written by Andreas Grammenos and was puplished in the newspaper "Η Κερκυρα Σήμερα"

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