Dido Sotiriou: Another one of Greece's pseudo-intellectual literary icons
Her famous book ,Matomena Chomata ("Bloodied Earth", available in English as Farewell Anatolia), is the book of choice by the post-Junta Greek Ministry of Education regarding the Hellenic GENOCIDE of 1922 in Smyrna. Farewell Anatolia is laced throughout with arguments originally used by Rizospastis ( the Greek communist party newspaper once edited by Sotiriou.) The communist party ,especially during the time of the Hellenic Genocide, was under the direct control of the so-called motherland of the bolshevik revolution, that is, the Soviet Union.
Mustafa Kemal's regime was built on denying a homeland to the indigenous populations of Anatolia--namely the Greeks and the Armenians--through an organised campaign of mass deportations and slaughter. His idea was not original. Every Turkish regime since their first encounter with Byzantium on the fields of Manzikert in 1096, involved mass murder, cultural desecration and slavery. In fact, the past millennium can be seen as one of ever expanding Holocausts and enslavements of Greeks wherever they may be by the Turks. The 20th Century's Hellenic GENOCIDE was merely a penultimate chapter to the history of the Greeks in Asia Minor. In no sense, did the Greeks "live in harmony" with the Turks prior to Mustafa Kemal as The Times of London obituary of Dido below states or as her work promotes. Greek scholar Speros Vryonis 's classic, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Centuries, (Berkeley 1971), has meticulously collected documents on the thousands of Greek Orthodox churches, monasteries, and shrines wiped off the surface of Asia Minor with brutal efficiency by the earlier Turkish regimes leading up to the invasion of Constaninople when the largest Orthodox church in the world was desecrated en masse and made into a Mosque. I suppose this is what the The Times of London and Dido Sotiriou considers "harmony." Reminds one of the Soviet Union's wholesale destruction of Orthodox houses of worship across the width and breadth of Russia. Well, the bolsheviks were not as thorough in destroying every single church in Russia,as the Turks were in Anatolia, but then again Marxism has not been around as long, relatively speaking.
What differentiates the latest Holocaust that cleared Smyrna of almost all Greeks with all earlier Turkish Holocausts was the enormous logistical and diplomatic support offered to Mustafa Kemal's turkish armies by the colonialist and imperialist powers--France,England,Italy and the United States. Armenian Genocide scholar ,Marjorie Housepian Dobkin, notes in her historical narrative, Smyrna 1922, that many of Mustafa Kemal's turkish soldiers were wearing Soviet uniforms! There is no doubt that Venizelos ,against the prudent advice of Metaxas , stationed Greek troops in post-First World War Turkey with the nodding approval of his English and French masters ( it's interesting to note that Venizelos died in a self-imposed exile in Paris) The vast military support given to Mustafa Kemal in the means of artillary and gunpowder from the French and in varying degrees by the other three aforementioned imperialist powers were pivotal in routing the Greeks when the time was right, and thereby fullfilling Mustafa's dream of a "Turkey for the Turks." In the end, the imperialist powers guaranteed a Turkish victory and a Hellenic GENOCIDE.The scale of the slaughter was so horrific, it proved impossible for the Western press and the Western public at large to ignore. Thus ,Turkey, at least momentarily , was subject to some overt diplomatic ostracism from the West. So why should anyone be surprised that the Soviet Union, was the first State to recognize Kemal's state, and in turn Lenin's "worker's paradise" was first recognized by Turkey in 1924?
The bolsheviks ran a campaign , the effects of which live on to this day, to paint the Greeks as imperialists and thus pardon Mustafa Kemal as an "anti-imperialist liberator." The communist party of Greece was from the beginning against the idea of liberating the Greeks in any way from their Turkish masters. One of the main characters in Dido Sotiriou's book on these events encounters a quiet intellectual fellow Greek soldier , that Dido depicts as a sort of Marxist prophet warning his fellow soldiers about "this dirty war fought for capitalism." This sort of partisan political thread runs throughout her book, in one scene she describes a Greek businessman in Smyrna who cheats the ignorant Turkish peasants that are naively honest. The racial stereotypes of Greeks in her book mirror Turkish arguments used by such Turkish-government funded "scholars" as Cemal Kafadar. Kafadar parrots the excuse of the Kemalist "anti-imperialist liberators" for committing Hellenic Genocide. The classic excuse is ,"the beleaguered Turks were used and abused by wily Greek and Armenian businessmen!" Although competent scholars such as European University's Hilmar Kaiser have presented research in the landmark study, Imperialism, Racism, and Development Theories: The Construction of a Dominant Paradigm on Ottoman Armenians , proving that the vast majority of Greeks and Armenians in Anatolia were landless farmers , not gluttonous greedy businessman,like Dido Sotiriou's father, as the Turks would like to believe. Basically, Julius Streicher, wrote the same blanket allegations about the Jews in Germany, but unlike Dido Sotiriou , he was hanged for his writings at Nuremberg. Then again he edited Der Stürmer, he wasn't fortunate enough to be editor of Rizospastis. Here is a sample , taken from a page of collected traitorous statements , exposing the editorial intent and content of Rizospastis :
"Had we been victorious in Asia Minor, Turkey today would be finished and we would be a Greater Greece. And that is why we not only didn't lament the catastrophe in Asia Minor, but it was our intent that the Asia Minor Campaign fail." (Communist Party of Greece (KKE), excerpted from Rizospastis (the official party newspaper) 12 July 1935) http://www.hellas.f2g.net/statements.html
Dido Sotiriou's book is still a bestseller in Greece, and, moreover, has become a part of the "official" Greek history of the Hellenic GENOCIDE. If Sotiriou was not a hard-core member and activist of the communist party it would be highly doubtful that her book would have been published abroad and then brought to Greece. Like Kazantzakis, her works were originally written in French and then translated into Greek, before the foreigners heralded her and him, their "literature" would sell a few hundred copies at best, but that is almost always the way in Greece. Not only do we need foreigners to tell us what to read, we have traitorous Greeks selling us our enemy's side of a crime against our Nation and we give them official commendations and force schoolchildren to read the wrong books. Is it any wonder that the same PASOK regime that gave her the most coveted writing award in Greece, also shot down a statement from the Greek government describing the Smyrna Holocaust as GENOCIDE, because it offended the Turkish government?
Good Bye Dido Sotiriou.
I hope for the sake of my Nation, that you, and your book, will be forgotten.
The Times (London)
September 29, 2004, Wednesday
Dido Sotiriou, writer, was born on February 18, 1909. She died onSeptember 23, 2004, aged 95.
Writer whose bestselling Farewell Anatolia documented her family'sexpulsion from Turkey in 1922.
THE WRITER Dido Sotiriou was the chronicler of Greece's turbulent andoften traumatic passage through the 20th century and in her mostfamous novel, Farewell Anatolia, acted as the recording angel of the"catastrophe", as it is known the expulsion from Turkey in 1922 ofmore than a million Greeks, domiciled there for millennia, of whomshe was one
When Greece achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire in the mid-19th century, the new kingdom was less than half the size it isnow. The vast territorial gains it made in the North and in theAegean in the First Balkan War of 1912 encouraged its nationalistleader Eleftherios Venizelos to take advantage of the sultanate'sweakness after 1918 to press ahead with the "Great Idea", the dreamof uniting all the Greek-speaking regions around the Aegean, notably on the coast of Asia Minor, where there had been Greek communities since the time of Homer.
These had largely preserved their identities under the Turks, withwhom they lived in harmony, and in 1919 (prompted in part by vagueassurances from the British Government) Greek forces occupied themost important of these entrepots, Smyrna (now Izmir). Dido Sotiriou's father, a prosperous industrialist, encouraged by theGreek advance towards Ankara, moved the family there from the hills near Ephesus, where they had lived previously.
Three years later, however, the teenage Dido and thousands of otherswere forced to flee in terror when Kemal Ataturk's troopsunexpectedly routed the Greek Army and seized back Smyrna. More than30,000 Christians -Greeks and Armenians were slaughtered in theensuing massacre. The Sotirious escaped to Athens, but 12 of their relations had perished in Smyrna and the family had lost everything.Dido's father was reduced to working as a dockhand at Piraeus.
In the subsequent exchange of populations agreed between the twocountries, 380,000 Muslims left Greece for Turkey, while 1.1 millionOttoman Greeks moved the other way. Their experiences and memories oftheir land of lost content, shared by Sotiriou, provided the raw material for Matomena Chomata ("Bloodied Earth", available in English as Farewell Anatolia), which she wrote in 1962. It has since been republished 65 times and has sold half a million copies in tenlanguages, including Turkish.
In common with Sotiriou's other novels, it reads as looselyfictionalised fact, taking as its protagonist Manolis Axiotis, aGreek villager from "Kirkica" (Sotiriou's native Sirince), caught upin an increasing spiral of hatred that sets former Turk and Greekneighbours against each other (the framework, too, for Louis deBernieres' recent Birds Without Wings). "War is Circe for all of us,"reflects one of the characters. "It turns men into swine."
The book acts as a receptacle for many dearly held Greek sentimentsabout the past, which undoubtedly aided its popularity, but it alsourges reconciliation with Turkey and its objective tone gainedSotiriou a wide following in her homeland. Perhaps surprisingly, too,after such a disrupted childhood, Sotiriou devoted much of the restof her long life to radical, even revolutionary, politics.
She was born Dido Pappas, a citizen of the Ottoman Empire, at Aydin,Turkey, in 1909. Her parents died shortly after their enforcedexodus; she was raised in Athens by an aunt, but soon began toevidence a rebel's temperament, taking up smoking, riding amotorcycle and swimming naked. An early marriage to a mathematicsprofessor, Plato Sotiriou, uncle of the author Alki Zei, freed herfrom her family, and soon afterwards she moved to Paris to studyliterature at the Sorbonne.
France became almost a second home to her, and in time she came toknow writers such as Andre Malraux, Andre Gide and Louis Aragon. Shehad meanwhile begun to espouse the causes both of feminism and thefar Left, and she began her writing career as the Frenchcorrespondent for several Greek newspapers and magazines, being oneof the first Greek women to break into journalism. Her rather saintly husband did her typing for her.
When Greece fell under the dictatorship of Metaxas in the mid-1930s,she joined the Greek Communist Party (KKE), and during the Germanoccupation she was active in its underground press and resistancemovement, as was her sister, Elli Pappas.
By 1945 she had become editor of its newspaper, Rizospastis, and that year she attended the first meeting of the International DemocraticConfederation of Women in Paris.
During Greece's subsequent civil war between the communists and therestored conservative Government, however, she was expelled from the party for voicing criticisms of its actions. Then in 1950, hersister's lover, Nikos Beloyiannis, a senior figure in the KKE, wascaptured by the Government. The party had been outlawed, andBeloyiannis was declared a traitor and given a show trial. The grace with which he conducted himself during this was memorialised inPicasso's sketch of him, The Man with the Carnation, but despite widespread outcry, he was shot in 1952.
Elli Pappas was sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment, and the couple'snewborn son, also Nikos, whom Beloyiannis had seen once before his execution, was brought up by Dido Sotiriou, who had no children of her own. Before these events, she said, she had no literary ambitions, but now "I had a duty to society, to tell the truth".
Her first book, a study of American imperialism in the Mediterranean,written in 1947, was censored and not published until 1975. She thusfirst came to attention with Oi Nekri Perimenoun (The Dead Are Waiting, 1959), something of a dry run for Farewell Anatolia, which made her name, though it was banned under the Colonels' regime from1967 until 1974. Electra (1961) dealt with her time in the Resistance, while Entoli (The Command, 1976) was a novelisation of the Beloyiannis case.
She also wrote two books for children, a last novel, Katedafizometha(Demolished, 1982), about a man in prison, and a monograph on thetheatre. Several other works, including an autobiography, remain unpublished.
In 1990, Sotiriou was awarded Greece's highest honour for a writer,the prize of the Athens Academy. Some years ago she gave her flat inCodrington Street, Athens, to the Hellenic Society of Authors to serve as its offices.
Her nephew survives her.