Friday, 20 November 2015

Relating the past with the present: History lesson Γ' Γυμνασιου

(The blue bits are translations from my son's third-year junior-high history textbook.)

Last week, my son asked me to help him with his upcoming history test. He wanted to 'say' the lesson to me, as it was presented in his history book (which you can find here:,2182/).
"I just want you to ask me random questions, to make sure I know it all," he said to me. 
"OK", I said, "which units?"
"5 (Hellenism in the mid 18thC until the beginning of the 19thC), 7 (The Friendly Society and the announcement of the Greek revolution in the Danubian principalities) and 8 (The development of the Greek Revolution of 1821-1827)." 
"Why not 6 (The revolutionary movements of the 18920-1821 period in Europe?)" I asked, which was about ). It starts off like this: "The European people questioned the decisions of the Vienna Congress (1815) by delivering policies and national claims. They projected politically the demands of the concessions of the constitution, establishing parliamentary institutions and the recognition of civil liberties and political rights. On this basis, they formulated three main political currents, which questioned the decisions of the rulers of Europe, each from his own perspective and in his own way: 
- Moderate liberals sought the establishment of constitutional monarchies in which the right to vote was given only to the wealthy, as was the case in England.
- Radical democrats aspired to establish republics that were not dominated by monarchs, which would recognize political rights for every single adult men and protect the weaker social groups.
- The Socialists, who appeared after 1850, considered that the most appropriate form of political organization would be a system of economic and social equality.
National claims arose as a result of the gradual awareness of nations..."
"The teacher didn't set that one for the test."
"But you've studied it in class, haven't you?"
I was a little taken aback. "You know that this chapter might have been useful in understanding our present problems?" I asked him. 
"Yes, I've read it." If he had said he hadn't read it, I would have made him do it. 
"OK. Question 1," I said, scanning Unit 5. "Why was knowledge of the Greek language widespread in the mid 18thC to mid-19thC?" 
"Not the blue boxes, Mum." 
"Well, if you know the answer---"
"It's not in the test! I don't have enough time to tell you!"
"OK, ... What was the role of the Orthodox church in Hellenism?" 
"The Orthodox Church, recognized by the Ottoman administration as the leader of all the enslaved Christians, was opposed to the spread of ideas about enlightenment because they believed that a revolution will endanger themselves and Hellenism. This, however, did not prevent some clerics adopting enlightened perceptions and to take some action against the Ottoman domination." 
"And you know that they hold a similar position in the present, don't you? Can you give me some examples?"
"Ah, they want religious studies at school to continue..."
"... which violates the principle of the separation of state and church..."
"... and they aren't being taxed for the property they own...
"... which is bound to change in the long run. Good. Next question: What role did Russia play in the Greek Revolution?"
"Hang on, you didn't ask me the kinds of people that the Greek communities were made of at the time: Phanariots, merchants, ship owners, klephts."
"As their name implies!" (Because I get bored of the obvious. There is never enough time. PS: 'klepht' cf κλέβω = I steal.) 
"So, what role did Russia play in the Greek Revolution?"
"Around the beginning of the 18th century, the Greeks turned to Russia for help, since the Russians had interests in common with the Greeks as well as the same religion. Thus, in 1770, with Russian origins, the Greek revolution centered on the Peloponnese. But the mobilisation of the Greeks was not the desired one, while the small number of Russian warships participating, headed by brothers Orloff, proved insufficient. The revolution, known as the Orlofika, was thus suppressed. A similar fate befell the heroic efforts of the Greek envoy to Russia Lambros Katsonis in arousing the inhabitants of the Aegean islands..."
"And what is our relationship with Russia these days?"
"Um... we still have the same religion..."
"Are we friends with them?"
"Um ... the EU doesn't like Russia."
"But do WE like them?" 
"Um... Yes, I think so." 
"Because... they don't let others tell them what to do."
"OK. Next question. What do we mean by the Greek Enlightenment?"
"Starting with the Greek communities---"
"Where were they located?" 
"Asia Minor, the coastal parts of present-day Turkey and Russia. Starting with the Greek--- " 
"And which other country? 
"Check the map." He goes to the kitchen to check it out. 
"And what do we mean by the Pontus?"

Διονύσης Σαββόπουλος & Δόμνα Σαμίου - "Black Sea"
"Μαύρη θάλασσα κλειστή και ψυχή μου χαρισμένη, 
σ' όποιον πολύ σε θέλει"
"Black Sea, a closed space, I give my soul to anyone who wants her"

"That's not in the book, Mum."
"Oh... OK." Another time perhaps.  
"What was the question?"
"What do we mean by the Greek Enlightenment?"
"Starting with the Greek communities, the Greeks came into contact with the ideas of the Enlightenment. Η εκπαίδευση συνδέθηκε με τον αγώνα για ελευθερία. Traders in general and the Greeks who traveled in Europe disseminated those ideas in the Hellenic world. So the notion that was cultivated was that logic can not only explain the world but it can also change it. Education became linked to the struggle for freedom."
"But that doesn't tell me what the meaning of 'Greek Enlightenment' means..."
"But it's not int he book, Mum."
"Maybe the book is not enough. let's look it up." We did a quick Wikipedia search:
"The Greek Enlightenment is an ideological, literary, linguistic and philosophical current that, in a sense, tried to convey the ideas and values ​​of the European Enlightenment, of which it is an offshoot, in the area of ​​the enslaved Greek-language Orthodox peoples in the Ottoman Empire. Constantine Dimaras introduced the term. He meant it to be an indigenous and endogenous phenomenon of Hellenism which concurs with European enlightenment. This influenced him but the original dynamic did not cease to be domestic. In another aspect, Greek Enlightenment has its roots in the 15th century under the influence of European culture systematized to the early 19th century the idea of ​​national identity for people in the erstwhile ancient Greek territories. According to Apostolos Diamantis, the Greek Enlightenment was an intellectual movement seeking the education of the Greeks."
"So the most important element of the Greek enlightenment was?"
"Education. But that's in the next chapter about the Filiki Eteria (the Friendly Society)."
"OK the, tell me about...  the educational aspect of Filiki Eteria."
"Well... it was formed by some Greeks living in Russia, who wanted to revive the idea of a Greek state, and it was mainly aimed at wealthy Greeks so that Filiki Eteria could raise funds for their cause, but the wealthy Greeks didn't want to support them---"
"Which could explain why Greeks find it difficult nowadays to pay taxes, don't you think?"
"Oh, OK. So Filiki Eteria relaxed its policies and turned to the not so rich, but their ideas were still difficult to disseminate, so Filiki Eteria asked Ioannis Kapodistrias to lead them, because he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Russia---"
"But why Kapodistrias?"
"Because he was Greek. But Kapodistrias refused the position because he said that the Greek people weren't educated enough to rise up against the Ottomans."
"And that's where education becomes important, because this is still a problem even in our days, isn't it, because..."
"... because...?" He wasn't sure what I was getting at.
"... not enough of us are..." I started.
"Oh. Not enough of us are appropriately educated to stop foreign powers from meddling in our affairs. It's similar to the problems we have now in Greece. And why we are being ruled the way we are being ruled." 
We still had one more lesson (Unit 8to study. It contained the names of various protagonists related to the Greek revolution. 
"Which European underground train system includes a station named after a Greek war hero?" "That's not mentioned in the lesson!" On a visit to Paris five years ago, I remembered seeing Markou Botsaris' name on the metro map. It pays to be observant; that's a very special skill to develop over time. I asked him a few more questions (for which the answers were in the book!) and finished off by wishing him good luck for the exam.

The next day, when I came home, he told me that the exam was really easy. He passed with a grade of 19/20. 

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