- 1915: Ο εθνικός διχασμός by George Th. Mavrogordatos
In 1915: The National Schism, George Th. Mavrogordatos defines opponents and winners without limiting his argument to a clichéd narrative of triumph and defeat. His research and scholarship to date have largely been dedicated to the Εθνικός Διχασμός (National Schism), culminating in the publication of this book. Mavrogordatos’s work is a must read for anyone with an interest in Greek history and the turbulent decade of the 1910s. As the author puts it, “the book is the final synthesis of what I learned, discovered, thought, taught and wrote for 40 years in order to explicate the National Schism” (13).
Anyone familiar with Greek history will recall that the National Schism is the clash between Prime Minister Venizelos and King Constantine I regarding Greece’s participation in World War I. According to the author, Venizelos’s preference for joining the Entente allies not only served Greece’s territorial ambitions but was also an expression of his Europeanism. On the other hand, Constantine, who was married to the Kaiser’s sister and an ardent admirer of German militarism, supported neutrality and thus favored the Central Powers. Inevitably, in Mavrogordatos’s view, a political tragedy occurred for Greeks.
Mavrogordatos’s book is the most comprehensive text dealing with the National Schism to date, being based on his 40 years of research into all relevant primary and secondary sources. The book is organized in two parts. The first part (Chapter 1) is a chronicle of the National Schism: what caused it and how the division developed. Here Mavrogordatos provides a vivid historical narrative that gives the impression of a true-to-life representation of the main characters and events, from the Goudi coup of 1909 to the Trial of the Six in 1922. His comprehensive yet appealing narrative renders this chapter a concise [End Page 199] and thorough account suitable for a wide audience with at least basic knowledge of the period.
The second part of the book (Chapters 2–5) is dedicated to a four-level analysis of the National Schism. In Chapter 2, Mavrogordatos incorporates Max Weber’s concept of charismatic authority to justify the clash between Venizelos and King Constantine. This approach, employed previously by the author in his Stillborn Republic: Social Coalitions and Party Strategies in Greece, 1922–1936 (1992), expertly reveals the statemen’s unquestionable leadership qualities and explains how their quarrel was transformed into a national conflict. The following chapter conceptualizes the National Schism as a crisis of national integration. Although both political poles theoretically shared the same passion for the Μεγάλη Ιδέα (Great Idea), they differed on how it should be executed. While Venizelos declared his commitment to irredentism from the very beginning of his national political career (230), the Royalists were not willing to fight for this nationalist vision. Venizelos’s plan, apart from military preparations and war, included radical reforms and policies aimed at a modern and integrated nation-state. This plan, Mavrogordatos argues, inevitably disrupted the status quo and consequently unified the heterogeneous group of his opponents, namely, the old establishment, its supporters, and the foreign populations of the newly annexed territories.
Mavrogordatos’s third level of analysis, introduced in Chapter 4, frames the Schism as a class conflict. From this perspective, Venizelos, leader of the Liberal Party, represented the thriving Greek Diaspora and the local emerging capitalists, whereas King Constantine led the conservative and state-dependent classes. In broad terms, the clash between Venizelos and the king was a conflict between liberalism and conservatism, democracy and monarchy. Venizelos’s premiership meant a disruptive power transition on both social and financial levels. More precisely, each party was in fact a cross-class group serving its own special interests and ideologies. Class conflict as a structural aspect of the Schism—although not a novel approach—explains clearly why and how Greek society was divided.
Finally, Mavrogordatos argues in Chapter 5 that the Schism was not just the death of consensus; it went well beyond extreme polarization. For Mavrogordatos, the National Schism was a de facto civil war, as the division not only...