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The Social Organization of Exile: The Everyday Life of Political Exiles in the Cyclades in the 1930s Margaret E. Kenna Introduction During the regime of Yánnis Metaxás (1936^41), more than 1000 people were arrested and sentenced to internal exile, usually on islands in the Aegean (Great Soviet Encyclopaedia 1975 7: 372; Flountzis 1979: 77). While some of them were members of or sympathizers with the Kommunistikó Kómma Elládos (the Communist Party of Greece),1 others were socialists, trades unionists, democrats and opponents of the Metaxás regime in general. Most exiles were working men and women, particularly from the tobacco-growing areas of northern Greece, although there were doctors, lawyers, teachers, university professors and intellectuals among them. Exile to the islands had long been used by the Greek authorities (Pikros 1978; Flountzis 1979: 109) as a way of dealing with any form of political dissent, whether pro-monarchist, anti-Venizelist, or communist . Presumably exile, rather than imprisonment, was the preferred mode of punishment for political prisoners for practical reasons : there were simply too many people for the mainland prisons to deal with, their correspondence and visitors could be more easily monitored and controlled, and their influence could be restricted. Kousoulas, in his history of the Greek Communist Party, describes official response to expressions of political disagreement thus: "the usual reaction of the authorities to Communist agitation was to arrest a party member for delivering 'revolutionary speeches' and exile him for a few months with living expenses paid by the Government, to one of the sunny, though lonely Aegean islands" (Kousoulas 1965: 17). Leaving aside Kousoulas' failure to acknowledge that women were also arrested, it is worth noting that very large numbers of exiles were involved, not just solitary speech-makers. But as well as being numerous , they were also socially and politically diverse. This raises the Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 9, 1991. 63 64 Margaret E. Kenna question of how periods of exile were organized, both by the official side and by the exiles themselves. The material used here relates to exiles on one particular island, the Cycladic island where I first carried out fieldwork in the mid-1960s and which I have revisited several times since then. I will continue to use the pseudonym "Nisos" until it is certain that all those concerned are willing for precise identification to be made. While exiles were escorted, guarded and controlled by the police and treated as if they were civil or criminal offenders, albeit in a special category, conditions were quite unlike those in prison, where accommodation and food, however poor in quality, were provided. Once having arrived on the island, exiles were left to procure shelter, basic furniture, supply of provisions and cooking equipment in whatever way they could, either individually or as a group. By the time police supervision of exiles and other political prisoners was replaced by Italian and/or German military control in 1941, the organization of exile by the exiles themselves was well-established and institutionalized . A recent source claims that "[a]U political prisoners and exiles, communists and non-communists alike, belonged to 'collective life groups' " (Korakos and Serriou 1985: 43, quoting Kostas Vassalos). Although they were in a minority, it was the communist exiles, already part of a tightly organized movement, who took the initiative in organizing social life for the exiles as a whole (Birtles 1938: 127). My interest lies in the way in which such a collection of people, thrown together by circumstance and left to their own devices by the authorities , organized their collective life and gave it a meaningful shape. The exiles were faced with a new environment and a situation of a type which few, if any of them, would have faced before. They were in some sense like pioneers in a new world, yet lacking any freedom of choice over arrival or departure, length of stay, and amount or type of baggage. And yet, while powerless, exiles had the freedom, in the absence of any attempt to impose any form of organization upon them, to establish a new social world. The shape of that world was provided by the political philosophy...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 63-81
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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