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Reviewed by
Lina Ventoura and Lambros Baltsiotis (Λίνα Βεντούρα και Λάμπρος Μπαλτσιώτης), editors, Το έθνος πέρα των συνόρων: «Ομογενειακές» πολιτικές του ελληνικού κράτους. Athens: Vivliorama. 2013. Pp. 510. Paper €26.

This is a volume of well-researched essays with an ambitious agenda: covering the Greek state’s policies towards Greek populations beyond its borders from the nineteenth century through the present. An introduction by Lina Ventoura, who specializes in Greece’s relations with its diaspora, and Lambros Baltsiotis, who studies minorities in Greece, nicely summarizes the issues and is followed by seventeen contributions divided into four sections, three of which are chronological and one that is thematically focused. The essays treat Greece’s relations with its diaspora within the framework of [End Page 214] studies focusing on the increased role of so-called sending states. Once known simply as homelands—or in the case of North America as the Old World—the countries of origin and their outreach have gained a new significance thanks to the new transnational approach to the study of the experiences of immigrants.

In the case of Greece, there have been several studies of homeland-diaspora relations. Yet, as this volume demonstrates, the recent emphasis on transnationalism and diaspora studies has reinvigorated this particular field of studies. The editors deliberately replace the term diaspora with omogeneís (the difficult to -translate Greek term for those belonging to the same nation) because they wish to delineate two categories: (1) the Greek populations within the Ottoman Empire, as well as (2) Greeks who emigrated from Greece and the Ottoman lands to other places. This results in making this book less accessible to non-Greek speakers, who otherwise would be intrigued by migration and ethnic identity (that is, by what I would summarize as diaspora studies). The essays that it contains are essentially case studies which span the varied geographical locations of Greek diaspora settlements abroad over a period that stretches for more than two centuries and ends in the present.

The first section includes essays on the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and opens with a general review by Christos Papachristopoulos of how the Greek constitutions addressed the status of Greeks outside the state’s borders and an assessment by Lina Louvi of the relations between the state and Greek entrepreneurs abroad. These are followed by four studies of the Greeks in the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire. Elias Skoulidas writes about the Greek consuls in Ottoman-controlled Albania and Epirus, Maria Kotzampasi examines Greek communities in Bulgaria, Vasilis Koutsikos focuses on Greeks in French-controlled and former Bulgarian Thrace in 1919–1920, while Lena Korma deals with the issue of policies established by both sending and receiving countries towards Greek refugees from Asia Minor who settled in France. Through well-researched case studies, Korma highlights a pattern of staggering bureaucratic hostility on the part of the Greek state that is reflected as well in most of the other essays in this section.

The second section has a thematic focus on the state, associations, and the Greek Orthodox Church. Despina Papadopoulou explores Greek policy towards the Greek communities in Paris and Marseilles during the nineteenth century, Yannis Papadopoulos does the same in the case of the Greeks in the United States in the early twentieth century, and Katerina Trimi-Kyrou addresses Greek policies and their impact on the Greek schools of communities in Egypt.

The third section then covers the Cold War era. Angelos Dalachanis examines Greece’s policies towards the Greeks in Egypt during 1945–1956, the final phase of their long presence in that country. Lina Ventoura continues her string of valuable contributions on the relations between the Greek diaspora and the homeland by delving into the ways in which Greece shifted its focus from the Greeks in the Eastern Mediterranean as a symbol of Greek hegemony in the area to the Greeks in the United States as an avatar affirming its Western orientation in the post-World War II period. The next essay by Elpida Vogli is closely related to Ventoura’s, as it assesses the ways in which Greece implemented its declaration of 1951 as the “Year of the Greek Immigrant”—essentially a ploy to attract Greek-Americans to strengthen their ties to the homeland, but with [End Page 215] mixed results. Giorgios Mavrommatis analyzes how Greece treated its Muslim populations after 1923 in the country and abroad after they chose or were forced to emigrate.

The fourth and final section is on post-Cold War policies of the Greek state through the eve of the current economic crisis. Lambros Baltsiotis presents a particular case study, the Orthodox population of Antioch (on the Turkish side of the Turkish-Syrian border) in order to illustrate the contradictions present in the views that Greeks hold of Greeks abroad. Eleni Sideri deals with Greece’s over-optimistic policy of promoting the Greek language in the Caucasus region. Lena Divani lays bare the futility of the state radio program “The Voice of Greece,” which functioned in the postwar period apparently devoid of any real knowledge of which Greeks abroad listened to its broadcasts.

There is no concluding essay wrapping up this volume, but the final contribution by Dimitris Christopoulos can be taken as a commentary on the complexities associated with studying and understanding Greece’s policies towards Greeks abroad. His topic is the issue of voting rights of the Greek diaspora, granted by the constitution in principle but effectively denied in practice because Greece’s parliament has not acted to initiate the requisite legislation. Reading Christopoulos’s chapter, one might well conclude that this is yet another instance in which the Greek national center is not living up to the idea of a transnational Hellenism but instead is discriminating against Greeks abroad. The cause of this failure is either Greece’s usual bureaucratic inefficiency or the underlying belief that notwithstanding the rhetoric, Greeks abroad are in fact second-class Hellenes. To be sure, many of the essays in this volume highlight Greece’s substantial hypocrisy. But voting rights exercised abroad entail a set of much more complicated questions than those of, say, taxation or military conscription. The real question which Christopoulos carefully and systematically demonstrates is that Greece has considered the Greek diaspora as persons of Greek heritage (and often expressed that heritage as blood ties) but has never stopped to determine whether these persons are also citizens, that is, possessing political rights. Invoking a numerically strong diaspora may be politically expedient in many ways, but when it comes to determining which party governs Greece through voting, there is a concern that the elections could be decided by persons with very little connection to Greek society and its issues. Christopoulos’s own recommendation is that whoever abroad is entitled to Greek citizenship should be eligible to vote in Greek elections. Christopoulos’s contribution is a reminder of the complicated issues faced not only by scholars but also by Greek lawmakers. The essay is the appropriate conclusion to this excellent volume, as it showcases the sophistication of the state of current scholarship on Greeks abroad. [End Page 216]

Alexander Kitroeff
Haverford College
Alexander Kitroeff

Alexander Kitroeff is Associate Professor of History at Haverford College. He is the co-author (with Maria Iliou) of Σμύρνη: Η καταστροφή μιας κοσμοπολίτι-κης πόλης 1900–1922 (Minoas, 2012). He is currently completing a book-length study of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.