This Past Week in History: March 10th – 16th

FILE - PAOK chairman Ivan Savvidis invades the pitch on March 11, 2018. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Antonis Nikolopoulos)

March 11th:

On this day in 2018, PAOK’s owner, Ivan Savvidis, invaded the Toumba Stadium soccer field in Thessaloniki with a gun during a match against AEK after an 89th-minute goal by his team was disallowed by a referee’s offside call. According to the visiting team, AEK, Savvidis threatened to kill both them and the referee that made the call. The Guardian reported that the Greek government, in an effort to distance itself from the tycoon, whose controversial business portfolio has grown considerably under Athens’ leftist-led Syriza administration, announced it would take retaliatory measures including the indefinite suspension of the Super League as a result of this event. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the main opposition leader, accused the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, of being ‘in bed’ with Savvidis, helping him expand his business empire in return for favorable coverage from the media outlets. Savvidis, who was made an honorary citizen of Greece in 2013, has bought shares in Mega channel and three prominent newspapers. Born in Georgia, Savvidis is one of the world’s wealthiest people and is a former member of the Russian Parliament. He has also been described as a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

March 12th:

On this day in 2002, Spyros Kyprianou, the Greek-Cypriot nationalist leader and politician died in Nicosia after a battle with pelvic cancer. Kyprianou was born in Limassol on October 28, 1932. In 1976, Kyprianou founded the Democratic Party in Cyprus which won 21 of the 35 seats in the House of Representatives. Kyprianou was subsequently elected president of the House. Only one year later, Kyprianou succeeded Cyprus’ founder (and his mentor), Archbishop Makarios, as president of Cyprus after Makarios died in office. After a few months in office, Greek-Cypriot bandits kidnapped his son, Achilleas. Kyprianou won great popularity by refusing to negotiate, famously saying he was ready to sacrifice his son, ‘but never’ his country. (His son was eventually released). He went on to win reelection in 1978 and again in 1983. Beginning in 1979, Kyprianou negotiated with the leader of the breakaway Turkish enclave in northern Cyprus, but reunification talks between the two sides failed. In 1988, Kyprianou lost the presidency to millionaire businessman, George Vassiliou.

March 14th:

On this day in 1489, the last Queen of Cyprus, Catherine Cornaro, was forced to abdicate her throne by Venice. Catherine was a Venetian noblewoman who became the Queen of Cyprus by marrying James II, King of Cyprus, Jerusalem and Armenia, thereby supplying him with a much needed alliance with Venice. The initial wedding ceremony was conducted in Venice when Catherine was just 14 years old. The King was not present at the ceremony – he was represented only by his proxy. The marriage was confirmed by a second ceremony conducted in person in Cyprus four years later. Upon the death of her husband in 1493 (and of their infant son, Prince James III Lusignan in August of the same year), Queen Catherine became the sole ruler of her island kingdom for approximately 15 years.

March 15th:

On this day in 270, St. Nicholas (Nikolaos of Myra), the Greek Bishop who became the model of the modern-day Santa Claus, was born in Patara in Asia Minor.  He lost his parents as a young man and reportedly used his inheritance to help the poor and sick. As a devout Christian, he later served as bishop of Myra, an ancient Greek maritime city during the time of the Roman Empire. After his death, the legend of his secret gift-giving to help the needy grew. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves and children.