On this day in 1918, Anton Christoforidis, the Greek boxer, was born in Mersin, a large port city on the Mediterranean coast of what is today southern Turkey. He was one of the most successful professional boxers of all time – winning multiple middleweight and light-heavyweight titles in Europe, North Africa, and the United States. He has long been recognized as the first modern Greek to become a world class boxing champion.
On this day in 1963, Grigoris Lambrakis, a Greek politician, doctor, athlete, and faculty member of the Medical School of Athens was assassinated. Born in the village of Kerasitsa in the Peloponnese, Lambrakis was elected to the Greek Parliament in 1961 as part of the Eniaia Dimokratiki Aristera (EDA) party (the only legal left-wing political party after the Greek Civil War and until the fall of the Greek military junta). His ideals captured the imagination of the Greek left, who after more than 20 years of oppression by the right in the name of fighting communism, were ready to embrace his goals of peace and a nuclear-free world. Unfortunately these ideals and Lambrakis’ speeches incited the right-wing to hysteria, believing him to be a communist and a danger to pro-America Greece. A plot was hatched to set him up and murder him after he delivered the keynote speech at an anti-war meeting in Thessaloniki in 1963. Using two hired thugs in a three wheeled vehicle, one drove and the other in the back with a club, hit him in the head in plain view of a large number of people. Lambrakis’ funeral was massively attended and just hours after his death, composer Mikis Theodorakis founded the Lambrakis Youth Movement, the first mass-movement of its kind in Greece. The letter Z, which means ‘zei,’ or in English, ‘he lives,’ became the rallying cry of the Greek youth who found their voice following the Lambrakis murder. In 1969, Costa Gavras released the movie Z, about the Lambrakis murder and investigation. It won numerous awards including best foreign film and was nominated for an Oscar for best picture.
On this day in 1952, the women of Greece were given the right to vote and to be elected in parliamentary elections. However, the women could not vote in the following elections (in November of 1952) because they were not registered in time to be included in the voter registration lists as required by law. In time, the women’s right to vote led to their earning places and job positions in businesses and in the government of Greece and were eventually able to maintain their right to inherit property (even after being married).
On this day in 2017, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, the former Prime Minister of Greece, died at the age of 98.
Born in the port of Chania on the southern Greek island of Crete on Oct. 18, 1918, Mitsotakis was the nephew of liberal statesman Eleftherios Venizelos and was first elected to Parliament as a member of that party in 1946. In 1977, Mitsotakis re-entered Parliament at the head of the small Neoliberal Party and, the following year, joined the governing New Democracy party, serving first as Finance Minister and later as Foreign Minister. He became the party’s leader in 1984 while the conservatives were in opposition. Mitsotakis narrowly won elections in 1990 after the Socialists became entangled in a financial scandal and polls in 1989 twice produced a hung Parliament. After his resignation as party leader, Mitsotakis often made public statements urging governments to take bolder steps in their market reforms, and he led an unsuccessful effort for Greece’s President to be elected directly by the people. Mitsotakis and his wife, Marika (who passed away in 2012), had four children: Dora, Katerina, Alexandra, and Kyriakos. He enjoyed good health until late in life and lived long enough to meet several great-grandchildren as well as to see his youngest child and only son, Kyriakos, elected as leader of New Democracy in January of 2016.