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Society

During COVID-19, Greece Readies Muted 200th Anniversary Celebrations

ATHENS – Grand plans cut back because of the COVID-19 pandemic that’s in a third wave, limiting public gathering, Greece nevertheless is set to mark on March 25 the 200th year of independence from the then-ruling Ottoman Empire.

The Coronavirus crisis has prevented a number of European Union and other political leaders from attending, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was unable to get the British Museum to loan the stolen Parthenon Marbles. Many ceremonies will be online only.

In a feature, Agence France-Presse (AFP) noted that there will be a parade through Syntagma Square in front of the Parliament, featuring mounted troops in traditional costumes from the 1821 conflict and the 1912-13 Balkan Wars.

Nations who helped the Greeks in their near-decade-long struggle will also be represented. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Prince Charles of Britain and his wife Camilla will be in attendance, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ office said.

French F-16 Rafale fighter jets that Greece is acquiring during tense times with Turkey will join US-made F-16’s that the Greek Air Force uses for overflights of the Greek capital to mark the special occasion.

As Greece tightens military links with the US, the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier will dock in Crete, a defense ministry source told AFP) and France loaned Greece the 18th-Century tapestry of Raphael's Renaissance masterpiece The School of Athens, the French Embassy said.

With passion for Classical Greece mounting among European elites through the 17th and 18th centuries, "providing aid to modern Greeks came to be seen as a 'duty' of Europeans, as the only possible way of repaying Greece for its contribution to the birth of occidental civilisation," Konstantina Zanou, a Mediterranean Studies specialist at Columbia University told the news site.

Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote in his 1821-verse drama Hellas that "our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts have their root in Greece. But for Greece… we might still have been savages and idolaters."

There will also be ceremonies around the world in areas where there are sizeable Diaspora communities, from San Francisco to Australia and a number of other places.

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