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Histrical Observations: Dimitrios Kalapothakis – Publisher, Playwright, Patriot

December 6, 2021

Dimitrios Kalapothakis was born in 1862 in Areopolis of Mani. He engaged in journalism from a young age and abandoned his university studies in Athens when Thessaly joined Greece after the Convention of Constantinople in 1881. He moved to Volos publishing the weekly political satirical newspaper Satan in 1881. It appeared every Sunday until it ceased publication in 1885.

Besides Satan, Kalapothakis published another satirical newspaper, Abdera which circulated every Tuesday. No information exists when it ceased publication. On June 26, 1885, he published Simaia (the Flag) which appeared every Wednesday and Saturday and was purely political. He moved his operation to Athens in early January 1887, and it became a daily. Its main financier was the banker and future Greek premier, Stefanos Skouloudis who supported Charilaos Tricoupis. Skouloudis was elected a member of parliament in 1881.

Simaia ceased operation in 1889 due to its poor financial position. Kalapothakis wrote to Skouloudis requesting his financial assistance, which the latter declined, leaving Simaia to die a natural death. Kalapothakis was a fighter and in 1890 published the newspaper Syntagma (Constitution) which largely reflected the views of Simaia and supported Tricoupis. This paper only lasted two months from December 1890-February 1891. During his time as special secretary to Tricoupis, he wrote articles for the Akropolis newspaper, which was owned by Vlassis Gavriilidis.

After Tricoupis’s electoral loss and departure from Greece in 1895, Kalapothakis returned to the publishing arena with his new publication Embros which first appeared on November 10, 1896. It was an important newspaper, publishing militant articles which also offered a progressive agenda. In 1897, its daily circulation ranged from 15,000-20,000 copies, while it maintained this position for the next 25 years.

Kalapothakis’s fiery articles were aimed against the policy of premier Theodoros Deligiannis, while he considered the palace to be the source of Greece’s misfortune. He was highly critical of Crown Prince Constantine, demanding his removal from the command of the army after the humiliating defeat to Turkey in 1897.

Embros’ greatest opposition was the newspaper Skrip (1893-1939) owned by Evangelos Kousoulakis, with whom he was separated more by professional and personal than ideological rivalry.

Stefanos Dragoumis founded the Hellenic Macedonian Committee (HMC) to counter the influence of the Bulgarian-inspired Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization operating in Macedonia (IMRO) in Macedonia. Its purpose was “the defense of Hellenism in Macedonia, Thrace, Epirus, and Albania against any attempts to diminish it.”

In 1904, Kalapothakis directed the HMC, who provided the Greek Macedonian fighters with weapons, money, and supplies. The organization operated out of the offices of Embros. The relations between Embros and the HMC were close and also provided the newspaper with a major lead over its competitors in news emanating from Macedonia.

Kalapothakis was widely supported by the political and military elite and was viewed as “a most powerful patron, and at least semi-officially, the chief of staff of a small army of bands operating in Macedonia.” Officers came to “his office asking for rousfeti (client favors).” This was something that his opponents could use against him.

His opponents sharply criticized him for deliberately exaggerating news stories to sell more newspapers. He was accused of revealing secret details about individuals and situations of the struggle that needed to be kept secret. Kalapothakis made a journalistic blunder where his newspaper exposed the activities of the Metropolitan of Kastoria, Germanos Karavangelis, to Turkish authorities. On September 13, 1906, he announced his assassination, praising him as a Macedonian warrior. The next day, Embros reported the assassination of Metropolitan Fotios of Kortysa on its front page. Furthermore, he was accused by certain Greek Macedonian fighters of mismanaging the finances of the HMC. In 1907, he was forced to submit his resignation.

During the same year, he married Ekatirini Liabei who seems to have influenced him in his pro-royal turn. His wife had gained political experience from her previous marriage to the much older Philippos Varvoglis, the Justice Minister in the Deligiannis government.

In 1909, he supported the Military League and the Goudi Revolution but was suspicious of Eleftherios Venizelos. During the political schism (1915-17), he supported King Constantine but after the successes of Venizelos in the great war, he supported the Cretan politician.

Embros took a clear stand against the Bolsheviks and their revolution, arguing that socialism enslaved people instead of liberating them. He believed that economic dependence on the state implied both its moral and spiritual enslavement. He believed there was no reason to implement the demands of socialism, as it ultimately restricted the freedom of the individual.

His newspaper had cultural pages that attracted important contributors of Greek literature, such as Ioannis Kondylakis (1861-1920), Emmanouil Roidis (1836-1904), Grigorios.Xenopoulos (1867-1951), and Alexandros Papadiamandis (1851-1911). Each of them was a journalist, writer, and storyteller who left his mark in Greek literature. Notably, Kondylakis wrote several books on the Cretan struggle, whereas Papadiamandis also contributed to poetry.

Kalapothakis also distinguished himself as a playwright, writing works inspired by Greek history, many of which were successfully staged. He wrote the dramas: The Fall of Constantinople, Phocas the Bulgar Killer, Sappho (uploaded by the National Theater), Leila and Rigas Feraios, the comedies Green Dress, Dowry, Ananias in a second wedding, etc. He also wrote the novel Our Campaign on the Moon, and short stories in the National Diary of Skokos, such as The Women and the Deadline Neighborhood, A Funeral, The Mosquito, and The Story of a Nose, in which he satirizes Deligiannis.

He died in Germany on May 27, 1921, during an operation. Embros announced his death on June 3 with his funeral taking place on June 25. Embros published a series of articles on the deceased praising his contribution to journalism and his country. The Greek Playwrights and Authors Association sent condolences on June 2 and 6, 1921 to his family which were published in Embros. The latter group sent 300 drachmas for a wreath at his funeral. His widow continued running the paper, and from 1928 Petros Giannaros of Espirini. The newspaper suspended its publication shortly before the declaration of World War II and was republished in 1945 by Alkiviadis Kalapothakis, the son of Dimitrios, as a daily, and from 1953 as a weekly.

In 1959, Embros was acquired by Athanasios Paraschos, the publisher of Ethnikos Kirikas, while later it passed into the hands of the Vardinogiannis family.

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