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This Week in History: February 3rd to 9th

FEBRUARY 3RD:
On this day in 1830, the sovereignty of Greece was confirmed in the London Protocol. The London Protocol was an agreement that formalized the independence of Greece from Turkey, which was won by the Greeks as a result of the Greek Revolution of 1821-30. The Protocol declared Greece to be a fully independent monarchical state. Greece’s independence was guaranteed by the Great Powers (Britain, France, and Russia) which participated in the Protocol and stated that Greece would be under their protection. It has been said that it was at the insistence of Great Britain, which was not interested in overly weakening Turkey, that Thessaly, Crete, Samos, and a number of other territories populated by the Greeks were not regarded as part of Greece yet.

Also on this day in 1908, Panathinaikos, the major Greek multisport club based in the city of Athens, was founded. The name of the club, which can literally be translated as ‘Panathenaic’ – meaning ‘of all Athens’, was inspired by the ancient work of Isocrates, ‘Panathenaicus’, where the orator praised the Athenians for their democratic education and their military superiority. However, the original name of the club was actually Podosferikos Omilos Athinon (Football Club of Athens). It was founded by Giorgos Kalafatis as a soccer club when he and 40 other athletes decided to break away from the Panellinios Gymnastikos Syllogos following that club’s decision to discontinue its soccer team. According to the PAO website, it appears to be the first soccer-specific club in Greece. Panathinaikos’ emblem is the clover, a symbol of harmony, unity, growth, nature, and good luck. Today, they wear green and white; ironically, during the first two years of its existence, the PAO colors were red and white – the colors of its current rival Olympiacos.

Finally, on this day in 1989, John Cassavetes, the Greek-American actor, film director and screenwriter, died at the young age of 59 from cirrhosis of the liver. The younger of two sons of Greek immigrants, Cassavetes was born in New York City. Shortly after his birth, he moved to Greece, where he spent his early years. When he returned to the United States at age seven, he spoke no English. His family moved to Long Island where John grew up and attended public school in Port Washington. He later attended Mohawk College and Colgate University before enrolling at the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts, from which he graduated in 1950. Cassavetes was known for being one of the pioneers in the field of independent cinema and even self-financed several films. The income he earned from his acting career gave him the financial freedom to create his own legacy in the independent film genre. He worked in over 75 films during his career as an actor – including Rosemary’s Baby, The Dirty Dozen, and Love Streams. All three of his children followed in his footsteps and became renowned filmmakers themselves.

FEBRUARY 9TH:
On this day in 1934, the Balkan Pact (AKA the Balkan Entente alliance) was formed between Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, and Romania. Signed in Athens, the Pact was an attempt to reduce the tension in the Balkans which had been evident for half a century. It intended to guarantee the signatories’ territorial integrity and political independence against attack by another Balkan state. In order to present a united front against Bulgarian designs on their territories, the signatories agreed to suspend all disputed territorial claims against each other and their immediate neighbors. Bulgaria refused to join, due to its claims over the Macedonia region, which had become part of Greece and Serbia. The agreement provided for a Permanent Council, composed of the members’ foreign ministers, that would coordinate legislation and foster economic cooperation. Despite the profession of unity, the Entente was too weak to provide any united resistance to German and Italian invasions during World War II.

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