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This Week in History: July 15th to 21st

JULY 15TH:

On this day in 1974, the Greek junta sponsored a coup d’etat by Greek army officers in Nicosia seeking to achieve ‘enosis’ AKA union with Greece. President Archbishop Makarios III was overthrown and fled to England. He was replaced with Nikos Sampson – for two days. Five days later, Turkey, concerned about the imminent possibility of a unified Greece and Cyprus, sent in its troops with the supposed aim of protecting the Turkish Cypriot community and realized its long-time plan to partition the island. After a second invasion in the following month, the Turkish Cypriots occupied the northern 37% of the island, while the Greek Cypriot community held the southern sector. The Greeks of the island angrily condemned Turkey’s illegal occupation, while Ankara claimed the Turkish Cypriots welcomed the protection offered by the troops. The coup on Cyprus quickly dissolved and Greece’s military junta collapsed. Reunification talks between the two communities have occurred on more than one occasion, but as we all know, nothing has come to fruition as of yet. The Republic of Cyprus became a member of the EU in 2004.

JULY 20TH:

On this day in 1934, Aliki Stamatina Vougiouklaki, one of Greece’s leading movie stars and its national sweetheart, was born in Athens. Vougiouklaki studied at the National Theatre of Greece and she secured her first lead role in the 1953 production of The Little Mouse. After her movie debut, Vougiouklaki very quickly became Greece’s most popular star. She created her personal stage group and starred in many films, comedies, and melodramas (in many of them she co-starred with Dimitris Papamichael, her husband and theater partner between 1965 and 1974). By the end of her career, she had performed in 42 movies, most of which were musicals. It was reported that her salary for each film was 1 million drachmas and a share of future profits of her films – when the basic salary in Greece per month was between 2,000 and 5,000 drachmas. According to her biography on IMDB, Vougiouklaki’s film Lieutenant Natassa (1970) has been the biggest moneymaker in the history of Greek cinema. Vougiouklaki died three days after her birthday (on July 23rd) in 1996 at the age of 62 after battling pancreatic cancer.

Also on this day, Demetrios Vikelas, the Greek businessman, writer, and first President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), passed away at the age of 73. Born in Ermoupoli on the island of Syros, Vikelas was educated at home by his mother (possibly due to his fragile health). When he was 6- years-old, he and his family moved to Constantinople and then, eventually, to Odessa. Surrounded by a family of merchants, Vikelas became familiar with the world of commerce early on. By the age of 13, he was working at his family’s firm. A great lover of literature, he continued to study at the same time, but without obtaining a degree. Throughout his life, Vikelas remained a self-taught man, despite at various times following courses in a variety of subjects, including botany, architecture, and languages. In 1851, after his family’s firm went bankrupt, Vikelas left home to go live in London with his uncles who were also involved in trade. Employed first as a bookkeeper, he expanded his knowledge of business and subsequently became a partner of what was then a flourishing company. During his 25 years with the company, Vikelas accumulated a large amount of capital. The company went bankrupt after many years, but Vikelas was able to nevertheless retire comfortably and devoted himself full-time to his literary activities. As well as translating classical works into modern Greek, he wrote essays on education and history, some novels, and various press articles. In 1894, at the request of Loannis Fokianos – an athletics instructor heavily involved in Greek sport – Vikelas agreed to represent the Pan-Hellenic Gymnastics Club at the International Athletic Congress in Paris. Before this experience, Vikelas had no particular link to the world of sport. He nonetheless joined the second commission responsible for re-establishing the Olympic Games. To his great surprise, he was appointed as the first President of what would become the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

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