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This Week in History: July 17th to 23rd

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 theatre 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.

July 22nd:

On this day in 1969, Despina Vandi (née Despina Malea), the Greek singer, was born in Germany. Her family returned to Kavala, Greece when she was sox years old. Even though Vandi always knew that she wanted to become a performer, she also knew that she should have a background in something else as well. She eventually enrolled at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki to study psychology, philosophy, and education, but later dropped out to start her musical career. She moved to Athens where she started using the stage name ‘Elli Mara’ before adopting the last name ‘Vandi’ in an effort to hide that she had begun singing from her parents. Vandi’s career took off as she became one of Greece’s modern laika-pop superstars. She has sold more than one million records in Greece alone and several of her albums have become multi-platinum. In 2003, she married Demis Nikolaidis (former professional Greek soccer player and former president of AEK Athens FC). The couple has two children: Melina and Giorgos. 

July 23rd: 

On this day in 1974, the Greek military dictatorship collapsed. The military junta ruled Greece following the 1967 Greek coup d’etat led by a group of colonels. The dictatorship ended in July of 1974 under the pressure of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The period after the fall of the junta is the Metapolitefsi (regime change), and marked the establishment of the current Third Hellenic Republic. Upon the collapse of the dictatorship, the former Prime Minister of Greece, Constantine Karamanlis, was invited to return to his country. Huge crowds gathered to greet him at the Athens airport and many celebrated in the streets of the capital to mark the beginning of a return to democracy. Karamanlis had been Prime Minister of Greece for an unprecedented eight years until the center-left won power in the country’s last democratic election in 1963. He had been in self-imposed exile in Paris since his loss. Karamanlis was sworn into office at 4 AM on July 24 as the flag bearer for his newly formed New Democracy party. Karamanlis succeeded in making the switch in governance easier but he also skillfully used all his intelligence and political guile to avert conflict with neighboring Turkey over the Cyprus question. Karamanlis demanded that the military be placed under civilian authority, amended the Constitution to be more inclusive, and liberated all political prisoners. 

Also on this day in 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne, the peace treaty that officially settled the conflict that had originally existed between the Ottoman Empire and the French Republic, British Empire, Empire of Japan, the Kingdoms of Italy, Greece and Romania since the onset of World War I, was signed. The Treaty delimited the boundaries of Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey. A major issue of the war reparations, demanded from Greece by Turkey, was abandoned after Greece agreed to grant Karaagac to Turkey. As a result of the Treaty, Turkey ceded all claims on the Dodecanese Islands (recognized as an Italian possession) as well as on Cyprus (recognized as a British possession). Article 14 of the Treaty also granted the islands of Imbros and Tenedos autonomy – a right that was revoked by the Turkish government two years after the Treaty was signed.

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