On this day in 1969, Despina Vandi (née Despina Malea), the Greek pop singer, was born in Germany. Her family returned to Kavala, Greece when she was six 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.
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 was 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 4AM 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.
On this day in 2011, Michael Cacoyannis, the Greek film director, passed away at the age of 90. Born in Limassol, Cyprus, Cacoyannis had several careers before settling as a film director. He studied law in London and then worked for the BBC’s Greek service – first as a news announcer and then as a producer of cultural programs. He also studied acting at the Central School of Dramatic Art in London and directing at the Old Vic School. In 1952, he settled in Athens and one year later, the success of his first film, Windfall in Athens, officially marked the beginning of his international career in directing. Among his most well-known films were Electra and Zorba the Greek – which were regularly screened at the most prestigious international film festivals, receiving awards and distinctions. In addition to his directing, Cacoyannis also gained acclaim for his initiative that led to the new illumination of the Acropolis. In 2004, Cacoyannis established a charitable foundation in his name, whose aim is to support, preserve, and promote the arts of theater and cinema. The foundation’s cultural center opened its doors to the public in October 2009.