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This Week in History: June 25th to July 1st

JUNE 25TH:

On this day in 1982, Greece abolished the head shaving of recruits in the military. The practice of shaving heads had been used in the military for decades. Although sometimes explained as being for hygienic reasons, the image of strict, disciplined conformity may also have been a factor in this practice. Starting in 1982, Greece started allowing recruits to have up to 4cm of hair. Before then, the regulation haircut in the Greek army for recruits was ‘en hro’ – an archaic phrase for ‘shaved to the bone.’

JUNE 26TH:

On this day in 1924, Kostas Axelos, the Greek-French philosopher, was born in Athens to a doctor and a woman from an old Athenian bourgeois family. With the onset of World War II, Axelos got involved in politics. Afterwards, during the German and Italian occupation, he participated in the Greek Resistance, and later on in the prelude of the Greek Civil War, as an organizer and journalist affiliated with the Communist Party. He was later expelled from the Communist Party but was also condemned to death by the right-wing government. He was eventually arrested but managed to escape. Towards the end of 1945, Axelos moved to Paris on the ‘Mataroa voyage,’ along with approximately 200 other persecuted intellectuals. There, he studied philosophy and lived most of his life. He eventually began teaching at the Sorbonne and became the editor of the magazine Arguments, which had links to other European publications. Axelos published texts mostly in French, but also in Greek and German. One of his most important books is titled Le Jeu du Monde (The Play of the World), where Axelos argued for a pre-ontological status of play. Because of his activity and connection to major European intellectual figures, Axelos played a central role in French and European intellectual life for over 50 years. He passed away in 2010 in Paris.

JUNE 29TH:

On this day in 1850, autocephaly was officially granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to the Church of Greece. During the Byzantine Empire and the subsequent Turkish occupation of Greece, the Christian church in Greece was under the direct administration of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. After the Greek War of Independence, Ioannis Kapodistrias, the provisional president of Greece, opened negotiations with the Patriarch for the independence of the Greek Church. The final decision was taken during the minority of the new king of Greece, Otto I, through his Protestant regent, who, fearing that the Turkish government might still be able to influence Greek politics through the Ecumenical Patriarchate, declared the Greek Church autocephalous in 1833. Its independence was recognized by the ecumenical patriarch in 1850.

JUNE 30TH:

On this day in 1938, Apostolos Nikolaidis, the first Greek artist to record/re-record the authentic, ‘prohibited’ rebetika songs in the early 1970s with their original lyrics, was born in Drama, Greece. While still a toddler, he and the rest of his family moved to nearby Thessaloniki. When he finished grade school, he went to work with his father in construction. It was on these construction sites that he heard songs by legends like Stelios Kazantzidis and Grigoris Bithikotsis on the radio. Much to his parents’ dismay, he soon bought a guitar, formed a trio, and started to perform around his neighborhood. Nikolaidis eventually moved to Athens and took his musical ambitions straight to Columbia Records. He managed to score an audition where, upon his arrival, he discovered that Kazantzidis himself was in for a recording session. Nikolaidis managed to impress both Kazantzidis and Columbia and thus his professional career began with the signing of a 3-year contract. After the expiration of this contract, Nikolaidis set off for the Americas where he spent several years performing in clubs throughout Canada, Chicago, and New York. It was in a tiny Manhattan studio in 1972 where Nikolaidis began recording the traditional rebetika songs with their original lyrics. Some of these songs had never been recorded with their original lyrics and all were outlawed in Greece when a military coup took control of the government in 1967. The album that Nikolaidis ended up recording became a worldwide best-seller and made the artist famous all over the world.

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