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This Week in History: May 1st to May 7th

May 1st: 

On this day in 1946, the Paris Peace Conference concluded that the islands of the Dodecanese should be returned to Greece by Italy. Italian rule over the Dodecanese, which lasted for over twenty years – officially beginning in 1923 with the Treaty of Lausanne, was “firm and efficient but never popular.” Italian became the official language, and in 1925 the Dodecanesians were obliged to take Italian citizenship. In response to such restrictions, significant numbers of islanders migrated to the United States. The generation of islanders that remained under that regime was largely bilingual as a result. After World War II, the islands temporarily came under British occupation, with Greek participation. The conference of foreign ministers in Paris agreed in 1946 that the islands should pass to Greece and were formally ceded in 1947. 

Also on this day in 1925, Cyprus became a British Crown Colony with the top British administrator, the high commissioner, becoming governor. At first a protectorate, Cyprus was annexed by Britain on the outbreak of war with the Ottoman Empire in 1914 before becoming a Crown Colony. From the 1930s, Greek Cypriots campaigned for enosis (union with Greece), a movement that came to be led in the 1950s by Archbishop Makarios. The UK proposed instead (in 1948, 1954, and 1955) various forms of internal self-government, all of which were deemed unacceptable by the Greek Cypriot Ethnarchy Council. In 1955, the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA) began armed resistance against the UK. Turkey helped the Turkish Cypriot leaders establish the Cyprus Is Turkish Party and the Turkish Resistance Organization, and the fighting ultimately became inter-communal. In 1960, the UK negotiated an independence agreement with Greece and Turkey, under which the three powers guaranteed to protect the integrity of Cyprus, which was not to be allowed either to unite with any other country nor to be partitioned. Cyprus, which had not taken part in these negotiations, became independent as the Republic of Cyprus. 

May 4th:

On this day in 2001, Pope John Paul II visited Athens and apologized for the sins of the Crusader attacks on Constantinople in 1204. The visit to Greece marked the first Papal visit to the country in 1291 years. The Pope met with Archbishop Christodoulos, the former head of the Church of Greece. After a private 30-minute meeting, the two spoke publicly with Christodoulos reading a list of “13 offences” of the Roman Catholic Church against the Eastern Orthodox Church since the Great Schism of 1054 – including the pillaging of Constantinople by crusaders in 1204. The Pope responded by saying, “for the occasions past and present, when sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by action or omission against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, may the Lord grant us forgiveness,” to which Christodoulos immediately applauded. John Paul II also said that the sacking of Constantinople was a source of “profound regret” for Catholics. At the end of their public appearance, Archbishop Christodoulos and Pope John Paul II issued a common declaration, saying, “we shall do everything in our power, so that the Christian roots of Europe and its Christian soul may be preserved…We condemn all recourse to violence, proselytism, and fanaticism, in the name of religion.” They then said the Lord’s prayer together, breaking an Orthodox taboo against praying with Catholics. 

May 7th: 

On this day in 1832, Greece’s independence was recognized by the Treaty of London which was signed at the London Conference. By this time, Greece had already won its independence from the Ottoman Empire following the Greek Revolution. The Conference was convened to establish a stable government in Greece after the Governor-General of Greece at the time, Ioannis Capodistrias, was assassinated – resulting in the country falling into a state of confusion. The Treaty laid out the negotiations between the three Great Powers (Britain, Francem and Russia) which resulted in the establishment of the Kingdom of Greece under a Bavarian Prince. It dealt with the way in which the Regency of Bavaria was to be managed until Otto of Bavaria reached his majority. In the document, Greece was defined as an independent kingdom with the Arta-Volos line as its northern frontier and Otto as its King

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