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This Week in History: May 20th to 26th

MAY 20TH:

On this day in 1941, the Battle of Crete began. The Battle was one of the most significant, if subsequently underreported battles of World War II. This last battle for the defense of Greece against the Nazis was critical in leading to the ultimate defeat of Hitler. The story emphasizes the sacrifice, through selfless bravery, that the people of Crete were willing to pay to defend their freedom. Distinguished military historian Anthony Beevor described Cretan defiance: “Boys, old men, and also women displayed breathtaking bravery in defense of their island.” Many historians believe the Battle of Crete, along with the earlier campaign against Greece and Yugoslavia, contributed to a 4-6 week delay of the German invasion of the Soviet Union. This delay was to prove fatal in not achieving German objectives before the winter set in and thus significantly contributed to Hitler’s ultimate defeat.

Also on this day in 1938, Marinella, one of the most popular Greek singers and actresses, was born. Her career has spanned over six decades (since 1957). Since the beginning of her career, she has released 66 solo albums and has been featured on albums by other musicians. Born Kyriaki Papadopoulou in the city of Thessaloniki in northern Greece, her parents were refugees from Constantinople. She is the fourth and last child of a large family, which despite its poverty, was rich in love and in artistic ability. Her early career was marked by her collaboration with singer Stelios Kazantzidis – whom she later married. Together they managed to become the greatest duet in Greek popular music, unsurpassed even today. The couple divorced in September 1966 – an event that can be attributed to the beginning of her solo career. Her popularity rose in the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, with a string of successful albums and live shows. She developed a new standard for shows in Greek nightclubs, introducing costumes, dancing, and special lighting effects.

 

MAY 22ND:

On this day in 1947, the Truman Doctrine, which aided Greece, was passed into law by Congress. The Doctrine itself was a pronouncement by U.S. President Harry S. Truman declaring immediate political, economic, and military aid to the government of Greece which was threatened by communist insurrection. With the Truman Doctrine, President Truman established that the United States would provide assistance to all democratic nations under threat from external or internal authoritarian forces. The Truman Doctrine effectively reoriented U.S. foreign policy away from its usual stance of withdrawal from regional conflicts not directly involving the United States, to one of possible interventions in faraway conflicts. Historians have often cited Truman’s address as the official declaration of the Cold War.

 

MAY 24TH:

On this day in 1881, Turkey ceded Thessaly and Arta to Greece. Arta’s modern history dates from the destruction of Nicopolis Actia in the 11th century AD by the Bulgarians. The region survived a Norman seizure (1083) and was later controlled by Greek Despots of Epirus. It passed in 1318 to the Orsini family of Kefalonia and was captured by the Turks in 1449 but soon passed to Venice; after a brief period of French rule, it came again under the Turks. It was fought over several times during and after the War of Greek Independence (1821–29), but in 1881 it was ceded to Greece by Turkey in accordance with the 1878 Congress/Treaty of Berlin (which was signed in the aftermath of the Russian victory against the Ottoman Empire and essentially reconstructed the map of the Balkan region). Thessaly, which was also ceded, eventually became the richest province in the Greek state.

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