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This Week in History: May 21st to 27th

May 22nd:

On this day in 1947, the Truman Doctrine, which aided Greece, was signed 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 a 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, which came to be known as the Truman Doctrine, as the official declaration of the Cold War.

May 24th:

On this day in 1881, Turkey ceded Thessaly and Arta back to Greece. Arta’s modern history dates from the destruction of Nicopolis Actia in the 11th century by the Bulgars. The region survived a Norman seizure (1083) and was later part of the Despotate of Epirus, one of the parts of the Byzantine Empire that escaped Latin conquest after the Fourth Crusade. Arta 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.

May 26th:

On this day in 1918, Anton Christoforidis, the Greek boxer, was born in Mersin, a large port city on the Mediterranean coast of what is today southern Turkey. He was one of the most successful professional boxers of all time – winning multiple middleweight and light-heavyweight titles in Europe, North Africa, and the United States. He has long been recognized as the first modern Greek to become a world class boxing champion.

May 27th:

On this day in 1963, Grigoris Lambrakis, a Greek politician, doctor, athlete, and faculty member of the Medical School of Athens was assassinated. Born in the village of Kerasitsa in the Peloponnese, Lambrakis was elected to the Greek Parliament in 1961 as part of the Eniaia Dimokratiki Aristera (EDA) party (the only legal leftwing political party after the Greek Civil War and until the fall of the Greek military junta). His ideals captured the imagination of the Greek left, who after more than 20 years of oppression by the right in the name of fighting communism, were ready to embrace his goals of peace and a nuclear-free world. Unfortunately, these ideals and Lambrakis' speeches incited right-wing to hysteria, believing him to be a communist and a danger to pro-America Greece. A plot was hatched to set him up and murder him after he delivered the keynote speech at an anti-war meeting in Thessaloniki in 1963. Pursued by two hired thugs in a three-wheeled vehicle, one drove and the other in the back with a club,  they hit him in the head in plain view of a large number of people. Lambrakis’ funeral was massively attended and just hours after his death, composer Mikis Theodorakis founded the Lambrakis Youth Movement, the first mass-movement of its kind in Greece. The letter Z, which means ‘zei,’ or in English, ‘he lives,’ became the rallying cry of the Greek youth who found their voice following the Lambrakis murder. In 1969, Costa Gavras released the movie Z, about the Lambrakis murder and investigation. It won numerous awards including best foreign film and was nominated for an Oscar for best picture.

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