The Deputy Minister of National Defence, Alkiviadis Stefanis, representing the Greek Government, attended the celebrations that were held in Athens on November 24th 2019, on the occasion of the completion of 75 years from the Revolution – Liberation of Karpathos.
The Deputy Minister of National Defence attended the Doxology at the Holy Church of Agios Georgios Karytsis. Then, he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Further to that, he went to the Old Parliament House, where the main event was hosted. As the keynote speaker, the Deputy Minister of National Defence delivered a speech entitled “The message of Karpathos’ Revolutionary Movement in forming the Armed Forces as a pillar of power and security in the contemporary geopolitical stage of the Southeastern Mediterranean Sea”.
The speech of the Deputy Minister of National Defence follows:
“Representing the Greek Government and conveying the personal greetings of the Prime Minister for today’s event, it is a great honor for me to deliver my speech before an elegant audience outside the Old Parliament House, a neoclassical architectural gem in the centre of Athens; an emblematic place of historical memory, directly linked to Greek history, since as of 1875 and for 60 full years, it has been the first permanent home of the Hellenic Parliament, while as of 1962 it hosts the premises of the National History Museum.
We are celebrating today the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Karpathos, paying tribute to its revolted people, who by means of a mass and irrepressible raid, crushed the rule of the fascist occupation armies and gained their independence, declaring the unification with motherland and highlighting once again in our long history, the greatness and the pride of the immortal Greek spirit.
Karpathos, following the fate of the rest of Dodecanese islands, came under the domination of the Italian powers in 1912. For three decades, the Italians used many methods to erase the national conscience of our islanders and achieve the Italianization of the Greek border land.
However, the Karpathians never broke, even when Hitler’s troops assumed administration of their island and they waited patiently for the moment of freedom and the much desired unification with the motherland. The moment when the blue and white flag would fly effortlessly in its own sea.
The language, the religion, the traditions, this indissociable part of the Karpathian culture during the years of the rule of the Latins and the Ottomans, were a huge obstacle to any attempt for their degradation and annihilation.
The 5th day of October of 1994 was the beginning of the end of the foreign tyranny. The blessing of Virgin Mary gave courage to the Karpathians, who achieved what seemed to be theoretically impossible. To free themselves by their own efforts and indeed, eight months earlier than the rest of the Dodecanese islands, honoring the Greek flag and serving their national duty to the maximum, safeguarding our country’s holy of hollies and acting as a shining beacon and as a stepping stone to dignity and honour.
They were the ordinary peace-loving villagers of the island, spearheaded by people from Meneta and Arkasa, who with the help of a few arms left by the Germans on their departure on the previous day, they implemented their rebel plans.
Their patriotic fervor was the one that nurtured the dreams and fueled the expectations, inspiring the Karpathians to fight against fascism and helping them to begin a strike for and win their freedom, by confronting the Italian conquerors in an uneven but heroic way.
It was the courage and determination that succeeded the feeling of anticipation, for the fulfillment of the eternal desire for freedom.
It was the love for freedom and independence that forged the morale and the will of the people for accomplishing such a significant feat.
As a result of the Revolutionary Liberation Movement of Karpathos, the Italians succumbed to the strong popular demand for their surrender on October 11th, thus avoiding bloodshed and on October 12th 1944, the Revolutionary Karpathian Committee adopted the resolution on the abolition of the Italian authorities and the Unification with motherland.
In the days that followed, the Greek Government welcomed in the Alexandria port in Egypt, a small boat with seven Karpathian peers, who were carrying the following message:
“The pure population of Karpathos and Kasos proceeded with the raising of the Greek flag and declared its Unification with motherland. In the conviction that our motherland will rush to take its eagerly awaiting - orphan children for centuries in its arms, we are serving as loyal and dedicated subjects of our Government”.
Two British warships were immediately sent to the islands and were docked in Pigadia, while over five thousand people reached the port within half an hour to welcome the allies, with unspeakable feelings of joy and relief. Italian prisoners of war were boarded on the same day, abandoning once and for all the Hellenic territory.
The 5th day of October of 1944 was not just a single event of participation of the Karpathians in the Greek State that was fighting for freedom. The Revolutionary Movement was the capping stone of the incessant participation of the people from Karpathos and Kasos in the classes of the Greek Army throughout the World War II.
The Dodecanesean Unions and Associations, upon the declaration of war against the Italians, went out on the streets of Athens holding the blue and white flag and the Dodecanesean flags, demanding to join the Greek Army.
In this way, the Regiment of Dodecaneseans was formed, counting 1.500 officers and soldiers, out of which 311 originated from Karpathos and 19 originated from Kasos. Two of them, Ioannis Maris and Michail Nouaros, drew their last breath during the war operations.
In the pantheon of Heroes, who lost their lives fighting for the ideals of freedom, we should not forget the Karpathian fighters, Ioannis Papagiannis and Ioannis Lentakis, serving in the 12th and 29th Infantry Regiment respectively, who sacrificed themselves on the mountains of Epirus.
It is important to emphasize that the Karpathians were joining the Greek Army as volunteers, since they were nationals of Italy; by doing so, they were committing an act of gross treason in accordance with the Italian law, punishable by death, while prosecutions were also provided for the members of their families.
It is known that Greece, due to the asymmetric correlation of forces, capitulated to the Germans in 1941; however, the Greek Army, loyal to the national duty of regaining freedom, kept on fighting in the Middle East, the Northern Africa and Italy against Nazism.
Specific reference should be made to the Karpathians, Emmanouil Oikonomidis and Konstantinos Protopapas, who while serving in the 1st Greek Brigade went down fighting in the Egyptian desert during the famous battle of El Alamein.
Today, 75 years from the heroic moments of October 1944, we are not just honoring another page of our historical heritage. Today is the chance, with respect for historical memory, to draw the necessary lessons that lead us as a beacon, in order to continue on with our historical destiny; to follow the path of duty and commitment, in order to gain the ultimate good of freedom and independence. Because we should never forget that people without memory are people without future.
The obligation of all of us is to forge national unity and solidarity; to preserve our traditional time values and ideals and to do our duty as a moral obligation towards the people that we are honoring today.
To those who cleared the path for the integration of the entire Dodecanese into the motherland, honoring its history and clearly indicating two things: First, that the Dodecanese constitutes a single geographical unit that links its islands over time to a common destiny and Second, that the profound Hellenity of its islands is not a figure of speech, but an unquestionable truth, since all efforts to affect and assimilate the Greek population fell at its unshakable faith, at its Hellenic identity.
The integration of the Dodecanese into Greece signaled the national integration, but also the attainment of justice, given that following the passing of many conquerors and centuries, the Greek population in the Dodecanese was happy to get united with the remaining Greek brothers and together with the remaining Aegean islands, forming today part of the country’s wider vital space and key element – if not a dominant element – of our nation’s geographical unity.
It should be noted that from ancient times, the Aegean sea has always been the centre of development of cultures, but also a link between two continents, Europe and Asia, let alone two seas, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
Its multi-island environment, which is unique in the Mediterranean basin, beginning from Thasos and ending up through the Dodecanese to Cyprus, sets up a wider geostrategic area of priceless value for the economy, trade and national strategies, serving or cutting axes of geostrategic influence.
That is the reason why Greek islands have been for centuries much sought-after by everyone and integrated into the strategic objectives of the strongest at any point in history, from the Athenian Empire to the Macedonian Empire and from the Hellenistic Age to the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman age. They have always had a prominent place in the aspirations of the Russian expansion strategy, while they have always been a lung of wealth and culture in the period of Francocracy.
From ancient times until the establishment of the modern Greek state in the 19th century, the complex of these small and large communities, connected by sea routes, was the centre of the thriving Hellenism in literature, arts and trade.
And it was exactly this sea that brought the wind of progress and prosperity, awakened and inspired, laying the foundations of contemporary Greece.
The Aegean Sea, over the years and despite the declining sea-centrism that followed by means of the gradually increasing concentration of the economy and population in the country’s large continental urban population areas, was and still is the key for the strategic connection between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
Moreover, it is worth mentioning that compared to its size, our country has one of the longest coastlines in the world, due exactly to its many islands that put it in the tenth longest coastline worldwide, even longer than the one of Italy, United Kingdom and Mexico.
Simply put, our islands that may I remind you that they mark not only national but also European borders, constitute the thermal core and the point where Greece’s heart is pulsing.
Today, at the dawn of the third decade of the 21st century and following the international trends, it is obvious that polycentrism in power structures, the shift of the centers of global power, the changing demographics, the change to the national traditional identities, the urbanization and the dissemination of human networks converts the international environment to a more interconnected, multipolar, competitive and finally unpredictable one.
Geographical borders, as a factor for spatial determination and limitation of the extent of conflict, become blurred or even eliminated compared to the past, requiring the prompt identification of potential threats and risks and the effective cooperation at international organizations level for their addressing.
The world changes at a frantic pace; whereas the lines visible until recently are blurred and faded. Developments even exceed the ability of traditionally large poles of power, states and/or alliances to predict them, leading in some cases to react defensively to them, rather than determining them.
Access to information compared to earlier times has dramatically changed with the faster handling and multiple volume. As usual practice, even for the most powerful, the prevention of direct conflict is adopted and the indirect attack of the opponent is selected.
At the same time, the combination of asymmetry and symmetry by the same actor creates a hybrid manner of carrying out war, which tends to override the traditional defence and action mechanisms, as well as their architecture.
Terrorism, propaganda, disinformation, political intimidation, political lobbying and the indirect or direct support to extremist political formations, as well as the use of social networks, are only some of the component elements of hybrid war.
As regards our country’s geopolitical field of interest, the ongoing situation of “consistent inconsistency” seems to be stagnant, with the known threats against our country’s national defence remaining unchanged.
At the same time, geopolitical developments in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean Sea, the long-running crisis in the Middle East, the war in Syria, the adverse shocks in our neighboring countries, the increase in Islamic fundamentalism, but also the ethnic and religious conflicts in the wider neighborhood of our country, have shaped a particularly dangerous and unstable political landscape, threatening on one hand with the disorganization and collapse of a large part of Middle East and putting on the other hand the security of the international community at risk.
These facts may contribute directly to the deregulation of global economy, the revival of threats against world peace, stability and security and contribute to the increase of refugee and immigrant flows.
Greece has been undoubtedly affected by the volatility that prevails in the Southeastern Mediterranean region, since it is particularly exposed to immigrant flows, resulting from the general instability in the region and the reinforcement of extremist trends, such as the extreme nationalism and irredentism.
The management of such an increased refugee and immigrant flow to the west world reshapes the security dilemmas or creates new ones and our country due to its geographical location has assumed the heaviest burden in the European continent, being a general security threat and requiring collective, regional, European and international response.
In such a fluid and fragile security environment, our country should develop and implement those necessary policies that will allow it to preserve peace, stability and the prosperity of the Greek people, thus contributing to the security in the wider region, since that is imposed by its undoubted geostrategic superiority as a point of contact and a bastion of Europe to the Asian and African continent.
At the same time, Greece’s specific weight is further accentuated by the fact that it is the sole country in the wider region of Southeastern Mediterranean Sea that actively participates as a full member in all international and regional security organizations, such the UN, NATO, the European Union and the OECD.
Within this framework, the country attempts to play a key and stabilizing role in current geopolitical developments, having set its key targets of safeguarding its vital, national, European and Euroatlantic interests in the single geographical area of this region, in strategic cooperation with the Republic of Cyprus, Egypt, Israel and other regional and international partners.
Beyond any doubt, we are living in a period of geopolitical challenges and upheavals that take place at a fast pace. Greece has a strong and dynamic presence in the international political stage and emerges as a pillar of stability and peace in the wider Southeastern Mediterranean region, substantially contributing to the promotion of cooperation between people, managing with confidence the challenges of the contemporary world.
It is necessary to establish an environment of security and stability in the region and the attitude of our neighbors – Turkey – in the achievement of this objective plays a crucial role.
For this reason, it is imperative that there is cooperation between both countries, so that we would act together as factors of stability and progress in the wider region.
Therefore, in this particular geopolitical environment, the Ministry of National Defence constitutes a key pillar for the promotion and implementation of the Government’s strategic choices, so that our Country would regain its international prestige and establish itself internationally as a powerful, reliable and contemporary power of regional security and stability.
The above may only be achieved through the successful addressing of the dual challenge, the maintenance of our deterrent effect and the setting up of contemporary and effective Armed Forces that would be able to prevent any geostrategic slip or challenge that may cause irreversible national damage.
Because the powerful Armed Forces constitute on one hand a diplomatic and defence power multiplier and on the other hand, send messages that characterize our nation; in other words, messages of peace, friendship and cooperation, but also determination for the safeguarding of our national rights.
In addition also to their key role, as a force of deterrence and protection of our national sovereignty, they contribute through European and Euroatlantic defence and security structures to international stability, security and prosperity.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Throughout the long history of our Country, our Armed Forces have always been the cradle of protection of the integrity, the principles, values and ideals of the Country; the custodian of the Nation’s traditions and historical heritage; a structural nucleus and a promising cell of the Greek society.
Their role, as guarantor of the country’s security and defence, always remains institutional, dealing with any provocative action with prudence, self-control and determination and allowing the country to become a powerful axis of stability and prevention.
The permanent operational preparedness and ability of the Armed Forces may guarantee, in the most unequivocal way, the prevention of all possible challenges and the successful addressing of all potential threats, maintaining the Country’s national honor and dignity intact.
The progress of the society and the well-being of our fellow citizens require today an environment of security and stability, under which our Armed Forces – through their deterrent defence planning – play a key role, remaining at all instances the most powerful pillar of our Country’s power.
The country, where democracy and global historical heritage was born, deserves nothing less than powerful Armed Forces, inspiring confidence in Greek citizens and causing fear to potential adversaries.
Our Armed Forces constitute today a contemporary entity, which is in an ongoing and dynamic interaction with its external environment.
In the territory of the country, this relation continues manifesting itself through the multi-level offer to the society and the wider participation in social processes, getting the recognition of citizens and strengthening in this way the already robust relation of trust with the society.
Through sustained actions in favor of the society in cases of natural disasters, fires, search – rescue, air evacuation, as well as their contribution in road works, land reclamation works and repair of damages, the Armed Forces uplift the Greek people morally and strengthen their ties with local societies.
At the same time, across the borders and in compliance with the country’s international obligations and defence diplomacy, they successfully participate in a number of multinational activities, in the framework of NATO and the joint European security and defence policy, promoting their international profile and our Country in the best possible way.
A fundamental and essential success factor for the above is our military and civilian personnel, which being our most valuable asset, constitutes the most important force multiplier of the Armed Forces.
An exceptional human resource with high morale and an excellent level of leading skills, altruism, self-confidence, integrity, mental and physical strength, as well as unequaled fighting spirit.
The Armed Forces, being loyal to democratic principles and values, with selfless love for the country, belief in the religion, with a feeling of duty, optimism and passion, will continue to go on guided by victory in all sectors, demonstrating on a daily basis that they are able of successfully preventing any geostrategic slip or challenge that may cause irreversible national damage.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, 75 full years from the liberation movement of Karpathos, we should honor this event not just as an anniversary, but as a national mortgage, drawing its great message, being in fact a message of optimism, hope, faith and perseverance.
It is the eternal message that when people are endowed with virtue and ingrained with deep historical consciousness, they do not care about the adversary’s material power, because they know that their life is reflected in acts of bravery and sacrifices.
Besides, this message was the one that led on the 5th day of October of 1944 to the explosion of the revolutionary movement in the sacred rock of Meneta and then, to the unanimous participation and solidarity of all Karpathians, embodying the vision of Freedom after centuries of slavery, deprivation and oppression, amply demonstrating that victory laurels only those who have the strength to fight for ideals and values in unity, coherence, national solidarity, self-abnegation and self-sacrifice.
Concluding, I would like to emphasize that we, as genuine descendants of the heroic Karpathians, should treasure national solidarity, the maintenance and increase of our deterrent and defence capabilities.
This should be our permanent and substantial national centre of gravity; to wit the core and the necessary structural element at all levels of strategic thought and planning.
The above centre of gravity is the one that distinguishes us as worthy descendants of Great Ancestors, but also valuable defenders of the Country over time, constituting the forefront of the spirit of People and our Nation against anyone who has ambitions against our borders, our territorial integrity and our national sovereignty.