“The Greek diaspora radiates a geopolitical soft power for Greece”, writes Constantine Passaris

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By Constantin Passaris.

Last year, the bicentennial celebrations of the Greek Revolution of 1821 highlighted the passion of the Greek diaspora for their homeland. The celebrations revealed that the contemporary Greek diaspora has a global presence and global international influence. The Greek diaspora exudes a geopolitical soft power that serves as a strategic tool for national causes and Greece’s foreign policy. In modern times, the Greek diaspora have also been benefactors of their homeland through philanthropy, crisis relief, business mentorship, entrepreneurial empowerment, and building economic bridges with Greece for international trade and economic development.

Greece is a small country, with a curious spirit, an independent spirit and a global openness. Its sparse population of just over 10 million is misleading. Census reports from around the world estimate that the Greek diaspora, which includes first-generation Greek immigrants and second or third generations of Greek ancestry not born in Greece, exceeds 7 million. In this regard, Greece stands out among the community of nations by displaying a significant demographic dualism where its total population is divided between those who live in the homeland and the Greek diaspora who are scattered around the world.

The word diaspora has its roots in the ancient Greek language which means the scattering of seeds for future growth. From time immemorial, the Greeks have embraced an adventurous spirit, a traveling nature and a global openness. In ancient Greece, Homer reported that the Greeks were vagabonds and travelers venturing across seas and foreign lands, motivated by commerce, science, intellectual curiosity, poverty or war, and creating settlements and towns in the distance. As a result, the Greek diaspora has been recorded as one of the oldest and largest in the world.

Constantine Passaris shares his thoughts on the Greek diaspora.

I believe that Alexander the Great personifies the spirit of the Greek diaspora past and present. Indeed, Alexander practiced globalization before the word was invented. The empire he built stretched from Macedonia to Asia and North Africa. His vision for the administration of the new lands he conquered included establishing a Greek community to run the affairs of the state after he moved on to new conquests.

Moreover, he adopted a prototype of multicultural politics which accepted the cultures and traditions of the conquered peoples and integrated the ruling class of the Greeks in such a way that the host society did not feel victimized. I always feel a sense of national pride when my friends and colleagues from the countries that Alexander conquered, such as Iran, India and Egypt today, speak with affection and great respect about his achievements and of his heritage in their countries. In this regard, Alexander is not seen as a malicious conqueror but as a competent administrator and cultural benefactor.

The most prosperous overseas Greek community established by Alexander the Great was in Egypt. Ptolemy Soter, a trusted commander of Alexander, ruled Egypt from 305 BC, followed by his descendants for over 300 years until Queen Cleopatra’s demise in 30 BC. During this time, the city of Alexandria, a Greek polis founded by Alexander, became the capital and a major center of Greek culture, learning and commerce for several centuries. It was a hub for world trade, and the Library of Alexandria became a repository of the most valuable original manuscripts and acquired the knowledge of that time. Alexandria has also become a center of scientific innovation, and its iconic lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, served as a beacon to the world.

Alexander The Great.

The contemporary Greek diaspora is made up of Greek communities living outside the borders of their Greek homeland. In modern history, the Greek diaspora has existed in the Balkans, southern Russia, Asia Minor, eastern Anatolia, the Caucasus, Egypt, and Corsica. Since the 20th century, the Greek diaspora has extended its reach to all corners of the world, including the United States, Canada, South America, Germany and Australia.

During my travels, I have met Greeks in the Diaspora across Canada and overseas in the United States, Australia and Europe. At each destination, I witnessed a strong bond and fervent passion among the Greek diaspora for their homeland. As a result, I think you can take the Greeks out of Greece, but you can’t take Greece out of the Greeks.

Throughout history, the Greeks left an indelible mark on Western civilization and especially in culture, democracy, visual arts, theater, literature, philosophy, politics, architecture, music, math, medicine, science, technology, philanthropy, commerce, cooking and sports. These important contributions continue to this day through the remarkable contributions of contemporary Greeks in the diaspora through their contributions to their adopted countries and to humanity in general.

The Greeks left an indelible mark on Western civilization. Photo: Monash Council.

During important milestones in Greek history, the Greek Diaspora reached out to their homeland. The Greek diaspora played a fundamental role in the struggle for independence from Greece in the 19e century. Through them, Philhellenes around the world were encouraged to intensify and support the ideals of the Greek Revolution. During World Wars I and II, the Greek diaspora sent young men to fight for their homeland. More recently, the Greek diaspora has helped alleviate crises, championed national causes and championed Greek foreign policy by energizing political and public opinion in their new country.

The 2016 Australian census recorded 397,431 people of Greek descent and 93,740 born in Greece. This makes Australia one of the largest Greek diaspora communities in the world. The census also found that Melbourne’s Greek community is one of the largest in the world with a Greek Australian population of 173,598. In fact, the city of Melbourne has the highest concentration of Greeks after Athens and Thessaloniki in Greece. Sydney comes in second with 127,274 Greek Australians.

Every time I have visited Melbourne and Sydney, I have been deeply moved by the Greek communities in both cities for their passion for all things Greek and for the development of the Greek language and traditions. Indeed, during my visits to Melbourne, I was delighted to hear Greek spoken everywhere I went. This forced me to redouble my efforts to make sure my plane landed in Australia and not Greece.

Greek Diaspora in Australia.

The largest flow of Greek immigrants to Australia began after World War II. The first generation of Greek Australians were mostly self-employed in the service sector. They established restaurants, retail outlets and small businesses. After instilling the value of education in their children to enhance their career opportunities, the second and third generation of Greek Australians have now joined the ranks of white collar workers such as lawyers, accountants, civil servants, academics. , scientists, engineers, nurses, and medical practitioners.

A second generation shift has taken place among the Greek Australian Diaspora when it comes to their political engagement in their new homeland. The first generation of Greek immigrants to Australia was intimately linked to Greek politics. As a result, even in a new country, the Greek diaspora continued to wage political battles affiliated with their homeland party in a new environment. This is no longer the case in the 21st century. Greeks born into the host society and new Greek immigrants have shown a tendency to adopt Australian politics and integrate into the political landscape of their host country. The high number of candidates of Greek origin who are nominated and elected to public office at municipal, regional and federal levels testifies to this reversal of political commitment.

The contemporary passion of the Greek diaspora for their homeland is reflected in The Hellenic Initiative (THI). THI is a global philanthropic initiative that is replicated in the United States, Canada, and Australia and links the Greek Diaspora and Philhellenes to Greece. Specifically, it serves as a catalyst for global fundraising, providing direct relief from economic, social and environmental crises, as well as opening doors for entrepreneurial initiatives, promoting job creation and economic development. in Greece and raising awareness of key issues of importance to Greece. .

Dr Constantine Passaris is Professor of Economics at the University of New Brunswick (Canada) and member of the Onassis Foundation (Greece). He was recently included in the inaugural edition of Who is Who in Greece 2020 and is the first Greek Canadian to be appointed to the Order of New Brunswick (Canada).

READ MORE: Constantine Passaris becomes the first Greek Canadian appointed to the Order of New Brunswick.

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