June 9, 2015

1644 GREECE (East Macedonia and Thrace) - The war memorial in Komotini


Built on the Thracian plain, near the foothills of the Rhodope Mountains, Komotini is one of the main administrative, financial and cultural centers of northeastern Greece and also a major agricultural and breeding center of the area. It has existed as a settlement since the 2nd century AD, and during the Roman age it was one of the several fortresses along the Via Egnatia. During most of the Byzantine period, the settlement was overshadowed by the larger town of Mosynopolis to the west, and by the end of the 12th century, the place had been abandoned. In 1207 following the destruction of Mosynopolis by the Bulgarian tsar Kaloyan, the remnant population fled and established within the walls of the abandoned fortress.

Since then the population had been increasing continuously until it became an important town within the area. In the Ottoman Era, Komotini was known as Gümülcine and continued to be an important hub connecting Constantinople with the European part of the Empire. After the Greek War of Independence it progressed financially due to the processing and trade of tobacco. During the First Balkan War, Bulgarian forces captured the city, only to surrender it to the Greek army during the Second Balkan War. The Treaty of Bucharest handed the city back to Bulgaria, and so remained until the end of WWI, when it was returned to Greece.

At the heart of the city lie the Municipal Central Park and the 15m-high WW2 Heroes' Memorial, highly controversial. Erected during the years of the military dictatorship (1967-1974), it deployed a monumental classical aesthetic and was festooned with images of Mycenaean armaments, including spears, shields and a huge bronze sword. This grandiose, severe and abstract structure allowed the regime to skirt the political contestation that still surrounded the war. It became the focus for official commemorations of all Greece’s past wars, thus vocalising a nationalist discourse that exploited all references to past glory. The Sword, as it was dubbed, was therefore intended both to buttress the regime’s legitimacy, by locating it within a heroic narrative, and to inculcate a martial nationalism in the public.

About the stamps
The first stamp, depicting Anemonia viridis, is part of the definitive set Riches of the Greek seas, about which I wrote here. The second stamp, showing a paper boat, is one of the two of the series Greek Islands - Personal Stamps, about which I wrote here. The third is part of the series Games of the old neighborhood, about which I wrote here. The last one, depicting Tzoumerka, Epirus, is part of the series Touring, about which I wrote here.

References
Komotini - Wikipedia
The Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Warfare - edited by George Kassimeris and John Buckley

Sender: Dimitris / dst121gr (postcrossing) GR-27737
Sent from Komotini (East Macedonia and Thrace / Greece), on 30.10.2012

1 comment: