The Construction of Modern Greek Identity in the Nineteenth Century

    • Cover Photo
    • Presentation speakers
      • Pınar Şenışık Özdabak, Department of International Relations, Doğuş University, Turkey


    After the establishment of the Greek Kingdom in 1830, the Greeks looked to the past as a model for creating their self-image, like most peoples of southeastern Europe. However, the peculiarity of the Greeks was that they had two different ideal types to trace their origins back to. This point inevitably brings one to the question of ‘in what ways did the political elites conceptualize “one nation” out of “two histories”?’ The supporters of the Hellenic ideology sought to shape the new Greek state in the Hellenic ideal by negating and excluding the Byzantine and Ottoman past from Greek history. The tension between the Hellenic and Romeic models was reflected in the distinction between katharevousa (purist) and demotiki (vernacular) Greek. That is to say, while the linguistic realm of the Hellenic model was katharevousa, the linguistic realm of the Romeic model was demotiki. Within this framework, this paper analyzes the construction of the modern Greek identity in the nineteenth century. By examining the tension between the two mutually opposed forces in the cultural and linguistic realms, the paper aims to illustrate how dualism shaped the whole of Greek life. Furthermore, the Greek state had to formulate and develop a national identity for its nation. Religious differentiation of the Greeks from the Muslims could no longer cultivate the Greekness of the Greeks adequately. However, as Greek peasants designated themselves as Christians and speakers of Greek, the new nation-state had to transform this religious identity into a secular national identity. This could be achieved by two means: first, the Greek nation-state should undermine the ecumenical aspect of Orthodoxy and diminish the influence of the Patriarch over the Greeks by the establishment of the national church. The creation of the Greek national church would also increase the influence of the Greek nation-state on the Greek Orthodox inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire. Secondly, an ‘emotional association’ could be established through various instruments including folklore, history and literature. In this way, the Greeks began to associate themselves with the new Hellenic national identity.