A Greek Myth: The deconstruction of an Ethno-Nationalistic identity

By Filimon Nomikos
The Ethno-nationalist party in Greece, Golden Dawn, differs little from what history has presented to us as ethno-nationalist. Its beliefs are extremely radical and not compatible with a liberal western society.  Golden Dawn aims to promote Hellenism ‘to gain the international position it deserves, as a central power in the volative geopolitical space of the Eastern Mediterranean’.

Hellenism, is a concept which essentially opposes everything the other major political parties in Greece support. They argue that the ‘liberals – supporters of the bailout bill memorandum (New Democracy and PA.SO.K.) – aspire to the collapse of the nation-state through economic enslavement to the international loan sharks while the leftists (SY.RI.ZA.) pursue the same goal through internationalism, the invasion by immigrants and the loss of our national identity’.  Its policies to succeed a ‘Hellas of Hellenism’ includes the separation of Greek students from foreign students so that the ‘teaching standards of Greek kids are not undermined due to the linguistic weaknesses of the foreigners’. They advocate for the immediate arrest and deportation of all illegal immigrants and for the use of ‘specific centers of detainment away from the inhabited places of the Greek territory’. For crimes committed by foreigners which ‘aim at the violent subversion of the social status’they also  advocate forced labour for the benefit of the Greek public administration. Lastly, they consider that there is a demographic danger, of Greeks becoming the minority in Greece. Thus, they have a pro-family stance, arguing for subsidies to be given to pregnant mothers and to families with three kids or more and argue against abortions.

In short, they are advocates of violence as a means to consolidate themselves, which is usually practiced in mass mobilizations accompanied by the use of symbols and unfounded reasoning’s of the relationship between Greeks and foreigners. Lastly, the ‘protection’ of Greek families from foreign influences is an essential part of their program.

All in all, Golden Dawn resembles the most dangerous ethno-nationalist parties in history and its growth has to be stopped.

The Greek elections of 2012 found Golden Dawn (GD) resting at almost 7% of the popular vote. At the time, many people thought it was a ‘reactionary vote’ to the austerity measures which had been recently imposed and to the general political crisis which was dominating Greece in the first three years of the financial crisis. Despite the murder of the artist Pavlos Fyssas which drew global attention in 2013 and the subsequent imprisonment of the leader of GD, Nikos Michaloliakos, for criminal organization composition accusations, and other top party echelons, the party received 6.3% and 7% of the vote in the two elections in January and September 2015. How did a ‘reactionary vote’ turn out to be a vote for the third most popular political party in Greece, a country which has suffered both a military dictatorship and a fascist invasion? The answer is, through the creation of myths. Golden Dawn has increased its power over the last years because it has created answers to questions with no single answer. Questions such as ‘What has happened?’ and ‘Who do we blame?’.

When discussing the resurgence of ethnic-nationalism the current state of affairs is not sufficient to explain this phenomenon. For example, in Portugal, Ireland and Spain which have had similar economic and institutional problems like Greece, there has been a reactionary rise of extreme parties, but none have made the impact that Golden Dawn has. Therefore, this raises the question, how did they do it?

The answer might be simpler than thought. Golden Dawn used Ancient Greek history and fascist tactics to gain support for its cause. Golden Dawn argues that modern Greeks are the ‘authentic descendants of Ancient Greeks’. To reinforce their argument, ethno-nationalists use the physical representation of Ancient Greece to reinforce their claims about the biological resilience and continuity of Classical Greece throughout the two thousand five hundred years which have passed. They see the relation between space, time and identity as an unaffected linear progression. For Golden Dawn, individuals of the same race share mutual spiritual and physical characteristics which are inherited from their common ancestors. Another aspect worth considering when discussing race in ethno-nationalism, is that they believe in a natural difference between races and thus a mutual co-existence of two races is impossible.

The linear progression is used as a point of reference by the ethno-nationalists in a two ways. Firstly, the linear progression creates a relationship of correlation and causation. Using Classical Greece as the point of reference and arguing that ‘Hellenism’ was created and was at its peak then, creates a huge contrast with modern Greece where it is argued that Hellenism is at a constant demise. The persistence of the innovations during Classical Greece in multiple disciplines still influence scholars, politicians and artists. Hence, a sense of infallibility is  attributed to these breakthroughs. On the other hand, the failures of the  liberal European democracy are obviously present with unemployment rates being at a constant 20% and youth unemployment (ages 16-24) being constantly around 50%. Hence, due to the linear progression, the time interval between Classical Greece and Modern Greece is presented as the causation for the demise of ‘Hellenism’. The secondary use of the linear progression is for ethno-nationalists to show how – in theory – Greeks can return to being ‘The Great Nation of Greeks’ and the only way to get there is through ethnic purity as only true Hellenes can experience the miracle of Hellenism.

Demystifying the myth

This vision of racial continuity throughout the centuries provides us with the main criticism of the discourse of Greek ethno-nationalism. Firstly, the modern state system was not established during the classical period, rather there were city-states, leagues and kingdoms ruling the space of modern Greece. Hence, it cannot be argued with certainty that all city-states granted citizenship according to the birthplace, something that is present in the modern-state system and – personally – preferable; we know for a fact that women were not entitled to citizenship in Ancient Athens. Two of the greatest city-states of the time, Sparta and Athens came into conflict in the Peloponnesian War, proving that intercity-state relations were not always directed to prosperity and the mutual benefit of a bigger state. The second argument against the Golden Dawn discourse is that there is no unaffected biological proof of racial continuity between ancient Greeks and modern Greeks and even the argument for the linguistic relevance between Ancient and Modern Greek is considered weak if not irrelevant as the Ancient Greek that is widely taught in Greece is a simplified version of the Attic dialect of the time, used in Athens and its immediate surroundings.


As previously mentioned, Golden Dawn considers a natural difference between the different races in the world. It argues that since there are natural and inherent differences in the way a race socializes and behaves, it would be impossible for two races to mutually co-exist in the same nation. Therefore, every race should fight for its own survival and security through the obliteration of the ‘other’. At this point it is important to mention that the ‘other’ does not necessarily have to be a ‘foreigner’ but someone who does not contribute to the perceived ultimate goal, the rebirth of Hellenism. Therefore, ethno-nationalists consider the supporters of other political/social/economic models such as communism and liberalism as traitors. This principle of ‘if you’re not with us you are against us’ brings me to the final point of contradiction in the Golden Dawn paradigm. Working towards a collective target without any individuality homogenizes agency.

In other words, in the system proposed by Golden Dawn, there would be a dismissal of personal will and freedom, which is against the principles of the Modern Greek nation.

One of the great misfortunes of Greek history is that its modern history is constantly being overshadowed by its ancient counterpart. I call it a misfortune because several important modern issues are neglected. Firstly, the Greek War of Independence consists the first fully successful attempt to self-determination after the restoration of the Ancien Regime in the European continent. The fighters which are hymned today as the revivalists of Hellenism by Golden Dawn, revolted against the Ottoman rule in 1821, with the principles of the French Revolution and the principles of Enlightenment. The independence struggle was supported by Philhellenes Italians, French, English, Scots, Irish and others. The reason for the support was the righteousness of the Greek cause

Nαυμαχία του Ναβαρίνου antroni.gr 3
The Battle of Navarino

against the barbarity of the ‘Turks’. Some, like the poet Shelley supported the cause as he argued they ‘owed everything to the Greeks’. This however, is not strong enough to support an ethno-nationalist claim about the Revolution of 1821. Further enhancing the rhetoric of a Revolution based on the French Revolution ideals is the intervention at the Battle of Navarino. Considered as one of the most uneven naval battles of history, international assistance arrived from Britain to oppose the Egyptian and Ottoman fleet. The result was the obliteration of the latter alliance. Whether the intervention happened on ‘humanitarian’ terms or on prospects of future benefit for the interveners will remain a mystery; undeniably however, this has been presented as the first armed international intervention for humanitarian purposes in the recorded history, further reinforcing the supremacy of the French Enlightenment.

The point of this article is to argue the following: why does Greece need its ancient history to guide its path into the future, a history which could illuminate and inspire the current Greeks, not bound them and suppress their mental stimulation for the sake of creating a concept which is randomly created by chieftains of a criminal organization with anachronistic desires and ideals for societal organization.



Featured image: A typical demonstration of the Golden Dawn Supporters, ΚΟΣΜΟΣ



Born and raised in Athens, Greece. Phil is atThird Year International Relations Student, interested in science and security.

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