Elissavet Papazoi

Interview: Maro Voulgari | Photo: Vaggelis Fragkakis

An unknown facet
of the Greek-Russian relations

Fifty years prior to the outbreak of the Greek revolution, Paros wrote a very important page in the history of its relations with the Russian superpower. In 2021, we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution, but we also celebrate the Year of Greek-Russian History, which brings forth the historical encounters between the two peoples over the course of time.

One such historical encounter, in which Paros has a leading role, is the establishment of the Russian naval base in the bay of Naoussa from 1770 to 1775, where hundreds of Russian ships anchored and 10,000 soldiers encamped, in the aftermath of the bloody uprising of the Greeks at the instigation of Russia, known as the Orlov revolt.

The memory of this unknown historical event still lingers on in the oral tradition of the people of Naoussa, in the ample testimony to the Russian presence –cannon balls, Russian coins, ecclesiastical vessels and icons, and in the ruins of the Russian naval station. However, what the people of Paros may not know is the extent to which the renowned to Russia town of ‘Auza’, as Russians call Naoussa, is inextricably linked to the first glorious page of their newly-formed navy –their brilliant victory against the Ottomans at Chesme in July 1770. This year, celebrated as the Year of Greek-Russian History, Paros honours this much-unexplored historical episode, and the chairwoman of the Year Committee Ms. Elissavet Papazoi talks to us about its significance and the events that are to be held on the island for the occasion.

“The Greek historiography has failed to record the Russian presence in the Aegean, the naval station in Naoussa and the establishment of the ‘Russian Hegemony in the Archipelago’ with Paros as its administrative centre,” says Ms. Elissavet Papazoi, who was president of the Paros Environmental Park board for ten years. “Being charged with the administration of the Park, we undertook to rectify this lapse with the crucial contribution of local scholars Giannis Vassiliopoulos, Olympios Alifieris and Tassos Kassapidis”.

Historical research, sponsored by the A.G. Leventis Foundation, was carried out by a team of historians led by professor Gelina Charlaftis, and a digital platform was set up for the registration of historical evidence as the first stage a digital library named ‘Archipelagos Historia.’ The digital library project has been undertaken by the Institute of Historical Research of the National Hellenic Research Foundation, with George Tolias as head of the research unit.

The Park has already been hosting a permanent exhibition entitled “Paros through Russian Cartography” since 2014, following the renovation of the monastery cells of Agios Ioannis Detis, made possible with a donation from Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The 18th century Russian manuscript maps were displayed there for the first time under the scientific auspices of historian Eleftheria Zei. The organizing committee of the Year of History has scheduled for early September the presentation of the digital library “Archipelagos Historia” by Mr. Tolias on the grounds of the Park in an open discussion with the Russian historians Elena Smilianskaya and Alexey Postnikov, as well as Gelina Charlaftis and Eleftheria Zei.*

A number of additional events, such as a ten-minute-long short film narrating the historical events against a background of modern-day Parian landscapes, the translation into Greek and presentation of Elena Smilianskaya’s book “Archipelagos,” and several other initiatives are uderway for the summer of 2022.

* The event will be live-streamed in Greek English and Russian, via YouTube and Facebook.