Boutaris The Turk, Ataturk’s Brother

Everyone has to have an idol

The beginning of the end of the Ottoman Occupation of Greece in 1821, which gave birth to the modern Greek state, and the fall of Smyrna in Asia Minor a century later in 1922 were the bookends for revolutions which changed the country forever and perpetuated enmity toward Turks.

But that’s ancient history, and hating people because their ancestors fought with yours is futile. Otherwise, Americans wouldn’t have bought Toyotas and Japanese televisions and we could trace hate back to cave man days.

As the character Kwai Chang Caine, played by the late David Carradine in the TV series Kung Fu, said in a memorable episode, Eye for an Eye: “To hate is like drinking salt water. The thirst grows worse.”

But that doesn’t mean you have to respect – and certainly not revere nor worship – people who caused evil to yours, and that’s where Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, an ecologist and self-loathing Greek who took office almost two years ago, has gone too far.

During Greece’s crushing economic crisis, Boutaris rightly is welcoming Turkish tourists, in the same way Turkey invites Greeks, if only to come to see the once-Greek city of Istanbul, which Greeks still call Constantinople, apparently forgetting to buy a new calendar after 1453. Turkey is a modern, secular country, a bridge between Asia and Europe and would be a member of the European Union if only it too had remembered what year it is and that it needs to withdraw its occupying army from Cyprus, admit Cypriot ships and planes, and re-open the Halki Seminary.

Turkey is as wrong in not doing so as Boutaris was shortly after he took office nearly two years ago and came up with the brilliant idea of building a mosque, and a monument to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who was born in Thessaloniki before moving on to creating the Republic of Turkey by drowning it in Greek blood at Smyrna and bayoneting Armenian babies.

A shrine for a conqueror? Why not put a souvenir shop next to it, selling Ataturk T-Shirts showing Smyrna burning? A monument to him in Greece would be akin to a statue of Hitler in Tel Aviv, or a shrine to Tojo in San Francisco. Maybe Demetris Christofias, the failed Communist President of Cyprus – who studied in Moscow – could raise one to Stalin, who’s right up there in the Genocide Top 10 List. And remember that it was Lenin who supplied Ataturk’s armies with weapons.

So polarizing is Boutaris that the bishop of Thessaloniki threatened to kill himself rather than swear him in and vowed to do everything in his power to stop this “Bulgarian traitor,” a reference to the mayor’s roots in the Latin-speaking Vlach minority. Boutaris branded him a ”mujahideen” and took his own “cosmic vows,” weird enough to make you want to check the fillings of his teeth to make sure aliens weren’t using them to send signals from space.

It’s too bad Boutaris isn’t paying more attention to Greeks being impoverished by austerity measures and build a homeless shelter or free clinic for the poor instead of an altar for a man whose armies butchered Greeks. Turkey is invading Greece again now, in other ways: Turkish soap operas, including Suleiman the Magnificent, are all over Greek TV stations and the Turkish government wants to offer them free to a number of countries to spread Turkish culture. They could hire Boutaris as their PR consultant.

The movie 1453 shows in shameless fashion a one-sided story of how Turks liberated Constantinople, and a few years ago a Turkish movie depicted its armed forces defeating the United States, Europe and NATO in a war, a bit of a stretch since its basketball team got pummeled by the Americans at the World Championships in 2010.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Boutaris said Greece should capitalize on the chance to show visiting Turks all the sites in Thessaloniki where their ancestors ruled. “Thessaloniki was a booming city of the Ottoman Empire,” he said during a recent trip to Istanbul, leaving out the part about Greeks being enslaved, which means you don’t have to worry about a minimum wage for workers. He also said that while many Greeks despite Ataturk’s memory that, “He is a child of Thessaloniki.” Yes, and Hitler was a child of Ranshofen, Austria.


Boutaris is betraying Greece to a conqueror and that has nothing to do with inviting tourists from Turkey, who are welcome in Greece. He has rightly tried to embrace his city’s Jewish past – much of it wiped out by Hitler’s minions. This is a big year for Thessaloniki, the 100th anniversary of its liberation by the Greek military from Ottoman occupation and the mayor has besmirched that memory by bowing down to Ataturk.

The revulsion runs deep. Two monks interrupted a ceremony of the delivery of an icon from Mt. Athos to the city by screaming at the mayor: “Boutaris, you bum!” Another yelled “Anathema!” And,as police dragged them away, another screamed at him, “Turk lover!” Boutaris has tried to spin his admiration for Ataturk. “If our perspective on history here in Thessaloniki is hostile to everyone else who has lived in this city before, who will be left for us to do business with?” Antonis Kamaras, an aide to the mayor told the Journal, trying to defend the idea of worshiping Ataturk.

But why stop there? Invite Germans to the spots where Nazis committed murder in Thessaloniki. Perhaps the villages of Kalavryta and Distomo, where the populations where slaughtered by Nazis, should put together an Atrocity Tour since Boutaris doesn’t think Greece should be hostile to potential visitors.

But, as a Leftist to the Left of Che Guevara, he’s an apologist and unbowed and said he’ll do all he can to bring more Turkish tourists to Thessaloniki, even if that means getting on his knees and praying to the memory of Ataturk. Boutaris even refused to attend a parade re-enacting the Greek army’s liberating march into his city in 1912, an event which included hoisting the biggest Greek flag in his country, although maybe he’d prefer to live in Istanbul with his buddies or raise the Turkish flag again over Thessaloniki.

He said that displaying Greek pride was “ethnic populism,” and, in telling words, told the Journal that, “I feel closer to the Turks than to the Swedes. With the European Union, I feel like a partner.” he added, “With the Turks, I feel like a brother.” Greeks and Turks today should live in harmony and resolve differences but let’s leave Ataturk out of it.

As Zorba said, when explaining to his boss, the Englishman who’d seen scars on Zorba’s body inflicted by both Greeks and Turks: “What do I care if a man is Greek or Turk? All I care is that he is a good man.” Boutaris has many progressive ideas that benefit his city and country and should stick to that. He may be a good man, but he’s not a good Greek.



  1. Absolutely shameful hate filled article. Not a good Greek? By whose definition? Are Greeks bound to hate Turks for eternity? To bring up Smyrna and the Yedi Kule everytime they feel they are becoming too friendly with one to remind themselves of their genetic hatred. Was Thessaloniki filled with Greek slaves at the time Ataturk lived here? Even if so how would that be his fault? Did he own any? Did he invade Cyprus? How many Greek solidiers did he “slaughter” on Greek land or do you speak of the ill fated Greek invasion of that fledgling nation? As for invasions of culture maybe you could read up on the very basic economic principle of supply and demand. I don’t enjoy so much American culture in my home country but if it’s what the people want they are most certainly free to choose. The mass Hellenisation of Macedonia and Thessaloniki post-independence was also a significant crime against culture. Being Irish I know all too well the sheer idiocy of holding 500 year grudges and the treating of 500 year culture as something “foreign”, Alexander’s empires didn’t last so long. These people did not choose to be born where they were they simply were, to try and paint such a mono-cultural and selective history of such a beautiful and diverse city is short-sighted in the extreme. I applaud Boutaris’ bravery in expressing and seeking to manifest his views, as similarly I compliment your expression of your own opinion though I find far less comfort in the language and rhetoric of the perpetual memory of hate as I do in that of recognition and reconciliation.

  2. What’s funny is that no Turkish mayor would do the same. Greek or Hellenic does not exist in Turkey’s vocabulary.Ancient Greek ruins are called Roman or ancient Turkish ruins. Even St. Nick (the inspiration for Santa) is Turkish not Greek. I’ve seen him referred to as a “Turkish saint”. And when has the last church been built in Turkey. This mayor is the example of the left-wing agenda that is Islamifying Europe.

  3.  Well, it looks like a big loss for you that all your trip to Turkey, if any, has nothing to let you observe enough. It has been quite enough that i have been living in Turkey, let’s say, roughly 35 years, this is my very first time hearing that St. Nick and others had Turkish roots. Also the claim that the ruins are Turkish: A very big smile! Really the first time i have heard about something like this. Very funny. In fact, we do not call them Roman but instead Bizans, Turkish word for Byzantium. As for the newly established churches, I believe i have not heard of one other then the Armenian church which is in the east part of Turkey. But there are many of them in which Christians perform their weekly ceremonies and do their praying. I would be more than happy if they need a church, it would be built. Islamifying Europe? This should be a joke.

  4. The silliness and blatant ignorance in the comment by JC defies all logic and given that there is so much of the rotten stuff I’ll be brief. His platitudes are boring so I will not address that rubbish. But the sheer historical ignorance displayed here needs to be trashed and thrown in the rubbish heap of Orwellian history. Grudges? Well when a whole civilization disappears and the perpertrators refuse to acknowledge the genocide they committed well then there is a “grudge” of sorts to be considered. The Armenian Assyrian and Greek peoples of Asia Minor are still waiting for an apology and then reparations. The Irish can do whatever the hell they want since they still have a piece of land they use. The inhabitants of Asia MInor – 3000 + years worth – lost their voices in the wholesale slaughters committed by Turks. Boutaris demeans and trashes their memories by his antics. Another major blooper you make. Macedonia and Thessaloniki and the regions north and east and west of modern day Greece were Hellenized 2 thousand years before the ancestors of the tribes that settled there started appearing. Boutaris is a fool just like Chamberlain was when trying to appease the fascist lunatic…like the kings of Israel appeasing the Babylonian Empire. You would do well to familiarize yourself with the 1. Genocides of the 20th century and 2. the Hellenic World and its historic and geopolitical extent.

  5. Well, if the text really was meant to be polemic, populist and paradox, then you reached the goal with exellence my friend. Haters wanna hate. I dont wanna judge you for that, because I think everyone has a right for his own thoughts and meanings. But thats what came first into my mind while reading the text seconds ago.