The Italian government forced by the financial crisis that has hit the country, has decided to shut down the Italian Cultural Institute in Thessaloniki, Greece, after 51 years of operation.
Yannis Boutaris the mayor of Thessaloniki described the closure of the institute as a “major loss” noting that this decision takes something away from Thessaloniki’s multicultural profile. Yannis Mylopoulos, the rector of Aristotle University stated that “Thessaloniki’s cultural scene has become poorer and the Aristotle University has lost a significant partner. It’s sad. The institute was a lively cultural hub in the city.”
The Italian Cultural Institute was established in 1963, in the northern port of Thessaloniki. It helped bring together the Greek and Italian culture and offered a passport to the Greek students who wanted to study in Italy. In recent years, apart from Italian language courses, the institute organized cultural events, exhibitions, concerts, conferences in collaboration with Greek and Italian organizations.
The Greek writer Thodoros Ioannidis, a close friend of Umberto Eco, was a student and professor at the institute. He reported that during the dictatorship in the 1970s, thousands of young people went there to learn the language so that they could study in Italy.
Recently, before the Italian government announced its closure, the Italian institute hosted a ceremony where school certificates were awarded to the relatives of Jewish children who studied in Italian schools before they died in the Holocaust.