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The Messiah and the Bourgeoisie: Venizelos and Politics in Greece, 1909- 1912

Mark Mazower
The Historical Journal
Vol. 35, No. 4 (Dec., 1992), pp. 885-904
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2639443
Page Count: 20
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The Messiah and the Bourgeoisie: Venizelos and Politics in Greece, 1909- 1912
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Abstract

The mercurial rise of Venizelos, the most prominent Greek statesman of this century, has been a hotly debated issue of modern Greek history. The tendency until recently has been to explain his success in terms of social changes, and to see the rise of the Liberal party as the triumph of modernizing bourgeois forces in early twentieth-century Greece. This article, however, compares Venizelos both with the generation of politicians which preceded him, and with his leading contemporary, Gounaris. It argues that Venizelos's enormous popularity hinged upon his response to the nationalist, quasi-messianic fervour which gripped Greece after its humiliating defeat by Turkey in 1897. Parliamentary government came to be seen as passive and elitist, political parties as causes of national decline. Using his rhetorical skills and the press, Venizelos presented himself as the agent of national regeneration. His attitude towards class politics, and to the very idea of political parties, was complex and ambivalent. Hence, his rise should be interpreted, not in terms of a simple Marxist or whiggish schema, as the product of Greece's bourgeois revolution, but as the expression of a new more confident nationalism, which reinforced the personality-centred quality of Greek politics.

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