For H.M
Sunday, 31 March 2013 16:59    PDF Print E-mail



February 2006


Universiteit van Amsterdam

Spuistraat 134

1012 VB Amsterdam


     "One should not introduce neologisms heedlessly" – but sometimes a principle or phenomenon is pointed out which seems so important that it deserves its own name.  

      That is the sensation I had when speaking, last August, to the Greek scholar Hercules (Iraklis) Millas. Millas has worked extensively on mutual representations of Greeks and Turks in literature and in society, and his works is admirably dedicated to the palliation of the many misgivings that exist between those two nations. Millas's research has established that, in a research group, the questions "How do you see yourself?" and "How do you see the other?" led to relatively non-contentious answers, which could be argued in serene discussion. The really contentious issues and enmities in Greco-Turkish relations were brought to the fore when the question was asked "How do you think the other sees you?"– in other words, when the question was addressed, what image we have concerning the other’s image of ourselves. It was at this compounded level that feelings of enmity and suspicion came to the surface.

        Imagologists are used to dealing with the distinction between auto-image and hetero-image. What Millas’s research has highlighted is something which, to my knowledge, has not yet been thematized in image studies, but which (as everyone will recognize) is of great importance: the collapse between auto-image and hetero-image, our image of the other’s image. I think something as important as this "image of an image" deserves its own name, so that it can be thematized without circumlocutions. The term "meta-image" seems to present itself.

Prof. dr J.Th. Leerssen 

European Studies, Univ. v. Amsterdam

Spuistraat 134, 1012 VB Amsterdam,

ph +.31.20.525-2280, fax 525-4625 



      “Hercules Millas’ volume – written with considerable tongue in cheek – is designed to contribute to a climate of mutual understanding and gradual reconciliation between Greece and Turkey, two long-time adversaries in the Balkans. Millas – paradoxical as it may sound to our unaccustomed ears – is a “Greek-Turk” or a “Turk-Greek”(1). Born in Ankara and brought up in Istanbul, a member of the Greek minority of that great city, educated and educating the young in both countries, having served in the Turkish army and teaching in Greece, Millas has the rare ability of being sensitive to the fears, needs, expectations as well as the biases of both Greeks and Turks.

            His work is a manual on political correctness/incorrectness. It is realist and pessimist in its orientation, pointing out, sadly, that victories of one side are seen as defeats by the other. National holidays in Greece commemorate disasters in Turkey and those of Turkey commemorate catastrophies in Greece. Despite its light-hearted style of expression, the book raises the somber warnings of a chorus of an ancient tragedy.

            Millas’ guide of Do’s and Dont’s will prove extremely helpful to both Greeks and Turks in social gatherings or during tourist exchanges. It will help them avoid abrasive and/or controversial statements. But for the author, the pain remains deeply marked in the memory and myth of both countries. The reader, therefore, will often wonder whether the gap can ever be bridged and whether both peoples are doomed to protracted conflict.”


Prof. Theodore A. Couloumbis

(In the introduction to Do’s and Dont’s for Better Greek Turkish Relations)


(1) Incidentally, when we get accustomed to using “Greek-Turk” as a hyphenated designation as in the case of “Greek-American” or “Greek-Italian”, we will have advanced far on the road to reconciliation.




     “On behalf of the NGO Support learn special thanks go to Mr. Hercules Millas; not only for writing this impressive book but also for his great energy to make us understand better the other's perception on various occasions. We know that in the 60's he was a champion sprinter of Turkey (100/200 meters), today, he is the champion of Turkish-Greek Civic Relations.

     The participants of first workshop will remember the suggestion which came from gender and human rights thematic area subgroup "on cloning Mr. Millas" for a better cooperation in two countries. We believe that instead of cloning Mr. Millas, it would be better if we could create new names among the youth. We are hopeful to see this to happen in the years to come.”

(From the Introduction to the book of HM The Imagined Other as National Identity.)


 If Hercules Millas isn’t equipped to dissect Greek-Turkish (or Turkish-Greek) relations, then I don’t know who is. A political scientist who lived in both countries, speaks both languages and whose life has been intricately entwined with both societies, he helped establish the Greek literature department at Ankara University, while also teaching Turkish language and literature at both the Aegean [Rhodes] and Macedonia [Thessaloniki] Universities. So when he decided to get involved in a documentary about historical prejudices and misguided national representations on both sides of the fence, one could’t help but wonder: what took him so long?

(From an interview in Athens News – 2011)


Repoussi M., "History Education in Greece" in E. Erdmann & W. Hasberg (eds),  Facing and Bridging Diversity. History Education in Europe:

Greek national self-awareness and otherness as constructs through history textbooks and curricula using comparative perspectives is the research topic of several national and/or comparative research projects. For many reasons, clarity and depth included, the analysis of Hercules Millas remains a classic in this domain. H. Millas, starting from the history textbooks of primary education in Greece and Turkey,(50) has proved that otherness, for the Greek school history is the Turk and vice versa. He has argued that for generations, Greeks and Turks have been educated via history to become adversaries and opponents. He has demonstrated how they “have been fed with aggressive ideologies, with prejudices against the other side, with one-sided information and with historical distortions and exaggerations” and how omissions were part of the game. Therefore, he has continued his research by enlarging his framework including, except for textbooks, literature and historiography spread over the last 130 years.(51) He has demonstrated, thus, the correlation of the different genres in the reproduction of the national self and the otherness as well as the inter-dependencies installed within them.


(50) Heraklis Millas, “History Textbooks in Greece and Turkey,” History Workshop Journal 31 (1991):21-33.

(51) Heraklis Millas, Images of Greeks and Turks. School textbooks, historiography, literature and national stereotypes, (Athens: Alexandria, 2001) [in Greek].





Scandal in Greece: Millas's letter 

17 December 2013 

My last article on the scandal in Komotini - where journalist Evren Dede, a public figure of the Turkish minority in the region, was prevented from speaking in his mother tongue despite simultaneous translation available at a conference which was partly about minority rights - drew attention and many positive reactions from Greek colleagues and friends. 

I also received a letter from Professor Hercules Millas, a dear old friend who was also present at the conference. His note includes some news, as well as a point of dissent and correction. Millas is a hugely respected scholar, equally distant and critical of both Greece's and Turkey's politics. Here below, I devote my space to his voice: 

“I agree with almost everything you wrote about the incident in Western Thrace [Greece], where on Nov. 22-23 in a conference a minority member was not allowed to speak Turkish after an initiative by the secretary-general of the Ministry of Education of Greece who also participated in the conference. You characterized the event as a 'scandal' and I agree. 

“Unfortunately the representative of the ministry harmed the conference almost irrevocably. The Turkish speaking minority was hurt, felt insulted, was mistrusted even more by the state and the conference which was meant to promote dialogue between the minority and the wider society was seriously questioned. One wonders what the intended gain was! 

“Worse, a few days prior to this event the administration of a hospital in the area prohibited patients and doctors from communicating in Turkish. Also tragic was that a football match among small boys was interrupted when the referee did not allow the kids to speak Turkish among themselves. As a minority member myself during my youth in İstanbul I know how one feels when his basic human rights are violated. 

“I do not agree, however, that ‘no Greek participant, many of them intellectuals, raised an objection,' that ‘Greeks continued to attend ‘as if nothing had happened.' Among others you mentioned my name, too. I understand the rumors in Thrace misled you. [Nikiforos] Diamantouros talked of 'apartheid' and [Christos] Rozakis fervently criticized the event. As for myself, I said that this event took us back many years, that the minority has only one problem and that is the state, that Greece is incompetent in issues related to the minority as it is with its economy and that nothing can be accomplished unless the minority is respected. The second day [Professor] Samim Akgönül spoke in Turkish, joining the conference via Skype from France. There were other protests in the meeting area and later in the media, too. 

“True, one wishes there was wider support for minorities. My intention, however, is not to support a few individuals. I am afraid that your generalization that 'no Greek objected' creates negative stereotypes of Greeks. In combination with your ‘mother tongue is now normalized in Turkey,' the message that the Turkish reader gets is that ‘they need to be criticized, we are OK!' 

“Contrary to what it is usually said in Turkey, in Greece there are a number of people who do raise their voices in support of human rights. I am not in favor of comparisons between nations because this approach almost always ends up showing 'our' country better, decreasing the pressure needed for further improvements. 

“There appeared two lines after the tragic event. One was to boycott the conference and walk out. The decision to continue and to voice our protests, I believed, proved more useful. I believe you and I are in harmony in these matters, too.” 

This is the message from Millas. 

My column was based on talks with and readings of the minority press in Rodopi. Thanks to him, there is now a clarification. 

Yet, this is a big national scandal, no doubt. I meant to refer to Greek intellectuals and not Greeks for what I see as the insufficient civilian courage, be it about an individual's case or not. Remember Rosa Parks? Individual acts matter. 

Second, there is a difference between “Kurdish is now normalized” and “is being normalized,” the latter being my phrase, underlining a pattern, not a result: The trends in Greece and Turkey on this issue now look reversed, I meant. 

Millas and I have always stood for minority rights. The rest is up to those responsible who should draw lessons





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