Συνέντευξη του Sir Michael Llewellyn Smith στον Νίκο Μισολίδη υποψήφιο διδάκτορα του τμήματος Ιστορίας και Αρχαιολογίας του ΑΠΘ και στον Κώστα Γιαννακόπουλο, προπτυχιακό φοιτητή του ιδίου τμήματος.
You are one of the most important researchers of Elefterios Venizelos. Can you shortly outline his personality?
It’s very difficult to outline his personality, because he was extremely volatile as a character and he struck different people in different ways; so you have lots numbers of Greeks who regarded him as a hero and who built a myth and legend of Elefterios Venizelos and there are others who detested him, who hated him because of his ideas, so my view is that Venizelos was a great politician, he was a serious politician who thought hard about Greece, profits of Greece, and was more able than any other politician up until the time of, say Konstantine Karamanlis, and finding solution which were European solutions, because Venizelos counted to move Greece closer to Western Europe and its powers.
Do you believe that Elefterios Venizelos had a European vision like Konstantinos Karamanlis later? Do you believe he was a European politician, a man who wanted a united Europe?
Yes, I do think that. The times were different so it was impossible for him to be for or against a European union, but he would be for it if he’d been elected in the time of Karamanlis. After the war, and in the time of the French movement, Venizelos was very supportive in his ideas about a united Europe. At the time that must have been in the 1920’s or 1930’s, so for this time he had that vision but Europe was not ready for Greece at that time. The same happens now. I believe there are more obstacles now than they were in the past in a different way.
Do you believe that today there is an absence in talented politicians like Venizelos, Clemenceau and many others?
Well, the answer is yes and no. It is yes but when you look around today’s politicians don’t impress the likes of Venizelos, Clemenceau and Churchill, but in the ‘no’ part of the answer is that, in all periods of history, people look to the past and say that there were ‘dragons’ in these days and now they look and see ‘peasants’. So, I suppose in conclusion is that your contemporaries never looked like ‘giants’ but in retrospect they may seem better than they seemed at that time.
In the First World War none of the American politicians could understand France, England and Germany. What is your opinion about it?
I think there is a well-educated and informed group in American society in which will include the think tanks in the universities. But it’s true that in the general public in the United States, in the whole continent there is little knowledge of what is going on in the outside world, because America is sufficient to itself and they don’t need to obtain more from the outside. In my research I have found that in every American embassy in each European country, the Americans were the best informed because they had the resources and used their power of influence to gain access to the people who mattered, the politicians of the top which informed their policy. But that did not mean that the policies were always right.
In your work, “The Ionian Vision” you described the Greek-Turkish war of 1919-1922. Do you believe that the final outcome of the war was a victory of Kemal’s Turks or a defeat of the Greeks?
I think it was both. Because it’s a fact that after the end of 1922, the “Great Idea” ceases to exist, as a factor in the Greek politics. So, it was a defeat for the “Great Idea”, the Greeks and the Greek Army, which was difficult for the Greek Army and the society to recover from. But it was also a victory for Kemal and the reason why that victory was made possible was the decision of Clemenceau and President Wilson and Venizelos giving advice and help; the decision to mandate the greek army to occupy Smyrna. Because that decision itself led to the rise of Turkish nationalism under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal. And without the Greek occupation things might have been different; it would still be a nationalistic movement against the Sultan but it wouldn’t have taken the form it did take as a brutal war between Greece and Turkey, ending in the defeat of the Greek army and the movement of thousand refugees in Greece.
Do you think that this conference can open a new era in the research into the events of the First World War?
I don’t think that a new can be opened. I certainly think it’s an important event this conference for two reasons: the first is that the Salonika Front in Macedonia in the First World War has been neglected, but the historians don’t mold with the politicians and the war. In the West there are very few works of importance about it. The second reason is that this conference brings close people from several different countries like France, Great Britain, Serbia, Russia, Germany, Greece and Bulgaria. So it gives an international dimension about the war, to the study of the Macedonian Front, because there are different perspectives of what happened here all these years ago. Those reasons should be an encouragement to further research in the events of First World War and everything that happened here.
Ο Sir Michael Llewellyn-Smith παρακολούθησε κλασσικές σπουδές στο Πανεπιστήμιο της Οξφόρδης. Εισήλθε στη βρετανική διπλωματική υπηρεσία το 1970 και υπηρέτησε επί τριάντα χρόνια στις πρεσβείες της Μόσχας, του Παρισιού, της Βαρσοβίας, της Αθήνας καθώς και στην Κεντρική Υπηρεσία, στο Λονδίνο. Διετέλεσε πρέσβης στην Πολωνία (1991-1996) και στην Ελλάδα (1996-1999). Ως φοιτητής, δάσκαλος, διπλωμάτης και περιηγητής έχει αφιερώσει περισσότερα από έντεκα χρόνια στην Ελλάδα. Είναι συγγραφέας τεσσάρων βιβλίων με θέματα της ελληνικής ιστορίας και του πολιτισμού. Γνωστότερη είναι οι πραγματεία του για την ελληνική εμπλοκή στη Μικρά Ασία με τίτλο: Ionian Vision. Greece in Asia Minor, 1919-1922 ( ελληνική έκδοση: Το Όραμα της Ιωνίας. Η Ελλάδα στη Μικρά Ασία, 1919-1922, Αθήνα, Εκδόσεις ΜΙΕΤ, 2009). Άλλες του μελέτες αναφέρονται στους πρώτους σύγχρονους Ολυμπιακούς Αγώνες του 1896, στην εξέλιξη της πόλης των Αθηνών δια μέσου των αιώνων, στην ιστορία του κτηρίου της βρετανικής πρεσβείας στην Αθήνα (πρώην οικίας Βενιζέλου). Την εποχή αυτή ασχολείται με τη μελέτη της ζωής και του έργου του Ελευθερίου Βενιζέλου. Χειρίζεται άπταιστα την ελληνική γλώσσα. Ο Sir Michael Llewellyn-Smith τιμήθηκε με τις διακρίσεις CMG το 1990 και το KCVO (Knight Commander of the Victorian Order) το 1996.