Evangelos Marinakis and Ypsilantis

In his philanthropic work, Evangelos Marinakis has various connections to the Ypsilantis family and has supported its causes. He’s had a bust of Alexander Ypsilantis commissioned, he’s contributed to festivals in honor of Pontian Greeks, he paid for a celebration of when the Filiki Eteria was founded (the group Alexander Ypsilatis led); and there’s also a linked monument to the Pontus Greek genocide in Alexandras Square. The fact that Evangelos M. Marinakis cares about preserving history, and honoring his roots and traditions shows him to be a very cultured, respectful and educated person, who knows that there are lessons to be learned from the past.

So, who is Alexander Ypsilantis? Alexander Ypsilantis was an important member of a Phanariot Greek family. Alexander Ypsilantis was a Pontian from Trabzon, born in Constantinople. He was a prince of the Danubian principalities.

He was part of the Imperial Russian cavalry who fought during the Napoleonic Wars. He fought in the Battle of Bautzen, and during that battle his right arm was torn off with a shell. In 1817 he became a Major General.

In 1820 he was offered the position of leader of the Filiki Eteria (when Count John Capodistria, the then Russian foreign minister, turned down the post). The Filiki Eteria, was a secret organization (a society of friends). The Filiki Eteria was important in starting the Greek War of Independence in 1821.  Alexander Ypsilantis helped to approve the plan for the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire. The purpose was to help the Serbs and Montenegrins to revolt, to start a revolt in Wallachia, to promote civil unrest in Constantinople, to burn the Ottoman fleet, and to start a revolution in the Peloponnese.

Ypsilantis said that he had the support of Russia and there was indeed the Russo-Turkish War of 1828, where Russian troops marched to the outskirts of Constantinople, and forced the sultan to recognize the new Greek state. But, Ypsilantis lost a lot of support throughout his life, and there ensued many battles against the Ottomans but Ypsilantis was eventually defeated and he fled north. Pontic Greeks were expelled from Turkey to Greece. Ypsilantis and his remaining followers went to Ramnic and Ypsilantis was kept in close confinement for seven years. He died in Vienna.

In September 2014, Evangelos Marinakis put up the money himself to commemorate the founding of the Filiki Etairia which had occurred 200 years before. He also funded a bust to be created of Alexander Ypsilantis in Athens.

In December of 2017, there was a Pan-Hellenic Festival of Pontian Greek Dance that has thousands of dancers and spectators, at the event Evangelos Marinakis was honored for his support of Pontian Hellenism. At the event, there was a tribute to the Ypsilantis family to whom the whole event was dedicated, the tribute was called: “The vision of the Ypsilantises, the Courage of the Pyrrichios.” Pyrrichios was a kind of Greek war dance. At the event, a plaque was awarded to Marinakis. He sadly was abroad and unable to collect it himself, but a representative passed on his thanks for it. Mayor Moralis, who is also a President at Olympiacos FC, acknowledged that many of these Pontian refugees, then integrated into Piraeus society and became hard-working industrious citizens, who really contributed to society and culture. He acknowledged how Pontian Hellenism was an important part of the culture.

Evangelos Marinakis is a descendant of the Ypsilantis family on his mother’s side. Marinaki’s mother was called Irini Marinaki and her maiden name was Karakatsani. On the 21st May 2017, Marinakis donated money so that there could be a monument built to commemorate the Genocide of the Greeks on Pontus. The genocide of these Greeks of Pontus isn’t that well known, but it occurred between 1914 and 1926. The Pontian Greeks had a horrendous journey from their homeland to Greece, and many died on the way. The dead were often thrown overboard, so people pretended that children hadn’t died, but were being comforted so that they could be given a proper burial in Greece.

The location for the monument is Alexandras Square in Piraeus, which Evangelos Marinakis also gave money for the renovation of.  The monument itself was sculpted by Panayiotis Tanimanidis and was title Pyrrichios Flight; the monument is shaped like a wave, it’s a monument to the 353,000 Greeks of Pontus, who perished during the genocide of the Hellenism of Pontus, which was caused by the Turkish government at the time. It’s also intended to honor the Pontian refugees, many of whom arrived in the Port of Piraeus (where E. Marinakis was born, and it’s where the home ground of the Olympiacos FC is).  Perhaps this link to refugees, is why Marinakis is so keen to help refugees who arrive in Piraeus, or others around the world. The even was highly emotional. The actual monument itself looks like a wave, that is meant to represent the refugee’s homeland or Pontus; it’s meant to encapsulate their culture, history, traditions etc. Inside the wave there are 17 other sculptures, which show the flight of a refugee bird fleeing from Pontus as refugees. Evangelos Marinakis said at the ceremony, “through my mother, Irene, I am honored to be a descendent of the Ypsilantis family.” Evangelos Marinakis spoke of the importance of not ever forgetting the Greeks of Pontus and said that the monument would “will remind Greeks and foreigners arriving in Piraeus of the tragedy of the Pontian genocide, but also of their tradition and history that still holds them together united and, in spite of the hardships, still inspires them to excellence.”

So, by Evangelos Marinakis supporting cultural things connected to Alexander Ypsilantis he is keeping history alive, there’s the constant reminder of what Ypsilantis did, with the statues of him. With the memorial wave monument, there’s the reminder of Pontian Greeks who lost their lives in the genocide; and of all the people in Greece who are descendants of Pontian Greek refugees who landed in places like Piraeus all those years ago and have since contributed to the rich and diverse culture.

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