Our Destiny Lies in Our History

A man of many cultures, Stavros Stavridis says the world won't resolve
current conflicts without understanding past ones

Stavros Stavridis
Born in Egypt, he lives in Australia, has grandparents from Istanbul, speaks with a British accent, is married to a Hispanic woman from the Yakima Valley and is fluent in Greek.

Stavros "Terry" Stavridis has a passion for many different countries, and most particularly, their histories. Stavridis has been visiting this country for the past two months, spreading his message: Don’t forget history.

"History seems to be unfashionable, but it’s important to who and what we are and where we come from. It gives us our identity," he says.

When world diplomats carved up the Ottoman Empire in 1923, they created a "jigsaw puzzle" of countries, according to Stavridis. Countries were created with no concern for inhabitants, creating a "hodgepodge of ethnic groups." The modern country of Iraq was born in just that manner, Stavridis points out.
For the past 10 days, Stavridis and his wife, Rebecca, have been staying in Wapato with her parents, Lupe and Miguel Gonzales.

Stavridis, 54, is a researcher and historian at the National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research at Latrobe University in Melbourne, Australia. He specializes in relations between Turkey and Greece.

More specifically, he’s an expert in the time period of 1912-23, and the pre- and post-World War effects on the Balkans and the Middle East.

During his stay in the Valley, 50 people gathered to hear him speak on that subject at Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Yakima.He also gave speeches at California State University, Sacramento, and to groups in San Jose, Calif., and Portland.

Addressing members of St Demetrius Greek Orthodox Church in Seattle, he provided an overview of the Greek-Turkish war and the massacres suffered by Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks under the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

His area of interest isn’t as esoteric as it sounds. In fact, he advocates that all schoolchildren study early 20th-century Greek and Turkish history.

“Events at that time have had influence down to today,” he explains.

When world diplomats carved up the Ottoman Empire in 1923, they created a “jigsaw puzzle” of countries, according to Stavridis.

“I was puzzled over that when I first started researching it, and I’m still puzzled now,” he says.

Essentially, he says, countries were created with no concern for inhabitants, creating a “hodgepodge of ethnic groups.” The modern country of Iraq was born in just that manner, Stavridis points out.

That era should be widely studied, he urges, partly because the civilization was, and is, so vital.
He points out that not only did the bulk of Western culture arise in the area of Greece and Turkey, but it has been a historic crossroads of ideas and religion, a land where oil plays an enormous economic role and where global conflicts could arise. We need to learn from the history there and from the world’s mistakes, Stavridis says.

His own family is a blend of rich ethnicities. Of Greek heritage, he’s never lived in Greece; after being born in Egypt, he moved to Australia when he was 3.

As a young man he decided to visit the United States, including Yakima, where he had a pen pal named Rebecca. The meeting was more than successful; they were married in 1976. Rebecca moved with her new husband to Australia, where they’ve lived for 27 years. She’s a registered nurse in a Melbourne emergency room. The couple has two grown daughters; the entire family appreciates their blended cultures, including baklava, mous saka, enchiladas and chilies.

While in the Valley, Stavridis has been reading archive copies of the Yakima Daily Republic to research the U.S. perspective on the Greek- Turkish War. His research may lead to a book, he thinks.

If the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel is ever to be resolved, he believes, it will have to come from people of goodwill on both sides, not from "fanatics who don’t want to see peace." Stavridis stresses that countries have to find a way to coexist if we aren’t going to keep repeating the mistakes of the past.

His overall message is simple, he says: "War brings out the worst in humanity."

(Posted originally November 2005; reformatted March 2007)

About the Author

Stavros Terry Stavridis was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1949 of Greek parents. He migrated to Australia with his parents in September 1952. Stavros has a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) in Political Science/Economic History and B.A (Hons) in European History from Deakin University and M.A in Greek/Australian History from RMIT University. His MA thesis is titled "The Greek-Turkish War 1919-23: an Australian Press Perspective."

Stavros has nearly 20 years of teaching experience, lecturing at University and TAFE (Technical and Further Education, the equivalent of Community College in the US) levels. He has presented papers at international conferences in Australia and USA and has also given public lectures both in Australia and on the West Coast of the US. Many of his articles have appeared in the Greek-American press. He currently works as a historical researcher at the National Center for Hellenic Studies and Research, Latrobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.

Stavros' research interests are the Asia Minor campaign and disaster, Middle Eastern history, the Assyrian and Armenian genocides, Greece in the Balkan Wars 1912-13 and the First World War and history in general.

HCS maintains a large selection of fine pieces written by Mr. Stavridis which viewers are invited to view at the URL http://www.helleniccomserve.com/stavridisone.html

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