Eleftherios Venizelos distinguished himself as a politician during the 1897 Revolution. During that period, he contributed with unwavering zeal as Chancellor of Justice, as a revolutionary and a political leader and as the most reliable negotiator with the Consuls of the Protecting Powers. His disagreement with Prince George, High Commissioner of Crete, ended after the Revolution of Therisso (1905), the replacement of the totalitarian Prince by the moderate Greek politician Alexander Zàïmis and the establishment of a new, more liberal constitution for Crete.
In October 1910, Eleftherios Venizelos assumed the governance of Greece. He was the initiator of the political and financial recovery of Greece and the victorious Balkan Wars (1912-1913). After the war he struggled for the consolidation of peace in the Balkans, while strongly supporting the idea of creating a Balkan Federation.
During World War I, he came into conflict with the Crown over the orientation of Greek foreign policy. Nevertheless, at the expense of the nation’s division (1915-1917), he imposed his policy of Greece’s participation in the war on the side of the Entente. In Paris on July 28 / August 10, 1920 he signed the Treaty of Sèvres, which was the culmination of his diplomatic triumphs. At the same time, he led the effort for the creation of the League of Nations and fought for its prevalence.
In the aftermath of the Asia Minor disaster, his two radical initiatives on 1923 –the mandatory exchange of Greek and Turkish populations and the Lausanne convention which established stable frontiers between Greece and Turkey- altered the orientation of Greek politics and established the foundations of peaceful development. Returning in office in 1928, he developed peaceful initiatives towards the Balkan countries, and in 1930 he signed in Ankara the “Friendship, Neutrality and Arbitration” Agreement. Moreover, he was moved by the idea of a united Europe and he supported its creation.
The end of his career was marked by the failed coup of Venizelist officers in March 1935 and his self-exile in Paris. Yet, his interest in his country’s affairs never ceased.
Eleftherios Venizelos strongly believed in the vision of a state governed by the rule of law based on solid, modern and democratic institutions. He had the talent of imposing his views through his arguments within institutional limits. He did not hesitate, however, when he felt that the national interests were at stake, to resort to dynamic actions leading to revolutionary confrontations, whether in Crete or in Greece.
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- Objects in the exhibition belong to the “E.K. Venizelos Foundation” collection unless otherwise stated.