Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis - Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη  
 
 
 
 
 
 
A citizen's rights should include
the right to know one's history.

Philippos Iliou

 
 
 
 
Life in Ai-Stratis: Cultural Activities
 
 
 
 

Educational Circles

Discussion groups, further education classes and elementary education for illiterate internees were an established tradition for political exiles and political prisoners, and had been since the inter-war period. On Ai-Stratis the tradition was carried on. Although the Gendarmerie imposed strict censorship on books and other reading matter, the internees found ways to smuggle books and newspapers into the camp and built up a sizable lending library. Many of the books were in languages other than Greek, as the exiles wished to make the most of their enforced idleness to learn foreign languages.

Books and pamphlets from the exiles' library:

  1. Cronin A.J., Shannon's Way, London, 1948
  2. Wells H.G., The Outline of History (in Greek translation), vol. IV, Athens 1920
  3. Partsalidis D., The Programme For National Democratic Change, Introduction to the draft manifesto of the Communist Party of Greece, Avyi newspaper, 30.10.61
  4. Baby Jean (French economist), The History of Civilization: From the Palaeolithic Javelin to the Atomic Age, published in instalments in Avyi newspaper, November 1954.
  5. Scratchpad including newspaper articles on various subjects, 1954
  6. Thanasekou Vasso, Pamphlet written on women's and social security issues (lectures given in 1956) Books and pamphlets donated by Vyron Manikakis

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Chess-board with a crypt for documents
Donated by Yorgos Farsakidis.

Cultural life on Ai-Stratis

The experience of exile and imprisonment left its mark on the work of numerous Greek artists and writers.

The exiles who passed through the camp included leading figures in the world of the theatre such as Tzavalas Karousos, Manos Katrakis, Kostas Baladimas, Fanis Kambanis et al; poets and writers such as Yannis Ritsos, Menelaos Loudemis, Aris Alexandrou, Titos Patrikios, Tassos Livaditis, Manolis Fourtounis, Nikos Papaperiklis et al.; musicians and musicologists such as Fivos Anoyanakis, Nikos Margaris, Kostas Triandafyllou, Stathis Alimissis et al.; artists like Christos Danglis et al. Others who received tuition in art at their hands and subsequently made a name for themselves in painting and engraving included Yorgos Farsakidis and Takis Tzaneteas.

In the years 1950-1955, when Ai-Stratis had its largest number of male and female exiles, the camp ran a very flourishing programme of cultural activities. The exiles organized theatrical performances, poetry readings, satirical sketches or revue-type shows, choral concerts and very polished performances of traditional dances from all the regions of Greece represented in the camp. Every festive occasion (Carnival, Easter, Christmas, national holidays) was an opportunity for some kind of cultural activity that was never allowed to pass uneventfully.

Theatre

Over fifty theatrical performances were staged on Ai-Stratis. Katrakis and Karousos, during their spells in exile there, established quite a theatrical tradition with their exemplary productions of such classics as The Persians (Aeschylus), Babylonia (Dimitrios Vyzantios) and Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Also very popular were the shows made up of satirical sketches and the more light-hearted revues.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Puppet show written and directed by A. Moschovakis, with puppets by Y. Farsakidis.
Yorgos Farsakidis papers.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Building the theatre. In 1953 the exiles built a permanent theatre roofed with stage flats. It had a stage of 70 square metres, permanent wings and a seating capacity of 600.
Yorgos Farsakidis papers.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Maquettes for the sets of theatrical plays, made by Y. Farsakidis.
Donated by Y. Farsakidis.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

M. Gorky's Barbarians (in Greek translation), book from the exiles' library
Donated by V. Manikakis.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Photos: Still shots from theatrical plays (The Persians by Aeschylus and a comedy).

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Moliere's The Imaginary Invalid, on stage at Ai-Stratis.
Donated by Y. Farsakidis.

"It's a week now since the second performance of The Persians.... It was directed by Katrakis. The people acting in it had never been onstage before, yet the performance was so good that it could have more than held its own in any theatre. The leader of the chorus was Karousos and Katrakis was the Messenger.... There was a chorus of eighteen old men. It was hard work, a real grind. It's nearly time for the performance.... Everyone's a bit nervous. The performance is starting. Absolute silence reigns. Eyes and ears are keyed up. People are holding their breath and their hearts are tingling with excitement. The immortal truths, reborn, enter equally into the souls of all...."
From a letter dated 29th September 1951 from Christos Danglis to Victoria Theodorou, an internee at Trikeri.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Carnival, 1953: The Carnival parade, with 'The Boot Agency' as its central theme. The boot was made by Yorgos Farsakidis.
Y. Farsakidis papers.

Music

Nikos Margaris was the chorus master of the exiles' first choir, which was a great success and had a repertoire that included classical music as well as folk songs, popular songs and so on.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Chorus on Ai-Stratis, N. Margaris is directing.
Contemporary Social History Archives (ASKI).

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Orchestra on Ai-Stratis, Kostas Triantafyllou is directing.
Contemporary Social History Archives (ASKI).

The musical instruments were made by the exiles themselves. The first guitars were built by Iordanis, a cabinet-maker, and subsequently the carpentry team made templates from which they built guitars, mandolins, mandolas, violins and so on.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

A group of exiled musicians.
Vassilis and Vyron Manikakis Papers.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

The violin was made on Ai-Stratis by exiles.
Donated by Vyron Manikakis.

Dance

"There was a period in 1952-1953 when the camp danced literally all day and all night, regardless of age."
Tassos Tsellos, Politistiki Zoi kai Drastiriotita sto Stratopedo ton Politikon Eksoriston tou Ai-Strati (1950-1962), p. 35.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Traditional Thracian dance.
Yorgos Farsakidis papers.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Dances from the Peloponnese and Roumeli.
Yorgos Farsakidis papers.

Kostas Triandafyllou wrote down all the dance melodies the exiles could remember, about 120 of them in all, and orchestrated them. Unfortunately, this valuable work of folkloric documentation was washed into the sea and lost when the camp was flooded one night.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Easter feast on Ai-Stratis.
Contemporary Social History Archives (ASKI).

Art

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Two pokerwork designs.
Donated by Y. Farsakidis.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Yorgos Farsakidis made this electric pyrographic tool himself and used it to create numerous pokerwork designs.
Donated by Y. Farsakidis.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Two wooden matrices

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Works of art made by Yiorgos Farsakidis on the camp of Ai-Stratis.
Donated by Y. Farsakidis.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

These and many other cards were printed from pokerwork blocks by the exiles, who had just a few basic tools and home-made machines to work with. In spite of their defects, the cards gave enormous pleasure to their recipients.
Donated by Yorgos Farsakidis
Donated by A.Kouros

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Paintbox given by the poet Yannis Ritsos to the painter Yorgos Farsakidis.
Donated by Y. Farsakidis.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Unfinished statue by Dimitris Malliostathis, made during his exile on Ai-Stratis in the 1950's.
Donated by his daughter, Evgenia Hahla.