Mikis (Michael) Theodorakis (Chios, 29 July 1925 – Athens, 2 September 2021) was a Greek composer and politician of Cretan and Asia Minor origin. He is considered one of the most important contemporary Greek composers and one of the most influential personalities of Greece in the second half of the 20th century. As a politician, he was a minister and four times an elected member of the Greek parliament, three times with the KKE and once as an independent on the New Democracy ticket, while he was also an activist and was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1983. Until his death, he was considered the best living composer in Greece.
He was involved in many genres of music, while he had composed perhaps the most recognizable Greek rhythm internationally, the Sirtaki for the film Zorba the Greek (1964). He also dabbled in classical music, writing symphonies, oratorios, ballets, operas and chamber music.
His compositions have been performed by world-famous artists such as The Beatles, Shirley Bussey, Joan Baez and Edith Piaf, and he has written music for well-known films such as: Phaedra (1962), Alexis Zorba (1964), Z (1969) and Serpico (1973). In 1970, he was awarded the BAFTA Award for Original Score for the music in Z, and was nominated in the same category in 1974 for State of Siege, and in 1975 for Serpico. He was also nominated for a Grammy in 1966 and 1975 for the theme music for the films Zorba and Serpico respectively.
In 2000 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
His most important work is considered to be poetry set to music, using as lyrics poems by award-winning poets of Greek and foreign origin, such as Yannis Ritsos (Lenin Peace Prize 1976), Giorgos Seferis (Nobel Prize for Literature 1963), Pablo Neruda (Nobel Prize for Literature 1971), Odysseus Elytis (Nobel Prize for Literature 1979). He was a key voice against the Junta of the Colonels, which imprisoned him and banned his songs.
He passed away on 2 September 2021 at the age of 96.
Mikis Theodorakis was born on 29 July 1925 in Chios. The origin of his father, George Theodorakis, a Bizanomachist, was from Galata in Chania and his mother, Aspasia Poulakis, from Tsesme in Asia Minor. His parents met in Asia Minor, shortly before the Asia Minor Catastrophe. Mikis Theodorakis spent his childhood years in various cities of the Greek province such as Chios, Mytilene, Ioannina, Argostoli, Pyrgos Ilia, Patras and especially in Tripoli, Arcadia, due to the frequent transfers of his father, who was a civil servant.
It is said that at the age of 12 he wrote his first song. Between 1937 and 1939 he took his first violin lessons at the Patras Conservatory and created his first songs, compositions based on lyrics by Solomos, Palamas, Drosinis and Valaoritis, which he found sometimes in school books and sometimes in the library of his home. His first musical experiences were the chants of the Orthodox Church, in which he took part as a cantor.
In Tripoli, at the age of 17, he gives his first concert, presenting his work Cassiani, and takes part in the resistance against the occupiers. During the great demonstration of 25 March 1943, he was arrested for the first time by the Italians and tortured. He escapes to Athens, where he organizes himself in the KKE and ELAS, serves as an enlightener in the Fifth Sector of EPON, and fights as a platoon leader of the Silk Platoon of the 1st Battalion of Nea Smyrna during the Decembria. At the same time he studied at the Athens Conservatory with Philoctetes Economides as his teacher.
After the Decembrance, he was persecuted by the police authorities. For a time he lives illegally in Athens. He is arrested in the mass arrests of 910 July 194, and then sent into exile with relative freedom of movement to Ikaria where he is the party leader of the village of exile, from where he will try unsuccessfully to escape with the other exiles under Vassilis Zannos. With the general amnesty granted by the government of Themistocles Sofoulis, he goes underground in an attempt to join armed groups of the Democratic Army of Athens and finds himself in the group of Pavlos Papamerkouriou. He is arrested again at his father”s house where he found refuge being ill with pleurisy, but then he is again sent into exile in Ikaria, this time in disciplined living conditions for a few months, where he writes the play “College and Lamentation to Vassilis Zannos” in memory of Vassilis Zannos who was executed in 1948. He is then sent to the Makronisos camp where he is tortured to the point of paralysis.
According to some sources, on April 18, 1949, he makes a declaration of repentance, although he himself has denied it. After the intervention of his father and uncle, senior state officials, he is dismissed as an invalid.
At the end of 1949 he was sent to Chania where he recovered. In 1950, however, he returns to Athens where he graduates from the Conservatory with a diploma in harmony. He then served the rest of his term in Alexandroupolis, Athens and Chania. In 1950 he attempted suicide due to the constant challenges he faced, but he escaped the danger and in 1951 he was finally discharged from the army. In 1954 he emigrated on a state scholarship to Paris where he enrolled at the Conservatoire and studied music analysis with Olivier Messiaen for a short period of time, as well as orchestral conducting with Eugène Bigot. He composed music for the ballet of Ludmilla Cherina, the Covent Garden, the Stuttgart Ballet and also for the cinema. In 1957 he was awarded the first prize at the Moscow Festival by Shostakovich for his Suite No 1 for piano and orchestra. At the same time he composed many works of symphonic and chamber music.
In 1960 he returns to Greece. In September of the same year, Epitafios is recorded for the first time, opening a new path for Greek song, not only because it marks a substantial change in musical form, but because it marries contemporary popular music with contemporary Greek poetry, and the European art element with the Greek folk element. The first version of Yannis Ritsos” Epitaph (written in 1958) was recorded by Nana Mouskouri with orchestration and conducting by Manos Hadjidakis.
In the same year, Mikis Theodorakis begins and almost finishes Ulysses Elytis” Axion Esti. “However, I was not in a hurry to present it, as he says in his book Music for the Masses, because I sensed that the Greek public was not yet mature enough to accept it. Its first performance was at the end of 1964”. Also in 1960, Mikis Theodorakis wrote the music for Epiphany, with poetry by George Seferis, and composed dozens of song cycles that found profound resonance in Greece. He founds the Athens Small Symphony Orchestra and gives many concerts in the country, trying to familiarize people with symphonic music.
In 1963, after the assassination of Grigoris Lambrakis, the “Lambrakis Youth” was founded, of which he was elected president. In the 1964 elections, he was elected as a member of the EDA in Piraeus and in the same year he gained international recognition with the composition of the music for the film by Michael Cacoyannis, Alexis Zorbas (Zorba the Greek).
On April 21, 1967 he goes underground and makes the first call for resistance against the dictatorship on April 23. In May 1967 he founded, together with others, the first resistance organization against the dictatorship, the Panhellenic Anti-Dictatorial Front (PAM), or Patriotic Anti-Dictatorial Front, founded at the end of April 1967, initially as the Patriotic Front (PM), and was elected its president.
He is arrested in August 1967. He was imprisoned in the Athens General Security Directorate, 18 Boumboulinas Street, solitary confinement, Averoff Prison, the long hunger strike, the hospital, his release and house arrest, his displacement with his family to Zatouna in Arcadia, and finally to Oropou Prison, which had been turned into a concentration camp for dissidents by the dictatorship. Many of his new works managed in various ways to be transferred abroad, where they were sung by Maria Farantouri and Melina Mercouri.
His health condition deteriorated in the prison of Oropos. A storm of protests is being stirred up abroad. Personalities such as Dmitry Shostakovich, Arthur Miller, Lawrence Olivier, Yves Montagne and others set up committees for his release. Finally, under pressure, he was released from prison and travelled to Paris in April 1970, at the request of the French politician Jean-Jacques Servant-Sreber. Theodorakis” flight left secretly from Onassis” private airport outside Athens. He arrived at Le Bourget airport where he met with Costas Gavras, Melina Mercouri and Jules Dassin. Theodorakis was hospitalized after his arrival as he was suffering from tuberculosis. His wife and children arrived in France a week later, leaving Greece for France via Italy. Abroad, he issued a new call for the fall of the dictatorship and the restoration of democracy in Greece. He composed some songs which he recorded in a studio in London in 1971 and released as “Songs of Struggle”. He participated in several Greek-language programmes of the Deutsche Welle, through which he communicated with Greeks through his banned songs and his political views. He gave many concerts in Germany and other countries, about a thousand during the Junta, which drew large crowds and his statements received great support.
In 1971, Theodorakis was invited to Chile by the then President Salvador Allende. In Valparaiso he listened to a group of young people who introduced him to part of the work of the poet Pablo Neruda. Theodorakis was impressed and promised to give Chile his musical take on Canto General. In Paris in 1972 Theodorakis met Neruda when Theodorakis rehearsed his setting of Canto General. Neruda was impressed and asked him to include other poems such as “Lautaro” and “A Emiliano Zapata”.
In 1972 he visits Israel, giving concerts and meets with Yasser Arafat, to whom he delivers the message of the Israeli government and tries to convince him to start talks with the other side.
He was welcomed by Gamal Abdel Nasser, Tito, Yigal Alon and Yasser Arafat. He became friends with François Mitterrand, Olof Palme and Willy Brandt. For millions of people, Theodorakis was a symbol of resistance against the Junta along with Melina Mercouri.
In 1974, with the fall of the dictatorship, he returned to Greece. He gives many concerts both at home and abroad together with Maria Farantouri. At the same time, he participates in public life either as an ordinary citizen, as a member of parliament (in 1981-86 and 1989-92) or as Minister of State (1990-92), positions from which he eventually resigns.
In 1976 he founded the “Culture of Peace” Movement and gave lectures and concerts all over Greece. In 1983 he was awarded the Lenin Prize for Peace.
In 1986, the creation of Greek-Turkish friendship committees in Greece, chaired by himself, and in Turkey with the participation of well-known intellectuals such as Aziz Nesin, Yasar Kemal and Zilfi Livaneli, became a reality. Theodorakis gives many concerts in Turkey, attended mainly by young people with slogans in favour of friendship between the two peoples. Later he again plays the role of an informal ambassador for peace, carrying messages from the Greek Prime Ministers Andreas Papandreou and Konstantinos Mitsotakis to the Turkish government. Also in 1986, after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, he undertook a major tour with concerts throughout Europe against atomic energy. In 1988, two peace conferences were held in West Germany, in Tybingen and Cologne, on his own initiative. Participants included politicians such as Oscar Lafontaine and Johannes Rau, philosophers such as Friedrich Dearenmat, writers, political scientists and artists. There he has the opportunity to develop his theory of leisure time and its importance in shaping free people.
In 1989 he was targeted by the organization “17 November” and by government decision, Mikis Theodorakis was among the 200 Greeks with a daily guard to protect him from a possible attack.
In 1990 he gives 36 concerts throughout Europe under the auspices of Amnesty International. He continues to give concerts for solar energy (under the auspices of Eurosolar), against illiteracy, against drugs, etc.
At the same time, she also fights for human rights in other countries, especially in neighbouring Albania (which she visits as Minister for the rights of the Greek minority) and Turkey. As President of an International Committee in Paris, she is working for the release of Turkish opposition leaders Kutlu and Sargin, which is finally being achieved. He proposes the organisation of a Pan-European Peace Conference at Delphi and submits to the government a plan for an ”Olympiad of the Spirit”. He establishes a committee to support and help the Kurdish people.
In 1993, he was appointed Director General of Music Ensembles of ERT, but resigned the following year. In 1994 he receives an honorary doctorate from the University of Quebec.
In 1994, the signing of the agreement between Israelis and Palestinians was celebrated in Oslo, in the presence of Peres and Arafat, with the presentation of the Mauthausen, performed by Maria Farantouri -which has since become the national song of Israel- and the Hymn for Palestine written by Theodorakis, in recognition of his own contribution to the cause of peace in the region. He also visits Algeria, Egypt, Tunis, Tunis and Lebanon.
In the following years he presented his operas Medea (1991), Electra (1995) and Antigone (1999), while at the same time he developed great activity abroad and took a dynamic position in all the important events of the time (Greek-Turkish friendship, earthquakes, NATO bombings against Yugoslavia, the Ocalan affair, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, etc.). In 2002, his opera Lysistrata, a true hymn to Peace, is presented.
Since 1995 and for ten years, the singer Alexia Vassiliou was one of the four main voices of the “Mikis Theodorakis Popular Orchestra”, while in 1998, the album “Alexia – Mikis Theodorakis” was released, a double album with 26 songs by the leading composer, with obvious jazz influences.
In March 1997, he gave a concert at the House of World Cultures in Berlin. He was then hospitalized due to health problems when he declared that this was his last concert.
Since the late 1990s, he retired and has been involved in reading, writing, editing his scores and publishing texts on culture and politics. He declared his opposition to the Kosovo war in 1999 and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. In 2005 he was awarded the Sorano Peace and Friendship Prize, the International Saint Andrew the First Prize of Russia and the Grand Officer of the Order of Honour emblem from Luxembourg. He was awarded the UNESCO International Music Prize and in 2002 he was awarded the Erich Wolfgang Korngold Prize in Bonn for film music compositions at the internationally renowned Bonn Biennale. In 2007, he won a Lifetime Achievement Award, part of the Ghent World Soundtrack Awards.
On 26 February 2019, Theodorakis was hospitalized due to cardiac problems and on 8 March he underwent surgery, where he was fitted with a pacemaker. He passed away on 2 September 2021 at the age of 96 at his home in Athens, from cardiac arrest.
His body was exposed in a three-day popular pilgrimage in the chapel of the Metropolitan Church of Athens and then travelled by boat to Chania and his final destination was the small town of Galatas, his place of origin. By government decision, a three-day national mourning period was declared on 2 September, while the Athens City Council unanimously decided to assign the name of Mikis Theodorakis to a street in the capital and to announce an artistic competition for the creation of a bust of him to be placed at a central point of the city.
At his farewell ceremony in the Metropolis of Athens, the President of the Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou and the General Secretary of the KKE Central Committee, Dimitris Koutsoumbas, spoke about his work and his struggles, since Mikis Theodorakis himself had requested, in his political will, that his ideology and his struggles for the unity of the Greeks be respected. Present were the entire political leadership of the country and thousands of people who accompanied him every minute that his body remained in the chapel of Agios Eleftherios. On the evening of the same day, Miki”s body departed by ship, as he had wished, for Chania, with a crowd of people bidding him farewell at the port of Piraeus and the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Municipality of the city playing his melodies. In Chania, he was greeted by his companions, as well as 96 brachos as many as his years, where his body was exposed in a popular pilgrimage to the Metropolitan Church of the city. The funeral service was held at the Church of St. Nicholas, in Galata, in the presence of the state and political leadership and then his body was taken in procession to the cemetery of the small town and his final resting place, next to his parents and his beloved brother, poet Yannis Theodorakis, as was his last wish.
Mikis Theodorakis had a great love for football and Olympiacos. Theodorakis had honorary degrees from many foreign universities.
Mikis Theodorakis was elected for the first time as a member of parliament in the 1964 elections in the Piraeus constituency B with the United Democratic Left. In 1974 he stood for election on the United Left Party ticket in the same constituency, but was not elected. He received 6,345 votes and came third out of 8 candidates. The combination won one seat.
In 1981 he managed to be elected as a deputy in the electoral district of Piraeus with the KKE”s ballot paper, receiving 13,785 preferential crosses, first place among 10 candidates (the only seat for the party in that district). He was re-elected in 1985, this time placed in the first place on the KKE”s State ballot.
In 1990 he was a candidate for the third place on the New Democracy”s State ballot paper and was elected.He served as Minister of State in the government of Konstantinos Mitsotakis until his resignation on 1 April 1992.
On 1 December 2010 Mikis Theodorakis announced the foundation of the Independent Citizens” Movement called “Spark”. In September 2013 he decided in a letter to retire from “Spitha”.
In 2015, when SYRIZA was elected as government, he was initially favourable to it, but then strongly criticised it. In the referendum of 5 July 2015, he supported the No.
On the day of his death, the general secretary of the KKE”s Central Committee, Dimitris Koutsoumbas, published a letter from Miki to him, dated 5 October 2020, in which he said: ”Now at the end of my life, at the time of taking stock, the details are fading from my mind and the “Great Dimensions” remain. So I see that my most critical, strong and mature years were spent under the banner of the JCP. That is why I want to leave this world as a communist.” He also asked him to take personal action to ensure that not only his ideology but also his struggles for the unity of the Greeks are respected.
Positions on Macedonia
In 1997 Mikis Theodorakis stated on the Macedonian issue that “The name is not so important, as long as the peoples live in peace”. Later, in an interview, he stressed “In fact, this country is being pushed towards improving relations with Greece. So why shouldn”t it be possible for our relations to prosper at all levels and whatever comes up? The Customs Union, confederation, etc. are just conditions. In any case, I think that the name issue will be overcome when the relations between the two peoples reach such a point that the name will not matter at all.”
Theodorakis was one of the main speakers at the Rally for Macedonia in Athens, which took place on 4 February 2018. In his speech he stated that “Macedonia is one, was, is and will always be Greek”. The remarks garnered the support of parties in parliament, while even Golden Dawn MPs welcomed Miki Theodorakis” turn of phrase on the name of Macedonia. Members of SYRIZA and Yannis Boutaris commented negatively on Theodorakis” statements. Also, the day before the rally, a group of anarchists threw paint at the entrance of his house and then wrote threatening messages, such as: “Your story starts from the mountain and ends in the national swamp of Pl. Constitution”.
Places for the United States
Theodorakis was critical of the actions of the United States. During the American invasion of Iraq, Theodorakis called the Americans “hateful, ruthless cowards and murderers of the peoples of the world”. He had stated that he would consider anyone who interacted with “these barbarians” for any reason as their enemy. Theodorakis was against the NATO invasion of Yugoslavia. He participated in a charity concert against the invasion in 1999.
World-famous artists have performed or covered songs by Mikis Theodorakis, such as The Beatles (The Honeymoon Song), Edith Piaf (Les Amants de Teruel), Shirley Bussey (Life Goes On), Joan Baez (The Ballad of Mauthausen), Al Bano (Il Ragazzo che sorride), Milva (Piccolo Teatro, La Mia Età, Les Trois Temps De L”amour, Petite Et Pas Belle, Dio Che Paura Dell”Amore), Delilah (La Danse de Zorba), Henry Mancini (Love Theme from Phaedra), Andre Rieu (Sirtaki), Perry Como (Beyond Tomorrow), The Walkabouts (The Train Leaves at Eight), Savage Republic, Eva Zaniki, Gisela Mai, Lisbeth Liszt. A total of 117 Greek and foreign artists have performed or covered works by Mikis Theodorakis.
Theodorakis had also composed music for internationally renowned films: Phaedra (1962), Alexis Zorbas (1964), Z (1969), State of Siege (1972), Tito (1973, at the personal invitation of the Yugoslav president), Serpico (1973). He won international awards (Moscow Festival Award 1958, three British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) 1970, 1974, 1975, two Grammy Awards 1965, 1974, Lenin Peace Prize 1983, Erich Wolfgang Korngold Prize 2002) and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000. In 2007 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the World Soundtrack Academy. He had set music by great foreign poets (Pablo Neruda, Federico García Lorca, Brendan Behan, etc.). During his imprisonment under the Junta, internationally renowned personalities such as Igor Stravinsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, Lawrence Olivier, Arthur Miller and Yves Montagne organised committees for his release.
In 1977 he composed with Herbert Pagani the anthem of the French Socialist Party.
In 1981, Yasser Arafat asked him to compose an anthem for the Palestine Liberation Organization, which would be proposed to become the official anthem of the Palestinian State when its official establishment was achieved, while in Afghanistan the song Watan ishq tu Iftekharam, written in 1980 with lyrics by Abdul Wahab Mabadi and music by Theodorakis from Mauthausen, which was played during the entry of Northern Alliance forces into Kabul in 2001, is very popular. Music by Theodorakis from the film Z was also used by Kurdish fighters against the Islamic State during the siege of Kobane in 2014, as the theme music for footage of female fighters of the People”s Protection Units (YPG).
On the day of his death, most major international media made extensive reports and tributes to his life and work.
In 1974 he posed the dilemma “Karamanlis or tanks”, which attracted strong criticism for the timing of his decision. According to him, it is a misinterpretation of a different statement he made.
In 1991 he was criticised for statements he made as Minister of State in the Mitsotakis government, where he blamed the opposition for the murder of Nikos Tebonera. Specifically, on 12 January 1991, he had stated “There are mechanisms and party agents who have not admitted their electoral defeat and who are working corrosively in our political system. They have declared an informal civil war, the importance and consequences of which have unfortunately been underestimated so far by those responsible. Three times in my public statements I have pointed out that there is a risk of bloodshed and death. With regard to the latest tragedy and the innocent victim – for whom I express my deepest regret – my view was that the occupations now serve as fuses in order to carry out the explosions sought by the instigators of the anomaly” and the next day, 13 January, he continued by stating “Everything revolves around the forthcoming trial of Andreas Papandreou. PASOK made the summer attack with the teachers. The autumn attack with the PPC trade unionists. The winter attack with the sectoral attack of terrorism and now with the sectoral attack of the anarchists! They want a Petroulla to be a symbol. They want fresh blood. They”re talking about Lambrakis. Let me remind them that I, who was the leader of the Lambrakis youth, that 500,000 people were present at his funeral. 200,000 were at Petrulas” funeral. Today things are different. I have serious doubts about the way Tebonera was killed. I heard he was a moderate. The children were used as bait to bring in the Vigilante Defence Battalions.”
In 1999 he was criticized for his statements in the Greek media after the handover of Ocalan, where he was directed against the representative of the Kurdistan Workers” Party of Kurdistan, Semsi Kilits-Dilan, who was in Greece at the time, accusing her of being ungrateful to the Greek government, saying in particular “This lady accuses the Prime Minister of Greece and a number of ministers by name without any evidence that they participated in this despicable conspiracy. All this is being said on Greek soil and of course demonstrates the democratic nature of our constitution and the tolerance of the Greeks. […] But they do not cease to wound and hurt the Greek people. It is this shame and this wound that I want to express at this moment. Because I know that at this moment in world public opinion it is not Pangalos or Simitis or any minister who is sitting in the dock, but the whole of Greece. It is the elected Prime Minister of the country. And all Greeks, regardless of our position, must at this moment stand by his side. […] Right now, some people want to give this terrible image of our country to the whole world. That we, Greece, are now sitting in the dock on charges of high treason. Because it is really treason to hand over a guest to his enemies. […] We cannot stand by people to whom we offer hospitality at great risk to our country and they pay the price of ingratitude and slander. These statements had led some people to call the composer “the machine god of the Simitis government”.
During the Greek financial crisis (2009-2018), Mikis Theodorakis was the focus of criticism by some journalists, politicians and analysts for his political stance against the memoranda of understanding with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union and was accused of populism and emotionally charged speeches.
Similarly, the political movement “Spark”, which he led, has also been the focus of intense criticism for inappropriate political positions and political populism. Moreover, the party preferences-changes of Mikis Theodorakis, as recorded after the post-independence period, have also been negatively commented upon.
In June 2013, in response to statements by Maria Repoussi, he said: “If I had power, I would have said to Repoussi, it is an asset to live in Greece and be Greek. If you don”t understand it, go elsewhere, go live in Nigeria.” These statements were strongly criticised by a section of the media and writers.
In 2011, after Greece implemented the first austerity measures, Miki Theodorakis” name was included in a list of retired MPs who were applying for retroactive salaries from the Greek state. This move by Theodorakis provoked negative comments.
Speech at the rally for Macedonia (2018)
His speech at the January 2018 Macedonian rally against the Prespes Agreement was described by the SYRIZA government and left-wing parties as “delirium” and a “historical mistake”, in complete contradiction to his political stance on the name issue, and at the same time allegedly of extreme right-wing colour. On the contrary, there were also media outlets that described the speech as shocking and historic, while party representatives from New Democracy and Golden Dawn thanked Miki Theodorakis. His participation in the rally for Macedonia was linked to his participation in the “indignant” movement in 2011 and the greeting he gave and was described as a demagogue.
The SYRIZA government spokesman commented on the address used by Mikis Theodorakis in his speech (“my brothers and sisters, Nazis”) saying: “Such phrases as ”My brothers Nazis” should not even be used as a joke.” Also, some media outlets condemned his statements about Golden Dawn and called the way he expressed himself about the neo-Nazi party a “whitewash”. For his part, Mikis Theodorakis responded that “those who oppose it cannot accept that an old communist and leftist is so patriotic.”
His phrase “I despise fascism in all its forms, especially in its most deceptive and dangerous form, the leftist one” was discussed by politicians and journalists with mixed reviews. Opposition parties and mainly right-wing media expressed positive views on his criticism of the government, while others spoke of dangerous rhetoric that is in line with Golden Dawn and other far-right ideologies and accused the composer of “forgetting his political past”.
Accusations of anti-Semitism and his response
In 2003, he expressed controversial views at the launch of the book “Where to find my soul”, where he made a statement regarding Jews: “Today we can say that this small people is at the root of evil, which means that too much self-awareness and too much perseverance do harm.” For these comments he was criticized for anti-Semitism. In a statement, Mikis Theodorakis said: “My opinion of the Israeli people has always been known – as it is on all issues – and I sincerely wonder why so much noise has now been created as if they heard something for the first time. Perhaps some people thought it was a good time for them to launch an attack on me. I have always been on the side of the weak, of peoples fighting for their rights. And among them the Israeli people. I sang their passions as best I could. I have always been for the peaceful coexistence of peoples. And I proved it in practice, including when I took on the role of mediator between Alon and Arafat in the events of 1972. But it is precisely for these reasons that I am totally opposed to Sharon”s policy and have repeatedly emphasised this, just as I have repeatedly condemned the role of prominent American Jewish politicians, intellectuals and theorists in the formulation of the current aggressive Bush policy. Only deliberately can there be confusion between the Israeli people, whom I have practically demonstrated that I honour and admire, and these negative phenomena, which in fact tarnish Israel”s image by playing a genuinely anti-Semitic role. These are on the side of evil, at the root of evil, as I stated recently. Personally, I am happy because I know that there are many Israelis around the world and within Israel who agree with me and are fighting for the real rights of their people that can coexist with the rights of other peoples, fighting for peace in their region and around the world. I am glad that we have been together in these common struggles for decades. And I know that they know me well, through these struggles, and do not wait for the mud of some to know me. But is this not the aim of those who have suddenly discovered my ideas by slandering me as a so-called anti-Semite?”
Similarly, in an interview in 2011 he publicly admitted that “he is anti-Semitic” and that “Jews are responsible for the global economic crisis”. In a letter to the Central Board of Jewish Communities (Greece), he explained that it was a mistake of phrasing. In fact, after I analyzed in an interview the role of the US state, which in my opinion is going through its most savage imperialist phase with the wars and genocides in Iraq and Afghanistan, I said that the State of Israel unfortunately supports the US and its current foreign policy which is the root of evil, therefore it is close to the root of evil. I was even accused recently of accepting that I am an anti-Semite. Here they were luckier. How exactly has my quote in my TV interview been quoted? “But I should clarify that I am an anti-Semite. Essentially I love the Jewish people, I love the Jews, I have lived with them a lot, but as much as I hate anti-Semitism, I hate Zionism.” Reading this entire piece and not a sentence cut out as it circulated on the internet, and being mentally handicapped, one understands without any doubt that after a two-hour exhaustive interview the word “anti-Semite” was a phraseological error, because how can someone be an anti-Semite who in the very next sentence says that he loves the Jewish people and Jews and hates anti-Semitism?” KISC replied “We are really glad that your phrase “I am an anti-Semite” was attributed to a phraseological error.”
In 2011, by decision of the President of the Austrian Parliament, the presentation of the Greek composer”s work “Mauthausen” at the commemoration ceremony of the victims of Nazism in the Austrian National Assembly was censored and cancelled. In a statement, the Austrian Parliament acknowledged the anti-Semitic comments of Mikis Theodorakis. The composer replied: ”I consider anyone who dares to insult me in the most sensitive part of my character to be a filthy worm”.
His compositions include operas, symphonic music, chamber music, oratorios, ballets, choral music, church music, music of ancient drama, theatre, cinema, art music, folk singing, popular oratorios and post-symphonic works.
Mikis Theodorakis has written many books, several of which have been translated into various languages.Among others, his published works include: