The Prime-Minister of the Greek Government, Mr. Loukas Papadimos
The Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr. Pavlos Yeroulanos
The General Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Mrs Lina Mendoni
All of us who sign the following text are former and current members of the excavation teams led by Mr. Aris Tsaravopoulos, who is responsible for the islands of Kythera and Antikythera, on behalf of the 26th Department of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, and who develops his archaeological work on both the aforementioned islands from 1996 until today.
We recently learned the decision taken by the Ministry of Culture to put Mr. Tsaravopoulos into “forced early retirement”, applying the unacceptable law of the so called “ergasiaki efedreia” (reserve labor) in the public sector. In doing so, breaking somewhat violently a huge scientific study and cultural-social activity that has many aspects; that served, the culture of the islands for over a decade with great consistency and helped preserve and enhance our archaeological heritage. The excavation work was turned into an educational process-a historical-cultural lesson-for the participants in the excavations, as well as and primarily for the inhabitants and the visitors of the two islands. The unacceptable fact that Mr. Tsaravopoulos has been put into forced early retirement has already caused extreme and reasonable reactions by numerous members of organizations and general citizens.
The agony and indignation of us all derives not only due to the unacceptable depreciation of a scientist, who has been offering-with absolute selfless- his services to society, but also due to the immediate and serious consequences it will have for the future of the two small island communities. The case of Mr. Tsaravopoulos shows-in the most eloquent way-that a law deeply hostile towards state employees, does not only sacrifice them, but it also constitutes a hostile action towards the society in totality. It destroys the culture and condemns the inhabitants of these two islands to cultural degradation and denial of the minimum potential for their financial and social survival.
Mr. Tsaravopoulos carries out excavations in the summer months every year and has done so since 1996 (and sometimes throughout the whole year) working in a number of archaeological sites in Kythera (Antidragonara, Diakofti, Palaeopolis, Katochori, Viaradika, Christoforianika, Mermygkari, Paliokastro etc) and in Antikythera (Kastro, Batoudiana, Charchaliana). Between 2005 and 2007 Mr. Tsaravopoulos participated in an international collaboration with the UCL and Trent University of Canada in order to carry out an archaeological survey on Antikythera. Every year, dozens of students from Greek and foreign universities, scientists of a large number of specialties, and other volunteers participate in the excavations conducted by Mr. Tsaravopoulos. The presence of himself and his team on the two islands constitutes a tireless tour in the culture and history of the two islands throughout: tours that take place in the archaeological sites, educational participation of young and older people who take part in the excavations under the supervision of archaeologists, numerous events and lectures that present the history of the sites, archaeological finds and the new results for each season, making thousands of people (students, inhabitants and visitors) aware of the history of the site, to respect their cultural heritage, to appreciate the value of the archaeological research and to recognize its necessity in our society today.
The presence of teams of people, who participate in the excavations on the two islands every year, stimulates the financial movement of the small communities and also importantly revives the life of the inhabitants of the two islands, particularly in the case of Antikythera, the inhabitants of which strive to survive in their homeland. The case of Antikythera is particularly characteristic of how the presence of the archaeological team every summer creates an elementary economic movement on this island, revives the hard everyday life of its inhabitants and also helps to maintain their own local traditions (festivals etc). Mr. Tsaravopoulos has all these years striven for the multifaceted social contribution of archaeology. He aims to develop archaeological parks in Kythera and Antikythera. To further develop archaeological tourism in general, for the financial and social assistance to small communities. His work is essential in avoiding desertification and bankruptcy for these two Greek islands (a serious threat particularly for Antikythera).
We are all witnesses to the difficulties Mr. Tsaravopoulos has faced over the years in order to accomplish his archaeological work, work which was always threatened by the permanent policy of underfunding cultural projects. The local communities of Kythera and Antikythera have always provided support in his efforts, also; the Etairia of Kytherian Studies, the Metropolis of Kythera-Antikythera, Kytherians from Australia, who have substituted the role of the State and undertook the financial support of the archaeological work on the islands, in order for the work to continue contributing to the cultural promotion and development of the societies there. With love and respect to us all and despite enormous difficulties, Mr. Tsaravopoulos has always tried to provide the means for the excavations, and also the living conditions during our stay on the islands, providing even his own salary in order for the research to continue. We have witnessed how one archaeologist selflessly fulfilled his social role, combining the promotion of archaeological research with the overall social benefit to the communities. We have been shown how archaeology can have a wide social role in the services of the people.
With our signatures we express our outright indignation of the entry of Mr. Tsaravopoulos into the “ergasiaki efedreia” and we request the Ministry of Culture to immediate reverse the decision for his violent and early removal from the Archaeological Service. The implementation of this decision tosses into the air a significant archaeological and social work of many years standing and will directly contribute to the decline of two small islands with great cultural pasts, but with insecure present and future. This poorly directed action is not simply against Mr. Tsaravopoulos-as scientist and human being, this decision also works directly against the people who struggle on these Greek islands.