1112 – Vatopediou and the Greek financial crisis: an article in Vanity Fair

The Vanity Fair of October 1st publishes this article by Michael Lewis: Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds.

In this long but very interesting article you read about Greek financial crisis and the role of Vatopediou. The writer visited the monastery and had a long conversation with the financial man of the monastery, Father Arsenios.

Here a part of his article:

That changed on October 4 of last year, when the Greek government turned over. A scandal felled the last government and sent Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis packing, which perhaps is not surprising. What’s surprising was the nature of the scandal. In late 2008, news broke that Vatopaidi had somehow acquired a fairly worthless lake and swapped it for far more valuable government-owned land. How the monks did this was unclear—paid some enormous bribe to some government official, it was assumed. No bribe could be found, however. It didn’t matter: the furor that followed drove Greek politics for the next year. The Vatopaidi scandal registered in Greek public opinion like nothing in memory. “We’ve never seen a movement in the polls like we saw after the scandal broke,” the editor of one of Greece’s leading newspapers told me. “Without Vatopaidi, Karamanlis is still the prime minister, and everything is still going on as it was before.” Dimitri Contominas, the billionaire creator of a Greek life-insurance company and, as it happens, owner of the TV station that broke the Vatopaidi scandal, put it to me more bluntly: “The Vatopaidi monks brought George Papandreou to power.”

Vatopediou Father Arsenios
Father Arsenios the CFO of Vatopediou 

Here an example how buseness was done:

For instance, after a famous Spanish singer visited and took an interest in Vatopaidi, he parlayed the interest into an audience with government officials from Spain. They were told a horrible injustice had occurred: in the 14th century a band of Catalan mercenaries, upset with the Byzantine emperor, had sacked Vatopaidi and caused much damage. The monastery received $240,000 from the government officials.

It takes a while to read the whole article, but I think it is worth it, because it explains a lot about the current situation in Greece and the mentality of some Greeks (how NOT to pay taxes)!

Wim, 17/9 (thanks to our reader Art)

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9 Responses to 1112 – Vatopediou and the Greek financial crisis: an article in Vanity Fair

  1. Vasxedlis says:

    Yes, the movie is ‘controversial’ because it was made without permission of the Ierá Kinótita, in fact even in an illegal way, I think. Despite this it is very interesting. See also blog 744: http://athos.web-log.nl/athos_agios_oros_/2009/03/744—a-french.html, with Greek subtitles.

  2. Herman Voogd says:

    It is not only controversial because there was no permission but also, I think (I did not see the film) that they made a lot of footage in Esfigmenou and so gave the “zealots” monks the opportunity to spread there views on Orthodoxy.
    And that is what the leaders in Karyes do not like. But is difficult to say something about this film if you did not see it.

  3. Bertinos says:

    The claim that they had permission from the Sacred Epistasia is false. The producers therefore turned to the “Zealots” of Esfigmenou.

    They tried to film in other monasteries as well, but were stopped when the monks discovered who they were. In at least one case, they managed to deceive the monks.

    Nevertheless, it is incorrect to present this movie as a representative image of life on Mount Athos, since it is (almost) exclusively based on life at the Zealot community at Esfigmenou with their distorted and extremist views on the Orthodox Christian Faith and teachings.

    This is why the Holy Epistasia is angry about the whole affair…

  4. Vasílis says:

    It is indeed a very interesting article. And for those who demand to open up totaly Mount Athos, Lewis makes, I think, a remarkable statement about the Acropolis: ‘So if I owned it, I would start by rationing access to it and charging higher prices..It would be a privilege to go to the Acropolis rather than a right..I want people to be able to earn their way up there. If they could demonstrate a proven interest. See for his total comment: http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2010/09/michael-lewis-talks-about-the-banks-that-brought-down-greece.html

  5. herman says:

    Its a shocking article but it seems well documented. In a way it is insulting to the Greek people. I am curious at the reaction of our Greek visitors on this article.

  6. Sotiris says:

    Well, lets make then the “diamonitirion” price 200 Euros or more. This will certainly reduce the number of people entering Athos to less than the daily quota. But I am not sure that this will allow only the people with “proven interest”. This kind of economical thinking is IMHO ridiculous.

    Take a look also at the comments bellow the article on the link above (for some good replies by Greeks).

    Obviously the audience of this kind of articles are people that know Greece as “souvlaki, tzatziki and acropolis” and unfortunately this is the majority.

  7. Wim says:

    This essay was choosen to be the best magazine essay of the year 2010 by NY Times – look here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/24/opinion/24brooks.html?_r=2

  8. Jan Paul ten Bruggencate says:

    I should like to have contact with Mr. Wim Voogd.J.P.

  9. Wim Voogd says:

    Dear Mr. Jan Paul ten Bruggencate,

    You can mail me (in Dutch) by clicking on “email me”.

    Wim Voogd

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