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Greek Elections 2023: The political background, the spiritual fathers and the worldview of NIKI party

Featured Greek Elections 2023: The political background, the spiritual fathers and the worldview of NIKI party

Back in 2006, a teacher from Kilkis spearheaded the reactions to the 6th Grade History book, in which the head of the writing team was the then deputy professor of the Greek Academy of Sciences, Maria Repoussi. With articles in the local press and on the Antivaro blog, Dimitris Natsios was one of those who started collecting signatures against the book, gaining several minutes of publicity and attracting the attention of nationalist circles.

Very soon, Natsios became the conservative Orthodox TV star of northern Greece, as the presenter of the most popular show of the 4E channel, well-known in Central Macedonia. 4E was, after all, the "child" of a clergyman from his hometown and his spiritual father. Archimandrite Theofilos Zisopoulos, who had the brilliant idea to expand into the media by founding the channel and radio station "Lydia Philippisia", in the name of his Brotherhood. Zisopoulos, a follower of the late Metropolitan Augustinos Kantiotis, gradually set up a small "empire" in Asprovalta and the Ampelokipoi areas of Thessaloniki, with missionary centers, catechisms, camps, printing houses, always supported by loyal female volunteers.

Anti-ecumenical in outlook, he belonged to those groups of priests that became autonomous after the split of the Brotherhood "Zoi" and the creation of "Sotir" in the 60s and gained publicity in the 80s, under Archbishop Seraphim, protesting the changes to family law by the PASOK government.

The removal of Zisis

In the same period, in the same circle, another priest and theologian emerged. The former professor of theology at the University of Thessaloniki and former archpriest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Theodoros Zisis, whose removal was one of the most popular cases that occupied the Synodal Court, as he had reached an extreme personal conflict with the Metropolitan of Thessaloniki Anthimos and his former friend the Archbishop Christodoulos. Zisis was and remains one of the most important poles of Orthodox conservatism in Northern Greece, where the faithful can meet him in private ceremonies spread by word of mouth or through certain closed groups on the Internet. Not coincidentally, in a video published before the May 21 elections, he was positioned in favor of supporting the NIKI party. The one that almost entered Parliament with 2.92% and 172,201 votes, surprising everyone except those who follow the activity of nationalist and religious centers in the region.

Flirting with politics

The above stories and figures are part of the historical background behind the party of Dimitris Natsios, which his fanatical followers adoringly describe as a modern-day "Father Kosmas". The reason for its establishment was the Prespa Agreement and its gradual strengthening due to the pandemic, while the first nuclei of its supporters gathered around churches that had reacted to the lockdown and compulsory vaccination as well as groups of unvaccinated health workers. Of course, Natsios' flirtation with politics had started earlier, in2014, when he appeared among the signatories of the founding declaration of the RIZES party of Panagiotis Baltakos and Vassilis Kapernaros.

The support

The worldview of NIKI is anti-ecumenism. Starting from its principles, it projects a reaction to everything that is identified with the West historically, politically, strategically, diplomatically, culturally. They are pro-Russian nationalists, they have supported campaigns against LGBTQ+ rights and abortion through editorials and through unions that are active and have mobilized activists for education issues. Organizationally, there are common roots with associations such as "Christian Shelter" and branches of "Sotir". There are very close ties with the "Enomeni Romiosini" organization, with catechetism schools, with specific monasteries such as Filotheou, Karakallou, Vatopediou, Konstamonitou and Xiropotamou, and of course with everything concerning Saint Paisios and his various centers of worship . After all, the monk Euthymios from the Resurrection cell of the Stavronikitas Monastery, who is considered a "continuator" of Paisios and became famous on the Internet during the time of the coronavirus, has offered a blessing and support to Natsios.

Candidates with NIKI are the niece of Paisios, Maria Eznepidou, and Thanasis Rakovalis, a former Hindu who became a "follower" of Paisios and known for denouncing yoga as spiritually dangerous. Father Arsenios Vliagoftis, of the Monastery of Saint Arsenios of Cappadocia, Vatopaid, the organization "Enomeni Romiosini" also comes from the same circles of Halkidiki, who in his online show (with thousands of viewers) politicizes by supporting NIKI.

Relatives of high-ranking priests also participate in the ballots, such as the candidate in First Thessaloniki Emmanuel Glavas, brother of Nikodimos, abbot of the Philotheo Monastery, with whom he also has spiritual ties. The monastery, however, denies that it supports the party. In the southern "bastion" of NIKI, Achaia, the candidate is the theologian Panagiotis Gourvelos, brother of the head of the Metropolitan Church of Patras, Archimandrite Ambrosios Gourvelos, a close associate of the Metropolitan of Patras Chrysostomos.