Political Rivalries Escalate in Greece
Personal tensions between Prince Constantine and Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos began around military objectives of the army during the Balkan Wars. They developed into full political camps around the role of the monarchy, republicanism and with which nations to ally. Venizelos was a British favoring liberal, while Constantine was a German oriented Monarchist.
During the peace talks after World War I, Greece did obtain some territorial concessions but felt they deserved more. Disaffected royalist soldiers tried to assassinate Venizelos at the Paris Peace Conference, which escalated violence between the two political camps back in Greece. Disappointed in the status quo, public opinion swung towards the monarchist camp.
The 1920 plebiscite is one of the strangest elections in history. The Greeks were given the decision whether or not to reinstate the monarchy. This election saw Constantine returned to power and Venizelos sacked.
It was under these conditions that the Turkish War of Independence began. The war went poorly, which resulted in the rout of Greek forces from Anatolia. After the war there was bitter population exchanges of Turks and Greeks occurred with hundreds of thousands of refugees on both sides. Public opinion swung back towards the liberals.
Back in the U.S.
Greek men went to places such as coffee shops to talk about news and politics. As in the old country, political alliances were forged around the political camps of Venizelos and the Monarchy in the immigrant communities.
As with the most recent American election, as politics became toxic in Greece they also did so in the American immigrant communities. People who were previously friends and neighbors stopped talking with each other altogether.
The Lowell Greeks
It was under these circumstances that the liberal camp elected to leave the royalist supporting Holy Trinity parish and start their own church down the street. A work of art in itself, Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church required 40 years to complete the mosaic tiles inside.
The Lowell Plot Twist
After the Turkish war of Independence, King Constantine abdicated and Venizelos represented Greece in the peace negotiations. Venizelos would eventually return to power.
It was under these circumstances that Vasilios Komvopoulos of Chaldea, a fervent royalist, came to the United States and established himself as monarchy oriented Bishop in Holy Trinity in 1923. Eventually defrocked and deposed, he doubled down by starting a schismatic royalist aligned Greek Orthodox Church and quickly gained a number of other churches to pledge to his new order.
Things were not to last. In 1928, Holy Trinity Parish elections returned the Venizelos camp back to power and self appointed Metropolitan Komvopoulos was told not to return.
This wasn’t enough to deter him. Accompanied by his monarchist supporters the Bishop attempted to enter the church facility. The police tried to prevent his entry which in turn developed into a 1200 person riot. The Bishop was stabbed in the melee.
It wasn’t until a later court order demanding that the bishop not return before the situation deescalated. The church schism was not healed until the 1930s with the appointment of a new archbishop.