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Nationalism, Chauvinism and Racism as Reflected in European Musical Thought and in Compositions from the Interwar Period

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Andrzej Tuchowski

This book concerns the ways in which many different types of nationalism, chauvinism and racism penetrated into musical thought in the interwar period, and how the leading artistic personalities of that period reacted to these ideologies. The concept of "nationalism" is understood broadly in this book and covers the entire spectrum of its positive and negative aspects. The topics listed in the book’s title have been discussed on the example of selected four countries, significant with respect to population and territory and representing different social-political systems: Germany (mostly after 1933), Italy, Poland (after 1926) and Great Britain. This selection is also representative of the main ethnic groups in Europe: Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Latin-Romance and Slavic.

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VII. The “New Rome” Clashes with the “Third Greek Civilisation” – The Decline of the Myth of Romanità

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It was the irony of fate, one could say, that this total fiasco – especially in the eyes of its German ally – was caused by a policy inspired by the myth of modern Italy as a continuation of imperial Rome. Like many other 20th-century dictators, Mussolini seems to have fallen victim to his own propaganda and came to believe the reality of the fascist state’s theatrical pretence. History was to repeat itself and – as in the Antiquity – ‘New Rome’ was to incorporate Greece in 1940. But history played a trick on the Italians, and the Greeks repelled the attack successfully enough for the humiliated Duce to have to fall back on Hitler’s support.

Back in the 1930s, Italian-Greek relations had been excellent, and the ruling elites in Athens observed the organisation of the fascist state with evident interest. The then dictator of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas, enthusiastically introduced many institutional solutions based on well-tested Italian models, for instance in the fields of public life organisation, social insurance, education and control over the press439. Most important, however, was probably the inspiration that sought for an ideology that could effectively integrate Greek society, and especially its young generation. Thus, partly as a response to the propagandist success of the myth of romanità in Italy, Metaxas promoted the idea of “a Third Greek Civilisation,” which was to provide the foundation for a great ‘national awakening’ by creating a synthesis of the country’s greatest ancient and medieval achievements. In the face of...

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