In the center of the Greek capital, in the Makrygianni area, as one goes towards Filopappos, next to the Swedish Institute of Athens, today there is the Library of the Nordic Countries, a well-known place to lovers of Scandinavian culture. It is a small, but active institution, born in 1995, on the initiative of the Institutes of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland in Athens, with its main objectives being on the one hand to bring together students and scholars from Nordic Countries with the Greek language, culture and history, and on the other hand to promote the national brands of the Nordic Countries in Greece.
The library facilities currently house over 40,000 volumes of books and 450 titles of scientific journals, in various languages, while on its shelves one can find some very special works from important Greek writers. For example, in the library there is a rich archive of the Greek-American surrealist poet Nikolaos Callas, which was handed over after his death, in 1999, to the officials of the library, and includes, among others, various works, notes, articles, personal correspondence and photographs of the author. In addition, in 2005, the Swedish consul in Crete and philhellene, Finn Ståhl, donated to the library from his own personal collection, approximately 250 texts related to the life and works of K.P. Cavafy, in a number of languages, giving the library one of its most brilliant additions.
The guests and visitors of the library consist primarily of people related to the wider Greek academia, who at the same time maintain some direct link with the four Scandinavian countries that are represented diplomatically in Athens. For example, many students of Archeology or other related disciplines, that visit Greece as part of exchange programs, have the library as their point of reference, while correspondingly many people of Scandinavian origin who are permanent residents of Athens, may study in this specific area. In addition to all these, there are also the events, organized from time to time, either by the library itself, or by the various Nordic communities in Athens, to highlight Greek-Nordic relations and the issues that concern Nordics in Greece. In these events, several distinguished Greeks and Nordics have come as lecturers, specialized in the two cultures, that the Library of the Nordic Countries has been trying to bring into contact in recent decades.
Therefore, despite the cultural and political differentiation of the Nordic countries from each other, and the financial difficulties that some of the institutes of those specific countries may have faced in previous years, the Library of the Nordic Countries stands to this day as one of the most interesting and alternative reading options in Athens. Obviously, the library is mostly targeted on a special audience, which is related on a somewhat personal level to the Nordic Countries, but it is also open to Greek scholars, or scholars from other countries, who want to indulge in the wide range of options that the institution can offer them.
In conclusion, initiatives such as the creation of the Library of Nordic Countries in Athens, showcase that small moves to promote the cultural influence of a country, in fact have great symbolic and practical value, and are the key to a successful cultural diplomacy. Greece, which has largely neglected the promotion of its modern cultural wealth, would therefore do well to learn how the Norwegians or the Swedes respectively have managed to build relatively small, but active and solid, institutions, that not only promote their national brands, but also contribute to the study of the history and culture of the country that hosts them. This is highly commendable, and I really think the Ministry of Culture could learn a lot from the way this brilliant library is run, literally a few meters from the new Acropolis Museum!
Norwegian Institute at Athens https://www.uib.no/en/nia
-The Nordic Library at Athens
-Finnish Institute of Athens
-Danish Institute of Athens
-Σπάνιες μαρτυρίες περιηγητών του Βορρά για την Ελλάδα ζωντανεύουν σε μία ξεχωριστή έκθεση – Πρώτο Θέμα
-Πώς είδαν την Ελλάδα οι περιηγητές του Βορρά; – Archaiologia.grhttps://www.archaiologia.gr/blog/2019/02/21/%CF%80%CF%8E%CF%82-%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%B4%CE%B1%CE%BD-%CF%84%CE%B7%CE%BD-%CE%B5%CE%BB%CE%BB%CE%AC%CE%B4%CE%B1-%CE%BF%CE%B9-%CF%80%CE%B5%CF%81%CE%B9%CE%B7%CE%B3%CE%B7%CF%84%CE%AD%CF%82-%CF%84%CE%BF%CF%85/