Monday, April 16, 2012

When Economic Policy Threatens Cultural Security

In times of economic crisis, a nation’s artistic and cultural programs often suffer harsh fates. The financial woes facing Greece have forced the struggling country to levy strict economic austerity measures to combat years of government corruption and deficit spending.

These drastic measures have forced the Greek Ministry of Culture to begin firing up to 50% of its personnel , including archaeologists, civil servants and guards assigned to protect and preserve cultural heritage sites and museums. Such cutbacks already have resulted in the looting of museums in Olympia and Athens.

Government plans to raise funds by allowing advertising at Greek cultural heritage sites, such as the Acropolis, have been met with shock and outrage. In a particularly ironic twist, as Greek archaeologists struggle to find funding for legitimate excavations and face the threat of unemployment, smugglers of illicit antiquities continue to thrive.

From the public suicide of a single citizen to protests involving thousands, Greeks have taken to the streets to protest the dire economic situation, and the resulting threat to Greek cultural heritage. Unfortunately, after almost two years of violence and civil unrest, an end to this crisis and the subsequent threat to cultural security seems nowhere in sight. 

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