Nowhere in Greece do people love Russia and its President Vladimir Putin so much as in the Orthodox monastic community in Holy Mount Athos, German magazine Spiegel Online wrote.
At the end of his official visit to the country, the Russian leader made a pilgrimage to the holy place, where he was met with excitement and admiration.
“As Putin, completing his visit to Greece, reached Athos this Saturday, the monks welcomed him as a superstar, and even more: as the defender of their faith and a loyal ally of Greece,” Spiegel Online wrote.
The local residents were very happy to welcome the Russian leader, even if his arrival brought chaos to their otherwise peaceful lives. While port police boats patrolled the water, employees of the Russian Security Service wearing glasses and suits carefully watched every street in the area.
“Putin is the only true leader in the world,” says one of the monks, father Efraimos, cited by the magazine. “Whom should he be compared to? Obama? Merkel? There is simply no comparison,” he added.
An episode that occurred later during a liturgy serves as more proof of Putin’s popularity in the local community. The church where the worship took place had only one throne, and it was reserved for the “Russian guest of honor,” even despite the fact that Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos also attended the service.
“For the Greek President there was only a place in the “pew next to mere mortals,” the article said. “Pavlopoulos’ crew tried to persuade the monks to put a second throne next to Putin’s seat, but in vain: in the autonomous republic of Mount Athos these are monks who set the tone and they made it clear whom they consider their favorite guest,” the magazine concluded.
The Russian leader came to Athos for the second time. This time, he visited the holy place to commemorate the millennial anniversary since the first Russian settlement on the Holy Mount Athos.
Despite numerous posters critical of Putin that were seen on the streets of Athens, relations between Greece and Russia remain traditionally good. According to social surveys, the Russian president is far ahead of European politicians in terms of Greek citizens’ feelings towards him.