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Academic steps in as deputy minister of culture

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An archaeologist and university professor has stepped in as Deputy Minister of Culture on Tuesday, after musician Michalis Hadjiyiannis tendered in his resignation to President Nikos Christodoulides just four months into the job.

The president appointed academic Dr Vasiliki (Lina) Kassianidou, the third person at this post after Yiannis Toumazis was appointed the first junior minister from July 4, 2022 to March 1 this year, when Hadjiyianis was appointed.

As of July 1, the deputy ministry also absorbed the Department of Antiquities that had been under the Ministry of Communications, Works and Post.

Christodoulides thanked Hadjiyiannis for the work he carried out as a deputy minister, reflecting on their long-term friendship and wished him success in his future.

In his resignation letter, the former performer and pop star, said that “the greatest stake in my life is musical creation, composition, singing and my close relationship with the public”.

“That’s where I come from and that’s where I’m going back to. My music accounts will be open as long as I exist,” he added.

“If you know where you are going then you know when it is time to leave, and I did not come here and enter government to earn fame or glory,” Hadjiyiannis said.

He got off to a shaky start when he accepted the position offered by newly elected president Christodoulides.

Hadjiyiannis also referenced his long-time friendship with Christodoulides, adding that he first accepted the post with the aim of achieving three main goals, which have been secured.

Those policies, he said, included the professional recognition of artists with about 2,500 being included in the social security payments, the pre-paid youth cards worth €200 for cultural events, and the exemption of taxes on funds provided as sponsorships for cultural events.

The deputy minister was fiercely criticised as he found himself in hot water over hiring a 42-year-old female associate with a prior conviction.

The woman was given a suspended prison sentence for selling counterfeit concert tickets.

She met the requirement for a clean criminal record, as her conviction was expunged under the Law on the Rehabilitation of Convicted Persons.

She was appointed an advisor to the Deputy Minister, responsible for press and social media matters.

An academic takes over

Taking over the culture portfolio is academic Lina Kassianidou, 55, who has been teaching environmental archaeology and archaeometry at the University of Cyprus (UCy) since 1994.

In May 2023 she was elected dean of the Faculty of Letters. From June 2015 to August 2019, she was the director of the archaeological research unit (ARU) of the UCy.

Kassianidou has been active in the UCy administration serving as vice-chair of the Department of History and Archaeology, as a member of the university’s senate and as a member of various committees.

She is also a member of the Cyprus National Commission for Unesco.

From 2014 -2016 she served as the president of the board of trustees of the cultural foundation of the Bank of Cyprus.

The new Deputy Minister of Culture studied at Bryn Mawr College, USA where she did a double major in chemistry and classical and near eastern archaeology.

She received her Bachelor’s degree with a distinction (Cum Laude) in 1989. She continued her studies at the Institute of Archaeology at the University College London where she received her doctoral degree on archaeometallurgy in 1993.

In 1994 she joined the faculty of the Department of History and Archaeology of UCy and has held the position of full professor since 2013. Her research is focused on ancient technology and specifically the production and trade of Cypriot copper through antiquity, but also on the impact of this industry on the Cypriot landscape and environment.

She has taken part and directed a number of field and analytical projects regarding her fields of expertise and has an extensive list of publications which include two edited volumes, three co-authored volumes and over fifty articles in peer reviewed journals, edited volumes and conference proceedings.

Kassianidou is married to Dr Yiorgos Papasavvas, Associate Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Cyprus, and they have two sons.

The deputy minister also has rich cultural background. She is the daughter Gloria Kassianides, owner of the oldest art gallery in Cyprus that has been operational since 1977, hosting exhibitions by the most prominent artists on the island.

Kassianidou’s brother, Symeon Kassianides, is Chairman of the state-owned natural gas company DEFA.