“The Greek Revolution of 1821 as a pivotal chapter in Greek history and a piece in the puzzle of world history. “
The goal of this pillar is to comprehend the Greek Revolution of 1821, to highlight its significance, its relationship with other revolutions and wars for independence that flared up at approximately the same time, and the effect it had on the rest of the world and how it was affected by it.
““When I want it, I become an angel and, again, when I want it, I become the devil” – Georgios Karaiskakis
Enter the timeline of the Revolution and choose or add your event. Write about it. Highlight the role of the protagonists. If, in 2021, you are between 18 and 21 years old, with your text, you automatically participate in a selection process that will enable you to travel to Europe as an ambassador of our country in the context of the bicentennial celebration.
Following the treaties of Kutsuk-Kainartzi (1774) and Ainali Kavac (1784), Greek commercial shipping developed impressively, with Greek ships trading in the Aegean, the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea under the Russian flag. The Greek commercial fleet gradually gained strength throughout the Mediterranean – the main Greek seaports being Galaxidi, Mesolongi, Psara, Spetses, Hydra, etc. After the Russian-Turkish war of 1787-1792, the Greek islands were given privileges (shipbuilding rights, ample freedom of movement in Istanbul, etc.) to avert Russian influence. These actions resulted in the empowerment of Greek trade. At the same time, the outbreak of the French Revolution (1789) and the subsequent weakening of French trade gave substantial commercial advantages to the Greeks, who benefited from the absence of the French in the Mediterranean. The Greeks will later benefit from the competition between France and Great Britain, which affected the trading abilities of the two countries, and from the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), trading with the blockaded ports.
Revolutionary movements are provoked in Central Greece, Crete and the Peloponnese by Russian agents and, in particular, brothers Theodoros and Alexios Orlov, in the context of the Russian-Turkish war 1768-1774. The main stage of the war is the Peloponnese, where the joined forces of Russians, Maniates, and armed men linked to the powerful Messinian Benaki family operated. The actions of George Papazolis, an officer of the Russian army of Greek origin, proved very important for the preparation of the uprise. Papazolis had organized a network of agents who moved on Greek soil and collected information. At the same time, since 1766, he spent some time in the Peloponnese trying to convince the local strongmen to join him in his actions. He finally found support in Kalamata, where he contacted Panagiotis Benakis and signed an agreement with local lords and priests such as P. Krevatas, I. Deligiannis, P. Zaimis, etc. At the same time, with Papazolis, other Russian envoys, such as Emmanuel Sarros, of Greek origin, traveled to various Greek regions trying to establish a network and examine the possibilities for a rebellion. Despite all this preparation, the project ended harshly, with the defeat and evacuation of thousands of Greeks, mainly to Russia. However, Russia would win the war, and the Ottoman Empire was forced to sign the Treaty of Kutsuk-Kainartzi (1774), which proved beneficial for the life and economic prosperity of the Orthodox inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire and especially the Greeks.
This Revolution became a war of independence of the American colonists from the British Empire. The trigger for the Revolution was Great Britain's imposition of taxes on the colonies because of the war with France. The colonists refused to pay them because they were not entitled to representation in the Parliament. The Americans had the help of military forces sent by the King of France and the alliance of the Spaniards and the Dutch. Among their leaders were the great politicians Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and General George Washington. During this groundbreaking Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights were drafted. The principles of this Revolution greatly influenced the revolutions that followed (the French Revolution in 1789 and, of course, later the Greek Revolution of 1821).
Around the middle of the 18th century, there was a great increase of scholars who showed interest in Greece and compared ancient Greeks with contemporary Greeks. This interest was greatly influenced by artistic movements such as romanticism and classicism. The most well-known among the European scholars were Frenchmen Choiseul-Gouffier, Chateaubriand, Germans Goethe, Schiller, Hölderlin, the English poet Byron, etc. Some of them visited the Greek provinces of the Ottoman Empire and became fascinated by the Greek landscapes, which they described extensively. Meanwhile, they acknowledged with sympathy and sadness the dreadful state of the local population and pondered on the ideal of human greatness. The consequence of this movement was the increased interest in the fate of the Greek nation and the deliberation, at a European level, on its emancipation.
The monk Kosmas Aitolos was active during the 1760s and 1770s, mainly in Macedonia, Epirus and southern Albania. He was urging the congregations to remain committed to the Christian religion and to rely strongly on education, which he saw as the basis for the religious and moral revival and salvation of the Greeks. With that in mind, he established dozens of Greek schools. His sermons often had patriotic content, with references to the liberation of the Greek nation. This action was considered to promote nationalist ideas and to ignite the notion of a Christian revolution against the Pasha. At the same time, his speeches against injustice were perceived as a provocation for the overturn of the social regime. During the Orlov revolt, the Turks suspected that Kosmas Aitolos served the interests of the Russians. When his enemies slandered him to the authorities, he was convicted and executed in present-day Albania in August of 1779.
In the context of a new Russian-Turkish war (1787-1792), the Greek officer of the tsar, Lambros Katsonis, given permission by the commander Grigori Potemkin and in collaboration with the kleft Andreas Verousis (Captain Androutsos, father of Odysseus) operated a flotilla in the Aegean and the Ionian Sea, which overtook and destroyed Ottoman ships. In the summer of 1789, he had come to control the Cyclades, and he urged the elders of the islands not to pay taxes to the Sublime Porte. After his defeat at the naval battle of Kavodoro (May 1790), he renewed his forces and continued his struggle in the Aegean, even though with the Treaty of Iasi in 1792, he lost the support of the Russians. In 1794 he returned to Russia, resigned from his post as an officer of the army, and lived in Crimea until he died in 1804.
In 1789 a series of fights began between the Souliotes and Ali Pasha, the new Pasha of Ioannina, who had aspirations for a firmer grip on the area. The Community of Souliotes, who had developed into a powerful local center, hindered his plans. The experienced war-fighting Souliotes resisted vigorously during his first two expeditions, in 1789 and 1792, resulting in Pasha's defeat and the signing of a treaty. The help the Souliotes had from local pashas and beys who regarded Ali Pasha with hostility, played a particularly important role in the first victory. In the second attack, the wife of Lambros Tzavella, Mosho, who was in charge of the women of Souli, played a pivotal role. Despite his first defeats, in 1800, Ali Pasha attacked the Souliotes again, this time with a decree from the Sultan, and besieged Souli. The devastated Souliotes succumbed in 1803. They were forced to leave their villages and took refuge in the neighboring Ionian Islands.
The French Revolution was a violent revolution that deeply affected Europe and the entire world. Following the example of the American Revolution, the French revolutionaries drafted a Declaration and a Constitution. The Revolution was successful, and the various stages it went through included the period of Terrorism and the Directory. Eventually, the Revolution ended up being controlled by the Corsican general, Napoleon Bonaparte. He led the French troops to a military campaign in Egypt (1798), battled in Europe against the Austrians, Germans, Russians, and English. He was finally defeated in Waterloo, Belgium, by the English general Wellington, in 1815. The ideas of the French Revolution echoed among the Greek intellectuals and planted the seed of hope for the freedom of the nation. Such an intellectual was Rigas Velestinlis, whose revolutionary ideas and writings awakened and inspired the Greek nation.
In December of 1790, the brothers Markides Pouliou from Siatista published in Vienna the first surviving Greek Newspaper titled Newspaper. The Newspaper was published until 1797 when the Austrian authorities dismantled the printing press and arrested the publishers for printing the revolutionary writings of Riga Velestinlis, who was detained in Trieste that year. Greek press publications, such as the Newspaper, which circulated in Europe up until the Greek Revolution, gave voice to the Greek nation and its claims and were useful for the communication and bonding of the Greeks.
During a period of spectacular development in Greek education, Thessalonian scholars Daniel Filippidis and Gregorios Konstantas, printed in Vienna, their emblematic work, Geographia Neoteriki (Contemporary Geography) which included important information about Hellenism, with a political and historical perspective. It is a thorough attempt to describe innovatively, the regions of Greece as independent local entities in a historical context. At the same time, their work included religious, linguistic, and demographic observations. Geographia Neoteriki is a progressive piece of work of its time, which, in its pages, condemned social injustices and the economic exploitation of the land by the Ottoman Empire.
After the War of the First Coalition, the first widely coordinated effort to contain Napoleon's France, and the collapse of the Venetian Republic, France annexed the Ionian islands. So a short period of French rule began, which ended in 1799, while the Ionian State was recognized under Ottoman and Russian control the following year. During the French occupation, a democratic regime was instituted in the Ionian Islands governed by the French ideals of the Revolution, respect for the human rights of life, property, and religious freedom. Nevertheless, the authoritarianism and mishandlings of the French would eventually make them unpopular in the Ionian islands.
Rigas Velestinlis from Thessaly (1757-1798) emerged as the most influential revolutionary of the Balkans at the end of the 18th century. Within him, burned the flame for freedom and justice. Influenced by the French Revolution, disappointed by Russia's antics, and enthusiastic about Napoleon's personality, he hoped to liberate the Greeks and the other Balkan people from the yoke of the Sultan. After 1796, he based his operations in Vienna, where he published the Charter of Greece and the Constitution of the Hellenic Republic. He envisioned a multiethnic and tolerant Balkan political union, free from the Ottoman rule, in which the Greeks would play the central role. He was arrested by the Austrians, who handed him over to the Ottomans. They executed him in Belgrade in 1798.
Adamantios Korais, lived in Paris when he became involved in the publication of ancient Greek texts for the intellectual and cultural uplift of the Greek nation. In its emblematic "Greek Library," the works of the ancient Greek writers are supplemented by extensive comments and introductions "in the common language." It was a language that all Greeks could understand, a fact that made the fulfillment of Korais’ goals easier.
Following the Russo-Ottoman Alliance (January 1799) and the Ionian Islands' occupation by the Russian-Turkish fleet, the Republic of the United Ionian Islands was established with the Treaty of Constantinople (21 March 1800). The islands were under French rule until 1799. The Ionian Republic (Eptanissos Politeia) is the first semi-autonomous state on Greek land. Territorially it fell under the control of the Sultan, while religiously, it belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church. "Klephts" and Souliotes, defeated by Ali Pasha of Ioannina, took refuge in this state formation. The "Byzantine" Constitution, approved in Istanbul, made provisions for the state's federal status, the establishment of a Senate and Higher Council, and the reinstatement of privileges and titles of nobility by reestablishing the authority of local noble families. In 1807 the Republic would surrender to Napoleon's France, which caused a British operation to take control of the islands.
During this time, the number of Greek schools in the Balkans, the Aegean islands and the coasts of Asia Minor made Korais estimate that there is no city or town without a school. Some of these schools had imposing buildings, a library, and a physics and chemistry laboratory. Next to the science courses, which had become the focus of education, ancient writers, and ancient history are taught, while geography has also become a valuable lesson. The need to use the demotic language instead of the archaic language becomes prevalent, a conclusion favored by significant scholars such as Daniel Filippidis and Athanasios Christopoulos. The construction cost and the running of the schools were undertaken by Greek merchants of the diaspora, professional guilds, communities, while the Church played a supporting role. The most well-known schools were in Ioannina, Ambelakia, Chios, Bucharest, Iasi, Izmir, Kydonia (Aivali), Dimitsana, Zagora, Milia in Pelion, etc.
After the seize of Souli, Ali Pasha decided to destroy the Souliotes who had been forced by a treaty to leave their villages and withdraw to Zalongos. The surprise attack by the army of the Pasha led to a ferocious battle with many casualties on both sides. By taking a heroic decision, the women of Souli (Souliotisses) and their children, during a ceremonial dance, one by one, fell off the cliff choosing not to be captured alive by the Pasha. Their act caused great emotion in Greece and Europe.
In 1804 the Serbian Revolution erupted. It began as an uprise against the abuse of power by the janissaries. At that time, the Serbs had the Ottoman Empire on their side, but a clash soon occurred, and the Serbs demanded their independence. The Serbs, guided by their powerful leader Karageorgi Petrovic, were victorious against the Ottomans but were ultimately defeated when Russia abandoned them. In 1815, Milos Obrenovic took over Karageorgi's struggle. Under Obrenovic's guidance, the Serbs were gradually gaining more extensive autonomy. Serbia became independent in 1878. During their struggle, the Serbs had assistance and support from Greek fighters who run alongside them on the battlefields.
Muhammad Ali Pasha, aka Muhammad Ali, was noted as the head of an Albanian military unit in the Ottoman campaign against the French in Egypt. He acquired control of Egypt in a coup d' état and became a de facto ruler. He used the Greek Revolution to solidify his position and prepare his country, which he aimed to turn into a great power by European standards. The Sultan, believing that his involvement in the Greek Revolution would weaken him, in January 1824, asked Muhammad Pasha to take over the leadership of the war. Muhammad Ali accepted, hoping that he would obtain Crete and be able to build bridges with Europe.
When the new Russian-Turkish war (1806-1812) erupted, the armatoloi and klephts engaged in warfare against the Ottomans: Katsantonis and Kitsos Botsaris in Akarnania, the Lazaioi and Nikotsaras in Olympus, Thymios Blahavas in Thessaly. Nikotsaras also participated in sea raids in the Aegean and Macedonia. After the Russian-Turkish armistice (1807), their operations diminished.
In 1806 "Hellenic Nomarhia" (Greek Prefecture), the most important of the unsigned Greek revolutionary writings of the time, was printed in Italy and circulated among the Greeks, within and outside the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. The unknown author (possibly Athanasios Psalidas or Spyridon Spahos) signed as "Anonymous the Greek". The document, which was influenced by skepticism and the values of the French Revolution, articulated the principles of freedom and equality. It also mentioned the wealthy and well-educated Greeks, who could guide their countrymen toward the rebirth of the nation.
The Ottoman administration of the Peloponnese and the Greek elders and clergy, with the support of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, commonly decided the annihilation of the "klephts" of the Peloponnese in 1806. Initially, their help was demanded by the Ottomans to fight the Turkish-Albanian gangs who engaged in repeated looting. However, the "klephts" themselves engaged in looting, mainly of Christians, and this practice resulted in the pan-Peloponnesian decision to disband them. Theodoros Kolokotronis was rescued at the last moment by crossing over to the Ionian Islands.
In 1806, during the new Russian-Turkish war, Ali Pasha threatened to overtake Lefkada. The government of the Ionian Republic assigned the organizing of the island's defense to Ioannis Kapodistrias, who had previously completed his term as Secretary of the Republic. In 1807, Kapodistrias, Ignatios, Metropolitan Bishop of Artas, and military forces arrived in Lefkada. Kapodistrias called the chieftains of Central Greece and Epirus at Magemenos. Among those who responded were Katsantonis, Kitsos Botsaris, Tzavelas, Karaiskos, Nikotsaras, Anagnostaras, Varnakiotis, and many others, who collectively managed to defeat the Turks. This assembly had a significant meaning because it asserted the spirit of unity that dominated among the chieftains of mainland Greece.
In 1808 Sultan Mustafa IV was overthrown, and Mahmoud II ascended to the throne of the Sultan. The new Sultan associated his name with the Europeanization of the Ottoman Empire and used the Greek Revolution to promote reforms such as abolishing the elite army unit of the janissaries. However, his violent practices, especially during the Greek Revolution (see Hanging of the Patriarch, Chios massacre), resulted in disputes with the Great Vizier and the head of the Ulemas, who were dismissed by the Sultan. In the end, the massacres reinforced the determination of the Greeks, the national character of their Revolution, and the demand for Independence.
A secret society was established in Paris, aiming to prepare the conditions for political change for the Greek people. It was created by the Frenchman Choiseal Gouffier and Athanasios Tsakalov, who later founded "Filiki Etaireia" (Friendly Society.) The establishment of the Hotel can be considered as part of a trend of the time, which had the freemasons as a central point. This new type of secret organization was defined by its concealed nature, the ritualistic initiation process, and enforcing political activism among its members.
In 1811, the scholar, clergyman, and mapmaker from Thessaly, Anthimos Gazis, published in Vienna the emblematic magazine of the new Hellenism, Logios Hermes, with a literary and informative content. It is the first exclusively Greek literary magazine. The magazine continued to get published, although its circulation fluctuated, until 1821 and played a crucial role in Greek education. Magazines such as Logios Hermes intended to contribute to the spread of scientific knowledge, especially on Greek land, and highlight Greek educational issues.
European and Greek scholars and under the protection of Great Britain, founded in Athens the Society of Friends of the Muses or Philomoussos Etaireia, with its apparent purpose the spiritual progress of the Greeks and the protection of antiquities, but with its secret purpose, the Revolution. The work of the Philomoussos Etaireia was aided by the existence of significant enclaves of Greeks in various parts of the Balkans and the contribution of essential persons, both Greek, and non-Greek. For the same educational purposes and to balance English influence, Ioannis Kapodistrias founded, in the favorable tide of the times and with support by the Tsar, a society by the same name in Vienna, where the Austrian authorities closely monitored its activities. The two societies never merged, and the Athens Society was active until 1825.
A secret society, the "Society of Friends", was founded in Odesa, Russia's largest port in the Black Sea by Emmanuel Xanthos from Patmos, Athanasios Tsakalov from Giannena and Nikolaos Skoufas from Arta. Its goal was to liberate the Greeks from the Ottoman rule. Like the masonic societies of the time, it had a concealed nature, ritualistic initiation procedures, complex internal hierarchy, and strict regulations for self-protection. In 1818 the society's headquarters were transferred to Istanbul. Emmanuel Xanthos offered the leadership of the society to the Minister of the Russian Tsar Ioannis Kapodistrias, but he declined it. Finally, in 1820, the Tsar's aide, Alexandros Ypsilantis, a descendant of one of the most influential Phanariot families, took over the society's leadership. He was the person who declared the beginning of the Revolution in February 1821 with the crossing of the Prut river.
In 1807, the Republic of the Ionian Islands was ceded to Napoleon. At the Vienna Congress, it was decided that the Ionian Islands would become an independent state under the protection of Great Britain. So, the United States of the Ionian Islands was created, a federation of islands, but in fact an English protectorate. Thomas Maitland took command of the islands.
Michail Soutzos, a descendant of the great Phanariot family, rose to the post of Prince of Moldova in 1819. A member of the Friendly Society, Soutzos, played a crucial role in the Revolution that was about to begin in Moldova. He was forced to leave his seat in 1821 when he was declared downfallen because of his involvement in the Revolution. During the same year, he was excommunicated by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, together with Alexandros Ypsilantis. During the Revolution he contributed financially to the Greek struggle.
After it was revealed that Ali Pasha's Albanians attempted to assassinate Ismail Pasobeis, the leader of the Sultan's army, the Sultan ordered Ali Pasha's removal from Ioannina. To win back the Sultan's favor, the latter revealed to him the existence of the Friendly Society and the plans of the Greeks to revolt, but even so, he failed to annul the Sultan's order. Ali Pasha refused to obey the order and abandon his pashalik, so the Sublime Porte began to gather an army force against him. Ali Pasha's mutiny gave the Souliotes the right to return to their villages, from which they had been exiled, since the Sultan gave this option to those who had been expelled or wronged by the Pasha in an effort to undermine his influence on Epirus. The Souliotes were even encouraged by Pasobeis to liberate their villages from Ali. However, the Turk-Albanians of the Sultan’s guard, who took part in the occupation of the villages of the Souliotes, planned their annihilation and allied themselves with Ali Pasha and his faithful Turk-Albanians (January 1821). Finally, in January 1822, Ali was defeated and killed on the island of the Lake of Ioannina.
Alexandros Ypsilantis, as leader of the Friendly Society, set off from Russia, crossed the River Prut (the Russian border with the hegemony of Moldova, at the time) and arrived in Moldova, where he was welcomed by Michael Soutzos, ruler of Moldova and an initiate of the Friendly Society. The two men, along with some 2,000 fighters, arrived in Iasi (the capital of Moldova) on February 22, 1821. Two days later, Ypsilantis handed out the revolutionary proclamation "Fight for faith and country", in which he asked the Greeks to revolt. Therefore, these acts marked the official inauguration of the Revolution in the Hegemonies (Dominions) around the Danube.
Athanasios Diakos (real name: Athanasios Grammatikos) was the central figure in the detonation and development of the Revolution in Eastern Central Greece, accomplishing many successful attacks against the Ottomans in the region. Specifically, he had managed to seize Livadia, Thebes, and Atalanti. At the Battle of Alamana (April 23, 1821), Diakos and a few men tried to resist Kiose Mehmet and Omer Vryonis, who were instructed to suppress the Revolution in Roumeli, and then move to the Peloponnese. After fighting a heroic battle, Diakos was wounded and got arrested. On the next day, he was transferred to Lamia, where he refused to collaborate with the Ottomans. So, the Ottomans decided an exemplary punishment for him, death by impalement.
Since October of 1822, and after the devastating defeat at Peta (July 1822), Messolonghi had been blocked both from land (by Omer Vryonis and Kutahi, who commanded 11,000 men) and from the sea (by Yusuf Pasha). The besieged people of Messolonghi were in a grave situation because of the lack of necessary provisions. On the other hand, the Ottomans lost valuable time in lengthy negotiations toward a compromise, initiated by Alexandros Mavrokordatos and Markos Botsaris, who were defending the city. During this time, Andreas Miaoulis broke the naval blockade and supplied Messolonghi with provisions, ammunition, and 1,000 men. The Ottomans' raid against the besieged city, which took place on the night of the 24th to December 25, had leaked to the Greek side, so the fighters were on full alert. The Ottomans were completely destroyed, and finally, on December 31, they lifted the siege.
After the fall of Tripolitsa, the Revolution became established. Dimitrios Ypsilantis called a National Assembly, which met in Piada, near Ancient Epidaurus, on December 20, 1821, in frenzied excitement. It was then that the Revolution was organized within a legal framework, i.e., the de facto status became a state. On January 1, 1822, the National Assembly voted for a Constitution which adopted the representative system and the separation of powers, and took the title "The Provisional Regime of Greece". This Constitution was partially implemented in the vortex of the Revolution, but it set the political and ideological identity of Rebirth (Paliggenesia.)
The ruling classes of Chios, which excelled in trade, were very privileged, and therefore, very hesitant to participate in the uprising. On March 10, however, revolutionary forces landed on the island of Chios under Antonios Bournias and Lykourgos Logothetis, who managed to rouse the locals (mainly the inhabitants of the countryside). The Sultan was outraged by the "ungratefulness" of the people of Chios, to whom he had granted many privileges. On March 30, 1822, the Turkish fleet led by Kara Ali arrived to Chios. After a ruthless bombardment, 7,000 men landed on the island. The ill-conceived Greek uprising was quickly suppressed, as Logothetis and the Samians left the island. The whole island was torched, and a terrible massacre followed. Tens of thousands of Christians were captured and slaughtered. The incident horrified Europe.
At the beginning of July of 1822, the Struggle was in great danger, due to the advancement into the Peloponnese of strong Turkish forces, under the command of Mahmoud Pasha, better known as Dramalis. He intended to occupy Tripolitsa and suppress the Revolution. The Greeks panicked. However, Theodoros Kolokotronis quickly reacted with drastic measures and managed to contain the enemy troops in Argolida, blocking their way to Tripolitsa. Dramalis found himself in a challenging situation due to the lack of food and wanted to retreat to Corinth. But Kolokotronis swiftly occupied the narrow crossings leading from Argos to Corinth. Thus, on July 26, 1822, the Turks suffered a devastating defeat, losing over 3,000 men. It was one of the most pivotal battles of the Revolution, one which allowed the tactical genius of Theodoros Kolokotronis to shine. Along with him, Ypsilantis, Papaflessas and Nikitas Stamatelopoulos also dominated in the battle.
At the beginning of the Greek Revolution, British politics were particularly hostile to it. In August of 1822, however, George Canning was appointed Secretary of Foreign Affairs of England. This event signified a shift in English politics in favor of the Greek issue.
To avenge the massacre of Chios, 64 ships from Hydra, Psara, and Spetses gathered in Psara at the end of April and formed a fleet, which waited for an opportunity to attack. After some unsuccessful attempts, finally, on the night of the 6th to June 7, an opportunity arose: while Turkish officers had gathered on the flagship of the Turkish armada to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Psarian Konstantinos Kanaris managed to attach his fireship to the flagship, which became engulfed in flames. Some 2,000 men on board, including Kara Ali, the perpetrator of the Chios massacre, were killed.