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March 25th 1821 - the beginning of the 11 year fight for Greek independence

25 March 2009 / 12:03:02  GRReporter
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Angel Kabakchiev

The date, which all of Greece honors as one of the two big national holidays, connected directly with the ethnic, religious, and political identity of the country, is probably a misunderstanding. Historic researches from the last decades show that the oath of the rebels, given during the liturgy in “Saint Lavra” monastery in Peloponnese, which is also accepted at the beginning of the Greek rebellion, happens on March 17th 1821. Even the bishop of Patra Germanos, who performed the mass, says that on March 25th he was not even in the monastery.

This interesting detail does not change the fact that the first rebellion in the European part of the Ottoman Empire started during 1821, when we exclude the case of the Wallachia autonomous principality, which lead to the real political separation of territories from the empire. We have to note Russia’s contribution, which was a very important step on the road to freedom from slavery but also it helped for the signing of the protocol in London 11 years later, which lead to Greece’s independence.

Of course we shouldn’t omit the important role of the organization and implementation of the rebellion of the secret revolutionary society “Filiki eteria.” It was founded in 1814 by Emanuil Xantos, Atanasios Tzakalof (often painted in Bulgarian iconography as Atanas Chakalov) and Nikolaos Skoufas. All three have experience and observations about the organizing and implementing the activities of a secret society, independently of its goals. During his student years in Paris, Tzakalof was one of the founders of the “Greek lingual inn” (“Elinogloso xenodohio”). Xantos was a member of the mason lodge in Lefkada Island and Skoufas was very close with Konstantinos Rados, who was an initiated coalman.

In his memoirs Xantos writes about their inspiration by the common European democratic enthusiasm, which had taken over everybody after the French Revolution in 1789, so the organization had a goal to organize a rebellion, which would free Greece and they will achieve this alone, because until then they were fruitlessly hoping to receive freedom from the Christian rulers. True to the revolutionary brotherhood spirit, which was going through Europe, “Filiki eteria” was open for every open-minded and worthy man, independent of his nationality. This comes out to be a very winning political move, because the organization is joined not only by Greeks but also by people from almost all enslaved Balkan Christian countries.

Greece’s independence was declared in January of 1822, during the first national assembly in Epidaurus. The combination of the aureole of the Ancient Greek civilization and the mentioned European revolution spirit under the flag “Freedom, equality, brotherhood” lead many Greek lovers to the East – the most famous of which was probably the English romantic poet George Gordon Byron. Unfortunately, during 1824, a little less than a year after his arrival in Greece, he gets ill and dies in Messolongi. Military actions have uncertain success for both sides, which try to attract all types of allies. Though, as most of the Greek revolutionaries expected, the conflict was not supposed to be solved.

On March 22nd 1829, the three great powers (Great Britain, France, and Russia) make a decision in London about the size of the future Greek territory and about the type of government. Those territories included continental Greece and Peloponnese, as well as most of the Aegean islands.

The Ionian Islands, Crete and all regions north of the Arta-Volos line were not included in the borders of the planned tributary, autonomous Greek principality. The change in the diplomatic conditions (the outbreak of the July Revolution in France, the withdrawal  of the candidate for the future Greek throne – Leopold, king of Belgium, etc) lead to changes in the final version of the London protocol, approved by the Great Powers on August 30th 1832. This is how the 11 year epos for the Greek independence is put to an end.

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