The dream, the utopia and the Greeks abroad built the independence of Greece


By Anastasios M. Tamis*

There are many readings and interpretations, and myriad questions arise about the Greek Revolution, a phenomenon that gave birth to the first independent new country in Eastern Europe.

Was it the revolution, the rebellion of the impoverished peasant Greeks and their robber leaders against the misery, poverty and rayadism of the Ottoman occupiers? Was it the same material interest of the thieving captains, the loufes, who rose up against the conqueror and just 19 months after the Day of the Revolution, discovered that the enemy was not the Turk but the Greek? Was it the bravery of the Greek soul, the indignation, the bottomless pain that could no longer deprive the suffering, the abduction of children, the dishonour and humiliation, the causes that triggered the Revolution, a revolution that the Greeks of Europe and their allies essentially prepared on their behalf?

Were the ancient Greek ancestors, the glorious past of Ancient Greece, the Grecomania and Grecophilia of Europe that paved, cultivated and strengthened the Greek Struggle? Were it the educated Greeks of Europe, the shipowners and merchants who managed to validate and exploit the adoration that the great peoples of Europe felt through the Renaissance and the Enlightenment for Aristotle and Plato and Homer and Alexander the Great? Was it the fatigue felt by the feudal emperors to insist on maintaining borders and suppressing all revisable and political freedom that allowed the Greek rebellion against his Asian oppressor? Was it the interests of England, which wanted to have a state of its own in the armpit of the Ottoman Empire, in the Eastern Mediterranean, that as the first country then urged others, including the “blond race” the Russians to come as her protectors?

Was it the Revolution that persuaded the Western Philhellenic World to legislate in its conscience the independence of Greece? Was the Revolution more or less than the Massacre in Psara, Chios and Messolonghi? But since the Revolution was finally suppressed, how can the triumph of Independence that followed be justified?

It was the Greek fighter’s tenacity, his endurance, to rise and fall and rise again for eight consecutive years, that led to the final victory, even knowing that the Italians who also revolted against the Australians in the end could not be freed, after an ephemeral uprising. Was it the rebellious Greeks and the passion for Freedom that persuaded the Great Powers to intervene?

I could list dozens more questions and look for dozens of interpretations, dozens of reasons that led to the freedom and independence of Greece, through an uprising that lasted so many years. Greece that was approved was not a nation-state. The new nation was a diplomatic spice that essentially had to be favoured by the English, German-Prussians and Russians, but also by the Ottomans, who held back Russia’s ambitions from the north on behalf of the Western powers. Greece in 1830 was the ancient Greece that Westerners were taught in their schools. It was the Greece of city-states and democracy. It was the type of Greece they wanted to protect. Besides, philhellenism was based on this Greece, a Greece of classical times, of ancient beauty, of knowledge, a Greece that had been the backbone of their culture, of European civilisation. Because the Greeks had a basis to talk about freedom and independence, they had reasons, they had their history planted in the heart and knowledge of Europeans. The European was taught the history of Greece, therefore the way for support and protection was open. Unfortunately,  Bulgarians, Serbians, and Romanians, who had no ancient history to refer or to be known by the Europeans, they could not convince of their own struggle for independence.

Greece in 1830 was a geographical part of Hellenism, the smallest and the poorest, which is why the revolution took root there longer. Because in this poor part of Hellenism, there was no developed Ottoman army, no organised fortresses and all the Ottomans who served there were far from their supply centers in human resources and material supplies.

The number of Greeks, according to the first official census of the newly established Greek state, the Greek census of 1828, organised and conducted by the Greek State with Ioannis Kapodistrias as Governor and estimated the inhabitants of the newly established state at 753,400, while the population was also estimated in 1821 at 938,765 inhabitants. This first official census proved that free Greece did not correspond ethnically with the geographical area where Hellenism lived and flourished. In 1912 the population of Greece went from 2.5 million to five million souls, while more than three million remained outside Greek sovereignty. This demographic assessment triggered and formed the basis for the argument of the Great Idea, offering reasonableness and anthropological and ethnological value to the struggles that followed, in order to recover lands where the Greek population lived and flourished for 3,000 years.

Apart from the interpretations as to the relationship that the Greek Revolution of 1821 had to the independence of Greece, it is historically certain that it was the first armed uprising against the Ottoman Empire. And the independence of Greece, the first in the Balkans. Studying the statistical data and figures of a sum of a few tens of thousands of hungry and unhappy revolutionaries, against an empire of many millions, we may compare their struggle to the Battle of Thermopylae and to come to two historical conclusions: (a) that it was passion, faith in a vision, faith in a utopia, faith in an uprising that finally convinced the Greeks abroad, as well as the Philhellenes and they in turn the Great Powers;  As a result, the latter protected and imposed the independence of Greece and (b) the independence of Greece and then its course, through historical struggles, through sacrifices and even civil wars, through social feats and achievements in letters, arts, culture, music, sports, vindicated as a state and as a nation fully all those who fought and sacrificed, vindicated the Philhellenes, vindicated the Great Powers for their trust in the Greek nation.

*Professor Anastasios M. Tamis taught at Universities in Australia and abroad, was the creator and founding director of the Dardalis Archives of the Hellenic Diaspora and is currently the President of the Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies (AIMS).




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