The Independence of Greece

George Vlassis, M.A., a member of the Order of Ahepa Winnipeg (Canada) Chapter, recalls his homeland's blow for freedom in the following interesting historical article which appeared in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix of March 24. 1934:

The great Corsican Napoloean, having been destroyed at Waterloo, was decaying away at St. Helena when the Greek revolution against the Turks occurred on March 25, 1821.

The Holy Alliance of the monarchs of Austria, Russia and Prussia, which had by now been converted into the concert of Europe -- from which Britain withdrew in 1822 – believed that in having eliminated Napoleon they had stifled the ideas of the liberality in thought, speech and sentiment which started with John Locke in England, Montesquieu in France, followed by the Encyclopedists and the Physiocrats and culminated in the revolutionary doctrines of Rosseau which brought about the revolution in France.

From the time when the monstrous wrong had been accomplished and Constantinople in 1453 fell in the hands of the Turks, during the 400 years of unspeakable slavery , never for a moment had the Creeks lost the hope of regaining their freedom.

The glorious past of Greece has been her boon as well as her doom. In this case it was her boon. The glorious past of Greece was the constant reminder to her sons that they owed it to themselves as the inheritors of the illustrious name they bore to overthrow their masters and be free again.

Contrary to the impression one gets from Byron's bitter exclamation "hereditary bondsmen," an exclamation justified because of his immense love for Greece and of the passiveness he encountered in the Greeks during his first visit to that country and which, judged by subsequent events, was but a calm prelude to the storm that followed, they had made several attempts to regain their liberty, expecting help from outside. Charles VIII of France promised assistance, but he died and the scheme was abandoned. Again in 1770, when Russia went to war with Turkey, Greece hoped that some help would come her way, especially when the Russian fleet under Orloff appeared off the coast of Peloponese. The war, however, ended and Greece was forgotten. The vengeance win 'h the Turks took was terrible. Still they lost no hope. And although they gave up the attempt to bring about a general uprising, the Klefts kept up the struggle in the mountains and Lambros Katsonis, about 1778, fitted out a small fleet with the help of patriotic subscriptions from Greeks living outside of Greece and so the Greek banner was floating over the Greek seas.

The French revolution which proclaimed the natural rights of man and the abolition of class distinction had its echo in every Greek heart all over the world. Since 1798, a secret society, the Philike Etairia, a brotherhood, a national league, had been formed, the members of which were selected with extreme caution, and whose first step was toward the promotion of public instruction and education for those remaining in enslaved Greece. This society was reorganized during the years 1811-1817. Through this secret fraternal organization the field was prepared for the final blow which was delivered on March 25. 1821.

When the war broke out, however, there was a lack of organization. There was no military or political organization whatsoever. The means were insufficient and there was no alliance and no hope of help from any foreign nation. Metternich, the conspirator of governments against peoples, was successful in crushing a popular insurrection in Spain by a French army and a revolution in Naples by an Austrian army. But before the indomitable spirit of the Greek who took up arms against the Turks with the firm determination to die rather than live the lives of slaves, his Machiavelian machinations were proven to be inadequate.

On the other hand, the struggle of Greece for freedom was very popular among the peoples of all nations. Philhellenic societies were formed, lectures were given, contributions solicited for the assistance of the Greeks. Philhellenes fought and even commanded her armies, edited or furnished the printing presses for her early newspapers, advertised her cause abroad, and, through the force of public opinion, compelled the attention of European diplomacy, the result of which was the battle of Navarino, October, 1827, between the combined naval forces of Britain. France and Russia and the Turco-Egyptian fleet, which brought about the end of the war.

In the meantime, Greece bail to fight her gigantic oppressors, depending on herself. Her population became much more than decimate in this war by massacres anil epidemics. Turkish savagery spared nothing. The towns were destroyed. The country was laid waste. When all the bloodshed, when all the horrors of war were over, only a little fraction of the Hellenic race obtained independence. Three hundred thousand Greeks gave up their lives in order that six hundred thousand might he free.

Greece's freedom was ratified by the Russo-Turkish treaty of Adrianople of 1830, by which Turkey was forced to recognize Greece as an independent country.

© Order of AHEPA

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