Today, March 25, 2021, marks the 200th anniversary of Greek Independence Day. All over the world people are celebrating and paying tribute to the Greeks in remembrance of their centuries-long struggle against the Ottoman Empire.
Starting today, dignitaries from Britain, Russia and France — the great powers that provided vital assistance to the nation’s bid for independence from the Ottoman Empire — as well as from Cyprus are in Greece to help cap off a two day celebration of modern Greece’s most fateful anniversary.
It was on this day two centuries ago, that Greeks began a long war to rid themselves of the shackles of a ruthless and cruel empire. From this day until 1830, the final Greek uprisings against Ottoman rule brought a new kingdom into being. It was a kingdom that would eventually become one of the world’s great democracies.
Greece came under Ottoman rule in the 15th century, after the decline of the Byzantine Empire. After the capture of Constantinople in 1453, many Greek islands and much of mainland Greece. It was not until 1814, when a secret organization called Filiki Eteria (Society of Friends) was founded, that Greece lighted the fervent blaze of freedom that gripped much of Europe at the time. The suppressive Ottoman rule had become intolerable, and their disregard for Greek history and traditions, their Orthodox religion, and other freedoms lost finally exploded in open revolt.
The first major resident to the Ottomans occurred between early 1821 in the Danubian Principalities, where Alexander Ypsilantis called Wallachians and Moldovians to join in open rebellion against the Ottomans. His proclamation, roughly translated, was as follows:
“Fight for Faith and Fatherland! The time has come, O Hellenes. Long ago the people of Europe, fighting for their own rights and liberties, invited us to imitation … The enlightened peoples of Europe are occupied in restoring the same well-being, and, full of gratitude for the benefactions of our forefathers towards them, desire the liberation of Greece. We, seemingly worthy of ancestral virtue and of the present century, are hopeful that we will achieve their defense and help. Many of these freedom-lovers want to come and fight alongside us … Who then hinders your manly arms? Our cowardly enemy is sick and weak. Our generals are experienced, and all our fellow countrymen are full of enthusiasm. Unite, then, O brave and magnanimous Greeks! Let national phalanxes be formed, let patriotic legions appear and you will see those old giants of despotism fall themselves, before our triumphant banners.”
The intention initially was to lure Russia to the side of the resistance, but unfortunately, the revolutionists were at first, soundly defeated by the Ottomans. And the uprising brought about mass executions, pogrom-style attacks, the destruction of churches, and looting of Greek properties throughout the Empire. The Constantinople Massacre of 1821, and other atrocities ended up solidifying Greek resistance, and the war for independence ensued. In the, which had a long tradition of resistance to the Ottomans, the blazing fire of open resistance branched out to the rest of the mainland. By the end of March 1821, Greek patriots like Petros Mavromichalis, Theodoros Kolokotronis, and others led their forced to take control of most of the countryside of the Peloponnese.
War in other regions stretched out for years with many massacres, huge naval battles, and countless internal and external political struggles. In 1827, as the revolution seemed almost lost, the fleets of Britain, Russia, and France intervened to destroy a Turkish-Egyptian fleet in the Bay of Navarino, in the western Peloponnese.
Finally, after years of intense struggle, and under pressure from Russia, the Treaty of London of 6 July 1827 and of the Protocol of 22 March 1829 were sealed. It was afterward, that Britain and France conceived an idea of an independent Greek state, in order to limit the influence of Russia on the new state. Finally, the London Protocol of 3 February 1830 saw a new nation rise from the bitter darkness of oppression.
Today in Athens, a military parade will pass and review in front of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, French Defense Minister Florence Parly, and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.