The Greek War of Independence

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The Greek War of Independence

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Greek Territory, 1832-1947, a map from Wikipedia [pic]
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Battle at Navarin Bay, the last
battle of sailing ships, 1827 [pic]
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King Otto
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King Otto arrives in Greece, 1833,
an artist's imagination [pic]
The Greeks had been under Ottoman rule since the mid-1400s. Islamic law applied only to Muslims, with the Greek Orthodox Church allowed to function and Greeks free to worship as they pleased and to maintain their own culture and language. The Greeks saw the Ottoman Turks as inferior, and they looked back at what they considered the glories of ancient Greece. In the late 1700s the French Revolution inspired a greater yearning for liberty. A revolt against Ottoman rule gave Serbia quasi-autonomy beginning in 1813, and this encouraged the Greeks. There was a tendency among Greeks to believe that it would be their fellow Orthodox Christians with power, the Russians, who would free them from Ottoman power. Then in 1814, at the center of a thriving Greek community in Odessa, Russia, Greek exiles laid what they hoped would be the ground work for an armed uprising inside Greece, and they misleadingly portrayed their group as having the approval of the Russian authorities. In 1821 Greeks in the Peloponnese (the Peloponnesian Peninsula) rebelled, inspired by news of an uprising in Moldavia, which was also under Ottoman rule, just across the border from Russian territory -- the Ukraine. A small group led by a Greek, that included some Russians, had crossed the border into Moldavia where they raised the flag of Greek independence and hoped that the Romanians and Bulgarians of Moldavia would rise with them for their own independence. The revolt in Moldavia was crushed, but the revolt in the Peloponnese spread. The rebels in the Peloponnese lacked good organization and discipline. For the most part they were Christians smiting their enemies without mercy. Leaders emerged who tried to invoke restraint and to stop looting, but they had little affect. However glorious the accomplishments of ancient Greece, the Greek peasants of 1821, armed with scythes, clubs and slings, grabbed what valuables they could and killed wherever possible, including small clusters of Muslims fleeing their homes. Of the estimated 50,000 Muslims living in the Peloponnese in March 1821, an estimated 20,000 were killed within a few weeks -- men, women and children. In Constantinople on April 10, the Ottoman sultan, Mahmud II, had the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople, Gregorios V, seized. Gregorios was accused of having intrigued with the uprising and having committed perjury and treason. Gregorios was hanged, Mahmud, believing it was his right to order the execution. Christians across Europe were aware of the uprising in the Peloponnese but not of the atrocities of the revolutionaries, and they were shocked by the hanging of Gregorios. Common Russians wanted to avenge the death of the patriarch, but the tsar had other matters to consider and merely withdrew his ambassador from Constantinople. The Russian tsar was still allied with Austria against revolutions, especially nationalist revolutions, and the tsar was not ready to break with that alliance. And neither was Britain's foreign secretary Lord Castlereagh. In April the revolt north of the Peloponnese spread across the Isthmus of Corinth, north toward central Greece and toward Athens. In May, Muslims in Athens were defending themselves from the Acropolis. In the Peloponnese various towns and cities fell, including Petras, where all Muslims who did not make it to the safety of the walls of the town's fortress were killed. In August in the Peloponnese, Muslims of the small town of Monemvasia were besieged and chose to surrender rather endure more hunger, and when they surrendered they were slaughtered. A few days later, between 2,000...
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