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Greek War of Independence


Aided by the great powers, Greece broke away from the Ottoman Empire to establish a modern state.

The Greek War of Independence began with two uprisings in March 1821. The first was led by Alexander Ipsilanti, a Greek officer in the Russian army, who led an ill-fated attack of Greek rebels into Moldavia from Russian territory. The second uprising took place in southern Greece, in the Peloponnese, and was to lead eventually to the establishment of the modern Greek state. The uprising in the Peloponnese, launched by Greek military chieftains, spread northward to parts of Rumelia and to the maritime islands off the eastern coast of the Peloponnese. In their clashes with the local Ottoman garrisons, the Greek rebels' object was to capture the fortified towns of the region; Greek vessels proved important in assisting the rebels to lay siege to the coastal forts. By the end of 1821, the Greeks controlled enough territory to be able to convene a meeting of representatives that proclaimed Greece's independence.

The rebels could not, however, sustain the successes they had scored in the first year of the revolt and were soon facing serious military, financial, and political difficulties. Ottoman army units stationed farther north marched southward into Rumelia and the Peloponnese and eventually recaptured some of the forts the Greeks had taken. The presence of European philhellenes fighting for the Greek cause did not serve to make less urgent the Greeks' need for more funds and equipment. Although the Greek leaders were able to obtain two loans in London for the purpose of acquiring armaments and equipment, they did so under unfavorable terms. By late 1924, the Greeks had managed to contain the Ottoman counterattack and controlled about half the Peloponnese and parts of Rumelia, but they encountered political dissent within their own ranks. Longstanding regional and personal ties stood in the way of forming an effective, centralized leadership, and the vision of a liberal, democratic constitution was not shared by all the diverse elements who made up the Greek leadershipthat is, the military chieftains, the notables, and the Greeks of the diaspora.

The landing of an Egyptian army in the Peloponnese (1925) in response to the sultan's request for help in suppressing the Greek uprising threatened to put an end to the Greek War of Independence. After two more years of hostilities, in which the Greeks had to deal with the Egyptian army's attempt to sweep the Peloponnese and with an Ottoman offensive on the Greek strongholds in Rumelia, the areas under Greek control were considerably contracted, especially after the fall of Athens to the Ottomans in May 1927. At the same time, Britain, France, and Russia had agreed upon a plan to end the war and to grant independence to Greece (i.e., the Peloponnese, Rumelia, and the islands involved in the war, which were to be ruled by a governor appointed by the great powers and acceptable to the Greek leadership). The agreement, formalized by the signing of the Treaty of London (1827), was rejected by the Sublime Porte and by Ibrahim ibn Muhammad Ali Pasha, the leader of the Egyptian army and navy. As diplomatic initiatives were being examined, a combined British, French, and Russian fleet that had sailed to the Peloponnese to blockade the Egyptian and Turkish navies engaged them in the Battle of Navarino (October 1927) and destroyed them completely. This development cleared the way for the implementation of the Treaty of London, and Count Ioannes Kapodistrias, a Greek in the Russian diplomatic service, became Greece's first governor.

Kapodistrias set about building a modern state and dealing with the devastation the war had inflicted. The formerly privileged class of military chieftains and notables resisted the centralization inherent in state building, however, and this resistance was to culminate in Kapodistrias's assassination by one of the military chieftains (1832). The work of establishing the modern Greek state had nevertheless progressed, both domestically and diplomatically. The Treaty of Adrianople (1829) ending the RussianOttoman War (18281829) included an article that proclaimed Greece to be an independent state, and the ambassadors of the great powers delineated the Greek state's boundaries in a document communicated to the Porte in the same year (1829). After the Porte had recognized both the Treaty of Adrianople and the Treaty of London as well as the Greek boundaries, the great powers formally proclaimed Greece to be an independent state in 1830.

See also ibrahim ibn muhammad ali; rumelia; russianottoman wars; sublime porte.


Petropoulos, John. Politics and Statecraft in the Kingdom of Greece, 18331843. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968.

alexander kitroeff

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