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Greek CommunityCultureTHE REVOLUTION OF 1821 AND THE GREEK DIASPORA

THE REVOLUTION OF 1821 AND THE GREEK DIASPORA

Hellenic News of America
Hellenic News of Americahttps://www.hellenicnews.com
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Dr. Aris Michopoulos

In a few days we will celebrate the 203rd anniversary of the Greek Revolution with parades both in Greece and around the world. Sometimes, however, we forget the serious work that preceded this uprising and played a pivotal role in the final outcome of the Revolution. As we know, the initial planning started at the port city of Odessa, being under Russia at that time. There it was formed the Society of Friends (Philike Etaireia) in 1814 by three Greek merchants (Skoufas, Xanthos and Tsakalof) and within a short period it had grown not only outside today’s Greece, i.e. today’s Romania and other Balkan countries, but also in Greece proper. As a matter of fact most of the leaders of the Greek Revolution, such as

Kolokotronis, Karaiskakis, and many others, along with the Metropolitans that blessed the “lavara” at Agia Lavra, had been initiated in the secrets of Philike Etaireia. And the first outbreak of the Revolution was not at Aghia Lavra, but in today’s Romania, i.e. the Principality of Moldavia and Wallachia at that time. There on February 24 Alexander Ypsilantis the Leader of the Revolution crossed the Prut River with a band of fighters, declared their Revolution against the Sultan and through a Proclamation invited the local people to join the revolution. Indeed, with local participation and a military force of some 4,000 men the rebels were able to enter Bucharest on March 27, 1821. The turn of events, however, turned against them, when the Tsar of Russia did not object to the Sultan’s military operations against the rebels. Within a few weeks the Revolution had been extinguished, but left a glorious legacy with the famous battle of Dragatsani (June 7) where the fighters of the Sacred Battalion, all young and educated men, fell on the field of honor for “their faith and country.” Thus the Revolution ended in September of 1821, with its leader Alexander Ypsilantis crossing the border to Austria, where he was captured and imprisoned until 1827. Unfortunately he had an untimely death in Vienna the following year without being able to visit the liberated Greece of the time. However, his brother Demetrios Ypsilantis was able to join the Revolution in Greece from its beginning and contribute significantly to its successful outcome.

In addition to the pivotal role that the Greeks of Russia, Romania and other Balkan countries played during the Revolution, we also had the Greeks in Western Europe, i.e. England, France, Italy and other European countries, who informed and urged their citizens and their governments to support the Revolution. As a matter of fact, they organized many Committees that collected clothing, food and military supplies to support the war. At the same time they were bringing forth the Turkish atrocities and causing a strong philhellenic sentiment towards the rebels. That resulted into an influx of European fighters coming to

Greece to fight for her freedom. An excellent example of this movement was the participation of Lord Byron, who was financing a large group of Souliot fighters and also gave his own life during the Siege of Missolonghi (April 19, 1824). On the political front, they were advocating the establishment of a free country and providing military and financial aid. Thus in a way the various loans given to Greece during the Revolution were a byproduct of these efforts by the Diaspora Greeks and others. Especially this assistance became more obvious and crucial towards the end of the Revolution, when the joint efforts of Greeks and the change of the public opinion in many European countries forced their governments to change their position on the Revolution. Thus the Holy Alliance formed in 1815 in Vienna, from a foe of the Revolution in the beginning was forced to become a friend in a short while. And this change was clearly manifested at the naval battle of Navarino (1827), where England, France and Russia fought together against the Turco-Egyptian fleet and brought an end to this long and bitter fighting.

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The public demonstrations and support in Europe were followed by similar actions across the Atlantic. The nascent American Democracy contributed its own significant share to the Revolution. Many Committees in major American cities, especially on the East Coast, were formed to collect clothing, money and any other necessities to support the war and the starving people. These Committees played a pivotal role in the success of the war and also in encouraging young fighters to join the war. As a result a good number of them did join the fight and provided humanitarian aid. Most notable of them was the famous young doctor Samuel Gridley Howe who saved many lives, taking care of the sick and wounded. He was promoted to Chief Surgeon of the Greek Army and helped Greece during the Cretan Revolution, too. On the military front we have several career and other officers joining the Greek fighters, special among them George Jarvis and Colonel Jonathan Miller. While Jarvis was promoted to a General of the Greek Army, Col. Jonathan Miller gave the Greek Americans their first Congressman, i.e. Lucas Miltiades Miller. Lucas was brought to the USA, as an orphan of the war, got an exceptional education by his adopted father and he finally became a Congressman, offering the keynote address on the Greek Revolution in 1891 at the US Congress!

While the miniscule presence of the Greek Diaspora in the United States at that time did its utmost to support the Revolution, one can imagine the depth and breadth of our Omogeneia in our days. The Greek American Community today is the center of the Greek Diaspora, as the Greeks of Russia were in 1821. The Greek Diaspora today has a wealth and power never imagined fifty years ago. Perhaps, AHEPA is the organization that has absorbed this mission best by creating sister organizations in many parts of the world, i.e. Australia, Canada, Europe and even Greece itself. This shows the unity of our nation in its global conceptualization. And as the Greeks of the Diaspora in 1821 changed the course of history at that time, so can we do today. The Greek-Americans are the flagship of the Hellenic Diaspora and as such they have a serious obligation to lead by example the rest of the Greek Diaspora. And we have a good example to follow: the Jews of the Diaspora. In many respects they have moved the “goal posts” ahead, leaving the other teams behind. Here then we have our own multiple challenges to face and overcome, so that we can proudly proclaim «ΖΗΤΩ ΤΟ ΑΘΑΝΑΤΟ 1821!»

The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.

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