2021 is a historic year for the Greek people. Two hundred years ago, a revolutionary movement began in two areas of the Ottoman Empire: the Danubian Principalities and in the Peloponnese. This revolutionary bid could not have come at a more inopportune time in European history. The Holy Alliance that emerged, following the Napoleonic period, firmly rejected nationalist campaigns and considered them harbingers of chaos and bloodshed.
The Greek War of Independence was both chaotic and bloody. Yet through the six years of fighting, an increasing wave of support for the Greeks proved critical to their liberation. The newly-created Great Powers (Great Britain, France, and Russia) sent a naval fleet to the Bay of Navarino to pressure Sultan Mahmud II into an armistice. However, what resulted from the Great Power fleet, headed by Admiral Codrington, was not what the respective European powers had sought. A naval battle ensued on October 20, 1827 that witnessed the complete decimation of the Ottoman fleet. The conservative order that Chancellor Klemens von Metternich had helped created was over. The Greek people were given statehood and a new chapter in Greek history – as well as for Europe – had begun.
Over the course of this past year, there have been a multitude of events to commemorate this seminal point in Greek history. Across the world, Greek academic institutions and organizations have hosted guest speakers, conferences, and artistic performances. This month alone, over five major conferences have been planned and each of these conferences approach the revolution from different lenses. Last week and this weekend, Sacramento State University has collaborated with UCLA, Stanford, and UC Berkeley a series of events, entitled “Dimensions of 1821”. From a guest lecture held in Sacramento, to that of a two-weekend academic conference, and concluding with a theatrical performance, “Makriyannis Unplugged”, these events shed light on the complex events and participants in the Greek War of Independence.
Mark Mazower recently stated at a panel discussing Professor Paschalis Kitromilides’ new publication, The Greek Revolution: A Critical Dictionary, that the time has finally come to revisit the revolution and engage in research and scholarship on the topic. Mazower argued that 50 years ago, the military junta dictatorship produced numerous publications and organized celebrations for the revolution as a means to link both the 1821 revolution to the 1967 ‘revolution’ of the Colonels. This link had tainted academic interest in 1821 for decades. Only now that fifty years have gone by have there been new publications (including Mazower’s The Greek Revolution: 1821 and the Making of Modern Europe) on the revolution. Both The Greek Revolution: A Critical Dictionary and The Greek Revolution: 1821 and the Making of Modern Europe are outstanding contributions to the literature on the revolution. They also help place the Greek revolution in a wider, and more global, context that before. Thus as the commemorative year comes to an end, we are fortunate that it has been a fruitful one full of renewed interest in - and publications on - the Greek War of Independence. Ζήτω η Ελλάς!