Today marks the 201st anniversary of the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence. Last year, a surge of events commemorating the bicentennial occurred across the world. The unprecedented number of events not only brought academic and popular attention to this pivotal event in Greek history, but also pushed our collective knowledge about the event – both locally, regionally, and internationally – to a new level.
As a result, the Greek War of Independence has gone through a reappraisal and reinvestigation that has enhanced our understanding of the event. This year, a different commemoration is occurring. While there are parades in the major urban centers and speeches given by dignitaries and academics, they are tinged with the sadness of current situation in the Ukraine.
The Russian invasion of the Ukraine is in its fourth week and has taken a huge toll on the country. The growing number of civilians who have been killed, abducted, or raped has led to popular outrage, including U.S. President Biden who called Vladimir Putin a war criminal. President Biden met with members of NATO this week to discuss the invasion. NATO members continue to coordinate their economic sanctions against Russia and have placed 40,000 troops on the “eastern flank” of the Allied territories, as well as “establishing four additional multinational battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.” (https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_193719.htm) This military build-up near the border represents the proverbial “red line” that cannot be crossed by Russia.
A similar situation occurred in Navarino Bay in October 1827. The combined British, French, and Russian fleet lay stationed in Navarino to intimidate the Ottoman forces and bring about an armistice. However, fate had a different outcome for the revolutionary conflict; shots were fired from the Ottoman fleet and a naval conflict ensued. By morning, the Ottoman fleet lay at the bottom of the bay and Greek independence was secured.
The world is watching a smaller country fight for its independence against a much larger and more powerful country. Will the increasing sanctions and military build-up on the bordering NATO countries bring Putin to heel or will it result in an escalation of the conflict? As the Greeks celebrate their independence, it is hoped that the phrase «Ζήτω η Eλευθερία» (long live freedom) will be proclaimed by the Ukrainians very soon.