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Present and past through the eyes of Anton Prokesch (von Osten): An Austrian naval officer during the years of the Greek Revolution



Present and past through the eyes of Anton Prokesch (von Osten): An Austrian naval officer during the years of the Greek Revolution


05 February 2021


"From its outset, the Greek Revolution of 1821 was an event with a European dimension which, among other things, mobilised the most liberal elements in Europe and elsewhere. The strong philhellenic movement that developed upon the outbreak of the Revolution was expressed in various ways both in European environments and in the main Greek focal points of revolutionary activity. On the opposite side of the prolific support for the struggle, the governments of Europe, fearing that the Greek uprising might spark similar conspiratorial social and political movements in the Europe of the Restoration, initially treated it with hostility, identifying it with the conspiratorial sociopolitical movements of the period and disputing its legality. At the same time, the Great Powers were interested in the broader region of the eastern Mediterranean which, apart from being a theatre of war at that time, was also a field of economic competition associated with their commercial and geopolitical interests, political ambitions and plans to extend their economic influence in the Levant. Under conditions of intense mobility and diplomatic actions by the representatives and emissaries of powerful European states, Anton Prokesch, later von Osten (1830), the first Austrian ambassador to Athens (1834-1849), who, after 1824, had served in the naval units of the Austrian Monarchy that were active in the Aegean sea to combat piracy, travelled to the east as a war correspondent (Kriegsberichterstatter). through his writings and reports to the Austrian authorities, but also in his private correspondence – i.e. through the eyes of a European with a classical education as well as faith in the principles of absolutism – one can detect aspects of the political management of the revolution, concepts of Greece’s historical (ancient) past, and aspects of the daily life and multiple experiences of those who had lived through the revolutionary period. In short, he was able to re-establish a world of ideas, viewpoints, daily experiences and impressions, as it emerged through the epistolary words of an Austrian emissary whose attitude to the Greek issue was dictated by political calculation and characterised mainly by instability by instability."

(Slightly modified abstract from the Initiative 1821-2021 website)

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