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Greek society prior to the revolution



Greek society prior to the revolution


10 February 2021


"Why did the Greek revolution take place in 1821? Why not earlier, for example, in 1721 or, even, in 1770, when the presence of the Russian fleet in the Aegean was accompanied by coordinated anti-Ottoman uprisings in the Peloponnese and the mainland, known as the Orlov Revolt? Uprisings and movements against Ottoman rule were not an unknown phenomenon in Greece during the conquest. However, unlike the previous movements, the revolution of 1821 differed not only in its dimensions, but mainly in its form and content, as, for the first time, it raised the question of the political independence of the nation and, at that, by its own means. In this sense, the revolution was not the culmination of an insurgent continuum, but, on the contrary, meant the radical departure from an entrenched tradition of political claims, the transformation of groups’ and individuals’ dissatisfaction with Ottoman rule into a political programme of armed action that aimed at the creation of a nation-state. Why, then, did the demand for the political emancipation of the Greeks with their own means and the undertaking of armed action to achieve it happen in 1821?

No matter how insufficient an answer that does not take into account the number of factors that contributed to the outbreak of the Greek Revolution might be, all the more is the obvious methodological value of the above question, as it urges us to see speech and action for freedom not as the inherent qualities of the individual and collective body, but as historical processes related to small and big stakes of their time. The question concerning the causes of the revolution has occupied historiography and various interpretations have been proposed with an emphasis either on economic and social factors or on ideological or domestic political circumstances in the Ottoman Empire or, more recently, in the global context of the era of revolutions. Despite their different starting points, the above approaches converge on the fact that, in 50 years before the revolution, the Greek world experienced processes and transformations that made revolutionary action aimed at gaining political independence a theoretical and practical possibility.

This lecture attempts to offer an outline of the image of this Greek world in the second half of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries."

(Edited and translated abstract from conference programme)

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