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The Greek Revolution of 1821-4

The Initial Stimulus

In April 1821, Prince Alexander Ypsilanti, a Greek who was serving in the Russian army organised a revolt in Moldavia with the aim of winning freedom for Greek and Romanian Christians. By June, however, the revolt had collapsed due largely to the fact that the Romanians hated the Greeks even more than the Turks. However, a sympathetic Greek revolt broke out on the island of Morea which quickly spread to all of Greece and the Greek islands. The Turks tried to reinforce their control and massacres were common on both sides but by the summer of 1821, Morea had been freed from the Turks.

Great Power Diplomacy

In July 1821, the Russian ambassador, Stroganoff, presented a four-point ultimatum to the Turkish Janissaries demanding that they fulfil their treaty obligations, one of which being to allow the peaceful co-existence of the Christian and Islamic religions. On 18th July, Turkey rejected these demands and the ambassador was withdrawn, making war seem inevitable. The Austro-Hungarian Chancellor, Metternich, was fearful of the Tsar's intentions, and met informally with Viscount Castlereagh (the British Foreign Secretary) in Hanover. Here it was decided that it was imperative that the balance of power within Europe be maintained and war between Russia and Turkey be averted.

Throughout 1821 and 1822, the Tsar was torn between the interventionist pro-Greek stance suggested by his adviser, Capodistrias, and the policy of caution advocated by Nesselrode, his Foreign Minister. The Tropau Protocol which the reactionary powers of Prussia, Russia and Austria had signed in 1820, further complicated matters as by its terms, Russia would be compelled to intervene in the conflict to restore the legitimate government of Turkey.

In March 1823, Canning (the new British Foreign Secretary) granted the Greeks 'belligerent rights' (the recognition that they were entitled to the claims that they were fighting for) in order to protect British shipping from Greek piracy, a move which antagonised Russia and Austria. A proposed peace settlement mediated by Tsar Alexander in 1824 fell through as it pleased neither side.

The Egyptian Intervention

In December 1824, the Sultan appealed for help to his vassal, the Pasha of Egypt, who promptly sent his son to Crete with 10,000 men. In the face of this new onslaught and weakened by previous reprisals such as the massacre on Chios of 25,000 in 1822, the Greeks began to suffer defeats. Public opinion in Britain and France was heavily in favour of intervention in Greece and an Anglo-Russian agreement to grant Greek independence, the St. Petersburg Protocol, was signed in April 1826, while the French joined this coalition after the Treaty of London in 1827.

The End of the Conflict

The Turkish signing of the Convention of Akkerman in 1826, in which they agreed to respect all earlier Russo-Turkish treaties provided encouraged signs of peaceful sattlement which were dashed by Ibrahim Pasha's continuing success. Turkey rejected the peace proposal offered by the Great Powers and accordingly a British, French and Russian blockade was assembled around Morea "to block all Turkish and Egyptian supplies without letting the operation 'degenerate in hostilities'". When the fleet sailed into Navarino harbour, they were fired on by an Egyptian ship whereupon they returned fire and sank the greater part of the Turkish-Egyptian fleet.

The Russian infantry attacked through the Romanian principalities while the French defeated the Egyptians on Morea and agreed that Ibramhim Pasha would withdraw, leaving only a token garrison of 1,200 men. By June 1829, the Russians had captured Adrianople and the Sultan agreed to accept the terms of the Treaty of London. However, British and French pressure eventually resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Adrianople in which Greece was declared a fully independent principality.

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