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The Greek Revolution through the Eyes of its ‘Others’

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Panel discussion hosted by The Hellenic Institute, Royal Holloway

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The Greek War of Independence (1821-1830) was a national revolution that fractured existing patterns of multi-ethnic coexistence and generated instead strong and enduring images as much of the national self as of the new nation’s ‘Others’. This panel takes a closer look at the much-understudied ways some of Greece’s most prominent ‘Others’ have responded to the war and its legacy over the course of the past two centuries. Moving away from Euro- and Greco-centric perspectives, the focus will be on early nineteenth-century Albanian warlords, interwar Sephardi Jews, and mid-twentieth-century Turkish historians and their engagement with the Greek Revolution in the context of their own repositioning in the changing Ottoman and post-Ottoman worlds of Southeastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Speakers

Dr Sukru Ilicak (Research Centre for the Humanities, Athens)

The Greek War of Independence as an Albanian Experience

Dr Paris Chronakis (Royal Holloway University of London)

From ‘Other’ to ‘Brother’: Greek Jews and the Greek Revolution in the interwar period

Dr Antonis Hadjikiriakou (Panteion University, Athens)

Winning at Land, Losing at Sea: The First Turkish History of the Greek Revolution

Respondent

Dr Konstantina Zanou (Columbia University, NYC)

Abstracts

Dr Sukru Ilicak (Research Centre for the Humanities, Athens)

The Greek War of Independence as an Albanian Experience

The Sublime Porte’s crumbling prospects for recruitment during the Greek War of Independence obliged the Ottoman state to resort to the “violence market,” whose most important suppliers were first and foremost Albanian magnates-cum-warlords. However, the Sublime Porte made a serious miscalculation by contracting out the quelling of the Greek uprising to an ethnic group which was not external to the issue. Albanian warlords and mercenaries were at the very heart of the matter and were eager to pursue their survival instincts. They followed their own agendas to the utmost of their capability and remained quite unresponsive to the Sublime Porte’s demands. In my talk, I will explore what had happened to the Ottoman military and the central role played by Albanians in the Greek War of Independence.

Dr Paris Chronakis (Royal Holloway University of London)

From ‘Other’ to ‘Brother’: Greek Jews and the Greek Revolution in the interwar period

The Greek War of Independence marked the near end of Jewish presence in the revolutionary lands rendering independent Greece a state without Jews. The memory of widespread massacres would nevertheless persist as surviving Jews from Roumeli and the Peloponnese fled to Ottoman lands settling among their co-religionists in all major port-cities of the Eastern Mediterranean including Thessaloniki. Decades later, the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 brought many of these communities within an expanded Greek state and presented their members with the pressing task of recrafting their identity both as Jews and Greeks. Thus, in the course of the interwar period, Jews, -Zionists and assimilationists alike- imaginatively engaged with the legacy and language of the Greek revolution in a multitude of often contradictory ways by participating in its public celebrations, drawing inspiration from its slogans, and deriving optimism from its success. Such engagements, however, posed questions to Greek Christians themselves regarding the boundaries of the ‘Greek’ nation and the place of Jews in it. Rather than a means of asserting Greek nationalism and homogenizing minorities, the ‘Jewish Greek Revolution’ thus proved how complex the transition from Jewish ‘other’ to Jewish ‘brother’ could be for Greek Christians and Jews alike.

Dr Antonis Hadjikiriakou (Panteion University, Athens)

Winning at Land, Losing at Sea: The First Turkish History of the Greek Revolution

Turkish perceptions of the Greek Revolution is a little-studied subject. Admittedly, there are good reasons for this. The broader pictures reveals a general lack of interest in the subject roughly until the 1990s, when historiographical production gradually develops both quantitatively as well as qualitatively. Secondly, and despite these changes, there is little divergence between the approaches and explanatory schemes proposed during this first century of the Turkish Republic. These largely revolve around the uncritical reproduction of the official discourse found in Ottoman documents and historical narratives which analytically remain engulfed within an ethnocentric epistemological framework.

Not necessarily escaping these limitations, one contribution stands out as a notable exception. This was Fevzi Kurtoğlu’s The Greek War of Independence and the Battle of Navarino, published in 1944. The book was the first monograph based on Ottoman sources to be published since 1858. More interestingly, it puts the maritime dimension of the Greek Revolution at centre stage. While this may not be surprising at first instance, considering that Kurtoğlu a navy officer who taught at the Naval Academy, a deeper investigation of the political and intellectual climate reveals a much richer context within which this history was produced. This paper situates this book within its broader historiographical framework, presents its key arguments, and discusses the significance of the author’s thalassocentric approach at a time when this was a faux pas in the Kemalist intellectual and military establishment.


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