I. Aivazovsky. "Battle of Navarino"
Russia played a decisive role in the fate of Greece. During the Russian-Turkish war of 1828-1829. The Ottoman Empire suffered a crushing defeat. In the Caucasus, Russian troops took Erzurum and reached Trebizond. At the Danube theater, Diebitsch's army took Silistria, defeated the Turks at Kulevche, crossed the Balkan Mountains and took Adrianople with a swift throw, posing a threat to Constantinople (Adrianople is ours! Why the Russian army did not take Constantinople). Heyden's squadron in the Mediterranean was preparing to break through to the Dardanelles.
Unfortunately, Emperor Nicholas I followed the lead of the overly cautious Russian Foreign Ministry (its leadership pursued a pro-Western policy, fearing to anger London and Vienna). The Russian army and navy were stopped on the approaches to Constantinople-Constantinople. The centuries-old task of freeing the Second Rome and the strait from the Ottomans was not solved. However, according to the Adrianople peace, Turkey recognized the independence of Greece, while maintaining the payment of the annual tribute to the Sultan, Serbia, Moldova and Wallachia received autonomy. In 1830 Greece became officially independent.
In the 1770th century, the Ottomans conquered Greece and made it their province. Some islands in the Ionian Sea, Crete and the hard-to-reach regions of the Peloponnese lasted longer, but they were conquered in the XNUMXth century. In the XNUMXth century, the Sublime Porta began to lose its former military and economic power. The Greeks looked with enthusiasm at Russia, which again and again crushed the Turks. In XNUMX, Morea (Peloponnese) rebelled, the Greeks were supported by Russia. The Greeks asked Catherine II to help the country gain independence. The uprising was suppressed.
However, under Catherine the Great, the "Greek Project" ("Dacian") was born in St. Petersburg. He assumed the defeat of the Turkish Empire, a partial division between Russia, Austria and Venice, the restoration of the Greek monarchy. It was also proposed to revive the Byzantine Empire with its capital in Constantinople and put at the head of her grandson Catherine - Constantine. "Dacia" ("Byzantium") became a Russian protectorate, the task of liberating the Christian and Slavic peoples of the Balkans was completely solved. Russia received the keys to the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, closed the Black Sea from any potential enemy, and received free access to the Mediterranean Sea. Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece became our allies.
Obviously, Ushakov and Suvorov could well have carried out an operation to defeat Turkey and capture Constantinople and the straits. It is clear that such plans aroused fears in France, England and Austria, where they were afraid of the strengthening of the Russians and their exit to the Mediterranean Sea. At that moment, Russia received a unique opportunity to resolve this issue in its favor. There was a revolution in France. All Western powers, including Austria and England, were bound by the war with the French for a long time. Russia had the opportunity to calmly conduct the Bosphorus and Constantinople operations. There are even signs that such an operation was being prepared. But Catherine died. And Emperor Pavel Petrovich started all foreign policy from scratch.
Shackles of the Sacred Union
Sovereign Paul I quickly figured out that the alliance with England and Austria was a mistake. Has radically changed the policy. He entered into a confrontation with England. It is possible that he would have returned to the Greek project of his mother, but he was killed. His son Alexander I again returned to an alliance with Austria and England against France, which was disastrous for Russia. Accordingly, the urgent and most important strategic task (the Strait Zone) was forgotten for a long time.
If Alexander did not get involved in the European wars, which gave us nothing but terrible human and material losses, then Russia could easily solve the Turkish and Greek issues, the problem of the Straits in its favor. Napoleon, by the way, hinted at such a possibility, the scope for negotiations was wide (especially as England would intensify the onslaught on France). There were chances later. It was possible just at the end of 1812 - beginning of 1813. stop at the border, as Kutuzov advised, not to climb into Western Europe. The war in Europe could have lasted another 5-10 years without the Russians, while Austria, Prussia and England would have defeated Napoleon's empire. And during this time we could deal with Turkey without haste, noise and dust. Solve the issue of the straits. Nobody would dare to interfere. France would fight almost all of Europe. Austria would be frightened by a hostile Russia in the rear while there is a war with France. England would only have to threaten.
In addition, Alexander bound himself with the fetters of the Holy Alliance. In 1815, Prussia, Austria and Russia entered into a Holy Alliance in Paris. Its essence is the preservation of borders, the eternal conservation of regimes and thrones in Europe. In St. Petersburg they forgot the ancient wisdom that everything flows and changes. Moreover, the Holy Alliance was not only unviable, but also contradicted the national interests of the Russian state and people. It was the Austrian Empire that swallowed more than it could hold, and dreamed of maintaining stability at any cost. And the issue of Russia's national security in the southern strategic direction has not been resolved. That is, it was in the interests of Russia to continue pressure on Turkey, and not to keep the Ottoman Empire intact. Alexander transferred the principle of legitimacy and inviolability of borders to Turkey. As a result, this led to serious mistakes and failures in the Turkish, Balkan policy of St. Petersburg.
Metropolitan Herman blesses the banner of the rebels in the monastery of Agia Lavra. Painting by Theodoros Vrizakis, 1865
Meanwhile, under the influence of the French Revolution, the Greek national liberation movement was developing. In 1814, Greek patriots in Odessa founded a secret society "Filiki Eteria" ("Philike Hetaireia" - "Friendly Society"), which set as its goal the liberation of Greece from the Turkish yoke. The organization and structure were largely borrowed from the Carbonari (secret political society in Italy) and the Freemasons. In 1818 the center of the organization was moved to Constantinople. The organization has spread to Asian and European Turkey, Greece, Greek communities in Europe. With the help of wealthy Greek communities and hoping for military and political support from Russia, the organization was preparing an uprising.
The conspirators included a core of Russian officers of Greek origin. In 1820, the organization was headed by Alexander Ypsilanti. He fought in the Russian army against Napoleon (lost his arm in the Battle of Leipzig), since 1816 - the adjutant of the Russian emperor, since 1817 - major general and commander of the hussar brigade. That is, if the Russian sovereign wished, and Petersburg would actively begin to implement its Greek plan, then we would get a pro-Russian Greece. The Greek army with our officers, armed and trained by Russian specialists. But the principle of legitimism bound Petersburg.
On February 24 (March 8), 1821, Ypsilanti (he had previously left the Russian service), crossing the Russian-Turkish border, from Iasi appealed to the Greek people with an appeal for an uprising. Several thousand rebels gathered around him. In the second half of March, the uprising engulfed Greece (Greek Independence Day is celebrated on March 25). The entire Peloponnese, part of mainland Greece and part of the islands in the Aegean Sea rebelled. Ypsilanti tried to raise an uprising in the Danube principalities and from there to break through to Greece. But he was defeated, retreated to Austria, where he was arrested.
In response, the Ottomans pogrom Christians in Constantinople. Among the dead were several church hierarchs, including Patriarch Gregory, who was hanged at the gate of the Patriarchate. However, the uprising in Greece widened. The insurgents were joined by detachments of local militia created by the Turks. Ali Pasha Yaninsky rebelled in Albania. The fleet played an important role in the hostilities. A significant part of the Greek merchants armed their ships and engaged in privateering. Only the inhabitants of the three islands - Hydra, La Spezia and Psaro - put 176 ships. Greek sea robbers not only captured Turkish ships, but also attacked villages on the coast of Asia Minor. The Turkish fleet devastated the Greek coast. In the same 1821, the Turks defeated the city of Galaxidi.
The National Assembly, which met in January 1822 at Piadou, declared the independence of Greece, elected a legislative council and adopted a constitution (statute). True, there was no unity in the leadership of the Greeks, many leaders were more engaged in intrigues than fighting the Turks. So the struggle for power turned into two civil wars (against the background of the confrontation with Turkey). In the first, military leaders ("field commanders") fought against wealthy landowners who were in alliance with the shipowners. In the second, landowners faced shipowners.
In the spring of 1822, the Turkish fleet landed troops on the island of Chios. The Ottomans began a savage massacre. The Orthodox Archbishop was hanged on the Turkish flagship. On the shore, the Turks impaled Christians, erected pyramids from cut off heads, etc. The Ottomans also captured several more islands, where they staged a massacre. In the summer of 1822, the Turkish army tried to capture Morea, but was driven back. In February 1825, the troops of his Egyptian vassal under the command of Ibrahim Pasha (dependence was formal) came to the aid of Sultan Mahmud II, who devastated most of the Peloponnese and, together with the Turkish army, captured the city of Mesoloigion in April 1826. Greece was turned into a desert, thousands of people were killed, starved to death or sold into slavery.
Intervention by great powers
Ottoman atrocities caused a great uproar in Europe. Many donations came from Europe and the United States to the Greek rebels. Many European volunteers and adventurers flocked to Greece. Greece's struggle for independence has become the main topic of the European public. The great powers also began to stir. The war between the Greeks and the Turks hit Russia's trade. After the War of 1812, the economic growth of the south of the empire began. Odessa in 1817 received the status of "free port" - a free economic zone. The city has become a major international trade center. 600-700 ships came to the port annually. Ships also went to Taganrog, Mariupol and other ports. Almost all the ships belonged to the Greeks, most of whom were citizens of Turkey, and some of them were Russian. Now the Ottomans intercepted and plundered Greek ships. The trade of other European countries also suffered heavy losses.
England in 1814 captured the Ionian Islands, which were previously occupied by the French. The British wanted to take control of all of Greece. In the "Greek question" London feared only Russia. But the government of Alexander withdrew itself from the "Greek question", piously believing in the principle of legitimism, so London decided to intervene. In the spring of 1823, London recognized the Greek rebels as a belligerent country and began funding them. European military specialists have already reached out to Greece.
The new Russian Tsar Nicholas I decided to pursue an independent policy, not to be bound by the interests of Western "partners". In 1826, the Anglo-Russian Petersburg Protocol was signed. According to him, Greece received the right of independence, but the sultan retained supreme power over it, and the Greeks paid an annual tribute. Turkish lands were transferred to the Greeks for a certain ransom. Constantinople took part in the elections in Greece, but all the persons chosen had to be Greeks. The Greeks received complete freedom of trade. France, linked to Greece by trade, joined the agreement. Austria and Prussia (our "partners" in the Holy Alliance), fearing the strengthening of the Russians in the Balkans, reacted negatively to the agreement.
In the summer of 1827, Russia, England and France, on the basis of the Petersburg Protocol, signed a convention in London on the formation of an autonomous Greek state. The proposals of the great powers for reconciliation were rejected by the Porta. Ibrahim Pasha continued to drown the uprising in blood. The allied fleet was sent to the shores of Greece. In October 1827, the allied fleet burned the Turkish-Egyptian fleet in the Navarino Bay. The main contribution to the defeat of the enemy was made by the Russian squadron of Heyden (How the Russian squadron destroyed the Turkish-Egyptian fleet under Navarin). The Russians took the brunt of the enemy's blow and destroyed most of the enemy's ships. The naval power of the Ottoman Empire was significantly weakened.
After that, the Western European powers did not take any active steps to further military pressure on Turkey. England and France even apologized to Istanbul over the Navarino incident. Disputes began over the future of the Porta. The West was afraid of the strengthening of Russia in this region. England wanted to get Greece under her wing and at the same time confront Turkey with Russia. French troops were sent to Greece, the Ottomans left Morea. Istanbul, taking advantage of the differences among the great powers, declared war on Russia. The Russo-Turkish War of 1828–1829 began.
The Russian army defeated the Turks and brought freedom to Greece.
Unfortunately, after the previous mistakes of St. Petersburg, independent Greece began to orient itself in its policy towards France and England.