Independence Of Greece And The Aftermath Of The Independence

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Before the Ottoman Empire’s existence in the Greek lands, Greeks were under the rule of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) and the terms like ‘Hellas’ and...

Elif Akhan

TASAM, Balkan Studies Intern

 

Before the Ottoman Empire’s existence in the Greek lands, Greeks were under the rule of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) and the terms like  ‘Hellas’  and  ‘Hellenic’ are used to describe their pagan origin which was the city state periods. Greeks were under the Ottoman rule almost for four centuries. They were named as ‘Rum’ in order to define the Orthodox millet in the Ottoman Empire. Although there was no division among the Orthodox millet considering the ethnicity, Rums were more privileged from a viewpoint of the influence of the Orthodox Church and of some state departments regarding the foreign affairs since they were skilful in translation. 

Despite the fact that some Greeks were getting very rich by courtesy of the trade, Greeks were a peasant society during the Ottoman rule. In short, they were agrarian society like other Balkan peoples. They did not experienced the periods of Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, French Revolution, Industry Revolution and industrialization, which their Western counterparts had already experienced successively, during the Ottoman period or as they named ‘Tourkokratia’. In addition to this, conservatism of the Orthodox Church strengthened this isolation.

On the other hand, destruction of aristocracy and expropriation of their lands by the Ottomans provided them opportunity for emergence of a new merchant class. Greeks were so wealthy and rich that the Greek was the lingua franca of the Balkan trade. This merchant class invested in cultural, educational, political and other developments. This was not peculiar to only Rums in the Empire, and other Slavic Balkan Orthodox people had experienced the same process because of the same reasons such as expropriation of aristocrats’ lands and so on. Since they were located in very fertile and advantageous lands in the Balkan Peninsula, this made easier the development of trade and access of French Enlightenment ideas into the region.

Besides these developments and changes, maladministration of the Empire and the high rate of taxes stemming from the wars paved the way for the independence movements. Also, the efforts of Philiki Hetaireia (Association of Friends) and the support of great powers are another significant contribution, especially Russia at the beginning. Merchants invested in cultural affairs, established foundation schools, sent the young people in order to get education in Europe and invested in printing of many books and newspapers; but Richard Clogg states that these books and newspapers were not read and understood by most of the agrarian and illiterate Greeks. Illiteracy was a serious problem like in other Orthodox Balkan nations. Anyway, being Greek was gradually becoming more important than being Orthodox with these developments. In brief, it could be concluded that merchant class and intellectuals were influential in emergence of Greek consciousness rather than ordinary peasant society.

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