Twenty-Five Lectures on Modern Balkan History
Lecture 6: The Greek Revolution and the Greek State
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The Greek revolution that began in 1821, followed by the war of independence, was the second of the "national revolutions" in the Balkans. Again we need to ask: to what degree was this a revolutionary change, and how "national" was it? To answer, we can again examine conditions prior to the unrest, developments during the revolution itself, and what the Greeks did after their victory.
The life of the Greeks in the Ottoman Empire was more complex than that of the Serbs. If a Serbian revolution was hampered by the weakness of the Serbs, a Greek revolution was hampered instead by Greek strengths. In Serbia, the wealthiest or most educated elements of society were most likely to encounter Western European revolutionary ideas and to accept them as beneficial. Among the Greeks, on the other hand, wealthy or educated elements already enjoyed substantial privileges in Ottoman society. Revolution was not so attractive for such Greeks, who had much to lose.
The Greek establishment
Greek life did not end when the Ottoman Turks took Constantinople in 1453. When the Ottomans imposed the millet system, the Greeks began with some obvious advantages relative to other Balkan Christians and added others as time went by.
Greek Orthodox clergy controlled the Orthodox millet. The Turks lumped together all their Balkan Christian subjects, Greek or Slav. Greek clergy therefore had substantial religious, educational, administrative and legal power in the Ottoman Balkans. The "Phanar" or lighthouse district of Istanbul became the center of Ottoman Greek culture after the patriarch took up residence there, and the well-connected Greeks of that city were known as Phanariots. Orthodox culture, faith and educational systems became identified with Greek culture. Educated Orthodox Slavs were likely to...