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The Greek Revolution of 1821: A Short Documentary

Greek Revolution
“The Army Camp of Karaiskakis,” Theodoros Vryzakis, oil on canvas, 145x178cm, 1855. Credit:National Gallery of Greece

On March 25 1821, a few brave Greeks started a revolution against the mighty Ottoman Empire that ultimately resulted in the formation of the Greek state.

The start of the Greek War of Independence was not the result of a spontaneous revolutionary outburst against Ottoman oppression, however.

It was the product of decades of planning by great Greek leaders who worked tirelessly in order to form bands of soldiers for the eventual fights on the battlefield, and to inspire pride in Greece’s history, language, and culture amongst the country’s people.

In an effort to share this inspiring universal tale of struggle towards freedom and justice, Greek Reporter produced a short documentary in English chronicling the stories of Greek heroes who fought to free the Greeks from the yoke of oppression under the Ottomans in 1821.

The film is narrated by Nasos Papargyropoulos and filmed by Odysseas Karadis and Konstantinos Mousoulis in Nafplio and Mani in the Peloponnese.

Documentary features historically accurate recreations of battles in Greek Revolution

The film features shots from famed photographer Elias Pergantis, who hails from the city of Sparta in the Peloponnese.

Pergantis is known for his striking recreations of historic battles from the Greek Revolution of 1821, which feature hundreds of contemporary Greeks wearing authentic, historic garments and wielding weapons from the period.

”Each photograph tells a separate story of the period of 1821 from every corner of Greece. From the dance of Zalongos and the secret school to the exodus of Missolonghi and the Holy Corps of Ypsilantis,” Pergantis said in a Facebook post.

The Greek War of Independence began with the Filiki Eteiria

In 1814, three like-minded Diaspora Greeks came together in Odessa, in present-day Ukraine, at that time home to a thriving Greek community.

The three men formed a secret society called the Filiki Eteria (The Society of Friends)  with the decidedly “unfriendly” purpose of initiating an armed uprising to rid Greece of the Ottomans.

The three founders were Nikolaos Skoufas, from the province of Arta, Emmanuil Xanthos, from Patmos and Athanasios Tsakalov, from Ioannina.

The Filiki Eteria recruited mostly Phanariot Greeks from Russia, local chieftains from Greece, and Serbs into its ranks, who worked to inspire Greeks to rise up against the Ottoman Empire.

Laskarina Bouboulina raises the first revolutionary flag

On March 13, 1821, after years of revolutionary sentiments smoldered in Greece, Metropolitan Germanos of Old Patras (Palaion Patron Germanos) declared war at Agia Lavra Monastery, blessing the efforts of the freedom fighters.

March 13 is the day given by historians for this event, yet Greeks chose March 25th as the historical day of the beginning of the war in earnest, so that the outbreak of the Revolution would coincide with the feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary.

The Virgin Mary is the second-most sacred figure in the Greek Orthodox Church after Jesus Himself, and the choice of the day inextricably connects Orthodoxy with the Greek War of Independence.

When Palaion Patron Germanos raised the flag with the cross and blessed it, he signified that this was not only a war for freedom, but also a war of faith.

The slogan was “Liberty or Death” and the Greeks, who had been organizing their forces for months, went into the War of Independence with only that in mind.

Yet the very first flag of the revolution was actually raised on the island of Spetses on March 13 — by a woman no less — Laskarina Bouboulina.

Bouboulina was a prominent shipowner on Spetses. Twice widowed with seven children, she was extremely wealthy, owning several vessels.

Once Spetses revolted against the Ottomans, the islands of Hydra and Psara followed suit. Between them, the islands had a fleet of over 300 ships to fight any naval battles that came their way.

Following this revolutionary act, the Greek War of Independence began in earnest.

Bonus video: Listen to one of the most famous Greek revolution folk songs in an amazing performance by Greek sisters Anastasia and Iliana Fergadioti. Titled “klefitiki Zoi,” the song talks about the hardships the Greeks were facing during the struggle for independence.


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