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Haiti: The First Country to Recognize Greece’s Independence

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The Haitian flag. Credit: Abdallahh/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-2.0

Haiti, although located just over 9,000 km (5,592 miles) away from Greece, was the first country in the world to recognize Greek independence from the Ottomans in 1822.

The country’s dedication to freedom and its commitment to fighting oppression is exemplified in their own historic revolution against the French.

The Haitian Revolution

In a move that sent shock waves around the world and struck fear into the hearts of slave owners everywhere, enslaved people from Africa, brought to Haiti by the French, rose up and revolted against their oppressors in 1791.

In a bloody revolution that lasted for over 12 years, the former slaves defeated the French in 1804.

They then established the first and only country formed by a slave uprising that both banned slavery and was ruled by formerly enslaved people.

Despite the newly-formed country’s revolutionary start, France imposed insurmountable dept repayments on the nascent state.

France did so in order to maintain some level of control over the Caribbean nation, although they stated officially that the payments were instated to “reimburse” French slave owners for their “loss of revenues” from slavery.

Despite this, the Haitian Revolution was a momentous event in the history of slavery, as it challenged long-held beliefs by slave owners that enslaved people were neither organized nor intelligent enough to lead an uprising.

Haiti’s revolution inspired those under the yoke of oppression around the world, including the Greeks, to rise up themselves.

“Episode from the Greek War of Independence,” Eugene Delacroix, 1856. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Greeks turn to Haiti

After nearly 400 years of brutal occupation, Greece officially declared independence from the Ottomans in 1822, although the fighting had begun a year before.

The Greeks, largely without financial and military resources due to so many years under Ottoman rule, looked to foreign states for support in their fight for freedom.

Inspired by the courageous uprising of the Haitian people, who were also fighting a much wealthier, well-equipped force, Adamantios Korais, a Greek academic and a significant political figure at the time, asked for Haiti’s support.

In a letter to then-President of Haiti Jean Pierre Boyer, Korais expressed his admiration for the tenacity and bravery of the former slaves who successfully defeated the French.

He also asked for financial and military support from the island nation.

Jean Pierre Boyer, 1825, President of Haiti. He supported Greece during the Revolution. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain

Caribbean nation of Haiti sends its support to Greece

However, Haiti, left in economic ruin by the massive debt repayments owed to France, could not provide very much financial help to the Greek revolutionaries.

Boyer expressed his regret that he could not help the Greeks financially, yet he was still determined to support the fight and stand in solidarity with Greece.

Recognizing that Greeks under the Ottomans were in a similar position to Haitians before the revolution, Boyer wrote to Korais:

“We, like the Hellenes, were for a long time subjected to a dishonorable slavery and finally, with our own chains, broke the head of tyranny.”

The Haitian President also expressed to Korais that the ancient Greek ideals of freedom and democracy were a great source of inspiration to the Haitians.

According to some historians, Boyer sent Greece a massive shipment of 25 tons of Haitian coffee, one of the most sought-after commodities during the period, to be sold.

The profits could then be used to purchase much-needed weapons for the Greeks, who Boyer called “the descendants of Leonidas.”

With Boyer’s letter and support, sent just a few days after Greece formally declared its  independence, Haiti became the first country in the world to recognize Greece’s fight against Ottoman occupation.

Greece and Haiti today

Greece has never forgotten the support that Haiti showed during the country’s fight for freedom.

When a disastrous earthquake hit the Caribbean nation in 2012, tragically killing over 250,000 people and leaving over a million Haitians homeless, Greece was one of the first countries to send help.

Despite the country’s own difficult economic situation at the time, Greece sent Haiti 200,000 euros and 25 nurses, doctors, and rescue forces. The nation also sent necessary supplies, such as medicine, to Haiti.

The Greek Orthodox Church also created massive charity projects, including a humanitarian foundation called “Αλληλεγγύη,” or “solidarity,” that collected funds from around the country in the wake of the disaster.

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