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Filiki Eteria Museum: Odessa’s Mansion where the Greek Revolution was Planned

odessa filiki eteria
The Russov House, one of many historic buildings in Odessa, Ukraine. The Filiki Eteria, the secret society that planned the Greek Revolution, began in the city. Credit: Romankravchuk/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

The Filiki Eteria Museum in Odessa, Ukraine is a beacon of Hellenism, housed as it is in the very place where the Greek War of Independence was conceived and planned.

The former Kresnij Pereulok Street home of Greek businessman and national benefactor Grigorios Maraslis (1831-1907), the mayor of Odessa between 1878 and 1895, was where the secret society — much like the Sons of Liberty in the American colonies– hatched the plans that would come to fruition in the Revolution.

It was in this home that the founders of Filiki Eteria (Φιλική Εταιρία), or the Society of Friends —Emmanuil Xanthos, Athanasios Tsakalov and Nikolaos Skoufas — vowed to revolt against the Ottomans who had ruled Greece for almost 400 years.

The Filiki Eteria, founded in Odessa on September 14, 1814, played a crucial role in the uprising which led to the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire, which began on March 25, 1821.

In the beginning of the 19th century, the notion that Greece had to be liberated after almost four centuries of Ottoman rule and a new Greek state should be established was ripe.

However, there were two camps: those who believed that the time for Greek revolution or war was “here and now” and those who believed that it was too early.

Greek War of Independence has roots in

In 1814, three Greeks of the diaspora came together in Odessa, in present-day Ukraine, where a thriving Greek community lived. They formed a secret society with the purpose of initiating a Greek revolution to rid the country of the Ottomans.

This house was renovated on the initiative of the Hellenic Culture Foundation – Odessa Branch and since 1994, with its adjoining buildings, it has served as a Museum of the Society of Friends as the Historical – Laographic Museum of Odessa.

The site is located in Hretska Square, which is also called “Greek Square,” as many historic Greek families lived there. It is one of the oldest squares in the city.

The museum houses a library with 6,000 titles. Among the exhibits are original works on the activities of Filiki Eteria, maps, engravings and photographs, documents in the cryptographic code used by the Friends.

There are also manuscripts on the founding of the Filiki Eteria, lists of its members, letters and handwritten notices of Filiki Eteria army leader Alexandros Ypsilantis, as well as portraits and stamps depicting Ypsilantis and the other founders of the secret society.

In October of 1820, Ypsilantis decided to start the Greek revolution in Iasi, Moldova. It was a catastrophic move, leading to the slaughter of thousands of fighters.

Nevertheless, the revolutionary seed of the Filiki Eteria was planted, and the slogan “Freedom or Death” was heard on the lips of Greeks. They were determined to fight to the death for liberty.

On February 24, 1821, Ypsilantis sent a prophetic letter to his Filiki Eteria colleagues asking them to start the fight or contribute by sending money and supplies for the armed struggle, saying “Future generations will bless your names and they will praise you as precursors of their freedom and bliss.”

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