Greek Independence Day is the biggest national holiday for Greeks in Greece and around the world. This year marks the 200 year bicentennial celebration 1821-2021. On March 25, we commemorate the beginning of the Greek Independence War in 1821. It falls on the same day as the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Annunciation to the Theotokos, when the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary and told her she would bear God’s son.
Greece had been under the rule of the Ottoman Empire since 1453. On March 25, 1821, Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the revolution flag over the Monastery of Agia Lavra in the Peloponnese, sparking the Greek revolt from Turkish rule. The revolutionary cry “Freedom or death” became the Greek revolution’s motto and the 9 stripes on the Greek flag represent the 9 syllables of “E-le-fthe-ri-a-h-tha-na-tos” meaning freedom or death in Greek.
The Greeks had early victories on the battlefield, including the capture of Athens in June 1822, but infighting ensued. Athens and most of the Greek islands had been recaptured by the Turks by 1827. Great Britain, France, and Russia intervened in the conflict just as the revolution appeared to be on the brink of failure.
The struggle of the Greeks had attracted widespread sympathy in Europe, and many prominent intellectuals, including English Poet Lord Byron, had supported the Greek cause. The combined British, French, and Russian forces defeated an Ottoman-Egyptian fleet at the Battle of Navarino.
The Greek revolution finally came to an end in 1829 when the Treaty of Edirne established an independent Greek state. However, Greece is still plagued with provocations from it’s tyrant neighbour Turkey to this day, 200 years later. Turkey continues to provoke and incite war with beautiful and peaceful Greece. The Turkish sultan, Erdogan, continues to cause turmoil in the Aegean Sea with drilling and is lately demanding a name change to the “Sea of Islands” stepping up Turkey’s crazy claims to Greek waters and islands.
This came as teams from Greece and Turkey prepared to have a meeting in Athens for the second round of exploratory negotiations, the first in 4 years after the first 60 failed to produce results.
The first meeting in Constantinople was a 4 hour non-binding chit-chat with no minutes or records kept in what appeared to be a symbolic sit down with little else in mind.
Turkey wants other issues on the table, including the removal of Greek troops from the Greek islands near Turkey, but Greece insists on keeping the negotiations focused solely on their maritime rights, with Turkey refusing to recognize the UN Law of the Sea unless it is used to its advantage.
Greece will always continue to avoid war at all costs as Turkey continues to provoke and perpetuate conflict in the Aegean Sea. However, it seems things are becoming increasingly difficult and uncertain in a pandemic world as Greece is suffering with unprecedented economic issues, increasing daily cases of Coronavirus, lockdowns that have left the Greek public drained and depressed, unemployment at a all time high of 30% and a neighbour that wants to take the land our forefathers died for 200 years ago.
As we all struggle daily and continue to stay strong in these crazy times, one thing is certain: “Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks”.