Greece was one of the states under the Turkish administration. The Greeks belonged to the SLAV race and the Orthodox Christian Church and therefore had a close link with Russia in terms of race and religion. They were dominant in trade and also had some other privileges in the Turkish Empire. In spite of that, the Greeks revolted in 1821 against the Turkish rule under their leader, Alexander Hypsilanti. This revolt was the first major phase of the Eastern Question.


The need for independence caused the Greek revolution. The Turks had conquered the Greeks in the 14th century and subjected them to mistreatment, oppression and exploitation. This generated a spirit of nationalism among the Greeks and they longed for a day to liberate their nation from such foreign domination. Though compared to other Ottoman subjects, they were accorded some recognition in the field of education, trade and religion, the Greek desire to end the Turkish foreign domination still loomed high in their minds. Therefore, what the Greeks wanted from the Sultan of Turkey was total freedom and liberty so that they could determine their own destiny, hence the outbreak of their revolt in 1821.

The religious differences between the Greeks and their Turkish masters caused the Greek war of independence in 1821. The Greeks were Orthodox Christians while their masters, the Turks were Muslims. The Greek Christians were bitterly discriminated and branded as infidels or non – believers by their Muslim overlords (rulers). Though they were given some degree of religious freedom as manifested in the Sultan`s recognition of the Greek Orthodox Church, their headquarters as well as its patriarch at Constantinople, the Greek feeling that the Turks despised them as infidels generated a revolutionary mood amongst them which eventually sparked off a revolt in 1821.

The desire by the Greeks to restore their past glory and culture influenced them to revolt in 1821. The Greeks at one time were a dominant power in Europe in terms of education and sports (Olympic Games). However, this dominance had been lost by the Greeks when Turks conquered Greece in the 14th century. Despite this conquest, the Greeks had not forgotten their former pride. As a result in 19th century, they decided to revive the interest in the past glory especially among the youths which eventually influenced them to revolt against the Ottoman Empire in 1821.

The poor or mal – administration of the Turkish rulers caused the Greek War of Independence. By the close of the 18th century, the central government at Constantinople was very weak and too inefficient. The Turkish governors, agents and officials were too inefficient, corrupt, cruel and very exploitative. For example, they collected a lot of taxes from the empire but almost embezzled the whole lump sum. Besides, they persecuted (mistreated) the Greeks and in many instances ruled with a lot of cruelty (harshness).  For example, they tortured the Greek nationals while collecting the Sultan`s taxes and physically beat them in the process of supervising them on the Turkish farms. This was bad enough to provoke the Greeks into war by 1821.

The inspiration the French revolution of 1789 also contributed to the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence. The French revolution of 1789 ushered (brought) in Europe the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity which highly inspired the Greeks to revolt against their oppressive Turkish masters by 1821. Such ideals did not only renew the Greek nationalism but also awakened or reminded the Greeks of their obligation to liberate their land from the imperial powers of the Ottoman Turks. Little wonder, by 1821 they declared war against the Turks.

The influence of the Greeks who lived in exile also contributed to the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence. These Greeks lived in countries like France, Russia and Britain. These were especially the elites in the middle class who had been exposed to the revolutionary ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity which in exile. With their liberal ideologies, such men influenced and mobilized their fellow Greeks at home to revolt against the Turkish rule which contributed to the outbreak of the Greek revolt in 1821. For example, there was Capodistrious who was Russia’s Foreign Minister and Alexander Hypsilanti was serving as a Russian army officer.

The weakness of the Turkish Empire also inspired the Greeks to rebel in 1821. Turkey had conquered the Greeks in the 14th century and her might dominated nearly the whole of Central Europe, North Africa and any part of Asia. But from the close of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries, the empire steadily declined in her military and economic fields, which promoted the European powers to refer to it as the “Sick man of Europe”. Besides, the Greeks had acquired naval supremacy and dominated the Ottoman navy. It was precisely such military, political and economic weakness of the Turkish Empire that encouraged the Greeks to revolt in 1821.

The Greeks also revolted because of the unfair taxation. Up on their conquest, the Greeks were subjected to all forms of exploitative taxes by the Turks. For example, they paid annual tributes to the Sultan, for having been conquered. They also paid the land tax and a tax on commerce which reduced their profits. They were also forced to pay a special tax called Kharaj for living within the Turkish Empire. Though these taxes were not exorbitant (high), the Greeks hated them because they were largely spent on Ottoman luxuries instead of uplifting the Greek welfare. Most annoying however was the fact that, the tax defaulters were heavily punished to the extent of losing their lives. This generated the Greek desire for independence which sparked off a revolt in 1821.

The discrimination of the Greeks by the Turks also caused the Greek War of Independence. The Greeks rebelled due to the arrogance and discriminative tendencies of their masters, the Turks. For instance, the Greeks resented the tendency of abusing them as infidels (pagans), interior, an enslaved minority and a conquered people supposed to pay taxes to their Turkish masters. Besides, they were subjected to arbitrary arrests and imprisonment and often persecuted (mistreated) because of their Christian faith. They continually received no substantial justice and security. The Turks remained a conquering people who stood apart from the Greeks and never attempted to absorb them into their government but rather segregated them as inferiors and infidels. Such discrimination forced the Greeks to rebel in 1821.

The influence of the Serbian rebellion of 1804 – 1815 also encouraged the Greeks to rebel. In 1804, the Serbians under their peasant leader Kara George rebelled and drove the Turks from their country, although they were later defeated in 1813. In 1815, they rose up again under Milosch Obrenovitch who gained the title of “Prince of the Serbians” form the Sultan of Turkey. When the Greeks got the news of this revolt, they were inspired to stage a similar revolution in their country against the Turkish rule in 1821.

The influence of the foreign powers also contributed to the outbreak of the Greek revolt in 1821. For example, Russia under Tsar Alexander I encouraged the Greeks to rebel against the Sultan of Turkey and assured them of all the necessary support as the protector of the Orthodox Christians in the Balkan Region. Besides, Russia being a Slavic state was determined to support her fellow Slavs in Greece, irrespective of the consequences of this support on the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire. Britain and France which had initially tried to restrain Russia’s intervention in an effort to preserve the Ottoman Empire; also eventually supported the Greek struggle for independence up to 1833 when it succeeded.

The role of a secret society known as Hetaria Philike (the Society of Friends) led to the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence. This was a nationalist movement formed in 1814 by Alexander Hypsilanti to spread national consciousness and to disseminate nationalistic messages to all the Greek social classes in preparation for action against the Turks. By 1821, it had over 20,000 members who constituted the pioneer force that declared war on the Ottomans in Greece. The society therefore helped top incite or promote Greek nationalism which eventually contributed to the outbreak of the Greek revolt of 1821 to 1833.

The weakness of the Congress System also encouraged the Greeks to revolt against Turkey in 1821. As part of its mandate, the Congress System was established in 1818 to maintain European peace against the threatening forces of liberalism and nationalism. However by 1821, the disagreements between the member states made it virtually impossible to set a common policy against revolutions. The Troppau Protocol which was a joint armed military intervention formed in 1820 against revolutions had also nearly died due to such disagreements by 1821. The Greeks were thus motivated by such differences among the congress powers to launch a full scale nationalist war against Turkey in 1821.

The role of the Greek elites or intellectuals also caused the Greek war of independence. These were young, revolutionary and dynamic men who condemned the Turkish oppressive and exploitative regime. They demanded for reforms and independence for the Greeks. These elites created revolutionary emotions in the minds of the oppressed and exploited Greeks, which prompted them to revolt in 1821. Among these elites were prominent Greek nationalists like Alexander Hypsilanti and Capodistrious who led the Greeks to revolt against Turkey. Many other Greek elites wrote poems and revolutionary books which aroused a great spirit of nationalism among many Greeks. Among them were Rhegas, Constantine and Byron. This equally inspired the Greeks to rise up against the Ottoman rulers in 1821.

Liberalism also influenced the Greeks to revolt in 1821. The Sultan’s government suppressed the Greek liberties and rights. For example, the Greek newspapers were censored and therefore freedom of speech was strictly denied. Often times, the Greeks were detained and imprisoned without trial, a practice that was perceived as suppression the Greek rights. The situation was complicated by the fact that the Greek subjects compared to other Ottoman subjects were given a substantial degree of freedom including, the right to monopolise commerce, complete freedom of education and worship and exemption from military services among others which made them to demand for  more privileges. They therefore desired parliamentary democracy and a liberal constitution through which they could freely determine and regulate that liberty. When democratic approaches failed to yield the desired reform, the Greeks resorted to a rebellion in 1821.

The prosperity of the Greek merchants also contributed to the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence. Many Greek nationals had accumulated wealth from the trade which they monopolised within the empire. As a result, a substantial number of the Ottoman middle class were Greeks who used their wealth to mobilise, finance and organise the Greeks for revolt in 1821.

The mistakes of the Vienna Congress of 1814 – 1815 contributed to the outbreak of the Greek revolt. This was an international congress of the Great Powers of Europe that was held in Vienna, the capital of Austria from 1814 to 1815 to re-organise Europe following the disturbance caused by 1789 French revolution and the Napoleon Wars. However, during the congress the delegates committed several mistakes. For example while at Vienna, the statesmen did not bother to resolve the Eastern Question. Instead, they reaffirmed the Sultan’s authority over a cross-section of the subject nationalities across the Balkan region. This increased the sultan’s injustices, brutality and mal-administration which eventually caused the Greek War of Independence by 1821.


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