Two Hundred Years Ago Today Apparently: some Greek and Albanian-speaking Christians in southern Greece declared their secession from the Ottoman Empire…

25 Mar

…what ensued was the massacre, expulsion and complete annihilation of the Muslim and Jewish communities of south and central Greece. (This is what Greeks like to call “genocide” as long as the victims are Greek: like in the “Pontic Genocide” or the “Anatolian Genocide” or the “Smyrna Genocide”). Below are some selections from an old post of mine that’ll give you more details of the whole, gruesome process, and then a very interesting video interview with historian Mark Mazower, which touches upon the problematic nature of using “Greek” or “Hellenic” or “Christian” or “nation” or “independence” in this particular context, or how it’s a tricky process to refer to the chaotic rebellion of a motley crew of Greek and Albanian, Pashtun-like warlords and feudal landlords by the lofty term of “National War of Independence”. Definitely watch the interview; it covers a million different, interesting facts and nuances.

A super-intelligent and erudite but nationalistly straight-jacketed close relative of mine, who readers have met before under an older alias but who now goes as the “Right-Wing Old Fart” (Δεξιός κωλόγερος) — not an insult, just a personal joke based on his once telling me that he’s relishing the process of growing into a Right-Wing Old Fart — says that I write things like this post because I’m ridden with certain “complexes” and I’m aiding and abetting the enemies of our Fatherland… Yes, that was the word he used, though I’ll be fair and say that it doesn’t have the same ominous Germanic tone in Greek.

No I don’t. I don’t care about the fatherland or its devious, ever-scheming enemies. I care about the polity where the vast majority of my people now live, for better or worse, and for its satellites like where I live, and because I want that polity to contain a society that’s just and equal and fair and tolerant and cosmopolitan and historically enlightened. Maybe I used to just write things like this to annoy people. And maybe now I mostly do it just to annoy people, because the people who are annoyed by these things are so easily annoyed that it gives me a kind of perverse pleasure.

But the real reason I do it is in order to lift the official silence about the past, in this case the Ottoman past, and to get at least some people to wrap their heads around the magnitude of the slaughter, dislocation, persecution, suffering and destruction that was necessary to create ethnically homogeneous nation-states out of the crumbling empire. The RWOF is not bothered by all those things; yes, it was grievous and painful, he’ll say (οδυνηρό) but it had to happen, because a state can only function with one, clear identity. He’s obsessed with what he calls “monoculturalism” and is even irritated by the notion that someone (like me) can have two passports. And while we’re on the topic of “complex-ridden”, I have often suggested that his mania for “one-ness” is something that needs to be approached psychoanalytically and not ideologically, but to no avail.

I’m addressing the people who don’t know about the past but who maybe, when educated, will start to reconsider the ideological and race (and racist) foundation of the modern nation-state, instead of considering it natural or inevitable. The rest will hopefully grow from there.

That’s all I have to say right now. Read on for more from the past or from other writers. Thanks!


“A month later, in September [1821], a combined force led by Kolokotrones and Petrobey Mavromihalis captured Tripolitsa [the Ottoman administrative center of the Peloponnese].  Historian W Alison Philips tells a horrific tale of mutilation and slaughter  “For three days the miserable inhabitants were given over to lust and cruelty of a mob of savages. Neither sex nor age was spared. Women and children were tortured before being put to death. So great was the slaughter that Kolokotronis himself says that, from the gate of the citadel his horse’s hoofs never touched the ground. His path of triumph was carpeted with corpses. At the end of two days, the wretched remnant of the Mussulmans were deliberately collected, to the number of some two thousand souls, of every age and sex, but principally women and children, were led out to a ravine in the neighboring mountains and there butchered like cattle.”

A Prussian officer described the incidents that took place after the capture of Tripolitsa by the rebels, as follows:

“A young Turkish girl, as beautiful as Helen, the queen of Troy, was shot and killed by the male cousin of Kolokotronis; a Turkish boy, with a noose around his neck, was paraded in the streets; was thrown into a ditch; was stoned, stabbed and then, while he was still alive, was tied to a wooden plank and burnt on fire; three Turkish children were slowly roasted on fire in front of the very eyes of their parents. While all these nasty incidents were taking place, the leader of the rebellion Ypsilantis remained as a spectator and tried to justify the actions of the rebels as,’we are at war; anything can happen’.” Based on the accounts of one hundred European officers who were present at the scene, and did nothing to intervene, William St. Clair wrote: “Upwards of ten thousand Turks were put to death. Prisoners who were suspected of having concealed their money were tortured. Their arms and legs were cut off and they were slowly roasted over fires. Pregnant women were cut open, their heads cut off, and dogs’ heads stuck between their legs. From Friday to Sunday the air was filled with the sound of screams… One Greek boasted that he personally killed ninety people. The Jewish colony was systematically tortured… For weeks afterwards starving Turkish children running helplessly about the ruins were being cut down and shot at by exultant Greeks… The wells were poisoned by the bodies that had been thrown in…”   Although the total estimates of the casualties vary, the Turkish, Muslim Albanian and Jewish population of the Peloponnese had ceased to exist as a settled community after the early massacres. Some estimates of the Turkish and Muslim Albanian civilian deaths by the rebels range from 15,000 out of 40,000 Muslim residents to 30,000 only in Tripolitsa.   According to historians W Alison Phillips, George Finlay, William St. Clair and Barbara Jelavich, massacres of Turkish civilians started simultaneously with the outbreak of the revolt, while Harris J. Booras considers that the massacres followed the brutal hanging of Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople.  Finlay has claimed that the extermination of the Muslims in the rural districts was the result of a premeditated design and it proceeded more from the suggestions of men of letters, than from the revengeful feelings of the people.  St. Clair wrote that: “The orgy of genocide exhausted itself in the Peloponnese only when there were no more Turks to kill.”   There were also calculated massacres towards the Muslim inhabitants of the islands in the Aegean. This is because one of the aims of the Greek revolutionaries was to embroil as many Greek communities as possible in their struggle.  By engineering some atrocity against the local Turkish population, diverse Greek communities would have to ally themselves with the revolutionaries fearing retaliation from the Ottomans. In one case, in March 1821, Greeks from Samos landed on Chios and attacked the Muslim population living in that island. Among the Samian belligerents was an ancestor of mine, Dimitrios Kalymnios.When the Samians withdrew to the safety of their island, the Ottomans descended upon defenceless Chios and carried out an atrocity that horrified the rest of the world: the massacre of Chios.[my, N.B., emphases throughout this last paragraph — just so that nobody is allowed to take something like the the Massacre of Chios out of historic context again…]

“The final word, if there is one, goes to Theodore Kolokotronis, who in his account of the fall of Tripolitsa, was unrepentant to the last: “When I entered Tripolitsa, they showed me a plane tree in the market-place where the Greeks had always been hung. “Alas!” I said, “how many of my own clan — of my own race — have been hung there!” And I ordered it to be cut down. I felt some consolation then from the slaughter of the Turks. …”

DEAN KALIMNIOU First published in NKEE on Saturday 6 April 2013. – READ HIS WHOLE POST: “Diatribe” ; it’s very intelligent.


And one sad little detail I discovered somewhere else, though I can’t find the source for it: “European officers, including Colonel Thomas Gordon, who happened to be at Tripolitsa during the massacre, witnessed the hair-raising incidents there, and some of them later recalled these events in all their ugliness. Colonel Gordon became so disgusted with the Greek barbarities that he resigned from the service of the Greeks. A young German philhellene doctor, Wilhelm Boldemann, who could not bear to witness these scenes, committed suicide by taking poison. Some of the other European philhellenes who were extremely disillusioned, followed suit.”

The poor, idealistic, Werther-like German Romantic, come to fight and  liberate the sons of Pericles and Leonidas, kills himself out of disappointment…it just seemed to encapsulate the whole patheticness of a certain kind of European Helleno-latry.


And here (below) is the man himself, Kolokotronis, proud of his corpse-strewn victory lap in Tripolica and one of the fathers of our country, projected onto the White Tower (Beyaz Kule) of Salonica for this year’s bicentennial celebrations.


And the excellent lecture/discussion with Mark Mazower — highly recommended:

Look for next post about what really happened on March 25th!


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3 Responses to “Two Hundred Years Ago Today Apparently: some Greek and Albanian-speaking Christians in southern Greece declared their secession from the Ottoman Empire…”


  1. Makdisi brings us Césaire: “…the deepening of each particular, the coexistence of them all.” | Jadde-ye-Kabir - March 25, 2021

    […] Ussama Makdisi, not a man I’m usually very nice to, brings us a most opportune quote from a great thinker, as if riding on the heels of my anti-nation-state diatribes. […]

  2. The Heroes of 1821 and ISIS | Jadde-ye-Kabir - March 27, 2021

    […] go back and re-read this shit […]

  3. Babel | Jadde-ye-Kabir - May 9, 2021

    […] RWOF claims that a society can’t function, can’t exist even, without one, unifying language. […]

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