BOSTON – The former Minister of Education and Religion of Greece and currently professor of the ‘Karamanlis’ Chair at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Constantine Arvanitopoulos, delivered an exceptional speech titled The Flame of Freedom 1821 and Making of Modern Greece’ the Cathedral of the Annunciation Cathedral in Boston.
Metropolitan Methodios of Boston officiated at the Doxology assisted by Fr. Demetrios Tonias, Dean of the Cathedral and present were Stratos Efthymiou, Consul General of Greece in Boston, Vasilios Kafkas, president of the Federation of the Hellenic-American Societies of Boston with members of the board of directors of the organization, and a group of Greek-American Evzones under the supervision of Demetrios Papaslis, former president of the Federation.
Professor Arvanitopoulos in his speech said that “the Greek Revolution is the first national liberation movement to succeed in Europe. Greece was the first of a number of nation states that would follow and become the new norm in Europe and the world. The French Revolution of 1789 had, of course, trumpeted the coming era of political and social transformation in Europe and beyond. But after the rise and defeat of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna had restored the despotic monarchies. It looked at the time that the historical clock had been turned back to the situation before 1789.
The Greek Revolution that broke out, in the spring of 1821, changed all that. The outcome of the Greek Revolution changed the geopolitical map of Europe, away from the 18th century model of monarchies and empires towards the 20th century model of nation states.”
“The War of Independence,” Arvanitopoulos continued, “signified the revival of an ancient nation and its ancient Hellenic civilization. Our prominent historians Spyridon Zambelios and Constantinos Paparrigopoulos have long established, that the Greeks formed a nation since ancient times and the struggle of the Revolution was about restoring that nation and its civilization to its rightful place in modern times. This nation connected with the thread of the Greek language had been organized in city-states in ancient antiquity, in empire, and eventually the Byzantine Empire. And now, with the added common thread of the Christian faith, it would rise to self-determination and take the form of a modern nation-state.”
He added that “one of the reasons for the success of the Greek war of independence was the success of the Greek leaders [efforts to] to internationalize their struggle. That effort led to a wave of philhellenism not only in Europe but here in the United States.
Alexandros Ypsilantis and Petrobey, Mavromihalis would appeal to ‘the enlightened people of Europe, to help for the liberty of the Hellenes.’ Korais managed to convince Edward Everett, who he had met in Paris in 1817, to transmit his love for Greece to his fellow countrymen. In 1823 Korais would also start corresponding with Thomas Jefferson asking him to help the Greek cause.”
The professor noted that, “George Jarvis son of an American diplomat became the first of a small number of Americans who enlisted and fought in the Greek war of Independence. In the summer of 1824 Samuel Howe, a young doctor from Boston went to Greece to offer his services. When he returned to America he continued his involvement with Greek affairs, especially delivering aid during the Cretan revolution of 1866. The efforts of Everett and Daniel Webster would result in favorable resolutions from Congress about “the heroic struggle of the Greek people, sympathy for their sufferings, interest in their welfare, and wishes for their success … President Monroe in his annual address to Congress, on December 2, 1823, when he famously declared the Monroe doctrine, expressed the hope ‘that the Greeks would succeed in their contest, and resume their equal station among the nations of the Earth.’”
Professor Arvanitopoulos added that “the American people, actively supported the Greek cause with fundraising activities, and clothing and other items that they sent to Greece … American philhellenism was a result of many factors: admiration for the Greek civilization, the sympathy for the Greek call to liberty that reminded Americans of their own struggle for independence, and the notion of defending Christianity from the Muslims.”
“The internationalization of the struggle and the wave of philhellenism, together with astute diplomacy, would eventually salvage the revolution,” he explained.
“When the three great powers agreed to send a joint naval task force to the Aegean to enforce the truce between the revolutionaries and the Ottoman forces, the Greeks hastily accepted while the Ottomans rejected it. The consequence was the battle of Navarino, that virtually destroyed the Ottoman fleet. The die had been cast. The three great powers would sign the London Protocol in 1830 and the modern Greek nation state was born.”
The historical overview continued with Arvanitopoulos noting that “the Greek state would continue to grow and expand its borders through war and diplomacy. The completion of this process will come in 1947 with the inclusion of the Dodecanese.
This territorial expansion to include all Greek populations outside the 1830 border became the main national objective, the raison d’, of the first hundred years of the history of the young state. In the end, Greece managed to almost double its size.
In the next hundred years … the national objective was threefold: to rise out of poverty, to modernize its institutions, and address the security dilemma. These challenges were successfully addressed by a great statesman, Constantine Karamanlis, who managed to navigate Greece into becoming an equal member state of the European Union. Greece’s standard of living improved exponentially, its democratic institutions were consolidated, and its security was enhanced. These were remarkable achievements for a small nation state. If we look back and assess this remarkable journey, we can easily conclude that Greece belongs to the winners of the modern era.”