As with any major anniversary, the bicentennial of the outbreak of the 1821 Greek War of Independence invites fresh approaches in research and an expansion of our knowledge on this important event.
Transcending the confines of our national borders, this anniversary invites us to consider the Greek experience in the context of that period of great political and social upheaval and ideological change known in history books as the Age of Revolution (1776-1848).
Coming in the wake of the defeat of the French Revolution and worldwide suppression of liberal movements, the Greek War of Independence was a pivotal event. Its outbreak served as a powerful reminder of the value of fighting for freedom and made a decisive contribution to the revival and propagation of democratic ideals across the globe. Greece also became the first modern independent state in Southeastern Europe and in the Eastern Mediterranean, and had an impact on the revolutionary and ideological movements that emerged among the peoples of these regions.
On the anniversary of this important event, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens has organized an international conference that will take place on March 12 and 13, titled “The Greek Revolution in the Age of Revolutions (1776-1848): Reappraisals and Comparisons.” The conference had originally been scheduled for March 2020, but the onset of the pandemic prompted us to postpone it until now and, of course, to conduct it online instead.
The conference’s organizing committee, of which I am chairman, comprises distinguished historians from our university and, more specifically, Nikos Alivizatos, Nasia Giakovaki, Maria Efthymiou, Anna Karakatsouli, Vangelis Karamanolakis, Olga Katsiardi-Hering, Paschalis M. Kitromilides, Paraskevas Konortas, Anastasia Papadia-Lala and Evanthis Hatzivassiliou. The event is sponsored by Piraeus Bank, with whom we have been working on a series of events for the 200th anniversary.
The 1821 Revolution as a diplomatic phenomenon, its relationship to other uprisings as well as their legacy and impact on it, the growth of nationalism in combination with the liberal movements of that period but also with pre-existing notions of Enlightenment, the international Philhellenic movement, the revolution in the Ottoman context and how it was approached in reference to the history of the rest of the Balkan peninsula and earlier revolts, are but some of the themes that will be explored in the conference.
The objective is to re-evaluate the Greek revolutionary experience and compare it to similar European movements at the time. Toward this end, we have invited speakers from other parts of the world who are pre-eminent authorities on that period. The conference will be published in English within the year by Routledge, in a hardback edition edited by Paschalis M. Kitromilides, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Athens and a member of the Academy of Athens, where he holds the chair of the History of Political Thought.
This conference is the University of Athens’ crowning event in a series of conferences, lectures, publications, research programs, exhibitions and cultural events put together by a special committee formed in 2019 to design a program that both celebrates the anniversary, but also contributes to the discussion on the evolution of the Greek state from the early 19th century to the 21st.
Our institution’s important contribution to these celebrations stems from its pre-eminent position on Greece’s intellectual and cultural map, as well as from its history.
The establishment of an institution of higher learning was one of the aspirations of the 1821 revolutionaries and it came to pass in 1837 with the founding of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, which to this day continues to function as a guardian of the revolution’s memory.
In these tough days, the celebration of this anniversary by the country’s oldest university could not but focus on expanding essential knowledge, on reflection and on substantial and fruitful approaches stemming from communication between different university environments.
The speakers are: Christos Aliprantis, Nikos Alivizatos, David A. Bell, Christopher Clark, John Davis, Simon Dixon, Maria Efthymiou, Katerina Galani, Nasia Giakovaki, Gelina Harlaftis, Evanthis Hatzivassiliou, Harald Heppner, Sukru Ilicak, Annie Jourdan, Dimitrios Karadimas, Anna Karakatsouli, Vangelis Karamanolakis, Olga Katsiardi-Hering, Paschalis Kitromilides, Paraskevas Konortas, Kostas Kostis, Anastasia Papadia-Lala, Konstantinos Papageorgiou, José Maria Portillo Valdés, Anna Maria Rao, Francesco Scalora, Miroslav Sedivy, Vaso Seirinidou and Spyros Vlachopoulos.
Opening remarks will be delivered by Athens University Rector Meletios Athanasios Dimopoulos and by George Hadjinicolaou, chairman of the board of Piraeus Bank, which has sponsored the event.
For details about the conference and how to watch it, via Webex, visit www.2021.uoa.gr or Athens University’s Facebook page.
* Meletios Athanasios Dimopoulos is the rector of Athens University.