BICENTENNIAL

Greece celebrates Independence Day with military parade

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A military parade that commemorated the 200th anniversary of the start of Greece’s War of Independence took place in Athens in front of political and military leaders and visiting dignitaries Thursday.

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The heir to the UK throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and French Defense Minister Florence Parly attended the parade after laying wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside Parliament. 

This year, with the coronavirus pandemic still going strong and the danger of crowds spreading the infection, the public was not allowed to attend the annual parade. Greek police prevented seven rallies and marches from taking place, most by nationalist groups.

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The parade featured tanks rolling down the avenue in front of Parliament in the Greek capital and military aircraft flying past the Acropolis. The aircraft included French-made Rafale fighter jets, which Greece acquire as part of a significant military upgrade program to face what it considers as Turkish aggression and provocation in the eastern Mediterranean.

The paraded also included a mounted cavalry unit as well as marching troops from the army, air force and navy as well as members of the police, fire department and coast guard. Prominent among the marching troops were the Evzones, an elite unit wearing the uniforms of Greek irregulars that fought the Turks during the Ottoman Empire’s occupation of Greece and the War of Independence. The unit now serves as the Presidential guard. 

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The Greek independence revolt started in the Mani region of the southern Peloponnese peninsula in 1821 and continued for years without official foreign support, with the Greeks gradually becoming riven by dissent and infighting. In 1827, with the revolution almost squashed, the war fleets of Britain, Russia and France intervened to destroy a Turkish-Egyptian fleet in the Bay of Navarino, in the western Peloponnese.

This crucial blow enabled the Greeks to fight on. The French sent an expedition to the Peloponnese and the Russians invaded the Ottoman Empire’s Balkan Provinces, capturing a large part of present Romania and Bulgaria. After negotiations, Greece eventually gained independence in 1830 over a fraction of its present territory, eventually expanding through a combination of wars and treaty concessions, reaching its present borders in 1947. An attempt to capture part of Asia Minor from Turkey, conceded to Greece after World War I, ended in defeat in 1922.

[Kathimerini/AP]