When the Greek War of Independence broke out 201 years ago in March 1821, we Greeks were on the “wrong side of history,” shaped as it was by the rulers of Europe, but we were “on the side of justice and liberty.” The French Revolution of 1789, which had so inspired many members of the Greek intelligentsia, had run its course through all its manifestations, from the Reign of Terror and the execution of Louis XVI to the Napoleonic Wars.
When Alexander Ypsilantis crossed the Prut River in February 1821, Napoleon Bonaparte had already faced his final defeat in the fields of Waterloo in July 1815 by the allied forces of Austria, Russia and Prussia. Their monarchs would two months later establish the Holy Alliance in Paris. Some time later, the newly monarchist France and King Louis XVIII would become part of the Alliance.
When news of Ypsilantis’ revolution in the Danubian Principalities reached the Congress of Laibach (Ljubljana), Klemens von Metternich, the great Austrian statesman and architect of the Holy Alliance, was unperturbed.
The emperors of Austria and Russia, who were part of the Congress, assured the Sublime Porte that “they would never come to the aid of the enemies of public order,” and at the same time allowed the Porte “to be responsible for its own security.” Metternich was very pleased. The Holy Alliance had worked. But the Greeks’ revolution continued strong despite two civil wars between the revolutionaries and the tragic conflict between “politics” and “military.”
Finally, at the most critical moment of the war, in 1827 at the Naval Battle of Navarino, the fleets of the three great powers – Great Britain and two members of the Holy Alliance, France and Russia – destroyed the Ottoman fleet and succeeded in establishing an independent Greek state.
It is very important that a country finds itself on the right side of history at the right time. As long as history is on “the right side,” which is not always the case.