The best way of summarising the history of the 200 years since the Greek revolution (1821-2021) is the following: SEVEN WARS, FOUR CIVIL WARS, SEVEN BANKRUPTCIES. This is also the title of a book published in recent years by History Professor Georgios V. Dertilis (the author comes from a Maniot family which settled in Neapolis Voion, in Laconia). Upon reflecting on these two centuries, we note that with the exception of some wars which had more wide-ranging causes, the rest of the wars, the bankruptcies and the civil conflicts were all caused by the typical mentality of the Greek governments, which were representing the desires of the political circles of the time. Upon examining our history, we realise that the political homogenisation of the Greek nation was not as thorough and successful as it could have been. If the homogenisation had been stronger, the Greek political community would have had common goals and the electorate would have elected the right politicians to promote and achieve these goals. These politicians would have adapted these goals to the possibilities that were offered at that time and they would have used whatever resources and means were available to full potential.
During the 19th century two important Greek political ideas failed because of internal causes. These goals, although they were realistic, failed to gain common acceptance and thus political homogenisation was not achieved. These political goals were the following:
a) Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias’ efforts to create a civilised, righteous and just Greek state, immediately after the internal civil conflicts. Not only his efforts failed, they also led to his assasination and to even more serious armed warfare.
b) The efforts to include in the Greek territory the areas outside the borders of Greece where ethnic Greeks lived. This movement was called “The Great Idea”, was supported by the idealist Bavarian Otto, King of Greece, but was undermined by internal disputes and disagreementss between the political parties. It ended badly with the disastrous Greek-Turkish war of 1897.
The uncooperative attitude of the political community and the lack of desire to pursue national goals, which would certainly have meant sacrifices and personal costs, resulted in failure. Even in the few cases, where the international situation was favourable, the Greek political leaders were capable and they had clear and realistic goals, failure ensued because micropolitics and personal gains got the upper hand.
Two very capable great Greek politicians were Harilaos Trikoupis and Eleftherios Venizelos. Harilaos Trikoupis changed the until then inward-looking operation of the Greek state, and he tried to modernise the country by introducing many European technological advancements. However, he was very wrong in his expectation that the Greek citizens would be responsible tax payers. The result was that Trikoupis could not collect through taxes the funds that would have allowed him to pay back the loans that he had taken so that he could undertake extensive modernisation public works. This failure led to his defeat in the next elections, resulting in his death, and to the bankruptcy of the country. Eleftherios Venizelos had foreseen the political developments in the Balkans and in Europe, and he tried hard to lead Greece forward with a strong and ambitious vision for the future. Again, however, micropolitics, personal interests and the fatigue of the Greek soldiers who had been fighting external wars for many years, they played a role in the defeat of the army and the death of the “Big Idea”. Venizelos’ hopes that Greece would be led to its great destiny were cruelly dashed.
Similar situations to the ones we have mentioned above have also developed in the past and continue to develop today in our area, Mani. The political homogenisation of the small militant communities of Mani started in 1818 when the Maniot warlords promised to the representatives of the Filiki Etaireia (Society of Friends) that they will support the War of Independence. The cooperation among them continued during the first three years of the Revolution (for some of them at great loss to life, property and privileges). Maniots, who were enjoying a semi-autonomous status in small communities, without the presence of Turks, embraced the common goals of freedom and independence. They put aside economic interests for the common good and they rushed to the battlefields, with the very vague promise that their sacrifices would be recognised if the war turned out victorious. Unfortunately, the developments after 1824 gradually divided the local Maniot leaders, who put aside the high ideals, and pursued instead personal interests. This shift in mentality led the whole country, but even more our own area, Mani, to tragic developments. Ever since, division and polarisation have followed us like a curse. These phenomena are even more prominent during critical times. During the past decades, we have seen an opening in our small local communities and the creation of some new ideas, which gives us a reason to be optimistic that some positive changes can also happen here, in Mani. Let us hope that the solidarity of the years 1814-1824 will gradually be guiding more and more Maniots, so that the necessary “critical mass” can be formed, which will lead us to more common goals and prospects for the future.
THE EDITORIAL BOARD