It is customary that the centennial or bicentennial anniversary of an important event be celebrated by organising commemorative ceremonies. These celebrations, in addition to reviving historical memory, also call for comparisons between then and now, and for a critical reflection on events that happened during the intervening period. This holds especially true for important events that concern an entire nation, such as the rebirth of the Greek Nation that emerged as a direct consequence of the Greek independence war of 1821. In this article we will reflect on both the one-hundred and the two-hundred year anniversaries since the beginning of the Greek Revolution. It seems, however, that in both 1921 (one-hundred year anniversary), and in 2021 (two-hundred year anniversary), the conditions were not favourable for a calm contemplation and evaluation of the events. The Asia Minor Campaign in 1921 and the COVID-19 pandemic at the present time brought about emergency situations of the utmost importance which needed immediate attention in order to avoid high-level risks. Emergency response measures to these events had to be drafted and implemented, while commemorative celebrations were deemed of only secondary importance. In 1921, due to the Asia Minor situation, it was decided to postpone the commemorative ceremonies until the year 1930; this would be the one-hundred year anniversary since the founding of the modern Greek state after the signing of the Treaty of London by the three Protecting Powers (England, France and Russia) and the acceptance of its terms thereafter by the Ottoman Empire. In the current year, the two-hundred year anniversary since 1821, most events so far have either been postponed, will be offered online, or will be implemented on a reduced scale in areas where heroic events took place. Any festivities planned for the coming months will depend on the evolution of the pandemic, and might be deferred or even cancelled.
However, commemorative ceremonies always produce strong visual messages and their cancellation may, in a positive way, cause us to reflect on the problems that we have faced as a nation since 1821. That is, the present cancellations may lead us to a deeper analysis of what has happened during the entire period of freedom from the revolution until now. This deep reflection, if it is related to the difficulties that arise during the management of the pandemic, can bring to light many negative elements, created by our attitudes and mistakes during the last two centuries. Such a reflection will help us understand the frequent disagreements between politicians and citizens, which in many cases have led to divisions and civil unrest. It is these mistakes in critical periods of our national life that led to national tragedies and prevented the complete incorporation of all the unliberated parts of Hellenism into the modern Greek state. During the current phase of the pandemic, disagreements have taken a different form: a significant percentage of citizens have refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19, by invoking the exercise of individual rights, guaranteed by the Greek constitution. The invocation of these rights, however, has caused negative social repercussions and infringes on the constitutionally guaranteed right to protect the health of the wide community.
We will mention two very important periods: those after the end of the two World Wars. Although we were on the side of the winners both times, due to lack of national unity, our country was deprived of the possibility of incorporating into the national body unliberated areas with dense Greek populations. After the First World War, Eastern Thrace, extending all the way up to the outskirts of Constantinople, was assigned to Greece, but due to disagreement between Prime Minister Venizelos and king Constantine, not only we were led to the Asia Minor Catastrophe but also we were forced to evacuate the whole coast of Asia Minor, as a prerequisite for the signing of a ceasefire. After World War II, due to the British military support during the Civil War, we tacitly resigned to claim the incorporation of Cyprus into Greece, as Great Britain had promised at the beginning of the war, while we almost lost the Dodecanese as well!
In this anniversary year, while reflecting on the critical events of the years 1820-1830 and the messages that they send to citizens and politicians, we should focus on the tragic figure of the first Governor of Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias. It is our duty to remember his superhuman efforts to expand the borders of the newly-established Greek state as much as possible and to found a well-functioning state on a non-partisan basis and with fair rules of law. We have an obligation to reflect on the consequences for our nation of the loss of this great man. It is important to remember his selflessness and to emphasise at every opportunity his tireless efforts to achieve political unity. Finally, as a token recognition of his contributions to our nation, we have the obligation to embrace the ideals and the policies he pursued; this is necessary for the safe course of our country in the future.