Ioannis Kapodistrias (February 10, 1776 – September 27, 1831)
Born in Corfu and with roots from Cyprus, Kapodistrias was a Patriot, Statesman, Politician, a former Russian Foreign Minister and the 1st Head of State of Modern Greece.
A respected European diplomat, Kapodistrias was influential in drafting the Swiss constitution and implementing the Canton System, which is still in use in Switzerland to this today.
At the time of the outbreak of the 1821 Greek Revolution, Kapodistrias who was the Foreign Minister of Russia (since 1816), was disillusioned with Russia’s stance and unenthusiastic reaction.
This put Kapodistrias in an untenable situation and in 1822, he took an extended leave of absence from his position and retired to Geneva, where he applied himself to supporting the Greek revolution. Kapodistrias became increasingly active in support of Greece’s Independence from the Ottoman Empire, organising political, material and moral support.
After being a pivotal figure in the politics of the Ionian Islands, where they essentially gained independence, Kapodistrias was seen as the best Greek politician in Europe and in 1827, was elected Governor and 1st Head of State, of newly liberated Greece.
After landing in Nafplio in January 1828, he found a discouraging situation, factional and dynastic conflicts, civil wars, a ravaged economy, a bankrupt state, a disorganised leadership and no united National Government.
He established a national assembly, founded schools, inaugurated the 1st university, introduced the 1st modern quarantine system in Greece, he stabilised the Greek economy and introduced the phoenix, Greece’s first modern currency.
Kapodistrias was a champion of the common Greek, who were long oppressed by the Turks and had a strong dislike for self-interest and petty dynastic and other political disputes.
He also re-established military unity and formed a great bond and friendship with Theodoros Kolokotronis who said of Kapodistrias: “He is the only man capable of being President as he is not tied to any factions”.
Kapodistrias’ assassination on this date in 1831 and premature death robbed Greece and the Greek people of an outstanding man and leader. His death is one of the great tragedies of Greek history.
He is the only modern Greek whose statues are hosted in four countries.