On Tuesday March 23, the Consulate General of Greece in Sydney held an event to commemorate the bicentennial of the Greek Revolution.
In attendance was Very Reverend Father Christophoros Krikelis; representing His Eminence Archbishop of Australia Makarios, Colonel Michael Miller; Official Secretary to the Governor of New South Wales; representing Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley, Governor of New South Wales, The Hon. Eleni Petinos, MP; representing the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of NSW, The Hon. Jodi McKay; Leader of the NSW Opposition, Ambassador Martha Mavrommati; High Commissioner of Cyprus in Australia, parliamentarians and other distinguished guests.
Full speech by Consul General Mr Christos Karras:
Today we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the start of the Greek Revolution of 1821, the start of a long struggle, against the odds, which lead to the birth of the modern Greek state, in a region of course where Greeks had existed for thousands of years, speaking more or less the same beautiful language that we Greeks speak today, with the long polysyllabic words and the rich etymology.
The Greek Revolution is celebrated every year by Greeks around the world, as independence day on 25 March, but this year, 2021, is a milestone for Greece, and a great many events will be held around the world to mark this landmark bicentenary, although not as bright and majestic as we had planned them, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Greek Revolution is the most important chapter in the history of modern Hellenism, and it has shaped the Greek national identity, but it was also a leading historical event of its era which inspired many peoples, in the Balkan Peninsula and elsewhere, that subsequently fought for and won their independence.
The Greek Revolution was itself inspired by the ideals of the European Enlightenment and the American and French Revolutions, by the ideals of freedom, dignity, justice, and democracy, which were themselves inspired by the values of ancient Greece. The motto of the Greek revolution was “Freedom or death”, echoing what Spartan mothers told their sons before they went to battle, “Either with your shield or on it”. And the Greek Constitution of 1822, the first constitution of Modern Greece, was one of the most democratic of its era.
The successful outcome of the Greek Revolution was of course due to a variety of factors, perhaps first and foremost, to the bravery and endurance of the Greek fighters. But its success was also due, to a large extent, to the support it drew from the large Greek Diaspora, in Odessa (əʊˈdɛsə), Vienna, St Peterburg, Paris, Belgrade, Trieste and elsewhere, and from the international movement of the Philhellenes (fɪlˈhɛliːn), the admirers of Greek culture, a movement which included such celebrated advocates as the English poet Lord Byron and the French Romantic artist Eugene Delacroix. The Philhellenes (fɪlˈhɛliːn) and the Greeks of the Diaspora struggled together to promote the Greek cause, to arouse European public opinion in favour of the Greek revolution, to influence foreign power centers and create international alliances. And their work proved to be critical to the future of the Revolution.
But this 200th anniversary gives us not only the opportunity to revisit and celebrate the Greek Revolution, but also the opportunity to reflect on the past, present and future of Greece and Hellenism, to reflect on the potential of Greeks in the homeland and abroad.
The journey of the Greek state during these two centuries since the start of the Greek revolution, has been remarkable. Greece is a nation that fought for its right to be an independent state, and that has never since shied away from the international struggles to defend and uphold freedom and human values, including in both World Wars. Greece is a state that has become a sturdy pillar of democracy and stability in the Balkans and the wider Mediterranean region. Greece is a dependable Ally and a dedicated member of the European Union for the past 40 years, actively contributing to the promotion of its fundamental values and priorities.
Greece seeks good neighbourly relations with all its neighbours and insists on solving differences peacefully on the basis of international law. At the same time, we are firm in deterring manifestations of aggressive foreign policies that militarize disputes and endanger the peaceful coexistence, cooperation, and progress, of peoples and countries. Safeguarding peace requires constant vigilance from all of us, and it is our common duty, someday, to relegate war to the pages of history books.
Greece, in short, has every reason to envision the future with optimism and self-confidence. To this contributes one more major factor, the large and dynamic Greek Diaspora, the Greek communities that live and thrive outside the traditional Greek homelands of Greece and Cyprus, all over the world.
Australia is home to the second largest Greek community in the world, after the USA, Melbourne is the city with the largest Greek population outside Greece and Sydney also has one of the largest Greek communities in the world.
The Greek-Australian community’s successful integration into Australian society, has contributed greatly to shaping Australia’s multicultural character, and to the further strengthening of cordial relations between Greece and Australia. This long-standing relationship between Greece and Australia, which is based on our common values of democracy, freedom, mutual respect and tolerance, is enhanced year after year. Today, as we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the start of the Greek Revolution here in Sydney, we also celebrate the warm friendship between Greece and Australia, we celebrate our common values that bind us as faithful friends, and we honor the great contributions that Greek-Australians have made to multicultural Australian society.
Long live Australia, Long live Greece
*Images by Nick Bourdaniotis/Bourdo Photography (Copyright)