In a message given to all Greeks through Greek City Times for the bicentennial celebration of the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire, H.E. Mr. Andrey M. Maslov, Ambassador of the the Russian Federation, said that Russia helped establish Greece’s first fleet.
The Russian Empire, as one of the Great Powers, played a critical role in all stages of the Greek Revolution – from the preparation of the revolution to the recognition of Greece by the Ottoman Empire as an independent state.
In 1770, during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, Empress Catherine the Great sent a Russian Fleet under the command of Count Alexei Orloff to the Aegean.
As he wrote, the goal was to free all Christian Orthodox from the Turkish yoke. As a result of the Küçük Kaynarca Treaty of 1774, Russia was recognized as a protective force for the co-religious peoples of the region.
Greek ships gained the right to sail under the Russian flag, and the Greek fleet was created, which fifty years later contributed decisively to the Revolution.
Many Greeks acquired Russian citizenship and enjoyed significant privileges. Lambros Katsonis, Ioannis Varvakis, Laskarina Bouboulina, who became Admiral of the Russian fleet, found permanent or temporary shelter in the Russian South.
Many Greeks served in the Russian diplomatic service and in the army.
The Greek Infantry Regiment of Crimea and the Greek Infantry Regiment of Odessa were formed.
In 1809, Ioannis Kapodistrias joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia.
Only 7 years later he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs – a fact that undoubtedly testifies to his exceptional qualifications, but also to Russia’s special ties with Hellenism.
Kapodistrias became the “beloved Secretary, trustworthy adviser and friend of the Emperor.”
As a true patriot of Greece and Russia, which he called his “adoptive” homeland, he was convinced that the liberation of the Greeks could only take place with Russian support.
And he was right.
In Odessa, where an active Greek community developed, in 1814 the Friendly Society was founded.
The rise of Alexander Ypsilantis, a heroic general in the Russian army and a supporter of the Tsar, as head of the secret organization in 1820 raised its prestige.
The beginning of the Greek Revolution caused a huge wave of solidarity in all strata of Russian society.
Our poets dedicated poems to the “descendants of the glorious Themistocles and Pericles”.
Fundraising was carried out, committees were set up for the redemption of Greek prisoners.
Many Russians went to Greece to fight side by side with their Orthodox brothers, bought weapons and ammunition, formed voluntary regiments.
A brilliant example is Nikolai Raiko, who became the guardian of Palamidi in Nafplio and then Patras.
As a sign of protest against the persecution of Christians in the Ottoman Empire, in the summer of 1821, Russia severed diplomatic relations with the Ottoman Empire.
Russian diplomacy in every way sought for the Ottomans to abide by the agreements which gave rights to its Orthodox inhabitants.
In 1826, the Russian-English protocol in favour of autonomy for Greece was signed in St. Petersburg.
When the unparalleled struggle of the Greeks against the Turkish yoke was in danger of failure, the 1827 the London Treaty on the Greek Question, thanks to Russia’s insistence included a secret article on the “use of exceptional means” if the Ottomans rejected a peaceful settlement.
This led to the formation of a united fleet between Russia, England and France, which on October 20, 1827 fought the Turks and Egyptians in the Battle of Navarino.
The Russian squadron consisted of eight ships with 4,000 sailors.
According to their diaries, they were possessed by ardent philhellenic emotions.
The Russian capital, St. Petersburg, was celebrating the victory with a bell ringing.
The Ottomans, however, did not rush to comply with the peace initiatives.
In April 1828, Russia declared war on the Ottomans.
One of its main goals was the creation of a viable Greek state.
Before the end of the battles, the special envoy of Emperor Nicholas I, Mark Voulgaris, came to Poros and in September 1828 presented the credentials to Ioannis Kapodistrias, a fact that marked the beginning of Russian-Greek diplomatic relations.
With this unprecedented step, Russia was the first country to recognize the independent Greek State.
The victories of the Russian army, which reached as far as Adrionopoli (Αδριανούπολη, Turkish: Edirne), forced the Ottomans to sign in 1829 the Russo-Turkish Treaty of Edirne.
According to Article 10, it was agreed to grant autonomy to Greece in accordance with the Treaty of London on the Greek question. This event sealed the success of the Greek Revolution.
Thanks to the steadfast line of Russia, independent Greece, receiving a significant expansion of its borders, was not limited to the Peloponnese, as some wanted.
To properly commemorate the great 200th anniversary of the beginning of the Greek Revolution, we decided together with our Greek friends to declare this year the joint Year of Russian-Greek History, which will be held under the auspices of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Historical events are a valuable legacy for mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries, today and in the future.
Russian Ambassador to Greece.