The Philhellenic War Ultimatum of Russia against the Ottoman Empire in 1821: Kapodistria's momentous geostrategic feat in world history.

Exhibit 1 Моско́вские Триумфа́льные воро́та
The Moscow Triumphal Gate in St. Petersburg,
in the memory of
the (50.000) fallen Russian soldiers
in the Russo-Turkish in  1828-1829.
Book review by Filistor,
(July 6, 2018)
The 6th of July is a great anniversary for Greece, although it is rarely mentioned and nowhere celebrated in that country (perhaps due to the foreign-policy doctrine of the Greek political establishment that «we belong to the West»): It is the date of a major geostrategic feat of Kapodistrias and Czar Alexander A΄ in 1821, whereby Russia saved then the Greek nation from extinction and paved the way for the liberation of Greece from the Ottoman yoke: On 6 July 1821, Russia, the military Superpower at the time (Exhibit 3), recognizedfirst of all the Great Powersthe Greeks as a «nation» by upgrading them, at an international diplomatic level then (1821), from «rebellious ra’iyyas»(1) to a «nation at war» and, even more, to a nation under genocidal persecution (the «nation of Greeks who struggle to avert their prescribed annihilation»).

That first official recognition of the Greeks as a nation was stated explicitly in a document of the highest (ultimate) order in international law and the geostrategic arena, i.e. by the«Kapodistrian» War Ultimatum of Russia against the Ottoman Empire (July 6, 1821). The ultimatum, in defense of the very existence of the Greek nation, had a major geostrategic impact in Post-Napoleonic Europe,  as  outlined  and  well  documented  in a free downloadable monograph (186-page color-illustrated e-book), entitled «The philhellenic War Ultimatum of Russia against the Ottoman Empire in 1821» and subtitled «Kapodistria's momentous geostrategic feat in world history» (Εxhibit 2). The book is authored by John D. Pappas in Modern Greek,(2) but it also includes selected excerpts in English from primary sources.

An adapted excerpt of the book had been first published in the Issues of Greek History two years ago (May 4, 2016), long before the book was first published (June 2018) as a substantiated monograph thatto a considerable degreerewrites the history of the Greek War of Independence. Today (6 June 2018), on occasion of the 197th anniversary of that emblematic (nation-building, genocide-averting) ultimatum, we cite, indicatively below, a short but quite enlightening excerpt of this ground-breaking book, i.e. the 3-page Foreword («Προοίμιο», pp. 7-9), herein translated in English as follows: (3)

Εxhibit 2 Philhellene Czar Alexander A΄ (1777-1825)
on the front cover of the book entitled
«The Philhellenic War Ultimatum of Russia
against the Ottoman Empire in 1821»
[equestrian portrait  by Franz Krüger (1797-1857)].
The Russian ultimatum against the Ottoman Empire in 1821 aimed to defend unarmed Greek civilians against Ottoman atrocities, especially in non-combatant regions of the empire. In effect, the ultimatum protected Greece, at the time, on her two most vulnerable geostrategic fronts: first, her eastern cultural frontiers, wherein the survival of Ecumenical Hellenism—i.e. the Greeks as a cosmopolitan nation, historically rooted and culturally flourishing all around the Mediterranean and far beyond—was apparently at stake in the Ottoman tricontinental territory; second, her western   military   flank,   wherefrom   a   military counter-revolutionary intervention by the Holy Alliance in Greece could be undertaken against the insurgentra’iyyas. Ιn sum, the «Kapodistrian» ultimatum of Russia in 1821 constitutes a momentous cultural and geopolitical achievement of Christian Europe and the Humanity, because:

1. It assured the continuity of the Greek nation throughout the tricontinental Ottoman territory at a critical time, i.e. while the warring Greeks prevailed in Greece and the Aegean (1821-1824).

2. Ιt shielded the Greek-Orthodox Church from atrocious Ottoman reprisals, amidst and in spite of the chaotic escalation (uncontrollable, tragic and colossal, i.e. tricontinental in 1824-1829) of the epic military, naval and diplomatic struggle of the Greeks against a powerful and huge empirethe same (Ottoman) empire that, just two decades ago, had made a mockery of the Armée d'Orient of Napoleon and his grandiose strategic objectives in the Middle East (1798-1801).

3. Ιt upgraded the warring Greeks from their initial state of «rebellious ra’iyyas»(1) to an internationally-recognized «nation at war» (1821).

4. As consequence, at the level of international law, the ultimatum set the legal cornerstone (internationally-recognized nationality) for the establishment of the democratic Greek State after a few months (1822).

5. It invigorated drastically the fighting spirit of those Greeks who were fiercely engaged in war operations,  because  (among other effects) it untied the hands of the seamen of the Greek Fleet (1821): After the ultimatum, and because of it, the Greek Fleet could conduct its war operations against Ottoman fleets (1821-1829), without any fear of barbarous Ottoman reprisals (massacres) against Greek civilians in non-combatant regions of the empire.

Exhibit 4 The siege of Varna (Eastern Balkans)
by Russian troops in the Russo-Turkish war, 1828-1829.
 [«Attack on the Fortress of Varma by the Engineers Battalion,
23 September 1828»,
  painting by Alexander Sauerweid (1783-1844).]
6. It contributed substantially to the military victories of the Greeks by effecting a major military distraction of the Ottoman Empire: The ultimatum forced the Sultan to tie down, on Russian-Turkish borders, battle-ready troops of more than 30,000 men in the first five critical years (1821-1826) of the Greek War of Independence.

7. The humanist terms of the Russian ultimatum destabilized the Sultan in the interior of his empire, i.e. in the Janissaries battalions, as well as amidst his moderate officers at theHigh Porte.

8. In 1821-1826, the Russian ultimatum laid out and paved the diplomatic and geopolitical ground for the subsequent Russo-Turkish war in 1828-1829 on the side of the forefighting Greeks i.e. the major two-front war (Exhibit 1), in the Balkans and Transcaucasia (Exhibits 4-5 respectively), that evolved to the decisive factor for the eventual liberation of Greece as an independent country.

Exhibit 3 Military Strentgh of Great Powers
in early 19th Century.
9. The ultimatum was a major blow to the Holy Alliance: After the eventual acceptance of its terms by the Sultan (May 1822), the Holy Alliance was paralyzed at the Verona Confe-rence (Fall 1822) as to the Greek Question. In effect therefore, the Russian ultimatum in 1821 defended the western borders of warring Greece against a European military intervention that would aim to suppress the Greek Revolution, under the pretext of a peacekeeping mandate by the Great Powersas it did happen then in Italy (1821) and Spain (1823) against the revolutions of the Carbonari (1820-1821) and the Exaltados (1820-1823) correspondingly.

10.    Diplomatically, it neutralized Metternich, the Chancellor of Austria, and thereafter transformed him to a virtual diplomatic tool of Russia's foreign policy in favor of Greece. Indicatively, in 1821-1822, he did effectively his best to persuade the Sultan to accept all terms of the Russian ultimatum.

11.    It rendered the Greek Question the epicenter of the Eastern Question, as of the second half of 1821, de facto and de jure.

12.    It was conducive, as a geostrategic catalyst, to the first official explicit proclamation by a Great Power , the U.S., as early as 1822-1823, in favor of the prospectiveindependence   not mere autonomyof warring Greece: As an ultimatum of an empire (Russia) against another empire (Ottoman Empire), it had immediately drawn the attention of the U.S. Government, which proclaimed thereafter that the U.S. considered the Greek Question an issue of global importance.

13.    It anticipated the liberation of all peoples in the Balkans on the basis of the radical principles of self-determination and nationality.

14.    The ultimatum had been a landmark of Russia's  interventionist  foreign  policy  with regard to the Eastern Question over the next 93 years (1821-1914) for the gradual liberation of all peoples in the Balkans from the Ottoman yoke.

15.    The ultimatum introduced the principle of European solidarity in international law and consequently it induced the Great Powers to face their cultural and humanitarian responsibilities as to the Eastern Question.

16.    In the Post-Napoleonic Era, the Russian ultimatum brought to the fore the peoples of Europe, and especially the popular movement of Philhellenism—in the context of religious and cultural European Solidarity— as important factors affecting the geostrategic policy-making of the Great Powers.

Exhibit 5 The siege Of Akhaltsikhe (Transcaucasia)
by Russian troops in the Russo-Turkish war, 1828-1829
[metal print by January Suchodolski (1797-1875)].
Moreover, the Russian ultimatum has been, ever since, a damning indictment of all those states and nations that have committed crimes of ethnic cleansing or genocide. Because of its universal (anti-genocidal) appeal, the ultimatum has been the most brilliant achievement of Kapodistrias, then Foreign Minister of Russia, and likewise the most distincly humanist event in the reign of Czar Alexander A΄Αpparently, as evidenced by the humanist text of the ultimatum, they had both been shocked by the mass massacres of Greek civilians in Constantinople, Smyrna and Ayvalik, by the indiscriminate executions of Greek-Orthodox hierarchs, and by the transcendental patriarchal struggle, in life and after death, of St. Gregory,who was willingly sacrificed  on the sacred altar of saving a historical nation from total extinction.
(1)  Ra'iiya or rayias (in Greek ραγιάς) is a derogatory Ottoman termof Arab origin, meaning flock of subjectsthat defined non-Muslim subjects of the Ottoman empire and thus became synonymous to slave (as in enslaved nation).

(2)  The book is the second part of a trilogy, entitled «Warlord Nation-leader Kapodistrias» («Πολέμαρχος Εθνάρχης Καποδίστριας»), authored by John D Pappas:

(c)   Kapodistrias, the Liberator of Greece 1827-1831.

      Adapted excerpts from the first and second books have already been published in the Issues of Greek History (in monotonic Greek). The third book is due to be published on March 25, 2019: At that time,  the Issues of Greek History will publish a pertinent excerpt from that book as well.

(3)  The entire book (186 pages) may be downloaded in pdf format, free of charge, at the author's academic site, here:

This book review is free downloadable (pdf file) here
as a bilingual book review (English/Greek)
that is primarily intended for
second- or third-generation members of the
Greek Diaspora:


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