Ongoing ignorant distortions about Ioannis Kapodistrias, the Liberator of Greece.*

by Konstantinos TsatsosFormer President of the Hellenic Republic (1975-1980)**

Even though today's methods of exercising foreign policy are by no means more ethical or effective than those in the era of the Vienna Congress in 1815, the methods of that era are found to annoy our contemporaries, who are convinced that progress has been accomplished since then.


     The political activity of Kapodistrias is naturally in keeping with that apparently bygone era. Kapodistrias couldn't possibly charm the multitudes, those who delight in noisy and colorful personalities. Adroit diplomatic maneuvers do not inspire adulation, neither do compromises which often achieve greater progress than do implacable and intransigent positions. Throughout his varied career, Kapodistrias remained simple, temperate, humble. Rhetoric was absent from his life as it was absent from his writings. He never attempted to appear more important than he was. He knew his dimensions and the dimensions of events. So, this man who never wooed the crowds, who wrote a great deal and spoke seldom only with a select few, this man who worked most often in the wings rather than the stage of history, does not hold in history the position which is his by his right.


When he came to Greece he was thought by some to be haughty. Kapodistrias was affable and courteous, but he kept the distance kept by a civilized man from both superiors and inferiors. He may have appeared somewhat foreignthe most intellectual of the intellectuals. Yet it was his patriotism, his love for Greece that motivated his actions throughout his life. Still it was not only his love of Greece, his desire to create a new Greece, that made him a Greek: It was also the greatness of his soul.


     This is why he showed such understanding for the failings of the fighters of the Greek Struggle, whether they were soldiers or leaders. This understanding, however, had its limit, at the point where those failings threatened to destroy the unity and the viability of the newborn Greek state. How was it possible for him to submit to the practically separatist demands of the Mavromichalis clan and to the financial claims of the Hydriots? It is possible that in his contacts with the rebellious ones he appeared harshso different were these meetings from the usual chatter and bargaining to which they were accustomed. This blame [on Kapodistrias], however, cannot be compared to the blame on those who were nowhere near understanding the meaning of order and the meaning of liberty within a free state.


     I don't know whether the contemporaries of Kapodistias appreciated his achievements in organization. That which I am certain has not even today been adequately appreciated, is   his greatest achievement, his greatest service to the Nation. Kapodistrias was called in to govern a country with no frontiers and still overrun by enemy forces. Free Greece was then an ideal, one with no specific form. The hardships of his wandering from one great Court to another, the battles he fought in Roumeli to chase back the enemy, his struggles to liberate Western Greece, all these important facts, the most important of the years of his governorship, are not taught to school-children, and have yet to be appreciated by adults. Yet the great national achievement of Kapodistrias is that: He was the first to define the frontiers of the Greek stateenclosing a territory much larger that had originally been planned by the so-called Protecting Powers.


     Kapodistrias arrived in Greece famous, but also branded, for being the Tsar's man. Some Greeks nourished the suspicions of the French and the English against him and thus managed to make his task more difficult. A task that was beyond the control of the very leaders of the Great Powers, much less so that of their very average representatives in Greece.


So if at that time the opposite political factions were attempting to slander Kapodistrias as the tool of Russia, what can we say of those who 150 years later claim that Kapodistrias attempted to «impose his personal dictatorship» in Greece, and that «his foreign policy was aimed at subjecting the new nation to the wishes of the Tzar»? So this man who, in order to serve his country, turned his back on all the splendors of the Russian Court, who drew away from Russia in order to support the Greek cause, who struggled for months on in London and in Paris to win from the other two Powers approval of the plan for the total liberation of the Greek homeland, who struggled once back here in Greece to maintain a balanced friendship with the Protecting Powers, this man is presented to the ignorant as an agent of Imperial Russia... It is a true shame that political fanaticism leads Greek scholars to such ignorant distortions. The Kapodistrian Archives, as they gradually come to light, will shed light for those who want to see it. The remainder will continue to treat history as a field for the projection of their political purpose.***




Adapted excerpt from the «Preface» (pp. v-x) of Letter to the Tsar Nicholas I, Doric Publications Ltd. (Athens 1977). The book includes translation in English of a multi-page memo to Tsar Nicholas I written by Ioannis Kapodistrias in French, dated 12/24 December 1826, originally entitled «À Sa Majesté l'Empereur: Aperçu de ma carrière politique de 1798 à 1822», first published in St. Petersburg in 1868.


** That «Preface» was written by Konstantinos Tsatsos in 1976-1977, i.e. while he was acting President of the Hellenic Republic (1975-1980), on the occasion of the Bicentennial (1976) of the birth of Ioannis Kapodistrias (1776).


*** This excerpt is included in «Καποδίστριας ο Μέγας»—Kapodistrias the Great (pp. 14-16)—along with its translation in Greek (pp. 11-14) and pertinent explanatory and historiographical endnotes (pp. 25-28), freely readable and downloadable here:Καποδίστριας_ο_Μέγας


"Encompass worlds but do not try to encompass me..."

Walt Whitmann


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