In the previous chapter we focused on Turkey’s perception of Greece.

To obtain a full picture, it is imperative to examine how Greeks lived under Ottomans and get closer to the Ottoman mentality, appreciate the cultural differences, and review all practices instigated by the Ottoman state.

These differences and practices did not help the Ottoman Empire to integrate, to an acceptable degree, sections of ethnic minorities that were part of their acquisitions.

On the contrary this explains how some Turkish Muslim populations were created?

Also how was the Hellenism of the Diaspora created?

The Turks are proud that they never forcefully attracted indigenous populations to Islam. Nothing more untrue.

Let us observe, then, how Greek society functioned shortly before the revolution of 1821.

Period before the 1821 revolution

In a court of law, a Muslim’s word was always accepted over that of a Christian, although disputes between Christians were generally settled in courts under the control of their own millet.

A Christian could not marry a Muslim woman, and there was a strict prohibition against renouncing Islam.

Those Christians who had embraced Islam and then reverted to Christianity were, until well into the 19th century, punished by death. Those “neomartyrs”, however, helped sustain the faith of the Orthodox populations during the centuries of Ottoman rule.

‘Subordinate to tax’

The administration of Greece was based on the principle of ‘Subordinate to Tax’.

This tax was a continuation of the tax system originally applied by the Seljuk Turks who essentially imposed, among other things, two additional taxes on the non-Muslim population conquered, the cizye or capital tax and the harac.

The cizye or capital tax

This tax was paid every year by non-Muslims,

The collectors always showed an excessive zeal, as the. their remuneration depended on the amount they would contribute to the sultan’s treasury.

The capital tax was the price paid by the «infidels» according to the holy law in order to secure their lives and permission to live in the territory of Islam, maintaining their religion under the  protection of the state.

Women, children, clergy and the disabled and those employed in the civil service were excluded from this payment.

Of course, any non-Muslim could avoid this tax if they would convert to   Islam.

The harac

The harac was based on the principle of the Coran and its payment symbolized the submission of the infidels by redeeming the tolerance of the state.

As a basic regular tax, it served dual purpose.

On one hand it was taxation on land (haraci muvazzaf) and on the other it was income tax (haraci mukaseme). The first was a fixed annual tax that was related to the land and not production. In other words, it was like property land tax. The various names found in the Ottoman archives, ispence, resm-i cift, resm-i bennak, resm-i mucerred, are different names for this land tax, known as harac-i muvazzaf. In essence, this is a tax paid by Greeks in exchange for the possession and cultivation of public land, not for the ownership of this land.

Extraordinary or occasional taxes.

The next big category is the extraordinary taxes, which include fines.

These were imposed to deal with various emergencies, such as the growing demands of administrative bodies, the repair of fortifications, the maintenance of roads and bridges, the purchase of ammunition of the army and fleet, even the feeding of horses.

Extraordinary taxes were extremely high, some of them were even difficult to classify in a special category.

The responsibility for collection was passed to the Greek «Kotzabases» who finally got rich from this process. Kotzabases was the Greek word to classify local middle- and higher-class citizens.

The collection was made by the Greek Kotzabasids, on behalf of the Pashas, who eventually also became rich from this process. This was also a process of redemption and corruption and blackmail of the enslaved Greeks.

It is worth noting that the presence of Turks in Greece and their behavior varied by region.

Also, the duration of the Turkish occupation was different by region and therefore the Turkish behavior varied. Especially in areas that Venetian occupation pre-existed, such as Crete, Peloponnese, Dodecanese, and Cyclades.

But also, other regions such as Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace even Asia Minor etc. that had a different mix of populations of different ethnicities that imposed variations in the application of Turkish methods of administration. Especially in areas of Venetian occupation, the Greeks preferred the Turkish occupation to the Venetian one, which was often considered liberating. Many people did not realize that the time of occupation of specific areas of Greece was extremely limited even less than 100 years, for example the Peloponnese from which the Greek revolution began.

Islamization by imposing tax to infidels.

The benefits given to Muslims, whether tax, judicial, social, etc., served as an incentive for many local populations to convert to Islam, and to escape the ‘stigma’ of second-class citizenship, as well as mixed marriages among Christians and Muslims obliged   the children to become Muslims.

Violent Islamization.

Finally, let us not forget the violent Islamization that took place with the forceful grabbing of children.

The most serious disability to which Christians were subject, until the practice died out toward the end of the 17th century, was the Janissary  levy (paidomazoma). Christian families in the Balkans  were required, at irregular intervals, to deliver to the Ottoman authorities a given proportion of their most intelligent and handsome male children to serve, after being forcibly converted to Islam, as elite troops or civil servants. Inevitably, the levy was much feared, but those who were conscripted frequently rose to high office and were sometimes able to help their relatives or their native villages. There is evidence that some Muslim families sought to pass off their children as Christian in the hope that they would be included in the levy and would thus be able to better their prospects. Under such pressures there were numerous instances of Christian conversion to Islam on both an individual and a mass basis; such conversions were particularly prevalent in the 17th century. The conversions were often only nominal, however, and these crypto-Christians secretly practiced the rituals of their former faith.

Eventually, the Ottoman Empire remained a deeply medieval theocratic state with an unjust tax system and the direct involvement of all state officials in the Ottoman hierarchy.

This state not only did not inspire confidence to its citizens, on the contrary it aroused suspicion and led to introversion and withering of the rural economy.

The inhabitants of the cities lived in relatively better conditions, since the Ottomans had left the trade sector to their non-Muslim citizens.

In any case, the practice of tax treatment of citizens according to their religion, a truly unique phenomenon in history, led to the demographic change of the Balkans, with a dramatic decrease in the Christian population and a corresponding increase in the number of Muslims.

The role of the «Kotzabasis» (Local Greek elit) during the Ottoman Empire.

The Turkish administration allowed the Greek elit to become tax collectors who in collaboration with the Pashas exploited the locals to the extent that the Christians often asked the Turks to protect them from their arbitrariness. ,

Some «Kotzabasis» were not just collaborators with the Turks but turned to tyrants of the Greeks. They dressed in Turkish furs, behaved like Turks to emphasize their power and looked down on the illiterate poor people, who angrily called them «Christian Turks», their job was to collect taxes and impose order, in whatever way they saw fit …

National groups and different casts within Greece and Asia Minor during Ottoman occupation

At this point it is worth mentioning how Turkey viewed the national groups and how it registered the corresponding population groups. For Turkey there were no national groups, there were only religion and language groups.

The Greek-speaking populations was the largest ethnic group which  was scattered among present-day Greece and Bulgaria, mainly on the shores of the Black Sea (Eastern Romulia) and even in the urban populations of Romania and in Belgrade, Vlachia, Moldavia, Eastern Thrace  and many areas within Asia Minor such as Izmir (Gaur Ismir). , the areas of Trabzon (Pontian Hellenism where many ‘crypto-Christians’ were created) and the Aegean islands.

Where sea, ship and trade, urban Greek populations were created.

Arvanites, Vlachs etc.

Greek-speakers were not only Greek Christians but also some Albanian Christians (Arvanites) who from time to time had descended to areas of Southern Greece, but also Vlachs and Slavs who had descended after 600 AD in the entire Balkan Peninsula. Finally, there were Turkish-speaking Greeks such as the ‘Karamanlides’ in Asia Minor.

The voluntary delivery of Moria to the Turks .

In 1714, the local Greek leaders of Moria decided to shake off the brutal Venetian occupation and offer their place to the Ottomans.

They called Topal Pasha of Thebes and let him enter the Peloponnese with his army.

Morias became a Turkish province within 100 days. Their move was duly appreciated by the Turks, who reciprocated by granting them privileges. However, the prominent people did not consider the reaction of the people, who were not willing to welcome the Turkish yoke and, in some cases, put up strong resistance.

The Turks took hostages in Istanbul, members of the families of the nobles, so that their families could keep the people calm.

This tactic was a double-edged sword because the Ottoman Empire never succeeded in integrating the Greek population into the Ottoman Empire. Apart from economic misery, the Greeks suffered other forms of misery such as children grabbing, forced Islamization and other forms of suppression created groups with independence tendencies such as the «Kleftes» and Armatoli.

The same did not happen with the Greeks of Asia Minor where there were no conditions for the development of armed resistance, on the contrary Asia Minor became an escape area for the armed revolutionaries. Asia minor was where a special cast of Greeks  The Phanariotes maintained a very important position  in Ottoman Empire and played a very special role among the Patriarch the Greek Merchants who created Greek merchant  communities or paroikies through much of central Europe, on the Mediterranean coast, in southern Russia, and even as far away as India.

Armed action of the people of Greece, “Kleftes” and Armatoli

As the Ottoman Turks extended their rule in the Balkan Peninsula, they had to face various uprisings by groups of Greeks who continued the tradition of Byzantine warriors.

Armed Greeks during the Turkish occupation were the «Kleftes». «Kleftes» lived in the countryside and had their hideouts in remote inaccessible places.

They were organized in small groups, each with its own captain and its own flag. A key feature of the «Kleftes» was the hostility they felt towards the Turks and power in general, an element that made them dear to the people. Thus, the Kleftes became a symbol of the resistance of the suppressed Greeks against the conquerors.

To confront the Kleftes and restore security in the countryside, the Ottoman Turks used other armed Greeks, former Kleftes, the Armatoli.

However, the Armatoli, although they were auxiliary troops of the Turks, usually Armatoloi collaborated with the Kleftes. Thus, the phenomenon was common, especially during the last centuries of the Ottoman Empire, many Armatoloi left their positions and joined the ranks of Kleftes.

The first leaders of the Greek Revolution, such as Theodoros Kolokotronis and others, came from the Thieves and Armatoli. Groups

Some of them acquired military training and experience in the English and French army and came back to Peloponnese via Ionian Islands.

The factors that created tendencies for independence.[U1] 

Another important factor in creating a trend for Greek independence was the Navigation developed by the island population that allowed the Greeks to dominate trade, and the transport of goods from the Ionian sea, through the Aegean to Black Sea and Danube countries, while giving young Greeks the opportunity to attend European Universities and to be inspired by the principles of the French Revolution.

Finally, Navigation gave the know-how and the financial capability to Greece to develop its own shipyards, which in addition to merchant fleet also enabled Greece to build its own navy.

Finally, the Hellenism that spread  abroad, in places such as Vienna, Russia, Danube countries, but also to the rest of Europe, created conditions for the awakening of the rest of the Hellenism to shake off the Turkish yoke.

We observe the creation of conditions and parameters that began to play a role, the elit of Hellenism abroad, the Shipowners and merchants who saw liberation as a necessary development, the people who did not want to replace Venetian rule with Turkish rule, the already rebellious groups under the names «Kletes» and «Armatoloi» but even the «Kotzabasids» ( members of Greek elit, privileged by the Turks) who could not but follow the revolutionary tendencies of the common people and the Clergy.

“Friendly Society” (Philiki Etairia)

From the Hellenism of the “Diaspora”, a new organization   was created under the name “Friendly Society». This group was founded   in Odessa, the Russian port of the Black Sea, on September 14, 1814. Its founders were people engaged in trade in Russia.

The “Friendly Society” was soon strengthened with the participation of members and associates from groups of Greeks from the Danube countries and the Principalities (hegemonies) that were created mainly in the regions of Vlachia and Moldavia.

The “Phanariotes” also played a special role in the spread of the “Friendly Society”

It should be noted that because of the way in which Turkey used “Phanariots” it inadvertently strengthened  Hellenism of the Danube regions, an example being the fact that Turkey placed Phanariotes as Hegemons in the Tax subjugated Ottoman provinces of Vlachia and Moldavia.

The hegemonic throne of Moldavia was then given to Nikolaos Mavrokordatos, son of the “Great Interpreter: (Official Interpreter) of the “Gate”: Alexander Mavrokordatos of “in secret” civil servants of the Ottoman state

From 1711 the Phanariotes will keep under their constant control the throne of Moldavia and from 1716 of Vlachia.

At the beginning of 1820, the society approached Ioannis Kapodistrias, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, and offered him the leadership of the group Friendly Society.

When he refused, they offered the leadership to Alexander Ypsilantis, who had successfully served in the Russian army as well as he as a member of the Fanariotis that served as a Hygemon of the Principalities.

Ypsilantis, who admired Rigas Velestinlis and his ideas, sought cooperation with the other Balkan peoples. He addressed the Serbs and the Vlachs but his efforts did not succeed.

But at the beginning of 1821 there were better conditions for the outbreak of the Greek revolution in the northern Balkans and specifically in the Danube Hegemonies because it was ruled by Phanariote Hegemons and the Turkish army was forbidden to station in the area.

The revolution broke out on February 22, 1821 when Ypsilantis crossed the Pruthos river and entered the Danube Hegemonies.

In 1819, most of the nobles of the Peloponnese and the Aegean islands and several chiefs were initiated into the «Friendly Society». The following year its members exceeded 3,000.

This successful course of the Friendly Society was largely because they cultivated the idea that their movement was supported by Russia and that they had the blessing of the Patriarch. For the Turks, the Friendly Society was naturally an illegal organization against the state.

 Rigas Velestinlis

Among the most important personalities who influenced the Greek element, both the popular masses and the elites of the Hellenism of  “Diaspora”, was Rigas Velestinlis, who was mentioned above.

Rigas Feraios «the most heroic representative of the tradition of the Greek revolutionary Enlightenment» and «leader of an early rise even a pan- Balkan movement with continuous  presence, since 1790 not only in the national but also in the spiritual events of the time and with the slogan «Whoever thinks freely, thinks well» expressed the «spirit of rebellion» par excellence

In contrast to Adamantios Korais, the «man of the office», who stood far from social action and the popular masses who faced historical developments as a teacher and not as a political being, On the other side Rigas, the founder of the first secret liberation organization, «became a real leader» speaking to the soul of the simple people passing across the message of French revolution introducing real love for freedom and democracy as compared to authoritarian rule.

Together with Adamantios Korais,  they consisted the  Cornerstones of the Greek Enlightenment, even from two different points of view, gave the cultural breath to the enslaved Hellenism.

One of Rigas most important works was the “Thourios” (a poem) of Rigas which was sung to the accompaniment of musical instruments, mainly the flute that inspired the mountain Greeks and the other Balkan nationalities.

In Free translation to understand how Rigas inspired Greece and the Balkans.

How long shall we live in the straits,

alone like lions, in the mountains

in caves to live in hide.

Waiting to depart from this world, in bitter slavery.

To lose brothers, your Homeland and Parents, our friends, our children, and all our relatives.

It is better to live an hour in freedom than forty years in slavery and imprisonment.

What good comes out of living in slavery,

It feels like being thrown into the fire every hour.

Rich or poor, Master even if you stand,

The tyrant unjustly will make you lose.

The 1780s were crucial for shaping Rigas’s ideological orientation. His ideas matured under the influence of the French revolution philosophical tendencies, which dominated the late Phanariotic   education. In this spiritual environment, Rigas seems to have been particularly associated with the most radical representative of the Hellenic and Balkan Enlightenment.

The tragic end of Rigas

In addition to «Thourios» poem of Rigas printed in Corfu by a collaborator of Rigas, additional written revolutionary material was being prepared.

In December of the same year, three boxes of the revolutionary material were confiscated in Trieste, which had a recipient trusted by Rigas and a member of the company, and the material finally reached the hands of the police. So when Rigas arrived in Trieste unsuspecting, he was arrested. He was interrogated and then handcuffed and sent to Vienna. In the meantime, the Austrian government notified the Turkish government and after an exchange of documents, Rigas and his comrades surrendered to the Turks and were taken to Belgrade, where he was tortured and killed on June 24, 1798.


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