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Identifier 000415364
Title Η πόλη του Μεσολογγίου κατά την Επανάσταση του 1821 : Πόλεμος, οικονομία, πολιτική, καθημερινή ζωή
Alternative Title The city of Missolonghi during the Revolution of 1821
Author Διακάκης, Αντώνης
Thesis advisor Χ. Λούκος
Abstract During the Greek War for Independence, the city of Missolonghi experienced major demographic, economic and social changes. As far as the population is concerned, it soon grew dramatically, perhaps it doubled, mainly due to the large number of refugees from the northern regions. More generally, the significant fluctuations in the population of Missolonghi depended on the wider current of refugees at a given time and were determined by the course of the war events, the ensurance of naval sovereignty in the area, as well as the chances for survival offered to each social group by the city or its abandonment. In any case, the price in dead and captives paid by the people of Missolonghi during the last siege was hard. The persistent organizational efforts of the local administration had rather limited results due to the resistance of the traditionally strong social groups, especially the chieftains in the countryside, while the existence of a rivalling party of chieftains and notables that opposed the presence and the action of Al. Mavrokordatos, contributed to the internal turmoil. However, the latter never lost control of the situation. Moreover, Missolonghi and west Central Greece were not directly and substantially affected by the civil conflicts. During the last siege, the military officers prevailed in Missolonghi, at the expense of the local administration, which was appointed by the government. The consequences, which concerned mainly the gathering and allocation of food were experienced by the inhabitants of the city, as well. The military leadership was basically collective, mainly through assemblies and committees, in order for localistic or other differences to be compromised, something which was positive for the defense of the region. However, the enfeeblement of the political authorities reinforced the arbitrariness in the distribution of food and rations, ultimately contributing to the food crisis. The Brotherhood of Filodikaioi, an organization with young soldiers being the leading protagonists attempted to resolve the various personal and social conflicts in Missolonghi. Promoting the values of unity, equality, solidarity, homeland and law, the organization aimed at overcoming the social and political differences in Missolonghi and the whole rebelling country. However, the effort failed due to the constant control of the money-and-supply mechanism by the superior military officers. The notables in Missolonghi played a prominent role in the occupancy of the local public proceeds, while they also engaged in trade, shipping, the occupancy of their private property, occupying positions in the local administrative machinery, lending the local administration, and providing military services. Regarding their general strategy, the notables tried to balance between two quite contradictory objectives: securing the city against the Ottoman forces and the powerful chieftains of the region, and defending what they considered to be of particular interest for the city, as well as a privileged field of action for themselves. This pursuit inevitably resulted in conflict with the local administration, which they considered necessary for the security of the city and its inhabitants. The real stake was the power in the narrow area of Missolonghi, both for its symbolic value and the economic benefits it entailed for the traditionally strong families of the city. For its part, the local administration considered that it was defending the interests of "the people" and, first and foremost, these of the weaker social groups. As the notables did not have the power to really challenge the primacy of the local administration, nor the intention of violently overthrowing it, the result was an unstable balance, since the local administration had relented to significant demands of them. The notables and the local administration had adapted to the imperative requirements of the military officers and the war itself to a significant degree during the last siege. At the same time, the inner party of the notables was occasionally tested by the conflict between the strongest families and those of the "second league", which questioned the leadership of the first one. Since 1821, Trikoupis and Razikotsikas families had played a leading role in the city. Trikoupis family excelled in politics, while Razikotsikas family succeeded in business activities and in combining the role of a prokritos with that of a chieftain. The economic activity in the entire area of west Central Greece had largely developed beyond the control of the newly established central and local administrative authorities. The looting that followed the warfare operations, the occupancy of the proceeds, the involvement of Missolonghi in piracy and raids, were combined with lack of transparency and all sorts of "administrative abuses" due to the absence of both an effective tax mechanism and rational management of the resources. This resulted in economic disintegration, as local authorities were unable to plan ahead, as they struggled to meet immediate and pressing needs to cover running costs, past debts, and meet requests, in order to prevent more violent protests. The government was the main source of revenue of the local administration, while the limited revenue from renting the proceeds accounted for both the destruction caused by the invasions of the Ottoman troops, and the looting of agricultural and livestock production by the local chieftains. A small portion of the reported revenue came from piracy and raids. However, these actions provoked foreign intervention, which was financially and politically damaging, while, as a new source of revenue, they contributed to the social conflicts in Missolonghi. The expatriate Greeks of the Ionian Islands, whose financial aid gradually increased, were an important source of revenue, as well as the wider support of the Ionian Islands to the Revolution in west Central Greece. Food markets from the Ionian Islands were responsible to cover the region's deficit in production. Under these circumstances, the direct and indirect funding from the first external loan was inevitable. The total sum covered a significant proportion of the total expenditure and was the main source of funding for the government. Covering the needs of the troops accounted for the vastly largest percentage of the budget, the money of which were mainly for the benefit of the chieftains, who displayed fake numbers of salaried men, seeking to maintain the cohesion of their bodies, and, thus their personal administrative position, which was a heritage of the armatoles' tradition of the region, over their rivals. In Missolonghi, Anatolikon and the agricultural region near the cities, productive activities regarding the land, the commerce and the shipping developed rather progressively and were supported by the revenue from the investment in the proceeds , the piracy and the raids as well as the money of the first British loan. Many residents of the city were financially supported by the expenses of the local administration for various services. The former unemployed seafarers, traders and various professionals, would be benefited, too, in the city, which grew in population and developed in commerce. The town, which guaranteed safety to a much larger extent compared to the looted countryside, was of particular importance, thanks to the economic growth, combined with population increase, the consolidation of the administration and its central geographic location between Peloponnese, Epirus and the Ionian Islands. During the last siege, the financial management was related to the allocation of money to the various needs and the distribution of food to armed men and civilians. The Ionian Islands continued to have a key role in the town's supply, the problem of which had been exacerbated since the Fall, when many more civilians needed to be nourished. The collapse of exchange-rate transactions highlighted the misdistribution of the allocated money to rations and wages, at the expense of purchasing food, which would be safely stored and distributed in a way that would reduce the inequalities in the city. Implementing such a design would require the cooperation of the chieftains and a much stronger local administration, as well. At the same time, the lack of timely governmental planning, which concerned the allocation of the available resources, especially the money of the second British loan, had been evident, since the second half of 1825, and was a weakness that allowed private suppliers to adopt a more commercial logic. It was also confirmed during the last siege that the great advantage Missolonghi, the ability to be supplied from the sea, was also the weak point of its defense, as it depended on the broader economic and political rivalries that affected the timely arrival and retention of Greek warships necessary to maintain the smooth flow of all kinds of supplies. The rivalling-when it came to rations and ships-needs of the fleet and siege of Missolonghi, were a specious excuse for the repeated attempts of divesting the national estates without meeting the fiscal needs, something that questioned the honesty of a large number of the civilian personnel. The sharpened political controversy, in view of the Third National Assembly, could only aggravate the situation. What is obvious about the rebels' side, is a gap between the commitments to achieve goals that required collective effort and the ones to satisfy the individual goals and interests of all those groups-namely notables, ship owners, chieftains, traders - that could influence the making and the execution of political decisions, often based on personal, family or localistic benefits . So, there was a large lack of coordination of opposing interests, a substantial lack of leadership. This resulted in the absence of effective mechanisms of achieving the declared collective goals, hence the fragmentation of goals and means, economic and martial ones. When the Ottomans overcame their organizational problems to a large extent, they led the rebels to an economical and wartime predicament. The efforts of creating care and educational services did not go beyond the general rule according to which every organizational effort, the overall administrative functioning, the administration of justice, the rationalization of the payroll, and the disciplining of the disobedient adapted to the conditions and the restrictions of the local community and the revolutionaries’ side, in general. Apart from the organizational problems themselves, any planning that wasn't financially supported by the government or the strong notables in the town, or opposed the chieftain's practices, was doomed to fail or at least drastically limit its goals. The fortification of Missolonghi, as well as the role that the city's newspaper managed to enshrine were basically exceptions to the rule. The formation of the public opinion, the main goal of the Greek Chronicles' establishment, was not achieved. Controversial ideological and political references, the defiant tone and the syntax in Greek prevented the newspaper from becoming a means of widely disseminating the Revolution to the European public. During the last siege, the Greek Chronicles adapted to the demands of the wartime conditions, highlighting the actions of the well-known and-mainly- anonymous fighters. The newspaper's impact on Missolonghi was very important at that time, not only when it emphasized the warfare feats, but also when it referred to subjects that could influence the course of the Struggle. The outcome of the warfare operations during the first phase of the last siege was successful for the defending side, thanks to their collective organization, endurance, the valorisation of the fortifications, their experience and inventiveness, as well as the help from the Greek fleet. The chronic organizational weaknesses of the besiegers appeared again, but to a lesser extent, thanks to Mehmet Resit Pasha's leading and organizing capabilities, while the daily routine of the opponents during the war displayed several similarities. Methodism, discipline, abundance of materials and human resources and emphasis on the lagoon operations were the main characteristics of the Egyptian forces that allowed them to take and maintain the initiative. On the other hand, there was neither a period of generalized turmoil in the city, neither capitulation, nor a general deregulation of the social ties. The possibility of fleeing, close and other kinds of relationships which had developed for a long time, the good degree of unity and cooperation of the defending side, the generally accepted ways of solving the problems or working out the tensions, based on balanced strictness, contributed to the cohesion of the besieged. At the same time, the extent of the famine in Missolonghi during the siege was unprecedented, triggering a humanitarian crisis, which eventually led to several incidents of cannibalism. The psychological challenges were intense as well, because everyone had to struggle to preserve their humanly personality. The boundaries between the civilian population and the armed guards were relativised, as women and children participated in the events, experiencing the consequences, namely fear, anxiety, hunger, and death. Thus, sex and age limits were tested as teenagers grew up earlier and violently, while women were able to overcome the stereotypes and the limitations. The extermination of the captives and the initial decision for the fate of the civilians to a larger degree, showed the complete emotional exhaustion of the armed and the unprecedented moral crisis in the besieged Missolonghi. Eventually, the massive offensive Exodus from the city was regarded to be the only decent choice. The armed people who survived after the Exodus were engaged in subsequent political and warfare events, remaining collectively and individually proud of their participation in an event that was considered unique in terms of heroism. Several of them were able to contribute to the final release of Missolonghi, while the alive inhabitants of the city struggled to survive in the Ionian Islands and elsewhere, while searching for their captive relatives. The organizational measures and the safety during the Kapodistrian era favored the efforts for the life to be reorganized in deserted Missolonghi, in which old and new residents gradually gathered. However, the political turmoil of the period, the continuing economic weakness of the country and the thieving action of armed men in the countryside undermined the significant progress in Missolonghi and the entire area of west Central Greece, at least until the mid-1830s. Keywords Missolonghi (Greece) - History - Greek Revolution 1821-1832
Language Greek
Subject Greek Recolution 1821-1832
Missolonghi (Greece)
Ελληνική Επανάσταση 1821-1832
Μεσολόγγι (Ελλάδα)
Issue date 2017
Collection   Faculty/Department--Faculty of Social Sciences--Department of Sociology--Doctoral theses
  Type of Work--Doctoral theses
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