The celebration commemorating the 200th anniversary of the launch of the struggle for Greece’s liberation was marked by a major military parade that citizens watched on television. Marching through the streets of an empty city were troops from land, air and naval forces, members of the police, fire service and coast guard, as well as a cavalry unit
Freedom or death! – was the slogan of the uprising against Ottoman rule that Greece had been under for almost 400 years, ever since the Ottoman Turks attacked and took the then capital of Constantinople. Isolated uprisings in 1821 escalated into a war of all-encompassing proportions that culminated in the establishing of the independent Kingdom of Greece in 1832.
The 200th anniversary of the start of the Greek struggle for independence was marked on Thursday, 25th March 2021. Greeks traditionally celebrate this date as the turning point in the history of the modern Greek state and the beginning of a new era for Europe. Over the course of these two centuries of fighting for its right to be independent, the Greek nation has come a long way. It has never shied away from international struggles to defend freedom and human values, including its participation in both world wars. Greece thus became a solid pillar of democracy and stability in the Balkans and the wider Mediterranean region, a trusted ally and dedicated member of the European Union over the past 40 years , which contributes actively to promoting the EU’s core values and priorities.
MILITARY PARADE THROUGH THE DESERTED STREETS OF ATHENS
The celebration of the 200th anniversary of the launch of the struggle for Greece’s liberation from Ottoman rule was held in Athens. However, the pandemic led to the cancellation of everything but the military parade, which citizens watched on television. The military parade was held without people, without children, without fluttering flags, applause and enthusiastic sighs. Parading through the city of an empty city were a cavalry unit, troops of ground, air and naval forces, and members of the police, fire service and coast guard. Apart from military planes flying over the Acropolis, there were also members of the Evzones unit, an historical elite unit in the uniforms of Greek soldiers who fought against the Turks during Greece’s occupation by the Ottoman Empire and during the war for independence. And everything had been conceived and planned to unfold very differently … There were dreams of village celebrations, school parades and celebrations attended by numerous guests from all over the country and around the world. There were dreams of a celebration marked by pride, with plenty of joy and optimism for the future. But the global pandemic disrupted everything.
PRINCE CHARLES DIDN’T MISS THE CELEBRATION
It was initially decided to reduce celebrations to the military parade alone, but permission was subsequently given for the holding of several appropriate events, including a performance at Agia Lavra, one of the oldest Greek monasteries. There actors dressed in the garb of Greek revolutionaries repeated the legendary oath “Freedom or Death!”. This was the slogan of the uprising against Ottoman rule that Greece had been under for almost 400 years, ever since the Ottoman Turks attacked and took Constantinople, the then capital of the Byzantine Empire, in 1453. Isolated uprisings in 1821 escalated into a war of all-encompassing proportions which, aided by the intervention of Britain, France and Russia, culminated in the establishing of the independent Kingdom of Greece in 1832.
In honour of Greek independence, many countries used lights representing the colours of the Greek flag to illuminate their most important or most popular buildings
It was precisely because of this intervention that the Greek government and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis considered that they should invite representatives of the UK, France and Russia – as the three powers that helped the Hellenes on their path to true freedom – as honorary guests of the 25th March anniversary. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Queen Elizabeth II immediately rejected the possibility of coming, while French President Emanuel Macron initially confirmed the visit, only to cancel after introducing a strict lockdown in his country. Nonetheless, after the laying of wreaths at the tomb of the unknown soldier in front of the Greek Parliament, the parade was attended by the UK’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and French Defence Minister Florence Parly.
ANNIVERSARY OF INDEPENDENCE CELEBRATED WORLDWIDE
Many countries used lights representing the colours of the Greek flag to illuminate their most important or most popular buildings on 25th March, as part of the celebration of Greek independence. Blue and white lights were, thus, installed to light up the Sydney Opera House, parliament buildings in Bucharest and Warsaw, the Olympic Tower in Munich, the Rhine Tower in Düsseldorf and Niagara Falls, while Belgium dressed its famous Manneken Pis (Little Pissing Man) sculpture as a Greek insurgent.
It was tough for the citizens to abandon plans for a spectacular celebration of the great jubilee that would include the participation of the entire nation, because they have just ended a difficult and painful period. Greece emerged in 2018 from the biggest recession in its history, which had left behind painful austerity measures, poverty, unprecedented levels of unemployment and the departures of more than half a million citizens in search of work and a better life abroad. And just as the economy was beginning to recover, the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and Greece again fell into recession, though Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is determined in his intention to move the country forward courageously.
It was back in 2019, when the government was formed, that the prime minister announced a major celebration of the anniversary of the start of the Greek struggle for independence, as a sign that normality is returning to life in Greece. He considered certain dates in history as symbolically marking a break with the past, which is particularly important for young people. Now we only need to consign the novel coronavirus to the past, just like the Ottomans once were, and move forward resolutely.