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Leaving the Revolution Behind: Negotiating a New Status for the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople after 1821
This paper focuses on the status of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople following the Greek Revolution of 1821. Using Ottoman Turkish and Greek documents together with narrative sources from the period, it explores the creation of a new modus operandi between the Sublime Porte and the Patriarchate. The paper argues that the Patriarchate and its agents successfully negotiated a new position for themselves in the Ottoman Empire and managed to translate their spiritual power into an administrative leadership of their flock by 1830s. The Greek Revolution of 1821 fundamentally changed the status of the Greek-Orthodox populations of the Ottoman Empire. In the early months, the Sublime Porte found it difficult to differentiate between the revolutionary Greeks and the rest of the Ottoman Orthodox populations. Orders warning governors to be careful about possible Orthodox rebellions were sent to as far as Kars and Baghdad, while many documents spoke about the Ottoman Orthodox as though they were all in rebellion everywhere in the Empire. Rum milleti had thus two meanings: not only Ottoman Orthodox populations but also Greek nation in a modern understanding. This equalization of revolutionaries with Ottoman Orthodox subjects was symbolized in the execution of Patriarch Grigorios V in April 1821. However, even after the execution, the Sublime Porte had to make use of the Patriarchate to negotiate with the rebels or force them back to submission. Ottoman government needed the Patriarchate to go back to a status quo or at least to carry out an effective damage control. This gave the agents of the Patriarchate enough leeway to negotiate their status in the post-revolutionary Ottoman world. By 1830s, just before the creation of an independent Greek Kingdom, the Patriarchate managed to definitively differentiate the rebels and their newly independent country as Yunan and made itself the sole guarantor of the submission of the Rum milleti, now decisively meaning the Ottoman Orthodox populations. In this process, the Patriarchate also translated the religious primacy of its agents into administrative responsibility in Ottoman provinces opening the way for these prelates’ participation in Tanzimat councils.
Geographic Area
Ottoman Empire
Sub Area
19th-21st Centuries