Farsi    Arabic    English   

The Greek Insurrection[65]

Karl Marx

The insurrection among the Greek subjects of the Sultan, which caused such alarm at Paris and London, has now been suppressed, but its revival is thought not impossible. With regard to this possibility we are able to say that after a careful investigation of the documents relating to the whole affair so far, we are convinced that the insurgents were found exclusively among the mountaineers inhabiting the southern slope of the Pindus, and that they met with no sympathy on the part of the other Christian races of Turkey, save the pious freebooters of Montenegro; and that the occupants of the plains of Thessaly, who form the only compact Greek community still living under Turkish supremacy, are more afraid of their compatriots than of the Turks themselves. It is not to be forgotten that this. spiritless and cowardly body of population did not dare to rise even at the time of the Greek war of independence[66]. As to the remainder of the Greek race, numbering perhaps 300,000 souls, distributed throughout the cities of the Empire, they are so thoroughly detested by the other Christian tribes that, whenever a popular movement has been successful, as in Servia and Wallachia, it has resulted in driving away all the priests of Greek origin, and in supplying their places by native pastors.

But although the present Greek insurrection, considered with reference to its own merits, is altogether insignificant, it still derives importance from the occasion it affords to the western Powers for interfering between the Porte and the great majority of its subjects in Europe, among whom the Greeks count only one million against ten millions of the other races professing the Greek religion. The Greek inhabitants of the so-called kingdom as well as those living in the Ionian Isles under British rule consider it, of course, to be their national mission to expel the Turks from wherever the Greek language is spoken, and to annex Thessaly and Epirus to a State of their own. They may even dream of a Byzantine restoration, although, on the whole, they are too astute a people to believe in such a fancy. But these plans of national aggrandizement and independence on the part of the Greeks, proclaimed at this moment in consequence of Russian intrigues, as is proved by the lately detected conspiracy of the priest Athanasius[67], and proclaimed too by the robbers of the mountains without being reechoed by the agricultural population of the plain all have nothing to do with the religious rights of the subjects of Turkey with which an attempt is made to mix them up.

As we learn from the English journals and from notice given in the House of Lords by Lord Shaftesbury, and in the Commons by Mr. Monckton Milnes[a], the British Government is to be called upon in connection, partly at least, with these Greek movements to take measures to meliorate the condition of the Christian subjects of the Porte. Indeed, we are told explicitly that the great end aimed at by the western Powers is to put the Christian religion on a footing of equal rights with the Mahometan in Turkey. Now, either this means nothing at all, or it means the granting political and civil rights, both to Mussulmans and Christians, without any reference to either religion, and without considering religion at all. I n other words, it means the complete separation of State and Church, of Religion and Politics. But the Turkish State, like all Oriental States, is founded upon the most intimate connection, we might almost say, the identity of State and Church, of Politics and Religion. The Koran is the double source of faith and law, for that Empire and its rulers. But how is it possible to equalize the faithful and the Giaour, the Mussulman and the Rajah before the Koran? To do that it is necessary, in fact, to supplant the Koran by a new civil code, in other words to break down the framework of Turkish society and create a new order of things out of its ruins.

On the other hand, the main feature that distinguishes the Greek confession from all other branches of the Christian faith, is the same identification of State and Church, of civil and ecclesiastical life. So intimately interwoven were State and Church in the Byzantine Empire, that it is impossible to write the history of the one without writing the history of the other. In Russia the same identity prevails, although there, in contradistinction to the Byzantine Empire, the Church has been transformed into the mere tool of the State, the instrument of subjugation at home and of aggression abroad. In the Ottoman Empire in conformity with the Oriental notions of the Turks, the Byzantine theocracy has been allowed to develop itself to such a degree, that the parson of a parish is at the same time the judge, the mayor, the teacher, the executor of testaments, the assessor of taxes, the ubiquitous factotum of civil life, not the servant, but the master of all work. The main reproach to be cast upon the Turks in this regard is not that they have crippled the privileges of the Christian priesthood, but, on the contrary, that under their rule this all-embracing oppressive tutelage, control, and interference of the Church has been permitted to absorb the whole sphere of social existence. Mr. Fallmerayer very amusingly tells us, in his Orientalische Briefe[b], how a Greek priest was quite astonished when he informed him that the Latin clergy enjoyed no civil authority at all, and had to perform no profane business. "How," exclaimed the priest, "do our Latin brethren contrive to kill time?"

It is plain then that to introduce a new civil code in Turkey, a code altogether abstracted from religion, and based on a complete separation of State and Church, would be not only to abolish Mahometanism, but also to break down the Greek Church as now established in that Empire. Can any one be credulous enough to believe in good earnest that the timid and reactionary valetudinarians of the present British Government have ever conceived the idea of undertaking such a gigantic task, involving a perfect social revolution, in a country like Turkey? The notion is absurd. They can only entertain it for the purpose of throwing dust in the eyes of the English people and of Europe.

Written on March 14, 1854
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4039, March 29, 1854 as a leader


[a] The Earl of Shaftesbury's speech in the House of Lords on March 10, 1854. The Times, No. 21686, March 11, 1854; M. Milnes' speech in the House of Commons on March 13, 1854. The Times, No. 21688, March 14, 1854.—Ed.

[b] Fallmerayer, Fragmente aus dem Orient.—Ed.

[65] The mailing of the article "The Greek Insurrection" to New York is not registered in the Notebook, but the fact that it is by Marx is established by his letters to Engels of April 22 (see Note 43↓) and May 3, 1854. This article, published by the editors of the New-York Daily Tribune as a leader, was presumably a part of the article mailed by Marx to New York on March 14 (see Note 63↓). It could not have been written before March 14 because it expounded Milnes' speech delivered in the House of Commons on the 13th and published in The Times on March 14, 1854.

[43] In the Notebook the dispatch of this article under the title "Oesterreichs Finanzen" is dated March 3. The article dealt not only with the state of Austrian finances, but analysed Napoleon III's speech of March 2 and contained some other material which the Tribune, editors arbitrarily combined with Marx's previous report (see Note 34↓). The article on Austrian finances was published as a leader. As the editors were wont to pass off his articles for their own, Marx wrote to Engels on April 22, 1854: "Of late the Tribune has again been appropriating all my articles for its leaders and putting my name to nothing but rubbish. It has appropriated, for example, a detailed account of Austrian finances, articles on the Greek insurrection, etc. Not to speak of their 'congenital' habit of making a splash with your military stuff" (see present edition, Vol. 39).

[34] The article "English and French War Plans.—Greek Insurrection.—Spain.—China" was compiled by the editors of the New-York Daily Tribune from two articles written by Marx on February 28 and March 3, 1854; the editors took the first six paragraphs, up to the words "The Anglo-French expedition may be set down...", from the article written by Marx on March 3 (the second half of this article was published as a leader, without Marx's signature, under the title "Austrian Bankruptcy"). in the Notebook the second part of the article is entered: "Dienstag. 28. Februar. Etwas Militaria. Spain. Dost Mohammed etc., etc., etc.". It is probable that "Militaria" in this article was written by Engels, but there are no direct proofs of this.

[63] Engels wrote the article "Retreat of the Russians from Kalafat" on March 13 on Marx's request and it was mailed to New York on March 14, as is testified by the entry in the Notebook: "Dienstag. 14 March. Militaria. Kalafat." Before sending it off Marx added a review of Greek events (see Note 65↑) and other information taken from The Times of March 14, 1854. On March 18 Marx published this article in the Chartist People's Paper. The New-York Daily Tribune and the New-York Weekly Tribune carried it under the title "The Russian Retreat". It was included by Eleanor Marx in The Eastern Question under the same heading. In this edition the text is reproduced from The People's Paper and checked with that of the New-York Daily Tribune. Substantially different readings are given in footnotes.

[66] In the spring of 1821 a national liberation movement started in Greece which ended after a long struggle in Greece winning independence. As a result of Russia's victory in the Russo-Turkish war of 1828-29, Turkey recognised Greece as an independent state. Forced by public pressure to give military aid to Greece, the ruling circles of the European powers imposed, however, a monarchist form of government on the country after its liberation. The final status of the Kingdom of Greece and its territory were determined by the protocols of March 22, 1829, February 3, 1830 and May 7, 1832 of the London Conference (1827-32). Greece included Morea, the Cyclades and the southern part of Greek mainland, between the mouths of the Spercheios and the Aspropotamo rivers.

[67] In January 1854 it was announced in Constantinople that the police had discovered a conspiracy of the Greeks, and a Greek priest named Athanasius had been arrested in Vidin. According to the Western press, the conspiracy was headed by Baron Oelsner, ex-adjutant of General Lüders, and its aim was to incite the Greeks and Slays living in Turkey to revolt.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 13 (pp.70-72), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
MarxEngles.public-archive.net #ME1876en.html