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Επτάνησος Πολιτεία (el)
Eptànisos Politìa (el-Latn)
Repubblica Settinsulare (it)
Septinsular Republic
Protectorate of the Russian and Ottoman Empires¹

1800–1807
Flag Emblem of the Septinsular Republic
The Republic's territory extended to the six main islands plus the smaller islets of the Ionian Sea
Capital Not specified
Language(s) Greek (official from 1803), Italian
Government Republic
Historical era 19th century
 - Russian/Ottoman occupation 1798
 - Established May 21, 1800
 - 1st constitution 1800
 - 2nd constitution 23 December 1803
 - 3rd constitution 1806 (never implemented)
 - Annexed to France July 7, 1807
 - French control est. September 1, 1807
¹ Formally under Ottoman suzerainty; under the de facto protection of the Russian Empire

The Septinsular Republic (Greek: Επτάνησος Πολιτεία, Italian: Repubblica Settinsulare) was an island republic that existed from 1800 to 1807 under nominal Ottoman sovereignty in the Ionian Islands. It was the first time Greeks had been granted even limited self-government since the fall of the last remnants of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottomans in the mid-15th century.

The seven islands constituting the Republic were:

Contents

Background

By the late 18th century, the Ionian Islands had been under Venetian authority for centuries. With the Treaty of Loeben (18 April 1797, the French Republic gained the islands, a move finalised with the 1797 Treaty of Campo Formio, which formally abolished the Venetian state.

The islands now formed part of the départements Mer-Égée, Ithaque and Corcyre. The arrival of the French sparked great enthusiasm among the islands' inhabitants, and was marked by acts such as the burning of the Libro d'Oro, the abolition of aristocratic privileges and the adoption of the French Constitution of 1795.

The French then proceeded to strengthen the defences of Corfu. By the end of the 18th century, it was the strongest fort in Europe, with more than a thousand French cannons placed on the walls.

Soon however, and despite several progressive measures adopted by the French administration, the population was alienated due to heavy taxation and the undisciplined behaviour of French soldiers. This discontent was used by a joint Russo-Ottoman force under Admiral Ushakov to evict the French from the islands.

In March 1799, the city of Corfu fell after a four-month siege, ending French rule. This was the beginning of the Septinsular Republic.

The Septinsular Republic

In 1800, the so-called "Byzantine" Constitution was approved in Constantinople by the Sultan, establishing the Septinsular Republic as a tributary state to the Ottoman Empire. The Winged Lion of St. Mark on its flag indicated that it was supposed to be a successor state to the Venetian Republic, recently abolished by Napoleon. In fact, political power was exercised more by murder and vendetta than through the Senate.

The Republic existed practically as a Russian protectorate largely because the population saw the Russians as their Orthodox co-religionists. The political experience of administering the Republic was hugely important for the young Ioannis Kapodistrias, who thereby attracted Russian patronage, and would later became the first president of an independent Greece. Jervis gives a copy of the constitution (presumably the second) in his book. The franchise was restricted to males of legitimate Christian birth on the islands, who did not keep a shop or practise any mechanical art and could read and write. They also required a minimum yearly income which varied between the islands from 1800 ducats on Corfu to 315 ducats on Ithaca. People with the franchise are normally referred to as nobles but this term probably exaggerates their wealth.

In secret articles of the 1807 Treaty of Tilsit, they were ceded by Russia to Napoleon's French Empire, and incorporated in the Illyrian provinces.

H. Jervis-White Jervis 1852 reprinted 1970 History of the Island of Corfu and the Republic of the Ionian Islands

Aftermath

In 1809–1810, the British took all the islands except Corfu, where a French garrison persisted until 1814. In the Treaty of Paris (November 5, 1815), the islands were formed into the "United States of the Ionian Islands" under British protection. The colonial government lasted for half a century until 1864, when the islands were incorporated in the Kingdom of Greece.

See also

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