John Kapodistrias

gigatos | September 9, 2021


Count Ioannis Kapodistrias (Russian: граф Иоанн Каподистриястрияς, Italian: Conte Giovanni Capodistria) (Corfu, 10 February 1776 – Nafplio, 27 September 1831 – 9 October 1831) was a Greek diplomat and politician. He was Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire and later first Governor of the new Greek state during the transitional period when the country was under the protection of the Great Powers.

He came from an aristocratic family with a political tradition, which is why he became involved in politics as early as 1803, when he was appointed secretary of the territory of the Ionian State. With the occupation of the Ionian Islands by the French, he retired and joined the Russian diplomatic service. There he held important positions, succeeding in becoming foreign minister of the Russian Empire from 1815 to 1822, when he was forced to resign due to the 1821 Revolution. On 14 April 1827, the National Assembly of Troizina elected him to a seven-year term as the first governor of Greece, a position from which he came into friction with local officials, resulting in his assassination on 9 October 1831, in Nafplio, by Konstantinos and Georgios Mavromichalis, who were relatives of Petrobey Mavromichalis, in retaliation for the latter”s imprisonment. The Governor”s body was transferred in April 1832 to Corfu by his brother Augustine and was buried in the Platytera Church next to the grave of his father, Antonios Maria Kapodistrias.

As governor he proclaimed the establishment of the Hellenic State and promoted important reforms for the reorganization of the state apparatus, as well as for the establishment of the legal framework of the new state. He also reorganized the armed forces into regular corps under unified command. At the same time, he sought and succeeded in extending the borders of the new state and securing Greek independence.

He was born in Venetian-occupied Corfu on 10 February 1776 and was the sixth child of Antonios – Maria Kapodistrias, a lawyer (studied in Padua) by profession, and Adamantia (Diamantina) Gonemi, daughter of an aristocratic family of Cypriot origin. She was descended from an old Corfiot family, namely the Kapodistrias of the district of the walls (de la contrada delle mura). The Kapodistrias were from Cape Istria on the Adriatic (Capo d”Istria), while others were from Venice. Its original name was Vittori, and the first name of Kapodistrias was given to Victor Vittori, who fled to Corfu in 1373 for political reasons. In 1477 the family was mentioned in the Golden Book (Libro d”oro) of the island”s nobles as Catholic. All descendants of Nicholas and Antonios Kapodistrias were entitled to bear the title of Count, a title granted to them by Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy, in 1689.[b] The title was not recognized by the Republic of Venice until 1 July 1796. The Gonemi family was listed in the Golden Book from 1606. His successor was Kostas Adamis.

He studied at the monastery of St Justine of Garitsa, where he learned Latin, Italian and French and then settled in Venice. In the period 1795-1797 he studied medicine at the university (”Panditaktio”) of Padua. On 12 April 1799 he was appointed, by Admiral Kadir, director of the Ottoman hospital.

His first involvement in the political scene of the Ionian State took place in April 1801, when he was called upon to replace his father, Antonios – Maria Kapodistrias, in the mission he had undertaken with Nikolaos Siguros to restore order in Kefalonia. On 27 April 1801 he landed with Siguros in Kefalonia and in their capacity as imperial commissioners they ceased to be local authorities, personally assuming the administration of the island. At the beginning of September, and after order had been fully restored, they returned to Corfu. A year later he participated in the foundation of the National Medical Association, of which he served as secretary, and in October of the same year he was called upon to go, once more, to Kefalonia to restore normalcy.

In April 1803 he took up the post of Secretary of State in the Department of Foreign Affairs, with responsibility for correspondence with the Republic”s agents abroad.[c] On 24 November he delivered the eulogy on behalf of the Senate for Spyridon George Theotokis, president of the Ionian Senate. In March 1804 he was awarded the rank of state councillor of the 6th degree by Tsar Alexander. In May 1805, at the suggestion of the Russian plenipotentiary, the Senate elected a ten-member committee, which included Ioannis Kapodistrias, to prepare a report on the provisions of the constitution that should be revised. The report was delivered the following year and the reforms were approved a few months later. In May 1806 his term of office as secretary of state ended and the following month he took over the direction of the public school of the Republic, which had been established on his own initiative.

In the elections of 1806 Ioannis Kapodistrias was elected eighth in votes in Corfu. Kapodistrias maintained excellent relations with the Russian plenipotentiary George D. Mocenigo, whose protégé he was. He was elected secretary of the Senate and then secretary and rapporteur of the committee that was to draft the new constitution. From this position he came into disagreement with the Russian plenipotentiary, as the changes proposed by the former were far more liberal than those of the Russian court. Nevertheless, and in the face of the deadlock that was created, Kapodistrias recommended to the senate that the constitution be passed, arguing that no other constitution had been approved and that only the one proposed by Mocenigos would receive the approval of the Russian court.

On 2 June 1807, the Senate appointed him extraordinary commissioner in Agia Mavra (Lefkada) with the essential purpose of defending the island from the Ottomans. He was essentially under the orders of the Russian general, i.e. he belonged to the Russian service. Along with Kapodistrias, 300 Russian soldiers arrived, as well as Metropolitan Ignatius of Arta. Under the protection of the Russians, he cooperated with the charioteers, even organizing the famous secret meeting of the thieves, which was attended by all the chieftains who had taken refuge in Lefkada (Varnakiotis, Boukuvalas, Bottsaris). In this assembly, Kapodistrias recognized Antonis Katsantoni as the general leader of the thieves in Western Greece. However, the Treaty of Tilsit, negotiated between the Russians and the French, restored the old regime, with the result that Kapodistrias was recalled back to Corfu and the Greek chieftains were isolated, despite his explicit instructions to the Senate, in which he advised the corps to maintain a tolerant attitude towards the thieves, so that the latter would both wear down Ali Pasha”s troops and keep him away from Lefkada.

Although the French general Berthier offered him offices, Kapodistrias refused to accept them, expecting a better offer from Russia, with whose officials he had excellent relations.

The proposal he was expecting from Russia came in May 1808, when Count Nikolaos Petrovich Rumyantsev, head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire, sent him a letter in which, after announcing that he had been awarded the title of Knight of the Second Class of the Order of St. Anne, he invited him to St. Petersburg, where he arrived in January of the following year. He was eventually appointed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a state adviser. After remaining for two years in St. Petersburg, he was appointed on 20 August 1811 attaché to the embassy in Vienna, a post he held until May 1812. The next stop on his career was Bucharest, where he was appointed as an official with civilian duties in the Danube army. There he became associated with Admiral Chichagov, whose adviser and director of his diplomatic office he became. For these services he was awarded the rank of active state counsellor. At the same time Admiral Tsitsagov was replaced by General Barclay de Tolly due to disfavor, but this did not affect Kapodistrias, who was awarded the Order of the Third Class of St. Vladimir. In October 1813 he was decorated by the Tsar with the Grand Cross of Saint Anne.

Kapodistrias” rise to the Russian imperial court was confirmed by his appointment by Tsar Alexander as a secret envoy to Switzerland in order to win over the government friendly to France. In addition to Kapodistrias, Baron Lebzeltern was appointed on behalf of the Austrian side, as the mission was a joint one. However, the aims were not exactly the same, as the Russians were interested in securing the neutrality and independence of Switzerland, while the Austrians were interested in establishing a friendly government and securing permission for Austrian troops to pass through Swiss territory. Lebtselterne worked secretly under Metternich”s instructions in order to achieve his aims. On 20 December 1813, he summoned Kapodistrias and asked him to sign a proclamation allowing allied troops to enter Swiss territory until they had secured the territories that France had wrested from Switzerland. Kapodistrias, realizing that the interlocution was the work of the Austrian government, refused to sign it, but shortly afterwards changed his mind. After signing it on behalf of the Russian side, he left for Baden, where the Tsar”s headquarters were located. The latter expected that Kapodistrias would not have signed the declaration. He was surprised, however, when the young diplomat reported to him that he had done the opposite. According to Kapodistrias, the announcement of the interpellation and the invasion of Switzerland by the Austrian army would have had the effect of dividing the inhabitants and at the same time presenting the Austrians as instigators of a coup d”état. He even recommended to the Czar that he should ask for the repudiation of the bellows, since the Austrians could not invoke the signature of their secret agent, which they did. The result of Kapodistrias” diplomatic moves was that the Austrians lost all ground in Switzerland, which secured its neutrality and independence.

Diplomatic developments in Zurich continued without any concrete result, since the Swiss federal states were at odds with each other. Tsar Alexander appointed Kapodistrias as his extraordinary envoy and minister plenipotentiary for Switzerland. From this position he drafted the Swiss Constitution and contributed personal drafts to the Swiss constitutional system, which provided for autonomous states (cantons) as members of the Swiss federation. In particular, he sent a memorandum to the president of the Diet (parliament) with the basic elements that the constitution should contain. Indeed, for the most part, the memorandum was followed. Geneva”s participation in this new state was purely his own initiative. In other words, he took over and created a new federal state system that successfully united the various cantons. He is always considered the first honorary citizen of Switzerland[citation pending].

He then went to Paris in order to talk to the Tsar about the Ionian Islands, but without receiving any assurance. The day before his departure from Russia, he was appointed Foreign Minister, next to Nesselrod. During his stay he was decorated with the Second Class Cross of St. Vladimir. In early September the Congress of Vienna, a landmark conference in European history, was held, in which he participated as a member of the Russian delegation. At the end of 1814 he was appointed Russia”s representative at the official meetings of the Committee of Five, and was awarded the Grand Cross of Leopold and the Grand Cross of the Red Eagle by the King of Austria-Hungary and Prussia respectively. Kapodistrias”s presence in Vienna must be considered a catalyst, as his advice was decisive in influencing the Tsar. According to Knight von Gents, an adviser to Metternich, the final act of the congress signed in May 1815 was the creation of Kapodistrias and himself.

In 1815 he founded the Philomusso Company together with Metropolitan Ignatius, Anthimos Gazis, Sturtzas, etc. Its purpose was to help young Greeks to study. Its members were on the side of the Russians, which is why the Austrian police monitored its activities. With the entry of Allied forces into Paris after the Battle of Waterloo, Kapodistrias took over the representation of Russia at the conference of the same name, where he tried to impose Russian views, achieving the integrity of France and the imposition of constitutional government in the Ionian Islands. Through his intervention, he succeeded in getting the Ionian State the basic characteristics of a state, namely a constitution, armed forces, an elected government and a flag. The treaty of 5 November 1815 is one of the most important successes of Kapodistrias” personal career.

In 1820 and 1821 he participated in the congresses of Tropea and Leibbach. At these two congresses, Alexander the Great, influenced by Metternich, followed the policy of Austria, largely neglecting Kapodistrias. It was at the Leibbach congress that news of Alexander Ypsilanti”s rebellion and the revolution in Moldavia came to light[e]. Ypsilantis even sent a letter to the Tsar asking for his help. The Tsar”s response was the official condemnation of the Revolution, the dismissal of Al. Ypsilantis and the permission for the Ottoman army to enter the Dominions, measures that were specifically announced to Ypsilantis in a letter written and signed by Kapodistrias. Nevertheless, Kapodistrias secretly pressed the Tsar to side with the Greeks. At the congress he fought a real battle to prevent aid from being sent to the Ottoman Empire and for the foreign powers to maintain strict neutrality. It is in this context that the ultimatum delivered by the Russian ambassador in Constantinople to the Sultan after the hanging of Patriarch Gregory V and the massacres of the Greeks can be explained. The disagreement between Tsar and Kapodistrias was not long in coming. The latter supported taking unilateral action against the Ottoman Empire, while the former was only interested in London”s attitude. By the end of 1821 Kapodistrias had lost imperial favour and in early 1822 the Tsar decided to remove the management of the eastern question from Kapodistrias. In February 1822 the Tsar sent Tatichev to Vienna, unbeknownst to Kapodistrias, with instructions to authorize Metternich to negotiate on behalf of Russia with the High Gate. A few days earlier the Austrian ambassador had complained to the Czar that Kapodistrias was deliberately slandering the Emperor of Austria to the Czar in order to achieve his ends on the Eastern question.

His sidelining at court by Nesselrod and his constant disagreement with the Tsar forced him to seek a special audience with the latter. In it he announced to him his disagreement on the new foreign policy. An outgrowth of this discussion was the granting of leave on health grounds to Kapodistrias. Tsaros refrained from removing him from the post of foreign minister so that their disagreement would not become known. On August 19, 1822, he left St. Petersburg, having first resigned from the Russian government, and a few months later settled in Geneva, where he was held in high esteem, in order to assist the Greek Revolution. There he associated with the well-known banker Eynardo and did everything for revolutionary Greece by strengthening philhellenism. At the same time, he made contacts with distinguished personalities, such as Stratford Canning, cousin of the Prime Minister of Great Britain George Canning and its ambassador in Constantinople, etc.

Kapodistrias belonged, at least formally and officially, to those who believed that the time had not yet come, that is, the conditions were not ripe, for the liberation of the Greeks. As he himself recounts, in 1818, Alexander Mavrokordatos and Pantazoglou “tried to prove to me that the maintenance of peace with the Turks was impossible, and that, as Greeks, they were impatient to learn that the Russian troops were about to cross Proutos”. His reply was that from the day of freedom ”our common fatherland is still far away”. His refusal to Galati to take over the authority of the Society of Friends can be attributed to the fact that that person did not inspire any confidence in him, and in his memo he describes Galati as an ”adventurer”. But to Xanthos the same refusal and the same words: to prevent “by all means the Greeks from the disastrous deputies”. Finally, he tried to restrain Alexander Ypsilantis by telling him what he thought of the Corporatists: “they are pushing Greece towards ruin … wretches … taking now the money of naive souls … beware of such men”. And when Ypsilantis proceeded to declare the Revolution, Kapodistrias accused him that with his “foolish proclamations” he was reinforcing the accusations of Jacobinism hurled by Metternich and others. Of course, when there was no way back, he ”struggled in every way to persuade the emperor [Alexander] to direct war intervention”.

The idea to invite Kapodistrias as governor of Greece was first put forward by Alexander Mavrokordatos in his letter of 27-10-1821 to Demetrios Ypsilantis. Ypsilantis also signed Kapodistrias” invitation in 1822 and Petrobeis in 1824. Finally, on 30 March 1827, at the 3rd National Assembly of Troizina, he was elected Governor of Greece for a term of seven years. According to the decisions of the Assembly, the Governor was to be bound by the Constitution of Epidaurus, as revised by the Assembly. Theodoros Kolokotronis, leader of the English party at the time, played an important role in calling Kapodistrias to Greece, although he was initially against his election. But he changed his mind afterwards and it was he who secured the approval of the English admiral Hamilton, who also had the approval of Stratford Canning. Despite this, his election was seen as a defeat for English foreign policy and a victory for Russia. And it is a fact that there was mutual distrust between Kapodistrias and England.

Before accepting the offer, he visited St Petersburg in order to be officially released from the Tsar”s service. He then headed for London, where he arrived at an unfortunate juncture, as George Canning was being buried the day after his arrival. His reception there was cold, to say the least.[g] After a short stay in Paris, where he was warmly received, he left for Ancona, where he arrived on 8 November. There he was to be met by an English ship to take him to Greece. But he remained there for 49 days, and then the ship that received him on 26 December, the British navy”s corvette Wolf, on which he boarded with his escort (Secretaries Bitot and Betan, Stamatis Voulgaris, Ioannis Dombolis and a servant named Bruno) sailed for Corfu, where, after consultation with the English, Kapodistrias was to go to venerate the graves of his ancestors. Off Corfu, however, in violation of the agreement, Kapodistrias was forced to be transferred to the English warship Warspite 74, which took him to Malta, where he met with Admiral Codrington to inform him of the mood of English policy, which in the meantime, after Canning”s death, had shifted to less philhellenic positions. Codrington characteristically told him that he was only interested in the interests of his country.

Kapodistrias finally sailed from Malta to Greece on 14 January, on the aforementioned British warship, accompanied by two more warships, a French and a Russian one. This peculiar behaviour (political purgatory) of the British towards the governor of Greece was intended to make it clear that England would not accept any attempt by Kapodistrias to extend the borders of the newly established state and would have to be content with those laid down in the Treaty of 6 July, namely autonomy and not independence and borders determined by the Acheloos-Malak line, and to distance itself (“sterilize”) from Russia”s foreign policy as its former foreign minister.

On 18 January 1828, ten months after the decision of the Third National Assembly of Troizina, he arrived in Nafplio, where he received an enthusiastic reception, and four days later in Aegina, the first capital of the Greek state. According to Kasomoulis, ”the night of 18 January in Nafplio was a night of joy for all the people and melancholy for only a few aristocratic princes”.

It was decided that Nafplio would once again become the capital of the Greek state and the seat of government. At the time of his arrival, almost all of the Peloponnese and Central Greece had fallen back into the hands of the Ottomans and the Egyptians, while civil strife continued among the Greeks (e.g. between the two guards of Nafplio, Fotomara and Grivas).

Internal policy

At home, upon his arrival, Kapodistrias had to deal with enemy troops, piracy, non-existent institutions, the disintegration of the army, civil strife and the poor economic situation of the country. One of the main conditions he set for assuming the leadership of the newly established Greek state, as he himself was an adherent of the doctrine of enlightened despotism, was the suspension of the Constitution and the dissolution of the Parliament, conditions that were eventually accepted. In place of the Parliament he created the “Panhellenion”, an advisory body consisting of 27 members of an advisory nature, a Senate body, while the Central Secretariat, a kind of cabinet run by him, took over the government. He also divided the country into administrative regions. He had originally committed himself to holding elections in April 1828, but then proceeded to postpone them because of the chaotic situation at home. When they were held, there were well-founded accusations of fraud. Although governor, Kapodistrias was elected in 36 districts, which caused the anger of his associates, one of whom, Spyridon Trikoupis, resigned as a proxy for this reason and left for Hydra. He also showed particular concern for the creation of courts by enacting a code of civil procedure, temporarily adopting the Byzantine Exabiblo of Armenopoulos.

One of his first moves was the suppression of piracy, a task successfully undertaken by Andreas Miaoulis. At the same time, he proceeded to reorganize the Armed Forces, gradually converting the irregular troops into a regular army, and bringing the fleet under the effective jurisdiction of the Government, since until then ships had been the property of the shipowners. In this way he tried to protect the frontiers and reduce the influence of the hitherto toparchs (”one wish the provinces transmit to me, that they may be freed from the tyranny of the guards and chieftains”). The effort to reorganise the army included the establishment of the Military School of the Euphonies. He established a National Mint and established the phoenix as the national currency, replacing the Turkish grossi. In terms of education, he built new schools, introduced the method of mutual education, established a church school in Poros, and the Orphanage of Aegina, in an attempt to organize the almost non-existent educational system. He did not, however, establish a university, as he believed that there should be secondary school graduates first. Kapodistrias failed to find a solution to the problem of the distribution of national land, so millions of acres remained with the large landowners (kotzabasis and the Church). He also worked to redesign and rebuild the destroyed Greek cities, such as Nafplio, Argos, Messolonghi and Patras, where he sent the Corfiot architect Stamatis Voulgaris. His contribution to trade was also important, with the granting of loans to the islanders for the purchase of ships and the construction of shipyards in Poros and Nafplio. In October 1829 he founded the first archaeological museum in Aegina.

As far as the Greek economy was concerned, Kapodistrias showed particular interest in agriculture, a basic source of wealth for Greece. He founded the Agricultural School of Tiryns (of which Thanasis Vayas was appointed director) and encouraged the cultivation of potatoes, for which some steps had already been taken in previous years. However, the anecdotal story about Kapodistrias” trick has another origin: it is said that Frederick II of Prussia applied this trick in his country in 1774.

Also, in an attempt to strengthen the Greek economy, Kapodistrias founded the National Stock Exchange Bank, but it failed either because, in one view, the state was exploiting the deposits unconditionally, or because of the opposition of those in power to the Kapodistrian regime and the lack of confidence in this new institution.

Although he created a Greek and French printing house in Aegina, he persecuted the press. Typical examples are the cases of the newspapers Anexartitos, Eos and Apollo, which were either closed down due to their anti-government positions or their editors were persecuted. There was also strong criticism of the placement of his two brothers, Viaros and Augustine, in the two top positions of chief anarchist and chief general respectively. Admittedly, both were considered unfit for these positions, and some historians go so far as to suggest that they played a decisive role in the fall of the governor[citation pending].

Foreign policy

On his arrival in Greece, Kapodistrias was not at all pleased with the protocol of 18 November 1828, which placed the Moria and the Cyclades under the temporary guarantee of the Allies. Fearing that the British would confine Greece to these borders, he organized a tactical army, continuing the war with the Ottoman Empire in Central Greece with his brother Augustinos Kapodistrias, Richard Church and Dimitrios Ypsilantis as generals. He refused to obey the appeals of Admiral Malcolm and the new ambassador Dawkins to withdraw the Greek forces in the Peloponnese. In September 1828, at the Congress of Poros, the ambassadors of the three powers initially agreed to include Crete and Samos in the new Greek state, but this was ultimately not done due to opposition from the British government. Kapodistrias had also supported the two unsuccessful campaigns of the Greek army and the Philhellenes in Chios and Crete, which did not have the desired effect.

With the victorious Battle of Petra in September 1829, the wars of the revolution were ended and the Greek domination of Central Greece was secured, while with French assistance the Peloponnese was cleared of Ibrahim”s troops. The London Protocol (1829) recognized the Pagasitikos – Amvrakikos line as Greece”s borders, but not Greek independence, instead autonomy with payment of tribute to the Sultan.

Regarding the choice of the ruler, Kapodistrias proposed Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who however gave up his claim to the throne due to disagreements over the borders. Several historians believe that Kapodistrias deliberately removed Leopold from the throne, while others argue that he did not oppose his coming. But the fact is that those who called for Leopoldos to come faced intense governmental disfavour. At the same time, Greek operations in Central Greece continued, as did the Russian advance towards Constantinople (Russo-Turkish War (1828-1829)).

Worried by the successes of Greece and Russia, Great Britain was quick to agree to the Arta-Volos border line and, more importantly, to independence. After negotiations, the London Protocol was signed, recognizing the independence of Greece, which would extend south of the border line defined by the rivers Acheloos and Sperchios, leaving out Aetolia and Acarnania. Kapodistrias agreed to independence, but opposed the issues of evacuation of territories by the Greek army and the issue of a foreign hereditary monarch. In September 1831 (13 days before his assassination), with the new London Protocol, the border line was finally changed in Greece”s interest.

During his reign, Kapodistrias, due to the poor financial situation of the state, attempted to take out a loan with foreign banks, an attempt that did not succeed due to the opposition of Great Britain. Nevertheless, Russia and France undertook to support Greece financially, while the Tsar showed particular care, sending 3,750,000 French francs.

As governor, Kapodistrias refused to accept a salary, as well as refused monetary compensation from the Tsar to avoid being accused by his opponents of partiality towards Russia, and disposed of all his property for the purposes of the state.

Apart from the pressing economic, social and diplomatic problems, Kapodistrias had to face two important obstacles in his policy for the construction of the newly established Greek state: First, the hostility of France (after 1830) and England, whose geostrategic interests in the Eastern Mediterranean were threatened by the prospect of creating a new and dynamic naval and commercial state outside their control or, secondly, the factionalism and regionalist, economic and political interests of the Cossacks, Phanariots and shipowners, who sought to maintain their privileges and participate in the possession of power. Ultimately, the combination of the above factors prepared the ground and led to the political and physical extermination of the first Governor of Greece on 9 October 1831 (27 September 1831 according to the Julian calendar).

In order to effectively manage the tragic economic and social situation of the new state, Kapodistrias opted for a centralized model of power in order to maintain direct political control. The opposition to Kapodistrias was made up of the power-stricken kojabasis and shipowners. The centralisation shown by Kapodistrias, by setting aside the local authorities and appointing his two brothers, Augustinos and Viaros Kapodistrias, to key positions, led him into conflict with the aforementioned interest groups. His political opponents accused him of despotism, as he refused to present a constitutional charter and delayed the holding of a national assembly. In response to the accusations, he spoke of other priorities, such as the establishment of schools (mutual schools, technical schools) and the distribution of arable land to poor landless people. In this way (education and securing resources), he believed that the Greeks would be freed from the slavery of exploitation of the few and made ready to enjoy full, civil rights. The centre of the anti-slavery struggle became Hydra, the seat of the shipowners and more specifically of the Kountouriotis family, which had on its side the fighters Miaoulis, Sachtouris, Tombazis and Kriezides. The main reason for the reaction of the Hydra shipowners was their demand for the “deferred” payment of compensation for the great damage and losses of their ships during the Revolution. Immediately acknowledging the just demand, Kapodistrias promised that as soon as the country”s finances improved, Hydra would receive ”its share as long as the just demanded”. The Hydraians, however, demanded immediate payment of these reparations, which was impossible due to the pitiful financial situation of the state. In addition, the leader of the English party, Alexander Mavrokordatos, and Spyridon Trikoupis, Anastasios Polyzoidis and Alexander Soutsos fled to Hydra, with the moral support of the philologist Korais. The organ of this opposition group was the newspaper Apollo of Polyzoidis. France and England, considering Kapodistrias to be friendly to Russia, encouraged the opposition.

Kapodistrias himself was aware of the plans of the specific foreign powers against him. On 31 July 1831, in a letter to the French admiral Lalande, who was serving in Greece, he revealed to him that he knew all the plots of the English and the French. If I cut off relations with the so-called “Protecting” Powers, this would be to the detriment of Greece and I did not want in any way to add to the burden on my conscience. And I let things work themselves out …”. On September 14, 1831, he sent to the Greek ambassador in Paris, Prince A. On 14 September 1431, he sent a letter to the Greek ambassador in Paris, Prince P. Soutsos, in which he protested with indignation and asked him to make relevant representations to the French government, for the unprecedented and impermissible involvement of French and English officers in the terrible anti-government actions of Hydra and Mani and for their overt complicity and assistance to the rioters.

Already the previous year, in 1830, a mutiny had broken out in Mani under the leadership of Tzanis Mavromichalis, brother of Petrobeis. The latter was placed under confinement in Nafplio, asked to go to Mani to pacify it, his request was not granted, he attempted to escape on an English ship, was arrested and imprisoned. Taking this treatment of the head of their family very seriously, and in the tense climate caused by the events of Poros, Constantine and George Mavromichalis, brother and son of Petrobey respectively, practiced the Mani custom of vendetta. On the morning of 27 September 1831 on the Julian calendar (i.e. 9 October 1831), outside the church of Agios Spyridonos, they shot and fatally stabbed Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias as he went to attend the Sunday mass. Kapodistrias was accompanied by his Cretan one-armed bodyguard Georgios Kozonis, who shot Konstantinos Mavromichalis. The latter was finished off by the mob, and his body was thrown into the harbour. The dying governor was carried by the crowd to a nearby pharmacy, where he expired. Before that, however, he was examined on the spot by the doctor and personal friend of the deceased, Spyros Karvelas, who drew up the relevant report, which is contained in a historical document. According to this report, the Governor”s death was caused by injuries to the occiput and the right abdomen. George Mavromichalis fled to the French embassy, where he was handed over to the authorities for trial, at the insistence of the crowd that had gathered and threatened to burn the embassy. He was eventually sentenced to death and shot a few days later. The tragic death of Kapodistrias plunged the agricultural population into grief, while in Hydra, on the other hand, the news was received with jubilation.

It has been argued that foreign forces played a catalytic role in his assassination. It is significant that, despite the passage of such a long period of time, the file on the assassination of Kapodistrias in the British Foreign Office archives remained, at least until September 2014, still classified. The planning of the conspiracy seems to have been spearheaded by the French General Gerard, then commander of the regular army that Kapodistrias himself attempted to organise. Two whole months before the assassination, the officers of the French expeditionary corps in the Peloponnese, in their conversations among themselves, had no doubt that the day of the assassination, or merely of the overthrow of the Governor, was approaching. According to Yannis Cordatos, the economic crisis, and the rejection of the English and French economic proposals on his behalf, led the last two “patron powers” to organize the assassination of the Russophile Kapodistrias, using the Hydra and the Maniates. According to V. Kremidas, who has studied the archival material of the case, France played the main role, while there is little evidence that Britain was involved. The latter may have been aware of the conspiracy but did not intervene to prevent it. According to Kremidas, there is no strong evidence of Hydra”s involvement in the conspiracy.

Of the assassins, Konstantinos Mavromichalis, just before he died from the gunshot of the Kapodistrias” guard, asked for mercy and told the police: “It”s not my fault, other soldiers put me up to it.” The historian and militant Nikolaos Kasomoulis, who is contemporary with the events, says that the other executor of the Governor, Georgios Mavromichalis, fled to the house of the French ambassador, Baron Rouen, stating: “We have killed the tyrant. We trust the honor of France. Here are our chariots.”

The French ambassador granted asylum to Georgios Mavromichalis and refused to hand him over, requesting an arrest warrant. However, under the threat of the rioting people who had surrounded the embassy, Ruan was forced to hand over Georgios Mavromichalis to the authorities. Also noteworthy is the attitude of the ambassador of England, who, immediately after the assassination of Kapodistrias, called for strict measures to be taken against the rebellious people, even repressing them with the use of weapons, threatening the three-member temporary Administrative Committee (consisting of Augustine Kapodistrias, Theodoros Kolokotronis and Ioannis Kolettis) even with withdrawal and the severance of diplomatic relations. Several years later, in 1840, Petrobeis Mavromichalis himself, hearing someone accusing Kapodistrias, is reported to have said these words. About the assassination of Kapodistrias, the Swiss philhellene, friend of Kapodistrias and benefactor of the revolution, I.G. Einardos said: “Whoever murdered Kapodistrias murdered his country. His death is a calamity for Greece and a European misfortune”.

After the assassination of Ioannis Kapodistrias, his brother Augustinos Kapodistrias assumed the position of governor, as president of the aforementioned Administrative Committee appointed by the Senate, but he resigned on 28 March 1832. The body of Kapodistrias was transported by his brother to Corfu, where he was buried in the Platyteras Monastery.

During his travels as minister to the Tsar of Russia, Ioannis Kapodistrias met the Duchess of Plakentia (Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun). The Duchess of Placentia, as a philhellene, was fascinated by Kapodistrias” ideas about Greece and asked him to teach her Greek. The Duchess helped financially in the struggle to rebuild Greece after the Revolution and became closely associated with Kapodistrias. Shortly after his election as Governor of Greece, Kapodistrias sent one of the best ships of the newly established state to Corfu to transport the Duchess and her daughter Elise to Nafplio. The negative opinion of his brother, Augustine, about John”s relationship with the Duchess is well known. Many considered Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun to be a highly manipulative woman, involved in matters of state. Later, it became known that the Duchess was having a secret affair with Elias Katsakos-Mavromichalis. When the Mavromichali standoff broke out in Mani, Kapodistrias ordered members of the Mavromichali family under house arrest, including Katsakos. According to information of the time, the Duchess of Plakentia paid the guards so that Katsakos could escape. Kapodistrias, convinced of her secret relationship with Katsakos, expelled the Duchess and her daughter from Nafplio in May 1831. They went to France, where the Duchess distributed pamphlets against Kapodistrias” policies and defended the Mavromichalaians, his later assassins. Many people consider the Duchess of Placentia to be one of the main instigators of Kapodistrias” assassination.

Roxandra Sturtza (1786 – 1844) was Lady of Honour to Empress Elizabeth at the Tsarist court and sister of Alexander Sturtza, a diplomat and close associate of Kapodistrias. Kapodistrias became romantically involved with her and even – according to some historians – proposed marriage to her in 1814, but Roxandra refused on the grounds that her mother intended him for her sister Helen. Roxandra was a philhellene and an active member of the Philomous Society of Vienna, founded by Kapodistrias. The correspondence between them continued until his assassination. Her last letter to Ioannis Kapodistrias arrived in Nafplio after his death. When she was informed of his murder, she suffered a nervous breakdown.

Historians have expressed conflicting views on the personality of Kapodistrias. Among the earliest, Count Gobinot counts him among the three greatest diplomats of the time, along with Metternich and Talleyrand, and Herzberg says that he was a diplomat of the highest rank, while John Cordatos describes him as a blind instrument of the Russians, and Karl Marx describes him as politically disreputable. Spyridon Trikoupis, a close associate of Kapodistrias, expresses himself positively, but does not fail to accuse him of having abolished the Constitution.

Among the more recent historians, Tasos Vournas expressed a positive view of Kapodistrias” work, as did Pavlos Karolidis and Dionysios Kokkinos, one of his most fanatical supporters. Douglas Dakin also disagrees with the view that Kapodistrias was simply an instrument of the Russians. Spyridon Markezinis describes his work as remarkable but not praiseworthy. In general, most historians consider Kapodistrias” work important, but they do not fail to mention the authoritarianism with which he exercised power. His philanthropy is recognized by almost all historians. Regarding his philanthropy, Takis Stamatopoulos concludes that “to be fair, we cannot deny his good intention, his amazing and diligent industriousness to create a state out of chaos”. According to Yannis Miliou”s Marxist analysis, Kapodistrias” rule was the result of a “destructive balance” between political forces that gave birth to the necessity of Bonapartism. According to him, “it was neither the result of the compromise between the bourgeoisie and the (non-existent) feudal lords, nor the ”will” of the Great Powers, but a crisis and a vacuum of hegemony, which was naturally filled in an ”extraordinary” way”. The historian Vassilis Cremidas says that a myth was cultivated by apologists for his rule to justify his authoritarianism that he supposedly wanted to abolish regressive local powers in favour of a central, national power. He claims that he was a convinced devotee of enlightened despotism and only came to power when he had secured the imposition of such a form of government, “in his logic, the things about liberal and democratic constitutions and states, an elected parliament, etc., did not fit.” He goes on to say that fear possessed the Governor towards all more or less the protagonists of the liberation even Th. Kolokotronis. He places his assassination in the context of a prolonged mismatch between the new social relations after 1821, with their good and bad, and the authoritarian political power in the context of enlightened despotism.

He had been honoured several times by Tsar Alexander and was made an honorary citizen of the canton of Vaud, with its capital in Lausanne. Today many streets and squares bear his name. The State Airport of Corfu is called “Ioannis Kapodistrias”, while in 1911, at the request of the benefactor Ioannis Dombolis, the National University of Athens was renamed “National and Kapodistrian University of Athens” and there is a statue of him in the Propylaea. The figure of Kapodistrias is also depicted on the 20 cent coin (sub-unit of the euro) of the Greek issue, as well as on the 500 drachma note (1983-2001). “Ioannis Kapodistrias” (or the Kapodistrias Plan) is also the name of the programme on local government reforms initiated by the Simitis government. On 21 September 2009, a bust of Kapodistrias was unveiled in Lausanne, Switzerland, in the presence of Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey and her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Andriantas can also be found in the central square of the town of Capo d”Istria (now Copper) in Slovenia. It is speculated[i] that he was a freemason.

The Kapodistrias family cottage, which was donated by the great-granddaughter of George Kapodistrias, brother of the governor, Maria Desyllas – Kapodistrias, in Koukouritsa, Corfu, is home to the Kapodistrias Museum, where heirlooms of the family and his personal belongings are kept. The National Historical Museum, in Athens, also houses the Governor”s personal belongings and his office.

Furthermore, on 24 February 2007, in Corfu, the Municipalities of Corfu, Aegina, Nafplio (Greece), Famagusta (Cyprus) and Koper-Capodistria (Slovenia) decided and established the “Ioannis Kapodistrias” Cities Network. The above network was formed by the cities or countries where Ioannis Kapodistrias lived and worked and its aim is to promote the personality and work of the Governor both locally and at European level.


  1. Ιωάννης Καποδίστριας
  2. Ioannis Kapodistrias
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