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About Corfu Island

 

Ionian State (1800-1807) & the second French occupation (1807-1814)

On the 21st of March 1800, Russia and Turkey agreed, according to the Treaty of Constantinople, that the Ionian Islands would be a united state. It would be called “State of the Seven United Islands”, the nobles would administrate them and the constitution would be acceptable. The Fortresses would be given to the State, but Russian and Turkish army would remain in the islands till the end of the war. The islands would have the obligation to pay taxes to the Turks. The flag of the Ionians would have blue colour and a winged lion with a raised foot, a bible and 7 arrows tied with ribbon, symbolizing the 7 islands, and also the year of 1800. The constitution was named “Byzantine” and was consisted of 37 articles, but it was increased the privileges of the nobles. In 1/13 of January 1801, the official raising of the flag took place in Corfu. After a while, the uprising (revolt) of the people started. The provocative attitude of the Turks to the unarmed citizens, lead to bloody episodes and the authorities asked for the help of the Russians. The Russian commander Charles Hastfert asked the Turks to take away their forces. On the other hand, the announcement that the Russians would pull out of the islands created a panic in the residents. In 2/14th of July, the president of the Senate, Spyridon Theotokis from Corfu, sent a message asking the Russians to stay. On 13/25th of August, the administration of the fortresses given to two Senates. The middle class moved to conspire against the nobles-landowners. Theotokis introduced the “Emergent Board of Public Security” calling the middle class (townsfolk) to select their representatives. On 16/28th of November, the “Honest Board of the Town and Villages of Corfu” became the new authority; the nobles signed the Constitution, in which the unification of the people was achieved by reducing the privileges of the minority and the recognition of all the citizens. At the beginning of March 1802, a British warship landed soldiers, who united with the State. The Turks asked for the reintroduction of the former constitution. Russia sent an army and gave orders to the ambassador of the Emperor, George Mocenigo, to supervise the situation.

On the 23rd of May 1802 (25th of March 1802 –Convention of Amienne), France, Austria and Spain recognized the Ionian State. On 20th of August, Mocenigo arrived in Corfu in order to reorganize the state. On 23rd of November 1803, the new constitution was introduced, which consisted of 212 articles. The hereditary aristocracy was abolished. A new kind of nobleness was established, dependent of the income or the education. The bounds by oath were also established and the personal freedoms and the inviolate of the family asylum were recognized.

On the 25th of December, Turkey cut off relations with Russia and asked the Ionians to avoid co-operation with them. The French allied with the Turks. The Ionians went into war side by side with the Russians. Despite the Treaty of friendship was signed between the Ionians and Ali Pasha, he wanted to conquer the islands with the help of Napoleon – who promised the islands to him- and organized a war operation against the Ionians. Eventually, the Ionian State was allotted to the French under the Treaty of Tilsit, on the 7th of July 1807. On the 1st of September 1807, the French Commander, Cesar Berthier, cancelled the Ionian State. In 8/20th of August 1807, the French army arrived in Corfu. Berthier accepted the administration ofthe islands from the Russian Admiral Seniavin and declared that the Ionian State would be part of the French Empire and the residents would be citizens under the jurisdiction of the French Emperor and the king of Italy. The flag would be the same as France and the Greek religion would be the main one. Napoleon did not change the administration of the islands but he ordered a general commander, the Imperial Commissar, who would participate in every council of the Senate, he would confirm the decisions, he would run the administrative and financial matters and he would supervise the High Police. After a while, Napoleon replaced Berthier with Francis Donzelot, to protect Corfu in case of a British invasion. In the meantime, the British fleet had isolated the Ionian Sea causing problems to the commercial navigation of the islands and British agents in Corfu increased the disaffection against the French. In the beginning of October 1809, the British fleet, with the Admiral Oswald arrived in Zakynthos and declared that they intended to establish an independent administration and the British were allied to the Ionians, but not conquerors. There was a powerful French force in Corfu, so the British besieged Zakynthos, Kefalonia, Ithaka, Kythira and Lefkas. The island of Corfu was blockaded for the British products. The residents of the rest of the Ionian Islands started having a normal life under the British protection, after the stop of the blockade. General Airey (1810) replaced Oswald and then Campbell (1813) followed. Corfu was in a bad situation. The blockade continued on from the 10th of November 1810. In 22nd of March, the British besieged the island of Paxos and Parga on the mainland. The residents of Parga thought that the British would liberate them from the Turks, but it did not happen. The political changes in France during 1814 (resignation of Napoleon, Loudovic the XVIII became the king) influenced Corfu. On 23rd of April 1814, the French had to pullout from the island. On 1st of May, the General Donzelot was ordered to give up Corfu. The Senate, which considered that the foreign forces were only temporary, and the Ionian State would still existed, decided to ask the Board of Vienna for independence, with the help of Ioannis Kapodistrias, who was the minister to the Tsar. On 26th of June 1814, Corfu was allotted to the British General Campbell.

During the French occupation, the Ionian Islands were being organized; the education and social services were being developed. In 1808, the Ionian Academy was established for the development of agriculture, industry, commerce, science and art. The Ionian Academy offered remarkable activities in many sections. New species were developed in agriculture and the vaccinations against some diseases, such as diphtheria, were discovered. The Art School was also established and prizes were given. The French built national schools in Karousades, Scripero and Lefkimmi. The Corfu Town in nowadays is the work of the French, who planned the lay out for military reasons. They also constructed the two parallelogram buildings in the Lower square, the famous Esplanade and Liston, work of the architect, Mathiew De Lessers, who constructed the boulevard Rivoli in Paris. Mathiew De Lessers was also the father of the famous architect, Ferdinand De Lessers, who constructed the Suez Canal in 1880-88. The Esplanade and the Liston were constructed in the place of the old building of the nobles during the Venetian occupation, where the middle class and the bondsmen were not allowed to enter, but only those who’s the names were written in the list: Lista, Libro D’Oro. That is the reason for the name of the place, Liston.

 



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