Monday, March 21, 2011

Greek Revolution part 2- Vassos Mavrovouniotis Vaso Brajović

Early life
 Vaso Brajovic or later Vasos Mavrovouniotis was an important figure of the Greek revolution. Historians do not question his Philellenism while others believe that he was alledgedly  an adventurer who seeked to make money.
He was born towards the end of the 18th century in Bjelopavlici a village located in what is today  Montenegro or  Crna Gora (Црна Гора).  It's worth to mention that Montenegro was never occupied by the Ottomans as a whole. Even when the Ottoman empire reached its peak by even besieging Vienna itself the Montenegrims had some sort of autonomy.This makes obvious that the region along with its geographical advantages produced some very brave men.One of them was also Vasos Mavrovouniotis.

 When he became 20 years old for uknown reasons he left his home and went to Asia minor(present day Turkey). There he met his later best friend and spiritual brother Kriezotis who was an Arvanite of Greek conciousness.There are no sources about their activities in Minor Asia. Likely they either became mercenaries or bandits.

In 1820 Mavrovouniotis goes to Athens. There he is appointed as a flag carrier for the Ottoman force that was going to crush the rebellion of Ali Pasha in Epirus. He was deeply  insulted by this appointment because he thought he was better than just a flag carrier and he deserted.

Greek revolution
 In 1821 when the revolution started he was in Carystus in the island of Euvoia.He soon became the leader of the revolution in the region. In his first three battles in Euvoia he was not very succesful. We can say that the situation remained stalemate.This is because the Turks of the island were surprisingly fighting as bravely as the revolutionaries.In his fourth battle against the Ottoman forces of the island the co-captain of the revolution  in the island Ilias Mavromichalis died. Thus leaving only Mavrovouniotis as leader of the greek rebels in the island. It was a battle were the two leaders combined their forces to liberate an important town but their plans didn't go as they expected and they suffered a dissastrous defeat.

Mavrovouniotis monument in Podgorica
After this dissaster Mavrovouniotis withdrew to the mountains and fought a guerilla war.In 1822 he gave some undecisive battles having many casualties because of his choice to fight in plains. He left for Athens after a letter sent by the Athenean jury of Areios Pagos. He was invited to earn a a sum of money as a reward for his loyalty to the the revolution and his contribution(it's worth noted that, when the revolution started and he took arms he was never promised money or a reward).

Now acting under the orders of the headquarters of the revolution  Mavrovouniotis was sent  to the island of Thassos  where along with 300 soldiers he fought many victorious battles and essentially liberated the island.
However there are also atrocities reported by his army. Historians say that he left no muslim alive in the island either soldier or civilian.

After his success in Thassos with high morale he returned to Euvoia to face once again the local ottoman governor he wasn't able to beat. This time he won the battle against his enemy. However things were not going well on other fronts of the revolution thus in 1823 he had to withdraw from the island and go back to Athens were he was appointed general of the armies of Attica (Athens).

The next year a civil war broke out between the military leaders of the revolution and the political leaders.
Mavrovouniotis chose the side of the Politicians. He fought many victorious battles in Peloponnesos against his opponents. Later he fought bravely against the invasion force of the professional armies of Egypt lead by Imbrahim Pasha.In one of  his battles against the Egyptian force he lost his brother Spiros Mavrovouniotis.

He was recalled from Peloponnese back to Athens . In the same time his another brother Rantos Mavrovouniotis died heroically in the island of Psara(
Rantos was equally brave with Vasos and when the whole island had fallen to the ottomans he died along with 800 Greeks and 3000 Turks after a huge explosion.Despite the fact he was a non greek , he fought for the Greek cause without ever asking for a reward.

Vasos continued fighting this time in continental Greece and near Amfissa he utterly destroyed an enemy force which consisted mainly of muslim Albanians hired by the Ottomans.As Kriezotis with some exaggeration describes in his memorium  Mavrovouniotis  was not killing he was plowing his enemies.This was the most famous battle of Mavrovouniotis.

However because of the pressure in both fronts by Egyptians(
and Ottomans his victories brought no substantial gain and he returned back to Athens. At this time something happened that not many historians mention. A greek priest came from Lebanon and with tears in his eyes asked for help form Kolletis who was serving as leader of Greece to send an army to help the Greeks in Lebanon revolt. Kolletis thought this was an excellent idea cause he was going to cause a diversion on Ottoman forces by striking at a place of the Ottoman empire than noone could imagine that Greeks could revolt.However Kolletis had no money to pay even for the currents army and he told the priest to find Mavrovouniotis and persuade him.

Mavrovouniotis and Kriezotis were persuaded to do this after the dismantling of their forces by the greek government.(It was the time that experienced military leaders like the French Favier along with 2000 French regulars had come to join the Greeks.) 

With 2500 soldiers they went to Cyprus were they pillaged the island after some victorious battles against the turkish authority.Thus he was able to pay his soldiers and get supplies for their final destination which was Lebanon. In Lebanon the main target of Mavrovouniotis was Beirut.
His battles were stalemate and the army was running out of supplies. However Mavrovouniotis ordered the soldiers not to pillage the properties of the people who were mainly christian at the time. Later reinfrcements arrived from the Greek island of Kos but an army of 25.000  cavalry arrived in Beirut and their leader Emir Beazir of Lebanon sent a letter to Mavrovouniotis asking him who they are and what they want? Mavrovouniotis answered :"We are Greeks and we came to storm this fort". The emir then asked them to leave or else he would attack them. The Greeks found it impossible to fight such an army and after an extesive pillaging  they left Lebanon.
It is still debatable by historians whether it was the revolutionary intention of Mavrovouniotis that lead him to go to Lebanon or the pillaging tactics.While the Greek revolution was failing he found himself trying to liberate once again the island where he started the revolution along with his friend Kriezotis  with collaboration of the English admiral Hamilton.
 The Egyptian forces had supressed the revolution and reconquered almost all of Peloponnese. Mavrovouniotis was fighting in 1826 against a second invading army of the Ottomans lead by Kyutachi near the last remaining fort of continental Greece, Athens. Along with one of the great leaders of the revolution general Karaiskaskis and the insight of a Hamilton who ordered the creation of a defence in Elefsina the ottoman army was stopped in Athens relieving the Peloponnese based Greek government.

The places where Mavrovouniotis fought.

 After the intervention by the European powers and  the creation of a Greek state Mavrovouniotis remained in Greece and Athens in the service of the King Otto.He married a greek woman  of wealthy family and he died in 1847.

Source:"Χρυσολόγης Αθανάσιος" Ο Ελληνικός Αγών : Βάσσος Μαυροβουνιώτης : Διατριβή αναγνωσθείσα εν τω Φιλολογικώ Συλλόγω "Βύρωνι" την 8ην Ιανουαρίου 1876 / υπό Αθ. Ν. Χρυσολόγη, 1876 Athens. 
Traslation is made by me.

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