Ioannis Kapodistrias

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Ioannis Antonios Kapodistrias (1776-1831)  was a Greek Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire  and one of the  most distinguished politicians and diplomats of Europe.After a long career in European  politics and diplomacy he was elected as the first head of state of independent Greece (1827-1833) and Greek State and the founder of Greek Independence.


Kapodistrias studied medicine,philosophy and law at Padua,Italy.When he was 21 years old,in 1797,he started his medical practice as a doctor in his native island of Corfu.In 1802 he founded an important scientific and social progress organisation in Corfu: the ‘National Medical Association’ ,of which he was an active member.

At the age of 25,Kapodistrias became involved in politics.In Cephallonia he was successful in convincing the populace to remain united and disciplined to avoid foreign intervention and by his argument and sheer courage,he faced and appeased rebellious opposition without conflict.With the same peaceful determination he established authority in all the Seven Islands of the Ionion.

As the Chief Minister of State(1803) he organised the public sector,putting particular emphasis on education.

In 1809 Kapodistrias entered the service of Alexander  I  of Russia.In the course of his assignment as Foreign Minister of Russia,Kapodistrias’ ideas came to represent a progressive alternative to  Metternich’s aims of Austrian domination of European  affairs.

After touring Europe to rally support for the Greek cause,Kapodistrias landed in Nafplion in 1828 .It was the first time he had ever set foot on the Greek mainland and he found a discouraging situation there.Even while fighting against the Ottomans continued,factional and dynastic conflicts had led to two civil wars which ravaged the country.Greece was bankrupt and the Greeks were unable to form a united national government.

From the first capital of Greece,Nafplion,he ushered a new era in the country,which had just been liberated from a 400-year Turkish occupation .He founded schools,established foundations for young women to work and inaugurated the first university.These institutes educated the first teachers of a liberated Greece.

Upon his arrival ,Kapodistrias launched a major reform and modernisation programme that covered all areas:military,medicine and politics.He negotiated with the Great Powers and the Ottoman Empire the borders and the degree of independence of the Greek State and signed the peace treaty that ended the War of Independence with the Ottomans.Kapodistrias introduced the  ‘phoenix’ ,the first modern Greek currency and in an effort to raise the  living standards of the population ,introduced the cultivation of the potato into Greece.


In 1831 Kapodistrias was assassinated by Petrobey’s brother ,Konstantis and son Georgios on the steps of the church of Saint Spyridon in Nafplion.Kapodistrias decided to go to church that morning although his  bodyguards urged him to stay at home.When he reached the church he saw his assassins waiting for him.

A Swiss philellene,JG Eynard wrote:

‘He who murdered Kapodistrias,murdered his homeland.His death is a tragedy for Greece and a European  fatality.’

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