Alexander Ypsilantis

From Phantis
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Alexander Ypsilantis
Alexander Ypsilantis crosses the Prut

Alexander Ypsilantis (December 12, 1792January 31 (January 19 OS), 1828) was a Greek military commander and national hero. He bears the same name as, and should not be confused with, his grandfather, Prince of Wallachia and Moldavia at the end of the 18th century.

The eldest son of Constantine Ypsilantis, Alexander accompanied his father in 1805 to St Petersburg, and in 1809 received a commission in the cavalry of the Imperial Guard.

He fought with distinction in 1812 and 1813, losing an arm at the battle of Dresden, and in 1814 was promoted colonel and appointed one of the emperor's adjutants. In this capacity he attended Alexander I at the Congress of Vienna, where he was a popular figure in society (see La Garde-Chambonas, Souvenirs). In 1817 he became major-general and commander of the brigade of hussars.

In 1820, on the refusal of Ioannis Kapodistrias to accept the post of president of the Greek Filiki Eteria, Ypsilanti was elected, and in 1821 he placed himself at the head of the insurrection against the Turks in the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. Accompanied by several other Greek officers in the Russian service he crossed the Prut on March 6, announcing that he had 'the support of a great power'.

Had he advanced on Braila, he might have prevented the Turks entering the principalities and so forced Russia to accept the fait accompli. Instead, he remained at Iasi disgracing his cause by condoning the massacres of Turkish merchants and others. At Bucharest, whither he advanced after some weeks delay, it became plain that he could not rely on the Wallachian peasantry to rise on behalf of the Greeks; even the disconcerting expedient of his Wallachian ally Tudor Vladimirescu, who called on the peasants to present a petition to the sultan against Phanariot misrule, failed to stir the people from their apathy.

Then, wholly unexpectedly, came a letter from Kapodistrias upbraiding Ypsilantis for misusing the Tsar's name, announcing that his name had been struck off the army list, and commanding him to lay down his arms. Ypsilantis' decision to explain away the Tsar's letter could only have been justified by the success of a cause which was now hopeless. There followed a series of humiliating defeats, culminating in that of Battle of Dragasani on June 19.

Alexander, accompanied by his brother Nicholas and a remnant of his followers, retreated to Râmnic, where he spent some days in negotiating with the Austrian authorities for permission to cross the frontier. Fearing that his followers might surrender him to the Turks, he gave out that Austria had declared war on Turkey, caused a Te Deum to be sung in the church of Cozia, and, on pretext of arranging measures with the Austrian commander-in-chief, crossed the frontier. But the Austria of Francis I and Metternich was no asylum for leaders of revolts in neighboring countries.

Ypsilantis was kept in close confinement for seven years, and when released at the instance of the Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, retired to Vienna, where he died in extreme poverty and misery on January 31, 1828. His last wish that his heart be removed from his body and sent to Greece was fulfilled by Georgios Lassanis and it is now located the "Amalieion" in Athens. His body was originally buried on St. Marx cemetery. His remains were transferred on February 18, 1903 by members of his family in Ypsilantis-Sina estate in Rappoltenkirchen, Austria from where they were transferred to Taxiarhes Church located in "Pedion tou Areos" in Athens, Greece on August 1964.