Ioannis Varvakis

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Ioannis Varvakis was a Greek national benefactor.

Varvakis was born Ioannis Leontidis, ca. 1745, on the island of Psara. He took part in the Orlov Revolt of 1770 and, when the Greeks were abandoned to their fate, fled to Russia where he received a compensation for his ship, which was destroyed during the revolt, plus the right to fish in the Caspian Sea. For this purpose, he moved to Astrakhan, Russia.

An astute businessman, Varvakis managed to accumulate a fortune in the fishing and liquor trades. He received Russian citizenship and titles of nobility and became influential in the local Greek community.

When Alexander Ypsilantis crossed the Prut River into Moldavia to start the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire, Varvakis funded the war effort. He also used his wealth to ransom Greek prisoners of war and funded the revolt of his native Psara. After the destruction of Psara in 1824, Varvakis moved to Greece. He died on January 12, 1825, in Zakynthos.

Varvakis left a huge inheritance to the Greek public. With his money, the Varvakis Market and the Varvakis Lyceum were built in Athens after independence was achieved.