The Russian Party (Greek: Ρωσικό Κóμμα) was an informal grouping of Greek political leaders that formed during the brief period of the First Hellenic Republic (1828-1831) and lasted through the reign of King Otto. The parties of that era were named after one of the three Great Powers who had together settled the Greek War of Independence in the Treaty of Constantinople (1832). The three rival powers, Russia, England and France came together in order to check the power of the other two nations and their representatives in Greece were not hesitant to develop and manipulate Greek political interests to advance their own national interests.
History and party development
Also known as the "Napist Party" (Ναπαίοι), the Russian Party was more philosophically-grounded than the other two parties. It represented more conservative elements in Greek society and was viewed as being more supportive of the primacy of the Orthodox church in Greek life. Ioannis Capodistrias, who had served as Foreign Minister in the Russian government, was selected as Governor of the newly-independent Greek state in 1827. His support came from the Russian representatives in Greece and those Greeks who wanted closer relations with their sister Orthodox country and this grouping was the first modern party in Greece, called the Russian Party. Meanwhile Capodistrias' rule and attempts to centralize the government alienated a number of his fellow Greek leaders, most of whom were born in Greece and had fought to free Greece from Ottoman control. They began to form themselves into a rival French Party and English Party. Eventually, the rivalries led to the assassination of Capodistrias. After a period of renewed civil war, King Otto was selected by the three Great Powers to become King of Greece in 1833. During the early period of the monarchy, the three parties remained active, although Otto was an absolute monarch.
When Otto arrived in Greece, he was a minor and thus a Regency Council made up of three Bavarians ruled in his name. The chief of the Council, Josef Ludwig von Armansperg was a liberal Bavarian and he was perceived as being hostile to the Russian Party.
In 1833, the leaders of the Russian Party, including Theodoros Kolokotronis, his son Gennaios and Kitsos Tzavelas, were implicated in a plot to seek Russian influence to remove von Armansperg and allow Otto to rule without a regent. They were arrested and imprisoned. Although eventually released, the leaders of the Russian Party were out of power and influence compared to the other parties until 1837.
After this period of decline, the mantle of leadership was placed on Gennaios Kolokotronis, Andreas Metaxas and Konstantinos Oikonomos. The younger Kolokotronis served as a trusted aide-de-camp to King Otto, and began to rehabiliate the Russian Party in the Court. Once Otto was free of the influence of his regents, he began to favor both Kolokotronis and Kitsos Tzavelas and the period 1838-1839 was seen as a period of Russian ascendancy..
In 1839, another Russian plot, this time called the "Philorthodox Plot", was hatched. According to news reports of the time, the younger brother of Ioannis Capodistrias, Georgios, was involved in this attempt to protect Orthodoxy in regions still under Ottoman control, and to kidnap the Catholic King Otto after church services on January 1, 1839, offering him the ultimatum of renouncing Catholicism to become Orthodox. The plot never materialized but the French and English parties made much of the scandal.
Leaders of the party
Since the party was an informal grouping, there was no official leader. Certain factional leaders were important in the history of the party, including
- John A. Petropulos; Politics and Statecraft in the Kingdom of Greece; Princeton University Press, 1968