The first rifle shoted on April 6, 1897 and the war conflicts ended on May 8 of the same year with a defeat of Greece. A war forgotten today by Greeks and Turks. A war not taught in any school. It was called “the Unfortunate War”. Because its start was an unfortunate … “stupidity” according to historians and his ending found losers those who started it feeling pre-winners.
The lethal financial crisis of Greece
In early 1896 Greece was governed by Theodore Deligiannis, a politician with demagogic tendencies. Since December 10, 1893 Greece had been a bankrupt country.
The reason was the past years of prosperity. Instead of a revision of the obsolete tax system, seven external loans with a nominal value of GRD 630 million were concluded between 1879 and 1890. In fact, after the deduction of GRD 459 million, commissions amounted to only 389 million real capital, as many of the loans immediately repaid their conclusion earlier. Of these, only one, that of 1890, and part of the loan of 1884 concerned productive works, the construction of the Piraeus-Border railway line. The others concerned military / shipping expenses, repayment of government debts to banks and repayment of debts from previous loans.
Interest on loans absorbed 40% of tax revenue and bankruptcy in 1893 was fatal.
Apart from the big and difficult economic problems, Deligiannis had to cope with the situation in Crete, which was then under Ottoman yoke. The governance of Karateodoris Pasha, a Greek-born great man, was crowned by failure. His liberal and prolific spirit exasperated the Turk-Cretans, who decided to make it impossible for him to remain on the island. Tortures exploded and murders of Christian procreers were noted, not something unusual in the long-life living of Muslims and Christians in Crete.
Karateodoris Pasha was succeeded by Turkish-Alban Turhan Pasha, who was not even accepted by his homosexuals. At the instigation of the great powers, the command of Crete was undertaken by Christian George Verovich, a former commander of Samos. The situation, however, remained deformed and blood flowed abundantly. The Christian Greeks, who consisted of 80% of the inhabitants of Crete, had risen and sought autonomy for their island.
England, France, Russia, Austria and Italy sent a ship to Crete for the protection of their nationals. Greece also wanted to do it, but it was blocked by the ambassadors of the Great Powers in Athens. However, thanks to the private initiative and in particular the National Company, a large-ideological organization with deep roots in the elite of Athenian society and the Greeks living abroad, Crete island was receiving help in weapons, money and other supplies.
The beginning of the war
On January 24, 1897, the Muslims carried out massacres of Christians in the port of Crete, Chania. Ddligiannis, in a difficult situation and under the pressure of popular reactions, was forced to send military forces to Crete, knowing that this would be a cause of war for the
Ottoman Empire . A ship of warships headed to the island under King George, while Colonel Timoleon Vassos with a thousand men sailed to the bay of Kolymbari (west of Chania), commanded to occupy Crete in the name of King George I. On February 7, he had his first success when he captured four times the power of Turkic and Ottoman forces. Military riots had been disembarked on the island and the Great Powers, who banned any further aggressive action on Vasso and his men. With the presence of Greek forces in Crete, the Sultan had no choice but to declare the war against Greece. He did so on April 5, 1897.
At the same time, in the northern continental Greece, the Ottomans gathered a military force, consisting of 121,500 men and 1,300 horsemen, led by Etem Pasha and German advisers. The Greek forces handed over 54,000 men and 500 horsemen, led by prince Constantine.
The battles in central Greece
The first week of the war operations (6-11 April) was spent in a trench battle in Thessaly, central Greece.
Greek army had 45,000 soldiers, 96 guns, and 1,000 horsemen, of which half have no horses! In spite of the fact that soldiers do not have elementary education, they are rugged and can not handle their rifles well.
The Turks were 65,000, have 186 guns and one cavalry division. But the difference was not in numbers but in quality. The Ottomans were trained, they know what discipline means, and they have the Germans on the battlefield
On 11 April, Etem Pasha and his men entered the Greek territory from Meluna area where there was a narrow pass between the mountains and broke the Greek forces on April 12th.
The Greek soldiers retreated in the small town of Farsala, not far from Larissa, a large rural town that was considered a bastion of the Greek capital, Athens. Larissa was left in her fate and was captured by the Turks lightning, the next day and all, on April 13, after being evacuated by its inhabitants
The Greek army continues to retreat. On April 15-18, the Greek army defenses in village Velestino where it gives its first and last victorious battle of war. However, there is a retreat from there, and on 26 April Velestino falls.
Athens was saved when Tsar Nicholas II, a relative of the mother of the Greek King George I, convinced the Sultan to order a cease-fire. The relevant protocol was signed in the village of Taratsa near the town Lamia on 8 May 1897, with the Ottomans having recaptured all of Thessaly area. The losses for the Greek side were 672 dead, 2,383 injured and 252 captives, and for the Turkish 1,111 dead, 3,238 injured and 15 captives.
Greece was obliged to pay a huge compensation to Turkey (4,000,000 Turkish pounds), as a war reparation. He was forced to take another loan and in order to repay his unbearable debt he was placed under International Financial Control. Crete will gain its autonomy a year later, in 1898