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The Russian Party (Greek: Ρωσικό Κóμμα), also called Napist party (Greek: Ναπαίοι), one of the Early Greek Parties, 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, the United Kingdom and France came together in order to check the power of the other two nations.
The Russian Party was considerably powerful, enjoying privileged access to the Orthodox Church, the state machinery, military leaders, and Peloponnesian political families; but it was also popular with a significant section of the common people who wanted a strong centralized government to crush the power of the Greek shipping magnates and the rest of the business class, which followed the English Party.
History and party development
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. It received generous support from the Church and from several military commanders; but its greatest strength were the Peloponnesian families of notables, that enjoyed privileged access to the state machinery. 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.
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
- Petropulos, John Anthony. Politics and Statecraft in the Kingdom of Greece, 1833-1843. p. 427.
- Koliopoulos, John S.; Veremis, Thanos M. (2010). Modern Greece: A History since 1821. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 35.
- Frazee, Charles A. (1969). The Orthodox Church and Independent Greece, 1821-1852. Cambridge University Press. p. 144.
- Petmezas, Socrates D. (2009). From privileged outcasts to power players: the 'Romantic' redefinition of the Hellenic nation in the mid-nineteenth century. The Making of Modern Greece (Ashgate). p. 126.
- Koliopoulos, John S.; Veremis, Thanos M. (2010). Modern Greece: A History since 1821. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 30.
- Gunnar Hering «Tα Πολιτικά Kόμματα στην Eλλάδα, 1821-1936, volume 1»
- John A. Petropulos; Politics and Statecraft in the Kingdom of Greece; Princeton University Press, 1968