The Greek Plan or Greek Project is an early solution to the Eastern Question which was advanced by Catherine the Great in the early 1780s. It envisaged the partition of the Ottoman Empire between the Russian and Habsburg Empires followed by the restoration of the Byzantine Empire centered in Constantinople.
Like her predecessors, Catherine concerned herself with the Orthodox Christians under Ottoman rule; she also sponsored the Orlov Revolt in the Morea during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774, and invited many Greeks like Ioannis Varvakis to settle in Russia, mainly in Crimea and New Russia. She conceived that one of her grandsons, appropriately named Constantine, would become the first emperor of the restored Byzantium. Another important consideration was Russia's goal of free access to the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosphorus, which the Ottomans controlled.
For this plan to succeed, the Great European Powers would need to agree to it and the Danube powers to cooperate. In May 1780, Catherine arranged a secret meeting with Joseph II, the Holy Roman Emperor, in Mogilyov. In a series of letters from September 1781, Catherine and Joseph discussed their plans to partition the Ottoman Empire and restore the Byzantine Empire. The Austro-Russian alliance was formalized in May 1781.
The Greek Plan was masterminded by Prince Potemkin who gave Greek names to the newly founded towns in New Russia (e.g., Odessa and Kherson). Byzantine symbolism was highlighted in new churches such as Kherson Cathedral. Another meeting of the Russian and Austrian monarchs was arranged as part of Catherine's Crimean journey of 1787. Both countries declared war on the Ottoman Empire later that year. Joseph's death in 1790, followed by the Treaty of Jassy and the Treaty of Sistova, in which Austria gained little, effectively ended the agreement.
Cities named in Greek during this period
The following major cities got the names styled in Greek during this period. Some of them were new, others were renamed.
- Kherson (1778), after Chersonesus
- Eupatoria (1784), from Eupator: Ευ·πατωρ "(of) noble father", after Mithridates VI of Pontus, whose dominions included Crimea
- Mariupol (1780), after Maria Feodorovna
- Melitopol (1784, renamed 1842 after Melita (ancient port city) which existed in the vicinity)
- Nikolaev (1789, after St. Nicholas: Νίκη; Níkē, "victory" and λαός; laós, "people")
- Nikopol (renamed so in 1786 after Nike, the goddess of victory)
- Ovidiopol (1793) after Ovidius
- Sevastopol (1784)
- Simferopol (1784)
- Stavropol (1777)
- Tiraspol (1792, renamed 1895, after Tyras (Τύρας) for Dniester)
- Odessa (1795, after Odessos, thought to be located in the vicinity)
- There was an attempt to rename Stary Krym into Levkopol (Leukopolis, "White City"), but the name never gained popularity.
- "Российские города с греческими именами", Sevatopolskaya Gazeta, July 20, 2006 (retrieved August 17, 2014)