• michelazabaglia

A summer of revolutions

Probably, this vacation season was different than the ones before. Nowadays the bright side and the flipside of the global digital revolution become obvious. Wherever you have spent your vacation, our autumn series will guide you on a voyage through a summer of revolutions, guiding you through historic revolutions all around Europe.

Source: Pixabay by johnhain https://pixabay.com/de/illustrations/demagoge-populist-alleinherrscher-2193093/

Philippe Lefevre - The 1842 Chartist Riots - United Kingdom

Source: Wikimedia: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartisten#/media/Datei:Chartist_meeting,_Kennington_Common.jpg

During the early and mid-1800s across Europe the right to vote and the rights of man and women were being contested hotly on the streets. Nowhere is this more true than in the United Kingdom, where the Chartist movement, named after the people’s charter of dix reforms to make the political system better, was pushing more and more for reforms. Launched in 1838 with meetings across large Uk cities, a large scale petition and a previous riot at Newport emphasised their possibility for violence and their dedication to their reforms.

In 1842, a second petition was sent to parliament, with over three million signatures, almost 1/10th of the entire UK population at the time. This petition, like the last, was rejected. A depression of the same year wracked the UK with strikes, not all related to the chartist movement, which was eventually defeated as workers trickled back to work. Following this, the state began a wide-spread arrest of the leaders, with hundreds arrested.

The chartists themselves did not lead to any reforms. Their movement was eventually reconciled with the 1867 Reform Act, but it was not until 1918 that full male suffrage was achieved. Nevertheless, their actions were revolutionary for their time, and their motives worked into other parts of the political debate in the UK to make it an influential force for the time.

Valentin Luntumbue - Third time’s a charm-Belgium

Source Wikimedia: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgien#/media/Datei:Wappers_-_Episodes_from_September_Days_1830_on_the_Place_de_l%E2%80%99H%C3%B4tel_de_Ville_in_Brussels.JPG

When it comes to Belgium and revolutions, usually, third time’s a charm. Its first revolution gave birth to the Netherlands, and its second revolution collapsed under the weight of Belgium’s proverbial divisions less than one year in. It took a third attempt in 1830 for a Belgian state to appear on the European stage, and its birth was confusing and convoluted.

One lukewarm Brussels evening of August 1830, a small mob of drunken singing Belgians exiting a representation of French opera La Muette de Portici (an epic about the Neapolitan revolt of 1647) ransacked the house of an Italian publicist rumoured to be a confident of hated king Willem of the Netherlands. The nightly incident would snowball into a full-fledged civil war that was the end of the short-lived United Kingdom of the Netherlands and sparked a decade-long international crisis.

The newly formed country was turned into a monarchy to not upset its neighbours, and the throne offered to a German member of the British royal family who was then married off to a French princess. Its newly formed army was trained by Polish officers, and it would have had to fight off the Russian army weren’t it for the Cadet Revolution happening back in Warsaw.

And it wouldn’t be the last time a bunch of Belgians would get radicalised by French art. In 1848, following the revolution that ended the July Monarchy, Alphonse de Lamartine pushed 6000 Belgian immigrants in Paris to take up arms and march on Brussels to establish a republic. The Republicans, regrouped in what was dubbed “The Belgian Legion” skirmished with the army on the outskirts of the small village of Risquons-Tout (literally “Let’s risk it all”) on the French border. The failed coup resulted, among other things, in Karl Marx being expelled from Brussels, as he was rumoured to have personally financially supported the defeated revolutionaries.

Only a century later would the monarchy be credibly threatened again, in the summer of 1950, King Leopold III, exiled from his country for having collaborated with the Nazi occupants and favoured the installation of a puppet fascist regime in Belgium during WWII, was allowed to return. The controversy laid bare the country’s divisions, with its northern half, Flanders, being favourable to the king’s return, while to the south, Wallonia, Belgium’s industrial base, opposed it. A series of terror attacks rocked the country and Socialist and Communist workers from Wallonia, threatened to march on the capital. The crisis weathered down when the disgraced king abdicated in favour of his son Baudouin, who was sworn in to the sound of Vive la République !

Revolutions in Belgium are about songs, poetry, confusion and division, but it always takes several attempts. There have been two since one succeeded, if the count is right. We will see, should ever another erupt in a future summer, if when it comes to Belgium, third time truly is a charm.

Adrian Waters- The 1903 Illinden uprising - Macedonia

Source: Wikimedia: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Elijah_(Biblical_figure)?uselang=de#/media/File:Elijah,_a_prophet_and_a_miracle_worker.jpg

On 2nd August 1903, an uprising broke out in the Macedonian town of Kruševo. It was led by members of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO) and after they freed the town from the ruling Ottoman authorities, they established the so-called Kruševo Republic which was the very first democratic republic in the Balkan region. The revolt later became known as the Illinden uprising since it began on St Elijas’ Day (Ilinden in Macedonian).

After five centuries of Ottoman oppression Macedonians had the chance to create their own sovereign nation-state. The IMRO members decided that the new revolutionary administration should represent all the nationalities and religions present within Macedonia in order to act upon the interests of the general public without resorting to ethnic or religious discrimination. The leader of this newly-founded Republic was the left-leaning Kruševo teacher Nikola Karev. He immediately put together a council of sixty distinguished citizens where each ethnic group in Kruševo was represented by 20 of these council members. These people subsequently elected an executive body with two representatives for each ethnicity. The executive assembly was known as the Provisional Government and it divided its activities into the areas of police, justice, finance, requisitioning, supplies and health. The Republic was also capable of organising everything that was essential to its short-term survival. Special workshops were arranged so that bullets could be made and arms could be repaired. A commission was created to collect all monetary contributions. Bakeries and hospitals were built. At one point the Provisional Government wanted to initiate a postal service and issue special stamps, but there was not enough time.

Although the uprising spread to other parts of Macedonia, resulting in the liberation of several hundred villages and towns, the Kruševo Republic was brutally crushed by Ottoman forces on 13th August. There are a few reasons why it had a brief existence.

Firstly, the Republic’s founders acted against the wishes of the IMRO General Staff and instigators of the uprising. These people belonged to the Organisation’s right-wing faction which favoured an intervention by the European powers in order to coerce the Ottoman empire into granting autonomy for Macedonia. An evidence for this is their final instructions on how to proceed with the fighting, stating that the revolt should aim at preventing defeat by the Ottomans. If the conflict would have dragged on eventually troops from other major European countries, those would have been compelled to enter Macedonia and somehow resolve this issue. In other words, it was not in their plans to create a Macedonian republic from scratch like the socialist members of the IMRO did in Kruševo. So, the establishment of the revolutionary government only served to generate antagonism between the left and right-wing factions within the Organisation. The former believed that Macedonia should be freed by its own inhabitants without any direct help from abroad. They tried to develop this idea into practice with the Kruševo Republic. However, they were less successful when seeking to disseminate their ideals across the rest of Macedonia. This is seen as a reason for the Republic’s collapse.

Secondly, although public opinion in Europe and in the US was on the side of the insurgents and the Macedonian cause, the Ottoman elite realised that there no foreign intervention would take place and proceeded to quash the uprising. Therefore, the IMRO right-wing faction also failed in their objective of gaining help from outside forces. In retrospect, the short life of the Kruševo Republic vindicated those within the left-wing of the Organisation who initially opposed the uprising because they thought that it would be premature and that it would not bring positive outcomes. Nonetheless, both the uprising and the Kruševo Republic obtained a special significance in the history of the Macedonian people and their struggle for freedom and national self-determination. In 1924 the IMRO member Dimo Hadzhi Dimov wrote that a second Ilinden was drawing near. It happened on 2nd August 1944 when the first meeting of the Anti-Fascist Assembly of National Liberation of Macedonia proclaimed the Socialist Republic of Macedonia which became a federal unit within communist-led Yugoslavia. After Macedonia gained independence in 1991 Ilinden became a national holiday celebrated by Macedonians at home and abroad.

Stephan Raab- A revolutionary thought- The (r)evolution of Germany

Source Picture Stephan Raab

When Germans get in the mood to do a revolution, “before raiding a station, Germans firstly buy a ticket to enter the platform”, once the revolutionary leader Wladimir Lenin was quoted. Nevertheless, Germany is rather known as the country of poets and philosophers. Therefore, the thoughts of the revolution of 1848 were truly revolutionary, trying to find an answer to the most common question in German history and identity to ask: What is German or Germany?

Before coming back to that moment of history in the summer of 1848, first of all, we have to turn back the wheel of time for some years and maybe centuries. For centuries, the middle of the European continent was shaped by a patchwork of kings, dukes, and free cities, which did not have more in common than the German language and the patronage of the emperor. Suddenly, when Napoleon entered the scene of history, those patchwork became aware of, what they had in common, voices claiming a German national state became louder and more fervent. However, after the Congress of Vienna in 1815 expectations were disappointed, as there was still no German national state in sight, rather a federation of German states coming together. This brings us back to the point of history, where our (r)evolution of Germany had started.

After protests in Paris and France, king Louis Philippe had to abdicate, resituating the French Republic. Those revolutionary thoughts, instilled by the French revolution, swept over the Germany, finding fertile ground first in the industrial hub of Mannheim. A civil movement proclaimed a democratic constitution and a restitution of the achievements from the French revolution. This revolutionary spark dispersed into other German states, which is quite impressive, as the traditional federal structure of the German territory put special burdens on the revolution. Eventually, for the first time in German history at the 18th of May 1848 deputes from all German states came together in the Paul´s Church in Frankfurt at the Main, to conceive a constitution, that should be valid for a German national state, to be established now.

Meanwhile riots were haunting the streets, those scholars managed to present a constitution in March 1849. When, the assembly offered the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV the crown of a German national state, he denied the offer, considering it a “lousy crown”. In the wake of that failure, the revolution was stifled, and the former status quo was reinstalled. Many revolutionary thinkers and activists, who were facing prosecution by the monarchies, emigrated to the United States, bringing their skills and knowledge to build up and shape the fate of a budding nation.

Many years had to pass by, when at the 30th of January 1871 finally Bismarck and the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV, now Friedrich Wilhelm I of Germany, proclaimed the German Empire at the hall of mirrors in Versailles. Finally, a German national state came into existence. However, this is not the end of history, as Germany is also famous for another history. In the summer of 1989 brave citizens in Eastern Germany, the German Democratic Republique, went onto the streets, protesting “we are the people” for more democratic rights and freedom. Peacefully, at the 9th of November 1989 people from east and west were dancing on the walls, that had separated Germans from Germans for more than 40 years. Eventually, at the 3rd of October 1990, what had been dreamt of in the revolution of 1848 became a reality. A German nation in a peaceful Europe, build on unity, rights, freedom and maybe also to add diversity.

Valentina Koumoulou – The Greek War of Independence (1821-1829)

Source: Stephan Raab

The Greek revolution had as a primal goal the country’s liberation from the Ottoman Empire. This should result in the establishment of an independent kingdom of Greece. The revolution did not start in Greece, but in Odessa by Alexandros Ypsilantis who formed a small opposition party called “Philiki Etaireia”. Influenced by the ideas of Western societies as well as seeing that Greeks were moving towards economic progress, he decided that change was needed and the establishment of a Greek nation was long overdue.

While Ypsilantis failed to beat the Turks, in other parts of Greece the revolution had broken out, with Peloponnese being the first independent region from the Ottoman Empire as well as some islands. Nevertheless, the leaders of the revolutions in different parts of the country could not communicate properly, so a civil war broke out between the followers of Theodoros Kolokotronis (guerilla leader) and Georgios Kountouriotis, head of the government that had been formed in 1822. In the end, a settlement between Greece and what was left from the Ottoman Empire was finally determined by the European powers at a conference in London where the London protocol was adopted (1830), declaring Greece an independent monarchical state under their protection.

Silvia Naydenova - Summer Protests 2013-2014’‘- Bulgaria

Von Cheep - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92344980

Bulgaria has experienced several turbulent political crises, which date back to the country’s inception as a democratic state in 1991. Bulgaria’s transition to democracy was marked by inadequate and unorganised reforms, leading to a bureaucratic and ineffective government apparatus. In addition, the buyout of state property by old political elites, which remained in power after the regime change, contributed to deep-rooted problems with corruption and organised crime.

The summer protests of 2013 were the embodiment of these issues. The nationwide protests began on the 14th of June 2013. The core motive was the appointment of Delyan Peevski as the head of the Bulgarian security agency DANS (State Agency for National Security).

Peevski is unfavourably known in Bulgaria for his business entrepreneurship and ownership of nearly 80% or the print media, which gives him unlimited opportunity to shape political views, distribution of information and control about journalist investigations. Moreover, his large-scale political and business ties further aid his power over the political landscape in the state, and therefore restrict civil society and the freedom to scrutinize political decisions.

He was appointed on the controversial position by the new left-wing government of Plamen Oresharski. As a result of his election, Bulgarian citizens lost trust in the entire Oresharski government and the protests quickly turned into widespread appeals for government resignation.

Despite the quick reversal of Peevski’s appointment, however, protests continued to demand the resignation of the government and a change in the so-called "Peevski model" – the emancipation of the corruption and oligarchy in the country. The public dissent was also intensified by changes in the legal framework of DANS, which gave it unprecedented power and independence from other institutions such as the Interior Ministry and the President.

On the 23-24th June, the demonstrations erupted into violence between civilians and police, where a few protesters were injured and a policeman charged for unlawful use of force. At the time, many journalists expressed concerns that the opposing centre-right party GERB planted provocateurs within the protest to spark violence and increase the chances of Oresharski’s resignation.

In October 2013, students occupied several universities in the capital Sofia and thus joined the Anti-Oresharski protests, giving new life to the uprising. In the following months, Bulgaria witnessed counter-protests, but also a joining of forces between taxi driver protesters, syndicates, students, academics and many more. After a whole year of on and off protest activity and political scandals, Oresharski finally submitted his resignation on the 24th July 2014. The 2013-2014 summer protests in Bulgaria were called ‘the second democratic revolution’ by many. They triggered the birth of a stronger civil society and unity between different groups in the fight for social progress and stronger political values.