15 Mar Review by Andreas Liberatos* on the book Το τέλος της οθωμανικής Κρήτης. Οι όροι κατάρρευσης του καθεστώτος της Χαλέπας (1878-89) (Manos Perakis, The end of Ottoman Crete: the conditions of collapse of Halepa regime 1878-89).
The years of the Halepa regime in Crete (1878-1889), could be considered as a stage, a step for the long course towards the independence of the island from the Ottoman domination (1898) and its unification with Greece (1913). This consideration is enriched and corrected, when necessary, by the book of Manos Perakis, a fruit of a long research effort. This is carried out in two ways: on one hand, he recomposes in his pages the fluid climate of an era, during which the protagonists of the history themselves – The Christians and Muslims of Crete- were observing the changes, but could not anticipate their outcome with certainty. On the other hand, he claims with certainty that the period of Halepa – with an extended local government and an autonomous fiscal policy, the appointment of a Christian commander-in-chief and the more proportionate, in favour of the Christians, power allocation – was the peak of all Ottoman reform efforts on the island: their failure actually equals the end of the Ottoman Crete.
The political conditions of this breakdown constituted part of the Treaty itself. The regime of Halepa is one of the many hybrid and unstable political regimes resulting from the Congress of Berlin (1878), products of experiments for the political change and for the compromise of international interests and local power correlations (such as Eastern Romilia, Austrian- Hungarian government in Bosnia). The political landscape of the semi-autonomous Crete of Halepa is characterised by phenomena of religious segregations, phenomena that are also related to other issues, such as the Waqf, concerning the use of incomes deriving by the Muslim charitable institutions. Furthermore, this political landscape also sets off, at the end of this period, the tendency to surpass the segregations and to develop cooperations based on social and political goals.
This tendency, as well as the stability of the Halepa regime in general, will be undermined in the mid 1880s due to the increasing financial difficulties of the island. The exceptionally detailed and analytic presentation of the financial situation in Crete depicts the framework and the factors that caused the crisis. The continuous deductions of parts of the island’s customs incomes by the Ottoman Porte deprived the island from the benefits resulting from the favourable trade conditions of the first half of the decade. Nevertheless, the island’s bad financial condition also resulted from inside causes. Even though, after Halepa, the staffing of the state mechanism with Christians brought an end to the arbitrariness and the suppression of the Muslim officers, the new people with political power in Halepa used without hesitation the taxation and state mechanism for the reproduction of their social dominance: the non- payment of debts, the systematic tax evasion, the increase of the posts in public services and the use, in general, of public wealth by the governors for the development of support networks aggravated the financial crisis, which, due to side effects caused by debts, led to an economic and social crisis and therefore to the final collapse.
The book «Το τέλος της Οθωμανικής Κρήτης» is not just a well written book filling an important bibliographic gap for the history of Crete in the 19th century. It constitutes a detailed study, which for the first time tries to recompose the socio- economic framework of the island’s stormy history during the 19th century and allows important issues concerning the social and nationality conflicts during the transition to modernism to be examined, contributing in this way to the communication of Crete’s historiography with the modern researches of historiography of the further area of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans.
*Andreas Liberatos, historian- researcher, Institute of Mediterranean Studies, Institute of Technology and Research.