Corfu Island Greece

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Corfu - Ionian Islands State (1799-1807)

After the campaign of Bonaparte in Egypt, the Russians and the Ottomans being afraid of a general revolt under the presence of the French in the Ionian Sea, united with each other and sent their fleets to push the French away from the islands. The united Russian and Ottoman fleet occupied almost without conflict the rest of the Ionian Islands except Corfu.

Corfu Island History - Ionian Islands State

The French garrison under the command of General Sabot who succeeded General Gentilly, was not interested to hand over to the Russians and the Ottomans. The General declared martial law on the island and imposed military disarmament of the Corfiots. The inhabitants of the suburb of Madouki refused to surrender their weapons, so the French hit the suburb by land and sea and in the end set it on fire. On 22nd of February 1799 the flags of the Russian and Ottoman Empires were raised in the Old Fortress. Admiral Ushakov was the first to disembark on the island. The Ottomans disembark after the Russians.

Ushakov in the name of Tzar and Sultan reinstated the oligarch government. He appointed the senate which voted immediately on the constitution for the new senate which regulated the New State. They sent Russian ambassadors to Constantinople to negotiate with the local representative of Russia and the Ottoman leaders to finalise the constitution.

Indeed on 21st of March 1800, Russia and Turkey sign a treaty and according to it the Ionian islands would be independent states, 'The Ionian Islands State' which would have its own flag, its own military forces, its own currency and would be represented in Constantinople and other Capitals by its ambassadors. But it would be under the domination of the Sultan and would honour the Ottoman Empire.

At the same time with the signing of the treaty, the constitution of the state was approved and called Byzantine because it was authorised in Byzantium. By that the noblemen returned to their supremacy and their advantages were restored.

So the establishment of the Ionian Islands State gave hopes for the freedom of the whole of Greece but did not solve any of their internal problems on the islands especially the social ones. The agricultural people and the middle classes did not accept without protest the new situation, for example the abolition of political freedom which was given recently. Revolts occurred in all the islands against the Byzantine Constitution. To deal with the revolts on the landside of Corfu and to avoid the merge of forces of the internal state the Tsar Alexander 1st sent to Corfu on his behalf George Motsenigo with an army and a navy to restore order and set the matters of the New State. This intervention restored order and peace to Corfu and the other Ionian Islands. With the persuasion of the weapons of the Russian troops a solution which would restore the balance in the society of the Ionians.

Motsenigo appointed a temporary government, reorganised the senate and called the electors which their number was limited to elect the constituent assembly. This assembly took place on 14th of October 1803, they voted for the new constitution without much debate, it was called the Constitution of 1803. But this Constitution was later considered by Motsenigo to be too liberal so in 1806 he tried to reform it. New plans for the Constitution were formed which were never applied because the Treaty of Tilsit between France and Russia on 8th of July 1807 brought the French back to the Ionian Islands.