In other articles we have talked about Spanish women who made history, the case of Isabel de Barreto or Juana Galán, as well as those of other nationalities such as the Vietnamese sisters who prevented a Chinese invasion, women with Jewish husbands from Rosenstraßeexplorers like Isabelle Eberhardt and Alexandra David-Néel, pirates like Anne Bonny and Mary Read, writers, professors, inventors…
Well, the Greeks also have their heroine; her name was Laskarina Buboulina Pinotsis and she was the protagonist of various armed actions during the revolution against the Ottomans that led to the independence of Greece.
Laskarina seemed doomed to be who she was as if by fate, since she was born in a prison in Constantinople. His mother, Skevo, had gone there to visit her husband, Stavrianos Pinotsis, who was a military man and was imprisoned for participating in the failed Orlov Revolution, an uprising that took place in 1770 in the Peloponnese and Crete against the Ottoman Empire (which had the Greek territory under his domain) and which is named after the two Russian agents who organized it by helping the rebels with a small expeditionary force and a naval squadron. This managed to prevail over the enemy in the battle of Cesme but by land the Russians could not send the promised reinforcements and the insurrection was crushed.
She had lit the fuse of Philhellenism but Stavrianos Pinotsis found her bones in prison and to visit her husband, Skevo had to travel periodically from her home in Arvanita, on the island of Hydra (Saronic archipelago, very close to Athens), to Constantinople. One of these trips she made in the spring of 1771, while she was pregnant, and there she gave birth to a girl who soon lost her father, so she returned home with her mother. These were not times for single women to get ahead easily, and even less so when they had eight children, so four years later Skevo married Demetrios Lazarou-Orlof for the second time and the family went to live on another neighboring island, Spetses.
That place had been razed to the ground by the Ottomans, so nationalist sentiment was deep-rooted. Laskarina grew up in that environment, hearing harrowing stories about the oppression they were subjected to and the heroes who had given their lives for liberation. But for now, she had to fulfill her social role and at seventeen she contracted her first marriage with Dimitrios Yiannouzas, who was a sailor, a risky profession that led to his death very soon precisely fighting against Barbary pirates. The young widow she remarried at thirty, again to a seaman named Dimitrios Bouboulis… who also died in the same way in 1811.
Bouboulis, who fell fighting against two enemy ships becoming a local legend, was rich: a shipowner who owned several ships – some of which he captained himself, as we saw – and land, so Laskarina was not abandoned, something that would have been a problem considering the offspring of seven children she had fathered with her two husbands. She herself took over the family businesses and ran them successfully, building three more ships; one of them, as we shall see, would be the Agamemnonwho was to play a prominent role in the independence process (the name was a reference to the Mycenaean king who, according to mythology and The Iliadled the Greeks against Troy to rescue Helen, wife of his brother Menelaus).
Everything went wrong in 1816, when the Ottoman authorities decreed the confiscation of Laskarina’s properties, accusing her deceased husband of having supported the Russians in the armed conflict that they maintained against them between 1806 and 1812. In the context of the wars Napoleonic wars, Alexander I had occupied Moldavia and Wallachia to prevent the French advance towards Dalmatia and the sultan responded by blocking the passage of the tsarist navy ships through the Dardanelles. The dispute ended with the Treaty of Bucharest, by which the Ottoman Empire lost the eastern half of Moldavia (renamed Bessarabia) and Russia returned the occupied territories in Transcaucasia.
Bouboulis had joined his ships with those of the Imperial Russian Navy and for that received not only a captaincy and a decoration but also honorary citizenship, so the Turkish reaction is understandable. The resolute widow boarded one of her ships, the Coriens, and sailed to Constantinople to ask Count Pavel Strogonov, the Russian ambassador, for protection, presenting him with a report signed by Admiral Seniar listing Bouboulis’ merits. Strogonov, a renowned Philhellenic, did not need too much persuasion and to avoid the foreseeable and imminent arrest he sent her to the Crimea, to a farm that the Tsar himself had given him.
He remained there for three months, at the end of which he received authorization to return thanks to the fact that before leaving he had met with the mother of Sultan Mahmud II, who was impressed by the audacity of that woman and convinced his offspring to lift the order. arrest and return his property. However, that experience left a bitter residue in Laskarina and she decided to take a transcendental step.
It is not known whether it was during his stay in Constantinople or on his return -perhaps on a later visit- but he had made contact with a clandestine organization called Filiki Eteria (Society of Friends), founded in Odessa in 1814 by Greek Freemasons who aspired to the independence of their country, and in 1818 she joined their ranks.
At least that is what is believed, since it does not appear in the records, although it may be because she was the only woman admitted. The exception was surely made because she was willing to put her business at the service of the cause. She, thanks to her merchant fleet, could acquire and transport weapons for the future insurrection. These illegal shipments were unloaded in Spetsos and distributed throughout the island, keeping hidden awaiting the moment, as well as ammunition, food and various equipment. In addition, in an insular shipyard the construction of the mentioned Agamemnona corvette seventy-five meters long that could have been launched in 1820 thanks to the bribery of various Ottoman officials.
On March 13, 1821, between cannon salvos, Laskarina hoisted on the Agamemnon its own flag, whose design was based on that of the Komnenos, the famous dynasty of Byzantine emperors: an eagle carrying an anchor in one of its claws and a Phoenix in the other, symbolizing the rebirth of the liberation movement based on naval force . Twelve days later, following a plan from the Filiki Eteria so that the provinces of the Danube and the Peloponnese were raised at the same time, the island of Spetsos took up arms against the Turks, immediately followed by two other islands, Hydra and Psara. The brave woman’s fleet, made up of eight units, five of which were her own, headed for Nauplia to blockade it.
It was a port in the Peloponnese, located in the Argolid Gulf, considered impregnable because it was protected by three forts: Bourtzi, Acronauplia and, above all, Palamidi, defended by three hundred cannons. However, Laskarina landed at the head of his troops in neighboring Mili, where he managed to rally the people to his ranks with a vibrant harangue. As they were ships of the family business, several sons and brothers of Laskarina exercised command of the ships, constituting an unusual force united by blood ties. One of them, Yiannis Yiannouzas, fell like a hero in May of that same year at the Battle of Argos, fought very closely, while facing the two thousand soldiers of the Turkish Veli-Bey with a small handful of men.
Nauplia fell on November 13, 1822, confirming a chain of victories that had begun with their collaboration in the capture of Tripoli (not the Libyan city but another of the same name located in Arcadia and considered the capital of the Peloponnese) by the leader Hellenic Theodoros Kolokotronis and would continue in Monemvasia and Pilos, in addition to helping the coastal city of Galaksidi, in the Gulf of Corinth, with supplies, leaving the Peloponnese in the hands of the rebels. While Laskarina was busy rescuing the Greek women imprisoned in the Pasha’s harem, Kolokotronis proceeded to carry out a brutal ethnic cleansing of Ottomans. Her mention of this character is not casual because her son, her Panos, married her daughter, Eleni.
Laskarina did not imagine that her friendship with Kolokotronis would mean her disgrace in the medium term, even before Greece consummated its independence and, ironically, at the hands of the Greeks. The cause was the civil war in which the population plunged, since not all of them supported the rebellion, far from it, and furthermore, among those who did, there was a great atomization into opposing factions, when not openly enemies of each other: the Northern Rumeliots detested the Peloponnesian and both were hated by the island peoples; the Phanariotes (Greeks from Constantinople) were suspicious of the guerrillas; the high clergy mistrusted the low; the owners, of the day laborers; etc.
That division erupted into infighting, paradoxically after a national assembly in Epidaurus proclaimed independence, approved a constitution and elected the Phanariot Alexandros Mavrokordatos president with the support of the Peloponnesians and islanders. Dissatisfied with this appointment, Kolokotronis, chief of the guerrillas, refused to abide by it, which led to a civil war simultaneous to that of liberation. Thus, while the Ottomans lost Athens, Thebes, and Mesolonghi but held on in Thessaly, Macedonia, and Mount Athos, avenging their misfortunes with horrific massacres of Greeks in Constantinople and Chios, Kolokotronis’ removal caused a government secession, so that there were two , the other being chaired by the wealthy shipowner Georgios Kunturiotis.
The partisans of one and the other ended up clashing in arms in 1824. Kolokotronis came out badly, had to surrender Nauplia, Argos, Corinth and Tripoli and was imprisoned in Hydra along with his followers. He would regain his freedom in March 1825, when he counterattacked an Egyptian army serving the sultan, conquering Crete and threatening independence. The veteran and charismatic Kolokotronis could do little, although that crisis was saved thanks to the intervention of the Western powers and his victory in the Battle of Navarino. But by then he had already tragically lost two close ones. One was his son Panos, who was killed during the civil war.
The other was Laskarina, who was first arrested and banished to Spetses (where she had to live badly for having given her entire fortune to the cause) and then, in 1825, was shot in a blood feud. Her son Georgios had eloped with the daughter of Christodoulos Koutsis, a member of a rancid family whose members wanted to avenge the affront. The brave woman went out to the balcony of her house to recriminate them and a bullet ended her life, without ever knowing who pulled the trigger. The event caused a deep impression and, apart from naming streets and monuments after her, Tsar Alexander I posthumously awarded her the honorary position of admiral of the Imperial Russian Navy, being one of the few women to hold that position until recently. .
His descendants donated the agamemnon to the newborn Greek state, becoming the first ship of the national navy. renamed Spetsaiin 1831 it was anchored in the port of Poros together with the frigate hellas and the corvette Hydra when all three were engulfed in flames, in the midst of a country engulfed in yet another civil war.
Women and war. A historical encyclopedia from Antiquity to the present (Bernard A. Cook, ed.)/Lascarina Bobulin (agiasofia.com)/The Greek War of Independence. The struggle for freedom from Ottoman oppression (David Brewer)/Wikipedia