(also Rhigas Velestinlis). Born circa 1757 in Velestinon; died June 24, 1798. Greek revolutionary democrat and poet.
Rhigas was born into an affluent family and graduated from a school in Thessaly. He moved to Istanbul about 1774 and lived in Walachia from about 1782 to 1796. In November 1797 he published two works clandestinely in Vienna, the pamphlet New Government for the Peoples of Rumelia, Asia Minor, the Islands of the Mediterranean Sea, Walachia, and Moldavia and the book War Hymn. In these works Rhigas developed the ideas of the equality of Christians and Muslims and the equality and brotherhood of all the Balkan peoples. He advocated a program of joint struggle of all the enslaved peoples against the Ottoman Empire and the formation in the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor of a single, unified democratic state, the Greek Republic, modeled on the revolutionary French Republic. In the period 1796–97 he founded a secret revolutionary society, the Hetairia of Rhigas Velestinlis, in Vienna. Rhigas was arrested by the Austrian police in Trieste in December 1797 while returning to Greece. He was handed over by the Hapsburgs to the Turkish authorities and executed in Belgrade Fortress.
Rhigas’ ideas were adopted by the members of the Philike Hetairia, who considered themselves heirs to Rhigas’ cause. The Greek people honor Rhigas as a national hero.
REFERENCEArsh, G. L. “Rigas Velestinlis—grecheskii revoliutsioner-demokrat, borets protiv osmanskogo iga [Ego prakticheskaia deiatel’nost’].” In Balkanskii istoricheskii sbornik, vol. 1. Kishinev, 1968.
G. L. ARSH