Historical story

March 6, 1910:The Killeler Rebellion

Last updated:2022-07-25

The bloody incidents that happened on March 6, 1910 in Thessaly are part of the long history of the agricultural issue in our country. Although they took place mainly in Larissa, they took their name from the village of Kileler (today Kypseli), from which the trigger was given. This anniversary is celebrated every year and is the leading event of the Greek peasantry, which has the opportunity to present its demands.

The agricultural issue in Thessaly appears to have been exacerbated by the aftermath of the integration of the region into Greek territory in 1881. The Koligoi were the losers of the integration and the homesteaders the big winners. The mistake of the governments of that time was that they applied Byzantine-Roman law, which was in force in Ancient Greece, ignoring the rights of the collegians, based on Ottoman law.

During the Turkish rule, the homesteaders only had the right to collect the rents on the large lands they owned, while the koligs had paternal rights over the common areas of the homestead (on the land, houses, forests and pastures). With the new situation, the now Greek landowners, who succeeded the Ottomans, had absolute ownership rights over all their property, while the koligi had fallen into serf status.

The colligians militantly claimed the return of things to the previous regime, while also raising the issue of expropriations. The modernizer Charilaos Trikoupis, who dominated the political scene, was against the distribution of land among the koligos, because he did not want to lose foreign investors and the influx of new capital into Greece.

The situation changed dramatically at the dawn of the 20th century, with the establishment of the first agricultural associations in Larissa, Karditsa and Trikala. With the help of enlightened citizens of the time, the koligs adopted modern forms of struggle (mass mobilizations, rallies in the big cities, resolutions to the Government, Parliament and King, etc.). The murder of Marinos Antipas by an organ of the landowners in 1907 steeled their fighting spirit.

At the beginning of 1910, the main demand of the koligs was the expropriation of the land and the distribution of the farms to its cultivators, on the basis of small family ownership. The country was under the constellation of the Military League and the prime minister was the "official" Stefanos Dragoumis.

The collegians had planned a panthessal rally in Larissa on Saturday, March 6, on the occasion of the discussion of the agricultural bill in the Parliament. Demonstrators from the surrounding villages started flocking to the city early in the morning. At the Killeler railway station, some 200 villagers wanted to board a train without paying a ticket. The manager of Thessalian Railways, Politis, who was on the train, refused them. The villagers got angry and started stoning the train, breaking the windows of the carriages.

The train moved away, but a kilometer away the same scenes are repeated by a group of 800 villagers. The military force men inside the train traveling to Larissa for the rally were ordered by their commander to fire into the air as an intimidation. The villagers get enraged and attack them with stones and sticks. The soldiers fire again, killing two or four villagers and injuring many. Similar incidents took place in the village of Tsoular (today Melia), with two dead villagers and 15 injured.

Clashes between unarmed protesters and repression forces also spread to Larissa, when farmers were informed of the bloody incidents in Killeler and Tsoular. Two collies fell dead when the cavalry went into action. The rally took place, finally, in a peaceful way at 3 in the afternoon in Themis Square. The student Georgios Schinas read the resolution of the gathering, which was sent to the Parliament and the Government. The farmers demanded the immediate passage of the bill for the expropriation of the farmsteads, while they expressed their deep sorrow and pain "for the unjust attack against the peaceful and law-abiding people, the victims of which were unarmed and innocent white slaves of Thessaly".

For the riots in Killeler, Tsoular and Larissa, many people were arrested and remanded in custody. A number of farmers were subsequently acquitted by acquittal, while a total of 62 protesters were brought to trial. They were all acquitted on June 23, 1910, in an attempt to defuse the situation.

The Killeler rebellion raised a wave of sympathy throughout the country, while social pressure to resolve the agrarian question increased. Political power could no longer turn a blind eye. The first timid step to solve the problem was made in 1911 by Eleftherios Venizelos, who succeeded Stefanos Dragoumis as prime minister. Certain legislative measures were taken in favor of the collies, but expropriations did not take place and one reason was the wars that followed. Only after 1923, when the problem of resettlement of refugees from Asia Minor reached explosive proportions, large-scale expropriations of homesteads began.