hidden europe 29

The Cretan question

by Nicky Gardner


We look at examples of how territories and countries have been internationalised through joint administration by foreign powers. From Crete to Kosovo, Europe has had many examples of shared suzerainty.

Crete, as we saw in the preceding feature, was for several centuries dominated by colonial masters — first the Venetian Republic and then the Ottoman Empire. The demise of Ottoman influence in Crete presaged a curious political interlude, where the island was effectively administered by a consortium of international powers. After 1897, the flag of the Sultan still flew from many buildings in Crete, but the island was really governed by a council of four Admirals, appointed respectively by Russia, France, Italy and Britain. Each power had its own zone of occupation in the island. The city of Haniá, which served as capital of this curious interim state, was jointly administered by the four powers. In this respect the manner of the administration of Crete at this period presaged the division of both Germany and Austria after the Second World War.

A legacy of this spell of the international administration of Crete from 1897 emerged during construction work in Réthimnon this summer, when building workers uncovered a sign pointing the way to the Russian post office.

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