Ioannis Kapodistrias was the first Governor of the new Greek nation from 1828 to the end of 1829.
Kapodistrias was born on February 11, 1776, in Corfu. His father was the nobleman, artist, and politician Antonios Maria Kapodistrias, and his mother was Adamantine Gonemis, a countess, and daughter of the noble Christodoulos Gonemis.
Kapodistrias studied medicine, philosophy, and law at the University of Padua in 1795–1797.
In 1797 at the age of 21, he started his medical practice as a doctor in his native island of Corfu.
When Corfu was briefly occupied by the forces of Russia and Turkey, in 1799, Kapodistrias was appointed chief medical director of the military hospital.
In 1802, he founded an important scientific and social progress organization in Corfu, the “National Medical Association”, of which he was an energetic member.
At the age of 25, Kapodistrias became involved in politics, becoming secretary of state.
In 1809, Kapodistrias entered the service of Alexander I of Russia. His first important mission, in November 1813, was as unofficial Russian ambassador to Switzerland, with the task of helping disentangle the country from the French dominance imposed by Napoleon.
In 1821, Kapodistrias became increasingly active in support of Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire but did not succeed in obtaining Tsar Alexander’s support for the Greek revolution of 1821.
This put Kapodistrias in an untenable situation and in 1822 he took an extended leave of absence from his position as Foreign Minister and retired to Geneva where he applied himself to supporting the Greek revolution by organizing material and moral support.
After being a pivotal figure in the politics of the Ionian Islands, where they essentially gained independence, Kapodistrias was seen as the best Greek politician in Europe and in 1827, was elected Governor and 1st Head of State, of newly liberated Greece.
After touring Europe to rally support for the Greek cause, Kapodistrias landed in Nafplion on 7 January 1828, and arrived in Aegina on 8 January 1828.
At that time he found a discouraging situation, factional and dynastic conflicts, civil wars, a ravaged economy, a bankrupt state, a disorganized leadership, and no united National Government.
He established a national assembly, founded schools, inaugurated the 1st university, stabilized the Greek economy, and introduced the phoenix, Greece’s first modern currency.
Kapodistrias was a champion of the common Greek, who were long oppressed by the Turks and had a strong dislike for self-interest and petty dynastic and other political disputes.
He also re-established military unity and formed a great bond and friendship with Theodoros Kolokotronis who said of Kapodistrias: “He is the only man capable of being President as he is not tied to any factions”.
In 1831, Kapodistrias ordered the imprisonment of Petrobey Mavromichalis, who had been the leader of the successful uprising against the Turks.
On September 27, Kapodistrias was assassinated by Petrobey’s brother Konstantis and son Georgios Mavromichalis on the steps of the church of Saint Spyridon in Nafplion.
Ioannis Kapodistrias was succeeded as Governor by his younger brother, Augustinos Kapodistrias. Augustinos ruled only for six months, during which the country was very much plunged into chaos. Subsequently, King Otto was given the throne of the newly founded Kingdom of Greece.
Kapodistrias is greatly honored in Greece today.
In 1944, Nikos Kazantzakis wrote the play “Capodistria” in his honor. It is a tragedy in three acts and was performed at the Greek National Theatre in 1946 to celebrate the anniversary of 25 March.
In addition, the University of Athens is named “Kapodistrian” in his honor.