Whose island is it, anyway?
Cretan resistance to Venetian rule had been strongest in the early years. After the general rebellion of 1363–64 under the flag of St. Titus had been suppressed, both the rulers and the ruled relaxed a bit and the comparative harmony of the Cretan Renaissance ensued, lasting until the Turkish invasion in the 17th century. The Ottoman period turns this timetable around: after that long war, there was little or no armed resistance for a century. It finally arrived with the beginning of the Romantic Age in the late 18th century—a time when the stirrings of ethnic nationalism were beginning in many parts of Europe where the people were coming to resent being subject to rulers who neither spoke their language nor respected their culture. Such feelings were by no means confined to European populations inside the Ottoman Empire. Resentment of Hapsburg rule was just as strong outside the Austrian “crown lands,” and even where revolutionary movements were essentially social, as in France, they generally included a strong nationalist component.
Russian agents had also approached an important Cretan merchant from Sfakiá (traditionally the most lawless and warlike part of Crete). His name was Ioánnis Vláchos, but he was better known as Daskaloyiánnis (‘Teacher John’) because of his education. He was a natural contact, wealthy enough to own several ships and to have done enough trading in the Black Sea to learn Russian. The agents promised him help from Orlov’s fleet if he would lead an uprising in Crete. So Daskaloyiánnis rallied a Sfakiot force and went on the warpath.
From this point on, the opposing parties in Crete were clearly defined: Orthodox Christian and Greek on one side, Muslim and “Turkish” (though most likely genetically Greek) on the other.
At least their harbor was open, and they could get out to sea. The would-be liberators found they had to take to piracy to survive, and apparently did so with considerable enthusiasm. The church they built on the island they named Panayía i Kléftrina—‘Our Lady the Pirate’ (or, if you prefer, ‘Our Lady the Thief’). The pirates’ depredations caused Egypt and Istanbul some grief, but did nothing to warm the hearts of Europe’s great powers toward the notion of Greek independence. Needing the powers’ support, the provisional Greek government on the mainland eventually sent an expedition that sank the pirates’ ships and placed the little island under British governance.