A large island in the Aegean Sea, Crete was a province of Turkey from the 15th century. After Greece achieved its independence, Crete became an object of contention as its Greek populations revolted twice against Ottoman rule (in 1866 and 1897). Ethnic tension prevailed on the island between the Muslim ruling minority and the Christian majority. Aided by volunteers and reinforcements from Greece, the "Great Cretan Revolution" began in 1866 and the rebels scored a series of victories. However, as more Turkish forces landed on the island, reprisals, usually against non-combatants, became common, and the revolt was crushed by 1869.
A new Cretan insurrection in 1897 led to Turkey declaring war on Greece and defeating it. However, the Great Powers decided that Turkey could no longer maintain control and intervened. British, Russian, Italian and Austro-Hungarian battle ships and marines came to Crete to force the Turkish army out of the island. Turkish forces were expelled in 1898, and an independent Cretan Republic, headed by Prince George of Greece (as a High Commissioner of the island), was founded. Crete started issuing own stamps in 1900.
Crete Michel no. 3, issued in 1900, depicting Prince George:
Soon Prince George, a staunch royalist, assumed absolute power. This led to an armed insurgency in 1905. The leader of the opposition became Eleftherios Venizelos, a leader of the Cretan rebellion against Turks in 1897 and a minister of justice from 1899 to 1901. George was eventually forced to leave the island in September 1906. He was replaced by former Greek prime minister Alexandros Zaimis, and Venizelos rejoined the government.
Stamps of 1905 insurgency:
Taking advantage of domestic turmoil in Turkey in 1908, the Cretan deputies declared union with Greece. But this act was not internationally recognized until 1913 after the Balkan Wars. Under the Treaty of London, Sultan Mehmed V relinquished his formal rights to the island. In December, the Greek flag was raised at the Firkas fortress in Chania, and Crete was unified with mainland Greece. The Muslim minority of Crete initially remained in the island but was later relocated to the Turkey under the general population exchange agreed in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne between Turkey and Greece.