Chronology of the Greek Civil War

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  • 8/13/2019 Chronology of the Greek Civil War



    Chronology of the Greek Civil war

    With the Fall of Constantinople (1453) Greece became part of the Ottoman Empire.

    Local autonomy meant coming to terms with the Turks; and to protect oneself one needed patrons,

    the basis for clientelism in Greek politics up to modern times. Greece was isolated from Europe,arbitrariness of Turkish rule diminished respect for law and authority. Strong tradition of emigration

    started in 18th

    century. Greek cultural revival sponsored by rich merchants, re-discovery of Ancient

    Greece. Greek war of independence in 1821 successful, south and central Greece cleared of Turkish

    troops, Turkey defeated by Western allies at the Battle of Navarino in October 1827. The king chosen

    by allies to rule Greece was Otto von Wittelsbach. Otto was forced by Greek politicians to grant a

    constitution in 1844, during the Crimean war parts of Greece were occupied by Britain and France. In

    1862, Otto was forced to leave Greece; the new king chosen by outsiders was from the Danish

    Glcksberg dynasty, George I.

    Greece was heavily in debt because of war of independence and collapse of export markets in 1890s.

    One sixth of population emigrated between 1890 and 1914. Party politics in Athens centred around

    two parties: modernizers and conservatives. Balkan wars of 1870s led to great expansion of territory

    of the Greek State. Greek politicians, pursuing megala idea, big idea, of expanding Greek territory

    further at the expense of Turkey, suffered a severe setback in Thessaly in 1897. In 1909, with the

    help of the army, Cretan politician and Republican Eleftherios Venizelos, became Prime Minister in a

    Liberal government. Due to the Treaty of Bucharest (1913), Greek profited from the Balkan wars and

    increased its national territory by 70 per cent.

    Differences about the First World War alienated the Prime Minister from the Court: Constantine I

    wanted Greece to stay neutral, while the traditionally pro-western Venizelos proposed Greece

    joining the Entente. Venizelos was forced to resign twice, and Greece was split in Royalist and

    Republican administrative regions. The King was forced into exile in 1917, and his son Alexander

    succeeded him. With allied troops operating against the Bulgarians from Salonika, Venizelos sentsome Greek divisions to fight for the Allies in Macedonia.

    Venizelos lost power after the war, and the Greek army tried to exploit the weakness of the Turks by

    invading Asia Minor. Turkish military leader Kemal Ataturk routed the Greek army, Smyrna fell to the

    Turks in 1922 and a massacre ensued. The lost war led to the expulsion of Greeks from Asia Minor

    (1.1 million), while ethnic Turks living in Greece moved to Turkey. A farcical trial was held to punish

    those guiltyof ending the Great Idea, and six were executed , including a former prime minister.

    The 1920s and 1930s in Greece were highly unstable, military coups interspersed with shorts period

    of parliamentary rule. In 1924 the king was exiled, and the monarchy abolished by referendum the

    following year.

    The Great Depression hit the Greek economy hard; the State was more or less bankrupt. The

    Communist Partys (KKE) share of the vote increased, with the KKE holding the balance of power

    between liberals and royalists in 1936. The Palace intervened (the King had returned to Greece in

    1935) and the ex-general Ioannis Metaxas installed a semi-fascist regime. When war broke out in

    September 1939, Greece had a guarantee of support from Great Britain, but King George II wanted to

    keep Greece out of the war for as long as possible. Mussolini had already annexed Albania, his next

    victim was Greece. But the Italian army crossing in to Greece in October 1940 was driven back by the

    Greeks, who advanced and even occupied a part of Albania. Churchill was determined to keep

    Greece in the British sphere of influence and sent an expeditionary force of mainly Commonwealth

    troops from the Western Desert to Greece in 1941. In order to keep his Balkan flank free before he

    attacked the Soviet Union, Hitler sent the Wehrmacht into Yugoslavia, and then into Greece. The

    Greek army and the under-equipped British were no match for the Germans. The King was evacuated

    to Crete with the retreating British forces in April 1941 and had to leave again (for Egypt) a month

    later, when Crete fell to the Germans. A collaborationist regime was installed by the Germans in

  • 8/13/2019 Chronology of the Greek Civil War



    Athens and the old political caste showed no leadership. After the invasion of the Soviet Union in

    June 1941, the KKE founded the Greek liberation movement EAM and a guerrilla force called ELAS.

    Neither was exclusively Communist. Younger people joined EAM or ELAS in the hope of building a

    new society from the bottom upwards, of treating women as equal citizens and in order to get rid of

    the village patriarchy. There were two other guerrilla groups- the socialist EDES led by Napoleon

    Zervas and the Republican EKKA led by Colonel Psarros. Officers from the British sabotageorganization SOE tried to coordinate guerrilla attacks against the Germans, but gradually gave more

    aid to the non-Communist fighters, arguing that ELAS was seeking to eliminate all rivals. A conference

    in Cairo between the British and the Greek resistance in August 1943 broke down on the question of

    the monarchy, and EAM set up its own mountain Government (PEEA) in 1944. Greek troops under

    British command but in favour of the PEEA revolted in Egypt and were interned.

    Georgios Papandreou, a Greek politician in exile (first in Egypt, then in Greece) was chosen by the

    British as a possible leader. In May 1944 in the Lebanon he agreed with the guerrilla groups on the

    composition of a future Greek government; at Caserta, Tunisia, in September 1944, he secured an

    agreement whereby all guerrilla forces would come under the command of a British officer, General

    Roland Scobie. This has been seen as a disastrous mistake by ELAS because it controlled 90 per cent

    of the country and the Germans were withdrawing their forces. To be fair, the war was still on, the

    Soviet Union was still an ally of Britain and the UK, so it was not in the interests of the USSR to start a

    dispute with the British. What was not known in late 1944 was that Stalin and Churchill had divided

    Europe into spheres of influence on 9 October: Greece was put in the British sphere to the extent of

    90 per cent. Stalin did not object.

    Matters came to head in December 1944 after the arrival of British troops in Athens and the return

    of Papendreou. EAM representatives resigned from the government, General Scobie insisted that

    ELAS should hand in its weapons and the course of a general strike called by EAM and KKE, fascist

    sympathizers in the police fired on demonstrators in central Athens. Scobie demanded the

    withdrawal of ELAS soldiers from the city, but they stayed and a war began with the British. There

    were atrocities committed on both sides, as the Communists took hostages and settled old scoreswith collaborationists, ultra-Leftists and ex-members of the Security Battalions set up by the Nazis.

    ELAS, however, did not send extra troops to Athens from the countryside, and by the end of January

    the British had gained the upper hand, followed by the withdrawal of ELAS fighters from the capital.

    In mid-February 1945 the Varkiza agreement was signed, which meant that Georgios Siantos,

    secretary of the KKE, concurred with the British demand that ELAS hand in its guns. This also seen a

    major mistake, but Siantos knew that the USSR did not want any disagreements with the British and

    the war was not yet over. There followed a widespread campaign of terror, the persecution, killing

    and gaoling of left-wingers. The KKE, now at a strength of 200,000 welcomed its former general

    secretary in late May, when Nikos Zakhariadis was liberated from Dachau and was repatriated to


    Zakhariadis demonstrated that he had crude notions of Marxism when he called for the removal of

    all peasants from the KKE, concentrated the efforts of the Party on urban centres and thus changed

    the broad-based membership of the Party to one of strictly supervised cadres. He made another

    blunder in March 1946 by boycotting the general election promoted by the British at a time when the

    KKE could have won about 30 per cent of the seats. Interestingly, he ignored the advice of Moscow

    and the Communist Parties of Italy and France to contest the election. His new policy was revolution

    starting from the cities, and to this end the KKE set up a new guerrilla force, The New Democratic

    Army (NDA) under the charismatic guerrilla Markos Vafiadis, known to all as Comrade Markos. A

    dubious referendum held in 1946 enabled George II to return as king, but he died one year later and

    was succeeded by his brother Constantine. 1946 saw the beginning of the civil war proper, with the

    royalist Greek army, backed by the British, chasing the guerrillas. The NDA employed flexible tactics,occupying towns, attacking police and army to gain supplies or guns and then disappearing into the

    mountains. The fighting in 1948 and 1949 was concentrated on Mount Grammos on the border

  • 8/13/2019 Chronology of the Greek Civil War



    between Greece and Albania. Markos clashed with Zahariadis who wanted the NDA to act as a

    regular army and fight positional battles. Markos escaped to Albania. The death-knell of ELAS

    sounded in 1948/49 for several reasons: one, the Americans had now taken over from the British and

    were pouring equipment into the country, including modern aircraft that dropped napalm. Second,

    Tito of Yugoslavia had been ostracized from the world Communist movement because of his

    independence of thought. Zakhariadis took the side of the Russia, and Tito thus cut off all aid to theNDA. After the final battle of Mount Grammos in late August 1949, the survivors of the NDA crossed

    over the border to one of the socialist states. The civil war, as a military struggle, was over. About

    150,000 persons died in the war, another 140,000 fled abroad, including 12,000 children. There have

    been controversial discussion about ELAS forcibly recruited male and female fighters and of sending

    children to the Communist countries.

    In Romanian exile, the KKE exile carried out a purge of dissidents. Markos and Siantos were expelled,

    the latter posthumously. Following the condemnation of Stalins crimes at the 20th

    Congress of the

    CPSU in 1956, Zahariadis was removed as KKE general secretary and expelled; Markos was re-

    admitted, and expelled the second time in 1964. The KKE split in 1967 into an external faction based

    abroad that preached revolution and an internal faction that wanted to work with the broad left in

    parliamentary politics. The KKE was legalized in 1974 and still exists, getting between eight and ten

    per cent of the vote in Greece.

    Key concepts:


    Republican vs. royalist

    Extremely confrontional politics, no national consensus

    Interference of the armed forces in politics

    The royal family wishing to exert influence more than is normal in a constitutional monarchy

    The lack in politics of a truly liberal party or a social democratic one

    The tendency to settle disputes by armed force

    Little respect for state institutions, inclination to gain personal advantage