Greek Civil War

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Greek Civil War
Part of the Cold War
Date December 1944 - October 16, 1949
Location Southern Balkan Peninsula
Result Western Allied/Royalist Victory
Image:Flag of Greece (1828-1978).svg Hellenic Army, Royalist forces, Republicans,

Image:Flag of the United Kingdom.svg British troops

Image:Hammer and sickle.svg Communist guerillas (ELAS, DSE)
Alexander Papagos, Thrasyvoulos Tsakalotos, James Van Fleet Markos Vafiadis
100,000 men 20,000 men and women[citation needed]
12,777 killed
37,732 wounded
4,527 missing
38,000 killed[citation needed]
40,000 captured or surrendered

The Greek Civil War (Greek: Ελληνικός εμφύλιος πόλεμος) was fought between 1946 and 1949, and posed as the first example of a post-war Communist insurgency. The victory of the government anti-Communist forces led to Greece's membership in NATO and helped to define the ideological balance of power in the Aegean for the entire Cold War.

The civil war consisted on one side of the predominantly conservative Greek civilian population and the armed forces of the Greek government, supported by the USA and the UK. On the other side were mostly Greek communists, and key members of the biggest Anti-Nazi resistance organization (ELAS), the leadership of which was controlled by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).

The first phase of the civil war took shape in 1942-1944. The left-wing and right-wing of the resistance movement fought each other in a fratricidal conflict to establish the leadership of the Greek resistance. In the second phase (1944) the ascendant socialists, in military control of most of Greece, were confronted by the returning Greek government in exile, which had been formed under Western Allied auspices in Cairo. In the third phase (commonly called the "Third Round" by the Communists) (1946-1949), a centre-right government, elected under abnormal conditions, fought against armed forces controlled by the Communist Party of Greece. Although the involvement of the Communist Party in the uprisings was universally known, the party remained legal until 1948, continuing to coordinate attacks from its Athens offices until proscription.

During the conflict, neighbouring countries attempted to pursue territorial claims against Greece. Many members of ELAS were Slavo-Macedonians, who established SNOF (Macedonian Liberating Front) in 1944, with the support of the Yugoslav leader Tito who had plans for Greek Macedonia. KKE was very positive towards the idea of the creation of a "Socialist Republic of Macedonia" that would annex Greek Macedonia. Later ELAS and SNOF disagreed on issues of policy and finally crashed.

The civil war left Greece with a legacy of political polarisation; as a result, Greece also entered into alliance with the United States and joined NATO, while relationships with its USSR-allied northern neighbors became strained.


[edit] Background: 1941-44

[edit] Origins

The origins of the civil war lie in the occupation of Greece by Nazi Germany and Bulgaria from 1941 to 1944 and Italy from 1941 to 1943. King George II and his government escaped to Egypt, where they proclaimed a government-in-exile, recognised by the Western Allies, but not by the Soviet Union. The Western Allies actively encouraged, even coerced, the King to appoint moderate ministers; only two of his ministers were members of the dictatorial government that had governed Greece before the German invasion. Some in the left-wing resistance claimed the government to be illegitimate, on account of its roots in the dictatorship of General Ioannis Metaxas from 1936 to 1941. Regardless of its pretensions, or of the dissenters, the government's inability to influence the governance of Greece rendered it irrelevant in the minds of most Greek people.

The Germans set up a collaborationist government in Athens as soon as they entered the city; but this government, too, lacked legitimacy and support. The puppet regime was further undermined when economic mismanagement in wartime conditions created runaway inflation, acute food shortages, and even famine, amongst the Greek civilian population. Some high-profile officers of the pre-war Greek regime served the Germans in various posts. In 1943, this government’s PM, Ioannis Rallis, started creating paramilitary forces, mostly of local fascists, convicts, and sympathetic prisoners of war, in order to fight the communist partisans and reduce the strain on the German army. These forces, known as the Security Battalions, numbered 20,000 men at their peak in 1944. They were never used against the Western Allies, but only against the pro-communist guerillas.

The lack of legitimate government created a power vacuum, which was filled by several resistance movements that began operations shortly after German occupation. The largest of those was the National Liberation Front (Greek, Ethniko Apeleftherotiko Metopo, or EAM), founded in 27 September 1941, established by representatives of four left-wing parties. Following the Soviet policy of creating a broad united front against fascism, EAM won the support of many non-Communists. It became a large popular organisation which, although completely controlled by KKE, tried to appear solely as a democratic republican movement. EAM's military wing, the Greek National Liberation Army (Ethnikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos, or ELAS) was later founded in February 1942. Another organization, controlled by the Greek Communist Party, was the mainly terroristic OPLA (Organization for the protection of the people's fighters). In the area of Florina there also was the Slavo-Macedonian organization NOF, which changed its name to SNOF during the third phase of the civil war.

EAM and ELAS opposed all other resistance movements. The most important of such forces were the Greek National Republican League (Ethnikos Dimokratikos Ellinikos Syndesmos, or EDES), led by a former army officer, Colonel Napoleon Zervas, and the National and Social Liberation (Ethniki Kai Koinoniki Apeleftherosis, or the EKKA), led by Colonel Dimitrios Psarros. EKKA was a classical liberal movement, with strong opposition to the monarchy. EDES initially bore a republican ideology, but from 1943, through its increasing conflict with ELAS, it turned to a more pro-royalist stance.

Resistance first struck in Eastern Macedonia, where the Germans had allowed Bulgarian troops to occupy Greek territories. Large demonstrations were organized by the YBE (Defenders of Northern Greece), a right wing organization, in Greek Macedonian cities, in response.

Greece is a country very favourable to guerilla operations, and by 1943 the Axis forces and their collaborators controlled only the main towns and connecting roads, leaving the mountainous interior to the resistance. By 1943 ELAS had about 30,000 men under arms, and effectively controlled large areas of the mountainous Peloponnese, Crete, Thessaly and Macedonia (a territorry of 30,000 km². and 750,000 inhabitants). EDES had about 10,000 men, nearly all of them in Epirus. EKKA only had about 1,000 men.

[edit] The first conflicts:1942-1944

At the beginning the Western Allies were helping all resistance organizations with funds and equipment, since they themselves needed any help they could find against the Axis. However, the British Foreign Office, foreseeing a communist upsurge, was observing with displeasure ELAS being transformed into a large-scale conventional army and not a bunch of autonomous small local troops without any head guidance and administration, as it would be surely preferable. A British officer’s telegraph reveals that for the British Foreign Office: “The best level of sabotage would be no sabotage at all”[citation needed]. However, ELAS took control of the weapons of the Italian garrisons in Greece after September 8th 1943 and the Armistice with Italy. So, from October 1943 and following, Western Allies tried to promote the anti-communist resistance organizations and minimize ELAS’ increasing influence by stopping ELAS supply with weapon and funds. In 1944 ELAS was able to equip its units with weapons looted from the enemy, while EDES enjoyed Western Allied support.

There also were right-wing, para-military organisations, such as X ("Khi") in Athens, PAO in Macedonia and others, accused by EAM-ELAS of having been armed by the Germans. The fact is that all resistance organizations in Greece accused each other of secret agreements, and possible collaboration. The situation and the alliances were quite unstable. The enemy of my enemy maybe wasn't my friend but could be a source of equipment sometimes. Regarding EAM’s allegations, as Nikos Farmakis, a X member, states: “X was created to reassure the legal government’s and the King’s return to Greece from Egypt”, so had nothing to do with the resistance against the Nazis, from whom they bought arms, or against the Security Battalions, with whom there was a tacit cease-fire.

EAM was the strongest of all resistance organizations, and it attacked all non-communist resistance fighters, as well as the para-military forces of the collaborationist government. In order to establish a monopoly over the resistance, EAM accused EDES of collaboration with the Germans, since it was obvious that the Allies would soon invade southern Europe through Greece, and ELAS wanted to be in a dominant position the day the Germans would leave Greece. This situation led to triangular battles among ELAS, EDES and the Germans. Given the support of the British and the Greek Cairo Government for EDES, these conflicts precipitated a civil war. In October 1943 ELAS attacked its rivals, particularly EDES, precipitating a civil war across many parts of Greece which continued until February 1944, when the British agents in Greece negotiated a ceasefire (the Plaka agreement).

In Greece under Nazi occupation, the struggle was bitter and there was no room for delicate differentiations. All sides burned villages, executed civilians and suspected collaborators. According to KKE, "the collaborationist groups such as X, however, used terrorism as a deliberate strategy, while with ELAS fighters it was the result of over-zealous local commanders rather than official policy". In fact ELAS was also responsible for numerous atrocities, the most repellent being the Meligala massacre where 1,500 people were killed when ELAS attacked the village. (see List of massacres). The execution of the EKKA leader Dimitrios Psarros was another heinous ELAS crime: according to KKE some of his officers later were proven to be collaborators with the Germans — according to the officers themselves they were forced to act, after the ELAS attacks against all other resistance organizations. In several cases former officers of the Greek army were forced at gun-point to join ELAS, although they preferred to join the anti-communist partisan groups or the forces of the government-in-exile in Middle East. The example of Sarafis who was the military leader of ELAS is characteristic. Sarafis intended to join the non-communist resistance group of Kostopoulos in Thessaly with a group of other officers. On their way they were caught by an ELAS group commanded by Velouhiotis. Sarafis agreed to join ELAS at gun point when Velouhiotis killed all other officers.

[edit] The Egypt mutiny and Lebanon conference

See also: Ethnikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos#The "Mountain Government"
Main article: Lebanon conference

In March 1944 the EAM established the Political Committee of National Liberation (Politiki Epitropi Ethnikis Apeleftherosis, or PEEA), in effect a third Greek government to rival those in Athens and Cairo. Its aims were, "to intensify the struggle against the conquerors... for full national liberation, for the consolidation of the independence and integrity of our country... and for the annihilation of domestic Fascism and armed traitor formations." PEEA consisted not only of communists but also of progressive bourgeois, that had nothing to do with communist ideas.

The moderate aims of the PEEA (known as κυβέρνηση του βουνού, "the Mountain Government") aroused support even among Greeks in exile. In April 1944 the Greek armed forces in Egypt, many among whom were well-disposed towards EAM, mutinied against the Western Allies, demanding that a Government of National Unity be established based on the PEEA principles. The mutiny was suppressed by Western Allied armed units and Greek officers loyal to the exiled government. Approximately 8,000 Greek soldiers were sent into prison camps in Libya, Sudan, Egypt and elsewhere. Later on, through political screening of the officers, the Cairo government created staunchly anti-Communist armed forces.

In May 1944, representatives from all political parties and resistance groups came together at a conference in Lebanon, seeking an agreement about a government of national unity. Despite EAM's accusations of collaboration made against all the other Greek forces and blames charging EAM-ELAS members for murders, banditry and thievery, the conference ended to an agreement for a government of national unity consisted of 24 ministers (6 of whom were EAM's members), because of Soviet directives to KKE to avoid harming Allied unity, but didn't resolve the resistance groups' disarmament problem.

[edit] Confrontation: 1944

[edit] From Lebanon conference to the outburst

By the summer of 1944 it was obvious that the Germans would soon withdraw from Greece, because the armed forces of the Soviet Union were advancing into Romania and towards Yugoslavia and the Germans risked being cut off. The government-in-exile, now led by a prominent liberal, George Papandreou, moved to Caserta in Italy in preparation for the return to Greece. Under the Caserta agreement of September 1944, all the resistance forces in Greece were placed under the command of a British officer, General Ronald Scobie.

Troops of the Western Allies landed in Greece in October. There was little fighting since the Germans were in full retreat and most of Greek territory was already liberated by either ELAS or EDES. In Athens, e.g., only the central part of the city was under German occupation on October 13, while all other regions were under EAM-ELAS rule. The German forces were greatly outnumbered by ELAS, which by this time had 50,000 men under arms and was re-equipping from supplies left behind by the Germans. On October 13 British troops entered Athens, and Papandreou and his ministers followed 6 days later. The King stayed in Cairo, because Papandreou had promised that the future of the monarchy would be decided by referendum.

At this point there was little to prevent ELAS from taking full control of the country. They did not do so because the KKE leadership was under instructions from the Soviet Union not to precipitate a crisis that could jeopardise Allied unity and put at risk Stalin's larger post-war objectives. KKE’s leadership knew this, but the ELAS fighters and rank-and-file Communists did not. This became a source of conflict within EAM and ELAS.

Following Stalin's instructions, KKE’s leadership tried to avoid a confrontation with the Papandreou government. The majority of ELAS members saw the Western Allies as liberators, although some KKE leaders such as Andreas Tzimas and Aris Velouchiotis did not trust the Western Allies. Tzimas was in touch with the Yugoslav Communist leader Josip Broz Tito, and he disagreed with ELAS's co-operation with the Western Allied forces.

The issue of disarming the resistance organizations was a cause of friction between the Papandreou government and its EAM members. Advised by the British ambassador Sir Reginald Leeper, Papandreou demanded the disarmament of all armed forces apart from the Ieros Lochos and the III Greek 'Rimini' Mountain Brigade, that were formed after the suppression of the April 1944 Egypt mutiny, and the constitution of a National Guard under government control. EAM, believing that this would leave ELAS defenceless against the right-wing militias and the anti-communist Security Battalions, submitted an alternative plan of total and simultaneous disarmament, which Papandreou rejected, as he had started viewing the Security Battalions as a good reserve against a possible communist coup, and EAM ministers resigned from the government on December 2. On December 1, Scobie had issued a proclamation requiring the dissolution of ELAS. Command of ELAS was KKE's greatest source of strength, and the KKE leader Siantos decided that the demand for ELAS's dissolution must be resisted.

Tito's influence may have played some role in ELAS's resistance to disarmament. Tito was outwardly loyal to Stalin but had come to power through his own forces and believed that the Communist Greeks should do the same. His influence, however, had not prevented the EAM leadership from putting its forces under Scobie's command a couple of months earlier, according to the Caserta agreement.

In the meanwhile, following their leader’s instructions, X members had set up many outposts in central Athens so that they will resist for 4-5 days against EAM, until the British troops arrive, as Grivas had been promised.

[edit] The Dekemvriana

Main article: Dekemvriana

On December 3, during a banned EAM demonstration of approximately 250,000 people in central Athens, an outbreak of shooting by X militants and gendarmes and "British troops and police with machine guns... positioned on the rooftops" in Syntagma Square against the unarmed mob, that resulted to 28 deaths(including a six-year-old boy) and 148 wounded people,<ref> Daniele Ganser (2005). NATO's Secret Armies. Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe (London, Franck Cass), pp.213-214 (his quote) </ref> led to a full-scale fighting between ELAS and the Government in the following days.

The British tried to stay neutral but when the battle escalated they intervened, with artillery and aircraft being freely used. At the beginning the government had only a few policemen and a brigade without heavy weapons. On December 4 Papandreou attempted to resign but the British Ambassador convinced him to stay. By December 12 ELAS was in control of most of Athens and Piraeus. The British, outnumbered, flew in the 4th Infantry Division from Italy as reinforcements. During the battle with the ELAS, local militias fought alongside the British, triggering a massacre by ELAS fighters. It must be noted that although the British were fighting openly against ELAS in Athens there were no fights in the rest of Greece. In certain cases like Volos some RAF units even gave equipment to ELAS fighters.

Conflicts continued throughout December (hence known as Dekemvriana, "the December events"), with the British slowly gaining the upper hand. Curiously, ELAS forces in the rest of Greece did not attack the British. It seems that ELAS preferred a legitimate rise to power, but was drawn into the fighting by the indignation and, at the same time, the awe of its fighters after the slaughter on December 3, so that it chose stalinistic methods and violence, aiming at establishing its predominance. Only this version of the events can explain the simultaneous struggle against the British, te large-scale ELAS operations against trotskyists and other political dissenters in Athens and many contradictory decisions of EAM leaders. Videlicet, KKE's leadership was supporting a doctrine of 'national unity' while eminent members, e.g. Stringos or Makridis and even Siantos, where elaborating revolutionary plans.

The outbreak of fighting between Allied forces and an anti-German resistance movement, while the war in Europe was still being fought, was a serious political problem for Churchill's coalition government, and caused much protest in the British and American press and in the House of Commons. To prove his peace-making intention, Churchill himself arrived in Athens on December 25 and presided over a conference, in which Soviet representatives also participated, to bring about a settlement. It failed because the EAM/ELAS demands were considered excessive and, thus, rejected.

In the meanwhile, the Soviet Union remained surprisingly passive about the developments in Greece. True to their "percentages agreement" with Britain, the Soviet delegation in Greece wasn’t encouraging or discouraging EAM’s ambitions, as Greece belonged to the British sphere of influence. Pravda didn’t mention the clashes at all. If this position of the Soviet leadership had been brought home to KKE’s leadership, the Dekemvriana might have been averted. It seems that Stalin didn’t have the intention to avert the Dekemvriana, as he would profit no matter the outcome. If EAM rose to power, he would gain a country of major strategic value. If not, he could use the British actions in Greece to justify to the Allies any intervention in his own sphere of influence.

The aftermath of street fighting in Athens, December 1944.

By early January ELAS had been driven from Athens. As a result of Churchill's intervention, Papandreou resigned and was replaced by a firm anti-Communist, General Nikolaos Plastiras. On January 15 1945 Scobie agreed to a ceasefire, in exchange for ELAS's withdrawal from its positions at Patras and Thessaloniki and its demobilisation in the Peloponnese. This was a severe defeat, but ELAS remained in existence and the KKE had an opportunity to reconsider its strategy.

KKE's defeat in 1945 was mainly political. The exaltation of terrorism on the communist side made a political settlement even more difficult. The hunting of "collaborators" was extended to people who had not been involved in collaboration. The KKE made many enemies by summarily executing up to 8,000 people for various political "crimes", during their period of control of Athens, and they took another 20,000 hostages with them when they departed. Several Trotskyists had to leave the country to save their lives (i.e. Cornelius Castoriadis fled to France). After the Athens fighting, KKE support declined sharply, and as a result most of the prominent non-Communists in EAM left the organisation. But terrorism among the right-wing extremist gangs was strengthened.

[edit] Interlude: 1945-1946

In February 1945 the various Greek parties came to the Varkiza pact, with the support of all the Allies. This provided for the complete demobilisation of ELAS and all other paramilitary groups, an amnesty for only political offences, a referendum on the monarchy, and a general election as soon as possible. The KKE remained legal, and its leader Nikolaos Zachariadis, who returned from Germany in April 1945, said that the KKE's objective was now a "people's democracy" to be achieved by peaceful means. There were dissenters, of course, like former ELAS leader Aris Velouchiotis. The KKE renounced Velouchiotis when he called on the veteran guerrillas to start a second struggle: shortly afterwards, he was killed by the security forces.

The Varkiza pact transformed the KKE's political defeat into a military one. ELAS's existence was terminated. At the same time the National Army and the right-wing extremists were free to continue their war against the ex-members of EAM. The amnesty was not comprehensive, because many actions during the German occupation were classed as criminal and so excepted from the amnesty. Thus, the authorities captured approximately 40,000 communists or ex-ELAS members. As a result, a number of veteran partisans hid their weapons in the mountains and 5,000 of them escaped to Yugoslavia, although the KKE leadership did not encourage this.

During 1945-1946, right-wing gangs killed about 1,190 pro-communist civilians, and tortured many others. Entire villages that helped the partisans were attacked by those right-wing gangs. According to the right-wing citizens, these gangs were retaliating for what they had suffered during the reign of ELAS. This so-called by the communists "White Terrorism" wave led many of persecuted ex-ELAS members to form self-defense troops, without any KKE approval.

KKE soon reversed its former political position, as relations between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies deteriorated. With the onset of the Cold War, Communist parties everywhere moved to more militant positions. This change of political attitude, the choice to escalate the crisis was primarily deriving from the persuasion that the regime subversion, that hadn’t succeeded in December 1944, could now be achieved.

George Papandreou in July, 1945, informed the government that the dissolution of the Comintern was a fraud. Although Stalin still did not support a resumed armed struggle in Greece, showing his respect for Moscow agreement, the KKE leadership in February 1946 decided, "after weighing the domestic factors, and the Balkan and international situation," to go ahead with the, "organisation of a new armed struggle against the Monarcho-Fascist regime." The KKE boycotted the March 1946 elections, which were won by the monarchist United Patriotic Party (Inomeni Parataxis Ethnikofronon), the main member of which was the People's Party (Laiko Komma) ( Λαϊκό Κόμμα) of Konstantinos Tsaldaris. In September a referendum decided to retain the monarchy, although KKE disputed the results, and King George returned to Athens.

The King's return in Greece reinforced the British influence in Greece. According to Nigel Clive's (a liaison officer to the Greek Government and, later, a MI6 head of Athens station) view : 'Greece was a kind of British protectorate, but the British ambassador was not a colonial governor'. Whether this is true or not, it is a fact that 6 Prime Ministers changed within just 2 years, an indication of instability, that would characterize the country's political life for the next years.

[edit] Civil War: 1946-1949

[edit] The crest: 1946-1948

Fighting resumed in March 1946, as a gang of 30 ex-ELAS members, most of whom were persecuted, attacked a police station in village Litohoro. Next day, the official KKE paper’s coversheet stated that “The authorities and the gangs fabricate alleged communist attacks”. Contemporaneously, armed bands of ELAS veterans infiltrated into Greece through the mountainous regions near the Yugoslav and Albanian borders. They now were organized as the Democratic Army of Greece (Dimokratikos Stratos Elladas, DSE), under the command of the ELAS veteran Markos Vafiadis (known as "General Markos"), who operated from a base in Yugoslavia, sent from KKE to organize already existing troops.

Both the Yugoslav and Albanian Communist regimes, which had come to power through their own efforts and were not Soviet puppets, supported the KKE fighters, but the Soviet Union remained ambivalent. It was not part of Stalin's strategy to conduct a war against the Western Allies in Greece, and the Soviets gave little direct support to the KKE campaign. Certain historians believe that Stalin's only object in Greece was to test the determination of the western allies.

By late 1946 DSE could deploy about 10,000 partisans in various areas of Greece, mainly in the northern mountains. According to the DSE, its fighters, "resisted the reign of terror that the right-wing gangs conducted all over Greece".

The average citizen and mainly peasant was caught in the crossfire. When the DSE partizans were entering a village asking for supplies, the citizens could not resist. And when the national army was coming to the village the same citizens who had given supplies to the partizans, at gun point, were characterized as communist sympathizers and suffered the consequences (usually imprisonment or exile).

The Greek Army now numbered about 90,000 men, and gradually was being put on a more professional basis. The task of re-equipping and training the Army had been carried out by its fellow Western Allies. But by early 1947 Britain, which had spent 85 million pounds in Greece since 1944, no longer could afford this burden. President Harry S. Truman announced that the United States would step in to support the government of Greece against Communist pressure. This began a long and troubled relationship between Greece and the United States. For several decades the American Ambassador advised the King about important issues such as the appointment of the Prime Minister.

Through 1947 the scale of fighting increased. DSE launched large-scale attacks on towns across northern Epirus, Thessaly and Macedonia, provoking the Army into massive counter-offensives, which then encountered no opposition as the DSE melted back into the mountains and into its safe havens over the northern borders. Army morale remained low, and it would be some time before the support of the United States became apparent.

In September 1947, however, KKE’s leadership decided to move from these guerilla tactics to full-scale conventional war, despite the opposition of Vafiadis. In December the KKE announced the formation of a Provisional Democratic Government, with Vafiadis as Prime Minister. This led the Athens government to finally ban KKE. No foreign government recognised this government. The new strategy led the DSE into costly attempts to seize a major town to be the seat of its government. In December 1947 1,200 DSE men were killed at a set-piece battle around Konitsa. However, this strategy forced the government to increase the size of the Army. Controlling the main cities, the government cracked down on KKE members and sympathizers, many of whom were imprisoned on the island of Makronisos.

Despite setbacks such as the fighting at Konitsa, during 1948 the DSE reached the height of its power, extending its operations to the Peloponnessus and even to Attica, within 20 km of Athens. It had at least 20,000 fighters, and a network of sympathizers and informants in every village and every suburb. It has been estimated that out of DSE's 20,000 fighters, 14,000 were of Slavic Macedonian origin. Given their important role, KKE changed its policy on Greek Macedonia. At the fifth Plenum on January 31 1949, a resolution was passed claiming that Macedonian people are distinguishing themselves, and after KKE's victory they would find their national restoration as they wish.

Western Allied funds, advisers and equipment now were flooding into the country, and under Western Allied guidance a series of major offensives were launched in the mountains of central Greece. Although these offensives did not achieve all their objectives, they inflicted some serious defeats on the DSE. Army morale rose, and the morale of the DSE fighters, many of whom had been "conscripted" at gunpoint, fell correspondingly.

[edit] The end of the war: 1949

The fatal blow to KKE and the DSE, however, was political, not military. In June of that year, the Soviet Union and its satellites broke off relations with President Tito of Yugoslavia, who had been the KKE's strongest supporter since 1944. The KKE thus had to choose between their loyalty to Stalin and their relations with their closest and most important ally. Inevitably, after some internal conflict the great majority of them, led by Zachariadis, chose Stalin. In January 1949 Vafiadis was accused of "Titoism" and removed from his political and military positions, being replaced by Zachariadis.

After a year of increasing acrimony, Tito closed down the Yugoslavian border to the guerrillas of DSE in July of 1949 and disbanded their camps inside Yugoslavia. The DSE still could operate from Albania, but to the DSE that was a poor alternative. The split with Tito also set off a witch-hunt for "Tito-ites" inside the Greek Communist Party, leading to disorganisation and demoralisation within the ranks of the DSE and decline of support of the KKE in urban areas.

At the same time, the National Army found a talented commander in General Alexander Papagos. In August of 1949, Papagos launched a major counter-offensive against DSE forces in northern Greece, code-named "Operation Torch". The plan was a major victory for the National Army and resulted in heavy losses for the DSE. DSE army was no longer able to sustain resistance in a set-piece battle. By September of 1949, most of its fighters had surrendered or escaped over the border into Albania. By the end of the month, the Albanian government, presumably with Soviet approval, announced to KKE that it would no longer allow the DSE to perform military operations from within Albanian territory. On October 16, Zachariadis announced a "temporary cease-fire to prevent the complete annihilation of Greece." That treaty marked the end of the Greek Civil War.

The Western Allies saw the end of the Greek Civil War, as a victory in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. The paradox was that the Soviets never actively supported the Communist Party's efforts to seize power in Greece. The KKE's major supporter and supplier had always been Tito, and it was the rift between Tito and the KKE which marked the real demise of the party's efforts to assert power.

[edit] Post-war division and reconciliation

The Civil War left Greece in ruins, and in even greater economic distress than it had been after the end of the German occupation. Additionally, it divided the Greek people for the following decades, with both sides vilifying their opponents. Thousands of Greeks languished in prison for many years or were sent in exile in the islands of Yaros or Makronisos. Many thousands more took refuge in communist countries, or emigrated to Australia, Germany, the USA, and other countries. Ten thousand underaged children were abducted by communist fighters across the border, and forcibly relocated to Eastern Bloc countries [1]. The polarisation and instability in the 1960s of Greek politics was a direct result of feelings and ideologies lingering from the Civil War.

Right-wing extremist organisations played a role in the politics of the time by instigating conflict and tension, leading to the murder of the left-wing politician Gregoris Lambrakis in 1963. On April 21, 1967, a group of right-wing Army officers succeeded in performing a coup d'état and seizing power from the government, using as an excuse the political instability and tension of the time. The leader of the coup, George Papadopoulos, was a member of the extra-military organization IDEA (Ιερός Σύνδεσμος Ελλήνων Αξιωματικών - or Sacred Bond of Greek Officers).

Before the Junta was in power, officers belonging to the ASPIDA group, a left-wing organization of anti-royalist officers, were accused of planning an attempt to take power through a coup. The attempt never took place, and the officers were court martialed for "treason against the Greek state", and "following a known communist". They allegedly were followers of leftist Andreas Papandreou, son of former prime minister of Greece George Papandreou, who had led the Center Union political party.

After the fall of the military junta, in 1974, a conservative centre-right wing government under Constantine Karamanlis legalised the KKE and quickly established a constitution which guaranteed political freedoms, individual rights, and free elections. In 1981 the center-left-wing government of PASOK, which was elected with a substantial majority, allowed DSE fighters who had taken refuge in Communist countries to come back to Greece and reestablish to their former estates. However, this law excluded a large number of DSE fighters who described themselves as "ethnic Macedonians" and were still forbidden from entering Greece. PASOK claimed that this law diminished the consequences of the civil war in Greek society. Moreover, PASOK government offered state pension to former guerrillas and Markos Vafiadis was honorarily elected as member of the Greek parliament under PASOK's flag. Nonetheless, the same party repeatedly has come under fire for allegedly inflaming civil-war era passions, with divisive rhetoric used for its own political gain.

[edit] References


[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

  • W. Byford-Jones, The Greek Trilogy: Resistance-Liberation-Revolution, London 1945
  • R. Capell, Simiomata: A Greek Note Book 1944-45, London 1946
  • W. S. Churchill, The Second World War
  • Dominique Eude, Les Kapetanios (in French and Greek). Artheme Fayard 1970
  • N.G.L. Hammond Venture into Greece: With the Guerillas, 1943-44, London, 1983. (Like Woodhouse, he was a member of the British Military Mission)
  • Cordell Hull, The Memoirs of Cordell Hull, New York 1948.
  • D. G. Kousoulas, Revolution and Defeat: The Story of the Greek Communist Party, London 1965
  • S.N. Kalyvas, The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge: 2006.
  • Reginald Leeper, When Greek Meets Greek: On the War in Greece, 1943-1945
  • E. C. W. Myers, Greek Entanglement, London 1955
  • Elias Petropoulos, Corpses, corpses, corpses (ISBN 960-211-081-3)
  • C. M. Woodhouse, Apple of Discord: A Survey of Recent Greek Politics in their International Setting, London 1948 (Woodhouse was a member of the British Military Mission to Greece during the war)
  • Clive, Nigel, A Greek experience 1943-1948, ed. Michael Russell, Great Britain 1985. (ISBN 0-85955-119-9)
  • After the war was over Princeton University press 2000 introduction by Mark Mazower.
  • The Greek civil war 1943,1950 studies of polarization. 1993 Routledge.

The following are available only in Greek:

  • Γιώργος Μαργαρίτης, Ιστορία του Ελληνικού εμφύλιου πολέμου 1946-1949 Εκδ. "Βιβλιόραμα", Αθήνα 2001
  • Αλέξανδος Ζαούσης, Οι δύο όχθες. Athens
  • Αλέξανδος Ζαούσης, Η τραγική αναμέτρηση Athens 1992
  • Γεώργιος Μόδης, Αναμνήσεις. Thessaloniki 2004 (ISBN 960-8396-05-0)
  • Ευάγγελος Αβέρωφ, Φωτιά και τσεκούρι. Written by ex-New Democracy leader Evaggelos Averof — initially in French (ISBN 960-05-0208-0)
  • Νίκος Μαραντζίδης, Γιασασίν Μιλλέτ (ISBN 960-524-131-5)
  • Σπύρος Μαρκεζίνης, Σύγχρονη πολιτική ιστορία της Ελλάδος. Athens 1994
  • H αθέατη πλευρά του εμφυλίου written by an ex-ELAS fighter. (ISBN 960-426-187-8)

[edit] External links

de:Griechischer Bürgerkrieg

el:Ελληνικός Εμφύλιος Πόλεμος es:Guerra Civil Griega fr:Guerre civile grecque he:מלחמת האזרחים ביוון nl:Griekse burgeroorlog ja:ギリシャ内戦 ru:Гражданская война в Греции sk:Grécka občianska vojna sr:Грчки грађански рат fi:Kreikan sisällissota zh:希腊内战

Greek Civil War

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