Greek Civil War
|Greek Civil War|
|Part of the Cold War|
Kingdom of Greece
United States (after 1947)
Provisional Democratic Government
|Commanders and leaders|
James Van Fleet
|Max. 232,500 all arms||
Max. 26,000 men and women (mid-1948)
Total: c.100,000 men and women served, of whom:
130–150 Cham Albanians
|Casualties and losses|
Hellenic Army, Navy and Air Force, from August 16, 1945 to December 22, 1951:
865 deserters Hellenic Gendarmerie, from December 1, 1944 to December 27, 1951:
Hellenic Army claim: 38,839 killed
Total: 158,000 killed
1,000,000 people were relocated temporarily during the war
The Greek Civil War (Greek: ο Eμφύλιος [Πόλεμος], "the Civil War") was fought from 1946–49 between the Greek government army—backed by Great Britain and the United States—and the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE), the military branch of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), backed by Yugoslavia and Albania as well as the Soviet Union and Bulgaria. The result was defeat of the Communist insurgents by the government forces. Founded by the Communist Party of Greece and funded by Communist nations such as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, many of the insurgents operating within the Democratic Army of Greece were partisans who had fought against German and Italian occupation forces during the Second World War. The civil war was the result of a highly polarized struggle between left and right that started in 1943 and targeted the power vacuum that the end of German-Italian occupation during World War II had created. It was one of the first conflicts of the Cold War, and represents the first example of postwar involvement in the internal politics of a foreign country. Greece in the end was funded by the U.S. through the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan and joined NATO, while the insurgents were demoralized by the bitter split between the USSR's Stalin (who wanted the war ended) and Yugoslavia's Tito (who wanted it to continue).
The first signs of the civil war occurred in 1942–44, during the Occupation. With the Greek government in exile unable to influence the situation at home, various resistance groups of differing political affiliations emerged, the dominant ones being the leftist National Liberation Front (EAM), and its military branch Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS), which were effectively controlled by the KKE. Starting in autumn 1943, friction among EAM and the other resistance groups resulted in scattered clashes, which continued until the spring of 1944 when an agreement was reached forming a national unity government that included six EAM-affiliated ministers.
The prelude of the civil war took place in Athens, on December 3, 1944, less than 2 months after Germans had retreated. A bloody battle (the "Dekemvrianá") erupted after Greek government gendarmes, with British forces standing in the background, opened fire on a massive unarmed pro-EAM rally, killing 28 demonstrators and injuring dozens. The rally had been organized against the impunity of the White Terror was unleashed against EAM-KKE supporters, further escalating the tensions between the dominant factions of the nation.
The war erupted in 1946 when forces of former ELAS partisans that found shelter in their hideouts and were controlled by the KKE organized the DSE and its High Command headquarters. KKE backed up the endeavor, deciding that there were no more political means to use against the internationally recognized government that had been formed after the 1946 elections, which the KKE had boycotted. The Communists formed a provisional government and used DSE as the military branch of this government. The neighboring communist states of Albania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria offered logistical support to the Provisional Government, especially to the forces operating in the north.
Despite setbacks suffered by government forces from 1946–48, increased American aid, the failure of the DSE to attract sufficient recruits and the side effects of the Tito–Stalin split eventually led to victory for the government troops. The final victory of the western-allied government forces led to Greece's membership in NATO and helped to define the ideological balance of power in the Aegean Sea for the entire Cold War. The civil war also left Greece with a vehemently anti-Communist security establishment, which would lead to the establishment of the Greek military junta of 1967–74 and a legacy of political polarization that lasted until the 1980s.
Background: 1941–44 1
- Guerrilla control over rural areas 1.1.1
- First conflicts: 1942–1944 1.2
- Egypt "mutiny" and the Lebanon conference 1.3
- Origins 1.1
Confrontation: 1944 2
- From the Lebanon conference to the outbreak 2.1
The Dekemvrianá events 2.2
- Churchill in Athens 2.2.1
- Interlude: 1945–1946 3
Civil War: 1946–1949 4
Crest: 1946–1948 4.1
- Conventional warfare 4.1.1
- Communist evacuation of the children and the Queen's Camps 4.2
- End of the war: 1949 4.3
- Crest: 1946–1948 4.1
- Post-war division and reconciliation 5
- List of abbreviations 6
- See also 7
- Notes 8
- Surveys 9.1
- British role 9.2
- Historiography 9.3
- Primary sources 9.4
- Greek sources 9.5
- Other languages 9.6
- External links 10
Part of a series on the
The origins of the civil war lie in the divisions created during World War II over which side to support, and in the occupation of Greece by George II of Greece) to appoint a moderate cabinet.
As a result, only two of his ministers were previous members of the 4th of August Regime under Gen. Ioannis Metaxas, which had seized power in a coup d'état with the blessing of the king and governed the country since August 1936. Nevertheless, the exiled government's inability to influence affairs inside Greece rendered it irrelevant in the minds of most Greek people. At the same time, the Germans set up a collaborationist government in Athens, which lacked legitimacy and support. The puppet regime was further undermined when economic mismanagement in wartime conditions created runaway inflation, acute food shortages and famine among the civilian population.
The power vacuum that the occupation created was filled by several resistance movements that ranged from pro-Royalist to Communist ideologies. Resistance was born first in eastern Macedonia and Thrace, where Bulgarian troops occupied Greek territory. Soon large demonstrations were organized in many cities by the National Liberation Front (EAM), founded on 27 September 1941 by representatives of four left-wing parties. Proclaiming that it followed the Soviet policy of creating a broad united front against fascism, EAM won the support of many non-communist patriots.
These resistance groups launched attacks against the occupying powers and set up large espionage networks. The communist leaders of EAM, however, had planned to dominate in post-war Greece, so—usually by force—they tried to take over or destroy the other Greek resistance groups (such as the destruction of National and Social Liberation (EKKA) and the murder of its leader, Dimitrios Psarros by ELAS partisans) and using a kind of "Red Terror", mainly in mountainous Greece. When liberation came in October 1944, Greece was in a state of crisis, which soon led to the outbreak of civil war.
Although controlled by the KKE, the organization had a modest democratic republican rhetoric. Its military wing, the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS) was founded in February 1942. Aris Velouchiotis, a member of KKE's Central Committee, was nominated Chief (Kapetanios) of the ELAS High Command. The military chief, Stefanos Sarafis, was a colonel in the pre-war Greek army who had been dismissed during the Metaxas regime due to his democratic views. The political chief of EAM was Vasilis Samariniotis (nom de guerre of Andreas Tzimas).
The National Liberation Front (NOF), comprised mostly by Slavic Macedonians in the Florina region. They would later play a critical role in the civil war. The two other large resistance movements were the National Republican Greek League (EDES), led by republican former army officer Col. Napoleon Zervas, and the social-liberal EKKA, led by Col. Dimitrios Psarros.
Guerrilla control over rural areas
The Greek landscape was favourable to guerrilla operations, and by 1943 the Axis forces and their collaborators were in control only of the main towns and connecting roads, leaving the mountainous countryside to the resistance. EAM-ELAS in particular controlled most of the country's mountainous interior, while EDES was limited to Epirus and EKKA to eastern Central Greece. By early 1944 ELAS could call on nearly 25,000 men under arms, with another 80,000 working as reserves or logistical support, EDES roughly 10,000 men, and EKKA under 10,000 men.
To combat the rising influence of the EAM, and fearful of an eventual takeover after the German defeat, in 1943, Ioannis Rallis, the Prime Minister of the collaborationist government, authorized the creation of paramilitary forces, known as the Security Battalions. Numbering 20,000 at their peak in 1944, composed mostly of local fascists, convicts, sympathetic prisoners of war and forcibly impressed conscripts, they operated under German command in anti-partisan operations, and soon achieved a reputation for brutality.
EAM-ELAS, EDES and EKKA were mutually suspicious and tensions were exacerbated as the end of the war became nearer and the question of the country's political future arose. The role of the British military mission in these events proved decisive. EAM was by far the largest and most active group, but was determined to achieve its own political goal to dominate postwar Greece, and its actions were not always directed against the Axis powers. Consequently, British material support was directed mostly to the more reliable Zervas, who by 1943 had reversed his earlier anti-monarchist stance.
First conflicts: 1942–1944
The Western allies at first provided all resistance organizations with funds and equipment. However, they gave special preference to ELAS, which they saw as the most reliable partner and a formidable fighting force that would be able to create more problems for the Axis than other resistance movements. As the end of the war approached, the British Foreign Office, fearing a possible Communist upsurge, observed with displeasure the transformation of ELAS into a large-scale conventional army more and more out of Allied control.
After the September 8, 1943, Armistice with Italy, ELAS seized control of Italian garrison weapons in the country. In response, the Western allies began to favor rival anti-Communist resistance groups. They provided them with ammunition, supplies and logistical support as a way of balancing ELAS’ increasing influence. In time, the flow of weapons and funds to ELAS stopped altogether, and rival EDES received the bulk of the Allied support.
In mid-1943 the animosity between EAM-ELAS and the other movements erupted into armed conflict. The Communists and EAM accused EDES of being traitors and collaborators, and vice-versa. Other smaller groups, such as EKKA, continued the anti-occupation fight with sabotage and other actions. They declined to join the ranks of ELAS, and were systematically murdered by the Communists. While some organizations did accept assistance from the Nazis in their operations against EAM-ELAS, the great majority of the population refused any form of cooperation with the occupation authorities.
By early 1944, after a British-negotiated ceasefire (the Plaka Agreement), EAM-ELAS had destroyed EKKA and confined EDES to a small part of Epirus, where it could only play a marginal role in the rest of the war. Their political network (EAM) had reached about 500,000 citizens around the country. By 1944 ELAS had the numerical advantage in armed fighters, having more than 50,000 men in arms and an extra 500,000 working as reserves or logistical support personnel (Efedrikos ELAS). In contrast, EDES had around 10,000 fighters and EKKA around 10,000 men.
After the declaration of the formation of the Security Battalions, KKE and EAM implemented a preemptive policy of terror, mainly in the Peloponnese countryside areas close to garrisoned German units, to ensure civilian allegiance. As the Communist position strengthened, so did the numbers of the "Security Battalions", with both sides engaged in skirmishes. The ELAS units were accused of what became known as the Meligalas massacre. Meligalas was the headquarters of a local Security Battalion Unit that was given control of the wider area of Messenia by the Nazis. After a battle there between ELAS and the Security Battalions, ELAS forces prevailed and the remaining forces of the collaborators were taken into custody.
After the civil war ended, postwar governments declared that a thousand members of the collaborationist units were massacred along with civilians by the Communists; however, that number was not matched by the actual numbers of bodies found in the mass grave (an old well in the area) of executed Security Battalion and civilian prisoners. According to left-wing sources, civilian bodies found there could have been victims of the Security Battalions. As Security Battalions were replacing occupation forces in territories the Germans could not enter, they were accused of many instances of brutality against civilians and captured partisans, and of the executions of prominent EAM and KKE members by hanging.
In addition, recruiting by both sides was controversial, as the case of Stefanos Sarafis indicates. The soon-to-be military leader of ELAS sought to join the non-Communist resistance group commanded by Kostopoulos in Thessaly, along with other former officers. On their way, they were captured by an ELAS group, with Sarafis agreeing to join ELAS at gunpoint when all other officers who refused were killed. Sarafis never admitted this incident, and in his book on ELAS makes special reference to the letter he sent all officers of the former Greek army to join the ranks of EAM-ELAS. Again, numbers favored the EAM organization; nearly 800 officers of the pre-war Greek army joined the ranks of ELAS with the position of military leader and Kapetanios.
Egypt "mutiny" and the Lebanon conference
In March 1944, 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, "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 of Communists and non-Communist progressives.
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 of them well-disposed towards EAM, demanded that a Government of National Unity be established, based on PEEA principles, to replace the government-in-exile as it had no political or other link with the occupied home country. The movement caused problems and anger to the British and Americans and was suppressed by British forces and Greek troops loyal to the exiled government.
Approximately 5,000 Greek soldiers and officers were sent into prison camps in Libya, Sudan, Egypt and South Africa. After the mutiny the economic help from the Allies to the National Liberation Front almost stopped. Later on, through political screening of the officers, the Cairo government created the III Greek Mountain Brigade, composed of staunchly anti-communist personnel, under the command of Brigadier Thrasyvoulos Tsakalotos.
In May 1944 representatives from all political parties and resistance groups came together at a conference in conference ended with an agreement (the National Contract) for a government of national unity consisting of 24 ministers (6 of whom were EAM members). The agreement was made possible by Soviet directives to KKE to avoid harming Allied unity, but did not resolve the problem of disarmament of resistance groups.
By 1944 EDES and ELAS each saw the other to be their great enemy. They both saw the Germans were going to be defeated and were a temporary threat. For the Left, the British represented their major problem, and for the rest of the Greeks, the British were their major hope.
From the Lebanon conference to the outbreak
By the summer of 1944 it was obvious that the Germans would soon withdraw from Greece, as Soviet forces were advancing into Romania and towards Yugoslavia, with the retreated Germans at risk of being cut off. In September, Gen. Caserta Agreement of September 1944, all resistance forces in Greece were placed under the command of a British officer, Gen. Ronald Scobie.
The Western allies arrived in Greece in October, by which time the Germans were in full retreat and most of Greece's territory had already been liberated by Greek partisans. On October 13 British troops entered Athens, the only area still occupied by the Germans, and Papandreou and his ministers followed six 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. With the German withdrawal, ELAS units had taken control of the countryside and of most cities. However, they did not take full control because the KKE leadership was instructed by the Soviet Union not to precipitate a crisis that could jeopardize Allied unity and put Joseph Stalin's larger postwar objectives at risk. KKE’s leadership knew this, but ELAS' fighters and rank-and-file Communists did not, which became a source of conflict within both 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 them. Tzimas was in touch with Yugoslav Communist leader Josip Broz Tito, and he disagreed with ELAS' cooperation 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 British ambassador Reginald Leeper, Papandreou demanded the disarmament of all armed forces apart from the Sacred Band and the III Mountain Brigade, which were formed following 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 defenseless against right-wing militias, submitted an alternative plan of total and simultaneous disarmament. Papandreou rejected this plan, causing EAM ministers to resign from the government on December 2. On December 1 Scobie issued a proclamation calling for the dissolution of ELAS. Command of ELAS was KKE's greatest source of strength, and KKE leader Siantos decided that the demand for ELAS' dissolution must be resisted.
Tito's influence may have played some role in ELAS' resistance to disarmament. Tito was outwardly loyal to Stalin but had come to power through his own means 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, in accordance with the Organization X members had set up outposts in central Athens and resisted EAM for several days, until British troops arrived, as their leader had been promised.
The Dekemvrianá events
According to the Gen. Scobie (British head of the Allied forces in Greece at that time) announced an ultimatum for the general disarmament of all guerrilla forces by 10 December, excluding the tactical forces (the 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade and the Sacred Squadron); and also a part of EDES and ELAS that would be used, if it was necessary, in Allied operations in Crete and Dodecanese against the remaining German army. As a result, on December 2 six ministers of the EAM, most of whom were KKE members, resigned from their positions in the "National Unity" government. The EAM called for a general strike and announced the reorganization of the Central Committee of ELAS, its military wing. A demonstration, which was forbidden by the government, was organized by EAM on December 3.
The demonstration involved at least 200,000 people marching on Panepistimiou Street towards the Syntagma Square. British tanks along with police units had been scattered around the area, blocking the way of the demonstrators. The shootings began when the marchers had arrived at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, above the Syntagma Square. They originated from the building of the General Police Headquarters, from the Parliament (Βουλή), from the Hotel Grande Bretagne (where international observers had settled), from other governmental buildings and from policemen on the street.
Among many testimonies, N. Farmakis, a member of the Organization X participating in the shootings, described that he heard the head of the police Angelos Evert giving the order to open fire on the crowd. Although there are no accounts hinting that the crowd indeed possessed guns, the British commander Woodhouse insisted that it was uncertain whether the first shots were fired by the police or the demonstrators. More than 28 demonstrators were killed, and 148 were injured. This signaled the beginning of the "Dekemvrianá" (Greek: Δεκεμβριανά, "the December events"), a 37-day period of full-scale fighting in Athens between EAM fighters and smaller parts of ELAS, and the forces of the British army and the government.
At the beginning the government had only a few policemen and gendarmes, some militia units, the
On December 4 Papandreou gave his resignation to the British Commander, Gen. Scobie, who rejected it. By December 12 ΕΑΜ was in control of most of Athens and Piraeus. The British, outnumbered, flew in the 4th Indian Infantry Division from Italy as emergency reinforcements. Although the British were openly fighting against EAM in Athens, there were no such battles in the rest of Greece. In certain cases, such as Volos, some RAF units even surrendered equipment to ELAS fighters. However, the units of ELAS in Central Greece and Epirus attacked Zervas' units of EDES forcing them to flee to the Ionian islands.
Conflicts continued throughout December with the forces confronting EAM slowly gaining the upper hand. ELAS forces in the rest of Greece did not attack the British. It seems that ELAS preferred to avoid an armed confrontation with the British forces initially and later tried to reduce the conflict as much as possible, although poor communication between its very independent units around the country might also have played a role. This might explain the simultaneous struggle against the British, the large-scale ELAS operations against IDEA ("Sacred Bond of Greek Officers"), and the subsequent military regime (later referred to as the Regime of the Colonels) lasted until 1974.
After the collapse of the military junta, a conservative government under Constantine Karamanlis led to the abolition of monarchy, the legalization of the KKE and a new constitution, which guaranteed political freedoms, individual rights and free elections. In 1981, in a major turning point in Greek history, the centre-left government of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) allowed a number of DSE veterans who had taken refuge in communist countries to return to Greece and reestablish their former estates ; this greatly helped to diminish the consequences of the Civil War in Greek society. The PASOK administration also offered state pensions to former partisans of the anti-Nazi resistance; Markos Vafiadis was honorarily elected as member of the Greek Parliament under PASOK's flag.
In 1989, the coalition government between Nea Dimokratia and the Coalition of Left and Progress (SYNASPISMOS) – in which the KKE was for a period the major force – suggested a law that was passed unanimously by the Greek Parliament, formally recognizing the 1946–1949 war as a civil war and not merely as a communist insurgency ("Συμμοριτοπόλεμος") ( Ν. 1863/89 (ΦΕΚ 204Α΄) ). Under the terms of this law, the war of 1946–1949 was recognized as a Greek Civil War between the National Army and the Democratic Army of Greece, for the first time in Greek postwar history. Under the aforementioned law, the term "communist bandits" (Κομμουνιστοσυμμορίτες, ΚΣ), wherever it had occurred in Greek law, was replaced by the term "Fighters of the DSE".
In a 2008 Gallup poll, Greeks were asked "whether it was better that the right wing won the Civil War". 43% responded that it was better for Greece that the right wing won, 13% responded that it would have been better if the left had won, 20% responded "neither" and 24% did not respond. When asked "which side they would have supported had they lived in that era", 39% responded "neither side", 14% responded "the right wing", 23% "the left wing" ; while 24% did not respond.
List of abbreviations
|DSE||Δημοκρατικός Στρατός Ελλάδας||Democratic Army of Greece|
|EAM||Εθνικό Απελευθερωτικό Μέτωπο||National Liberation Front|
|EDES||Εθνικός Δημοκρατικός Ελληνικός Σύνδεσμος||National Republican Greek League|
|EKKA||Εθνική και Κοινωνική Απελευθέρωσις||National and Social Liberation|
|ELAN||Ελληνικό Λαϊκό Απελευθερωτικό Ναυτικό||Greek People's Liberation Navy|
|ELAS||Ελληνικός Λαϊκός Απελευθερωτικός Στρατός||Greek People's Liberation Army|
|KKE||Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας||Communist Party of Greece|
|NATO||North Atlantic Treaty Organization|
|Nazi||National-Socialist; National Socialist German Workers' Party|
|NOF||Народно Ослободителен Фронт||National Liberation Front (Macedonia)|
|OPLA||Οργάνωση Προστασίας Λαϊκού Αγώνα||Panhellenic Socialist Movement|
|PEEA||Πολιτική Επιτροπή Εθνικής Απελευθέρωσης||Political Committee of National Liberation|
|USSR||Union of Soviet Socialist Republics|
|YVE||Υπερασπισταί Βορείου Ελλάδος||Defenders of Northern Greece|
- Air operations during the Greek Civil War
- Eleni (film)
- Nikos Belogiannis
- Nikos Ploumpidis
- Proxy war
- The Travelling Players
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- KKE Official documents, vol 8
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- Ods Home Page
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- Djilas, Milovan: Conversations with Stalin, pp 181–182, (1990), first edition: 1962,
- Article 1 of the Law 1863/1989
- "60 χρόνια μετά, ο Εμφύλιος διχάζει | Ελλάδα | Η ΚΑΘΗΜΕΡΙΝΗ". News.kathimerini.gr. 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2014-02-28.
- A. Mando Dalianis-Karambatzakis, Children in Turmoil during the Greek civil war 1946-49: today's adults : a longitudinal study on children confined with their mothers in prison, PhD-thesis, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, 1994, ISBN 91-628-1281-5.
- Lars Bærentzen, John O. Iatrides, Ole Langwitz Smith, Studies in the history of the Greek Civil War, 1945–1949, 1987
- W. Byford-Jones, The Greek Trilogy: Resistance-Liberation-Revolution, London, 1945
- Philip Carabott, Thanasis D. Sfikas, The Greek Civil War, 2004
- Richard Clogg, Greece, 1940–1949: Occupation, Resistance, Civil War: a Documentary History, New York, 2003 (ISBN 0-333-52369-5)
- D. Close (ed.), The Greek civil war 1943–1950: Studies of Polarization, Routledge, 1993 (ISBN 0-415-02112-X)
- André Gerolymatos, Red Acropolis, Black Terror: The Greek Civil War and the Origins of Soviet-American Rivalry, 1943-1949 (2004).
- Christina J. M. Goulter, "The Greek Civil War: A National Army’s Counter-insurgency Triumph," Journal of Military History (July 2014) 78:3 pp: 1017-55.
- John Hondros, Occupation and resistance: the Greek agony, 1941-44 (Pella Publishing Company, 1983)
- Iatrides, John O. "Revolution or self-defense? Communist goals, strategy, and tactics in the Greek civil war." Journal of Cold War Studies (2005) 7#3 pp: 3-33.
- S.N. Kalyvas, The Logic of Violence in Civil War, Cambridge, 2006
- Georgios Karras, The Revolution that Failed. The story of the Greek Communist Party in the period 1941–49 M.A. Thesis, 1985 Dept. of Political Studies University of Manitoba Canada.
- D. G. Kousoulas, Revolution and Defeat: The Story of the Greek Communist Party, London, 1965
- M. Mazower (ed.) After the War was Over. Reconstructing the Family, Nation and State in Greece, 1943–1960 Princeton University Press, 2000 (ISBN 0-691-05842-3)
- E. C. W. Myers, Greek Entanglement, London, 1955
- Amikam Nachmani, International intervention in the Greek Civil War, 1990 (ISBN 0-275-93367-9)
- Marion Sarafis (editor), Greece – from resistance to civil war, Bertrand Russell House Leicester 1908 (ISBN 0-85124-290-1)
- Marion Sarafis &Martin Eve (editors), Background to contemporary Greece, vols 1 &2, Merlin Press London 1990 (ISBN 0-85036-393-4 and −394-2)
- Stefanos Sarafis, ELAS: Greek Resistance Army, Merlin Press London 1980 (Greek original 1946 & 1964)
- Geoffrey Chandler, The divided land: an Anglo-Greek tragedy, Michael Russell Norwich 1994 (ISBN 0-85955-215-2)
- Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War
- Nigel Clive, A Greek Experience: 1943-1948 (Michael Russell, 1985.)
- Goulter-Zervoudakis, Christina. "The politicization of intelligence: The British experience in Greece, 1941–1944." Intelligence and National Security (1998) 13#1 pp: 165-194.
- Iatrides, John O., and Nicholas X. Rizopoulos. "The International Dimension of the Greek Civil War." World Policy Journal (2000): 87-103. in JSTOR
- E.C.F. Myers, Greek entanglement (Sutton Publishing, Limited, 1985)
- Heinz Richter, British Intervention in Greece. From Varkiza to Civil War, London, 1985 (ISBN 0-85036-301-2)
- Lalaki, Despina. "On the Social Construction of Hellenism Cold War Narratives of Modernity, Development and Democracy for Greece." Journal of Historical Sociology (2012) 25#4 pp: 552-577.
- Marantzidis, Nikos, and Giorgos Antoniou. "The axis occupation and civil war: Changing trends in Greek historiography, 1941–2002." Journal of Peace Research (2004) 41#2 pp: 223-231.
- Nachmani, Amikam. "Civil War and Foreign Intervention in Greece: 1946-49." Journal of Contemporary History (1990): 489-522. in JSTOR
- Stergiou, Andreas. "Greece during the cold war." Southeast European and Black Sea Studies (2008) 8#1 pp: 67-73.
- Van Boeschoten, Riki. "The trauma of war rape: A comparative view on the Bosnian conflict and the Greek civil war." History and Anthropology (2003) 14#1 pp: 41-44.
- Kenneth Andrews, The flight of Ikaros, a journey into Greece, Weidenfeld & Nicholson London 1959 & 1969
- R. Capell, Simiomata: A Greek Note Book 1944–45, London, 1946
- Nigel Clive, A Greek experience 1943–1948, ed. Michael Russell, Wilton Wilts.: Russell, 1985 (ISBN 0-85955-119-9)
- 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
- Kenneth Matthews, Memories of a mountain war – Greece 1944–1949, Longmans London 1972 (ISBN 0-582-10380-0)
- 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)
- C. M. Woodhouse, The Struggle for Greece, 1941–1949
The following are available only in Greek:
- Ευάγγελος Αβέρωφ, Φωτιά και τσεκούρι. Written by ex-New Democracy leader Evangelos Averoff — initially in French. (ISBN 960-05-0208-0)
- Γενικόν Επιτελείον Στρατού, Διεύθυνσις Ηθικής Αγωγής, Η Μάχη του Έθνους, Ελεύθερη Σκέψις, Athens, 1985. Reprinted edition of the original, published in 1952 by the Hellenic Army General Staff.
- Γιώργος Δ. Γκαγκούλιας, H αθέατη πλευρά του εμφυλίου. Written by an ex-ELAS fighter. (ISBN 960-426-187-8)
- "Γράμμος Στα βήματα του Δημοκρατικού Στρατού Ελλάδας Ιστορικός – Ταξιδιωτικός οδηγός", "Σύγχρονη Εποχή" 2009 (ISBN 978-960-451-080-1)
- "Δοκίμιο Ιστορίας του ΚΚΕ", τόμος Ι. History of the Communist Party of Greece, issued by its Central Committee in 1999.
- Φίλιππος Ηλιού, Ο Ελληνικός Εμφύλιος Πόλεμος – η εμπλοκή του ΚΚΕ, (The Greek civil war – the involvement of the KKE, Themelion Athens 2004 ISBN 960-310-305-5)
- Δημήτριος Γ. Καλδής, Αναμνήσεις από τον Β’ Παγκοσμιο Πολεμο, (Memories of the Second World War, private publication Athina 2007)
- Αλέξανδος Ζαούσης, Οι δύο όχθες, Athens, 1992
- Αλέξανδος Ζαούσης, Η τραγική αναμέτρηση Athens, 1992
- Α. Καμαρινού, "Ο Εμφύλιος Πόλεμος στην Πελοπόνησσο", Brigadier General of DSE's III Division, 2002
- "ΚΚΕ, Επίσημα Κείμενα", τόμοι 6,7,8,9.The full collection of KKE's official documents of this era.
- Μιχάλης Λυμπεράτος, Στα πρόθυρα του Εμφυλίου πολέμου: Από τα Δεκεμβριανά στις εκλογές του 1946–1949, "Βιβλιόραμα", Athens, 2006
- Νίκος Μαραντζίδης, Γιασασίν Μιλλέτ (ISBN 960-524-131-5)
- Γιώργος Μαργαρίτης, Ιστορία του Ελληνικού εμφύλιου πολέμου 1946–1949, "Βιβλιόραμα", Athens, 2001
- Σπύρος Μαρκεζίνης, Σύγχρονη πολιτική ιστορία της Ελλάδος, Athens, 1994
- Γεώργιος Μόδης, Αναμνήσεις, Thessaloniki, 2004 (ISBN 960-8396-05-0)
- Γιώργου Μπαρτζώκα, "Δημοκρατικός Στρατός Ελλάδας", Secretary of the Communist organization of Athens of KKE in 1945, 1986.
- Μαντώ Νταλιάνη - Καραμπατζάκη, Παιδιά στη δίνη του ελληνικού εμφυλίου πολέμου 1946-1949, σημερινοί ενήλικες, Μουσείο Μπενάκη, 2009, ISBN 978-960-93-1710-8
- Περιοδικό "Δημοκρατικός Στράτος", Magazine first issued in 1948 and re-published as an album collection in 2007.
- Αθανάσιος Ρουσόπουλος, Διακήρυξης του επί κατοχής πρόεδρου της Εθνικής Αλληλεγγύης (Declaration during the Occupation by the chairman of National Solidarity Athanasios Roussopoulos, Athens, published Athens 11 July 1947)
- Στέφανου Σαράφη, "Ο ΕΛΑΣ",written by the military leader of ELAS, General Sarafi in 1954.
- Δημ. Σέρβου, "Που λες... στον Πειραιά", written by one of DSE fighters.
- Anon, Egina: Livre de sang, un requisitoire accablant des combattants de la résistance condamnés à mort, with translations by Paul Eluard, Editions "Grèce Libre" ca 1949
- Comité d'Aide à la Grèce Démocratique, Macronissos: le martyre du peuple grec, (translations by Calliope G. Caldis) Geneva 1950
- Dominique Eude, Les Kapetanios (in French, Greek and English), Artheme Fayard, 1970
- Hagen Fleischer, Im Kreuzschatten der Maechte Griechenland 1941–1944 Okkupation – Resistance – Kollaboration (2 vols., New York: Peter Lang, 1986), 819pp
- A full referenced history of DSE
- Greek Civil War Archive at marxists.org
- Andartikos – a short history of the Greek Resistance, 1941-5 on libcom.org/history
- Dangerous Citizens Online online version of Neni Panourgiá's Dangerous Citizens: The Greek Left and the Terror of the State ISBN 978-0-8232-2968-0
- Report from globalsecurity.org
- Απολογισμός των 'Δεκεμβριανών' (only in Greek) Εφημερίδα ΤΟ ΒΗΜΑ-Δεκέμβρης 1944:60 χρόνια μετά
- Battle of Grammos-Vitsi The decisive battle which ended the Greek Civil War
The polarization and instability of Greek politics in the mid-1960s was a direct result of the Civil War and the deep divide between the leftist and rightist sections of Greek society. A major crisis as a result was the murder of the left-wing politician Center Union political party and the country's prime minister at the time.
The Civil War left Greece in ruins, and in even greater economic distress than it had been following the end of German occupation. Additionally, it divided the Greek people for ensuing decades, with both sides vilifying their opponents. Thousands languished in prison for many years, or were sent into exile on the islands of Gyaros and Makronisos. Many others sought refuge in communist countries or emigrated to Australia, Germany, the USA, UK, Canada and elsewhere.
|Origins of the Cold War|
World War II
(Hiroshima and Nagasaki)
|Cold War (1947–53)|
|Cold War (1953–62)|
|Cold War (1962–79)|
|Cold War (1979–85)|
|Cold War (1985–91)|
Timeline · Conflicts
Post-war division and reconciliation
Greek right-wingers and Allied Western governments saw the end of the Greek Civil War as a victory in the Cold War against the Soviet Union; left-wingers countered that the Soviets never actively supported the Communist Party's efforts to seize power in Greece. Both sides had, at differing junctures, nevertheless looked to an external superpower for support.
Almost 100,000 ELAS fighters and Communist sympathizers, able to serve in DSE ranks, were imprisoned, exiled or, in some cases, executed. This deprived the DSE of the principal force able to support its fight. According to some historians, the KKE's major supporter and supplier had always been Tito, and it was the rift between Tito and the KKE that marked the real demise of the party's efforts to assert power.
These groups, numbering 1,000 fighters, left Greece by the end of September 1949, while the main body of the DSE, accompanied by its HQ, after discussion with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and other Socialist governments, was moved to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. They were to remain there, in military encampments, for three years. Other older combatants, alongside injured fighters, women and children, were relocated to European socialist states. On October 16, Nikolaos Zachariadis announced a "temporary ceasefire to prevent the complete annihilation of Greece"; the ceasefire marked the end of the Greek Civil War.
At the same time the National Army found a talented commander in Gen. Alexander Papagos, commander of the Greek army during the Greco-Italian War. In August 1949 Papagos launched a major counteroffensive against DSE forces in northern Greece, code-named "Operation Torch". The campaign was a victory for the National Army and resulted in heavy losses for the DSE. The DSE army was now no longer able to sustain resistance in set-piece battles. By September 1949 the main body of DSE Divisions defending Grammos and Vitsi, the two key positions in northern Greece for the DSE, had retreated to Albania, while two main groups remained within the borders, trying to reconnect with scattered DSE fighters largely in Central Greece.
In the summer of 1948 DSE Division III in the Peloponnese suffered a huge defeat; lacking ammunition support from DSE headquarters, and having failed to capture ammunition depots belonging to government forces at Zacharo in the western Peloponnese, its 20,000 fighters were doomed. The majority (including the commander of the Division, Vangelis Rogakos) were killed in battle with nearly 80,000 National Army troops under the command of Gen. Tsakalotos. The National Army's strategic plan, code-named "Peristera" (the Greek word for "dove") had proven successful. A number of other civilians were sent to prison camps as helpers of the Communists. The Peloponnese was now governed by paramilitary groups fighting alongside the National Army. In order to terrify urban areas assisting DSE's III Division, these forces decapitated a number of dead fighters and placed them in central squares. Following this defeat in southern Greece, the DSE continued to operate in northern Greece and some islands, but as a greatly weakened force facing significant obstacles both politically and militarily.
After a year of increasing acrimony, Tito closed the Yugoslav border to the DSE in July 1949, and disbanded its camps inside Yugoslavia. The DSE was still able to use Albanian border territories, a poor alternative. Within the Greek Communist Party, the split with Tito also sparked a witch-hunt for "Titoites" that demoralized and disorganized the ranks of the DSE and sapped support for the KKE in urban areas.
Yugoslavia had been the Greek Communists' main supporter from the years of Nazi occupation. The KKE thus had to choose between its loyalty to the USSR and its relations with its closest ally. After some internal conflict, the great majority, led by party secretary Nikolaos Zachariadis, chose to follow the USSR. In January 1949 Vafiadis himself was accused of "Titoism" and removed from his political and military positions, to be replaced by Zachariadis.
The insurgents were demoralized by the bitter split between the USSR's Joseph Stalin (who wanted the war ended) and Yugoslavia's Tito (who wanted it to continue). In June 1948, the Soviet Union and its satellites broke off relations with President Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia. In one of the meetings held in Kremlin with Yugoslav representatives, during the Soviet-Yugoslav crisis, Joseph Stalin stated his unqualified opposition to the "Greek uprising". Stalin explained to the Yugoslav delegation that the situation in Greece has always been different from the one in Yugoslavia, because the US and Britain would "never permit [Greece] to break off their lines of communication in the Mediterranean." (Stalin used the word svernut, Russian for "fold up", to express what the Greek Communists should do.)
End of the war: 1949
During the Civil War more than 25,000 children, most with parents in the DSE, were also placed in 30 "child towns" under the immediate control of Queen Frederika, something especially emphasized by the left. After 50 years some of these children were found to have been given up for adoption to American families, now retracing their family background in Greece.
After 50 years, more information regarding the children has gradually emerged. Many returned to Greece between 1975 and 1990, with varied views and attitudes toward the communist faction.
According to Kenneth Spencer, a UN Committee reported at that time that "Queen Frederica has already prepared special 'reform camps' in Greek islands for 12,000 Greek children...." According to official KKE historiography, the Provisional Government issued a directive for the evacuation of all minors from 4–14 years old for protection from the war and problems linked to it. This is stated clearly according to the decisions of the Provisional Government on March 7, 1948. According to non-KKE accounts, the children were abducted to be indoctrinated as Communist janissaries. Several United Nations General Assembly resolutions appealed for the repatriation of children to their homes.
The communist leadership claimed that children were being gathered to be evacuated from Greece, allegedly at the request of "popular organizations and parents". According to other researchers, the Greek government also followed a policy of displacement by adopting children of the guerrillas and placing them in indoctrination camps.
The removal of children by both sides was another highly emotive and contentious issue. About 30,000 children were forcefully taken by the DSE from territories they controlled to Eastern Bloc countries. Many others were moved for protection to special camps inside Greece, an idea of Queen Frederica. This issue drew the attention of international public opinion, and a United Nations Special Committee issued a report, stating that "some children have in fact been forcibly removed".
Communist evacuation of the children and the Queen's Camps
DSE divisions conducted guerrilla warfare across Greece; III Division, with its 1948 count of 20,000 men, controlled 70% of the Peloponnese politically and militarily; battalions named after ELAS formations were active in northwestern Greece, and in the islands of Lesvos, Limnos, Ikaria, Samos, Creta, Evoia and the bulk of the Ionian Islands. Western Allies' advisers funds, and equipment were now flooding into the country, and under Western Allies' guidance a series of major offensives were launched into the mountains of central Greece. Although these offensives did not achieve all their objectives, they inflicted serious defeats on the DSE.
The extent of such involvement remains contentious and unclear; some emphasize that the KKE had in total 400,000 members (or 800,000, according to some sources) immediately prior to December 1944, and that during the Civil War 100,000 ELAS fighters—mostly KKE members—were imprisoned and 3,000 were executed. Faced with this point of view, those more favorable to the organization emphasize instead the DSE's conduct of a war effort across the country, aiming at "a free and liberated Greece from all protectors that will have all the nationalities working under one Socialist State".
Despite setbacks, such as the fighting at Konitsa, the DSE reached the height of its power in 1948, extending its operations to Attica, within 20 km of Athens. It drew on more than 20,000 fighters, both men and women, and a network of sympathizers and informants in every village and suburb. Among analysts emphasizing the KKE's perceived control and guidance by foreign powers such as USSR and YSR, some estimate that of the DSE's 20,000 fighters, 14,000 were Slavic Macedonians from Greek Macedonia. Expanding this reasoning, they conclude that given their important role in the battle, KKE changed its policy towards them. At the fifth Plenum of KKE on January 31, 1949, a resolution was passed declaring that, after KKE's victory, the Slavic Macedonians would find their national restoration within a united Greek state.
In September 1947, however, the KKE’s leadership decided to move from guerrilla tactics to full-scale conventional war, despite the opposition of Markos Vafiadis. In December the KKE announced the formation of a Provisional Democratic Government, with Vafiadis as prime minister; this led the Athens government to ban the KKE. No foreign government recognized this government. This new strategy led the DSE into costly attempts to seize a major town as its seat of government, and in December 1947 1,200 DSE fighters were killed at a set battle around Konitsa. At the same time the strategy forced the government to increase the size of the army; with control of the major cities, the government cracked down on KKE members and sympathizers, many of whom were imprisoned on the island of Makronisos.
Through 1947 the scale of fighting increased; the DSE launched large-scale attacks on towns across northern Epirus, Georgios Stanotas was appointed area commander, the DSE suffered heavily, with no way to escape to mainland Greece. In general, army morale was low and it would be some time before the support of the United States became apparent.
The Greek army now numbered about 90,000 men and was gradually being put on a more professional footing. The task of re-equipping and training the army had been carried out by its fellow Western Allies. By early 1947, however, Britain, which had spent ₤85 million in Greece since 1944, could no longer afford this burden; U.S. 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 to come, the US Ambassador advised the king on important issues, such as the appointment of the Prime Minister.
Rural peasants were caught in the crossfire. When DSE partisans entered a village asking for supplies, citizens were either supportive (years previously, EAM could count on 2 million members across the whole country) or could not resist. When government troops arrived at the same village, citizens who had supplied the partisans were immediately denounced as Communist sympathizers, and usually imprisoned or exiled. Rural areas also suffered as a result of tactics dictated to the National Army by US advisers; as admitted by high-ranking Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials in the documentary Nam: the true story of Vietnam, a very efficient strategy applied during the Greek Civil War, and in the Vietnam and Korean wars, was the evacuation of villages under the pretext that they were under direct threat of Communist attack. This would deprive the partisans of supplies and recruits, while simultaneously raising antipathy towards them.
By late 1946 the DSE was able to deploy about 16,000 partisans, including 5,000 in the Peloponnese and other areas of Greece. According to the DSE, its fighters "resisted the reign of terror that right-wing gangs conducted across Greece". In the Peloponnese especially, local party officials, headed by Vangelis Rogakos, had established a plan long before the decision to go to guerrilla war, under which the numbers of partisans operating in the mainland would be inversely proportional to the number of soldiers the enemy would concentrate in the region. According to this study, the DSE III Division in the Peloponnese numbered between 1,000 and 5,000 fighters in early 1948.
The Yugoslav and Albanian Communist governments supported the DSE fighters, but the Soviet Union remained ambivalent. The KKE kept an open line of communication with the Soviet Communist Party, and its leader Nikos Zachariadis had visited Moscow on more than one occasion.
Fighting resumed in March 1946, as a group of 30 ex-ELAS members attacked a police station in the village of Democratic Army of Greece (Dimokratikos Stratos Elladas, DSE), under the command of ELAS veteran Markos Vafiadis (known as "General Markos"), operating from a base in Yugoslavia and sent by the KKE to organize already existing troops.
Civil War: 1946–1949
The king's return to Greece reinforced British influence in the country. Nigel Clive, then a liaison officer to the Greek Government and later the head of the Athens station of MI6, stated that "Greece was a kind of British protectorate, but the British ambassador was not a colonial governor." There were to be six changes of prime ministers within just two years, an indication of the instability that would characterize the country's political life during the period.
KKE soon reversed its former political position, as relations between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies deteriorated. With the onset of the March 1946 elections, which were won by the monarchist United Nationalist Party (Inomeni Parataxis Ethnikofronon), the main member of which was Konstantinos Tsaldaris' People's Party. In September, a referendum favored the retention of the monarchy, though the KKE disputed the results, and King George returned to Athens.
Between 1945 and 1946 right-wing gangs killed about 1,190 pro-Communist civilians and tortured many others. Entire villages that had helped the partisans were attacked by the gangs. According to right-wing citizens, these gangs were "retaliating" for their suffering under ELAS rule. The reign of "White Terror" led many ex-ELAS members to form self-defense troops, without any KKE approval.
The Treaty of Varkiza transformed the KKE's political defeat into a military one. ELAS' existence was terminated. The amnesty was not comprehensive, because many actions during the German occupation and Dekemvriana were classified as criminal, exempting them 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.
In February 1945 the various Greek parties signed the Treaty of Varkiza, with the support of all the Allies. This provided for the complete demobilization of ELAS and all other paramilitary groups, amnesty for only political offenses, a referendum on the monarchy, and a general election to be held 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 for a "people's democracy" to be achieved by peaceful means. This objective had dissenters, of course, such as former ELAS leader Aris Velouchiotis. The KKE renounced Velouchiotis when he called on the veteran guerrillas to start a second struggle; shortly afterwards he committed suicide, surrounded by security forces.
KKE's defeat in 1945 was mainly political but the exaltation of terrorism in the whole country made a political settlement even more difficult. The hunting of "collaborators" was extended to people who were supporting the Greek government. The brutal treatment by the Siantos left Athens, taking thousands of captives.
By early January, EAM forces had lost the battle. Despite Churchill's intervention, Papandreou resigned and was replaced by Gen. Nikolaos Plastiras. On January 15, 1945, Scobie agreed to a ceasefire in exchange for ELAS' withdrawal from its positions at Patras and Thessaloniki and its demobilization in the Peloponnese. Despite this severe defeat, ELAS continued to exist and the KKE had an opportunity to reconsider its strategy.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union remained passive about developments in Greece. True to their "percentages agreement" with Britain relating to Greece, the Soviet delegation in Greece did not encourage or discourage EAM's ambitions, as Greece belonged to the British sphere of influence. The delegation's chief gained the nickname "sphinx" among local Communist officers for not giving any clues about Soviet intentions. Pravda did not mention the clashes at all. It is speculated that Stalin did not interfere because Soviet Union 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 British actions in Greece to justify similar actions in countries in his own sphere of influence.
This outbreak of fighting between Allied forces and an anti-German European resistance movement, while the war in Europe was still being fought, was a serious political problem for Churchill's coalition government of left and right, and caused much protest in the British press and the House of Commons. To prove his peace-making intentions to the public, Churchill went to Athens on December 25 to preside 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. The conference took place in the Hotel Grande Bretagne. Later, it became known that there was a plan by EAM to explode the building, aiming to kill the participants, and the conference was finally cancelled.
Churchill in Athens