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The Greek Civil War ( , "the Civil War") was fought from 1946 to 1949 between the Greek governmental army, backed by the United Kingdom, United States, and the Democratic Army of Greece (ΔΣΕ), the military branch of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), backed by Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Albania. It was the result of a highly polarized struggle between leftists and rightists which started from 1943 and targeted the power vacuum that the German-Italian occupation during World War II had created. One of the first conflicts of the Cold War, according to some analysts it represents the first example of a postwar Western interference in the internal politics of a foreign country, and for others, marked the first serious test of the theory of the so called Churchill-Stalin percentages agreement.

The first signs of the civil war occurred in 1942–1944, 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 one being the leftist National Liberation Front (EAM), controlled effectively by the Communists. 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 which included six EAM-affiliated ministers. The prelude of the civil war occurred in December 1944, after the country had been liberated. EAM, in military control of most of Greece, confronted the British-backed government, and tried to wrest control of the capital, Athensmarker. The defeat of EAM forces spelled the end of its ascendancy: ELAS was disarmed, and EAM continued as its political action as a multi-party organization. Tensions remained high however, as clashes between right and left-wing factions continued. The civil war erupted on 1946 when guerrilla forces controlled by the KKE, having a political and logistic back up by the newly founded northern Socialist States (Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and USSR) organized the Democratic Army of Greece and started fighting against the internationally recognized Greek government which won the boycotted by KKE 1946 elections. Despite initial failures by the government forces from 1946 until 1948, increased American aid, lack of high numbers of recruits to the ranks of DSE and the side-effects of the Tito–Stalin split, led to their defeat.

The final victory of the Western-supported government forces led to Greece's membership in NATOmarker, and helped to define the ideological balance of power in the Aegeanmarker 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 a military regime, and a legacy of political polarization which lasted until the 1980s.

Background: 1941-44


The origins of the civil war lie in the occupation of Greece by Nazi Germany, Bulgaria and Italy from 1941 to late October 1944. While German forces approached Athens in April 1941 King George II and his government escaped to Egyptmarker, where they proclaimed a government-in-exile, recognised by the Western Allies, but not by the Soviet Unionmarker. The Western Allies encouraged, and even coerced, the King to appoint a moderate cabinet. As a result, only two of his ministers were previous members of the 4th of August dictatorship under Ioannis Metaxas, which with the blessings of the King himself had seized power with a coup d'état and governed the country since August 1936. Nevertheless, the exiled government's inability to influence the 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 Athensmarker, which 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 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 territories. Soon large demonstrations were organized in many cities by YVE, a right-wing organization. But the largest group to emerge was the National Liberation Front, founded on 27 September 1941 by representatives of four left-wing parties. Following the Soviet policy of creating a broad united front against fascism, EAM, as it became known in Greek, won the support of many non-communist patriots. It soon became the largest mass organization in Greek history, numbering nearly 2,000,000 in 1944. Although controlled by the KKE, the organization had a modest democratic republican rhetoric. Its military wing, the Greek People's Liberation Army, or 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 Organization for the Protection of the People's Struggle (OPLA) was founded as EAM's security militia, operating mainly in the occupied cities and most particularly Athens. Furthermore, a small Greek People's Liberation Navy (ELAN) existed, operating mostly around the Ionian Islands and some other coastal areas. Other communist-aligned organizations were present, including the NOF, comprised mostly by Slavic Macedonians in the Florinamarker region. They would later play a critical role in the civil war. The two other large resistance movements were EDES, led by royalist former army officer Colonel Napoleon Zervas, and the social-liberal EKKA, led by Colonel Dimitrios Psarros.

The Greek landscape was favorable 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 100,000 men under arms, with 50,000 working as reserves or logistical support, EDES roughly 10,000 men, and EKKA under 1,000 men.

To combat the rising influence of the EAM, and fearful of an eventual takeover after the German defeat, in 1943, Ioannis Rallis, the conservative prime minister of the collaborationist government, authorized the creation of paramilitary forces, known as the Security Battalions. Numbering 20,000 men at their peak in 1944, composed mostly of local fascists, convicts, and sympathetic prisoners of war, 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. To EAM, London's preferences were clear: although EAM was by far the largest and most active group, British material support was directed mostly to the more "reliable" Zervas, who by 1943 had reversed his earlier anti-monarchist stance.

The first conflicts: 1942-1944

The Western Allies at first provided all resistance organizations with funds and equipment, giving special preference to ELAS, whom 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. However, as the end of the war approached, the British Foreign Officemarker, 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 Greece. 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 sabotaging ELAS’s increasing influence. In time, the flow of weapons and funds to ELAS stopped altogether, with rival EDES enjoying the bulk of the Allied support.

In mid-1943, the animosity between EAM-ELAS and the other movements took the form of an 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, thus generating further conflict. 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, EAM-ELAS had effectively routed EKKA and confined EDES to a small part of Epirus, where it could only play a marginal role in the rest of the war. By 1944, the numbers favored EAM-ELAS, with more than 100,000 men in arms and an extra 50,000 working as reserves or logistic support personnel. Their political network reached about 2,000,000 citizens around the country. In contrast, EDES had up to 2,000 fighters and EKKA a few dozen men, most of them later joining the ranks of ELAS.

As the communist position strengthened, so did the numbers of the Security Battalions, with both sides engaged in several skirmishes. The ELAS units were accused of the Meligalasmarker massacre. Meligalas was the headquarters of a local Security Battalion Unit that was given the control of the wider area of Messenia by the Nazis, After a battle there between ELAS and the security battalions, 1,500 members of the collaborationist units were massacred along with civilians. 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 that Germans could not enter, they were accused of numerous instances of brutality against civilians and captured partisans, as well as 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. 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 progressives, who 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 of them well-disposed towards EAM, demanded that a Government of National Unity be established, based on PEEA principles, and replace the government-in-exile as it had no political or other link with the occupied home country. The movement was violently suppressed by British forces and Greek officers loyal to the exiled government. Approximately 8,000 Greek soldiers and officers were sent into prison camps in Libya, Sudan, Egypt and South Africa. 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 Lebanonmarker, seeking an agreement about a government of national unity. Despite EAM's accusations of collaboration made against all other Greek forces, and charges against EAM-ELAS members of murders, banditry and thievery, the conference ended with an agreement 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.

Confrontation: 1944

From the Lebanon conference to the outbreak

By the summer of 1944, it was obvious that the Germans would soon withdraw from Greece, as the armed forces of the Soviet Unionmarker were advancing into Romaniamarker and towards Yugoslavia, and the Germans risked being cut off. The government-in-exile, now led by a prominent liberal, George Papandreou, moved to Casertamarker in Italy in preparation for the return to Greece. Under the Caserta agreement of September 1944, all 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 Greece's territory had already been liberated by Greek partisans. For example, only the central part of Athensmarker was under German occupation on October 13, while all other regions were under EAM-ELAS rule. On October 13 British troops entered Athens, and Papandreou and his ministers followed six days later. The King stayed in Cairomarker, 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 ELAS's 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 Sacred Band and the 3rd Rimini 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 defenceless against right-wing militias and the anti-communist Security Battalions, submitted an alternative plan of total and simultaneous disarmament, which Papandreou rejected, as he had begun to view the Security Battalions as a good reserve against a possible communist coup, and on December 2 EAM ministers resigned from the government. 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 Grivas' instructions, Organisation X members had set up many outposts in central Athens and resisted EAM for several days, until British troops arrived, as their leader had been promised.

The Dekemvriana

In November 1944, six ministers of the EAM, most of whom were KKE members, resigned from their positions in the "National Unity" Government. Fighting broke out in Athens on December 3, 1944 during a demonstration, organised by EAM, involving more than 100,000 people. According to some accounts, the police, covered by British troops, opened fire on the crowd. According to other accounts, it is uncertain if the first shots were fired by the police or the demonstrators. More than 28 people were killed and 148 injured. This signalled the beginning of the "Dekemvriana" ( , "the December events"), a 37-day period of full-scale fighting in Athens between ELAS and the forces of the British Army and the Government.

At the beginning the government had only a few policemen and gendarmes, such as the Greek Mountain Brigade distinguished at the Gothic Line offensive III, lacking heavy weapons and militia units, and accused by EAM of collaboration with the Nazi forces in the case of the royalist group X, also known as 'Chites' (Χίτες). The British intervened, with artillery and aircraft being freely used as the battle approached its last stages. On December 4 Papandreou gave his resignation to the British Commander, General Scobie. His resignation was not accepted by the General. By December 12 ΕΑΜ was in control of most of Athens and Piraeusmarker. The British, outnumbered, flew in the 4th Indian Infantry Division from Italy as reinforcements. It must be noted that 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 gave equipment to ELAS fighters.

Conflicts continued throughout December 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, aiming at establishing its predominance. Only this version of the events might explain the simultaneous struggle against the British, the large-scale ELAS operations against Trotskyists and other political dissidents in Athens, and the many contradictory decisions of EAM leaders. Videlicet, KKE's leadership, was supporting a doctrine of 'national unity' while eminent members, such as Stringos or Makridis and even Georgios Siantos, were elaborating revolutionary plans. Even more curiously, Tito was both the KKE's key sponsor and a key British ally, owing his physical and political survival in 1944 to British assistance.

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 in the House of Commonsmarker. To prove his peace-making intentions to the public, 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. By his arrival in the Greek capital, the evacuation of British forces and the trial of those rightwingers accused by EAM of being Nazi collaborators, was not on Churchill's agenda.

The aftermath of street fighting in Athens, December 1944.
In the meanwhile, the Soviet Unionmarker remained surprisingly passive about developments in Greece. True to their "percentages agreement" with Britain, the Soviet delegation in Greece did not encourage or discourage EAM’s ambitions, as Greece belonged to the British sphere of influence. Pravda did not 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 appears that Stalin did not intend 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 British actions in Greece to justify to the Allies any intervention in his own sphere of influence.

By early January, EAM forces had lost the battle. 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' withdrawal from its positions at Patrasmarker and Thessalonikimarker, 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. Several Trotskyists had to leave the country in fear for their lives (Cornelius Castoriadis fled to France). After the fighting in Athens, KKE support declined sharply, and as a result most of the prominent non-Communists in EAM left the organisation. However, terrorism amongst rightwing extremist gangs was strengthened.

Interlude: 1945-1946

In February 1945, the various Greek parties signed the Treaty of Varkiza, 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, 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 the security forces.

The Treaty of Varkiza transformed the KKE's political defeat into a military one. ELAS's existence was terminated. At the same time, the National Army and right-wing extremists were free to continue their war against ex-members of EAM. The amnesty was not comprehensive, because many actions during the German occupation were classified 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 Yugoslaviamarker, 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 had helped the partisans were attacked by the gangs. According to rightwing citizens, these gangs were "retaliating" for that which they had suffered during the reign of ELAS. The reign of "White Terror" led many 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, and choice to escalate the crisis, derived primarily from the conclusion that regime subversion, which had not been successful in December 1944, could now be achieved. The KKE leadership decided in February 1946, "after weighing domestic factors, and the Balkan and international situation," to go forward with "organization 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 Konstantinos Tsaldaris' People's Party. In September, a referendum favoured the retention of the monarchy, though the KKE disputed the results, and King George returned to Athens.

The King's return to Greece reinforced British influence in the country. Nigel Clive was then a liaison officer to the Greek Government and later the head of the Athens station of MI6; in his view, "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 over the period.

Civil War: 1946-1949

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 the village of Litochoromarker. The next day, the official KKE paper’s coversheet announced: “Authorities and gangs fabricate alleged communist attacks”. Contemporaneously, armed bands of ELAS veterans infiltrated Greece through mountainous regions near the Yugoslav and Albanian borders; they were now organized as the Democratic Army of Greece (Dimokratikos Stratos Elladas, DSE), under the command of the ELAS veteran Markos Vafiadis (known as "General Markos"), operating from a base in Yugoslavia and sent by the KKE to organize already existing troops.

Both the Yugoslav and Albanian socialist states 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. The Soviet Union was backing the Greek Communist struggle politically, as demonstrated in several Assemblies of the UN Security Council, but was not determined to interfere further in the Greek Civil War. Certain western historians believe 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.

By late 1946, the DSE was able to deploy about 16,000 partisans, 5,000 of them 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 should 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.

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 2,000,000 members across the whole country) or could not resist. When the national army arrived at the same village, citizens who had supplied the partisans were immediately characterised as communist sympathizers, and suffered the consequences, which were usually imprisonment or exile. Rural areas also suffered as a result of tactics dictated to the National Army by US advisors; as admitted by highranking CIA officials in the documentary "NAM: the true story of Vietnam" , a very efficient strategy applied during the Greek Civil War, as well as in the Korean War and Vietnam War, was the evacuation of villages under the pretext that they were under direct threat of Communist Army attack. This would deprive supplies and recruits to the partisans, while simultaneously raising antipathy towards them.
DSE fighters during mortar training.

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 pounds in Greece since 1944, could no longer 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 to come, the US Ambassador advised the King on important issues, such as the appointment of the Prime Minister.

Through 1947 the scale of fighting increased; the DSE launched large-scale attacks on towns across northern Epirus, Thessaly, Peloponnese and Macedoniamarker, provoking the Army into massive counter-offensives, themselves meeting no opposition as the DSE melted back into the mountains and its safe havens across the northern borders. In the Peloponnese, where General 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.

In September 1947, however, the KKE’s leadership decided to move from guerrilla 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 finally to ban the KKE. No foreign government recognised 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 piece battle around Konitsamarker. 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 Makronisosmarker.

Despite setbacks, such as the fighting at Konitsa, during 1948 the DSE reached the height of its power, extending its operations to Atticamarker, 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. Amongst analysts emphasising 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. The extent of such involvement remains contentious and unclear; some emphasise 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 - KKE members in their majority- were put in prison (3000 of them were executed). Faced with this point of view, those more favourable to the organisation emphasise instead the DSE's conduct of a war effort across the country aiming at a " a Free and Liberated Greece from all protectors that will have all the nationalities working under one Socialist State". DSE Divisions conducted guerrilla warfare across Greece: III Division, with its 1948 count of 20,000 men, controlled 70% of the Peloponnese both politically and militarily; Battalions named after ELAS formations were active in Northwestern Greece, alongside the islands of Lesvos, Limnos, Ikaria, Samos. Creta, Evoia and the bulk of the Ionian Islands.Western-allied funds, advisers and equipment were now 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 serious defeats on the DSE.

Evacuation of the children (paidomazoma) and the Queen's Camps

The evacuation of children from Greece to socialist states was another highly emotive and contentious issue. About thirty thousand children left territories controlled by the DSE for Eastern Bloc countries.Many others were moved to special camps of the Government of Athens inside Greece, and found in foster homes in the US decades later. [61798] [61799] The 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". The communist leadership accepted that children were being gathered for the purpose of evacuating them from Greece, but they argued that this happened per 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.

According to Kenneth Spencer, a UN Committee reported at that time that "Queen Federica 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 evacuations of all minors from 4 to 14 years old for protection against the war front and problems linked to the war . This is stated clearly according to the decisions of the Provisional government on 7 March 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.

After 50 years, more information regarding the children has gradually emerged. Many returned to Greece between 1975-1990 and their views and attitude to the communist faction are extremely varied.

During the Civil War more than 25,000 children, the left more commonly emphasises, most with parents in the DSE, were also placed in 30 "Child Towns" under the immediate control of Frederika of Hanover. After 50 years the majority of these children were found to have been given up for adoption to American families, now retracing their family background in Greece.

The end of the war: 1949

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

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, but that to the DSE was a poor alternative. The split with Tito also sparked a witch-hunt for "Titoites" inside the Greek Communist Party, leading to a demoralization and disorganisation within the ranks of the DSE and decline in support for the KKE in urban areas.

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 the national army 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 General Tsakalotos. The national army's strategic plan, codenamed "Peristera", had proved 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 to frighten civiians hiding any of their comrades. Following this defeat in Southern Greece, DSE continued to operate in Northern Greece and some islands, but as a greatly weakened force facing significant obstacles in its political and military position.

At the same time, the National Army found a talented commander in General Alexander Papagos. In August 1949, Papagos launched a major counter-offensive 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 setpiece battles. By September 1949, the main body of DSE Divisions defending Grammos and Vitsi, the two key positions in Northern Greece for DSE, had retreated to Albania, while two main groups remained within the borders, trying to reconnect with scattered DSE fighters largely in central Greece. These groups, numbering 1000 fighters, exited Greek borders by the end of September 1949, while the main body of DSE accompanied by its HQ, after discussion with the USSR's Communist Party and other European socialist governments, were moved to the Capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. They were to remain there, in military encampments, for three years. Other older combatants, alongside injured fighters, women and children, were relocated to all the European socialist states. On October 16, Zachariadis announced a "temporary ceasefire to prevent the complete annihilation of Greece"; the ceasefire marked the close of the Greek Civil War.

Almost 100,000 ELAS fighters and great numbers of civilians 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 which marked the real demise of the party's efforts to assert power.

The Greek right and other western allied governments saw the end of the Greek Civil War as a victory in the Cold War against the Soviet Union; leftwingers 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.

Post-war division and reconciliation

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 Gyarosmarker or Makronisosmarker. Many others sought refuge in communist countries or emigrated to Australia, Germany, the USA, UK, Canada and elsewhere.

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 such crisis was the murder of the left-wing politician Gregoris Lambrakis in 1963 (the inspiration for the Costa Gavras political thriller, Z). The crisis of the Apostasia followed in 1965, together with the "ASPIDA affair", which involved an alleged coup plot by a left-wing group of officers; the group's alleged leader was Andreas Papandreou, son of George Papandreou, the leader of the Center Union political party and the country's Prime Minister at the time.

On April 21, 1967, a group of rightist Army officers executed a coup d'état and seized power from the government, using as a pretext the political instability and tension of the time. The leader of the coup, George Papadopoulos, was a member of the right-wing military organization known as IDEA (Ιερός Δεσμός Ελλήνων Αξιωματικών, "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 the center-left-wing government of PASOK allowed DSE veterans who had taken refuge in Communist countries to return to Greece and reestablish their former estates; PASOK contended that this helped 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. The results were the final recognition by the Greek state of the 1946-1949 war as a Civil War and not merely 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. [61800]

Representation in culture

  • The tragic end to DSE Division III in the Peloponnese is depicted in the film " The Descent of the 9", made by Christos Siopachas in 1985.

  • The Brotherhood of War: The Lieutenants, book 1 in the series by W.E.B. Griffin, has two of its major characters and one lesser character involved with the Military Advisory Group (MAG) in Greece. It is referenced throughout the rest of the series, but is given detail in the first book.

See also


  1. Incompatible Allies: Greek Communism and Macedonian Nationalism in the Civil War in Greece, 1943-1949. Andrew Rossos", The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 69, No. 1 (Mar., 1997) ( p. 42)
  2. History of National Resistance 1941-1944, v1
  3. Ksiarchos S., The truth regarding Meligala
  5. , noted at
  6. Ο ΕΛΑΣ, Στέφανος Σαράφης
  7. History of the National Resistance 1941-1944, v2
  8. Kessel Album, Athens 1944.
  9. Spyros Kotsakis, Captain in ELAS First Army (1986). December 1944 in Athens, Athens, Synhroni Epochi.
  10. Daniele Ganser (2005). NATO's Secret Armies. Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, London, Franck Cass, pp. 213-214 (his quote).
  11. C.M. Woodhouse, Modern Greece, Faber and Faber, 1991, p. 253.
  12. Britain's support for Tito
  13. The Civil War in Peloponnese, A. Kamarinos
  14. NAM, The true Story of Vietnam, 1986
  15. Ζαούσης Αλέξανδρος. Η Τραγική αναμέτρηση, 1945-1949 – Ο μύθος και η αλήθεια (ISBN 9607213432).
  16. Speech presented by Nikos Zachariadis at the Second Congress of the NOF (National Liberation Front of the ethnic Macedonians from Greek Macedonia), published in Σαράντα Χρόνια του ΚΚΕ 1918-1958, Athens, 1958, p. 575.
  17. KKE Official documents,vol 8
  18. C. M. Woodhouse, Modern Greece, Faber and Faber, 1991, 1992, pp. 259.
  19. Lars Barentzen, "The'Paidomazoma' and the Queen's Camps,", 135-136
  20. Lars Barentzen, The'Paidomazoma' and the Queen's Camps,, 130
  21. Myrsiades, Cultural Representation in Historical Resistance, 333
  22. Kenneth Spencer, "Greek Children," The New Statesman and Nation 39 (January 14, 1950): 31-32.
  23. KKE, official Documents v6 1946-1949, pg474-476
  24. Richard Clogg, A Concise History of Greece, Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 141.
  25. Ods Home Page
  26. Dimitris Servou, "The Paidomazoma and who is afraid of Truth", 2001
  27. Thanasi Mitsopoulou "We brought up as Greeks" ,Θανάση Μητσόπουλου "Μείναμε Έλληνες"
  28. "Βήμα" 20.9.1947
  29. "Νέα Αλήθεια" Λάρισας 5.12.1948
  30. "Δημοκρατικός Τύπος" 20.8.1950
  31. Δ. Κηπουργού: "Μια ζωντανή Μαρτυρία".- D. Kipourgou " A live testimony"
  32. "The'Paidomazoma' and the Queen's Camps," in Lars Baerentzen et al.- Λαρς Μπαέρεντζεν: "Το παιδομάζωμα και οι παιδουπόλεις"
  33. Δημ. Σέρβου: "Που λες... στον Πειραιά"- Dimitri Servou "Once upon a Piraeus"
  38. Article 1 of the Law 1863/1989


English Sources

  • 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
  • R. Capell, Simiomata: A Greek Note Book 1944-45, London, 1946
  • Philip Carabott, Thanasis D. Sfikas, The Greek Civil War, 2004
  • W. S. Churchill, The Second World War
  • Nigel Clive, A Greek experience 1943-1948, ed. Michael Russell, Wilton Wilts.: Russell, 1985 (ISBN 0-85955-119-9)
  • 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
  • Dominique Eude, Les Kapetanios (in French and Greek), Artheme Fayard, 1970
  • André Gerolymatos, Red Acropolis, Black Terror, London, 2003
  • 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
  • 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
  • Reginald Leeper, When Greek Meets Greek: On the War in Greece, 1943-1945, London, 1950
  • M. Mazower (ed.) After the War was Over. Reconstructing the Family, Nation and State in Greece, 1943-1960 Princeton University Press, 2000 (ISBN 0691058423)[61801]
  • E. C. W. Myers, Greek Entanglement, London, 1955
  • Amikam Nachmani, International intervention in the Greek Civil War, 1990 (ISBN 0-275-93367-9)
  • 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

Greek Sources

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.
  • 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.
  • Περιοδικό "Δημοκρατικός Στράτος", Magazine first issued in 1948 and re-published as an album collection in 2007.
  • 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.

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