Greek Civil War

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Greek Civil War
Part of: Cold War
date March 1946 to October 1949
place Greece
output Victory of the Greek Army
Parties to the conflict

GreeceKingdom of Greece (service and war flag on land) Greek Army.
Sponsored by: United Kingdom United States Egypt
United KingdomUnited Kingdom 
United StatesUnited States 
Egypt 1922Egypt 

DSE badge.svg Democratic Army of Greece
Supported by: Albania Bulgaria Yugoslavia Soviet Union
Albania 1946People's Socialist Republic of Albania 
Bulgaria 1948Bulgaria 
Yugoslavia Socialist Federal RepublicYugoslavia 
Soviet Union 1955Soviet Union 


Alexandros Papagos
Konstantinos Ventiris
Thrasyvoulos Tsakalotos

Markos Vafiadis
Nikolaos Zachariadis

The Greek Civil War ( Greek Ελληνικός εμφύλιος πόλεμος , ellinikos emfylios polemos ) began in March 1946 and ended on October 9, 1949. It arose from the conflict between the Left Popular Front and their Democratic Army of Greece (DSE) , which logistically ran through Albania and Yugoslavia was supported, on the one hand, and on the other hand the conservative Greek government, which was supported militarily by Great Britain until 1947 and from March 1947 by the USA under the Truman Doctrine .

According to the prevailing view, the Greek Civil War from 1946 to 1949 represented a continuation and at the same time an escalation of the conflict that had been smoldering since 1943 between the Greek Popular Front (simplified left ) and the Greek conservatives and monarchists (simplified right ). In the timeline from 1942 to 1949 the Greek Civil War also known as the Third Round of the aforementioned clashes between left and right. The first round took place from 1943 to October 1944 (resistance in World War II with clashes within the resistance groups), the second round culminated on December 3, 1944 in the so-called Dekemvriana .

History and causes

Already during the Second World War there were contradictions between left and right in the Greek resistance. During the period when Greece was occupied by Wehrmacht troops ( April 1941 to the end of October 1944), the communist ELAS , the partly republican, partly monarchist resistance fighters of the EDES (Εθνικός Δημοκρατικός Ελληνικός Σύλληνικός Σύνδεlinosμος, democratic democratic syndicates; Greek Confederation), the security battalions ( Tagmata Asfalias ) set up by the government in Athens and right-wing organizations such as " Organization X ", which were nationalist to right-wing extremists.

As a result, there were armed clashes, court martial, assaults and massacres from all sides, including civilians who were not involved. The ELAS won here compared to the other groups and the pro-Hitler government in Athens supremacy over much of the country with a focus on the north ( Macedonia ) and in the central region. With the withdrawal of German troops at the end of October 1944, ELAS took over power, for example in Thessaloniki and Athens, despite the landing of British troops from October 1944 onwards. After the withdrawal of the Wehrmacht on October 12, 1944, Athens was taken over by units of the ELAS, which were relieved on October 14, 1944 by British troops advancing.

The contrast between the communist ELAS and the right-wing forces in the government, EDES and the military (e.g. the monarchist-minded Rimini Brigade ) intensified after the Wehrmacht withdrew. The Greek government under Georgios Papandreou and his successors such as Nikolaos Plastiras , Petros Voulgaris , Panagiotis Kanellopoulos and Themistoklis Sofoulis (all in office in 1945) received British support in the form of economic and military aid as well as British troops. According to a secret agreement between Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin , Greece was given the British sphere of influence in the Balkans . The conflict escalated on December 3, 1944 in the Dekemvriana (also known as the Battle of Athens ), during which there were several days of fighting between ELAS on the one hand and government troops with the participation of British troops on the other. The government troops and the British got the upper hand in mid-December 1944 and drove the ELAS forces from Athens and the surrounding area.

The effort to de-escalate found expression under British mediation through the Varkiza Agreement in February 1945. The disarmament of ELAS was agreed. At the same time, it was stipulated that right-wing extremists and organizations should be removed from the Greek army and police (for example Organization X). Both conditions were not implemented in the sense of the Varkiza Agreement. The ELAS kept a considerable part of their weapons in hiding. Right-wing extremists remained in the police and army.

The parliamentary elections on March 31, 1946 were boycotted by the communists; the conservative electoral alliance Inomeni Parataxis Ethnikofronon (United Alliance of Nationally Minded ) received 55.1% of the votes in the Greek parliament . Konstantinos Tsaldaris (1884–1970) formed a conservative government. The leadership of this alliance was incumbent on the People's Party of Tsaldaris, which was in favor of a constitutional monarchy.

The referendum on September 1, 1946 on the form of government ( constitutional monarchy or republic ) led to a clear majority in favor of the reintroduction of the monarchy; the communists boycotted the referendum. The question about the reintroduction of the monarchy was answered with “Yes” by 1,136,289 voters and “No” by 524,771 voters, which corresponds to a ratio of 68.4: 31.6; if one also takes into account the - relatively high - number of 256,940 abstentions (as well as the 3860 invalid votes, i.e. based on the total of 1,921,860 votes cast) the result of the vote was 59.1% (yes): 27.3% (no) : 13.4% (abstention): 0.2% (invalid). The results of the referendum suggested that majorities were shifting from the right political wing to the center right. The reintroduction of the constitutional monarchy was also seen by moderate conservatives and politicians from the bourgeoisie, as well as left-wing liberals, as a guarantee against a communist takeover - and further polarized the conflict between left and right of the Greek political spectrum.

Another point of contention was the withdrawal of foreign troops, at the time the British. The communists had already demanded independence and the right to self-determination in 1925. This should also apply to the geographical region of Macedonia. Critics suspected that the Greek communists did this in the interests of the Bulgarian and Yugoslav communists in the Comintern , who were targeting the Greek part of Macedonia (see also History of Macedonia ). This discredited the communists in Greece as traitors to the fatherland. In general, the beginning of the Cold War created tensions between right and left. In particular, the missions of the UN and the evaluation of the results of these missions exposed the massive political contrast between many western and eastern states (which Stalin made satellite states and which were later referred to as the Eastern Bloc ).

Course of war

Logo of the DSE

In the strict sense of the word, there is no exact start date for the Greek civil war, as in the course of 1946 there were repeated attacks by communist-controlled rebels against state facilities such as police stations, military facilities and infrastructure facilities. The first well-organized guerrilla attack on the police station of Litochoro in the prefecture of Pieria at the end of March 1946 in the run-up to the parliamentary elections on March 31, 1946 is widely regarded as the beginning of the Greek civil war. This attack was no longer carried out spontaneously by local organizations, but was under the military control of the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE), an armed resistance organization strongly influenced by communists. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) led parallel to these armed actions still limited political negotiations with the conservative Greek government, but failed due to the (limited) military successes of the DSE.

In 1946 and 1947, the DSE waged a very effective fight against the Greek government by the standards of guerrilla warfare. Police stations, army posts, infrastructure facilities and political opponents were attacked or fought throughout the country, with a focus on north-west Macedonia, Epirus and central and central Greece. As part of the Kominform , DSE received logistical support from Albania and Yugoslavia . In some cases, the DSE was able to control larger areas in Northwest Macedonia, Epirus and Central Greece ( e.g. Evrytania ). It turned out to be very advantageous that both Albania and Yugoslavia, with the express approval of the government of both states, offered the DSE rebels a place of retreat and training.

The DSE rebels repeatedly tried to bring a Greek city under control in order to use it as a base or seat of a provisional government. When a provisional government was proclaimed in 1947/1948, the political pressure to conquer a city increased. At the same time, the strategy of the DSE and the military command command changed: Markos Vafiadis , military commander of the DSE rebels and guerrilla tactician, was replaced by Nikolaos Zachariadis , General Secretary of the Communist Party of Greece. Zachariadis quickly initiated a transition to more conventional warfare with open battles against the Greek army, including the aim of occupying a Greek city for the purpose of establishing a temporary seat of government. Konitsa , Florina , Karditsa , Grevena , Karpenissi were repeatedly attacked.

Only in Karpenissi was the city occupied for almost three weeks, with the counter-offensive by the Greek army lifting this occupation again. The proclaimed Provisional Government, led by the Communist Party of Greece, could not find a city to act as the seat of government, and it did not find international recognition. The last and at the same time very costly attack on a Greek city was the attack on Florina from February 12, 1949 to February 15, 1949.

The Greek government largely relied on police forces and National Guard units in 1946 to defeat the communist DSE. This project failed as a result of the repeated successes of the DSE, so that the regular Greek army became the main weapon carrier against the DSE rebels. The Greek army was actively supported militarily and in weapons of Great Britain; however, no direct intervention by British troops took place between 1946 and 1949. In March 1947, Great Britain could no longer maintain the support of the Greek government and army and asked - alongside the Greek government itself - the USA for support. As part of the Truman Doctrine , they were heavily involved in Greece from March 12, 1947 with financial resources, weapons and economic support, but did not send any combat troops. However, in 1948, a joint Greek-American command staff was formed with Alexander Papagos on the Greek side and General James A. Van Fleet on the American side, who commanded the military operations of the Greek army.

The fall of 1948 marked the turning point in the Greek civil war. Not only was the American influence of importance, which was now having an impact, but also the rift between Tito and Stalin . The DSE, which was actively supported by Tito, was however under the influence of the pro-Soviet Communist Party of Greece. As a result, Tito stopped supporting the DSE while the Communist Party of Greece was unable to oppose the Kominform headquarters in Moscow.

The DSE integrated a rather small resistance group called NOF, the members of which came mainly from the Slavic-Macedonian minority in north-west Greece. They wanted to create an independent or largely autonomous Macedonia. Even this gesture in the direction of Slavic Macedonians could not save the alliance of the Greek communists with Tito. In addition, the demand for an autonomous Macedonia raised neutral or conservative Greeks against the communists.

Only Albania remained as a supporter at the end of 1948, whose political relations with Moscow also deteriorated continuously. Its active support ended in 1949 following Tito's decision, which deprived the DSE rebels of their military base. In the battle of Mount Gramos in August 1949, the Greek troops caused the decisive defeat for the DSE. The rebels were able to withdraw to Albania, but unlike 1946–1948, they were no longer able to rearm or reorganize. This ended the Greek civil war, despite some armed skirmishes in the aftermath of the Battle of Mount Gramos. On October 9, 1949, the Central Committee of the KKE decided to temporarily stop the fighting, which later turned out to be the final stop.


The DSE had been completely defeated. The KKE leadership moved from Albania via Hungary to Moscow . Tens of thousands of left-wing Greeks were interned in re-education camps or fled into exile during the civil war. The Communist Party of Greece remained discredited and insignificant for years. The number of deaths in both civil wars fluctuates between 44,000 and 158,000, depending on the information, and that of refugees during the wars between 80,000 and 703,000. The Greek economy was badly damaged in quick succession by the three wars (Second World War, First and Second Civil War) and large parts of the country were devastated.

The civilian population suffered massively from the consequences and effects of the civil war. Whole villages and areas were depopulated by the Greek army during the war in order to deprive the DSE rebels of the possibility of operations. This plunged the affected rural population into an economic and social catastrophe.

Starting in 1947, the Greek government kidnapped children of parents who were allegedly active in the guerrilla and put them in indoctrination camps on the prison island of Leros . DSE units responded by taking numerous children out of the contested areas and sending them to other states during the fighting. The Soviet occupation zone or later GDR took in around 1,300 of these children . Orphans of the civil war were also taken in in Czechoslovakia ( Villa Mattoni ). The government side referred to this as "Paidomazoma" ( child or boy reading ). A UN investigation from 1948 came to the conclusion in the report that many parents had consented to the evacuation of their children by the DSE, but there were also cases in which this had happened against the parents' will.

Tens of thousands of civil war refugees were taken in as exiles by Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. In Hungary, the village of Beloiannisz was founded especially for the refugees , in Zgorzelec in Poland on the east bank of the Neisse there is a street that commemorates the refugees.


Literature in German:

  • Jon V. Kofas: American Foreign Policy and the Greek Civil War 1946–1949 . In: Bernd Greiner / Christian Th. Müller / Dierk Walter (eds.): Hot wars in the cold war . Hamburg, 2006, ISBN 3-936096-61-9 , pp. 86-108. ( Review by H. Hoff , Review by I. Küpeli )
  • Heinz Richter : Greece between revolution and counterrevolution <1936–1946>; With a foreword by Komninos Pyromaglou and an essay by the same author. "The dissolution of the EOEA-EDES in December 1944", (Frankfurt a. M.): Europäische Verlagsanstalt, (1973)
  • Mikis Theodorakis : The Archangel's Ways. Autobiography 1925-1949. Ed. & Transl. Asteris Kutulas . Insel, Frankfurt 1995, ISBN 3-458-16689-0 .
  • Todd Gitlin : Aggression or Resistance? The beginning of the civil war in Greece. In: Jörg Schröder (Ed.): March texts 1 and Trivialmythen, Area, Erftstadt 2004, pp. 53–58 (from the American).
  • Heinz A. Richter: Greece 1940–1950. The time of the civil wars . Verlag Franz Philipp Rutzen, 2012. ISBN 978-3-447-06704-1 .

Literature in English:

  • W. Byford-Jones: The Greek Trilogy: Resistance-Liberation-Revolution . London 1945.
  • R. Capell: Simiomata: A Greek Note Book 1944-45 . London 1946.
  • Richard Clogg : Greece 1940-1949: Occupation, Resistance, Civil War: A Documentary History . Palgrave MacMillan 2003.
  • Winston Churchill : The Second World War .
  • NGL Hammond: Venture into Greece: With the Guerillas, 1943–44 , London 1983. (Like Woodhouse, he was a member of the British Military Mission)
  • Andre Gerolymatos: Red Acropolis, Black Terror: The Greek Civil War and the Origins of Soviet-American Rivalry , Basic Books 2004, ISBN 0-465-02743-1 . - Introduction
  • Cordell Hull: The Memoirs of Cordell Hull . New York 1948.
  • DG 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 .
  • Mark Mazower : After the War Was Over: Reconstructing the Family, Nation, and State in Greece , 1943–1960 (Princeton Modern Greek Studies (Paperback)), Princeton UP 2000.
  • ECW Myers: Greek Entanglement . London 1955.
  • Elias Petropoulos: Corpses, corpses, corpses . ( ISBN 960-211-081-3 ).
  • Polymeris Voglis: Becoming a Subject: Political Prisoners During the Greek Civil War . Berghahn Books 2002.
  • Christopher Montague 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)
  • Nigel Clive: A Greek experience 1943-1948 ed. Michael Russell, Great Britain 1985. ( ISBN 0-85955-119-9 ).
  • The Greek civil was 1943–1950. Studies of polarization. Routledge 1993.
  • Heinz Richter: British Intervention in Greece. From Varkiza to Civil War. London 1986, ISBN 0-85036-301-2 .

Literature in Greek:

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

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The Kingdom of Egypt unofficially supported the royalists ideologically, but without intervening directly in the war, and together with South Africa held about 5000 communist-oriented Greek soldiers and officers in prison camps until the end of the war .
  2. ^ A b c d e Newspaper article of the Greek newspaper Ethnos about 163 years of elections in Greece. Episode 1944–1953: in the ashes of the civil war. September 28, 2007.  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In Greek.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  3. ^ Antonis Pantelis, Stefanos Koutsoumpinas, Triantafyllos Gerozisis. Texts of Constitutional History, Second Volume (1924–1974)
  4. ^ Charles R. Shrader. The Withered Vine. Logistics and the communist insurgency in Greece, 1945-1949. Praeger / Greenwood, 1999. p. 5. ISBN 0-275-96544-9 .
  5. Newspaper article in the Eleftheria newspaper from May 31, 1947, page 1, left column.
  6. ^ CM Woodhouse. The Struggle for Greece, 1941-1949. Hart-Davis, MacGibbon, 1976. Reprint C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2002. p. 196. ISBN 1-85065-487-5 .
  7. New York Times newspaper article, July 26, 1947, p. 1.
  8. New York Times newspaper article, February 15, 1949, p. 8.
  9. Newspaper article in the Eleftheria newspaper from February 15, 1949, p. 1, left column.
  10. Newspaper article in The Times newspaper, August 15, 1949, p. 3.
  11. Hinrich-Matthias Geck: The Greek labor migration: An analysis of its causes and effects. Hanstein, 1979, ISBN 3-7756-6932-9 , p. 101.
  12. ^ Angeliki E. Laiou: Population Movements in the Greek Countryside During the Civil War. In: Lars Bærentzen, John O. Iatrides, Ole Langwitz Smith (eds.): Studies in the History of the Greek Civil War, 1945–1949. Museum Tusculanum Press, 1987, ISBN 87-7289-004-5 , p. 75.
  13. ^ Giannis S. Koliopoulos, John S. Koliopoulos: Plundered Loyalties: Axis Occupation and Civil Strife in Greek West. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 1999, ISBN 1-85065-381-X , p. 270 ff.
  14. ^ Myrsiades: Cultural Representation in Historical Resistance. 1999, p. 333.
  15. ^ Andreas Stergiou: The relations between Greece and the GDR and the relationship of the SED to the KKE. MATEO Monographs Volume 22, Mannheim 2001, ISBN 3-932178-28-9 ; Abstract
  16. Lars Barentzen: The 'Paidomazoma' and the Queen's camps. (1987) In: Studies in the history of the Greek Civil War 1945–1949 , pp. 134–137.