The Greek People Keep Paying the Price

The Greek People Keep Paying the Price

The political history Greece all the way up to the coup d’état in 1973, is simply the history of a constant struggle between the monarchists and their opposers. The energy that came out of this clash has many times led to some very serious polarizations and prepared the suitable conditions for a civil war environment. But let us also add that the politics in Greece has always been controlled by the hegemony since it was founded in 1830, and that the fate of the Greek people has been heavily influenced by the decisions of the imperialist powers in any situation.

The Greek expansion as the Ottomans Collapse

We should emphasize that, from its foundation and until the German occupation in 1941, Greece had both the fortune and the history on its side, when making great geopolitical gains far beyond its own power, against the weakening and collapsing Ottoman Empire. It has succeeded to expand its borders to 5 times of its original size in only 100 years, as a state that is not even a medium-sized power on the global arena. In the Balkan Wars, it exploited the miserable situation of the Ottoman Army and the Navy, with such an efficiency that it was able to gain all the Aegean Islands and the important regions of the Northern Greece and Thrace, especially Thessaloniki, to its borders only within two months. Greece, which carried out one of the quickest and most brutal ethnic cleansings in the world history by slaughtering 40,000 Ottoman Turks and Jews all around Morea (Peloponnese) and especially in the city of Tripolitsa in 1821, was so confident in its intoxicating successes in the Balkan Wars, that when the First World War began in August 1914, it dared to offer a joint invasion in Dardanelles with Great Britain, to the Asquith government. In their plan, the Royal Navy would push through the strait, and they conduct a land attack in Gallipoli. The fact that the wife of the King Constantine I of Greece, being of German descent has prevented this mad adventure.

Venizelos’ ambition

However, the geopolitical ambitions of Megali Idea fanatics, such as Venizelos, could not be kept under control. They have eventually entered the First World War on May 26th, 1916 when the Germans and the Bulgarians have attacked from the north. This offensive has put pro-war Venizelos to power in Greece. They achieved a victory against Germany, which had already weakened and lost on all fronts. This self-confidence was opening a new chapter for the Greek People, who have never suffered, paid a price, and are accustomed to very easy victories and geopolitical expansions. This chapter would end up in the revival of the Megali Idea theory and the focusing on a domination of Anatolia. Turkophobia combined with the Megali Idea theory, and the Greek expansionism has deflated the sharp polarization between the monarchists and republicans inside the nation. Thus, Turkophobia was used as a unifying force to keep the country together, with the help of the church. Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos’s presentation to the Council of Four (USA, Great Britain, France, Italy) at the Paris Peace Conference, which took place with the end of the First World War on February 3rd 1919 has defined  the Greek desires showing that they have no limits in their imagination. It was a vision, which was far from compatible to its own national power. But now the genie was out of the bottle. A large geographical area from the Adriatic, and covering almost all of Western Anatolia, must now be given to Greece.

Beginning of the end: The Asia Minor Catastrophe

When the Italians invaded the Antalya region on March 28th, 1919 against the will of the imperialism, the great powers had to approve the Greek invasion of Izmir, which took place on the morning of May 15th, 1919. The seeds for a great catastrophe were sown, and the chess pieces were now put on the board. The Greek people had withdrawn from Anatolia with a great humiliation and paying a huge price, after September 9th, 1922. It is known that many Greek soldiers, especially the soldiers with communist ideology, have refused to fight the Turks during the Asia Minor adventure. The daring ambitions of a fanatic leader like Venizelos, has eventually resulted in the execution of six monarchists, including Prime Minister Gounaris. The Trial of the Six was far enough to poison the domestic politics in the years to come. The clashes between Venizelists and the monarchists was now growing. The Asia Minor catastrophe has taken away the monarchy and replaced it with a barely functioning republic until 1935.

Population exchange and social unrest

The population exchange has come after the Treaty of Lausanne. More than a million Greek people were brought over to Greece from all around Anatolia. Many of them have joined the Communist Party later on. This population exchange would affect the social balances of the future and even the future election results. Their presence has played an important role in the foundation of the Hellenic Republic. Greece which has little industry and has an economy that is dependent on the export of basic consumer goods, has suffered a lot in the aftermath of the Asia Minor catastrophe. The global economic crisis of 1929 has devastated their economy as well. The Greek people were experiencing the bitter agony  to pay a price and lose in their own homeland, for the first time. Social and political unrest was all time high.

Greek Communists were the decisive factor

Venizelists have plotted two coup d’etats in 1933 and in 1935. But they have both failed. Venizelos was never seen again on the stage of history. King George II. and the monarchists were now back in power. The monarchy would continue until the coup d’etat in 1973. The balance within the parliament was critical in 1935. Exactly during this period, the Greek communists had become the piece that kept the balance, by taking 15 in the total of 300 parliament seats. Prime Minister Metaxas (General) has suspended the constitution with the king’s approval, and the country was ruled by a dictatorship between 1936 and 1940. Greece did not even have a parliament until 1946. And the government had sought the patronage of the Great Britain.

World War II and the Occupation

But those close ties could not prevent Mussolini’s offensive. On October 28th, 1940 the Italian armies have crossed the Albanian border and began the invasion of Greece. At the beginning of 1941, this invasion was surprisingly repelled, and Greece even succeeded to invade Albania’s Northern Epirus region with a counter-offensive. This situation now left Germany to sweep in and finish the job. Hitler’s panzers have invaded Greece on April 6th, 1941. They have begun the most difficult and the most brutal period in their history, 111 years after they were founded in 1830.

Unable to withstand the German armored divisions, Greece has surrendered within a week, on April 26th, 1941. The occupation, which lasted until 1945, had now begun. After the Germans have taken control of the entire mainland with the Italians, they began the invasion of the strategic island of Crete on May 20th, 1941. They had a hard time with the invasion, and only on June 2nd  1941, the island was completely captured. As a result, the Greek Prime Minister Tsouderos has committed suicide. By July 1941, all the mainland and all the Aegean Islands were under German occupation. And King George II. had formed a government in exile in Cairo, Egypt.

Famine and the hunt for the Jewish

At the first phase after the invasion, the German troops have looted every means of production in agriculture and animal herding. Greece, with its population of around 7.5 million, now faces a great famine. There was not even any wild grasses and weeds left to eat in the cities. By mid-1941, 3,000 people were dying of starvation in the country each day. By the end of 1942, 1.5 million people had died to the starvation alone. Nine out of every 10 children born in the major cities like Athens, had died before they reached six months old. Jews had their own difficulties as well. Jews, who were massacred alongside the Turks in the 1821 Tripolitsa Massacre, caught one by one by the German occupation forces and were sent to concentration camps like Auschwitz by train, for a mass extermination.

The Communist Resistance ELAS and EAM

Neither the monarchists, nor the republicans or the nationalists were able to organize the first resistance movement against the German occupation between April 1941 and June 1945. The Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS) was established under the leadership of the Communist Party. Then in 1942, the military wing of this organization, the National Liberation Front (EAM) was formed, and a guerrilla warfare against the Germans and Italians was launched. The “National Republican Greek League” (EDES) was also established on the right wing of the political spectrum. Although they had a significant ideological distinction between them, ELAS, EAM and EDES have achieved a great success against the Nazis and the Italians. At conferences in 1944, the government in exile in Cairo, has put efforts into unifying these rival resistance groups together. The Communist ELAS had a strong administrative structure and organizational power. They have controlled the areas they liberated from the occupation by establishing an administrational structure.

Churchill’s nightmare: A Communist Greece

It was a nightmare for Churchill on the other hand, to see Greece coming under Soviet influence through a communist regime. This must be avoided at all costs. This was also in accordance with the Britain’s Mediterranean policy, which had the primary goal of preventing the Soviets from reaching the Mediterranean, by using communism as a tool. On August 21st 1944, the road to Berlin was clear for the Red Army. Churchill panicked. He was worried about where the Soviets would stop advancing. ELAS had approximately 60,000 troops and had the control over two-thirds of the country. Greece must be free from communism and the Soviet sphere of influence. That is why Churchill has started to shape the political environment as a first step. Papandreou, leader of the Greek Social Democratic Party, was appointed as the Prime Minister in exile. Papandreou were saying: “This is the first time in history that the Greek and the British national interests have coincided at such an extent.”

Stalin sacrifices the Greek Communists

Churchill has met with Stalin in Moscow on October 9th, 1944 four months before the Yalta Conference. Here, during a lunch at the Kremlin, they held a meeting about their respective spheres of influence in the Balkans, historically known as the “Agreement of Percentages”. At the end of the meeting, Churchill had written some names of the Balkan countries, and the percentages of influences according to his own opinion, on a piece of paper. There would be a 90% Soviet influence and 10% western influence in Romania; 90% the UK influence (collaboration with the United States) and 10% Soviet influence in Greece; a 50-50 split in Yugoslavia and in Hungary; and 75% Soviet, 25% western influence in Bulgaria. When the translators finished translating it, Churchill handed the piece of paper to Stalin and asked his opinion. Stalin has written “Accepted” with the blue ink from his pen. And when Churchill proposed to burn the paper, he replied “You can keep it” (Churchill later disclosed this document in 1958, five years after Stalin’s death). ELAS and the communist party, which defended Greece against the German occupation and put-up local governments in the regions they have liberated, were sacrificed by Stalin at a lunch table, for their own geopolitical interests. Geopolitics have defeated ideology.

A British General for the Greek Armed Forces’ Joint Chief of Staff Post

The war was coming to its end. But the British troops must be landed to Athens as soon as possible. But this was against the Tehran agreement, which prohibited a military presence in the countries which were liberated from the Germans. A way around has been found. The Prime Minister Papandreou has appointed the British General Scobie as a joint Chief of Staff for both the Greek troops brought from Cairo and the British forces in the country, using the power granted by the constitution. British troops under the command of Scobie, has begun to land in Greece from the air and the sea on October 12th, 1944. This was no surprise to a nation, whose first king in 1832, was a German Prince named Otto.

Purging the Communists

But how would General Scobie and the British command get rid of the powerful communist faction in the country? The new government called for the disarmament of ELAS in early December and gave a deadline to do so. Resistance groups within the ELAS have opposed this decision, and on  December 4th, 1944 after a rally in Athens, riots and a civil war broke out. ELAS feared that the king would come back and form a right-wing fascist government. Hundreds of people were killed at the rally in Athens by a barrage of gunfire from the Organization X, which collaborated with the Germans in the WW II, and was then controlled by Grivas, who would later establish the EOKA in Cyprus. The British did not intervene in the Organization X, for some reason. They chose to divide and conquer.

The Civil War is growing

It was again the people, who suffered and paid the price. A martial law was declared immediately. ELAS was asked to surrender its weapons within ten days. The party opposed this decision. Conflict had continued for three weeks and a ceasefire was reached by the Treaty of Varkiza on February 12th, 1945. Although the elections were held on March 31st, 1946, the communists did not participate. A plebiscite approved the return of King George II on September 1st, 1946. A nightmare scenario had taken effect. The Communists who opposed this decision, had retreated into the mountains of the north, and started the Second Civil War. They were all supported by the communist and socialist regimes such as Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Albania in the north. Great Britain and the United States on the other hand, supported the monarchist government (King has blood links to the British Royal family). The first ideological-based civil war of the Cold War, after the WW II in Europe, had just begun in Greece. The war between two brothers, had lasted until 1948. Deaths, tortures, mass persecutions continued without any limits. In the next four years until 1952, thirteen different cabinets took office.

An endless fight

A stability was achieved in Athens in 1952, after joining the NATO and with the patronage of the United States. But the fight between the monarchists and republicans were not over. The Kingdom was re-established in 1973, after a new military coup. The fascist junta needed a new victory to keep the people together, and in Cyprus in 1974, they gave the terrorist Nikos Sampson the order to conduct a military coup with Enosis ideology. It was thought that the Turkophobia and a new expansionist wave would help the country to gain stability again and help that the Megali Idea would be revived. That plan had also backfired horribly. On the morning of July 20th, 1974, they have received a second heavy blow from Turkey, after the disaster on September 9th, 1922. The military junta has been overthrown. A Civilian Transitional Government has been formed. However, they have suspended their NATO membership as a protest. The US would not tolerate this. Greece leaving NATO, would mean a large hole being opened in the Rimlands. They soon returned to NATO in 1980 under a plan made by the SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander of Europe) General Rogers, with using the 1980 coup and its military leadership in Turkey. Turkey did not veto this re-join. Then they became a full member to the European Union in 1981.

The binding force for the Greek People: Turkophobia

As a member of NATO and the EU, Greece has built its internal stability and its political integrity on a systematic policy on  hostility and  rivalry against the Turks. And when the inferiority complex which was formed after the Asia Minor catastrophe and the defeat of Cyprus Peace Operation, was combined with the imaginary fantasy theories of the church and the of the Megali Idea doctrine, a state that refused to coexist peacefully in the Aegean Sea and a state that was indoctrinated itself on usurping the Turkish maritime rights in the Aegean and in the Mediterranean, was born.

The economic massacre

Meanwhile, as the EU expansion to the east after the Cold War and the Eurozone being established in a region including Greece, the Greek people has now entered a new period which they will suffer through an economic crisis. The Greeks, who had lived like there was no tomorrow, hosted the Olympic Games in 2004. Then the picture suddenly changed into the pictures of corruption, an economic bankruptcy, the government manipulating the budgets to the EU authorities, and the lives that disappeared overnight, suicides, illegal organ trades and beggary. The people were suffering once more. Under the leadership of Germany, the EU proposed Greece the hard solution. The people started to hate EU, and the United States was slowly entering Greece which traditionally had an anti-American spirit by using that hatred especially after 2018. The former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis had written in an article titled “Behind Greece’s Deadly Fires” after the wildfires in Greece at the end of July 2018, which claimed many lives: ” Over the course of a decade, we have lost many more people to the tragedy caused by the EU establishment than to any flood or forest fire. More than 20,000 people have committed suicide since 2011, while one in 10 working-age Greeks have emigrated because of the economic depression the EU has imposed on Greece.”.

The Greek People are losing constantly

Greece had left behind the dead bodies of 140,000 young men on Anatolian soil during the Asia Minor catastrophe. More than 1 million people were settled in Greece during the population exchange after the Treaty of Lausanne. The Second World War, which came right after the First World War, in a time when social and economic difficulties were at extreme, came under an even heavier cost. The nation lost a total of 550,000 people. 360,000 of those people died only of starvation and disease. 68,000 people were executed by German, Italian, and Bulgarian troops. 34% of the Greek national wealth was looted. Stalin’s deal with the British, against the Greek communists who controlled two-thirds of the country, has triggered a civil war that lasted for years, just for the benefit of the Soviet geopolitical interests. Brothers had fought against each other. In Cyprus, they have initiated hostilities after the Bloody Christmas in 1963, and this led to the Cyprus Peace Operation in 1974. They have always been the party that has initiated the problems regarding the continental shelf, territorial waters limit, and many other crises in the Aegean Sea, despite an alliance with Turkey as a NATO member since 1952. They have attempted many provocations, that would bring the two countries to the brink of war, in 1975, 1987 and in 1996. They have begun an arms race with Turkey after 1974.

Hostilities over the issue of Blue Homeland

The Greek governments are still trying to play their part they played 100 years ago, by using the claims which usurp Turkey’s rights in the Blue Homeland, through the so-called Seville Map. Back then, they had the support of Lloyd George’s Great Britain and Clemenceau’s France, today they have Biden’s USA and Macron’s France. A huge hoax is being staged again for the victimized Greek people, through the arms sales, establishment of military bases and contracts. Nothing has changed. It is still the Greek state being useful as a proxy, and the Greek people who continues to suffer to this day.

This article is addressed to the Greek Nation

I have to mention that I did not write this article for the Turkish public opinion. This article was written, as an address for the Greek people. It is time for you to say “no” to be used as a tool and being colonized, in the struggle of the great powers. Try to coexist peacefully with Turkey and the Turkish nation, in both the Aegean and the Mediterranean. Try to remember the time period of Ataturk and Venizelos. Try to remember the Turkish people, who opened their arms for you in that great famine and during the civil war. Remember the ship Liberation (SS Kurtulus). Say “no” to the doped promises of the church, the unforgiving gambling addiction of the imperialism and the Dionysian corruption of Greek politicians.

Cem Gürdeniz
Admiral Cem Gürdeniz graduated from Turkish Naval Academy in 1979. As a deck officer, he served in different in destroyers and frigates. He assumed the Command of guided missile frigate TCG Gaziantep and the Third Destroyer Division. He completed his education in Turkish Naval War College and Armed Forces College. He holds two masters degrees from US Naval Postgraduate School and Université Libre Brussels (ULB) in personnel management and international politics respectively. He was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral (lower half) in 2004 and upper half in 2008. He served as the Chief, Strategy and Agreements Department and then the Head of Plans and Policy Division in Turkish Naval Forces Headquarters. As his combat duties, he has served as the commander of Amphibious Ships Group and Mine Fleet. He retired in 2012 as a result of the Sledgehammer Bogus Case. He is the founder and Director of the Istanbul Koc University Maritime Forum. In addition to his native Turkish, he is fluent in English and French. Admiral GUrdeniz is the writer of numerous publications in multiple languages languages including ‘Bluehomeland Writings.’ He is a columnist at Aydınlık Daily and Yacht Magazine.

2 responses to “The Greek People Keep Paying the Price”

  1. Paraskevas-Marios Tourtounis says:

    Dear Mr. Gürdeniz, As a Greek historian, I would like to thank you for your article-message to my nation, the Greek Nation. Indeed, you have included some very important and interesting historical details about Greece. Furthermore, I agree with your last comment that Greece and Turkey must have a peaceful coexistence. It is true that for many years, and nowadays, a mutual mistrust exists between our countries, Greece and Turkey. However, I have to make some remarks on some points of your article: 1) Greece was not the only country having the fortune and the history on its side until World War II. Turkey was also very lucky, as, some years after the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923, Turkey managed to get rid of the really unpopular term the Treaty of Lausanne imposed to the country about the demilitarization of the Turkish Straits: in 1936, the Montreux Convention regulated a new regime for the Turkish Straits, according to which Turkey takes full control of the Straits, and can establish Turkish military units on them. Indeed, this convention was really sensible and fair. On the contrary, Greece was less lucky, as no convention, after the Treaty of Lausanne (which suggested the demilitarization of the Greek north-eastern Aegean islands), officially regulates the existence of Greek military units on the Greek north-eastern Aegean islands. And this is so unfair. So, nowadays, Turkey must understand and accept Greece’s need to have Greek military units established on all the Greek islands of the eastern Aegean, for security purposes. It is similar to Turkey’s need to have Turkish military units established in the Turkish Straits. 2) Concerning Turkey’s “Blue Homeland” issue, I believe that the best way to solve the Greek-Turkish differences upon this issue, is the issue’s trial on international courts. Although there is already a status quo existing in the Aegean Sea (with Greece holding the biggest part of the Aegean Sea, due to the existence of the Greek islands), Greece and Turkey can submit the Aegean Sea’s issue to the international courts. Finally, I believe that mutual respect and understanding is the first step towards the solution of all the differences between Greece and Turkey. Best wishes, Paraskevas-Marios Tourtounis (Markopoulo Mesogaias, Greece).

  2. Konstantinos Kanellakis says:

    There is a famous Greek moto: “take care of your own bump”. Instead of pointing the finger at Greece, you should put your energy in transitioning into a real democracy. You shouldn’t be afraid of Greece’s fate, we are in the Balkans for 4.000 years, we know exactly who we are dealing with, and to no surprise, unlike Turkey, we are always on the right side of history.

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February 2024