History of Greece

From Balkan Wars to the 30s

Venizelos and Zaïmis were the main Greek political figures from 1890 to mid 1930. In the Balkan Wars (1912-13) Greece obtained the south-eastern Macedonia and western Thrace, the border with Albania, the newly independent, gave a larger part of Epirus to Greece, but neither country was satisfied, and the area remained under discussion until 1971, when Greece, at least temporarily, dropped its claims on the northern Epirus.

George I was assassinated in 1913 and was succeeded by Constantine I. In World War I, Venizelos, who favored the Allies, negotiated (1915) an agreement that allowed the Allies to land troops at Salonika. However, King Constantine, who favored neutrality, refused to help the Allies and Venizelos was dismissed as prime minister.

Venizelos organized then (in 1916) government in Thessaloniki, while a year later, in 1917, pressure from the Allies led to the abdication of Constantine in favor of the younger son, Alexander. Venizelos again became premier, and Greece fully entered the war.

At the Peace Conference (Treaty of Neuilly) Greece obtained the rule of the Bulgarian coast of the Aegean Sea and some remnants of European Turkey, including the eastern Thrace and the Dodecanese (except Rhodes) but excluding the area of the Strait. Izmir was placed under Greek administration pending a plebiscite.

Encouraged by the Allies, the Greeks invaded (1921) Asia Minor, but were defeated (1922) by Turkish forces of Kemal Ataturk. The Treaty of Lausanne (1923) identified the Maritsa River as the border Turkish-greek in Europe. A separate agreement established compulsory exchange of populations, for which about 1.5 million Greeks of Asia Minor were resettled in Greece, about 800,000 Turks and 80,000 Bulgarians left Greece to be repatriated to their countries.

Constantine, who had returned after the death (1920) of King Alexander, was again deposed in 1922. George II succeeded Alexander, but soon he too was deposed (1923), and the republic was proclaimed in 1924, later confirmed by a plebiscite.

The years 1924-35 were marked by unstable economic conditions and by violent political strife (including coups), in which Paul Kondouriotis, Theodore Pangalos, George Kondylis, Panayot Tsaldaris, Zaïmis, and Venizelos were the protagonists. The defeat (1935) rebel Venizel in Crete marked the end of the republic. Kondylis ousted Tsaldaris and organized a plebiscite that led to the restoration of the monarchy and the return of George II.

In 1936, Premier John Metaxas, supported by the king, established a dictatorship, ostensibly to avoid the Communist takeover of the country. In foreign policy, Greece abandoned the anti-Turkish policy by establishing (1934) the Balkan Entente with Yugoslavia, Romania and Turkey.

World War II and Civil War

When the Second World War broke out (1939) Greece remained neutral. In October 1940, however, Italy, after an ultimatum farce, invaded Greece. The Greeks resisted successfully, carrying the war in southern Albania. When Germany began to gather his troops on the border greek, mainland Greece, at the end of April, and fell into German hands during the month of May followed Crete.

The greek government fled to Cairo, then in Great Britain, and in 1943 he settled back to Cairo. The German occupation, in which Bulgarian and Italian troops took part, plunged Greece into abject poverty, with serious food shortages. The resistance began to grow despite ruthless reprisals, and puppet governments soon destined to failure. Bands of guerrillas controlled large rural areas.

In 1943 sporadic civil war began between the Communist guerrilla group (EAM-ELAS) and the monarchist group (EDES). The fighters soon began to control much of Greece, after the Germans began to retreat in September 1944. British troops landed, and by November all Germans were expelled.

The appalling financial and economic conditions faced by the government on his return greek (October 1944) to Athens were complicated by an explosive political situation. In December of 1944 fighting broke out in Athens between British troops and the EAM-ELAS, which ignored the British order to disarm. With the intervention of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was established a temporary but precarious truce was arranged (Feb. 1945) under the regency of Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens. In September 1946, a referendum decided in favor of the return of George II, reigning monarch, George died in 1947 and was succeeded by his brother Paul.

Also in 1946, was renewed and the guerrilla bands led by the Communists were successful in the mountainous districts of the north. With the accusations by the greek government, backed by Britain and the United States, that Albania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria would help the communist rebels were born very controversial at the United Nations between the Western and Soviet bloc. With the continuing civil war, Britain was no longer able to extend the government financially and militarily greek.

Thus, U.S. President Harry S. Truman announced (Mar., 1947) the "Truman Doctrine", with which the United States sent a group of military officers to train and advise the army greek allocating, finally, about $ 400 million in military and economic aid. In December 1947, the Communists, led by Markos Vafiades, proclaimed a rival government in the country. However, at the end of 1949, the rebels, having suffered severe military setbacks and no longer able to receive aid from Yugoslavia (which had defected from the Soviet bloc in 1948), ceased open hostilities.

The civil war was marked by brutality on both sides. Economic conditions were miserable and accusations of incompetence and corruption were brought against the greek government is not the communists, both from the Communists. Political freedom was reduced, and the Communist Party was outlawed. The legislator, member of the populist party (royalists), led by Constantine Tsaldaris, ran the country under the constitution of 1911 and was authorized to be revised.


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