World War II Period – Greek Civil War
Although the “third round” of the Greek Civil War officially began in July 1946, it is admitted by the Greek communist leader Nikos Zahariadis that the revolt would not have been possible without the support he was pledged from Tito earlier that year. Tito also had an interest in establishing a communist regime in Greece that would, he hoped, join Greek Macedonia to his republic of Skopje. It was therefore no accident that in the three years prior to the war he attempted to organize and arm the various Slav villages and groups in Greece. In the summer of 1943 Tempo visits the Greek resistance group E.L.A.S to convince them to place the slavophone partisans under Yugoslav control, who until then were openly pro Bulgarian. The CPY had nothing but contempt for its Greek counterpart and felt they should be subservient to them. The request was turned down, the Greeks naturally being suspicious of Tito’s motives.
Yugoslav intentions were no well kept secret. In a letter dated August 8, 1943 from Tempo to the Central Committee of the CPY he states: “The Greek partisan movement has not reached the great majority of the Macedonian people there who, under the influence of the IMRO are serving the occupiers and fighting against the Greek partisan army… At the request of the Greek general staff our chetas (rebels) from the Bitolj (Monastiri) crossed over into Greek Macedonia and there accomplished great political penetration of the Macedonian (slavs) masses. The Macedonians want to be under the command of our headquarters for Macedonia.” (Yugoslav Communism & the Macedonian Question, p.81).
This passage is very revealing. First he admits that the Yugoslav partisans are at odds with the IMRO and the slavophones- called Macedonians- in Greece whom he admits are pro Bulgarian and must be brought under the control of the CPY. Also, it reveals the unfortunate cooperation between the Yugoslavs and the opportunist power hungry Greek partisans (E.L.A.S./KKE), Tito’s new ally in his scheme to steal Macedonia from Greece.
Because of the large numbers of Slavs who were joining the Greek partisans, it was decided to allow them to form their own units but under Greek partisan control. The Slav partisans called the S.N.O.F.- Slavomakedonski Naroden Osvoboditelen Front (Slav Macedonian National Liberation Front) formed by early 1944 but soon began conflicting with the Greek commanders since many of them wanted separation from Greece. The Greeks only agreed to grant them political equality should they come to power. It should also be noted that at the time the non communist element among the Greek partisans was still strong. Only after 1945 was the rebellion a top down communist run operation.
In April 1944 SNOF leader Naum Peyov revolted and was deported to Yugoslavia and Elias Diamakis (Gotsev) became the new leader. By August E.L.A.S. was pressured by Yugoslav forces to allow the return of the SNOF and grant them an independent “Gotsev” battalion of about 700 men. Although the whole area was still under the control of a crumbling Bulgaria, it was obvious that Tito was calling the shots. In a conversation between Gotsev and his Greek partisan friend “Captain Slobotas” in October, the former admitted that “… my battalion obeys neither the KKE nor the ELAS. We are connected with Serbian (Vardar) Macedonia from where we receive instructions and liaison men… We received orders to draft as many men as possible, but they should be pure Slav Macedonian.” (Kofos, p. 126 from Greek Foreign Ministry archives)
The Greek –Yugoslav border by that time was non existent, allowing Tito’s soldiers and propagandists largely uninhibited entrance under the pretext of fighting the Germans. Further revealed is the drafting of the “Slav Macedonians” who were former either IMRO, slavophones, or Ochrana members that terrorized Macedonia during the war. Although some nationalist Bulgarians objected, many indeed deserted and joined the pro Yugoslav SNOF to save themselves as Bulgaria was about to lose the war. Yet again the Bulgarians, devoid of any loyalty, changed their allegiance according to current expediency.
The truth behind Tito’s intrigue was quickly coming to the surface as Yugoslav officials began making public pronouncements of their goal to create a greater Macedonia. Even before 1945, the Yugoslavs were becoming bolder in their statements. In a speech by arch communist and Tito crony Milovan Djilas on November 7, 1944 he brashly stated that “…the armed forces under the command of the Papandreou government exercise a violent terror against our Macedonian (slav) populations without any serious reason. The Macedonians in Greece…want to speak their own language and exercise their national rights.” It would have been difficult for the Greek government to commit such acts even if it wanted to, considering its forces only entered Macedonia in April 1945. However, Macedonia was the stronghold of Yugoslavia’s erstwhile allies, the Greek partisans who, between November 1944 and February 1945 attempted a failed overthrow of the Greek government. At the Varkiza armistice, the rebels agreed to end the revolt in exchange for early elections. As a result about 25,000 rebels and former Bulgarian collaborators left Greece voluntarily for Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, but they could hardly be categorized as refugees. In fact the American government even proposed that a British, Soviet and American commission be established to investigate these accusations of violence and terror against the Slavs, but was denied by Yugoslav refusal to have observers on its territory. This is not at all surprising since many of these “refugees” were SNOF guerillas who were either regrouping at the Bulkes military camp in Skopje or joined the Yugoslav army for redeployment in Greece.
By early 1946 Nikos Zahariades met with Tito to discuss plans to launch a new war against the Greek government. Zahariades agreed to accept the SNOF into his ranks so long as their official declaration was for equal rights and not autonomy. This new guerilla group was named the N.O.F. , removing the ethnic character from its original name- Slavomakedonski. This was done apparently since it was only supposed to be part of the Greek communist army, and not Yugoslavia. Within a year however their sinister motives were becoming apparent. It was admitted by N.OF. leader Michael Keramadiev at the Second Congress of the Macedonian People’s Front in Skopje in May 1948 that they had established their own Slav Macedonian churches, newspapers and about 7000 children and adults in Greece had learned the “Macedonian” language. As the war progressed, the N.O.F demands for greater autonomy for the Slavs belied the hidden hand of Yugoslavian expansionism. The treasonous Greek communists however continuingly relied more and more on the Skopjean fighters until they numbered 11,000 men or over 20-30 percent of the rebel army. (Yugoslav Communism, p.129. Kofos p. 172) Macedonia was again fighting for survival again a new Comitadji invasion. However, not all slavophones in Greece were pro Skopjean or Bulgarian. In fact, when the Greek army entered Macedonia at the end of the war, they found whole villages who were heroically fighting the rebels and joined the National army. Even the NOF had to issue a statement advising the slavophones not to support the National Greek forces. Regarding the IMRO, the NOF stated that it “s truggles uncompromisingly against the autonomist movement and terrorist bandit organization I.M.R.O. led by Ivan Mihailov.” Since the NOF was allegedly fighting for the Macedonians and against Greece, why would they oppose the IMRO? Perhaps because nobody forgot its support of Bulgarian expansionism under the cloak of autonomy. Now however the Yugoslavs had given the Macedonian Bulgarians- turned Skopjeans- their support in return for their political allegiance to Belgrade. How typical.
In any case it was at the time of the Greek civil war that the Yugoslav regime began an official all out libel campaign against Greece over Macedonia. Here is a small sample of the vicious anti-Macedonian rhetoric spewing from Skopje and Belgrade:
“Comrades, you know very well there is a part of Macedonian people which is still enslaved. We must openly state this case. There are tens of thousands of Macedonian men and women who suffer and mourn under the Greek yoke…”
Svetozar Vukmanovic Tempo, August 2, 1945.
One of the most well known tirades on Macedonia was by the bombastic Tito himself on October 11, 1945 in Skopje:
“We will never renounce the right of the Macedonian people to be united. This is our principle and we do not abandon our principles for any temporary sympathies. We are not indifferent to the fate of our brothers in Aegean Macedonia and our thoughts are with them. We will steadfastly defend the principle that all Macedonians must be united in their own country.”
Timed to coincide with the beginning of the Greek civil war, the Yugoslavian magazine “Borba” on August 26, 1946, in it’s article “Aegean Macedonia” announced to the world Skopje’s true designs on Macedonia. The article- complete with a map, states that: “Greek imperialists have no right any longer to keep the Macedonians under their yolk;” under the pretense that the “Greek reactionary circles had decided to exterminate –the significantly more than 250,000 Macedonians in Greece.” It became a common propaganda tactic in Europe during the war years to float the decimal point of casualty statistics to skew the facts- and sympathy in your favor. According to Tempo just a year previously there were only tens of thousands of “Macedonians” in Greece.
Finally, Nova Makedonija printed a speech by Peoples Republic of Skopje President Dimitar Vlahov, in Monastir on September 22, 1946:
“We openly declare that Greece has no right whatsoever over Aegean Macedonia. The Macedonian people (in Greece) are struggling for their union within the Macedonian People’s Republic which is an integral part of the Federal Peoples Republic of Yugoslavia”.
Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Crisis
Regarding Bulgaria, between September and December 1944 meetings were held between delegations from Yugoslavia and the now Bulgarian communist government to induce the latter into becoming a Yugoslav republic. Representing the Yugoslav side was of course Tempo and Skopje communist Kolishevski. These meetings also highlighted another of FYROM’s myths; the existence of a “Macedonian” minority in western Bulgaria (Pirin) who they claim are oppressed by the Bulgarians. What is not admitted however is that between 1944 and 1948 Bulgaria was coerced by Yugoslavia to recognized this minority and to eventually give the Pirin area to Yugoslavia as part of a future greater Macedonia. The entire movement of Pirin Macedonian recognition was only due to Yugoslav attempts to dominate the Balkan peninsula and postwar Bulgaria’s weakness. They merely exploited a non existent issue to weaken Bulgaria and increase Yugoslav power. As an offset they promised Bulgaria support in its also non existent claims on Greek Western Thrace.
Intense propaganda was used, on behalf of the Skopje republic to bring Bulgaria to capitulate on the issue. In a speech in Skopje by Kolishevski on August 2, 1946 he stated: “The strivings of our people from Pirin Macedonia for union with the Macedonian People’s Republic are a clear fact… We are convinced that the responsible factors (Bulgarian government) see this fact, and that they will make it possible for our people in Pirin Macedonia to have those conditions for free national development which the Bulgarian national minority enjoys in Yugoslavia. We hope that the fatherland Front government will introduce the teaching of the Macedonian language and history…”
Note the typical communist double speak of calling the Skopjeans Bulgarian, yet calling for Bulgarian recognition of Macedonian language and history as a means of winning their favor.
The Yugoslav government took advantage of its diplomatic power in relation to Bulgaria and relentlessly pressed the issue until Bulgaria capitulated. At the Tenth Plenum of the CPB on August 6, 1946 it stated in an unpublished resolution that a united Macedonia belonged as a part of Yugoslavia, and that Pirin must be first culturally “Macedonianized”. The resolution further supported previous statements by Bulgarian president Georgi Dimitrov agreeing in theory to Bulgarian-Yugoslav federation.
Although many Bulgarian leaders agreed to this sell out to the Yugoslavs, including president Georgi Dimitrov, many objected unless it was under the cover of a full Bulgarian -Yugoslav federation. It is ironic that 20 years previous it was the Bulgarians who forced the Yugoslavian and Greek communist parties to agree to establish a united Macedonia and give up their own territory.
By August 1947, negotiations were nearly finalized at the Bled Conference between Tito and Dimitrov where it was declared that a mutual federation was “a mere formality” No doubt this federation, would have included a greater Macedonian republic as the Tito backed N.O.F. were fighting with increasing strength and numbers in the Greek civil war.
The Macedonianization process in Pirin was stepped up with the distribution there of the Skopjean tabloids Pirinski Vesnik and Nova Makedonija as well as student transfers, scholarships, show tours of Skopje and cultural exchange programs. Laws were passed in Pirin calling for the mandatory teaching of “Macedonian” history and language. The Bulgarians even granted to Skopje the relics of one of IMRO’s fathers Goce Delchev who was until then buried in Sofia, as well as books from the Scientific Macedonian Institute of Sofia. It was obvious to the Bulgarians however that this one sided policy was playing right into the hands of the Skopjeans. As Pirin Bulgarian party leader Ivan Delev noted, the Skopjeans took the liberty of tearing down Bulgarian leaders and revolutionaries from public places and replaced them with tributes to Tito and Kolishevski. So began the next phase of the Skopjean’s history of not only betraying their Bulgarian roots, but attempting to spread their political schizophrenia to Bulgaria itself.
Luckily for Macedonia however, their attempt was stopped short from a most unlikely source. On June 28, 1948 Stalin made the shocking announcement of Tito’s expulsion from the official communist bloc organization, the Cominform- formerly called Comintern. Tito was declared as a “heretic” and his CPY “schismatic”. This was the communist version of the various medieval ecclesiastical schisms which divided The Church. Although some of the causes had to do with the interpretation of Marxist theory, the main cause was political realism. The hyper paranoid Stalin felt Tito, being the only non Soviet appointed East European leader was becoming increasingly difficult to control. After the Yugoslav Bulgarian negotiations of the previous year and a speech by Dimitrov in January, the communist world was abuzz with rumors that a future federation would also include the other Eastern Bloc countries as well. This was a direct challenge which Stalin could not tolerate. After a severe scolding by Uncle Joe the Bulgarians quickly fell into the Stalinist line while Tito remained defiant. Short of a Soviet invasion of Yugoslavia (as in Matayas Rakosi’s Hungary in 1956), Stalin hoped Tito’s expulsion would cause his overthrow by his own party, which of course never happened. What was inadvertently achieved however was the deliverance of Macedonia from the Skopjean menace.
The Bulgarians, immediately after the announcement freed themselves from their unpleasant concessions to Yugoslavia’s Macedonian designs. Using Stalin as a cover, they could justify their non adherence to the Bled and other agreements they made with Tito. Skopjean workers, teachers and newspapers were expelled and banned from Pirin which was placed under firm centralized control. Even Tito’s four year balkan bedfellow, president Dimitrov announced their “divorce” at the Fifth Congress of the Bulgarian Communist Party, December 9, 1948: “Our country, in good faith allowed a great number of Macedonian teachers and booksellers to come to Pirin. Soon however it became evident that we have been betrayed, from the teachers and booksellers turned in to Tito agents and under the pretense of fighting greater Bulgarian chauvinism and with the aid of the state apparatus and all the political and cultural organizations they began a systematic campaign against everything Bulgarian, against the Bulgarian people. Their culture the people’s democracy, and our communist party. In the Macedonian Republic, no Bulgarian newspaper was allowed, not even Rabotnichesko Delo, the organ of the Bulgarian communist party. The family names of the population were altered as to have no resemblance to Bulgarian names. For example Kulishev, Uzunov and Cherkov became Kolishevski. Uzinovski and Cherkovski…” (Barker, p.105)
Further, president Dimitrov again states the infamous Bulgarian slogan: “Our party has always advocated and continues to advocate that Macedonia belongs to the Macedonians.” (Barker, p.105), (Kofos, p191).
Further testimony on the intolerance and divisiveness of the Skopjeans was given at the Sixteenth Plenum of the BCP: “Because of the policy of the Yugoslav leaders and the leaders of the Macedonian Communist Party, there was in practice created in the Pirin region the intolerable situation of a state within a state because various secret emissarys of the Macedonian Peoples Republic were permitted, without control, to rule the Pirin region and to disseminate hostility towards the Bulgarian people, the Bulgarian state and the Bulgarian Communist Party.” (Barker, p.106)
Although Bulgarian policy on Macedonia was largely passive afterwards, it was constantly accused of oppression and denationalization of the Pirin “Macedonains” by daily Skopjean radio broadcast and newspapers. All of it mere political rhetoric- the real Macedonians were themselves under attack as the Skopjean- N.O.F. infiltrated Greek Democratic (Communist) Army was waging war on the Greek government.
The isolation of Yugoslavia from the communist world was the beginning of the end of the civil war and Tito’s designs on Macedonia. At a meeting on July 28, 1948, the KKE passed a resolution endorsing the Soviet decision but kept it secret to continue receiving aid from Yugoslavia. However, to keep the unity of the army they soon expelled NOF members who were pro Tito including Gotsev and Keramadiev. The slavophones and Skopjeans, already divided over their loyalty to Greece, were further balkanized by their allegiance either to Tito or the KKE.
By the end of 1948 the KKE realized that the rebellion would crumble without the support of the NOF and issued their infamous resolution on a future Macedonia at its fifth Central Committee meeting on January 30, 1949: “There should be no doubt that with the victory of the Democratic army of Greece and of the peoples revolution, the Macedonian people will realizes their full national restitution as they themselves want it.”
A few days later the NOF announced over Radio Free Greece on February 27 that at their meeting in March: “It will announce the Union of Macedonia into a complete, independent and equal Macedonian nation within the Peoples Democratic Federation of the Balkans.” (Kofos,p.179) It is also clear that the NOF now intended Macedonia to be independent from Yugoslavia, along the lines of the old Bulgarian Comintern plan. The KKE in its announcement even granted the NOF it’s own political party, the Communist Organization of Aegean Macedonia (KOAM). It was hailed by the Bulgarians as: “…the only correct way of solving the Macedonian question…” -Trud, February 14, 1949. Now that Bulgaria itself was rejecting the Skopjean incursions into Pirin, they could also endorse the change in the KKE/NOF policy. So confused was the situation in Macedonia between pro Greece, Yugoslavia and Bulgarian armies that by the summer of 1949, that the United Nations U.N.S.C.B. report stated: “Radio broadcasts, newspapers and statements of public officials in Bulgarian and Yugoslavia have continued to support conflicting claims for the detachment of Greek or Aegean Macedonia from Greece and for the establishment of a unified Macedonia in some form or another.”
The Yugoslav version of events was quite different. Throughout the first part of 1949 they were continuing their support of the rebels however with increasing concern that the rebellion would ultimately turn on them. According the Vukmanovic Tempo’s 1950 book How and Why the People’s Liberation Movement in Greece met with Defeat, referring to the 1949 position of the KKE: “Here in fact one had an attempt on the part of the government of the Soviet Union and the other Cominform elements to detach the Peoples Republic of Macedonia from Yugoslavia and render it subordinate to the Soviet Union (Cominform)”. The fact that the Skopjeans were in favor of either an autonomous (Bulgarian) or Yugoslav Macedonia is irrelevant. The nature of the problem still remains the same after 70 years.
Despite a disclaimer broadcast on March 9 over Radio Free Greece by the NOF of their plan for autonomy, their rebellion had already been condemned to death. Mutual accusation of betrayal the pro KKE and Tito NOF factions, as well as desertions by Greeks caused by the KKE’s treasonous announcement severely weakened the rebellion internally. The final blow came from Tito’s decision to formally close the Greek-Yugoslav border to the rebels on July 23 1949. Apparently so distrustful was Tito towards the intentions of the pro Stalin rebels that he buried his plans for Macedonia and Greece to save his own regime.
Within a month of Tito’s decision the civil war came to an end as the Greek army led by General Papagos reasserted sovereignty over the whole country. Zahariades and his minions fled to Albania from where they were also expelled on grounds of subversion of the communist movement. From there many NOF members sought refuge in Yugoslavia under invitation from Kolishevski, while others went to pro Cominform countries.
The toll of the civil war on Greece was extensive with over 70,000 killed and almost 30,000 abductees in other countries. Fortunately however Greece was finally cleansed of treasonous Stalinists, Titoists and seditious slavophones and Bulgarians. Approximately 40,000 such “refugees” (enemy combatants) fled abroad with approximately 30,000 living in Yugoslavia according to Greek statistics and Skopje newspaper Pirinski Glas.
There still remained in Greece about 42,000 slavophones, many of whom fought the communists and fully identified with their Greek compatriots. Had they felt threatened, surely they would have left. Of coursed there are always exceptions, but their numbers are minimal.
His name alone struck fear into the IMRO (VMRO) throughout all of Macedonia. Papa Drakos (Father Dragon) was a fearless Macedonian warrior who had joined up with Kapetan Vardas (Giorgos Tsontos) and Pavlos Gyparis, the famous Cretan volunteers who led the Macedonians to dozens of victories over the IMRO. Papa Drakos (or Papa Hristostomos, as he was called by his real name) was once a seminary student at Halkis. After hearing of the horrors that the IMRO were inflicting on the native Macedonians he abandoned his studies to join the struggle. At first, he sent a letter to Bishop Germanos Karavagelis telling him that he was once a student of his and was very proud of his effort and struggle to liberate Macedonia from the IMRO and the Turks. He finished by saying that he was ready to receive orders from the Bishop. Karavagelis remembered this fiery student who had an ethnic passion and would go to any extreme to defend his nation. Kapetan Vardas was more than anxious to get him in his unit, and he did. On November 13 1904, Papa Drakos and his men had arrived in Kastoria. First they entered the town of Videloutsi to organize the local Macedonians for defense against the IMRO. Soon after, Papa Drakos and Kapetan Vardas would counter strike the Comitadjis with great success. Papa Drakos will be remembered for helping Kapetan Vardas track down and defeat Voivoda Kostantov (“the scourge of Kastanohoria” as he was known by the terrorized Macedonians who refused to give up their Greek heritage) in a town close by Videloutsi. Three days after Konstantov’s final defeat Papa Drakos and his men marched into Lanka and liberated it with little resistance from the exarchist IMRO (which tried to brutally force the natives to abandon the Greek Church). Many more victories followed for Papa Drakos and his men. After the struggle, Papa Drakos married and returned to the priesthood.