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Inter-War Macedonia by Yiannis D. Stefanidis

Inter-War Macedonia by Yiannis D. Stefanidis

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Published by Makedonas Akritas
The inter-war period in Greece, with the exception
of Eleutherios Venizelos' four years in power (19281932),
was characterized by acute political instability
and recurrent military interventions. In Macedonia
and northern Greece in general, the presence of the
bulk of the Greek army was a key factor for the
success of any dynamic attempt at seizing power
The inter-war period in Greece, with the exception
of Eleutherios Venizelos' four years in power (19281932),
was characterized by acute political instability
and recurrent military interventions. In Macedonia
and northern Greece in general, the presence of the
bulk of the Greek army was a key factor for the
success of any dynamic attempt at seizing power

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Published by: Makedonas Akritas on Feb 21, 2011
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06/03/2013

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lnter-WarMacedonia
YiannisD.Stefanidis
1.
MacedoniaandGreekpoliticsbetweentheTwoWorldWars
PoliticalInstabilityandMilitaryIntervention,
1922-1926Theinter-warperiodinGreece,withtheexception
of
EleutheriosVenizelos'fouryearsinpower(19281932),wascharacterizedbyacutepoliticalinstabilityandrecurrentmilitaryinterventions.InMacedoniaandnorthernGreeceingeneral,thepresence
of
thebulk
of
theGreekarmywasakeyfactorforthesuccess
of
anydynamicattemptatseizingpower.Infact,duringthefirstyearsaftertheAsiaMinordisaster,stateauthorityinMacedoniawasinthehands
of
themilitary.Thiswaslargelydue
to
theabnormalconditionscreatedbythecontinuingtensioninThrace,wheretheGreekandTurkisharmiesstoodfacingeachotherwellinto1923,theuneasyGreekBulgarianfrontier,aswellastheactivity
of
various'unlawful'elementsintherear
of
thearmy.Thethree-yearventureinAsiaMinorhaddistractedtheattention
of
GreekstateauthorityfromMacedoniaandpermittedarekindling
ofthe
autonomistactivity
of
theBulgaria-basedInternalMacedonianRevolutionaryOrganization(IMRO).Inadditionto
komitaji
incursionsandespionage,Muslimbandsappearedandbrigandagewasrampant.Thesituationeventuallycameundercontrolafterthesigning
of
theTreaty
of
Lausanneandtheensuingexchange
of
populations.
1
Followingthe1922revolution,northernGreecewasdeclaredinastate
of
emergency.Theextraordinaryconditionsapart,thepresence
of
GeneralTheodorosPangalos,commander
of
the'Evros
Army',
inThessalonikitended
to
encouragetheintervention
of
themilitaryinthecivildomain.Pangaloshimselfattempted,notalwayssuccessfully,todealwitheconomicandotherlocalissues.Hismanyactivitiesoutsidethescope
of
hisofficeaswellashisobviousbidforleadership,soonputhimatoddswiththeleaders
of
therevolutionaryregimeinAthens,ColonelsNikolaosPlastiras
andStylianos
Gonatas,andledtohisremovalfromthecommand
ofthe
EvrosArmyinJune1923.Yetthegovernmentdidnothesitate
to
employarmyunitsinordertosubdueearlysigns
of
socialunrest,suchasacommunist-ledattemptatagenerafstrikeinAugust1923.
2
Afterexternalsecuritywasrestored,militaryinterferenceinpoliticsremainedastumblingblockintheway
of
normalpoliticalconditions.Onlythreedaysaftertheproclamation
of
generalelections,onthenight
of
21/22October1923,arevoltbrokeoutagainsttheGonatasgovernment.
It
wasorganizedbyamotleycombination
of
royalistelementsanddisgruntledVenizelistofficers,representedbymenlikeGeneralPanagiotisGargalidis,whohad
just
beenreplacedinthecommand
of
theThessaloniki-basedThirdArmyCorps.InThessalonikithegovernmentauthoritieshadknown
of
theplotforsometimeandtheywereabletoarrestthoseinvolvedwithoutdelay.Intherest
of
Macedonia,despitethesupport
of
most
of
themajorunits,therebelsfailedtoactforfivedays,thusprovidingthegovernmentwithprecioustimetoorganizeitsreaction.ColonelGeorgiosKondylis,whowastomakeanameforhimselfbothassuppressorandsuccessfulorganizer
of
militarycoups,wassentbythegovernmenttodealwiththesituation.Takingadvantage
of
therebels'inaction,Kondyliswasabletorestorecontrol
of
thearmyinWesternandCentralMacedoniaand,afteraskirmishon28October1923,heforcedtheirforceseast
of
theStrymon
to
surrender?Therebels'failure
to
gaincontrol
ofthe
Macedoniancapitalprovedfatal;asimilarfailurewouldcosttheVenizelistsidedeartwelveyearslater.Theso-calledcounter-revolution
of
Octoberplayedintothehands
of
thehardlinersintheVenizelistcamp.Awave
of
purgesinthearmedforceshelpedconsolidatetheinfluence
of
theMilitaryLeague,anetwork
of
predominantlyrepublicanofficerswhichhadbeensetupin1923inThessaloniki.Certain
of
itsmembers,suchasEvripidisBakirtzisandStephanosSaraphis,wouldlater
playa
significantroleindevelopmentsaffectingMacedonia.Whatwasmore,GeneralPangaloswasabletostageacome-
 
INTER-WARMACEDONIA
65
NikolaosPlastiras,leader
oftlie
1922
Revolutioll,reviwillgaguard
of
hOllourwhile
Oil
tourill1I0thernGreece.
?
back
to
thecommand
of
theArmyandthepoliticalforefront.TherefollowedelectionsfortheFourthConstituentAssembly,fromwhichtheanti-Venizelistpartiesabstained.InMacedonia,Venizelos'LiberalPartyheadedthepolls.DespitestrongprotestsfromwithinandwithoutGreece,theJewishvoters
of
Thessaloniki,liketheMuslimsinThrace,hadtoexercizetheirrightsaspart
of
aseparateelectoralcollegeelectingafixednumber
of
representatives.ASocialistcandidatefromPontos,IoannisPassalidis,futureleader
of
thepostwarLeftinGreece,wasreturnedinThessaloniki.TheCommunistParty-stillnamedtheSocialistLabourParty-contestedalltheconstituenciesbutfailedtoreturnacandidate.
4
AlthoughGreecewasproclaimedaRepublicbythePapanastasiougovernmenton25March1924,theactivity
of
theMilitaryLeagueandtheantagonismbetweenitsfactionsintensified.Theinability
of
successivegovernmentstodealeffectivelywiththesituationinthearmedforcesencouragedphenomena
of
insubordinationanddefiance
of
politicalauthority.Meanwhile,followingthemassiveinflux
of
refugeesandtheconcomitantdecline
of
wagelevelsandlivingstandards,Macedoniafacedunprecedentedsocialunrest.Inautumn1924industrialactionspreadontheinitiative
of
thetobaccoworkers'unionsandbloody
GelleralTheodorosPallgalos,commander
of
he
reorKanizedGreekarmyl/Ild
future
dictl/tor.
 
66
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~ v
),,:,
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-:
~ " b 
~ " " 4 : ( ;
.
;
,f,,"
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, " ' - ' ~
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b , . , , , ~
""',:
,:
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t.,.,
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,
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nJ'tA.."-
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/ ~ / ,
t-
(t
......
,
....:
.
\
~ . : . - i \ . . . :
,ilt
...
"
rL.-
",)
,J'tr'
Alexa1ldrosPapa1lastasiou,apromi1le1ltpoliticia1l
of
i1lter-warGreece,
who
c01ltributedsig1lifica1ltlyto
the
developme1lt
of
the
Macedo1lia1lcapital(pai1lti1lg
by
K.
Parthe1lis).
incidentsoccurredinKavala.TheseeventsprovidedKondylis,thenminister
of
theInterior,withanopportunitytoraisethequestion
of
theprotectionof'the'prevailingsocialorder'againstthe'communistmenace,.
5
Thesame'menace'wasemployedbyPangalostojustifytheimposition
of
hisdictatorship
in
June1925.Pangalosowedthesuccess
of
hiscoupalmostentirelytothesupporthehadsecuredamongtheunitsinnorthernGreece.TheMilitaryLeague
of
Thessaloniki,whichcomprised500to600officers,backedhiminthebeliefthattheorganizer
of
theEvrosArmyshouldbeabletorestorestabilityandeffectivegovernment.On
25
June1925,Pangalos'associatesputthe3rdCorpsand4thCorps,inThessalonikiandKavala
r e s p ~ c t i v e l y ,
undertheircontrol.Thecoupsucceeded,althoughinAthensithadsecuredthesupport
of
onlyoneregiment.
6
Pangalos'authoritarianregimesoondegenerated
~ J l 1 i d s t
aseries
of
scandalsandmismanagement
of
the
~ o u n t r y ' s
economicandforeignaffairs.Atleastsome
of
themilitaryfactionsthathadoriginallysupportedhimbegantodistancethemselves,and,beforelong,
t ~
challengetheregime.On8-9April1926anabortiveattemptagainstthedictatorshiptookplaceinThes-saloniki,inwhichaleadingpartwasplayed
by
YIANNISSTEFANIDIS
thedictator'sformersupporters,
Lt
ColonelsKarakouphasandBakirtzis.Theattemptfailedbecausetheartilleryandairforceunitsbackedoutatthelastmo-ment.Eventually,theofficers'organizationsabado-nedPangaloswhowaseasilytoppledinAugust1926.
7
ThePeriod
of
Normalization:theEcumenicalCabinet
and
Venizelos'
Four
Years
Greeceenteredonamorenormalpoliticalcourseaftertheelections
of
7November1926,heldwithexemplaryorder·andfreedom
of
expression.Earlier,theprospect
of
therefugeesabstainingfromthevotehadbeenavertedatthelastmoment:theirorganizationshadthreatenedtoboycotttheelections
if
atleastpart
of
theirclaimsforcompensationwasnotimmediatelysatisfied.TherefugeevotesecuredtheVenizelistpartiesacomfortableedgeovertheiropponentsinMacedonia,althoughtheyfellshort
of
anabsolutemajoritynationwide.Incontrasttothe1923elections,therewerenoseparateelectoralcollegesforethnic-religiouscommunities.Theapplication,forthefirsttime,
of
theproportionalrepresentationsystemfacilitatedtheelection
of
tenCommunistdeputies,six
of
whomwerereturned
by
Macedoniandistricts.
8
Theterm
of
theso-calledEcumenicalCabinet,setupwiththeparticipation
of
bothVenizelistandantiVenizelistpartiesinDecember1926,isgenerallyregardedasaperiod
of
positiveachievement.Afterthedisillusionmentcausedbytheauthoritarianexperiment
of
Pangalos,themilitaryappearedinclined
to
desistfromfurtherinterventions.InMacedoniaconsiderableprogresswasmadeinthefield
of
refugeesettlement.InThessalonikithecountry'sseconduniversitywasfounded,ontheinitiative
of
AlexandrosPapanastasiou.Fromtheoutset,thisinstitutiondevelopedadistinctprogressivecharacterasaforumfornewideasandmodernizingtrends.
It
wasalsoaperiod
of
relativesocialpeace.Onlyatthelaststage,inJune1928,astrikewasstartedbytobaccoworkersandsoonspreadtoothertrades.Therewereclasheswiththegendarmerie,resultinginthekilling
of
sixworkersinKavala.Thesituationwasdefusedonlyafterstrongpressureinparliament,whichledtothesettingup
of
acommitteetodealwiththeworkers'grievances.Thecommunistmovementalsowentthroughaperiod
of
decline:despiteitssuccessinthe1926elections,theCommunistParty
of
Greece(KKE)sufferedfromsuccessivecrisesofleadership.

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