Greek Civil War

The Greek Civil War (Greek: ο Eμφύλιος [Πόλεμος], o Emfýlios [Pólemos], "the Civil War") was fought between the Greek government army (supported by the United Kingdom and the United States) and the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE) – the military branch of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) (supported by Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia, and covertly by the Soviet Union via their Eastern European proxies) from 1946 to 1949. The fighting resulted in the defeat of the DSE by the Hellenic Army.[13]

Greek Civil War
Part of World War II and the Cold War

QF 25 pounder gun of the Hellenic Army during the Civil War
DateFirst phase:
1943–1944
(1 year)
Second Phase:
3 December 1944 – 11 January 1945
(1 month, 1 week and 1 day)
Third Phase:
30 March 1946 – 16 October 1949
(3 years, 6 months, 2 weeks and 2 days)
Location
Result

First phase

Second Phase

Third phase

Belligerents
First phase (1943–1944)
EDES
EKKA
PAO
Organization X
and others...

First phase (1943–1944)
EAM

Second phase (1944)
Kingdom of Greece

ΡΕΑΝ
RAN
Organization X
Ex-members of the Security Battalions
EDES (in Epirus)
 United Kingdom
 South Africa

Second phase (1944)
EAM

Third phase (1946–1949)
Kingdom of Greece

Supported by:
 United Kingdom (until 1947)
 United States (after 1947)

Third phase (1946–1949)
Provisional Democratic Government (since 1947)
Communist Party of Greece

NLF partisans (from December 1946 merged with Democratic Army)
Supported by:[1]
Bulgaria
Albania
 Yugoslavia (until July 1949)
Other European Eastern Bloc countries[2]
Commanders and leaders
Strength

First phase (1943–1944)

  • Unknown

Second phase (1944)

  • 11,600
  • 4,000–4,500
    (12–16 Dec. 1944)
  • 80,000–90,000
    (from 18 Dec. 1944)

Third phase (1946–1949)

  • 232,500 (at peak)[3]

First phase (1943–1944)

  • Unknown

Second phase (1944)

  • 17,800

Third phase (1946–1949)

  • 26,000 (at peak, mid-1948)[4]
    Total: c.100,000 men and women served, of whom:
    15,000–20,000
    Slav-Macedonians
    2,000–3,000 Pomaks
    130–150 Chams[5]
Casualties and losses

First phase (1943–1944)

  • Unknown

Second phase (1944)

  • 1,000–1,200 killed
  • 210 killed, 1,000 wounded, 733 missing

Third phase (1946–1949)

  • Hellenic Army, Navy and Air Force, from 16 August 1945 to 22 December 1951:[6] 15,268 killed, 37,255 wounded, 3,843 missing, 865 deserters
  • Hellenic Gendarmerie, from 1 December 1944 to 27 December 1951:[7] 1,485 killed, 3,143 wounded, 159 missing

First phase (1943–1944)

  • Unknown

Second phase (1944)

  • c. 2,000 killed
    max. 3,000 leftist civilians killed

Third phase (1946–1949)

  • Hellenic Army claim: 38,839 killed
    20,128 captured
First phase (1943–1944): Unknown
Second phase (1944): c. 20–40,000 civilians killed
Third phase (1946–1949): 158,000 total killed[8][9][10][11]
1,000,000 temporarily relocated during the war[12]

The civil war resulted from a highly polarized struggle between left and right ideologies that started in 1943. From 1944 each side targeted the power vacuum resulting from the end of Axis occupation (1941–1944) during World War II. The struggle was one of the first conflicts of the Cold War (c. 1947 to 1989) and represents the first example of Cold War postwar involvement on the part of the Allies in the internal affairs of a foreign country.[14] Greece in the end was funded by the US (through the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan) and joined NATO (1952), while the insurgents were demoralized by the bitter split between the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin, who wanted to end the war, and Yugoslavia's Josip Broz Tito, who wanted it to continue.[15] Tito was committed to helping the Greek Communists in their efforts, a stance that caused political complications with Stalin, as he had recently agreed with Winston Churchill not to support the Communists in Greece, as documented in their Percentages Agreement of October 1944.

The first signs of the civil war occurred in 1942 to 1944, during the German occupation. With the Greek government in exile unable to influence the situation at home, various resistance groups of differing political affiliations emerged, the dominant ones being the leftist National Liberation Front (EAM), and its military branch the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS) which was effectively controlled by the KKE. Starting in autumn 1943, friction between the EAM and the other resistance groups resulted in scattered clashes, which continued until spring 1944, when an agreement was reached forming a national unity government that included six EAM-affiliated ministers.

The immediate prelude to the civil war took place in Athens, on December 3, 1944, less than two months after the Germans had retreated from the area. After an order to disarm, leftists resigned from the government and called for resistance. A riot (the Dekemvriana) erupted; and Greek government gendarmes, with British forces standing in the background, opened fire on a pro-EAM rally, killing 28 demonstrators and injuring dozens.[citation needed] The rally had been organised under the pretext of demonstrating against the perceived impunity of the collaborators and the general disarmament ultimatum, signed by Ronald Scobie (the British commander in Greece). The battle lasted 33 days and resulted in the defeat of the EAM. The subsequent signing of the Treaty of Varkiza (12 February 1945) spelled the end of the left-wing organization's ascendancy: the ELAS was partly disarmed while the EAM soon after lost its multi-party character, to become dominated by the KKE.

The war erupted in 1946, when former ELAS partisans, who had found shelter in their hideouts and were controlled by the KKE, organized the DSE and its High Command headquarters. The KKE supported the endeavor, deciding that there was no alternative way to act against the internationally recognized government formed after the 1946 elections, which the KKE had boycotted. The Communists formed a provisional government in December 1947 and made the DSE the military branch of this government. The neighboring communist states of Albania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria offered logistical support to this provisional government, especially to the forces operating in the north of Greece.

Despite some setbacks that the government forces suffered from 1946 to 1948, they eventually won, largely due to increased American aid, the failure of the DSE to attract sufficient recruits, and the side-effects of the Tito–Stalin split of 1948. The final victory of the western-allied government forces led to Greece's membership in NATO (1952) and helped to define the ideological balance of power in the Aegean Sea for the entire Cold War. The civil war also left Greece with a strongly anti-communist security establishment, which would lead to the establishment of the Greek military junta of 1967–1974 and a legacy of political polarisation that persists to this day.[citation needed]