Παρασκευή, 9 Δεκεμβρίου 2011

The Axis Occupation and Civil War: Changing Trends in Greek Historiography, 1941-2002*

NIKOS MARANTZIDIS
Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, University of Macedonia
GIORGOS ANTONIOU
Department of History and Civilisation, European University Institute

This article examines the literature on the Greek Civil War and evaluates the changing trends on the field. Based on over 1,800 entries, it reassesses αnd describest he qualitative characteristics of the literature, connecting the production with the political implications and conjunctions of the Cold War era, Greek politics and the post-Cold War period. Scholarly research has mainly examined the international and domestic level of political actions, mainly through a single point of view of political identities and Cold War categorizations. The post-Cold War period allowed research to focus on marginalized issues such as ethnic identities, gender, case studies and local histories. This new trend is based on a new set of conceptual and methodological tools (e.g. oral history, gender studies and electoral studies) and combines various disciplines far from dominant in the Greek 1940s scholarly literature (e.g. anthropology, political science, etc.). Although this trend is still in progress, it shows the biases as well as the complexity and ambiguity of the set of terms used previously. Finally, this new trend attempts with some success to incorporate into the Greek case the findings of the international academic discussion on civil wars and social movements.

Introduction


The first significant academic symposium on the history of Greece in the 1940s took place under the title 'A Nation in Crisis' in 1978. Indeed, after the Greek-Italian War in 1940 and the German invasion in 1941, Greece was about to go through its worst crisis, at least in the 20th century. The famine, the reprisals, the holocaust of the Jewish population and the internal conflict of the Greek people were only some of consequences of the harsh Axis occupation (1941-44) and the civil war that followed (1946-49) - events that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deceased, displaced and homeless people. The Communist defeat and the Cold War established an intense anti-Communist governance of the country until 1974, when the seven-year-long right-wing dictatorship collapsed. The legalization of the Communist Party of Greece and the socialist governance of the country for eight consecutive years (1981-89) marked the political changeover of the socalled Metapolitefsi period that followed the dictatorship, political events that revived interest in the 1940s in various ways. This essay is based on a large and detailed database of the relevant literature, both Greek and international, consisting of nonacademic works (mainly propaganda texts and memoirs) as well as scholarly works.

Politics and the Production of Memory


The non-academic writings on the Greek 1940s are closely linked with the changing general political developments. Left-wing memoirs make up the vast majority, almost seven out of ten books. However, in the anti-Communist years of 1945-74, almost two out of three books published were anti-left. The leftist production took off once again after the fall of the dictatorship: in the period 1974-2003, four out of five books were leftwing.

Thus, there are two different interpretations of theses dramatic events, the postwar and the post-dictatorship perception. Collective memory reversed, and children who grew up after the mid-1970s were raised with a dominant left-wing model of the civil war, as reflected in all aspects of today's society (e.g. commemoration, school texts). In spite of their differences, the two approaches follow a similar methodology, since political identities were considered the basic means of interpreting individual and group strategies. As a result, they divided Greek society in the 1940s into two parts. The right wing calls these national-minded (Ethnikofrones) vs. traitors of the nation. The left wing divides society into patriots vs. collaborators-reactionaries. Both approaches also adopt a clear nationalistic perspective: this makes it difficult for them to explain the relationship of the resistance to the civil war; one of the two factors has to be presented as less significant. The leftist nationalist agenda focuses on the distinction between the resistance period and the civil war. The left insists that the Greek Civil War only began in 1946 since the occupation period was dedicated to the resistance against the Axis forces and their internal allies. The war was primarily 'resistance' - the civil war was an incidental side-effect. In their discourse, the Axis collaborators are deprived of their national identity. Therefore, actions against them are not considered civil conflict - a classic example is the way the collaborators governments a red ealt with in this literature.The right-wing bloc, on the other hand, insisted that the civil war began during the last stage of the Axis occupation, in the context of conflicts between the resistance groups (1943-44). This is the so-called theory of 'three rounds', which attempts to prove that the Communist Party wanted to seize power in postwar Greece.

The numerous propaganda texts appeared immediately after the liberation (1944) and especially during and after the end of the civil war (1949). The right-wing winners of the war projected their interpretation through a Cold War perspective. The civil war (and the Cold War) affected the way in which these events were studied since, like everywhere in Europe, the launch of the Cold War led to a different interpretation of World War II experiences and memories (Mazower, 1995). Therefore, these works featured conspiracy theories of the role of the Soviet Union, the re-interpretation of the resistance movement, the denial of the patriotism of the leftist resistance and the identification of communism with the Slavic threat.

The left-wing propaganda texts reversed the above-mentioned accusations and focused on the matter of US and British imperialism. They focused especially on the Truman Doctrine and the British and US intervention during and after the civil war. Within this framework, foreign intervention was seen as the main factor responsible for the disaster that struck Greece. The leftist resistance was considered a clearly patriotic movement; anti-left organizations were regarded as pseudo-resistance attempting to subvert the popular movement and often turned to collaborationist attitudes. The privileged subjects are the patriotic policy of leftist resistance and its popular social reforms, the foreign (British and US) intervention into Greek politics, the German occupation and its consequences for the Greek nation.

Perhaps a more important category of non-academic work is the memoirs written by 1940s veterans. The right-wing rhetoric appears just after the liberation of Greece (1944). Most of this is written by the elite, that is, parliament members, military and police officers, journalists, bishops, and other officials of the occupation period and the period after the liberation. Their writings are usually presented as 'historical' texts rather than memoirs. Almost half of the right-wing production was published in the first ten years after the end of World War II and relates to state activities and goals. After the end of the civil war (1950), the right-wing memoirs lose their dynamic and never recover; this indicates that the right-wing rhetoric was based on specific political aims and did not primarily seek to construct and project an individual political and cultural identity.

In the short 'peaceful' period 1945-46, between the liberation and open civil strife, left-wing production is very active; this trend diminishes rapidly after the Communist defeat (1949) to reappear only in the 1960s (in Eastern Europe in leftist political refugees' publications; in Greece in some elite left-wing memoirs) in a discreet way. As expected, the leftist rhetoric in Greece was silenced during the dictatorship. The archetype of the 'chieftain' ('Kapetanios') ( Eudes, 1970) was born abroad, a model that until today has been dominant in the memoirs of the period. The resistance fighter was projected as an independent, patriotic, progressive, popular figure that had little to do with Communist politics or party strategies.

Interestingly enough, it was the socialist government and not the fall of the dictatorship (as some might have expected) that nourished the leftist memoir publications. The wave of left-wing memoirs reached its peak only in the 1980s. This indicates that there is a correlation between socialist governance and the construction of the civil war's collective memory. In 1981, for the first time ever, power was won by a political party (PASOK) with a clearly leftist discourse and socialist practices. The flow of political refugees (who had lived in the Eastern bloc for many decades) into Greece accelerated; the dozens of streets and avenues named for symbols of the anti- Communist struggle were renamed. The civil war was considered the outcome of foreign (i.e. British and US) intervention in Greek politics and not of the internal divisions and ambiguities of Greek society. The resistance against the Axis forces was labelled as 'united' (thus, the internal civil conflict was ignored) and 'national-liberation' (thus, the internal social cleavages of Greek society were forgotten). PASOK went one step further in 1984, when they recognized by law the contribution of the national resistance and provided pensions to the veterans of all resistance organizations.

The spread of leftist production did not stop with the collapse of communist Europe. The leftist veteran memories of the civil war were not influenced by this change and remain dominant (77%). On the contrary, the 1990s facilitated the narration of the civil war period in a more direct way than in the past. The coexistence of the two rival civil war blocs, the conservative Nea Dimokratia party and the Communist Party of Greece (in power in 1989), was a major breakthrough in the collective memory of civil war veterans (Vervenioti, 2002). Thus, it seems that the decisive factor was the internal and not the international political conjunction.

The Scholarly Production

The Modern Greek Studies Association symposium (held in 1978) and another in Copenhagen (1987) established the roots of the scholarly approaches to the issue. In total, three-quarterso f the titles were written by historians, while nearly 40% of these works were published only in the last decade, a clear indication of the gradually increasing scholarly interest in the issue. Although history remains the leading discipline, approaches from other social sciences and interdisciplinary works compose one-third of the production in the most recent decade. The majority of works on the 1940s have been published primarily or exclusively in languages other than Greek. This illustrates the problems faced by researchers in Greece as well as by those among the international academic community with general interest in the Greek Civil War. Only since 1991 have Greek titles made up the majority of works published, including research primarily or exclusively based on Greek sources, such as local archives and libraries. National political, economic and social developments provide the dominant theme, followed by work dealing with the international aspects of the subject. During the last decade, the focus has shifted, and local studies now comprise 30% of the production concerning the period. The new generation of researchers have more varied disciplinary backgrounds and use innovative methodological tools such as electoral studies and oral history (Vervenioti, 2002).

Until recently, most of the published work on the Greek 1940s consisted of traditional historical approaches, not always distinct from the political conjunctures and implications of the issue. The general foci are international relations, foreign intervention, internal political developments and party strategies. Until the 1980s, this debate had focused almost exclusively on two major questions: 'counterfactual' questions ('could the war have been avoided?') and the 'which side is to blame for the launch of the civil war?' type of question.

The work that focuses on the international, diplomatic and political aspects of the civil war is based on extensive archival research in foreign archives. The Greek case is approached as a single episode of the wider Cold War conflict, where the decisive factor, which determines internal political developments, is the international balance of power. This approach first appeared in its traditional form, focusing on the consequences of Soviet policy on the region (Barker, 1950; Xydis, 1963; Kofos, 1964). The revisionist school, focusing on British and US imperialism, appeared in Greece only after 1974, after the fall of the Junta. It immediately became the mainstream (Wittner, 1982; Sfikas, 1994; Jefferey, 2000), and to a certain extent it still is. Eventually, and hesitantly, many Greek writers have joined the post-revisionist school during the last two decades, focusing on international as well domestic issues of the Cold War and depending on the increasingly accessible archival material (Frazier, 1991; Stavrakis, 1989; Stefanidis, 1999).

The second approach focused on the internal political developments and elites, trying to connect the history of World War II and the Cold War with events in Greek politics and society. It demonstrated the correlation of the international factor with the internal policies and rivalries, disclosing, at the same time, the relative autonomy of the latter in relation to the international situation (latrides, 1981; Hondros, 1983; Richter, 1973, 1985; Fleisher, 1986; Baerentzen, Iatrides & Smith, 1987; Close, 1993; Mazower, 1994; Sfikas, 2001; Margaritis, 2001).

Civil war research had now moved to a high academic level, but still failed to understand and interpret the turbulent everyday reality of the conflict and the complex web of individual strategies, ideologies and actions. These research gaps can be attributed mainly to technical and methodological reasons. At the technical level, it is difficult to approach the relevant sources; oral history methodology has only recently been adopted in Greece, while the available written sources have little information to offer about everyday life. The methodological problem was the over-politicization of the subject and the fetishization of the written documents, especially the foreign diplomatic archives. Consequently, research failed to focus on the diverse ways of implementing and accepting central political developments at local level and the interaction and autonomy of these two different levels of reality. It was implicitly assumed that the central political developments and ideologies were transferred unaltered to local societies: studying the opinions, beliefs and identities of local societies was regarded as superfluous.

Several important research questions remain taboo. The treatment of these issues is expected to shed light on unknown and underestimated aspects of the civil war and gradually reverse the total picture of the war itself. Such aspects are the issue of participation, the issue of previous ideological, cultural and ethnic identities, and the issue of violence.

Participation

This is one of the most underestimated and mistreated issues of the civil war. What were the motives and reasons for the participation in the organizations? Can distinctions be drawn between tolerance, acceptance and support of an organization? What dividing lines exist between voluntary and coerced action? How can political influence under the Axis occupation be measured? More specifically,t o what extent were the ideology, programme and aims of an organization identified with the personal motives of its members?

Two main issues remain taboo subjects. The first is the issue of collaboration: basic factors such as the geographical distribution, the social and political background of collaborators, the motives and the establishing of the groups are unknown. The second is gender: women participated massively in all levels of the war, but remain largely unrepresented in the literature. We do not have basic knowledge of aspects such as the policy of the resistance movement towards women, the issue of female imprisonments, executions, rapes, the issue of female cadres, officers of the resistance and their social origins and status, the mechanisms of participation, and so on.

Previous Structures and Identities


We know very little about how previous political, cultural and social identities determined participation in the various organizations. What was the role of the interwar social and economic cleavages and structures in shaping the civil war political balance of power? Which is the correlation between the interwar electoral performance of the local population and participation in the resistance? How important was the political influence of the Communist Party to the escalation of the resistance?T he same questions apply to the ethnic dimension of the civil war. To what extend did the coherent ethnic groups react in a politically coherent way towards the civil war juncture?

Violence


The narration of war generally takes place with references to rival atrocities, never one's own. The violence is often underestimated since it is examined as a natural outcome of the strife (Brubaker & Laitin, 1998). This approach underestimates the dynamics of violence and its impact on events, such as reprisals, acts of vengeance, etc. The ongoing research of Stathis Kalyvas was decisive in placing violence in the centre of the civil war research agenda. His path-breaking work posed, for the first time, questions such as 'under what circumstances does an organization practice violence?', 'how effective is this tactic?', 'to what extent is violence centrally controlled or spontaneous?', 'what is the sense of mobilization under civil war circumstances?' and more.

Towards a New 'Paradigm'


The first steps towards a new research direction were taken in the mid-1980s. Pioneering articles by Aschenbrenner (1987) and Collard (1993)' remained marginalized until the 1990s, when these new trends emerged. In the mid-1990s, a new generation of researchers with an interdisciplinary approach and different research priorities became very influential, though far from dominant. The post-Cold War era allowed research to focus on individual stories and established interdisciplinary approaches based on oral history and fieldwork. This new trend contains a significant number of ongoing doctoral dissertations and shifts the question to 'How did the civil war take place?' rather than 'Whose fault was it?'. While this is mainly a historical subject (Vervenioti, 1994; Koliopoulos, 1994; Chatzianastasiou, 1998), more disciplines have recently been mobilized: anthropology (Van Boeschoten, 1992, 1997; Karakasidou, 1997), sociology (Mouchtouris, 1989; Thanopoulou, 2000), political science (Marantzidis, 1997, 2001; Kalyvas, 2000) and social psychology (Vidali, 1999).

Many of these recent works are interdisciplinary, like the work of Marantzidis (2001) on the political, ideological and social attitudes of the Turkish-speaking population of Greece. Combining various sources and disciplines (history, political science, anthropology and sociology), he manages to show the complexity and ambiguity of individual and group strategies and choices and to present the relevant autonomy of the micro-level in connection (and not opposition) with the developments at the macro-level.

A second element is the local studies approach. A characteristic example is that of Van Boeschoten (1997). The importance of her work lies in the in-depth analysis of the social, political and cultural networks that determined the habitus and the behaviour of a specific village during the 1940s. She succeeds in connecting local history with national, oral testimonies with written sources and history with anthropology. The local studies approach shifts the focus from the elites to the masses, and also changes significantly the overall picture at the macrolevel, leading to a re-evaluation of issues like individual priorities and local identities and conflicts.

The new research on the history of the 1940s in Greece also makes extensive use of oral history and the clinical approach. The work of Vervenioti (1994, 2003) provides a gendered history of the 1940s period, based mainly on interviews and unpublished memoirs, emphasizing the relationship between the individual experience and political and social developments. It focuses on marginalized ethnic and social groups and reveals the subjectivity of both the interviewer and the interviewee.2 The clinical approach examines events, social groups and individuals with a view to figuring out the way these phenomena were interpreted by the subjects under study. It connects the personal, organizational and macro-social levels, focusing at the same time on the subjectivity of individual choices. The innovative work of Voglis (2002) on the experiences and the subjectivity of political dissidents of the Greek Civil War combines a solid theoretical and comparative approach to the issue of human imprisonment with a new approach using a specific case study of the experiences of Greek dissidents.

Conclusions

The civil war literature is extensive; much of it was related to the political juncture; the anti-Communist postwar state, the Cold War, the dictatorship and the socialist government all influenced the literature and contributed to the interpretation of the period through politicized and biased approaches.

Scholarly production on the issue has significantly improved our knowledge of the history of the 1940s. It succeeded in interpreting and analysing a series of issues, such as the international dimension and the political and military aspects of the civil war. It has overcome the political implications of the issue, a series of non-academic queries, such as which side is to blame for the launch of the civil war, and it has broadened its thematic and disciplinary horizons.

Nonetheless, the majority of civil war literature overestimated the impact of the left-right cleavage. A typical example is the role of ethnic groups in the conflict. The Cold War categorizations covered these specificities under the sweeping division into left vs. right; the ethnic division was underestimated and transformed into political, in a superficial way.3 The same goes for the interpretation of human motivation and behaviour in a period of crisis: other motives (such as survival) and other identities (e.g. ethnic identity) are equally or even more important than ideology in the shaping of individual identities.

The war has also been interpreted as the outcome of political cleavages from other periods, such as the interwar period. This linear and retrospective interpretation shifted the focus away from the war per se.

So far, the gradually increasing research interest in the nature and dynamics of civil wars at the international level has had little influence on the Greek academic community. According to Mylonas (2003), 'the Greek academic community seems to ignore the findings and the gaps of the international literature on civil wars'. Most Greek studies do not take advantage of relevant international cases and avoid incorporating their findings in the current international comparative and theoretical trends. The research in to the Greek Civil War remains, for various reasons, largely Hellenocentric. At first, the Hellenocentric approach was the result of the political implications of the study of the civil war. When research finally managed to overcome these narrow approaches, it failed to move beyond a traditional positivist attitude. As a consequence, the history of the civil war has failed, so far,t o catch up with international academic work on similar issues. Nonetheless, current research on the Greek Civil War is beginning to adopt comparative and interdisciplinary methods. The further spread of this approach is limited by the lack of communication between various disciplines, the limited funds available for joint research projects, the inaccessibility of various sources and the fragmentation of the civil war researchers and their respective projects.


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NIKOS MARANTZIDIS, b. 1966, PhD in Political Sociology (University of Paris X, 1994); Assistant Professor of Political Science, Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki (2002- ). Main research interests: European communist parties, political behaviour
and ethnicity, and civil wars.
GIORGOS ANTONIOU, b. 1973, MA in Greek and European History (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 2001); doctoral student, Department of History and Civilisation, European University Institute, Florence. PhD thesis based on the oral history methodology, dealing with aspects of the memory and the experiences of a specific region in Greece in the 1940s.


1.  The article by Collard was originally published in English in 1987. Here, we refer to the Greek edition
2. See the special issue of Epitheorisi Koinonikon Erevnon [Social Science Review], 2002, about oral history in Greece.
3. The most significant event of the Axis occupation was the deportation and extermination of about 100,000 Greek Jews. Yet, both the memoir works and the scholarly works systematically ignored this issue.

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