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French and Greek officers during the First World War - Photographic Archive of the War Museum Athens



The First World War


In the years following the Balkan Wars, Athens lived in an atmosphere of national pride thanks to the victory in the wars and to the growth of Greece’s territory and population. However, disagreement between Venizelos and King Constantine I about Greece’s position in World War I, resulted in the so-called National Schism (ethnikos dichasmos).

Despite an official Greek stance of neutrality at the start of the First World War, Venizelos favored an alliance with Britain, France and Russia against Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. This stance was as much based upon an assessment of Allied domination of the Mediterranean as a consideration of Greek interests. King Constantine, a brother-in-law of Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II, opposed co-operation with the Allies.Venizelos addressing his supporters in a speech in front of his house in Panepistimiou Street - Photographic Archive of the War Museum in Athens

Venizelos came out strongly in favor of providing military assistance to the Allies during the disastrous Dardanelles campaign. Continued disagreement with King Constantine resulted in Venizelos' resignation in March 1915. Subsequently re-elected by a landslide in the June 1915 general election, a result belatedly confirmed by the King two months later, Venizelos once back in office ordered mobilization of the Greek army, simultaneously requesting Allied assistance in the defense of Serbia. By the time Allied forces reached Salonika the King had dismissed Venizelos from office (ostensibly for endangering Greece's policy of neutrality) and replaced him with a succession of puppet premiers.

Settling back in Crete from September 1916, Venizelos became the focus for anti-monarchist sentiment. The following month he established a provisional revolutionary government based in Thessalonica that gained recognition from the Allied governments.

Eleftherios Venizelos and Pavlos Koundouriotis review the Greek units of the Allied Front during the First World War - Benaki Museum AthensIn November 1916 skirmishes broke out between government forces and those established by Venizelos (funded by the Allies). With the political situation rapidly deteriorating and Venizelos preparing to march on Athens, King Constantine finally reluctantly abdicated in June 1917.

Returned to power once again Venizelos oversaw the remainder of the Greek war effort, now that the country had at last openly taken the side of the Allies. Following the armistice Greece's expected territorial gains materialized, The celebration of the Treaty of Sevres in Panathinaic Stadium on 14-27 September 1920. Eleftherios Venizelos, King Alexander, Themistoklis Sophoulis, Admiral Pavlos Koundouriotis, Commander-in-chief Leonidas Paraskevopoulos, K. Raktivand as well as allied delegations can be seen - History Foundation of E. Venizelos Athenschiefly at the expense of Bulgaria and Turkey. Nevertheless, and in spite of British support, Venizelos was unsuccessful in his bid to establish Greek administration of Turkish Smyrna and the Greek army subsequently occupied the region in 1919.

Venizelos' political popularity dwindled during 1920, resulting in his defeat at the general election of December 1920. Instead, the newly installed pro-royalist government invited King Constantine to return from exile; his restoration was brief however; Greece's disastrous defeat in the 1922 war with Turkey brought about his renewed exile.



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