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EAM fighter in Macedonia



Greek Civil War
From Agreement to Confrontation

In May 1944, representatives from all political parties and resistance groups came together at a conference in Lebanon, seeking an agreement about a government of national unity. Despite EAM's accusations of collaboration made against all the other Greek forces and blames charging EAM-ELAS members for murders, banditry and thievery, the conference ended with an agreement for a government of national unity consisting of 24 ministers, 6 of whom were EAM's members, because of Soviet directives to the KKE to avoid harming Allied unity, but didn't resolve the resistance groups' disarmament problem.

The British commander in Greece 1944-1946, General Ronald ScobieBy the summer of 1944 it was obvious that the Germans would soon withdraw from Greece, The government-in-exile, now led by a prominent liberal, George Papandreou, moved to Casterta in Italy in preparation for the return to Greece. Under the Caserta agreement of September 1944, all the resistance forces in Greece were placed under the command of a British officer, General Ronald Scobie.

Troops of the Western Allies landed in Greece in October. There was little fighting since the Germans were in full retreat and most of Greek territory was already liberated by either ELAS or EDES. In Athens, only the central part of the city was under German occupation on 13 October, while all other regions were under EAM-ELAS rule. The German forces were greatly outnumbered by ELAS which, by this time, had 50.000 men under arms and was re-equipping from supplies left behind by the Germans. On 13 October British troops entered Athens. Papandreou and his ministers followed 6 days later. The King stayed in Cairo because Papandreou had promised that the future of the monarchy would be decided by referendum.

At this point there was little to prevent ELAS from taking full control of the country. They did not do so because the KKE leadership was under instructions from the Soviet Union not to German troops in the center of Athensprecipitate a crisis that could jeopardize Allied unity and put Stalin's larger post-war objectives at risk. The KKK’s leadership knew this but the ELAS fighters did not. This became a source of conflict within EAM and ELAS. Top

Following Stalin's instructions, the KKE’s leadership tried to avoid a confrontation with the Papandreou government. The majority of ELAS members saw the Western Allies as liberators although some KKE leaders such as Andreas Tzimas and Aris Velouchiotis did not trust the Western Allies. Tzimas was in touch with the Yugoslav Communist leader Josip Broz Tito and he disagreed with ELAS' co-operation with the Western Allied forces.

The issue of disarming the resistance organizations was a cause of friction between the Papandreou government and its EAM members. Advised by the British ambassador Sir Reginald Leeper, Papandreou demanded the disarmament of all armed forces apart from the Ieros Lohos and the 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade, or Rimini Brigade, that were formed after the suppression of the Greek armed forces’ mutiny in Egypt and the constitution of a National Guard under government control.

George Papandreou, regent Archbishop Damaskinos, and British general Reginald Scobie during the celebrations for Liberation at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Syntagma Square - Arms History Directorate, AthensEAM, believing that this would leave ELAS defenseless against the right-wing militias and the anti-communist Security Battalions, submitted an alternative plan of total and simultaneous disarmament, which Papandreou rejected as he had started viewing the Security Battalions as a good reserve against a possible communist coup. EAM ministers resigned from the government on 2 December. The day before, Scobie had issued a proclamation requiring the dissolution of ELAS. Command of ELAS was the KKE's greatest source of strength, and the KKE leader Siantos decided that the demand for ELAS' dissolution should not be met.

Tito's influence may have played some role in ELAS' resistance to disarmament. Tito was outwardly loyal to Stalin but had come to power through his own forces and believed that the Communist Greeks should do the same. His influence, however, had not prevented the EAM leadership from putting its forces under Scobie's command a couple of months earlier, according to the Caserta agreement. Top



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