Monday, March 12, 2007

The critical five years: 1945-50

[ Greece and The Macedonian Question,Etairia Makedonikon Spoudon]

Nonetheless the Slavo-Macedonians, with the backing of the newly- formed Tito regime in Yugoslavia, kept up their efforts. Just a few days after the Varkiza agreement, Slavo-Macedonian èmigrès from Greece formed an organisation named NOF (National Liberation Front) in Skopje, and sent armed guerrilla bands back to the border areas of Greek Macedonia. The activities of these bands attracted the criticism of the KKE, since they were in conflict with the terms of the Varkiza agreement and gave the government forces an excuse for applying severe measures to suppress them.

However, when the Civil War began in 1946, the Slavo-Macedonians, returned to Greek Macedonia in great numbers and joined the Greek Communist movement, while still retaining their own organisation, the NOF. To judge from the various collections of documents and memoirs which have been published in Skopje, the Slavo-Macedonians — that is, the part of the Slavic-speaking population whose national consciousness was Slavic — were fighting what they saw at this time as a "national liberation struggle for the Macedonians of the Aegean" in order to win their national rights. These rights were none other than the policy which Yugoslavia was officially pursuing at this time and which was intended to incorporate the Macedonian territories of both Greek and Bulgarian Macedonia into the Socialist Republic of Macedonia.

In the meantime, and while the outcome of the civil war in Greece still hung in the balance, the Yugoslavs exerted unbearable pressure on their Bulgarian comrades in order to blackmail them into ceding Bulgarian Macedonia to Yugoslavia. In the end, by the Bled accords of 1947, Dimitrov agreed, in return for minor concessions, to acknowledge the inhabitants of Bulgarian Macedonia (Pirin) as "Macedonians" and to pave the way for the incorporation of the province of Pirin into the Socialist Republic of Macedonia. The incorporation of Greek Macedonia would await the outcome of the civil war.

The split between Stalin and Tito, which occurred suddenly in the summer of 1948, upset all the Yugoslav calculations about playing a leading role in the Balkans using the Macedonian question as the central lever. Bulgaria seized the opportunity to release itself from the concessions it had made over the Macedonian question. It repudiated the theory of the "Macedonian nation" and drove the commissars from Skopje off its territory. It then attempted to exploit the difficulties which the Yugoslavs were facing in order to advance once more the pre-war slogan of an "independent and united Macedonia ". This slogan also served to increase the more general political pressure which the Soviet Union was at that time exerting on Tito.

The Moscow-Belgrade split, however, also had dramatic repercussions for Greek Macedonia. The leadership of the KKE judged it to be expedient to fall into line with the Soviet Union in attacking Tito and at the same time adopt its new policy towards Macedonia. Thus, by decision of the 5th Plenum of the Central Committee, in January 1949, the KKE revived the old pro-Bulgarian slogan of the "independent and united Macedonia" in the framework of a future Balkan Communist Federation.

This shift of policy had grave consequences for the course of military operations, since the Yugoslavs, in order to protect their own rear, closed the border with Greece, which until that time had been the main channel through which supplies had flowed to the Communist forces in Greece. Some of the NOF supporters fled to Yugoslav Macedonia, where they settled. Later, when the armed conflict ended in August 1949, the remaining masses of NOF supporters followed the other Greek political refugees into exile in the countries of Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union.

The final outcome of those five tragic years was that those Slavic- speakers who had originally joined forces with the Bulgarians during the occupation and later identified with Skopje's Slavo-Macedonians left Greece. This was the last exodus from Greek Macedonia of people who felt themselves to be Slavs or had pro-Slav sentiments. Certainly, in the maelstrom of the fighting and the events of the time injustices must have been done, and consequently there later occurred a kind of selective repatriation of Slavic-speakers with Greek national consciousness. Those Slavic-speak­ ers with Greek national consciousness who had been fighting to keep Greece free and Macedonia Greek ever since the Macedonian Straggle remained in Greece . It was these frontier fighters who, even in the most difficult times, refused to become instruments of the Bulgarians' occupation forces or of Tito's SNOF and NOF. Yugoslavia , faced with the nightmarish prospect of a Soviet invasion, sought support in the West, which opened up the way for the normalisation of relations with Greece and the signing, in 1954, of a tripartite Balkan pact of defensive alliance, of which Turkey also was a member.

The new circumstances led Yugoslavia to drop the territorial demands it had been putting forward and to restrict itself to formal claims for the recognition of "Macedonian" minorities. These claims were, however, to­ tally insubstantiated, since the objective conditions to justify them no longer existed. The KKE, on its part, soon realised the enormous political cost of the decision taken by the 5th Plenum and reversed it with a theoretical position involving "the equality of the Slavo-Macedonians". However, since the Slavo-Macedonians concerned were no longer in Greece , this position gradually lost force and was officially abandoned with the categorical statement by General Secretary Harilaos Florakis in Thessaloniki in September 1988 that "for the KKE, there is no Macedonian minority in Greece".

Lastly, Bulgaria too dropped the slogan of a united Macedonia after the death of Stalin in 1953. After a considerable amount of vacillation — directly connected to the state of Soviet-Yugoslav relations at any given time — Bulgaria also adopted the position that there is no "Macedonian nation" and that consequently there can be no "Macedonian" minority in Bulgaria.

As a conclusion, after the upheavals of the period 1940-50, the three sections of Macedonia went over to licking their wounds and have since followed, peacefully, the political, economic and social development of the countries to which they belong.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Commentators have the exclusive responsibility of their writings, the material that they mention, as well as and the opinions that they express.