Friday, July 11, 2008

Autonomist Movements of the Slavophones in 1944, The Attitude of the Communist Party of Greece and the Protection of the Greek-Yugoslav Border, part I

by Spyridon Sfetas
Balkan Studies, 36/2 (1995), 297-317.

The founding of the Slavo-Macedonian Popular Liberation Front (SNOF) in Kastoria in October 1943 and in Florina the following November was a result of two factors: the general negotiations between Tito's envoy in Yugoslav and Greek Macedonia, Svetozar Vukmanovic-Tempo, the military leaders of the Greek Popular Liberation Army (ELAS), and the political leaders of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in July and August 1943 to co-ordinate the resistance movements [1], and the more specific discussions between Leonidas Stringos and the political delegate of the GHQ of Yugoslav Macedonia, Cvetko Uzunovski in late August or early September 1943 near Yannitsa [2].

The Yugoslavs' immediate purpose in founding SNOF was to inculcate a Slavo-Macedonian national consciousness in the Slavophones of Greek Macedonia and to enlist the Slavophones of Greek Macedonia into the resistance movement in Yugoslav Macedonia; while their indirect aim was to promote Yugoslavia's views on the Macedonian Question [3].

The KKE had recognized the Slavophones as a "SlavoMacedonian nation" since 1934, in accordance with the relevant decision by the Comintern, and since 1935 had been demanding full equality for the minorities within the Greek state; and it now acquiesced to the founding of SNOF in the belief that this would draw into the resistance those Slavophones who had been led astray by Bulgarian Fascist propaganda [4].

SNOF's progress must be examined in relation to the political developments in Yugoslav Macedonia. Although Tempo managed early in 1943 to establish a Communist party in Yugoslav Macedonia and a GHQ, with Mihailo Apostolski in command and Uzunovski as political delegate, the organisation of the resistance began as soon as the Italians had surrendered and the defeat of Germany was imminent [5].

The resistance movement in Yugoslav Macedonia had two political programmes. The one represented by Tempo and the newly-established Communist Party gave priority to battling against any form of manifest or latent pro-Bulgarian sentiment in Yugoslav Macedonia and to bringing the region into the Yugoslav federation. During the War, the question of uniting the three parts of Macedonia and incorporating them into federal Yugoslavia was considered to be of secondary importance. Attention was chiefly given to spreading propaganda about the right to self-determination of the "Slavo-Macedonian people" in Greece and Bulgaria. Tito shared this view. During the War, veterans of the interwar Bulgarian IMRO and political cadres of IMRO (United) who had accepted Slavo-Macedonism as an ethnic preference now regarded the main objective as being the unification of the three parts of Macedonia into a single state, whose postwar future was to involve not necessarily inclusion in a Yugoslav federation (in which they foresaw a new form of Serbian dominance over Macedonia), but rather membership of a Balkan federation or else independence under the protection of the Great Powers. This policy was chiefly supported by Metodija Andonov-Cento, Mane Cuckov, and Kiril Petrusevski. In 1943, Kiro Gligorov (now President of the FYROM) also favoured this solution. All the same, regardless of their priorities, both sides acknowledged the right of the "Slavo-Macedonian people" to unification.

The founding of SNOF coincided with the second meeting of the Antifascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ) in late November 1943 at Jaice. The Council decided to federalise Yugoslavia and incorporate Macedonia. However, the borders of Tito's "Macedonia" did not appear to include the Yugoslav section alone. The Council elected Dimitar Vlahov as the representative for Greek Macedonia and Vladimir Poptomov as the representative for the Bulgarian section. Directly after the Jaice meeting, military liaison officers from Yugoslav Macedonia (Kiro "Dejan" Georgievski, Petre "Pero" Novacesvski, Kole "Kolja" Todorovski-Kaninski, and Dobrivoje "Orce" Radosavljevic) infiltrated Greek Macedonia to spread propaganda to the effect that the "Macedonian people" in Greece should fight not for equality, as the KKE urged, but for self-determination, unification, and a People's Republic of "Macedonia" on the Yugoslav model, and that they should strive for a separate GHQ and separate armed units. Although the Yugoslav propaganda met with little response from the district committee of the Florina SNOF (whose members included Petros Pilals and Stavros Kotsopoulos), it was eagerly embraced by the district committee of the Kastoria SNOF (whose members included Paskhalis Mitropoulos (Paskal Mitrevski), Naoum Peyios (Naum Pejov), Lazaros Papa1azarou (Lazo Poplazarov), and Lazaros Ossenskis (Lazo Damovski-Osenski)). The immediate aims of the Kastoria SNOF were to disarm the slavophone villagers who had been armed by the Bulgarians, to persuade them to join SNOF, and to inculcate a Slavo-Macedonian national consciousness. To this end they were publishing a newspaper titled Slavjanomakedonski Glas. Given the Communist position on the existence of a "Slavo-Macedonian nation", members of SNOF demanded that the KKE recognise the Slavophones' right to self-determination. In a letter to the party organisation in Kastoria dated 24 lanuary 1944, Lazaros Ossenskis wrote:

The KKE promises the Slavo-Macedonians full equality in the framework of a People's Republic. However, the prime objective of its struggle is the liberation of the Dodecanese and Cyprus, whose people will be free to take their place in people-governed Greece. The Slavo-Macedonians justifiably ask, Why do they not leave us free to build our own culture and our national ideals, for we too are something separate, we are not Greeks, we are a Slavo-Macedonian race with different ideals, but they want us to remain within the Greek framework, giving us only equality. How does this square with the declared principles of the self-determination of peoples ? [6]

Paskhalis Mitropoulos, a graduate of the Law School of Thessaloniki University, was particularly active. Thanks to him, in March 1944 the slavophone sections of the 9th ELAS Division were omcially named the ('SIavo-Macedonian Popular Liberation Army" (SNOV) and wore their own badge on their forage-caps. In April 1944, the Yugoslav agents prevented the Slavophones from taking part in the elections for members of the Political Committee of National Liberation (PEEA). The blatant nationalist and autonomist propaganda of some of SNOF's leading cadres and the organisation's close dependence on the GHQ of Yugoslav Macedonia provoked such alarm in the KKE's Macedonia Bureau and in the Macedonian Divisions Group that in May 1944 it was decided to disband the organisation and amalgamate it with EAM. On 16 May 1944, at ,Mitropoulos' instigation [7] , some sixty Slavophones, led by Naoum Peyios and Yorgos Touroundzas defected at Karaorman, seat of the GHQ of Yugoslav Macedonia, vilifying ELAS and EAM for their erroneous policy towards the Slavo-Macedonians.

In an attempt to resolve the crisis that had broken out between the 9th ELAS Division and the GHQ of Yugoslav Macedonia, a committee from the 28th Regiment led by Adjutant Haralambos "Athanatos" Haralambidis went to Karaorman and met Kiro "Dejan" Georgijevski on 23 May. Haralambidis protested against the smear campaign being waged against EAM and the KKE by the military liaison officers from Yugoslav Macedonia, demanded that Tito look into the matter, and presented the following demands:

1. that recruiting cease on Greek territory,
2. that all anti-EAM propaganda cease,
3. that Yugoslav partisans seek refuge on Greek territory only when under strong enemy pressure and only for a few days at a time, pending the resolution of all the contentious issues,
4. that Peyios and the other deserters be handed over with their weapons,
5. that Touroundas be handed over (with protests about the delay),
6. that terrorist tactics for collecting food on Greek territory cease,
7. that ELAS be consulted before any action on Greek territory,
8. that in the absence of ELAS from certain areas, SNOF liaise with the political organizations in its contacts with the people [8] .

Georgijevski informed Tempo [9] , who in turn told Tito. Although Tito felt that the Greek Communists' attitude to the issue of the "Macedonians" in Greece was not correct, in order not to impair the Greek resistance movement he recommended that there be no discussion of the unification of Greek and Yugoslav Macedonia for time being [10] . Following Tito's advice, on 17 June 1944 the GHQ of Yugoslav Macedonia sent out a circular to the political agents travelling around Greek Macedonia in which emphasis was laid on the need for a joint struggle between the Greek and the "Macedonian" people.

The Macedonian people in Yugoslavia, in a fraternal common struggle with the Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, and Montenegrin people, are today achieving their dream: a free Macedonia in a democratic federal Yugoslavia. To achieve this national liberation and equality is the goal of the whole Macedonian people today, of all the Macedonians, including those in Greece and Bulgaria....Only through fraternal concord and the common struggle with the Greek and Bulgarian people can the Macedonians in Greece and Bulgaria achieve their full national liberationand equality, achieve the right to determine their own destiny, a right which the Atlantic Charter guarantees to all enslaved peoples struggling against Fascism [11].

[1]-See T.-A. Papapanagiotou, L'Effortpourla creation duglandquartiergendralbalcanique et la cooperation balcanique, Juin-Septembre 1943 (unpublished postgraduate dissertation, Sorbonne, 1991); there is a copy in the library of the Institute for Balkan Studies, Thessaloniki.

[2]-See S. Vukmanovic-Tempo, Revolucija Koja teee, vol. 3, Zagreb 1982, p. 114. In a postwar report to the Central Committee of the KKE on SNOF's activities, Stringos had this to say about the meeting: "Abas requested that our sections work together against the Germans and that we make things a little easier for their sections that were obliged, because of the operations, to cross over into Greek territory frequently; and they also offered to help with the work among the Slavo-Macedonians, who were still being influenced by the komitadyis". See AM (Arhiv na Makedonija-Skopje), K.20/242.A.

[3]-Tempo brought up the question of uniting Greek and Yugoslav Macedonia in a future Yugoslav federation when he met Andreas Dzimas, the KKE's representative, in the summer of 1943. He asked Dzima to sign a statement to that effect. Dzimas refused to discuss the subject. See RCHIDNI (Rossijskij Centr Hranenija i Izutenija Dokumentov NovejPej Istorii), F. 495, Op. 74, D. 177, L. 60, Fitin (Director of Soviet espionage) to Dimitrov, 18 August 1944. This was another fundamental reason why Siandos rejected Tempo's proposals for setting up a Balkan HQ. It was agreed, however, to set up Slavo-Macedonian anned sections within the framework of ELAS, to foster the Slavo-Macedonian dialect, and to publish Slavo-Macedonian newspapers.

[4]-According to confidential statistics collected by the Macedonian GHQ early in 1925 (i.e. after the deadline for emigration applications), there were 76,098 Slavophones former Patriarchists in Greek Macedonia and 97,636 Slavophones former Exarchists, of whom 11,228 were due to emigrate to Bulgaria, thus reducing the number of former Exarchists to 86,408. The Slavophones, including those who were bilingual, therefore numbered 162,506 (see 1. Mihailidis, ,'H Mclxeoovia TOU 1930 1lfaa cso It5 axawtattxE;: H REQiZT(2)an T(l)V okXoXvxv,,, XVlth GreekHistoncal Conference, Thessaloniki 1994). The Slavophones may be divided into those who regarded themselves as Bulgarians, those who regarded themselves as Greeks, and those with a more fluid consciousness. They were incolporated into the Greek state, to which they remained loyal. It is significant that neither the Bulgarian IMRO nor the Communist IMRO (United) exerted much iniluence on the Slavophones. Their displeasure was chiefly aroused by the policy of "forced Hellenisation" implemented under the Metaxas dictatorship, when they were forbidden to speak the Slavo-Macedonian dialect even in the privacy of their own homes. Although Metaxas' policy was dictated by the necessity of preventing the Communists from infiltrating the Slavophonesafter 1934 the KKE regarded them as a "(Slavo-)Macedonian nation" and members of IMRO (United) wrote to Rizospastis pointing out the "distinct ethnic status of the (Slavo-)Macedonians"_ it may in general tenns be desctibed as ill-considered, and ultimately facilitated Bulgarian and Yugoslav propaganda duting the occupation.

[5]-The Bulgarian occupation forces in the Serbian part of Macedonia were received as liberators and pro-Bulgarian feeling ran high in the early stages of the occupation. Neither the Communists, position regarding a separate Macedonian nation nor the idea of a Yugoslav federation met with much response from the Slav population, which nurtured pro-Bulgarian sentiments. The local Communists, led by M. Satorov, splintered off from the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and joined the Bulgarian Labour Party (which was Communist), with the slogan "One state, one party. The subsequent dissatisfaction with the occupation authorities was due to social factors (high-handedness, heavy taxation, contempt for local sensitivities) rather than national ones. This was also why Tito,s resistance movement in Yugoslav Macedonia failed to develop. See Tempo's speech on 30 January 1945 in Belgrade, PRO FO 371/48181, R2448/11/67, Maclean to Foreign Office, No 121, Belgrade, 31 lan. 1945.

[6]- Arhivna Makedonija, Egejska Makedonija na NOB, 1944-1945, vol. I (Risto Kirjazovski, Vasil Pejov, Todor Simovski, eds), Skopje 1971, p. 341.

[7] - Mitropoulos' role in Peyios' disruptive movement was disclosed after investigations conducted by the Macedonia Bureau. See Stringos' report, AM, K.20/242 A.

[8] - See Egejska Makedonija, p. 423.

[9] - See Kiro Georgijevski,s letter dated 25 April 1944 to Tempo; VukmanovicTempo, Revoijucia koja tece, vol. 3, Zagreb 1982, pp. 269-71.

[10] - S. Neshovich, "The Correspondence between Tito and Dimitrov on the B.W.P. (c) and Macedonia,,, Macedonian Review, 3 (1975), 272-3.

[11] - See Vukmanovic-Tempo, op.cir., pp. 271-3. It is worth noting that, though Tito regarded the unification of the "Macedonian people,, as something to be considered after the War, he acknowledged the right of the "Macedonian people,, beyond the Yugoslav borders to demand national self-determination and democratic rights during the anti-Fascist struggle. The decision was taken by the national committee for Yugoslav liberation when it convened on Vis on 24 June 1944. The session was attended by, amongst others, 1. B. Tito. E. Kardeljs A. Rankovic, M. Djilas, M. A. tento, S. V. Tempo. See losip Brow Tito. Sabrana Djela. vol. 20, Belgrade 1984, pp. 252-3. The fact that the term "self-determination,' is open to such a variety of interpretations satisfied not only Tito and Tempo but also Yenta and his colleagues and throughout the War helped to blunt their disagreements over the specific political future of both Yugoslav Macedonia and Macedonia as a whole.

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.