2016.12.07_James Richard Horncastle – ‘The Pawn that would be King Macedonian Slavs in the Greek Civil War, 1946-49’

2016.12.07_James Richard Horncastle - 'The Pawn that would be King Macedonian Slavs in the Greek Civil War, 1946-49'

Furthermore, the publications of leftist writers understandably downplay Macedonian participation in the Greek Civil War. Because of the contemporary political dimensions of the Macedonian Question, the Greek left deliberately softens or ignores its previous role on the Macedonian Question. For example, recent works by Dimitris Zugouras and Dionysis Charitopulos ignore the role of the Slavophone Macedonians. Charitopulos does so despite the fact Aris Velouchiotis, the subject of his book, was actively involved in Macedonian politics during the Second World War. These accounts are not exceptional, given that the Greek left, as Karakasidou notes, worked to distance itself from the Slavophone Macedonians in the aftermath of the Greek Civil War. As will be indicated, part of the reason for this development pertains to the KKE’s interactions with the Slavophone Macedonians during that war.

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The Greek literature on the Macedonian Question in the Greek Civil War portrays the Slavophone Macedonians who participated in the conflict as either not native to the region or, failing the first goal, delegitimizing their claims to nationhood. This line of argument is true for regional scholars that published in both Greek and English. The most representative example of the first trend is John Koliopoulos’ work Plundered Loyalties: Axis occupation and civil strife in Greek West Macedonia, 1941-1949. In it, Koliopoulos seeks to demonstrate that the majority of the Slavic fighters in the DAG were not native to the region.  This argument contradicts the remarks made by individuals who observed the Greek Civil War unfold as well as by generalist, non-nationalist historiographers. Evangelos Kofos’ work exemplifies the second trend. His seminal work, Nationalism and Communism in Macedonia, has had implications that extend beyond Greece. In this work, Kofos repeatedly portrays the claims of the Macedonian Slavs in Greece as a product of external influence and intervention. While it is true that external actors exerted considerable influence on the Slavophone Macedonians within Greece, this viewpoint does not consider their ability to shape their identity. As a result, the national narrative ignores the factors that motivated individual Slavophone Macedonians and how the message of the various groups involved tried to manipulate those elements to serve their ends. What this dissertation demonstrates is that the Slavophone Macedonians exercised considerable independence in their actions, despite the extreme pressures outside participants placed on them. The agency of the local Slavophone Macedonians, in fact, has influenced the development of Macedonian identity as a whole.

The Macedonian Question has confounded academics, politicians and the people of the Balkans since the nineteenth century. While countries have resolved the territorial component of the Macedonian Question, the critical and confusing problem surrounding the ethnic and linguistic identity of the people of the region continues to be the source of international debate. Part of the reason for this confusion is because the history of the Macedonian Question is shrouded in nationalist polemics. The role of the Macedonian Slavs involvement in the Greek Civil War is particularly contentious and embedded in nationalist polemics, which has impacted academic inquiry. This dissertation argues that the preponderance of Macedonian Slavs within the communist forces during the Greek Civil War influenced the actions of all the major actors involved, and has been a significant factor in shaping the modern Macedonian national identity. Equally important was that the Macedonian people’s cognizance of their contribution to the conflict initially allowed them to pursue political and social objectives that would have been impossible under conventional circumstances. Ultimately, regional and international politics prevented the most idealist sections of the Macedonian Slavs from achieving their goal of an independent Macedonian state. Those elements that followed the Yugoslav vision, which developments in the Greek Civil War helped facilitate, however, did achieve the goal of an independent Macedonian political entity. This dissertation demonstrates that one cannot gain a comprehensive understanding of the Greek Civil War without examining the role of the Macedonian Slavs and Macedonian Question in the conflict.


the book/книгата