The Ambassador in Greece (MacVeagh) to the Secretary of State

No. 965

Subject: Political Developments in Greece: April 15–May 1, 1945.

Sir: …

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… Partly, of course, present territorial demands are a carry-over of the old idea of a “Greater Greece” and, so far as the Dodecanese, [Page 309] Cyprus, and Northern Epirus are concerned, undoubtedly represent a sincere and earnest desire to incorporate all Greek peoples into the national territory. On the other hand, exaggerated claims, such as those put forward in 1944 by Mr. Philip Dragoumis, Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs (see my despatch No. 217 of September 9, 1944), may be regarded somewhat as tub-thumping designed to distract public opinion. It is difficult to see how additional territory could be of any real strategic value to Greece under conditions of modern warfare and in view of prevailing political circumstances in the Balkans. Such demands may also be put forward as bargaining points to counterbalance possible territorial claims by neighboring states against Greece. Thus it might be hoped that the suggested partitioning of Albania between Greece and Yugoslavia would, if effected, not only result in the annexation of Northern Epirus to Greece but would also satisfy Yugoslav territorial ambitions which, it is feared, may now be directed towards Greek Macedonia and Salonika.

Greek Claims and Tito’s Macedonian Statement

While repeated, exaggerated expressions on the subject of Greek claims are characteristic of the Greek rightist press and political circles as a whole, I feel that they may represent the clamor of a claque rather than any deep-rooted demand for expansion on the part of the whole population. More responsible Greek political circles, moreover, taking cognizance of the threats against Greece’s own territorial integrity, are beginning to realize that the diplomatic weapon referred to above is a double-edged sword, that too much stress laid on Greek claims against Albania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria might provide the Soviet-dominated Governments of those countries with precisely the justification they require for counteraction against Greece. On April 24, indeed, Mr. Zakythinos, Undersecretary for Press and Information, warned the press to soft-pedal territorial claims and to avoid chauvinistic slogans “as these can damage our national cause.” The Greeks presumably have not learned of General Biryusov’s92 statement in Sofia to General Crane93 that Russia will support Bulgaria in resisting so-called British-backed Greek territorial claims on Bulgaria (Department’s telegram No. 337 of April 2194), but they have heard of Russian troop movements near the frontier of Bulgaria and Thrace. They are aware also of the possible implications behind the hospitality extended by Yugoslavia to the “Free Macedonian” Regiment of General [Page 310] Gotsi (Gotchev)95 and behind Yugoslav queries regarding Greece’s ability to reconstruct rapidly the Djevdjeli–Salonika railroad (see my telegram No. 342 of April 5 and my despatches No. 827 and No. 845 of April 996). Most recently, they have been seriously alarmed by Marshal Tito’s reported statement to the Moscow correspondent of the New York Times that “if Macedonians of the Greek areas express their wish to unite with the remaining Macedonians, Yugoslavia will not refuse to comply with their desires”. The subsequent reassuring declarations in New York of Mr. Gabrilovitch, Yugoslav Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, have in no way stemmed the storm of protest provoked in the Greek nationalist press by the Tito statement. Even EAM has been obliged to bow to the force of public opinion97 in this instance and “to state once more that the parties of EAM consider Macedonia and Thrace as inseparable parts of Greece” (April 21).

One may conclude, therefore, that all eyes in Greece are turned towards the north, and, although they do not see the situation in the same light, the general preoccupation of Greece with the problems of her northern frontier will continue to dominate Greek thinking on foreign policy to the practical exclusion of broader considerations of global security.

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Respectfully yours,

Lincoln MacVeagh
  1. Col. Gen. Sergey Semenovich Biryuzov, President, Allied Control Commission for Bulgaria.
  2. Maj. Gen. John A. Crane, chief U.S. military representative on the Allied Control Commission for Bulgaria.
  3. Not printed.
  4. The Gotsi band was originally raised from among the Slavs of Greek Macedonia about the summer of 1943. EAM (Ethnikon Apeleftherotikon Metopon, the National Liberation Front, one of several resistance organizations operating in Greece during the period of the German occupation and controlled by the KKE, Kommounistikon Komma Ellados, the Communist Party of Greece) had by early 1944 secured the incorporation of the Gotsi group into ELAS (Ethnikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos, the National People’s Liberation Army, the guerrilla arm of BAM). However, as reported by the Assistant Military Attaché in Greece (McNeill) in despatch 1453, August 28, 1945, “A series of jurisdictional disputes between Gotsi and Higher ELAS Hq ensued. Gotsi refused to hand over surplus arms in his possession, and instead started to increase the size of the unit under his command and to speak openly of his plan to make an autonomous Macedonia, separate from Greece. In November 1944 a final break developed between Gotsi and ELAS; and superior ELAS forces compelled Gotsi to retreat across the Yugoslav frontier. His force has since remained somewhere in southern Yugoslavia.…” (868.4016/8–2845). The Gotsi band came eventually to be known as the Slav-Macedonian Liberation Front (Slaviomakedonski Nacionalny Osvoboditelen Front, or SNOF).
  5. Neither printed.
  6. By the time of the liberation of Greece in October 1944, EAM had secured a predominant position among the resistance organizations operating in Greece and actually challenged the authority of the restored Greek Government at Athens in December 1944; see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. v, pp. 141 ff.; for documentation regarding the role of EAM in Greek political life in 1945, see pp. 98 ff.