868.00/2–1649: Telegram

The Ambassador in Yugoslavia (Cannon) to the Secretary of State


161. Recent political events in Greek CP 1 seems to us not only part peace drive lately revived by Zachariades but also external indications of an altered Communist strategy in Greece which seeks turn guerrilla movement into eventual agency of Cominform’s anti-Tito2 program.

Our analysis is handicapped by paucity information available here. Yugoslav press has maintained strict silence past two weeks on guerrilla developments except to note party session held January 30–31 and Markos’ resignation for ill health. Assuming correctness press reports and information sent other mission here that Zachariades has been confirmed as party leader, Joannides given civil and military posts of Markos, Chryssa Hadjivassiliou purged with Markos, and that “right opportunist deviation in CPG” were main subject recent session we think pieces form picture suggestive possibilities for profound changes in Balkan relations.

Starting point of analysis is construction “right opportunist deviations”. While conceding lack of precision in Cominform’s current lateral definitions of Yugoslav deviationism we think this term one that would naturally be used indicate either incipient independence by Markos or excessive reliance on Tito. We would note here we have never seen unequivocal denunciation of Tito by Markos on Cominform issue nor does guerrilla radio appear have participated in Cominform’s anti-CPY clamor. Markos’ reticence or attempt maintain neutrality doubtless became especially reprehensible to Soviets in recent period when [Page 251]Macedonian question has again come to fore. Rankovic disclosure at Serbian CP Congress of Stalin’s 1945 endorsement Yugoslavs Southern Slav Federation formula (Embtel 70, January 203) just ten days before announcement Markos purge seemed curious as to time and place and may be related schismatic development in CPG. There is also negative evidence that if Markos dismissed in disciplinary or tactical dispute he could have been described as casualty with no mention deviationism in CPG. Finally fact Yugoslav press has omitted any reference to CPG agenda item on right opportunism seems significant. We think therefore, assumptions reasonable that “right opportunist deviations” means pro-Titoism and that Markos was dismissed at least in part on this issue.

Cominform strategy then had face dilemma (1) Markos could not be sustained except by use some Yugoslav facilities and certainly he could not push much further without full Yugoslav logistical cooperation but (2) links between Markos and Tito would thereby be strengthened thus reinforcing latter within his most sensitive area. Situation could perhaps have been tolerated if prospects were good for early guerrilla triumph but as no signs have developed of US withdrawal Communist military victory must appear remote.

Kremlin strategy may thus have shifted to new peace drive of Zachariades launched only two days before Greek CP met. Note that in latest guerrilla offer specific terms are set forth (Embtel 93 January 284). We think this drive intended to be taken very seriously and while its original terms doubtless represent initial bargaining position we may be faced with highly aggressive conciliatoriness on Greece by Cominform states at next GA. Purge of Hadjivassiliou, who last summer was reported as leading guerrilla activist in addition her relationship with Markos, would appear consistent. New Florina offensive may be designed strengthen peace drive while demonstrating guerrillas not affected by leadership change.

If Kremlin can achieve period of peace in Greece respite from shooting would give it chance try again its coalition tactic of subversion and infiltration and would give Greek CP time purge its [Page 252]ranks of Titoists and regroup for closer coordination with Bulgaria and Albania. I seem to remember that Joannides was precisely the Greek Communist who about 1942 made agreement with Bulgarian comrades for settlement Macedonian question along Bulgarian lines. Cominform may indeed have decided Yugoslavia and not Greece is its immediate Balkan objective.

Such shift would greatly embarrass Tito since Yugoslav Government could not publicly oppose conciliation although aware truce period would be used to undermine its Macedonian position. Cominform may well expect Yugoslavs respond by making their own arrangements with Athens in order prevent southern encirclement. Aim would be, of course, cause Tito loss in party solidarity in Macedonia as well as give proof to Cominform thesis of imperialist subjugation.

How clearly Yugoslav Government senses these possibilities we do not know. Bebler5 last week told me he was perplexed by recent events. Agit-prop sections have been remarkably quiet. In unofficial conversations Yugoslav officials have taken position they know nothing about recent guerrilla events and are hoping receive copy Zachariades political report. They have given almost categorical assurances Markos is not in Yugoslavia and yesterday volunteered they had heard he was in Moscow under arrest.

We feel Yugoslav Government will continue move with caution and deliberateness and that no sudden reversals their policy on Greece are to be expected. Tide of events may be slowly moving toward some form Yugoslav-Greek accommodation but situation still does not seem have clarified in thinking of CPY or its Politburo as to Yugoslavia’s real defensive needs in this new period.

If we are right Greece and US both in short and long run can only benefit by Soviets attempts turn guerrillas against Tito. We think any precipitate action on our part in present highly delicate juncture can only retard change in Yugoslavia’s Greek policy. It is only when events have convinced them of their own strategic vulnerability that genuine and stable basis will have been established for Yugoslav-Greek understanding.6

Sent Department 161; repeated Athens 5, Moscow 27, pouched London, Paris, Rome, Sofia.

[Page 253]
  1. At the Fifth Session of the Central Committee of the Greek Communist Party, held somewhere in the Grammos Mountains, January 29–30, 1949, there was a change in the leadership of the Communist-led guerrilla movement. Markos Vafiades (“General Markos”), Premier and Minister of War of the so-called Provisional Greek Democratic Government and Commander of the so-called Democratic Army of Greece, the military establishment of the guerrillas, was removed from these posts and was also dropped as a member of the Politburo of the Greek Communist Party. Khrysa Hatzivasileiou (Chryssa Hadzivassiliou), a prominent functionary in the guerrilla movement, was also dropped from the Politburo of the Greek Communist Party. Some days later the guerrillas announced that Vafiades and Hatzivasileiou had relinquished their positions for reasons of ill health. It was further announced that Yiannis Ioannides, Vice Premier in the Provisional Greek Democratic Government and member of the Politburo of the Greek Communist Party had become Acting Premier. Nikos Zachariades, Secretary General of the Greek Communist Party, assumed the military command of the guerrilla forces.
  2. Marshal Tito (Josip Broz), Yugoslav Prime Minister and Minister of Defense; Secretary General of the Yugoslav Communist Party. For documentation on the attitude of the United States in the conflict between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union and other members of the Communist Information Bureau, see vol. v, pp. 854 ff.
  3. Not printed. On January 18, 1949, Alexander Ranković, Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, member of the Politburo of the Yugoslav Communist Party as well as member of the Central Committee of the Serbian Communist Party, addressed a session of the Second Congress of the Serbian Communist Party and made several revelations regarding the early negotiations between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria on the subject of a South Slav Federation. Ranković indicated that Marshal Stalin agreed in 1945 to the entry of Bulgaria into such a union on the basis of equality with Serbia and Croatia. Telegram 70 under reference here analyzed Ranković’s speech in some detail (760H.74/1–2149).
  4. Not printed; it commented on an offer recently made known by the guerrillas to halt the civil war. A halt in the war would be contingent upon the Greek Government’s meeting several special conditions. (760H.68/1–2849)
  5. Aleš Bebler, Yugoslav Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  6. In his telegram 347, February 24, from Athens, not printed, Ambassador Grady reported that the generally accepted Greek interpretation of the Markos ouster was similar to that set forth here. Grady minimized, however, the possibility that Markos was either pro-Bulgarian or linked in some way with Tito. Grady also argued that it would be both desirable and possible to convince Yugoslav leaders of the dangers inherent in the pro-Cominform guerrilla movement on Yugoslavia’s southern frontier and the stupidity of aiding forces which if successful would constitute a further threat to Yugoslav interests. (868.00/2–2449)