Greek Civil War

Ashley Singer & Kate Chang

The Greek Civil war can be deemed a civil war because people from the same unified nation divide and fight against each other. Greece is divided into two sides; communists, those set on Greece having a communist government, and royalists, those who supported the Greek monarchy at the time. The two different opinions on government led to violence and bloodshed, a civil war.

Precursor Events

World War II

German troops occupied and controlled parts of the country. Greece held a main-line railway ran north from the Peloponnesus through Athens to Thessalonica, after which it branched to former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Turkey. This rail line was an important means of supply for German forces in Crete and even North Africa during WWII. 550,000 Greeks were killed; the country lost “one in 14” of its population, compared to “1/77” in France and “1/125” in Britain. More than a third of the national wealth and over 400,000 homes were destroyed, as well as over half of the national roads system, 73% of the commercial navy, 66% of trucks, and 60% of large farm animals, and a large part of agricultural crops. Unemployment in the cities stood at 50% and inflation was rampant. It was estimated that Greece would need $3,172 million to reconstruct. Thus, Greece emerged from WWII in complete economic, social, and political disarray.

Political Tension

Politics played a main role in the relationship between the ELAS and EDES very early, and was precursor of what was to follow. Even if ELAS tended to be somewhat independent, preferring to defeat the Germans first and talk about politics later, a bitter confrontation developed between the EAM and EDES. Of course, with the time the Communists made sure that ELAS toed the party line more closely.

Communist Take over

Previously, the Greek government was controlled by Dictator Ioannis Metaxas who ruled Greece from 1936 until his death in 1941. After his death, Greece is left powerless. Greece establishes a monarchy with King George II. He is, by implication, overthrown in a communist uprising in 1944.

White Terror

Occurred during 1945 - 1946; the persecution of EAM-ELAS members prior to the civil war. Organization X, a right-wing force, unleashed a terrorist campaign not only against the communists, but also against communist sympathizers, socialists, and centrists. 84,931 leftists and centrists were arrested, 31,632 were subjected to physical torture and 1,299 were executed. A British Parliamentary investigating team warned that “Greece is rapidly becoming a fascist state.”


The Greek civil war was fought over communism and power whereas the U.S. civil war was fought over slavery and states’ rights. A communist group in Greece breaks away to form a new government that, by implication, disowned the Greek King George II and his government. Royalists, those who are loyal to Greece and against communism fight back to preserve the monarchy.


The Government of Greece (Royalists)
Supported by: Great Britain, United States

EDES - National Republican Greek League (Led by Nikolaos Plastiras & Napoleon Zervas)
EKKA - National and Social Liberation

EOEA - National Groups of Greek Guerrillas
X - Organization X (commanded by Col. George Grivas) Waged a war of terror and counter-terror against the EAM and ELAS and their sympathisers

The Democratic Army of Greece (Communists)

Supported by: Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Albania

KKE - Communist Party of Greece (Led By George Siantos)

EAM - National Liberation Front

ELAS - National People’s Liberation Army (Led by commander Stephanos Saraphis)

  • DSE - Democratic Army of Greece (EAM/ELAS)

  • Renamed themselves in December 1946 and were completely controlled by the KKE

NOF - Pro-Yugoslav organization that sided with the EAM

Arms and Army

Neither side had a huge advantage but the Non-communists were supported by the greater military powers in the world, the British and the United States. The communists were also supported by other nations (but not as powerful) Yugoslavia, Albania, and Bulgaria. However, the communists built their headquarters in the mountains, making it harder for the royalists to try and take the communist capital.


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Resources and Technology

The communist side of the Greek Civil war controlled local resources. They had help from neighboring countries close by. The royalists’ allies were in northern Europe and halfway around the world. It took longer and it was more difficult for the royalists to receive resources from the aiding countries. However, the royalists had more men since they were supplied by the two greatest military powers in the world. Even backed with three nations, the communist would not have the greater amount resources.

The U.S. and Great Britain had aircraft, which were fairly new at the time, and other forms of transportation they could provide for the royalists. However, the communists strategically placed their headquarters in the mountains where vehicles would have trouble reaching. The communists used defensive technology by barricading themselves and using their uphill advantage to fight off any invaders.


Communist Alliances: Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria

Non-communist Alliances: Great Britain, United States

  • The United State’s involvement included military affairs as well as economic aid. The United States began its involvement in order to address the overwhelming destruction of the war. In 1945, UNRRA, an international agency dominated by the U.S., began a mission in Greece and that “paved the way for the Truman doctrine.”

  • From the end of WWII to the outbreak of civil war in 1946, Greece was run by a slew of British backed Service Governments. The first major internal crisis occurred in December 1944 when British General Scobie decided to disband EDES and ELAS, causing an uprising. The Varkiza Agreement was signed between the Service Government and EAM-ELAS in January 1945, after which ELAS honored the deal to surrender arms to the state authorities. Civil war was temporarily averted, however, political life remained in complete disorder.

  • For the first time, during the elections of 1946, the government of the USA was directly involved in Greek affairs alongside Britain. Also in 1946, the U.S. began to transition from a focus on primarily economic aid to a military and political strategy

  • In February of 1947 by Britain had the intention of “pulling out” 40,000 troops from Greece, as well as other troops in Turkey

  • The most important cause of the shift in U.S. policy was a belief that the Soviet Union might be interested in pushing not only west, but most alarmingly in threatening the stability of the Northern Tier – Iran, Turkey and Greece. Domino theory: stopping communism in Greece, which was seen as a “buffer zone” protecting the Middle East, was essential in preventing the fall of the entire region of the Northern Tier to Soviet influence


The communist society was taken aback for the GCW was one of the first conflicts of the Cold War: Greece was the only place in Central, Balkan and Eastern Europe where communism attempted, but failed, to take power. The GCW potentially started a new conflict. The civil war left Greece in a greater economic crisis than the country suffered as a result of the German occupation. Of a population not much greater than seven million, well over 100,000, possibly close to 150,000, perished in the civil war. One million became homeless and 28,000 children “disappeared” (to become ardent communist fighters or taken abroad for their own safety).


This graph shows you the number of Greek deaths from World War II to the end of the Greek Civil War. By the end of World War II, Greece was already left economically unstable. To further their instability they fight a civil war and increase the damage left behind. The Civil War did not benefit their economy but made it worse. With an original estimated population of 7 million people, about 700,000 dead.

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