Civil wars come at a certain point in every country’s history and create some bleak historic moments. For Greece though it seems that its people have civil wars running in their blood, since during its 194-year-old modern history, Greeks have already fought three civil wars which have divided the country and its residents in half.
On the occasion of the imprisonment of Theodoros Kolokotronis on February 6, 1825, exactly 189 years ago, let us flip through some rather dark pages of Greece ’s history and reveal the circumstances surrounding the three Greek civil wars.
Theodoros Kolokotronis was one of the great Greek freedom fighters, who took active part in the Greek War of Independence and stood up against the Ottoman rulers of that time. Although being able to achieve record-breaking victories, promoting the Greek idea and aiding the Independence War on several occasions, the Greek rulers of the non-existent Greek state saw him as a threat and sent him to prison in 1825. On the Greek island of Hydra, Kolokotronis was to spend 3 months without any charges being brought against him or any kind of prosecution. Meanwhile, the Ottoman-Egyptian troops were gaining ground and endangering the successful outcome of the revolution.
The imprisonment of the military leader from Peloponnese was part of the first civil war between 1823 and 1824, during the peak of the Greek revolution. Supporters of the company “Filiki Etaireia,” which was founded prior to the revolution and made the preparations for the upcoming revolt, confronted the local primates of the occupied Greek territories on leadership matters, as every party wanted to have political and military control of the operations taking place all over Greece. The war ended with a moderate deal leaving none of the confronting parties satisfied.
As a result, the second civil war begun a few months later (October 1824), thus dividing once more the Greek people until the early months of 1825. Nobel families from the island of Hydra and people from continental Greece joined forces to fight against the people of Peloponnese, who were excluded from most government posts after a new provisional government had been formed. The final outcome of the war, in which Kolokotronis played a major role, saw the Hydriots, who were backed by the British, victorious.
The third and final Greek civil war was fought from 1946 to 1949 and was the result of a highly polarized struggle between leftists and rightists that started in 1943, targeting the power vacuum created in the Greek political scene due to the German occupation of the country during the Second World War. The Greek government army, backed by the U.S. and the U.K. eventually overpowered the military branch of the communist party backed by Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Albania, in a civil war that claimed the life of 160,000 Greek people, leaving Greece in ruins and in even greater economic distress than it had been following the end of German occupation. Additionally, it divided the Greek people for many decades, with thousands languishing in prison for many years or being sent into exile, while others sought refuge in communist countries or emigrated to Australia, Germany, Canada and the U.S.