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National Liberation Front (Macedonia)

National Liberation Front
(Narodno Osloboditelen Front)
Active 1945-1949
Country Greece (Greek Macedonia)
Engagements Greek Civil War

The National Liberation Front (abbreviated NLF) (Greek Civil War. As far as its ruling cadres were concerned its participation in the Greek Civil War was nationalist rather than communist, with the goal of secession from Greece.[1]


  • Background 1
    • Occupation of Greece in World War II 1.1
    • Ohrana 1.2
  • Slavic-Macedonian National Liberation Front 2
  • History before the Greek Civil War 3
    • Foundation of NLF and first actions 3.1
    • The merger of the NLF with the Democratic Army 3.2
  • Greek Civil War 4
    • Macedonians and the Greek Civil War 4.1
    • The defeat of the Democratic Army 4.2
  • Aftermath 5
    • The exodus of ethnic Macedonians from Greece 5.1
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The 'Macedonian Question' surfaced after the Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913, following division of the region of Macedonia amongst the Kingdom of Greece, the Kingdom of Bulgaria and the Kingdom of Serbia. During Ottoman rule, the Slavic-speaking population in Macedonia was under the influence of the Bulgarian Exarchate and the Greek Patriarchate and their education system, which resulted in the strengthening of Bulgarian, Greek, and Serb identities among the citizens.

After the Balkan Wars, a new consciousness arrived among the Slavic-speaking population - an Comintern, which issued a declaration in 1934 supporting the development of Macedonia as a separate entity and recognizing a Macedonian nationality.[2]This action was attacked by the IMRO, but was supported by the Balkan communists, including the Greek Communist Party, which created a Macedonian section within the party headed by Andreas Tsipas and supported the national consolidation of the ethnic Macedonian minority within Greece.

Stathis Kalyvas, professor of History at Princeton University in his book The Logic of Violence in Civil War published by Cambridge University Press notes on that as far as its leading cadres were concerned NLF was a nationalist rather than communist armed group:

Importantly, however, the nature of the Slav Macedonians’ participation in the Greek Civil War (at least at the elite level) was nationalist rather than Communist. The Communists were convenient allies in a struggle that was supposed to lead to secession from Greece and a merger with the Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.For the NLF “it was primarily a national struggle, a battle for the national liberation of the Macedonians in Aegean Macedonia. (Rossos 1997:42,43-4,64,42).[1]

Occupation of Greece in World War II

While most of Greece was occupied by Axis Powers in World War II, resistance movements were created by Greeks while the collaborationist Ohrana battalions were constituted from among the Slavophone population. After Greece was occupied by Italy, Germany and Bulgaria, different guerrilla bands and movements were formed across all of northern Greece,. Some of them fought against the occupation, like Napoleon Zervas and his National Republican Greek League (EDES), while others were collaborationists, like the Ohrana, many of whom later joined the Slavic-Macedonian National Liberation Front (SNLF).[3]There was also the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS), a partisan army headed by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). Although ELAS in some cases relied on forced mobilization, the ethnic Macedonians sympathized with ELAS and the KKE because of their friendly position towards the ethnic minorities of Greece and the fact they had acquiesced to Soviet demands for an independent Macedonian state that would contain most of Northern Greece.

In the book After The war Was Over: Reconstructing the Family, Nation, and State in Greece, 1943-1960 edited by Mark Mazower and published by Princeton University Press, it is remarked that:

The testimonies started to grow more complicated and to reveal the true nature of the problem when the witnesses recounted the activities of an accused prisoner during the occupation who, having been a loyal friend of the Bulgarians in the early years of the occupation, would suddenly appear as a member of Slovenomakedonski Narodno Oslobodaekn Front (Slav Macedonian National Liberation Front). These were the Okhranists, armed members of Bulgarian-sponsored units, who were quick to join the Slavic-speaking units officially under the jurisdiction of EAM in order to avoid punishment after the occupation. Some of them even chose to espouse the SNLF manifesto regarding the autonomy of Macedonia. Others seem to have moved on to SNLF after active service with EAM. Many of the accused had absconded and were tried in absentia. They tended to be either fanatical supporters of the Bulgarian cause who had accompanied the departing Bulgarian troops in October 1944, or autonomists who had managed to flee to Yugoslavia.[3]


The Ohrana (Slavophone pro-Bulgarian people in occupied Greek Macedonia during World War II and led by Bulgarian officers.[4][5] Bulgaria was interested in acquiring Thessalonica and Western Macedonia under Axis occupation and hoped to sway the allegiance of the 80,000 Slavs who lived there at the time.[5] The appearance of Greek partisans in those areas persuaded the Italians to allow the formation of these collaborationst detachments.[5]

Following the defeat of the Axis powers and the evacuation of the Nazi occupation forces many members of the Ohrana joined the SNLF where they could still pursue their goal of secession. According to Jane Cowan there was a rapproachement between the Greek Communist Party and the Ohrana collaborationst units.[6] According to Fritz Voigt further collaboration between the Bulgarian-controlled Ohrana and the EAM-controlled SNLF followed when it was agreed that Greek Macedonia would be allowed to secede.[7][8] It is estimated that entire Ohrana units had joined the SNLF which began to press the ELAS leadership to allow it autonomous action in Greek Macedonia.[9]

In their book Greece:The Modern Sequel, published by New York University Press Thanos Veremis and John S. Koliopoulos note:

In Western Macedonia the German and Italian Occupation authorities gave the exponents of the Bulgarian cause a free hand in their policy of intimidating the local population. Greek resistance forces were faced with the double task of facing both the occupying army and the Bulgarian fascist Ohrana paramilitary forces. In 1943 at a meeting between Yugoslav and Greek partisans Tito’s representative used the term “Macedonian nationals” for the first time and asked for the cooperation of EAM-ELAS to win Bulgarian collaborators back to the Macedonian ideological camp. Throughout the war period ELAS resisted Yugoslav pressure to allow the “Slav Macedonian National Liberation Front” to form separate ranks and pursue its own policy in Greek Macedonia.[10]

Slavic-Macedonian National Liberation Front

Slavic-Macedonian National Liberation Front
Active 1943-1944
Country Greece (Greek Macedonia)
Allegiance National People's Liberation Army
Engagements Greek Resistance

The first ethnic Macedonian armed military organization, the Slavomacedonian National Liberation Front (SNLF) (Macedonian: Славјаномакедонски Народно Ослободителен Фронт (СНОФ), Latinic: Slavjanomakedonski Narodno Osloboditelen Front (SNLF)), was established in 1943 by ethnic Macedonian members of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). Before the creation of the SNLF, ethnic Macedonian military detachments in Greek Macedonia participated in the National People's Liberation Army.

The main aim of the SNLF was to obtain the support of the local population and to mobilize it, through SNLF, to help the National Liberation Front of Greece (EAM) liberate the country from Axis occupation. As they increased in numbers, the military detachments of the SNLF fought the occupation in Northern Greece and collaborated with units of the KKE. Another tactic of SNLF was to struggle against the Ohrana activity in western Greek Macedonia, and to persuade the Ohrana members to desert their ranks and join the SNLF and support ELAS. SNLF started publishing newspapers and booklets on ethnic Macedonian history and engaged a massive propaganda war against the Ohrana. Just before the liberation of Greece, SNLF operatives managed to convince many former Ohranists to enter the ranks of the SNLF. Some of them later took part in the Greek Civil War on the side of the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE) and gave their lives in the struggle. By 1944 the Slavic-Macedonian National Liberation Front had begun to publish a regular newspaper known as Slavjano-Makedonski Glas (Macedonian: Славјано-Македонски Глас)[11] During this time, the ethnic Macedonians in Greece were permitted to publish newspapers in the Macedonian language and run schools. After the end of the Greek Resistance against the Axis occupation, the SNLF was dissolved in 1944 on the orders of the KKE Central Committee and through British intervention. Headed by Vangel Ajanovski - Oche, some SNLF commanders, dissatisfied with the KKE decision, crossed into Vardar Macedonia and participated in the National Liberation War of Macedonia.

History before the Greek Civil War

Foundation of NLF and first actions

After the liberation of Greece and the signing of the Treaty of Varkiza in February 1945, there was no sign of possible political stabilization of the country. The Communist-led forces become isolated from the process, and British intervention backed the right-wing government formed in Athens. After the ELAS was partly disarmed, the KKE and its forces concentrated on political struggle. But while the KKE was negotiating and fighting within the political framework, in northern Greece bands of the former Security Battalions (wartime collaborators) and government forces harassed the ethnic Macedonians, accusing them of autonomist activities.

A number of ethnic Macedonians in

The NLF organised meetings, street and factory protests, and published illegal papers. The ethnic Macedonian KKE members who escaped Greece when the country was liberated started coming back to their homes, and many entered the ranks of NLF. Soon the group began forming partisan detachments.

Nepokoren was one of the newspapers published by NLF.

Even before the KKE declared the beginning of the armed struggle of the Democratic Army of Greece in 1946, the NLF was acting independently from the KKE, and engaged in several battles with government forces, who had British support. Thus, the NLF stimulated the beginning of an armed insurrection of the communist forces against the government. The NLF and also created regional committees in all areas with compact ethnic Macedonian populations (Florina, Eddesa, Giannitsa and Kastoria).

The merger of the NLF with the Democratic Army

KKE was trying to avoid the Civil War until after the elections of 1946. Up to this time more than 100,000 fighters of ELAS and EAM members had been imprisoned with accusations of treason and brutalities against civilians during the fascist occupation. Many ELAS and NLF members created small armed groups based in their former hideouts. Among the areas populated with Slavic speaking population in western Greek Macedonia the NLF became a powerful factor, and the KKE opened negotiations with it. The negotiations were conducted by Mihail Keramitčiev and Paskal Mitrevski on behalf of the NLF, and Markos Vafiadis, on behalf of the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE). After nearly seven months of negotiations, they reached an agreement to merge. In October 1946, KKE founded DSE High Command in Middle Greece. The Capetanios (Military and Political Leader) of DSE was Markos Vafeiadis.

The KKE and the NLF maintained a position on the minorities question in Greece (the equality of all ethnic groups within the borders of Greece), and NLF was against every form of autonomy. Owing to the KKE's equal treatment of ethnic Macedonians and Greeks, many ethnic Macedonians enlisted as volunteers in the DSE. Αccording to Macedonian sources 60 per cent of the DSE was composed of ethnic Macedonians. This fact is backed by Alexandros Zaouses in his research book Η Τραγική αναμέτρηση, 1945-1949 – Ο μύθος και η αλήθεια, where he states that out of 22,000 fighters, 14,000 were Slavic-Macedonians. This number is confirmed by C. M. Woodhouse in his book "The Struggle for Greece, 1941-1949". Ethnic Macedonian partisans were not fighting only in the territory of Greek Macedonia, but also in Thessaly, Roumelia, and in the battles north of Athens.

Greek Civil War

Macedonians and the Greek Civil War

The Macedonians of Greek Macedonia made a critical contribution to the communist side during the Paskal Mitrovski on the I plenum of NLF on August 1948, about 85% of the Macedonian-speaking population in Aegean Macedonia identified themselves as ethnic Macedonian. The language that was taught in the schools was the official language of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia. About 20,000 young ethnic Macedonians learned to read and write using that language, and learned their own history.

Ethnic Macedonians fought in the Greek Civil War and made a significant contribution to the initial victories of the DSE. However, when the Tito-Stalin split arose, Yugoslavia (and the Socialist Republic of Macedonia) closed its border to the DSE, as both the NLF and the DSE supported the Soviet line. At the beginning of the war Markos Vafiadis had an efficient guerilla strategy, and controlled territories from Florina to Attica, and for a short period there were DSE-controlled territories in the Peloponnese.

The Provisional Government, founded in 1947, was in political and military control of 70% of the mainland (from Evros to Peloponnese) and partial control of the mountainous areas and most of the islands. During 1947 and until the spring of 1948, the National Army was mainly barricaded in Athens and other major Greek cities, and held the plains (Thessaly and Thessaloniki). DSE was then an army of nearly 40,000 fighters and benefited from a strong network of sympathizers in all rural villages - especially the mountainous areas. Its HQ was in Mount Vitsi, near the border with Yugoslavia.Two more Area HQs were stationed in Middle Greece (Mount Pindos) and Peloponnese (Mount Taiget).[12][13][14][15]

At the end of the war, nearly 20,000 fighters have been either killed or captured by the National Army after the fighting in Peloponnese. Same situation was encountered in nearly all the islands, and in Thrace. By the beginning of 1949, in the last stage of the war, the Provisional Government was confined to the mountains of Pindos, Grammos, and Vitsi. The DSE was numbered at 22,000 fighters, out of which 14,000 were ethnic Macedonians.

The DSE came under pressure after the British intervened, sending tanks, airplanes and ammunition to the government forces, which were mainly stationed in cities.

The defeat of the Democratic Army

The DSE, whose soldiers were armed mainly with light arms and had little heavy weaponry, started losing ground as a result of the heavy aerial bombardment, artillery barrages and tank attacks. In August 1948, Vafiadis was removed from the position of DSE commander-in-chief and was replaced by Nikos Zachariadis, who changed the whole command cadre to party members with no combat experience. This decision accelerated the decline of the DSE. From the merger in 1946 until the end of the Civil War, the NLF was loyal to the idea of a unified Greece and was fighting for human rights for all groups within the borders of the Greek republic. But Zachariadis, in order to mobilize more ethnic Macedonians into the DSE, declared on 31 January 1949 at the 5th Meeting of the KKE Central Committee:

This new line of the KKE had an impact on the mobilization rate of ethnic Macedonians (which even earlier was considerably high), but did not manage, ultimately, to change the course of the war. At the battles of Vitsi and Grammos, in which the government forces deployed napalm bombs and artillery barrages, the DSE was expelled from Greece. As Yugoslavia had closed its borders to Greece, the evacuation was conducted through Albania.


The exodus of ethnic Macedonians from Greece

Whether as a result of force or of their own accord in order to escape repression and retaliation, some 50,000 civilians left Greece with the retreating DSE forces. All of them went to Eastern Bloc countries. It was not until the 1970s that some of them were allowed to return to the Socialist Republic of Macedonia. In the 1980s, the Greek parliament adopted a law of national reconciliation which allowed DSE members "of Greek origin" to repatriate to Greece, where they were given land. Ethnic Macedonian DSE members remained excluded from the terms of this legislation.

On August 20, 2003, the Rainbow Party hosted a reception for the "child refugees". Ethnic Macedonian children who fled their homes during the Greek Civil War were permitted to enter Greece for a maximum of 20 days. Now elderly, this was the first time many of them had seen their birthplaces and families in some 55 years. The reception included relatives of the refugees who were living in Greece and were members of Rainbow Party. Many were refused entry by Greek border authorities because their passports listed the Slavic-Macedonian names of their places of birth.

See also


  1. ^ a b Kalyvas, Stathis N. (2006). <> logic of violence in civil war. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 312.  
  2. ^ Victor Roudometof, Roland Robertson (2001). Nationalism, Globalization, and Orthodoxy: The Social Origins of Ethnic Conflict in the Balkans. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 187.  
  3. ^ a b Mazower, Mark (2000). After the war was over: reconstructing the family, nation, and state in Greece, 1943-1960. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. pp. 49–50.  
  4. ^ "The Second World War and the Triple Occupation"
  5. ^ a b c Miller, Marshall Lee (1975). Bulgaria During the Second World War. Stanford University Press. p. 129.  
  6. ^ Cowan, Jane K. (2000). Macedonia: the politics of identity and difference. Sydney: Pluto Press. p. 73.  
  7. ^ Fritz August Voigt (1949). Pax Britannica. Constable. p. 94. Collaboration between the Ohrana, under Bulgarian control, and SNLF, under the control of EAM, and, therefore, of the Greek ommunist Party 
  8. ^ The Twentieth Century. 139-140. Nineteenth Century and After: A. D. Caratzas. 1946. p. 12. Collaboration between the Bulgarian-controlled Ohrana and the EAM -controlled SNLF followed upon an agreement that Macedonia should become autonomous 
  9. ^ Kophos, Euangelos; Kōphos, Euangelos (1993). Nationalism and communism in Macedonia: civil conflict, politics of mutation, national identity. New Rochelle, N.Y: A. D. Caratzas. p. 125.  
  10. ^ Greece: the modern sequel, from 1831 to the present. New York: New York University Press. 2002. p. 292.  
  11. ^ Autonomist Movements of the Slavophones in 1944: The Attitude of the Communist Party of Greece and the Protection of the Greek-Yugoslav Border by Spyridon Stefas
  12. ^ Εμπειρίες ενόπλων αγώνων 1940-1949 - Experiences of Armed Struggles 1940-1949, Papageorgiou 2001
  13. ^ Ο Εμφύλιος Πόλεμος στην Πελοπόνησσο, Α. Καμαρινός - The Civil War in Peloponnese
  14. ^ Η Νεκρή Μεραρχία, Παπακωνσταντίνου- The dead Division, Papakonstantinou
  15. ^ Χαρίλαος Φλωράκης και λαϊκό κίνημα, βιογραφία - Charilaos Florakis and People's movement, biography
  1. ^ "History of the Balkans, Vol. 2: Twentieth Century", Barbara Jelavich, 1983.
  2. ^ "Кон македонската преродба" Блаже Конески, Скопје, 1959. - The ethnic Macedonian renaissances started with Misirkov to Dimitrija Čupovski.
  3. ^ "History of the Balkans, Vol. 2: Twentieth Century", Barbara Jelavich, 1983.
  4. ^ "The Situation in Macedonia and the Tasks of IMRO (United)" - published in the official newspaper of IMRO (United), "Македонско дело", N.185, April 1934
  5. ^ "Резолюция о македонской нации (принятой Балканском секретариате Коминтерна") - Февраль 1934 г, Москва
  6. ^ "Σαραντα χρονια του ΚΚΕ 1918-1958", Athens, 1958, p. 549.
  7. ^ "Rizospastis", no. 89 (7026), 10 June 1934, p. 3.
  8. ^ "Σαραντα χρονια του ΚΚΕ 1918-1958", Athens, 1958, p. 562.
  9. ^ "Les Archives de la Macedonine" - (Letter from Fotis Papadimitriou to the CC of the KKE), 28 March 1943.
  10. ^ "Народно Ослободителниот Фронт и други организации на Македонците од Егејскиот дел на Македонија. (Ристо Кирјазовски)", Skopje, 1985.
  11. ^ "Славјано Македонски Глас", 15 Јануари 1944 с.1
  12. ^ "АМ, Збирка: Егејска Македонија во НОБ 1941-1945 - (Повик на СНОФ до Македонците од Костурско 16 Мај 1944)"
  13. ^ "Идеолошкиот активизам над Македонците под Грција", Стојан Кочов, Скопје, 2000
  14. ^ "Народно Ослободителниот Фронт и други организации на Македонците од Егејскиот дел на Македонија. (Ристо Кирјазовски)", Скопје, 1985.
  15. ^ "Егеjски бури - Револуционерното движење во Воденско и НОФ во Егеjска Македоница. (Вангел Аjановски Оче)", Скопје, 1975.
  16. ^ "To ΚΚΕ, Episama kimena", t. V, 1940–1945, 1973.
  17. ^ "Les Archives de la Macedonine" - (The Constitution of NLF).
  18. ^ "Les Archives de la Macedonine, Fond: Aegean Macedonia in NLW" - (Field report of Mihail Keramidzhiev to the Main Command of NLF), 8 July 1945
  19. ^ "Les Archives de la Macedonine, Fond: Aegean Macedonia in NLW" - (Report of Elefterios Imsiridis to the CC of KKE about the activity of NLF), 6 September 1945
  20. ^ "Егејскиот дел на Македонија (1913-1989). Стојан Киселиновски", Скопје, 1990.
  21. ^ "КПГ и Македонското национално прашање (1918-1940). Ристо Кирјазовски", Скопје, 1985.
  22. ^ "Народно Ослободителниот Фронт и други организации на Македонците од Егејскиот дел на Македонија. (Ристо Кирјазовски)", Скопје, 1985.
  23. ^ "Η Τραγική αναμέτρηση, 1945-1949 – Ο μύθος και η αλήθεια. Ζαούσης Αλέξανδρος" (ISBN 9607213432). [32]
  24. ^ "The Struggle for Greece, 1941-1949". C. M. Woodhouse, London, 1976. p. 262.
  25. ^ "Memoirs of the Gapkovski brothers - veteran fighters of the Greek Civil War" [33]
  26. ^ "Incompatible Allies: Greek Communism and Macedonian Nationalism in the Civil War in Greece, 1943-1949. Andrew Rossos", The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 69, No. 1 (Mar., 1997) [34]
  27. ^ "Prokiriksi, Praksis kai apofasis tou Genikou Arhigiou tou Dimokratikou Stratou tis Elados", 1947.
  28. ^ "Македонски национални институции во Егејскиот дел на Македонија (Ристо Кирјазовски)", Скопје, 1987.
  29. ^ "Σαραντα χρονια του ΚΚΕ 1918-1958", Αθηνα, 1958, σ.575.
  30. ^ "Македонците и односите на КПЈ и КПГ (1945-1949). Ристо Кирјазовски", Скопје, 1995.
  31. ^ "ΠΡΕΣΠΑ η Ελληνική", Δημήτρις Πένης. 1993. (p. 77)
  32. ^ "General Markos: Zašto me Staljin nije streljao. Jovan Popovski", Ljubljana, 1982.
  33. ^ "General Markos: Zašto me Staljin nije streljao. Jovan Popovski", Ljubljana, 1982.
  34. ^ "Resolution of the 5th Plenary Session of the Communist Party of Greece", 31 January 1949. [35]
  35. ^ "Македонската политичка емиграција од Егејскиот дел на Македонија во Источна Европа. Ристо Кирјазовски", Скопје, 1989.
  36. ^ "From Gramos Mountain towards Lower Schleszia: Refugees from the Greek Civil War in Eastern Europe and Central Asia", Stefan Troebst. [36]
  37. ^ "Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) - Minority rights Report on Greece to the 1998 OSCE Implementation Meeting", 28 October 1998.

External links

  • Incompatible Allies: Greek Communism and Macedonian Nationalism in the Civil War in Greece, 1943-1949 by Andrew Rossos -The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 69, No. 1 (Mar., 1997), pp. 42–76.
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