A war of words between the distinguished professor Johns Hopkins University, Sergey Radchenko, was started by the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Dimitris Koutsoumpas.
This ensued after the publication of the first documents from the secret archives of the Soviet Union regarding the Greek Civil War, but also in other periods, such as Stalin’s persecution of Soviet Greeks before World War II started.
The KKE General Secretary had particularly harsh words in parliament to those who criticised the Communist Party following the recent declassification of Soviet-era documents.
Professor Sergey Radchenko, who also made the revelation, was in his sights.
The professor posted four new documents on his personal Twitter account. “Papa, papa, papa, Papara…chenko”, said Koutsoumpas, changing the name of the academic in a juvenile and amateur way (papara meaning in Greek slang “penis”).
The declassified archives of the Soviet Union revealed some of the secret actions during the Cold War, particularly behind the “Iron Curtain,” and including the de facto involvement of Moscow in the Greek Civil War.
The historian responded via his twitter account: “My interest in posting documents on relations between KKE & the Soviet Union is historical. I don’t care for (and know very little of) current KKE politics.”
“By posting documents, I start up interesting conversations and often connect to people with similar interests. It’s normal.”
What's not normal is having the leader of a Greek political party attack a historian ad hominem, using derogatory terms. It's untactful, if not to say disgraceful. I would suggest to Mr.Koutsoumpas, who seems so energised by reading archival documents, that he reads more of them.
— Sergey Radchenko (@DrRadchenko) January 30, 2022
Soviet Union: From collapse to comparison to the unmarked body of Lenin
A few days before the end of 1991, the Soviet Union became a historical note, after a journey of almost 75 years.
This chronology marks the end of an entire era that concerned not only present-day Russia and the countries that emerged from the collapse, but virtually the entire world.
The planet watched the fall of the red flag with the hammer and sickle from the Kremlin.
The final leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, resigned and handed power over to the Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
A few days before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev had a secret meeting with the then leader of Belarus, Stanislav Shushkevich, and Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk.
The three leaders, all in the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, signed an agreement stating that “the USSR has ceased to exist as a subject of international law and geopolitical reality.”
Decades later, Kravchuk, trying to gather material for his autobiography, discovered that the document had taken wings from Soviet archives. Without a doubt it is not the only one.
There are many who liken the USSR to the unburied body of its former leader Vladimir Lenin, who remains in a mausoleum in the Red Square.
By this parallel they mean that the USSR is dead, but at the same time alive, that it is a kind of zombie. The West continues to seek its nuggets in present-day Russia.
In fact, there is still much we do not know about the regime that operated secretly.
Thousands of documents come to light
Nevertheless, time reveals secrets. Thus, more and more documents are coming to light.
The declassification of Soviet archives is a key step in this direction.
After the end of the Cold War, thousands of KGB documents were said to have been sold on the black market, as well as some film reels containing secret material.
There were former members of the regime who left the territories of the former Soviet Union, seeking refuge in western countries.
In return they provided confidential information.
One of the most striking examples was the former archivist of the Russian KGB secret service, Vasili Mitrokhin.
He gave the British secret services the largest volume of documents, including the names of more than 200 British spies who worked for the Soviet secret service.
Joseph Stalin, however, had taken care to cover in extreme secrecy the records concerning the details of his life. As a rule they were well guarded.
None-the-less, they are revealed slowly and selectively.
The collapse of the communist regime led to the opening of the hermetically sealed archives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, through which all important state acts passed.
In this long-running series of revelations, the most recent has been made.
These are four new documents, which came to light these days.
Russian Professor Radchenko of Johns Hopkins University posted them on his personal Twitter account.
Documents to help the communists
The first is a report by a Soviet lieutenant colonel in Greece named Nechaev.
In it he describes the warm welcome that the people in Greece reserved for them.
“People were longing to see us, they were running fast towards us. They hugged our cars, applauded and shouted: ‘Long live Soviet Russia! Long live the Red Army! Long live the Allies!'”
This was in reference to the reception they received in Sidirokastro, Didymoteicho, Kavala, Drama, Komotini and elsewhere.
Of possible interest to Greek followers. A letter from Nikos Zachariadis to the Soviet leadership, marking a crucial turning point in the Greek Civil War. From recently declassified Soviet archival records. pic.twitter.com/VCgkU5EuNi
— Sergey Radchenko (@DrRadchenko) January 24, 2022
The second is a detailed list of weapons that the Soviets had sent to the Greek guerrillas in 1947 during the civil war. This includes rifles, carbines, machine guns, ammunition and more.
The third is a letter from the then USSR Foreign Minister to Joseph Stalin.
Oy. This accidentally caused quite a stir. Folks, there's lots of very interesting stuff on the Greek civil war in the newly released Soviet records. I will post some here but I am also including a section on the conflict in my forthcoming book on the Cold War. https://t.co/x45IuHX7c5
— Sergey Radchenko (@DrRadchenko) January 24, 2022
Molotov writes: “Zachariadis’ demands, except for the following two points, were fully satisfied.”
These points concern 60 mountain guns that were requested by the then leader of the KKE, Nikos Zachariadis, which – Molotov replied – “we do not have, an equal number of German anti-tank guns of 37 mm and shells are sent for them.”
He added that “similar cannons had already been sent to the Greeks and they were satisfied.”
Molotov then informed Stalin that “it is not possible to satisfy the request for assistance in footwear and clothing, due to the lack of foreign uniforms and footwear” and that $100,000 would be sent to Zachariadis , “through Comrade Suslov.”
More on the Greek civil war. Markos Vafeiadis recounts the difficulties of recruiting troops for the Communist army. Says (in a letter to the Soviets) that recruitment in 1947 had a "forced character". "No more than 10% of recruits joined the army voluntarily." pic.twitter.com/X7Ads6ccTi
— Sergey Radchenko (@DrRadchenko) January 29, 2022
The fourth document is a personal letter written in Greek by Markos Vafiadis and Nikos Zachariadis, which was sent on July 7, 1948 to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
He referred to the decision of the Albanians to close the border to the so-called Democratic Army for two months.
“Comrade Zachariadis’ trip to you, with the understanding and help you have shown to our cause, further strengthened our faith and our determination to strike a deadly blow to monarcho-fascism and to further complicate the aspirations of American imperialism in our country.”
An interesting snapshot of relations inside the Communist bloc. One of the Greek Communist leaders (Markos) accuses the other (Zachariadis) of having intimate relations with his wife – and does so in a meeting with the Soviet leaders in an apparent bid to get them to intervene. pic.twitter.com/zJHBZ3vgzC
— Sergey Radchenko (@DrRadchenko) January 28, 2022
At another point, they cite the operational plans of the Democratic Army of Greece, which, as they report, extend to the deployment on Greek territory.
“As you know, our plan was summed up to this: To significantly erode monarcho-fascism (the Greek National Army formed with the assistance of Britain and later the Americans).”
The role of foreign powers in the civil war is well known. This is why it has been described as an international proxy war.
International competing interests were maneuvering through the two warring parties, claiming their strengthening on the post-war world stage.
These four new documents shed light on the thorny issue of the relations of the Greek communists with the “Great Soviet Homeland.”
This is a separate chapter of the Greek civil war that has not yet been fully investigated, since the archival material appears only slowly.
It turns out that Stalin was following the developments in Greece, since he was even informed about the equipment that had been sent to the guerrillas.
These are not the only files that concern Greece.
Some of the declassified documents reflect Moscow’s attention to the political situation in Greece, especially in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Kremlin systematically monitored and recorded what was happening, through information gathered from diplomatic sources, KKE officials and various other political players he had approached.
Ha! I've made the Greek headlines with my Twitter feed. https://t.co/pwBDMew0tr. Trying my best to keep a low profile here.
— Sergey Radchenko (@DrRadchenko) January 25, 2022
Moscow was interested in currents within the Greek army and there is extensive reference to two movements in the army: one senior and pro-monarchist, and the other junior characterised as anti-monarchist and democratic.
“On September 4, at 10:00, I visited [Greek] Foreign Minister [Evangelos] Averoff by prior arrangement. At the beginning of the discussion, I turned Averoff’s attention to a series of parametres that hinder the development of Greek-Soviet relations and, in particular, the non-settlement of the issue of the passage of the Moscow-Cairo air route through Athens,” begins the detailed report of Soviet Ambassador to Greece M. Sergeyev.
The Deputy Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1946 M. Litvinov submitted to Stalin a list of issues for consideration.
First is the issue of the Greek-Bulgarian border, second is Thessaloniki, and third is Cyprus.
State archives of the USSR had also revealed details about the so-called “Greek Operation”, which was nothing more than a displacement of the Greek element in the Soviet Union, which consisted of Pontians, Mariupolites and political fugitives.
From September 1938, more than 21,000 Greeks living in the Soviet Union were executed and another 30,000 were sent to gulags in Siberia.
Documents reveal that the majority of Greeks did not want to obtain Soviet citizenship because they hoped that they would be able to go to Greece. For this reason, they were targeted as “enemies of the people.”
Percecutions began in December 1937 with trumped up charges of espionage and “participation in Greek counter-revolutionary organisations.”
Records reveal that this “information” had arrived in Moscow from Athens.
Greek collaboration did not end there, as Greeks were also the ones who prepared the lists of their own compatriots in every village and town.
The truth is that the exact number of those who lost their lives is still unknown.
It is worth noting that Stalin never trusted ethnic minorities in the Soviet Union and launched persecutions against them.
One of the most interesting issues revealed by the declassified files is the persecution of “enemies of the people”, not to mention party officials that Stalin wanted to oust for reasons he judged.
This is the darkest page of the Soviet Union and the one that had to be kept as hidden as possible.
The infamous “Moscow trials” is the visible tip of the iceberg.
Nefeli Lygerou is a columnist for Proto Thema.