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Communist propaganda intensified the nationalist sentiments among Slavic Macedonians

15 December 2015 / 17:12:00  GRReporter
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Essentially, "paidomazoma" during the Greek Civil War marked the taking of 25-30 thousand children from different regions of northern Greece (the regions of Epirus and Macedonia) to the countries of the socialist bloc. According to the Communist Party of Greece, the children were sent away to be protected from the war, because they lived in areas where hostilities were opened. According to the position of the Greek government at the time, the children were forcedly taken to Eastern Europe, without the consent of their parents, to be used as "new janissaries," i.e. to act against the country of their origin.

It is not correct to say that the truth is in the middle, between these two types of propaganda. At least in my mind there is no doubt that, at its core, the phenomenon "paidomazoma" had the logic of meeting military requirements. Due to the lack of a sufficient number of fighters, the Democratic Party of Greece mobilized women en masse too. At that time, young women in rural areas were usually married and had children. This actually made impossible their involvement in hostilities, as the question would be posed as to who would take care of their children. Therefore, the moving of children was initially linked to the lack of reserves of the Democratic Army. After sending the children away, both the mothers and fathers were able to fight on the side of the communists, without being concerned about raising their children, if we could put it that way.

The second issue was that, having been sent to the people's republics, the children were in a position of hostages. I.e. it was difficult for their parents even to think of deserting to the government's army as their children were on the other side of the border.

Were the children sent voluntarily? Yes and no. In some cases, the parents had given their consent and in others they did not want to send their children away, and it happened in a forced manner.

Were all parents partisans? Many of them were, others were not. But many of those who participated in the partisan units were mobilized against their will. That is, they were fighters in the Democratic Army of Greece, but not willingly. Therefore, the fact that a parent was a partisan does not mean that he or she was willing to become such and that his or her child was sent to the countries of the eastern bloc with his or her consent.

Were the children treated well in the people’s republics? The answer is definitely yes. This applies to almost all socialist countries, of course, depending on their economic resources. Especially countries like Czechoslovakia and Hungary treated those children extremely well, as there the standard of living was higher than that in Greece, which was demolished at that time.

Was the aim for children to change their sense of national identity? No. Regarding the training adopted by the Communist Party of Greece, children attended Greek schools. Of course, under the ideological hegemony of communism.

I am saying all this to conclude that undoubtedly we are talking about a propaganda war over a very delicate issue for Greek society, namely that of children. The fact itself that children were taken from the Greek territory to a foreign one is shocking to public opinion. It becomes even more shocking if one takes into account that actually some of the children were taken without parental consent, although we do not know their exact number. But it is enough to make clear the scale of the problem.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that, for many children the living conditions in the receiving countries, and above all in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, were much better than those in their villages. However, that is another topic of discussion.

Another major discussion concerns the relocation of children to the "cities for children", established by Greece’s Queen Frederica at the time. Undoubtedly, it also took place to achieve almost the same political and military goals. On one hand, the parents who fought in the regular army would not worry that their children might be sent to the socialist countries and on the other, the aim was to depopulate the areas where there were hostilities and that were the Democratic Army’s regions for mobilization.

By this I mean that the issue of children was primarily military and to a lesser extent humanitarian. In the propaganda of opponents, however, it acquired other scales.

Among these children there were those that Greek history defines as "Slavic-speaking." What lies behind this term?

The terms "Slavic speaking" and "Slavic Macedonians" adopted by the Communist Party of Greece at the time referred to communities that were located mainly in central and Western Macedonia (especially in the areas of Pella, Florina and Kastoria). These were Christian communities whose members spoke the Slavic language, for which discussions are still underway as to whether it was Bulgarian or Macedonian, or somewhere in between. These communities, which analysts considered a national minority at that time many, had largely joined or supported the Democratic Army of Greece, voluntarily or involuntarily, or because they perceived this step as a solution.

A very large number of Slavic-speaking children were taken mainly to the People's Republic of Macedonia. Subsequently, their parents also left and settled there.

Tags: HistoryGreek Civil WarCommunist Party of GreeceSlavic MacedoniansPropagandaSending children to the socialist countries
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