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Journal of Modern Greek Studies 19.2 (2001) 306-308

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Book Review

. (1949-52)

Yiannis Stefanidis. . (1949-52). [From the Civil War to the Cold War: Greece and the Allied Factor (1949-1952)]. Athens: Proskinio. 1999. Pp 304.

A cursory review of Greek political developments following the Second World War is likely to overlook the fact that between the years of civil war (1946-1949), when fear of communism appeared to engulf the nation, and the establishment of staunchly conservative rule in 1952, there were three years of moderate Center-Left government and endless jockeying for power. (In the national elections of 1950, in which more than 40 parties ran candidates, no party received more than 19% of the vote). Led by such prominent republicans as Nikolaos Plastiras, Sophocles Venizelos, and George Papandreou, and enjoying broad popular support, a succession of coalition cabinets took a conciliatory attitude toward the communist Left and appeared eager to focus on reconstruction and economic development and pave the way to national reconciliation. In principle, British and American officials favored such moderate governments, hoping that they would draw support away from both the revolutionary Left and the reactionary Right, leading to stability, democratization, and social progress. Yet, despite its considerable appeal, the experiment with middle-of-the-road politics failed, and in 1952 it was swept aside by the openly Right-wing Greek Rally of Gen. Alexandros Papagos, who in May 1951, to the dismay of the palace and of the United States embassy, put away his marshal's baton to enter politics.

The collapse of the Center was caused by divided and ineffective political leadership, interminable personality clashes and party squabbles, and the disruptive influence of the palace and the military. It was also spurred on by the poor performance and uncertainties of the national economy, leading to public frustration and disillusionment. However, beyond the purely domestic factors, a case can be made that external influences, in particular the American role in Greece, contributed to the discrediting of the moderates and the consolidation of power in the hands of the Right.

It is this impact of the "allied factor" on Greek political and economic developments during 1949-1952 that Yiannis Stefanidis, a historian at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, sets out to trace in this highly readable, clearly argued, and meticulously documented study. With no ideological axe to grind, he is careful not to impute neo-imperialist motives to London's and Washington's decision-makers. Letting the facts speak for themselves he shows that, in the period under review, the inability (or refusal) of the Greek political establishment to survive without substantial assistance from the United States gave American officials the opportunity to exert decisive influence over the priorities, performance and longevity of the government in Athens. To be sure, isolating the "allied factor" from the complex domestic and foreign dynamics that brought about the demise of the moderate Center is a difficult task. Nevertheless, in the author's well-argued view, American policy, which at critical moments demanded stability and quick results at the expense of long-term economic development, frustrated the moderates in power and helped Papagos and the Right to triumph in the elections of November 1952. [End Page 306]

Stefanidis's research relies almost exclusively on American and British primary sources and publications; surprisingly few Greek materials are cited. In view of his preoccupation with the "allied factor" and the inaccessibility of Greek documentary records, his choice of sources is understandable. Yet it is likely to revive the frequently voiced complaint that too much Greek history has been written on the basis of foreign evidence. Moreover, to gauge the impact of British and American influence on Greek officials, institutions, and society, one must examine in some detail the Greek side of the ledger: what factors made postwar Greece so susceptible to foreign influences? On the American side, brief mention of the causes and consequences of the anti-communist hysteria of McCarthyism and of the "loss" of China would have provided...


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