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  • Re-imagining Homeland in the Aftermath of the Greek Civil War (1946–1949): Children’s Magazines

The children’s/youth magazines published in the wake of the Greek Civil War (1946–1949) pose questions with regard to the notion of homeland as part of identity and subjectivity. The paper analyzes material from two such magazines: Αετόπουλα (Eaglets), published outside Greece (1949–1953) after the expatriation of communists at the end of the Civil War and intended for “the little emigrant Greeks,” and Παιδόπολη (Childtown) (later to be renamed Το Σπίτι του Παιδιού, The Child’s Home) (1950–1969), published in Greece but addressing the residents of Childtowns, special institutions set up by the Queen of Greece, so as to preserve the “Right” Greekness. The analysis points out that in Eaglets, the cultivation of a new collective consciousness, internalization of communist tenets, and admiration of the Soviet Union and communist leaders were formative features of the notion of homeland. By contrast, in Childtown, homeland was constructed as an agricultural nation-state, where future citizens would ideally work towards reconstruction and pay tribute to religion, family, and the king. Yet together the two magazines enacted a change in the conception of the place of rural children, who were formerly working hands within the context of the family and became social capital in the service of an overarching institution of the party and the state.

The Greek Civil War (1946–1949) has long been a troubling subject for Greek society, both in academia and in civic life, and remained an underexplored area of research until the early 1990s. Since then, numerous works have been published, ranging from the most elaborate scholarly monographs and edited volumes to memoirs, autobiographies, and popular histories. These sources, diverse in their approaches, help shed light on multifarious aspects of the Greek Civil War.1 Within this upsurge in historiography, Civil War children have become central to a considerable number of studies.2 These cover a wide array of issues, ranging from the evacuation of children from the battlegrounds to oral testimonies about the way those children experienced evacuation, [End Page 165] displacement, and placement in special institutions. What has been minimally investigated, however, is the kind of reading material produced for these war children and its ideological charge, which was significant because of the severity of the national conflict and the high stakes placed on its outcome. Internationally historical studies of the Cold War era have ignored the reading material intended for children during the Cold War Era, especially for those who lived in the communist regimes of Eastern Europe. It is only recently that the subject has attracted scholarly attention and a whole new research area has opened up.3

Situated in this emerging field of the study of war children, my contribution considers two children’s magazines: Παιδόπολις (Childtown), published in Greece in early 1950 and intended for the children who had been evacuated during the Greek Civil War by the Queen of Greece, Frederica, who was aligned with the anti-communist allied forces; and Αετόπουλα (Eaglets), published outside Greece from 1949 to 1953 and addressed, as stated in its motto, «για τα ξενιτεμένα Ελληνόπουλα» (“to the little emigrant Greeks”)—that is, to children who had been evacuated to the Socialist Republics by the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE), which was aligned with the Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας (Greek Communist Party, KKE).4 These magazines, epitomizing two clashing ideologies in the aftermath of the Greek Civil War, serve as useful tools for exploring the ideological apparatuses at work for children’s indoctrination. They can also help unravel the various aspects of the dominant ideology in each case, since they constitute indicators of a sustained cultural attention on children and youth during the Cold War era, stemming from the belief in children “as unformed political subjects who are at a stage in their intellectual development in which they can be taught good from bad, right from wrong and left from right” (Parsons 2005:354). The magazines under study are employed as a means of indoctrination in an attempt to raise political subjects according to prescribed ideologies. Operating within pedagogical and educational principles similar to those of official schooling, the magazines constitute an alternative control mechanism that works towards raising a specific political consciousness.

In this paper, I investigate how the concept of homeland is constructed within the magazines’ discourse and whether similar ideologies are detectable in each case. In this effort, I take up the question of how expatriated Greeks of leftist leanings re-imagined, re-invented, and reconstructed Greece as a homeland following the defeat of the DSE in the Civil War. Relying mainly on contemporaneous children’s magazines published in the countries of reception, I demarcate the limits of such a reconstruction, exploring how expatriation was perceived either as a compulsory temporary exile or as a period of initiation to the socialist-communist tenets and models that would be realized in Greece once the day of repatriation arrived—provided that Greece had already been [End Page 166] transformed into a socialist regime. I pay special attention here to the role children were imagined to play in such a process. At the same time, I address the question of how Greece was re-imagined as a nation state faithful to the ideology of “king, homeland, and Orthodox religion” in the anti-communist/nationalist discourse of a children’s magazine.5 In this vein, I also consider how the “other”—in this instance, the communists—was portrayed in connection with the concept of homeland, and what role was assigned to children for the reconstruction of the devastated homeland in the wake of the Civil War.

The Greek Civil War and the “children’s war”6

Given that these magazines form part of the Civil War legacy, it is important to outline the political and historical conditions that brought about their publication. For most European countries, the end of World War II in 1945 initiated a period of transition towards peace and reconstruction. In Greece, however, warfare was prolonged, though at this juncture not against an “external” enemy—the Axis allies—but rather against the “internal enemy”: the communists. By the term “communists,” I designate a group comprising not necessarily exclusively leftists but also people with leftist allegiances.7 This had been one of the most active resistance groups during the country’s triple occupation by Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria.8 Following the retreat of foreign troops from Greece, the issue of the country’s government was pressing. The communists’ expectations for the vindication of their cause against the Axis were never fulfilled, since anti-communist forces, supported initially by Britain and later on by the U.S., assumed the country’s government, followed by the restoration of King George II. These events culminated in early 1946 and led to the Civil War, which tormented Greek society, and especially its rural sector, until August 1949 with the defeat of the DSE. Following the defeat, the majority of DSE members fled to the Socialist Republics, where many of them lived in exile until the early 1980s.9

In the midst of the raging Civil War, the issue of children’s evacuation from war zones was at the top of the political concerns of the rival factions, as each vied to legitimize their respective evacuation practices. The communists transported some 28,000 children from the northern regions of Greece to the East European countries, while the Greek state, under the orders and a program initiated by Queen Frederica, evacuated roughly 18,000 children10 to camps known as Παιδοπόλεις (Childtowns) in an effort to not only deprive the DSE of human resources but also to preempt the spread of communism among the citizens of Greece. Acknowledging the necessity of protecting children on humanitarian but also largely on political grounds, both factions competed for ideological entrenchment among children using an array of means, including the publication of special magazines for children. Such publications [End Page 167] are invaluable in bringing to light the adults’ preoccupation with children and their preconceptions of children as assets who, if preserved, would secure the future of the homeland.

Eaglets: socialist/communist indoctrination

Following the defeat of the DSE, many rural children found themselves displaced and evacuated to Soviet Bloc countries. For their education and welfare, the Greek Committee for Child Support (Επιτροπή Βοήθειας στο Παιδί, ΕΒΟΠ) was set up by the Greek Communist Party in Budapest in 1948 (Matthaiou and Polemi 2003a:34–35).11 Elli Alexiou, a well-known expatriated leftist writer and an educator herself, in her capacity as a key member of this committee asserted that children’s education had to be grounded on principles altogether different from those prevalent in Greece at the time. The latter principles—that is, “religious exploitation, various superstitions, the deliberate suppression of working-class struggles against the Nazi cannibals, the strong emphasis on ‘American interest’ ” (Alexiou 1983:363)—were deemed inappropriate for expatriated children, and it therefore became necessary to publish new reading material to meet their particular needs. Eaglets, which ran monthly from 1949 until 1953, was one such publication that the Greek Committee for Child Support in Bucharest produced for expatriated children who were dispersed throughout the communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

Eaglets was intended to give lessons in communist/socialist mentality and as such included articles that presented the achievements of communism in the Eastern Bloc countries as far as technology, education, and social welfare were concerned. Apart from overt propaganda, it included literary material culled from the work of Greek leftist writers such as Menelaos Loundemis, Melpo Axioti, Vasilis Rotas, and Elli Alexiou, along with canonical ones such as Grigorios Xenopoulos, Kostis Palamas, Ioannis Vilaras, and Kostas Krystallis. Yet, the majority of literary contributions came from Russian authors such as Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky, M. Ilin, Anton Chekhov, Sergey Mikhalkov, and many others.12

The magazine’s title lays bare its underlying ideological affiliations. “Eaglets” denotes the children’s division of the (leftist) anti-Axis resistance group entitled Ενιαία Πανελλαδική Οργάνωση Νέων, EPON (United Pan- Hellenic Youth Organization),13 set up in February 1943 in the midst of the Occupation. This organization was the counterpart of the V. I. Lenin All-Union Youth Organization set up in the Soviet Union in 1922 for children aged 10 to 14.14 Since its inception, EPON had gained a firm foothold not only among urban youth and children, but also, and most crucially, among their counterparts in the rural areas. Although EPON had started in 1943 as a youth organization encompassing the hitherto formed youth organizations [End Page 168] with various political affiliations, after the retreat of German troops and the country’s liberation in 1944, it aligned itself with the Greek Communist Party’s line on the emergence of Greece as a socialist country modeled on the Soviet Union. In the period following liberation from the Germans and up through 1946, when EPON, Eaglets (the children’s organization bearing the same name as the magazine), and the Greek Communist Party were outlawed, EPON and Eaglets played a leading part in the country’s reconstruction. Indeed, reconstruction became one of the most common battle cries employed by the youth organization. Its members worked to increase agricultural yields and undertook reconstruction and cultural work through the organization’s numerous branches in the countryside. When the Civil War ended and many Greeks were expatriated, the organization was reconstituted abroad, and both children and youth were forced to join its ranks. The Communist Party’s patronage was thus extended to children and youth, in an attempt to create homo socialisticus,15 whose role would be indispensable in the construction of a socialist Greece. Children were to be imbued with the values of popular democracy, national freedom, peace, and collectivity. They were prompted to engage themselves in the service of society, since individual happiness was thought to be meaningless outside of its social context. Solidarity, cooperation, and community work formed part of the collective spirit that should characterize children as members of a future socialist society.

With this ultimate objective in mind, the renegotiation of the concept of homeland in Eaglets rested upon the formation of a new identity for children. In what follows, I discuss several ways in which that identity and the new concept of homeland were constructed: by establishing new historical landmarks to foster a new collective consciousness; depicting children’s lives in the socialist host countries in a positive light in contrast to life in Greece; consolidating socialist/communist tenets; and glorifying Soviet and communist leaders.

The new collective consciousness

As may be gleaned from entries in Eaglets, the magazine cultivated a new revolutionary consciousness for its presumed reader. This collective consciousness was negotiated on the basis of events constructed as turning points, not in the context of Greece’s own history but rather in the wider ambit of the national and international history of communism. Events like the victory of the Red Army against Hitler in the USSR and the establishment of EPON in Greece, occurring at the same time in February 1943, were repeatedly celebrated in the magazine as new historical landmarks. Moreover, “the Great October Socialist Revolution which created the first country of laborers and farmers in the world, the all-powerful (πανίσχυρη) Soviet Union” was constantly highlighted, for, as one columnist exclaimed, this event “will always stand as a landmark for the working class people of the entire world marking their cause against capitalists, those instigators of war, and will [End Page 169] always pave the way for a happy life” (Eaglets October 1950:5, 8). Thus 28 October, the day when Italian troops invaded Greece in 1940, signified not only the beginning of Greece’s occupation by foreign troops during World War II (the KKE held this to be the first occupation followed by the “new Anglo-American occupation” starting in 1946) (Eaglets October 1950:7), but also commemorated the establishment on 28 October 1946 of the General Headquarters of the DSE, which “fought for the country’s liberation and would have eventually won, were it not for Tito’s treason16 and the unlimited assistance offered by the Anglo-Americans [to the National Army]” (Eaglets October 1950:8). The establishment of the Greek Communist Party in November 1918 was another anniversary to which Eaglets paid tribute, as were the birthdays of Joseph Stalin and Nikos Zachariadis, the acclaimed leader of the Greek Communist Party. In addition to these dates, 1 May was memorialized as a milestone in the international communist movement, as was the 1821 Greek Revolution against the Ottomans, which the magazine presented as analogous to the communists’ struggle. In accordance with the communist position on proletarian internationalism, the social dimensions of the Greek Revolution were emphasized over its national dimension, and the oppression of the poor, peasants, and working class by powerful landowners and overlords was presented as the driving force of people’s discontent, culminating in the war against the Ottomans, just as the DSE fought against “the Anglo-American occupation.”17

Comparing children’s lives

The comparison drawn in Eaglets between children’s experience in the socialist host countries and their peers’ lives back in Greece always concluded in favor of the socialist countries. Children’s lives in Greece were depicted in the worst possible light; poverty, misery, disease (tuberculosis, diphtheria, and trachoma were explicitly mentioned), hunger, orphanage, illiteracy, imprisonment, and exile characterized their everyday experience, according to the magazine. “Slaves of Americans,” “monarch-fascists,” “Truman’s dogs,” “local and foreign exploiters,” “traitors,” “tyrants,” “cannibals,” and “gangsters” were some of the epithets reserved for members of the Athens regime, while Greece was portrayed as occupied by the English and American imperialists, who “steeped the country in blood and turned it into an endless prison wherein all the honest, working-class fighters are inhumanely tortured” (Eaglets March 1950:4). In Greece, the peers of expatriated Greek children were depicted as victims of fascism and were said to be suffering “in the hands of the notorious former Nazi princess and current Queen of the monarcho-fascist Greece, Queen Frederica” (Eaglets January 1950:15). Akin to this portrayal was Alexiou’s comparison between the two groups of children, which appeared in the magazine in early 1950. In a public speech given on the occasion of a youth’s conferral of the title of “Stakhanovite”—a special recognition reserved for those exceeding the factory production targets, named after the miner Andrei [End Page 170] Stakhanov, who had broken the “record of production”18 and thus became a symbol for the Soviet people—she announced:

[Tonight’s celebration] is a source of happiness because it is the climax of a hard effort. It is a victory in the second field of our cause [the first being the war] [. . .]. I remember that in fascist Greece only the lazy bourgeois children pursuing classical studies were eligible for awards and distinctions [. . .].19 In fascist Greece no one ever spoke in favor of working-class children. Neither for distinctions, nor for gifts or awards. They were excluded from the playing field. Who? The very ones who had worked hard to build it.

(Eaglets January 1950:20)

In a similar vein, a bleak picture of childhood in Greece was provided to Greek expatriates by the women’s magazine, Η φωνή της γυναίκας (The Woman’s Voice) (1950–1953),20 which was the official organ of the Πανελλαδική Δημοκρατική Ένωση Γυναικών (Panhellenic Democratic Union of Women), an organization attached to the KKE in exile: “In the capitalist countries, school, the children’s press and books, cinema and radio attempt to corrupt children morally, to turn them into merciless people so as to become tame slaves at the disposal of others once they grow up” (June 1951:6). Leaders of this allegedly corruptive campaign were the “American gangsters” held responsible for the rise in youth delinquency and vagrancy in Greece: “this is the civilization that American conquerors brought to us in Greece with their gangster films and their immoral comics and Coca-Cola [. . .]” (June 1951:14).21 Just before International Children’s Day on 1 June, The Woman’s Voice informed the reader: “The 1st of June will find the young Greeks stowed in refugee shanties, naked, hungry, and sick, away from school and teachers, without any joy at all; in the concentration camps of Frederica, (στρατόπεδα συγκέντρωσης της Φρειδερίκης) in prisons and in exile [. . .]. How happily will this day be celebrated by our children hosted in the Socialist Republics!” (May 1950:5).

Socialist/communist tenets

The vision of Greece’s future constructed in Eaglets was always presented in conjunction with the duties that the children had. According to the magazine, children in the socialist countries ought to work hard in school and in the workplace and internalize the principles of socialism-communism. Their newly acquired work ethic would be put into practice once Greece was set free from the imperialist enemies:

In this palace [where Greek children are hosted], the future pillars of socialist society are being raised and educated. Those who will reconstruct the new world will emerge from this palace. To this end the government of the People’s Republic of Romania, affectionate and caring as it is, makes so many sacrifices. To this end it takes care of our own development, so we may be able to build the future of our homeland; reconstruct our homeland, and lay the foundations of socialism, once our homeland is liberated from the bloodied claws of the Anglo-American imperialists.

(Eaglets September 1950:17) [End Page 171]

The role of Greek children as the future builders of communism was aptly delineated by Nikos Zachariadis in a letter published in the Eaglets dated 5 December 1950 and addressed to EPON members who were, at the time, pupils of a school in Budapest (January 1951:3–5). This letter is significant not least because it expresses the fundamental principles of a socialist education; according to Zachariadis, the prime virtues children should bear were “faith, devotion, and commitment to the Communist Party.” He urged children to put all their abilities and energies to the service of the people, to “immerse all your abilities, knowledge, and energies without any reservation in the revolutionary cause of the people” (4, 5).22 He offered an extensive account of the desired attributes each child should have: “the virtue of commitment and collective work and consistency with the party line” (7); “constant learning in accord with Lenin’s postulates and enrichment through knowledge, science, art, and the experience and theory of the communist movement” (8); and “love for the homeland.” With regard to this last virtue, Zachariadis exhorted, “[W]hatever you learn and gain, have no other aim but to become better fighters for the liberation and resurgence of Greece. You are also members of the army which is going to liberate our country and our people” (9). Moreover, he condemned individuality in favor of collectivity and conformity. Such values were also promoted in children’s literature in the communist regimes of Eastern Europe, as German scholar Gaby Thomson has shown in detail with regard to the German Democratic Republic: “the collective spirit was of supreme value, and conformity was the benchmark for being socially accepted” (2004:47). Proletarian internationalism was another virtue of paramount importance, according to Zachariadis:

Without this virtue, without eradicating the evil of chauvinism and nationalist rift, nobody can become a true communist. Love the Soviet Union, with all your heart: our Great Motherland, the star that leads the peoples of the entire world. Learn from and follow Comsomol’s lead. Learn Russian, without which nobody today can be regarded as a pioneer fighter, a member of our cause. And hate with all your heart the oppressors and torturers of our country and our people, that is the Anglo-Americans and the monarcho-fascists.


According to one article in Eaglets, the spirit of socialist patriotism, collective work, conscious discipline, and morality ought to be instilled in little Eaglets by their party cadres, who would constantly observe their behavior in and out of school to ensure that they did not deviate from the set path (Eaglets December 1951:21–22). Practices such as close observation, employed in socialist countries to monitor adults’ conformity to the Party postulates, were followed with the same consistency in regard to children as well: as far as the magazine was concerned, children were not exempted from the Party’s omniscience but rather were considered on par with adults. [End Page 172]

Admiration for the Soviet Union and the communist leaders

Throughout the magazine’s run, the presumed reader was constantly prompted to admire the socialist Soviet Union, deemed to be “the most progressive power in the world” (Eaglets January 1950:15). The Soviet regime stood as a model for the anticipated liberation and reconstruction of the Greek homeland. Magazine articles characterized the Soviet Union as the “great motherland,” “enlightening example setting the path towards work and progress” (Eaglets September 1950:3), “country of Peace, Freedom and Progress” (Eaglets October 1950:11), “friend and defender of all the powerless and oppressed countries,” and “watchful guardian of peace who will make the plans of the war-mongers fall through” (Eaglets October 1950:5).

Similarly, the leader of the Greek Communist Party, Nikos Zachariadis, and his Soviet counterpart, Joseph Stalin, were held in high esteem and featured prominently in the magazine. Zachariadis was hailed as “father and savior of the children’s lives” (Eaglets July 1950:5) and “strong helmsman” (Eaglets November 1950:4), while Stalin was designated as the “treasured father,”23 “the great father and teacher” (Eaglets August 1951:15), and “guide of the peoples towards Freedom and Peace” (Eaglets October 1950:8).24

In light of the above discussion, one might assert that Greece was never imagined as a real country; the concept of homeland was only a shadow of the Soviet empire. Although Greece featured prominently in the magazine’s discourse, it always appeared in an unfavorable light, and readers never quite learned what the future Greece would be like. Without doubt, in the vision of the magazine, Greece would become a socialist country, liberated from the “bloodied claws of Anglo-American imperialists” (Eaglets September 1950:17), but this is as far as the construction of the homeland ever got. What Eaglets highlighted was the expectations the Greek Communist Party had of its youngest members, whom it entrusted with Greece’s liberation. This was a utopian image of Greece, a homeland set somewhere in the future. Whether this future was near or distant remained unstated, even as the identity of the country’s future citizens was thoroughly described and imposed on young consciences.25

The other side of the story: Childtown

The indoctrination of children attempted by Queen Frederica and the anti-communist forces was by no means less intense. Attempting to stamp young minds with “correct”—that is, anti-communist—values and to ferret out communist impulses in Greek society, the Queen set up special institutions known as Childtowns in 1947.26 In these institutions, children from the northern areas of Greece—the battleground between the DSE and the National Army at the time—were to be sheltered and properly brought up. What seemed to be at stake for anti-communists was control over young minds. In this context, [End Page 173] the Childtown scheme served as a means of countering the danger posed by communism to children and youth. From the anti-communist point of view, the supposed ideological innocence of children had to be maintained so as to protect the Greek race from its long-standing enemy, the Slavs, associated in anti-communist rhetoric with Greek communists. By implication, the latter were viewed as national renegades who posed a great threat to national security. The Queen assumed the role of the nation’s savior by attempting to preserve the nation’s most valuable asset, its children.

One of the tools employed towards this end was the establishment of a bimonthly children’s magazine entitled Childtown, financed by the Queen’s Fund, a special fund raised to support the Childtown venture. Under the editorship of the committed anti-communist Angelos Metaxas, the magazine remained in publication for almost two decades (1950–1969).27 It was intended originally for the Childtown residents but beginning in 1951 its circulation was extended to include rural children, it thus became in effect the first magazine to address children outside of the urban centers. During the first year of its publication, it was used as a means of propaganda promoting an anti-communist mentality, while from the second year onwards it became a means of instilling in its readers the love for their village in an attempt to prepare the ground for the regeneration of the war-torn countryside.28

Yet the magazine was initiated in order to raise future anti-communists. One Childtown writer represented this view, addressing children directly: “Three years ago you were uprooted from your villages by a hard fate, whereupon the first mother, our Queen, set up the Childtowns to protect you from the criminal mass abduction, [you] who are the future pillars of our Homeland” (June 1950:n.p.). Similarly, the speech in October 1948 of the general director of the Childtowns, General Kleanthis Boulalas, employs the anti-communist rhetoric of the time, based, on the one hand, on a conspiracy theory, and, on the other hand, on the irrefutable glory of the Greek race:

Our homeland is in danger, it has been in danger from the enemy who wants to annihilate our country, to change our language, our religion. It wants to turn you into Slavs, so that you will hate your country. We [the Greeks] are the ones who taught the other nations that we die fighting for the most important ideals of mankind: Religion, Homeland, and Family [sic]. We demand from you that you love your family, your village, and your fields, love even the air and the smell of the thyme in your village. And you must consider the day of your return as a day of resurrection.

Along the same lines, considering the Greek children and youth as the foundation of the nation, Stratis Myrivilis, the renowned Greek writer of the interwar period, noted in 1948, “This is the new generation of Greece for which we should all fight with passion, fanaticism, and persistence. Children and [End Page 174] youth, these are the new foundation, our hope for the future. This is known to the Slav who fights the Greeks and this is why he seeks to communicate his rotten propaganda to the foundation of our nation” (Myrivilis 1948:17).29 Such was the nationalist rhetoric upon which the Childtown scheme was founded in order to make it a tool for forging true Greeks—that is, people inculcated with the “Right” (anti-communist) principles.30

The Child’s Homes: the preventive follow-up

Following the end of the Civil War, most of the Childtowns were dissolved in the summer of 1950 as the need to protect children from war no longer existed. The decision for their closure was taken in May 1949 but was not put into effect until the following year (Hasiotis 2013:201–210). In 1950, to ensure that the former residents of these Childtowns would not deviate from the set path, Queen Frederica established Child’s Homes (Σπίτια του Παιδιού) throughout the northern regions of Greece. There rural children could attend lectures, be trained in the use of new cultivation methods, take part in scout and guide groups and athletic events, watch films, and, in general, be educated according to prescribed standards. These standards were set with a view to creating what can be termed as homo nationalisticus, the future Greek citizen faithful to “homeland, religion and family”—one might as well add to King—indispensable to securing the future of an anti-communist Greece. Orphans or guerillas’ offspring were not to leave the few remaining Childtowns reserved for them, which operated in parallel with the Child’s Homes. As successors to the Childtowns, the operation of the Child’s Homes suggests that the Queen envisaged children as communicators of new ideas and methods to the Greek peasantry, which had been devastated by warfare and stood in need of modernization. As Irene Kalliga, one of the urban upper-class women involved in the Childtown venture, wrote in her memoir: “The ultimate aim of the Child’s Homes in villages on the frontier was the promotion of an agricultural economy as a first step towards the raising of the living standards in the Greek countryside” (The Chronicle of Royal Welfare n.d.:110). The promise exacted from children who joined Child’s Homes indicates the same imposed ideology: “My Mother Queen, I promise to honor and love the house you provided, to be loyal to God and my King, to become a good Greek, a good citizen, and a good farmer, to be devoted to the land of my village and always work for my country. God be my witness!” (The Chronicle of Royal Welfare n.d.:118)31

As we may deduce from this promise, the triumvirate of “God, Fatherland, and King” lay at the core of the identity the Queen expected children to construct. If we add to these three figures that of farmer, this desired identity reaches its full extent. Characterizations such as “moral bastion” and “safety cordon” were attributed to Child’s Homes in the North whose aim was to “fight against the undermining of the National Conscience attempted by the country’s [End Page 175] enemies; that is, International Communism and the idea of Pan-Slavism” (The Chronicle of Royal Welfare n.d.:151). Such formulations reveal the extent of the attempted indoctrination. To be “a good Greek,” in accord with this ideology, was to meet certain requirements, such as honoring the King, being a devoted Orthodox Christian, and loving the homeland; to be a communist, by contrast, was equal to being a national enemy, namely anti-Greek.32

Heralding regeneration

Not only did the Queen set up the Child’s Homes in order to use them as crucibles of resistance against communism—“the Red Dragon looming large in the North” (Childtown January 1950:4)—but she also initiated the publication of a magazine, entitled Childtown (1950–1969), later to be renamed The Child’s Home (1 February 1951), to bolster the ideological struggle against communism and preserve the “Right” nationalism, as well as to keep track of residents’ development. The first-year issues were pure anti-communist propaganda: “During the great danger, when many boys and girls were abducted and killed, Mother Greece opened her arms and saved you, my children, from death and destruction” (Childtown January 1950:3, from the Queen’s message). These issues focused on children’s “salvation,” meaning their placement in Childtowns to protect them from “the horrible dragon,” “the barbarians,” “the red curse,” “the black threat,” and the “scourge of bandits” (Childtown January 1950:4), to mention but a few characterizations attributed to the communists. In this depiction, the Childtowns appeared as “impregnable castles” and the Queen as “the nation’s first mother” (Childtown January 1950:4). The magazine laid emphasis upon the role the Queen played in spear-heading the campaign to rescue endangered children: “And the Mother Queen built up rapidly her castles—the Childtowns [. . .]. Each Childtown was a castle founded on the Queen’s earnest love and rooted in every mother’s longing. And the pride of the race [φυλή], honest toil, hospitality, and Christian love, were the impregnable walls protecting the castle” (Childtown January 1950:4). Pictured in a positive light, the Queen was elevated to the status of a national heroine.

Revival and reconstruction of the countryside became the recurrent plea to the presumed reader of Childtown, who might be a peasant girl or a peasant boy. One could argue that this magazine represents one of the earliest attempts to reach rural children through a modern medium such as the press; before Childtown, children’s magazines published since the establishment of the Greek state in 1830 had always been intended for the amusement and education of urban children. Regardless of its potentially progressive address to rural children, however, Childtown (and its successor, The Child’s Home) was first and foremost a means of ideological entrenchment. Through its pages children were constantly being asked to engage in the reconstruction of their homeland, and in order to serve this aim they were strongly advised not only to put into practice what they had been taught during their time in the Childtowns, but [End Page 176] also to try to disseminate this knowledge to their fellow villagers: “What you have learnt in the Childtown does not belong to you. You have to communicate it to others [. . .]. You yourselves have to take care of the reconstruction of your village [. . .]. You have to become pioneers of all the progress in your homeland” (Childtown August 1950:365–366).

Progress was defined in the magazine as the cultivation of the land and the reconstruction of the house, the school, and the church. Articles reinforced and re-instated traditional gender roles, encouraging the young male reader to become a farmer—or a manual laborer—and the young girl to become a decent housewife. Special columns such as the farmer’s column or the housewife’s corner, where practical knowledge was imparted, were regular features in the magazine. The ideal reader was defined as “a good Greek and a good farmer”; what made a good Greek and a good farmer, according to the magazine’s discourse, was faith in God, devotion to Greece, love for the Royal couple, obedience to the law, respect for parents and teachers, devotion to the land, diligence, dignity, and honesty (Childtown July 1950:327). Thus, the magazine presented the ideal reader as an alternative “soldier who is going to fight for the regeneration of the country, armed with the plough, the mattock, the trowel, the hammer, and the anvil,” and so contribute to the “creation of a new life in the Greek countryside and a new civilization” (Childtown August 1950:390).

The Greek farmer is the one who maintains and reinforces the Nation’s life [. . .]: He is the source of life, vigor, welfare, and prosperity for the Nation [. . .]: Reconstruction is your aim. Not only the rebuilding of the dilapidated houses, not only the cultivation of the fields and the proliferation of your stock but also the moral reconstruction of the homeland!33 The creation of a new life in the Greek countryside.

(Childtown August 1950:394, 395)

In promoting these ideas, the magazine served as the basis of the villager’s practical education, which would, in turn, become the foundation for the reconstruction, conceived here as a kind of “resurrection” not just of buildings but also of morality in the countryside. Its publication functioned as an alternative channel via children for the dissemination of the anti-communist ideology.

Recalling the rhetoric of EPON in the period from 1944 to 1946, one may argue that Queen Frederica drew from EPON’s ideological arsenal, appropriating its battle cry for reconstruction and work in the Greek countryside. Indeed I would suggest that such a selective adoption of certain pre-Civil War messages from EPON did occur in the pages of Childtown, with the appropriate nationalist twist. EPON had been an effective organization for unifying youth, and Childtown borrowed its ideas and rhetoric. The emphasis on reconstruction in particular appeared in Childtown as a continuation of a message that was already widespread before the Civil War and was strategically deployed now among Greek youth and children who had remained in rural areas of Greece [End Page 177] after the Civil War, and had, therefore, to be put in the service of rebuilding the post-War nation.34


In view of the above discussion, I argue that Childtown and Eaglets treated children and youth as, respectively, the state’s and the party’s possessions. In the aftermath of the Greek Civil War, children and youth were objectified, at least on the level of official discourse:35 they belonged first and foremost not to their families but to the state or the party, and were employed at the level of public discourse as possible vehicles for the materialization of the political agendas of either the state or the communist party.

In the case of the Communist Party, the liberation of Greece from the fascists and the Anglo-Americans and its reconstruction thenceforth were goals to be attained through children, once they developed according to the socialist standards set by the Soviet Union. On the other end of the ideological spectrum, the anti-Communist forces and Queen Frederica perceived children and youth as safeguards of the “Right” Greece, that is to say, the politically sanctioned, right-wing Greece, against the advent of communism as leaders of the country’s reconstruction. Thus, both the Greek state and the Greek Communist Party assumed the responsibility of prescribing roles for children and youth in the service of their respective ideologies, standing in loco parentis. At a pragmatic level, this development was crucial, for rural children up to that time had been seen as working hands within the context of the family rather than as social capital in the service of an overarching institution such as the party or the state. This then can be registered as a turning point in the history of children in rural Greece. As can be seen from the above discussion, they were still seen as working hands but with an important shift in the social dimension of their contribution: they were no longer expected to contribute just to family sustenance; instead, their work was seen as part of reproducing the dominant ideology in each case, whether communist/socialist or nationalist.

However, it should not escape our attention that the starkest difference between the two ideological systems with regard to children and youth was that, while Eaglets treated children on par with adults, using similar ideological practices already at work in the supervision and control of adult communists, Childtown addressed children and youth as “apostles” who would carry the correct values to the adults in the rural areas of northern Greece; children and youth, once immunized against the virus of communism and taught new methods of work, were expected to secure the resurgence of Greece.

These two magazines serve as examples of the polarization of Greek society in the aftermath of the Greek Civil War, and of the early politicization of child and youth audiences at that time. This politicization was deemed [End Page 178] indispensable to securing the country’s future, whatever that future represented to each rival.

Vasiliki Vasiloudi
Fourth Primary School of Komotini


. This paper was originally presented at the conference, “Migration matters,” organized by the Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies: Europe and the Americas (MESEA) in Leiden, Holland 23–29 June 2008. All translations of passages quoted from the magazines Eaglets, Childtown, and Τhe Woman’s Voice are by the author, who therefore bears sole responsibility for any mistakes. Many thanks to the anonymous reviewers for kindly suggesting improvements and to the editors for their meticulous reading.

4. For the purposes of this article, all available issues of the Eaglets held in the Archives of Contemporary Social History in Athens have been consulted (year 1950: issues no 13–24, year 1951: issues no 25–36, year 1952: no 8, year 1953: no 2, 4, 5, 7–12), but there are many missing issues of the magazine. See Matthaiou and Polemi 2003a and 2003b. The complete series of Child-town is available at the Library of the Hellenic Parliament in Athens. In the case of Childtown, quotes come mainly from the first year of publication because the issues of that year (24 issues in total) mirror developments in the operation of Childtowns, while later issues are concerned with the follow-up institution, the Child’s Home and are less overtly political.

5. On the question of the development of the triptych see Gazi 2011.

6. The term was coined by Margaritis 2002:605.

7. The difficulty of delineating the tendencies and political subjectivities that comprised the “communists” in Greece since the time preceding the Metaxas dictatorship through the Junta has been discussed extensively in Panourgiá 2009.

8. Greece was occupied by the three Axis powers, Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria. Thrace and part of Macedonia were under Bulgarian occupation.

9. Repatriation was allowed by ministerial decision 106841/29-12-1982 (following law no1285/1982, Government Gazette no 115, issue A) of Andreas Papandreou’s first government, but only to political refugees who were Έλληνες το γένος (Greeks by birth), thus excluding a considerable number of Slavic-speaking Macedonians from returning to their villages of birth. Even today they may only visit their birth villages by special dispensation for a limited length of time. See more on this issue in Danforth and Boeschoten (2012:187–217).

10. Their exact number in both cases still remains a nebulous matter.

11. In 1950, the Committee was removed to Bucharest, where the publishing services of the KKE had been established since 1949. [End Page 179]

12. The magazine’s material included tales, short stories, poetry, biographies along with children’s correspondence from their host institutions in the socialist republics, popular science, history and geography features and a column devoted to recreation which included jokes, riddles, and games.

13. For an extensive account of this organization see Zorbalas 1993.

14. The latter constituted a division of Komsomol, the youth wing of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which played a key role in inculcating youth with the values of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and introducing them to politics. On this issue, see Julie DeGraffenried 2005 and Stearns 2011. My warmest thanks to DeGraffenried for kindly granting me permission to consult her paper. Eaglets hosted a regular column entitled “Advice from an old Pioneer” (translated from Russian), wherein the experience of the Russian pioneers was presented in order to benefit their Greek counterparts.

15. The term is derived from DeGraffenried (2005).

16. Tito, the Yugoslavian communist leader, had supported the DSE in terms of both material and political aid until 1948, when he was expelled from the Cominform because of his disagreement with Stalin. Thereafter he deprived the Greek guerrillas of necessary resources.

17. The term “Anglo-American Occupation” recurs in Eaglets to render Greece’s alignment with British and American politics. It is certainly used pejoratively. The same term is deployed repeatedly in many leftist publications of the era. The analysis of the War of Independence as a class war rather than as a nationalist war was first put forward by Υianis Kordatos in 1924 in his seminal work, Η κοινωνική σημασία της Ελληνικής Επαναστάσεως.

18. “To accelerate technological advancement and productivity in the Soviet Union, Stalin called on all workers to ‘emulate the Stakhanovite and to move from the arena of ordinary labor into the realm of heroism’ ” (Marcia Mueller, “Ideology, Heroism and Industrialization: The Stakhanovite Movement, 1935–1939, PhD diss. Eastern Washington University, 1984, quoted in Manz 2007:78–79).

19. «Θυμάμαι στη φασιστική Ελλάδα ώριζαν διακρίσεις και έπαθλα μόνο για τα κοιμισμένα παιδιά της μπουρζουαζίας που φοιτούσαν στα Κλασικά Γυμνάσια [. . .]» (Eaglets January 1950:20).

20. This magazine offers valuable insights into the desired nurture of the child in a socialist society, a topic that calls for further investigation.

21. A similar concern about “the influx of Western trash and mass literature (comics, cheap detective and adventure stories, girls’ stories)” arose in East German children’s literature in the early and mid-1950s. See Thomson-Wohlgemuth 2005b:22.

22. This letter was also published in booklet format, and all relevant quotations are taken from that edition. The same letter was also reproduced in books intended for children in the seventh and eighth grades in 1951, and in The Woman’s Voice, January (1951):9.

23. See the caption under Stalin’s portrait in a loose leaflet accompanying the December 1950 issue of Eaglets.

24. For the leader cult of Stalin, see Manz 2007:84–86; see also Kelly 2005a and 2007. Following Stalin’s death in March 1953, the April 1953 issue of Eaglets was a eulogy to the latter’s life and work.

25. It would be of particular interest to compare Eaglets with O Επονίτης, issued monthly from 1951 to 1953, intended for expatriated youth who had been members of EPON. Also, in order to obtain a fuller picture of the evolution of the concept of homeland with regard to expatriated Greek children, research might turn to Ο Πυρσός των Παίδων (The Torch of Children), issued some ten years later (1961–1968) in Eastern Germany, where one can see important shifts occurring in the identity of Greek youths in the face of the long-sought repatriation.

26. For an extensive analysis of the Childtown infrastructure and the nationalist ideology from which it sprang, see Vasiloudi 2009; Hasiotis 2009 and 2013a and 2013b.

28. Childtown was modeled after Διάπλασις των Παίδων (The Molding of Children), a long-running children’s magazine (1879–1945) that became a prototype for many other children’s magazines in Greece. Following its example, Childtown featured a wide array of material, from Aesop’s fables, fairy tales, poetry, and novels to comic strips. It also included letters to the editor, contests, and use of pseudonyms, all of which were publication practices systematically followed by its editors in order to enhance its readership. The work of canonical writers such as Grigorios Xenopoulos, Alkis Tropaiatis, and Penelope Delta featured in its pages. Regular features included a religious column, a farmer’s column, a housewife’s column, and “The Others and Us” column, the latter being an initiation into civic education.

29. Myrivilis refers here to the children and youth of Greece.

30. An in-depth analysis of the anticommunist rhetoric and policies can be found in Bournazos 2009. See also Mazower 2000.

31. «Βασίλισσα Μητέρα μου, Σου υπόσχομαι να τιμήσω και να αγαπήσω το σπίτι που μου χάρισες, να είμαι πιστός στο Θεό και στο Βασιλιά μου, να γίνω καλός Έλλην, καλός πολίτης και καλός αγρότης. Να αφοσιωθώ στη γη του χωριού μου και να δουλεύω πάντα για το καλό της Πατρίδος μου. Μάρτυς μου ο Θεός» (Το χρονικόν της βασιλικής προνοίας, The Chronicle of the Royal Welfare n.d.:118).

32. Similar rhetoric was employed in the case of the Spanish Civil War; see Richards 2005:120.

33. Implied in this formulation was reference to the fall of morals as a consequence of contact with communists.

34. This assumption should be further checked against the evidence provided by the various editions published by the branches of EPON throughout Greece. In many of these periodical editions, the reconstruction of the Greek countryside is a recurrent theme, especially in editions that concern the Eaglets and what has been called “the children’s movement.” See Varon-Vassar 1987 and 2003; Dimitropoulos and Olympitou 2000; and Zorbalas 1993.

35. On the discrepancy between official discourse on homeland and actual experience of the homeland in the case of displaced children either by the communists or the nationalists, see respectively Danforth 2003, 2012 and Vasiloudi and Theodorou 2012.

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