Nikos Zachariadis

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A photo of Zachariadis

Nikolaos Zachariadis (Greek: Νίκος Ζαχαριάδης; 27 April 1903 – 1 August 1973) was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) from 1931 to 1956, and one of the most important personalities in the Greek Civil War.

Early life[edit]

Nikos Zachariadis was born in Edirne, Adrianople Vilayet, Ottoman Empire, in 1903, to an ethnic Greek family. His father, Panagiotis Zachariadis, was of petit-bourgeois origin, and worked as an expert in the Regie company, a French firm possessing the tobacco monopoly in Turkey. But after the defeat of Greece in the Greco-Turkish War and the population exchange between the two countries, the Zachariadis family was forcibly relocated to Greece and fell into poverty. Since 1919, Nikos Zachariadis moved to Constantinople, where he worked in various jobs, including as a sailor. It was there that he carried out his first organized work in the working-class movement. In 1922-23 he traveled to the Soviet Union, where he became a member of the Komsomol. He studied at various political and military institutions of the Soviet Government and of the Comintern, including the International Lenin School.

Political activity in Greece[edit]

In 1923, he was sent back to Greece to organize the Young Communist League of Greece (OKNE). Imprisoned, he subsequently fled to the Soviet Union. In 1931, he was sent back to Greece to restore order in the highly factionalised KKE and in the same year, he was elected General Secretary of KKE. In 1935, during the 7th Congress of the Communist International, he was elected in its Executive Committee. In the years until 1936, Zachariadis was a successful leader of the KKE, tripling the number of its members, gaining seats in the Greek Parliament, and even acquiring control of some labor unions.

In August 1936, he was arrested by the State Security of the Ioannis Metaxas regime and imprisoned. From prison, he issued a letter urging all Greeks to resist the Italian invasion of October 1940 and transform the war into an anti-fascist war. Some KKE cadre, who could not understand the fact that the ongoing war between the big imperialist powers differed from the First World War due to the existence of the USSR on the world scene, considered that this letter was fabricated by the Metaxas regime. Zachariadis was even accused of releasing it to win the favor of Konstantinos Maniadakis and be released from prison.[1][2] Zachariadis's letter remains a cornerstone of KKE's vital contribution to the National Resistance movement against the Fascist occupiers (1941-1944).

After the German invasion of Greece, in 1941 the Nazi Germans transferred him to the Dachau concentration camp, from where he was released in May 1945. Returning to Greece, he re-assumed the leadership of the KKE from Georgios Siantos, acting general secretary of the KKE since January 1942.

Civil War[edit]

Zachariadis conducted the military operations of the communist Democratic Army of Greece, which was formed to install a socialist People's Republic in Greece.[3] The open military intervention of Great Britain and of the USA, combined with the traitorous behavior of the Jugoslav leadership after 1948, led to the defeat of the Democratic Army of Greece in 1949. The KKE leadership and the remnants of the Democratic Army fled into exile in the USSR and the People's Democracies.

Post-war[edit]

The leadership of the Communist Party found refuge in Tashkent. However, following the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, Zachariadis clashed with the new Soviet leadership and with an opportunist segment of KKE's cadre, despite his support by the large number of party members.

In May 1956, during the 6th Plenum of the Central Committee of KKE, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union intervened to expel Zachariadis from the post of General Secretary. In February 1957 Zachariadis was also expelled from KKE, as were a large number of his supporters.

Zachariadis spent the rest of his life in exile in Siberia, initially in Yakutia and later in Surgut, Russian SFSR. In 1962, desperate from the devastating conditions of his exile, he somehow managed to reach Moscow. There he visited the Hellenic (Greek) Embassy and asked that he be transported to Greece, where he wanted to stand trial for his actions. Whether or not his request was taken into consideration is not known. Immediately after left the Hellenic embassy he was arrested by the Soviets and was taken back to Surgut, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union.[4] There, according to KGB claims, he committed suicide, aged 70, in 1973. According to other sources he was executed.[5] As of 2012, the Russian state archive records relating to the circumstances of his death remain secret.[6]

In December 1991, just a few days after the fall of the Soviet Union, Zachariadis' remains were returned to his homeland, Greece, and he was given a funeral, which gave his supporters the opportunity to honour him.[7][8] He is buried in the First Cemetery of Athens.

In 2011 a National Conference of the Communist Party of Greece fully rehabilitated Nikos Zachariadis as General Secretary of KKE.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Andrew L. Zapantis, Greek Soviet Relations 1917-1941,1983.
  2. ^ Nikos Zachariadis, Open Letter of the General Secretary of the KKE
  3. ^ Shrader, Charles R. (1999). The withered vine : logistics and the communist insurgency in Greece, 1945-1949 ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). Westport, Conn.: Praeger. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-275-96544-0. 
  4. ^ Fotini Tomai (2010-07-04). "Γιατί έκλεισαν το στόμα του Ζαχαριάδη". To Vima. Retrieved 2013-02-16. 
  5. ^ Kepesis, Nikandros (2006). ΠΡΟΒΛΗΜΑΤΙΣΜΟΙ γύρω από γεγονότα και πρόσωπα (in Greek). pp. 45–46. 
  6. ^ Interview of Natalia Tomilina, Director of the Russian State Archive of Most Recent History at 2000 in Thessaloniki. The Communist party of Greece (KKE) claimed the above (and much more) in 1964, describing Zachariadis as an enemy of the people (Communist party of Greece - KKE, central committee, official announcement, 1964). (From the book: Lefteris Apostolou "Nikos Zachariadis", Filistor, Athens, 2000).
  7. ^ 105 χρόνια από τη γέννηση του Νίκου Ζαχαριάδη, laikidimokratia.blogspot.com.
  8. ^ "Μια ιστορική προσωπικότητα του κομμουνιστικού κινήματος", Rizospastis, 3 August 2003.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Markos Vafiadis
Head of Provisional Democratic Government
February 7, 1949 - April 3, 1949
Succeeded by
Dimitrios Partsalidis