Greek Operation

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(Redirected from Greek Operation of the NKVD)
Greek Operation of the NKVD
Part of National operations of the NKVD
LocationSoviet Union (modern-day Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan and others)
TargetEthnic Greeks
Attack type
prison shootings, deportation
PerpetratorsNKVD security forces

The Greek Operation[a] (Russian: Греческая Операция, romanizedGrecheskaya Operatsiya; Ukrainian: Грецька Операція, romanizedHretska Operatsiia; Greek: Ελληνική επιχείρηση) was an organised mass persecution of the Greeks of the Soviet Union that was ordered by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, primarily motivated by widespread distrust of Greek populations living in the Black Sea Region and also for the availability of resources.[5] Greeks often use the term "pogrom" (πογκρόμ) for this persecution.[6] It began on December 15, 1937, and marked the beginning of the repressions against Greeks that went on for 13 years.[7] Depending on the sources, it is estimated that between 15,000[2][3] and 50,000[4] Greeks died during this campaign. Tens of thousands more were persecuted during the Deportation of the Soviet Greeks. Some scholars characterize the operation as a "genocide" against Greeks.[8][9][10][11]

A wave of Greek emigrants from the Soviet Union in 1937–1939 is often considered a consequence of Stalinist persecution of the Soviet Greek national movement.[1]

Motivations for Deportation[edit]

The Greeks living within the USSR had a history of maintaining close ties with outside powers, such as the Ottoman Empire leading up to the outbreak of WWI.[5] Such close ties made Soviet authorities wary of the loyalty of their Greek subjects. Beyond their association with the Ottoman Empire, the Greeks held particularly close ties with Greece and with the Greek Orthodox Church.[5] Soviet authorities in particular "viewed religion as a force that undermined its power and authority".[12]

Strategically, the Greeks were viewed as a security threat by the Soviets. Worries over a nationalist uprising or saboteur activity were only heightened by the resistance shown by Greek partisans in response to the German invasion of their country.[12] Post WWII, the entry of Greece into the NATO alliance further drove Stalin's distrust of the Soviet Greek community, fearing they had come under the influence of the West.[5] Soviet authorities viewed Greeks as a "foreign element" to the region that was "hostile" and "unreliable" to Soviet rule.[13] Their removal, it was thought, would solidify Soviet hegemony in the Black Sea and Georgian regions. Population transfer was Soviet policy at the time when it came to weakening nationalistic or ethnic sentiments in potentially “problematic” populations. Resettlement was often carried out regardless of whether or not different ethnic groups were resistant to Soviet rule.[13] The Chechen, Inguish, Crimean Tatar, and other minority communities around the Black Sea also faced similar accusations of disloyalty from Soviet authorities.[13] Soviet doctrine at the time pushed for the formation of an egalitarian society in addition to an ethnically homogenous one. As a result, extensive efforts were made to fill the newly established collective farms popping up all across Soviet territory. This contrasted directly with the long history the Greeks had of independent farming practices, and as a result, the Greek community was viewed as resistant and a hindrance to state control.[13]

Other motivators include gaining control over resources and land populated by the Greeks, who primarily reside around the Black Sea.[12] The Soviet Union saw the deportation of the Greeks and other minorities in this area as a way to safeguard important agricultural and mineral resources along with oil reserves for the Soviet economy.[12]


The 1926 Soviet census registered 213,765 Greeks in the country[14] and the 1939 census recorded 286,444.[15][16] On 9 August 1937, NKVD order 00485 was adopted to target "subversive activities of Polish intelligence" in the Soviet Union, but was later expanded to also include Latvians, Germans, Estonians, Finns, Greeks, Iranians and Chinese.[17]

The prosecution of Greeks in USSR was gradual: at first, the authorities shut down the Greek schools, cultural centers, theatres and publishing houses.[6] Then, the secret police indiscriminately arrested all Greek men aged 16 years old or older.[6] Greeks who were wealthy or self-employed professionals were targeted first.[6]

On many occasions, the central authorities sent telegrams to police forces with orders to arrest a certain number of Greeks, without giving any individual names,[6] and the police officers would arrest at random any persons of Greek origin until they reached the requested total number of arrests until the process was repeated at a later date. Estimates of the number of victims vary: according to Ivan Dzhukha 15,000 were executed and 20,000 were deported to Gulags,[2] while Vlasis Agtzidis puts the number of deaths to 50,000.[4]

According to Greek Marxist historian Anastasis Gkikas the Greek Operation of the NKVD came as a response to counter-revolutionary activities of a portion of the ethnic Greek population. Gkikas claims that anti-Soviet resistance organizations had coordinated their actions with Metaxist societies in Greece and sought to create an autonomous Greek state in the Black Sea region. They engaged in wrecking, illegally accumulated foreign currency and launched a series of small scale uprisings between 1929 and 1931.[18] Gkikas further claims that the number of Greeks deported to Gulags by 1942 did not exceed 2,610 people.[19]

In reality, there was virtually no widespread counter-revolutionary activity among the Soviet Greeks,[20] though there were very few exceptions, such as Constantine Kromiadi, an anti-communist of Greek origin, who later became second in command in Andrey Vlasov's Abwehr detachment during the Nazi German occupation of the Soviet Union in World War II.[21]

Axis collaboration[edit]

About one thousand Greeks from Greece and more from the Soviet Union, ostensibly avenging their ethnic persecution from Soviet authorities, joined the Waffen-SS, mostly in Ukrainian divisions. A special case was that of the infamous Ukrainian-Greek Sevastianos Foulidis, an anti-communist who had been recruited by the Abwehr as early as 1938 and became an official of the Wehrmacht, with extensive action in intelligence and agitation work in the Eastern front.[22]


The effects of Soviet forced deportation were extensive on the Greek community. The trauma alone of being uprooted from one's home, way of life, and culture corroded centuries of tradition and language, the loss of which is still seen to this day. Many lost their homes, businesses, and possessions alone in the various waves of resettlements, not to mention the loss of life from executions, disease, starvation, and exhaustion among the other harsh conditions in the camps. An exact figure of the number of Greeks killed is virtually impossible, although it's estimated that 19% of all those arrested in the Soviet Union between 1937 and 1938 were executed.[13] Following Stalin's death, the practice of forced resettlement was abandoned, although rehabilitation was tough for many Greeks returning to a region that completely changed in their absence.


In 1938, 20,000 Soviet Greeks arrived in Greece.[23] Between 1965 and 1975, another 15,000 Greeks emigrated from the Soviet Union and went to Greece.[24] A monument to all Greek victims of the Gulag was unveiled in Magadan in 2011.[25] Unlike many other "punished" ethnic groups, the Soviet Greeks were not officially rehabilitated by Soviet legislation.[26] In the early 1990s, a movement arose advocating the creation of a new Greek autonomy in the Krasnodar region, but it failed to achieve support. One Soviet Greek man, born in 1959, described this outcome with the following words:[26]

When these Greek societies started emerging, I told the lads that there was a society that was reviving us, the Pontic Greeks. Do you know what their answer was? They said, that if such societies were organised then we would have to expect a repetition of 1937. So many Greeks were deported then.

Soviet Greeks were officially rehabilitated, among with other ethnic groups by the Russian Federation,[27] amended by Decree no. 458 of September 12, 2015.[28]

See also[edit]


  • ^ a: In Greece, Grecheskaya Operatsiya is also known with the transliteration Gretseskayia Operatsia as that is how it was printed in various publications.[6][29] In Greek, it is known as Ελληνική Επιχείρηση,[6] which means "Greek Operation".


  1. ^ a b Popov 2016, p. 64.
  2. ^ a b c Gkikas 2007, p. 254.
  3. ^ a b Will Englund (November 12, 2012). "Greeks of the steppe". Washington Post. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Agtzidis 1991, pp. 372–382.
  5. ^ a b c d Popov 2016, p. 34.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Το πογκρόμ κατά των Ελλήνων της ΕΣΣΔ, ΕΛΛΑΔΑ, 09.12.2007
  7. ^ "Репрессии в 1930-1950 гг. по отношению к грекам СССР".
  8. ^ Rummel 1997, p. 28.
  9. ^ Photiades 1999, p. 128.
  10. ^ Bogatikova O, Romantsov V. ""Грецька операція" 1937–1938 рр. у Північному Приазов'ї: історіографія проблеми". Bulletin of Mariupol State University. Series: History. Politology. 2 (3). Mariupol State University: 30–38.
  11. ^ Djuha I (2013). Книга Памяти греков Краснодарского края: Жертвы греческой операции НКВД 1937-1938 гг. Serii︠a︡ Novogrecheskie issledovanii︠a︡. Алетейя. ISBN 978-5-91419-792-3.
  12. ^ a b c d Westren M (2012). Nations in exile: "The punished peoples" in Soviet Kazakhstan, 1941-1961. University of Chicago, Division of the Social Sciences, Department of History. pp. 74, 77, 72. ISBN 978-1-267-47284-7.
  13. ^ a b c d e Martin T (1998). "The Origins of Soviet Ethnic Cleansing" (PDF). The Journal of Modern History. 70 (4): 71, 92, 126, 855. doi:10.1086/235168. JSTOR 10.1086/235168. S2CID 32917643 – via JSTOR.
  14. ^ Voutira 2011, p. 131.
  15. ^ Kubiiovych & Struk 1984, p. 97.
  16. ^ "Демоскоп Weekly - Приложение. Справочник статистических показателей". Retrieved 2022-02-20.
  17. ^ Marshall 2010, p. 335.
  18. ^ Gkikas 2007, pp. 247–250.
  19. ^ Gkikas 2007, p. 257.
  20. ^ Bugay 1996, p. 91.
  21. ^ Thomas 2015, p. 16.
  22. ^ Hondromatidis, Iakovos I Mavri Skia Stin Ellada ("The Black Shadow Over Greece"), Athens 2004 (in Greek)
  23. ^ Olson, Pappas & Pappas 1994, p. 274.
  24. ^ Olson, Pappas & Pappas 1994, p. 275.
  25. ^ "Памятник грекам, жертвам сталинского ГУЛАГа, откроют на Колыме"
  26. ^ a b Popov 2016, p. 61.
  27. ^ "Внесены изменения в указ о мерах по реабилитации армянского, болгарского, греческого, крымско-татарского и немецкого народов и государственной поддержке их возрождения и развития". Президент России. 13 September 2015.
  28. ^ "Указ Президента Российской Федерации от 12.09.2015 г. № 458". Президент России.
  29. ^ Day of Remembrance for the Greeks of Pontus, an article by Voice of Greece


Further reading[edit]