Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Greeks in Soviet Russia and the Greek Soviet culture of the interwar period.

John Pasalidis with his wife and son in Sochumi.

An unknown subject of Greek historiography is the activity of Greek communist organisations in Soviet Union until 1937.

 Thousands of Greek refugees fled in USSR after the Asia minor disaster of the Greek army and the subsequent victory of Turkey.From the beginning, a Greek Bolshevik leadership organised to develop culturally and politically these Greek communities.
Thus a significant and populous Soviet hellenism was created, fully autonomous from the Greek state's influence(which was under Western influences). This Soviet Hellenism became a special Greek center with an unconventional social structure. It became a refuge for leftish Greeks from Greece . The Greek communities were governed by Greek communist party organisations which took bold decisions such as the implementation of a simplified Greek language and the reduction of the letters of the Greek alphabet in the education system.

Over than 300.000 Greeks

The Greeks  were one of the 160 ethnic groups that lived in the Soviet Union.The Greeks themselves belonged to distinct regional groups like the Pontian refugees , the Greek immigrants, the native Greeks of Mariupol , the refugees from the Asia Minor tragedy and self exiled Greek communists from mainland Greece.
Their exact numbers are difficult to be calculated. It is estimated that they numbered between 300.000 and 400.000 from which the 80% were farmers and one third had Greek citizenship .
This part of history remains unknown for the Greeks because later even though the Greeks embraced the principles and values of communism, they fell victims of the racist policies of Stalin and secondly Greek historiography was always introverted and state oriented(not nation oriented). Greek history never accepter the ecumenism and the cosmopolitan character of the Greeks beyond the Greek state's borders. The history of Greeks outside of Greece stops in 1922 for the Greek historiography.Generally this is a widely accepted technique in the science of historiography as we proceeded into a world were multi-ethnic empires crumbled and solid nation states were created.
In the interwar period the Greek communists governed the Greek communities for at least 20 years.The national policy of the Soviet union favoured the political representation of the different nations .Thus the greek communist party organisations essentially shaped new social structures altered  the cultural development and generally created a Soviet Greece at the coasts of the Black sea(where the majority of the Soviet Greeks were settled).
The Greek society of Soviet Union was reduced in numbers during 1919-1922 when many Greeks decided to repatriate.Those who remained back tried to combine the necessity for Greek education with the dominant ideology of communism.Those intellectuals who starred at this effort were Georgios Skliros, Giannis Passalidis, Giorgos Fotiadis, Giagkos Kanonidis,Vladimir Triantafilov, Nikolaos Anastasiadis and Orionas Alexakis.They made a remarkable effort to explain the Greek cultural and political heritage from a communist point of view..
Already since the October revolution(1917) there was activity of bolshevik friendly societies in the Greek communities.Especially the Greeks of Georgia and Kars supported with all heart this revolution.
The period after the victory of the Bolsheviks was characterised by the efforts of the Soviet-Greek scholars to construct a Greek-Soviet education system and an independent GrecoSoviet culture.Initially the center of this effort was in southern Russia,the valley of Kouban and the region of Krashnodar.This attempt was developed in the context of a national policy over the organisation of the Greeks as special groups in the communist party.
Significant centers of the Greek community were in the area of Kouban around the town of Krimskaya and in the area of Mariupol.20.000.Many Greeks were living in Crimea in cities like Kerch , Eupatoria and Sevastopol. In Caucasus most of the Greeks were living in Georgia.90 villages in Georgia were Greek.

The end

When Stalin rose to power the national policy was shifted.The Stalinist policy promoted the Sovietization of all the minorities and ordered the closing of schools churches and printing press enterprises.Most of the Greeks of Russia who came there as refugees persecuted by the Ottomans suffered a new persecution. Most of the Greek community was displaced in the depths of Asia(Kazackstan and Siberia) and the prominent members died in labour camps in Siberia.

The autonomous Greek regions

The concentrations of big populations of the Greek community in certain areas favoured the creation of autonomous Greek administrative areas.
Assembly of the Greek workers in Kolchoz(Soviet guild).The poster in Soviet Greek writes the motto of the guild."Ready for implementing the five years plan"

Until 1938 there were 4 autonomous Greek regions. Initially in 1928 there were three autonomous regions in southern Ukraine in Donnetsk and in Mariupol. This decision was taken by the central executive comittee of the Soviet republic of Ukraine.However the most significant Greek administration was in the region of Kouban were a Greek town called Krimsk became the center of the Greek region(Gretseski Rayion). In this area Greek was spoken everywhere and even the street the shop and school signs were written in Greek.

The majority of the population were Greeks and was estimated at 60.000. It's characterization as Greek area rendered Krimsk a magnet that attracted many Greek immigrants.In 1937-38 though most of the Greek party members would be executed as part of Stalin's persecutions.

Agtzides Vlassis.2013.Οταν οι Ελληνες Κομμουνιστές πήραν την εξουσία.Ελευθεροτυπία.January 27 2013
  • translation done by the blog owner

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