Aris Velouchiotis


Aris Velouchiotis

Aris Velouchiotis (Greek: Άρης Βελουχιώτης), real name Athanasios (Thanasis) Klaras (August 27, 1905June 16, 1945), was a prominent leader of Ethnikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos (ELAS), the military branch of the National Liberation Fron ( EAM, Εθνικό Απελευθερωτικό Μέτωπο) which was the major resistance organization in Greece from 1942 to 1945. Aris Velouchiotis, was appointed military leader of ELAS from the leadership of EAM, being at the same time member of the Communist Party of Greece Central Committee.

Early years

Klaras was born in Lamia, Greece in 1905. As a youth, he participated in the leftist movement and later became a member of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). During the Ioannis Metaxas dictatorship (1936-1941), he was arrested and jailed in Aegina prison. During his trial, he escaped and joined the (then illegal) Communist Party. He was arrested again in 1939 and was sent to Corfu prison, and remained there until he signed a "statement of renouncement" of the Communist Party.

World War II

During World War II, he served as an artillery corporal in the Greek army at the Albanian front (1940-1941) against the Italian army, until the Nazi invasion and Greece's surrender (April 1941).

After Germany attacked the Soviet Union, Klaras was sent to Central Greece (Roumeli) by the Communist Party to assess the potential for the development of a guerrilla movement against the Nazis. His proposals were adopted by the party, and in January 1942, Klaras moved to the mountains to start setting up guerrilla groups.

The first appearance of the partisans organised by Klaras was on June 7, 1942 in the village of Domnista (Evritania) in Central Greece. This was also the first time that he appeared under the alias "Aris Velouchiotis". He then rose to prominence in the Ethnikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos (ELAS), which he headed along with Stephanos Sarafis, a military officer who joined the ranks of ELAS along with ~800 officers of the pre-occupation Greek Army.

One of the most important operations of the Greek resistance movement (in which Velouchiotis and his fighters participated alongside Napoleon Zervas's republican EDES resistance forces and British saboteurs) was the bombing of the Gorgopotamus bridge in Lamia in November 1942. Their success disrupted the supply lines for Erwin Rommel's German forces in Africa for several days, which depended on the Thessaloniki-Athens railroad.

This was to be the last operation to pit the communist-dominated ELAS organisation on the same front with Greek Republican resistance forces, who favoured constitutional monarchy, and opposed the imposition of a communist regime in Greece.

In October 1944, the Nazis evacuated Greece and a new government was formed under Georgios Papandreou, the leader of the Greek "National Unity Government" following the Treaties of Lebanon and Gazerta. When the Varkiza agreement was signed to end fighting between EAM forces in Athens and governmental forces (with the support of the British troops), Velouchiotis vehemently refused to comply, in defiance of the Communist Party of Greece leadership — who accused him of treachery. [ ΚΚΕ, επίσημα κείμενα, τ8] , [ Δοκίμιο Ιστορίας του ΚΚΕ ]

Death

Velouchiotis moved again to the mountains of Central Greece, in order to start an insurgency against the new government and the British allies who supported them. Though most of his associates abandoned him, he continued to conduct guerrilla war until June 1945. He was ambushed with his unit in the mountain of Agrafa, in 1945 by para-military groups controlled by the Athens government. He and his 2nd in command, Javellas, were isolated by the main unit and finally Aris was killed with his comrade either by a hand grenade or by a bullet. Rumors want him to "committ suicide with his commander Javellas when his thoughts were that there is no better future for his revolution and its betrayals." [For a complete presentation of the circumstances of Velouchiotis' death see: Χαριτόπουλος, Διονύσης (Charitopoulos, Dionysis) (2003). Άρης, ο Αρχηγός των Ατάκτων (Aris, the Leader of the Rebels). Athens: Ελληνικά Γράμματα (Ellinika Grammata),565-71. It should be noted that Charitopoulos takes for granted that Velouchiotis committed a "heroic" suicide, although he had the opportunity to escape.] . Velouchiotis' corpse was decapitated, with the head displayed in the central square of the town of Trikala.Fact|date=February 2007

Controversial figure

Supporters consider Aris Velouchiotis a symbol of Greek resistance against Nazi Germany and a hero of the communist cause. Critics see him as a perpetrator of atrocities against rural people who were perceived as opponents of communism. His involvement in attacks against non-communist Greek resistance forces and insurgency against the post-liberation government also draw criticism: C.M. Woodhouse remarked that Velouchiotis "fought Greeks more often than he did Germans". C.M. Woodhouse, "The Struggle for Greece, 1941-1949", ISBN 1-85065-487-5, p.4-5.]

Notes

Further reading

*cite book |author=Χαριτόπουλος, Διονύσης (Charitopoulos, Dionysis) |title=Άρης, ο Αρχηγός των Ατάκτων (Aris, the Leader of the Rebels) |publisher=Ελληνικά Γράμματα (Ellinika Grammata)|location=Athens |year=2003 |id=ISBN 960-406-538-6 Extensive biography in Greek.


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