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The Neutrality of Greece



      In October 1915, British and French troops landed at Saloniki in Greece and arrested the consuls of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey and transported them to France.  Thereafter, the Allies occupied various parts of Greece, which had declared its neutrality in the war.  The Allies proceeded to make Greece a military base for their operations against the Central Powers, even enforcing a blockade against the entry of goods from the Central Powers into Greece.  The Allies defended their bold measures on the grounds that they were coming to the aid of Serbia (who needed to rest her weary troops in a safe location), and since Greece had been a long-time ally of Serbia, the Greeks were required to comply.  The Greek government entered its formal complaint about the violation of its neutrality but did not attempt to prevent or repel the invasion by force.  Complex questions surrounded the Allied occupation, including whether the totality of the measures taken merely to secure rest for the Serbian troops (the original justification, though more were added) was really necessary; and whether the treaty of 1863 by which Great Britain, France and Russia guaranteed GreekÝs independence and the maintenance of its constitutional monarchy gave the guarantors the right to intervene to end the absolute monarchy in effect and to reestablish a constitutional one.  A brief study of these issues reveals that the Allied actions and their justifications for them greatly resemble the German actions and justifications for its invasion of Belgian neutrality.  Thus, whether or not the two situations can be distinguished, the German people felt that they had been punished for an action that the Allies were now being permitted to take without consequence.  This feeling contributed to the general disillusionment and despair of the German people after the war.
 

Links

A short article about Greece's role in World War I:  http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWgreece.htm.  The few sentences contained on the site describe the disagreement between Prime Minister Venizelos and King Constantine over whether to join or stay out of the war.  Venizelos favored joining the Entente allies, while Constantine, whose wife was German, insisted that Greece remain neutral, which would benefit the Central Powers, who had already formed alliances with Bulgaria and Turkey.  The constant back-and-forth between the two leaders ended when Constantine abdicated the throne on June 11, 1917, after which Venizelos returned from his resignation to form a new government and wage war against the Central Powers.

A short biography of Venizelos, who headed the Greek government during the relevant time period, can be found at http://www.sackville.w-sussex.sch.uk/FWWvenizelos.htm.  The biography discusses in greater detail some of Venizelos' conflicts with King Constantine, and it also outlines his political career after the war.

A general encyclopedia entry on Greece, containing a paragraph on its involvement in the war can be found at http://grasshopper.infoplease.com/ce5/CE021764.html.  But the more interesting page is Salonica campaigns, at http://grasshopper.infoplease.com/ce5/CE045686.html, which describes the Allied landing in Greece to try to aid the beleaguered Serbian forces being driven back by Bulgaria.


 
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