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EUC Lecture Series: Greece's Opening to the Soviet Bloc in the Early 1970s: A Conscious Diplomatic Strategy?

Event Type
European Union Center
Lucy Ellis Lounge, Room 1080, Foreign Languages Building, 707 S. Mathews, Urbana (map)
Feb 4, 2013   12:00 pm  
Stefanos Katsikas, Lingustics, Director of Modern Greek Studies Program, U of I
Originating Calendar
European Union Center Events

ABSTRACT: On 21 April 1967 the malfunctioning democratic regime of Greece collapsed by a colonels’ military coup. The colonels justified their act as a redemptory move aimed to save the country from the alleged rise of communism. The latter was seen as ‘endangering’ to Greece’s national sovereignty and Western foreign policy orientation. The coup’s remedy to this was: a) to ‘place Greek democracy in plaster’ (i.e. democracy would be suspended) for a number of (unspecified) years; and b) to severely persecute and re-open prison camps for communist suspects. However, in the field of international relations, contrary to what one might have expected, the military regime followed a policy of rapprochement, openness and friendship towards the Soviet bloc. Relations with Albania, which had been in a state of war since 1939, were restored and, in the early 1970s, the two countries exchanged diplomatic missions for the first time in the last thirty-two years. Bulgarian, Romanian, Yugoslav and East German officials exchanged frequent visits with high ranking state officials from Greece and measures were taken to strengthen trade relations with Eastern Europe and the Balkans. This lecture will explore the reasons behind the discrepancy between Greece’s domestic and foreign policies towards communism and the Soviet bloc in the first years after the military regime came to power. It aims to provide an answer on whether Greece’s opening to the Soviet bloc in the early 1970s was part of a conscious diplomatic strategy by which the colonels’ regime aimed to achieve specific gains for the country and/or their regime, or due to other reasons. By examining what makes a right-wing dictatorial regime, such as that of Greece, to seek better relations with the ‘ideological other’, the lecture also aims to shed light on the foreign policy making in Southeastern Europe during the Cold War and thus offer a better understanding on how ideology may influence diplomacy in a Cold War climate.

SPEAKER BIO: Dr Katsikas joined the Modern Greek Studies program from Goldsmiths, University of London, where he has been Lecturer in History since 2009. Previous teaching appointments include University College London, and the University of Nottingham. He holds a BA in History from the Ionian University in Greece, an MA in Southeast European Studies and PhD in Social Science from University College London, UK. His research explores the interrelationship between democratization, post-conflict resolution and regional security in Southeastern Europe and is currently focusing on two projects, ‘Islam and Nationhood in Modern Greece (1832 to 1941), and ‘Transitional Justice after War and Dictatorship in Greece (1949-2000)’. He is the author of numerous articles on Modern Greek and Balkan history, editor of Bulgaria and Europe: Shifting Identities (London, 2010), and co-editor of State-Nationalisms in the Ottoman Empire, Greece and Turkey: Orthodox and Muslims, 1830-1945 (2012). His recent book, Negotiating Diplomacy in the New Europe: Foreign Policy in Post-Communist Bulgaria (London, 2011) received a Scouloudi Publication Award from the Institute of Historical Research, University of London.

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