The lockdown restrictions in place combined with the Christmas break offer a rare opportunity for some reading. I recently finished a great book on the Yalta Conference before picking up a biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt. After I had finished reading both books, I could not help but ask myself a question, which I hope will not be misunderstood: Why is it that Greeks never named a public square after the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin?
Historical records on what happened in Yalta reveal that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had an obsession with Greece and the need to keep the country anchored to the West. Stalin gave the green light without too much deliberation. It’s hard to say what the outcome would have been had the Soviet leader decided otherwise, as Britain had already lost much of its power and the American president was not that much interested in Greece. Stalin had already made his decisions and the country’s course for the next decades was set.
Historians say that the leaders of the left were most likely aware of Stalin’s decision. The same however does not apply to the ordinary people who believed they could win a civil war when the geopolitical game was already fixed, in fact at the highest level.
Sure, there are still people who refuse to accept that staying on the side of the West was a good thing for Greece. The most dogmatic observers refuse to accept that Greece would have shared the fate of Bulgaria or Romania. Utopianists insist that thanks to our Greek acumen we would have been able to build our own socialist model, similar to the way Yugoslavia did.
Fortunately, Greece stayed in the Western camp, it managed to join one of its most elite clubs, and it was upgraded in many respects. Of course, thousands of Greeks paid a heavy price for the Cold War, with prison and exile. The country could have enjoyed a smoother course after the war if the left and the right had shown greater maturity. Greece however did find its footing after the end of the military dictatorship and a safe haven in Europe.
Up until today, we still like to question whether we are on the right side of history. We do so without giving it much thought, as it last became evident in the summer of 2015.
After the end of WWII, we certainly found ourselves on the right side of the fence, as it were. And surprisingly there are no more streets named after Churchill and still not even one public square named after Stalin.