Soviet ambassador complains to Averoff

The involvement of the Soviet Embassy in Athens in the 1958 elections, when the left-wing EDA party garnered 25 percent of the vote, was one of the subjects brought up by Foreign Minister Evangelos Averoff in a discussion with Soviet Ambassador M. Sergeiev in September of the same year. SEPTEMBER 4 1958 CLASSIFIED. COPY 1 On September 4 at 10 a.m., I paid a visit, by prior arrangement, to Foreign Minister [Evangelos] Averoff. At the beginning of the discussion, I brought to Averoff’s attention a number of factors which obstructed the development of Greco-Soviet relations, and in particular the issue of the Moscow-Cairo flight route via Athens. I told Averoff that despite his promise to give a reply… [on the flight route issue], no such reply had been received, while the competent officials of the Foreign Ministry have not solved the problem, giving as an excuse the absence of the relevant order by the foreign minister. I emphasized that the creation of the above-mentioned flight route is also of interest to the United Arab Republic [union of Egypt and Syria], with which Greece is on good terms. I also pointed out that the flight routes of most capitalist countries to the Middle East cross Greece and that the Greek government had not granted [this] right only to the Soviet Union and to certain people’s republics. I requested that Averoff reply on the substance of the matter. Averoff answered that he remembered the issue, but that its solution did not depend solely on the Foreign Ministry, but also on a number of other government services and above all, on the military. Averoff said that the Greek military authorities were opposed to the passage of Soviet airlines to Cairo via Greece, as well as to those of Czechoslovakia and Romania, and under these circumstances, the Foreign Ministry was obliged to maintain a cautious stance. Subsequently, I told Averoff that after the parliamentary elections in May and the establishment of the [Constantine] Karamanlis government, a tendency on the part of the Greek authorities has been observed, in which cultural, scientific and sports ties with the Soviet Union have been reduced… I also pointed out that an anti-Soviet exhibition had been organized in Volos, an event that could not have take place without permission from the authorities, and the lack of an answer from the Foreign Ministry to the demarche by the embassy regarding the above-mentioned exhibition. I further observed that although the Greek government proclaims its desire to develop commercial relations with the Soviet Union, the minister for industry, Martis, nevertheless recently proceeded to make anti-Soviet statements at a meeting of a parliamentary committee… on proposals for the purchase by Greece of Soviet oil. (…) Averoff said that the events referred to by me did not define the Greek government’s policy and had a circumstantial nature that was related to the internal political situation that had been created in Greece. He said that, as always, he personally was an advocate of the development of Greco-Soviet relations and that this same view was held by the entire Greek government. With respect to the organization of the anti-Soviet exhibition in the city of Volos, Averoff said that he did not support the organization of such exhibitions, since they were directed against individual states. Propaganda, Averoff continued, given the specific circumstances in Greece, could be made against communism, but the Soviet Union, with which Greece remained on good terms, should not be slurred. Subsequently, Averoff summoned the current director of the First Political Directorate, Kapsabellis, and asked him what measures the Greek Foreign Ministry had taken in relation to the demarche by the [Soviet] embassy over the Volos exhibition. Kapsabellis said that the Foreign Ministry had sent the Volos authorities a letter demanding the closure of the exhibition, but no answer had yet been received from Volos. Returning to the theme of cultural, scientific and sports relations between Greece and the Soviet Union, Averoff said that these relations were, to a certain extent, affected by the outcome of the latest parliamentary elections, in which the EDA party, and communists acting under its cover, got 25 percent of the vote and that many were under the influence of, and receiving help from, the Soviet Embassy. Averoff said that successes in previous elections by EDA did not explain the general drift… in the country toward communism. The Greek people, Averoff said, express themselves against communism; not against communism in general, but against its domestic variety, since communism had launched the civil war in Greece and caused incalculable damage both to the Greek people and to the country’s economy. In many Western countries there were communist parties. For example there was a large communist party in Italy, but there, communism had the character of a political and ideological struggle, while Greek communism was a communism of violence and illegality, and the Greek government would fight against domestic communism. I told Averoff I had already replied to… the Soviet Embassy’s alleged involvement… in the internal affairs of the country, which was entirely the invention of reactionary newspapers, whose interests lay in the worsening of relations between the Soviet Union and Greece. (…) The discussion lasted an hour and was conducted in French. The embassy’s attache, comrade O.V. Avramenko, was present at the discussion.