Nikos Zachariadis

Nikos Zachariadis (Greek: Νίκος Ζαχαριάδης; 27 April 1903 – 1 August 1973) was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) from 1931 to 1956, and one of the most important personalities in the Greek Civil War.

Nikos Zachariadis
A photo of Zachariadis, from the 30 May 1945 edition of Rizospastis.
Head of Provisional Democratic Government
In office
7 February 1949 – 3 April 1949
Preceded byMarkos Vafeiadis
Succeeded byDimitrios Partsalidis
General Secretary of the Communist Party of Greece
In office
Personal details
Born(1903-04-27)27 April 1903
Adrianople, Ottoman Empire
Died1 August 1973(1973-08-01) (aged 70)
Surgut, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Resting placeAthens
Nikos Zachariadis, president of the Supreme Military Council of Democratic Army of Greece

Early lifeEdit

Nikos Zachariadis was born in Edirne, Adrianople Vilayet, Ottoman Empire, in 1903, to an ethnic Greek family. His father, Panagiotis Zachariadis, was of petit-bourgeois origin, and worked as an expert in the Regie company, a French firm possessing the tobacco monopoly in Turkey. In 1919, Nikos Zachariadis moved to Constantinople, where he worked in various jobs, including as a soldier. It was there that he carried out his first organized work in the working-class movement. After the defeat of Greece in the Greco-Turkish War and the population exchange between the two countries, the Zachariadis family was forcibly relocated to Greece and fell into poverty. In 1922-23 he traveled to the Soviet Union, where he became a member of the Komsomol. He studied at various political and military institutions of the Soviet Government and of the Comintern, including the International Lenin School.

Political activity in GreeceEdit

In 1923, he was sent back to Greece to organize the Young Communist League of Greece (OKNE). Imprisoned, he subsequently fled to the Soviet Union. In 1931, he was sent back to Greece to restore order in the highly factionalised KKE and in the same year, he was elected General Secretary of KKE. In 1935, during the 7th Congress of the Communist International, he was elected to its Executive Committee. In the years until 1936, Zachariadis was a successful leader of the KKE, tripling the number of its members, gaining seats in the Greek Parliament, and even acquiring control of some labor unions.

In August 1936, he was arrested by the State Security of the Ioannis Metaxas regime and imprisoned. From prison, he issued a letter urging all Greeks to resist the Italian invasion of October 1940 and transform the war into an anti-fascist war. Some KKE cadre, who did not believe that the ongoing war between the big imperialist powers differed from the First World War due to the existence of the USSR on the world scene, considered that this letter was fabricated by the Metaxas regime. Zachariadis was even accused of releasing it to win the favor of Konstantinos Maniadakis and be released from prison.[1] Zachariadis's letter remains a cornerstone of KKE's vital contribution to the National Resistance movement against the Fascist occupiers (1941-1944).[according to whom?]

After the German invasion of Greece, in 1941 the Nazi Germans transferred him to the Dachau concentration camp, from where he was released in May 1945. Returning to Greece, he re-assumed the leadership of the KKE from Georgios Siantos, acting general secretary of the KKE since January 1942. The bloody Dekemvriana event had just ended with communist defeat. Zachariadis now declared his political intention for the KKE to fight for democracy and the people's power through elections.

Civil WarEdit

However, Zachariadis' plans changed. He attributed his change of stance to the White terror.[citation needed] So, he decided to boycott the 1946 Greek legislative election, a starting point of the Greek civil war of 1946-49.

Zachariadis conducted the military operations of the communist Democratic Army of Greece, which was formed to install a socialist People's Democracy in Greece.[2][better source needed]

He ordered the ELAS commander Markos Vafiadis to abandon guerrilla warfare tactics and adopt a strategy of conventional warfare: according to Vafiadis, this had a strongly negative effect on ELAS.[3] Vafiadis was expelled from the KKE for challenging Zachariadis and kept under house arrest in Albania, accused of being a British agent.[3] During the Greek civil war, Zachariadis ordered also the assassination of various left-wing opponents of the KKE, particularly in Athens.[4]

However, Stalin had made a deal with his western allies that Greece would be considered part of the western sphere of influence after the war and was opposed -officially- to any communist seizure of power: he ordered the KKE leadership to cooperate with the British military when they landed in Greece in 1944, and refused to supply any assistance to the KKE when they took up arms against the royalist government imposed by the British.[5]

Tito's Yugoslavia initially supported the KKE but withdrew this support after the break between Tito and Stalin in 1948. The military intervention of Great Britain and of the US, combined with the lack of external support from Stalin or Tito, led to the defeat of the Democratic Army of Greece in 1949. The KKE leadership and the remnants of the Democratic Army fled into exile in the USSR and other Communist countries.


The leadership of the Communist Party found refuge in Tashkent. However, following the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, Zachariadis clashed with the new Soviet leadership, as he opposed the new direction taken by the CPSU under Nikita Khrushchev.

In May 1956, during the 6th Plenum of the Central Committee of the KKE, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union intervened to expel Zachariadis from the post of General Secretary. In February 1957 Zachariadis was also expelled from the KKE, as were many of his supporters.

Zachariadis spent the rest of his life in exile in Siberia, initially in Yakutia and later in Surgut, Russian SFSR. In 1962, desperate from the devastating conditions of his exile, he somehow managed to reach Moscow. There he visited the Greek Embassy and asked that he be transported to Greece, where he wanted to stand trial for his actions. Whether or not his request was taken into consideration is not known. Immediately after he left the Greek embassy he was arrested by the Soviets and was taken back to Surgut.[6] There he committed suicide, aged 70, in 1973. According to a few of his followers he was executed.[7] On the base of documents, declassified from the archives of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, it has been confirmed, that Zachariadis committed suicide.[8]

In December 1991, just a few days after the fall of the Soviet Union, Zachariadis' remains were returned to his homeland, Greece, and he was given a funeral, which gave his supporters the opportunity to honour him.[9] He is buried in the First Cemetery of Athens.

In 2011, a National Conference of the Communist Party of Greece fully rehabilitated Nikos Zachariadis as General Secretary of the KKE. This was in line with the KKE's general political reorientation since the collapse of the Soviet Union; the party has adopted the view that the CPSU embarked on a revisionist line after Khrushchev's takeover.[10]


  1. ^ Zapantis, Andrew L. (1982). Greek-Soviet relations, 1917-1941. New York: Columbia Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0-8803-3004-6.
  2. ^ Shrader, Charles R. (1999). The withered vine: logistics and the communist insurgency in Greece, 1945-1949 ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). Westport, Conn.: Praeger. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-275-96544-0.
  3. ^ a b Blunden, Andy. "Interview with General Markos Vafiades, former Leader of ELAS".
  4. ^ Eudes, Dominique (1972). The kapetanios : partisans and civil war in Greece, 1943-1949. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 978-0-8534-5275-1.
  5. ^ Mazower, Mark (2001). Inside Hitler's Greece : the experience of occupation, 1941 - 44. New Haven: Yale Nota Bene. ISBN 978-0-3000-8923-3.
  6. ^ Fotini Tomai (2010-07-04). "Γιατί έκλεισαν το στόμα του Ζαχαριάδη". To Vima. Retrieved 2013-02-16.
  7. ^ Kepesis, Nikandros (2006). ΠΡΟΒΛΗΜΑΤΙΣΜΟΙ γύρω από γεγονότα και πρόσωπα (in Greek). pp. 45–46.
  8. ^ Л. Величанская, Никос Захариадис. Жизнь и политическая деятельность (1923–1973). Документы. Litres, 2019, ISBN 5041663203, стр. 13.
  9. ^ "Μια ιστορική προσωπικότητα του κομμουνιστικού κινήματος". Rizospastis. 3 August 2003. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011.
  10. ^ "Greece: SYRIZA, the Communist Party and the desperate need for a united front | Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal".

External linksEdit

Preceded by Head of Provisional Democratic Government
February 7, 1949 - April 3, 1949
Succeeded by