On the 29th of August 1949, the defeated fighters of the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE) led by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) were forced to leave the country. According to the statistics provided by KKE, almost 56.000 men, women and children fled Greece and settled in Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, East Germany and the U.S.S.R. The biggest settlement, of approximately 12.000 political refugees, was created in Tashkent (Uzbekistan).

On the 5th of March 1953, the demise of Joseph Stalin marked the beginning of political developments that concluded with Nikita Khrushchev’s speech during the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) on February 1956. A month later, on the 11th -12th of March, the 6th Wide Plenum of the Central Committee of the KKE was held; there the political line of the 20th Congress was adopted and the General Secretary of the KKE, Nikos Zachariadis, was overthrown. These political developments are by and large known as de-stalinisation, but the majority of the Greek political refugees perceived them as a betrayal of the Revolution.

These political changes were not welcomed by the majority of the Greek political refugees. As the minority very well accepted the decisions of the 6th Wide Plenum of the KKE and of the 20th Congress of the CPSU and thus was backed up by the Soviet leadership, a political conflict arose within the communities of the political refugees. The members of the majority not being
aligned with the Soviet leadership and continuing to support the former leadership of the KKE, actually became outcasts in exile.

The first major clash between the two wings of the Greek communist refugees, in September 1955 in Tashkent, where the largest number was concentrated, is noted as well as a breach of relations among the members of the exile community that never healed. Although, in time, the tension might have faced fluctuations, it was always visible and pervaded all over the Greek political refugees communities and not just in Tashkent where everything took place. These events even had an impact on the Greek communists that lived in Greece.

The dissidents of the new line faced various kinds of discrimination on the part of the new leadership of the KKE and the CPSU. These ranged from discriminations regarding housing or education, being under surveillance, confiscation of correspondence, lay-offs or party expulsion to committal to psychiatric institutions, imprisonment, exile or deportation. There is even one case of a political refugee who was deported from Bulgaria after being deprived from all identity documentation. Finally, after having written a letter published in the “Marxist-Leninist”press in Italy, Greek and Italian leftists organized a campaign to save him. There is also a letter from another political refugee deported from Bulgaria in similar conditions, who was never traced. This traumatic experience of the political refugees is clearly to be seen in almost every statement, report, or declaration, published in the Marxist-Leninist press.

– “Exiles in Exile: the Case of the Greek Marxist-Leninist Political Refugees in the Eastern Bloc in their own words” by Christos Mais.