Oral History Interview with
Greek lawyer, historian, and politician. Legal advisor to King George II of the Hellenes, 1936-46; served in Greek National Resistance, 1941-44; member of Parliament for the Cyclades, 1946, for Athens, 1952-67; founded New Party, 1947 (dissolved 1951); Minister without Portfolio, 1949; Minister for Coordination and Economic Planning until 1954; formed Progressive Party, 1955; and Prime Minister, October-November, 1973.
July 22, 1970
by Theodore A. Wilson
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate
the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened September, 1986
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
July 22, 1970
by Theodore A. Wilson
Mr. Markezinis,"interview" consists of his written answers
to a few general questions and a list of 21 specific questions submitted
to him by Dr. Theordore A. Wilson, University of Kansas, as part of his
research for the Truman Library Institute's special project on foreign
aid during the Truman Administration. Mr. Markezinis submitted his replies
in Greek and a translation was then prepared for the special project.
In giving my answers I have adopted the following course: As regards the
general questionnaire I started with a brief summary and gave more definite
and explanatory answers to questions on matters I am familiar with or,
on which I can express an opinion, and in any case cannot be considered
irrelevant for a Greek.
As regards the special questionnaire, which was personally addressed
to me, I considered it convenient to number the questions and answer each
one separately, and often more widely. I thought that excess of information
can be cut down and is better than insufficient information.
A full analysis with all the data in my possession, I have included in
the second section, soon to be published, of my work A Political History
of Modern Greece, but the publication of the volume referring to
the subject concerned,
will, I fear, be delayed. Therefore, I am willing to supply any further
During 1946 -- barely one year after the termination of World War II
-- it became clear in Western Europe that if the war had been won the
same could not be said of peace. Both the defeated and the victors had
come out of the war so exhausted from the long and hard struggle or from
the foreign occupation and had sustained such wide economic destruction
that their recovery appeared inconceivable. It is a fact that switching
from war to peace is very difficult. But the problems arising after World
War II were unique as regards their extent and the multiple future issues
they presented. Moreover, J. Stalin's intention to exploit the situation
for the furtherance on a world scale of his imperialistic plans could
hardly be disguised and the dangers thereof increased daily. After World
War I, as we all know, there arose differences of views between the Allies,
often reaching the point of discord. But there was no example of one Ally
trying to take advantage of any opportunity at the expense of his Allies.
In Yalta, J. Stalin ruthlessly took advantage of the weaknesses of F.D.
Roosevelt, at the time President of the U.S.A., who was the victim of
his physical disability, which soon occasioned his death, and his naïve
idealism to believe in the sincerity of J. Stalin's intentions. When President
Harry Truman took the succession of F.D. Roosevelt, it soon became apparent
that essential changes were taking place. The public, having for long
taken the habit of admiring F.D. Roosevelt, started by underestimating
Truman as a negligible mediocrity. J. Stalin was perhaps among the first
to ascertain that the contrary was true. President Truman's decision to
use the atomic bomb for the prompt termination of the war was enough to
make him realize that he was now facing a resolute man with a strong will.
This, as well as the fact that the U.S.A. was the only power to possess
the atomic bomb, made J. Stalin alter his tactics by concealing as much
as possible his ambitions and adapting them to the prevailing situation.
This policy (also adopted by his successors) consisted in avoiding direct
clashes and inciting unrest and undermining the countries exhausted by
the war. The new tactic was to exalt and project Communist ideology in
the tradition of Tsarist Russia, exploit the Orthodox Church and later
enhance the idea of Panslavism. The Communist theory was offered to a
wretched postwar society as the sole remedy of their ills and was brought
forth by Russia as having determined the victory against Fascism. The
idea was to create a state of mind similar to the impression prevailing
after World War I, that French Democracy had conquered despotism of Germany
and Austro Hungary. Of course J. Stalin did not limit to this his propaganda.
He made the best possible use of the well-organized Communist parties
in the various countries and wearing in turn the masks of the lion or
the fox, aimed at domination.
The Communists endeavored to appear as disinterested champions concerned
only with the prosperous future of other countries. They were fully aware
of the weariness of the peoples whose only desire was demobilization and
realization of the material goods which they expected on a utopian scale.
The same phenomenon was faced by the victors of World War I which was
overcome by the myth that Germany could pay for everything. It is well-known
that when Keynes published his famous book in which the victors were urged
to adopt more realistic views, the London Times very nearly accused
him of being the enemy's spokesman.
In any case, no one after World War II could dare put forth such a myth.
Moreover, the colonial powers did not consider advisable immediately after
the war, to admit even to a certain degree that colonialism could any
longer survive. They thus opened the way for Communists to make the best
of what Lenin had already marked out: that is,
for the Russians to become the champions of the peoples' right for self-determination
and the pioneers of the abolishment of colonialism. And no one even dared
ask: After all, what was and still is Siberia's status?
The U.S.A. was the only power to be in a privileged, from every point
of view, position. They had sustained immense economic sacrifices and
by far larger material losses and losses of lives than during World War
I. But at the same time they undoubtedly stood forth as the country with
unlimited economic possibilities. They were also immune as regards the
sincerity of the democratic ideological motives for participating in the
war. No one could possibly accuse the U.S. of being colonialists or having
imperialistic purposes. It is a noteworthy fact, that J. Stalin with his
sly genius tried to take advantage even of this. Had he succeeded, this
would have meant the beginning of the end of Democracy in the world. In
the U.S.A., a country with a highly developed democratic conscience, public
opinion is taken into consideration. Precisely for this reason, however
unlimited the rights and prerogatives granted by the American Constitution
to the President, even the most powerful President has to comply with
public opinion. Therefore, the substantial change which took place owing
to President Truman's personality
when he assumed his duties as President, were not sufficient to alter
American public opinion which, for the major part, continued to consider
Russia a sincere friend and simultaneously to confuse propaganda with
actual facts. That is to say, public opinion continued to believe that
the Russians were really defending ideals, fighting against colonialism,
for the independence of peoples and social equality and justice. Much
indeed had to happen: i.e. J. Stalin, and in general Soviet leadership
had to make many mistakes in order that American public opinion be awakened
and assist and wholeheartedly contribute to the new struggle in support
of real independence and freedom of nations and to safeguard democratic
It was most fortunate for the free world that at that time Harry Truman
was invested President of the U.S.A. Had the U.S.A. been governed by the
F.D. Roosevelt of the New Deal, I am convinced that his reactions would
have taken the same trend. But if it was the F.D. Roosevelt of the Yalta
period, I am afraid, the contrary would have happened. In my opinion,
Harry Truman had one more quality of leadership: the gift to find the
right man for the right place. The first evidence was the appointment
of General G. Marshall, who combined -- and gave proof of -- ideological
convictions with absolute realism which constitutes one of the biggest
virtues in politics. A proof is the disengagement of the U.S.A. from the
Chinese mainland. Only after many years has it been made clear what the
U.S.A. and with them the free world would have suffered if a different
course of action had been adopted. The above cannot, in any way be compared
with the situation in Vietnam. Moreover this timely withdrawal, without
entailing the abandonment of Asia, gave the opportunity to the U.S.A.
to turn their attention to Europe and consequently to the recovery of
Europe. From my personal point of view I would wish to add two more personalities
of the Truman administration: Dean Acheson and Averell Harriman. Specifically
regarding Greece, and apart from answers in the questionnaire, I wish
to mention the successful work of L. Henderson, at the time of the Truman
Doctrine, head of the office of Near Eastern and African Affairs with
the State Department.
In the case of Greece and Turkey, and mainly of the former, the new doctrine
was being tested. The fact that President Truman understood the situation,
and boldly dealt with it, decisively helped in subsequent developments.
Furthermore, American public opinion was unaware of the threat of Russian
imperialist communism and consequently President Truman's decision increases
in value and importance. In addition, President Truman justly merits to
with not only simply attempting, but successfully projecting the democratic
basis of his policy which was adopted from the first moment as the official
bipartisan policy of the U.S.A. We should be reminded that the Truman
Doctrine finally obtained in the Senate, 67 votes against 23, and 35 of
the 67 votes were Republican votes, while 32 were Democratic votes. Republican
Senator Vandenberg and Democratic Senator Connally contributed in achieving
the above. This bipartisan policy facilitated the shaping of American
public opinion and contributed to its final success. Undoubtedly, the
course was not easy, but subsequent results proved that the Truman Doctrine,
as completed by the Marshall Plan, constituted one of the most important
landmarks on a world scale in postwar history.
Mention has been made of the Marshall Plan. Indeed only three months
after the implementation of the Truman Doctrine, General G. Marshall,
at the time Secretary of State, on the occasion of his appointment as
Honorary Doctor by Harvard University, delivered his famous address announcing
the Marshall Plan. This plan, however, with its decisive issues for the
survival of Europe, could not have been carried out if it had not been
preceded by the Truman Doctrine. Moreover, the President himself was once
heard to say: "The one and the
other are two halves of the same nut." Greece in 1821 -- with her
struggle for independence -- was the starting point of reaction against
the monarchist and despotic doctrine of the Holy Alliance. Its successful
issue completed the triptych formed by the American Revolution of 1779
-- the French Revolution of 1789 and the Greek Revolution of 1821. The
triptych was the cornerstone of 19th century liberalism. It was fated
that it was in Greece, in 1947, that the U.S.A. was given the opportunity
to set the foundations of the struggle against Communist expansion.
QUESTION: What were the most serious obstacles to recovery and to further
economic development in your country? In all of the countries included
in the European Recovery Program?
MARKEZINIS: The countries which participated in the European Recovery
Program, each were facing more or less different problems. In France,
for instance, large areas had been theatres of war with great catastrophes
during the period of liberation. Such catastrophes of the same sort were
experienced on a smaller scale in Greece. On the other
hand, the damages resulting from the three year triple occupation were
great. Even greater were the catastrophes from the outs