March 6, 1915

March 6, 1915: Prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos resigns following a row with king Constantine I and royalist officers in the General Staff over whether Greece should take part in the first world war on the side of the Entente (Britain, France and Russia) against the Central Powers (Germany and the Austro­Hungarian empire, joined by Ottoman Turkey). What prompted Venizelos to risk hard-won Greek gains at the Balkan Wars (1912-13) by entering a much wider conflagration was the bombing of Turkey's Dardanelles Straits by the British fleet during the ill-fated Gallipoli expedition in February 1915. London had offered Athens a chunk of the Greek-dominated western coast of Asia Minor in exchange for taking part in the

Dardanelles campaign, and the prospect of an Ottoman collapse looked imminent. But despite winning over the majority of the Supreme Crown Council, Venizelos' proposal to accept the offer was flatly rejected by the pro-German monarch, who insisted on the country's neutrality in the Great War. The ensuing politica/crisis and Venizelos' resignation mark the beginning of a long period of confrontation between republicans and monarchists, known as Ethnikos Dichasmos (National Division), that was to haunt Greek society for generations to come. The beleaguered statesman returned to power following the victory of his Liberal party on May 31 but was again forced to resign over the same issue on September 23 of the same year. Venizelos finally declared war on the Central Powers after his third political comeback in June 1917

Dimitris Yannopoulos

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(Posting date 13 September 2006 )

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