Greece and Romania in 1939

In this article, Professor Cristian Muntianu explains the relationship between Metaxas’ Greece and Romania in the wake of the WW2.

The ending of ’30 years represented for Europe and for the world the outbreak of the Second World War.

In this study, I’ll approach the diplomatic actions of Greece and Romania. I’ll try a critical exam of Romanian Foreign Policy, the links with Balkan Entente and, not least, the position of Greece.

I don’t agree the categorical affirmations, but I think that Nicolae Iorga had right, when catalogated the Balkan Entente that “a good sleep pillow”. The Greek-Romanian diplomatic relations were not, yet, in attention of specialists or historians. In my step, I followed the newspapers of the time (“The Universe”, “The Current”, “Eleftheron Vima”). The Romanian Foreign Ministry Archives helped in my investigations. The principal purpose of my work is to underline the inconsistency of Balkan Entente, the adaptation at the new realities of Foreign Policy of Greece and Romania. The German aggression against Czechoslovakia (15 of March 1939) although didn’t surprise the Balkan Allies, but they didn’t acted jointly. Regarding at the Munich Conference, the Greek newspapers published large debates, trying to maintain the calm of the situation. The Romanian ambassador in Athens, Paul Negulescu, insisted about clear firmness of Ioannis Metaxas, who declared that “Greece and Romania can resist against the hurricane”

The Greek government was very anxious in front of Romanian–German treaty, signed at 23 of March 1939. We can observe that Metaxas and the 4th of August regime did not simple followed the German Policy, being only a pawn of the Axis in Balkan Peninsula. Negulescu informed the Bucharest that Metaxas was really concerned of the Balkan security, in the mean time being deranged of the ”British selfishness” (in a private conversation with Waterlow, the Great Britain ambassador in Athens). An intransigent attitude had Metaxas when Dr. Goebbels, the Propaganda Ministry of the Third Reich visited Greece, at the end of March 1939. Dr. Funk, economical expert, was exasperated because “Metaxas is strong like a rock, the Greek yields being more than exorbitant”.

At the end of March, Italy occupied Albania. Greece received these events without a visible shock, Metaxas said that “The Government possessed all the elements to defend the independency and the integrity of the Fatherland”. Negulescu informed that Greece can mobilize more than 300,000 soldiers, ready, all of us, to fight”. The Anglo-French guarantees, accorded to Romania and Greece (13 of April 1939) couldn’t cheat the Greek diplomacy. Metaxas was conscious that these guarantees didn’t oblige at nothing both Paris and London.

Grigore Gafencu, the Romanian Foreign Policy minister, visited Athens in June 1939. With this occasion, Metaxas said him that “we have the same opinion, the same conception about the necessity of dignified policy. We don’t want to challenge anybody, but we can not accept any guardianship, either Germany, Italy, or Great Britain”. The pacifistic position of Greece was reiterated in a private conversation, between Metaxas and Shishmanov, the Bulgarian ambassador at Athens. In a very outspoken, plainly language, uncharacteristic for diplomats, Metaxas said: ”Kiosseivanov (Bulgarian Prime-minister) makes great mistakes. It was a diletant in politics. Transmit him that we, the Greeks, had more considerable reivindications and, unfortunately, assistated at the “enosis” principle, so intimate for Venizelos. We are hand in hand with Turkey. Make you the same thing, it’s the best advice what I can give you”. Although a prominent opponent of Venizelist Politics, Metaxas adapted oneself his Foreign Policy in a manner of true “Realpolitik”, serving first of all, the interests of Greek people.

The clarity of Metaxian Policy was reiterated at 8 of September 1939. The Greek Government declared that “Greece can not proclaim the neutrality in actually conflict, the neutrality inciting frictions between the Allies, in the moment when it’s very necessary the full cohesion”. The Metaxian Regime sanctioned drastically any defeatist attitudes or tendencies. The same position was reasserted by Kollas, the Greek ambassador in Romania.

The 1940 year brought, unfortunate, new challenges for Greece and, generally, for Balkan Peninsula, culminating with the Italian invasion, in October 1940.


– By Professor Cristian Muntianu