Saturday, January 29, 2011


Georgios Grivas (George Grivas; Greek: Γεώργιος Γρίβας) (July 5, 1898 - January 27, 1974), also known by his nom de guerre Digenis (Διγενής), which he adopted while in EOKA, was a Cyprus-born general in the Greek Army, leader of the EOKA guerrilla organization and EOKA B paramilitary organisation.

Early life

Georgios Grivas (aka Digenis) was born on July 5, 1898 in Trikomo, Famagusta District, the fourth child of Theodoros Grivas and Kalomira Hadjimichael. He grew up in his family home at Trikomo. After attending his village school he studied at the Pancyprian Gymnasium in Nicosia (1909–1915) where he stayed with his grandmother.

Early military career

According to his obituary in The Times of London, his father intended him to become a physician. On learning this, Grivas fled his home and Cyprus in 1916 to study at the Athens Military Academy. He completed his military studies at the École Militaire in Paris. He graduated in 1919 with the rank of sub-lieutenant and was immediately posted on the Asia Minor front. Grivas served in the 10th Division of the Greek Army and participated in its advance from Smyrna to Panormos and Eskişehir, past Bursa and the Sakarya River. With the subsequent rout and defeat of the Greek Army and its complete withdrawal from Asia Minor in 1922 he was placed at Redestos, Thrace. He was decorated for his bravery and promoted to lieutenant. He was later selected to study at the French Military Academy and upon his return to Greece he served in a number of posts, including that of a lecturer at the Military School of Greece. He was promoted to captain in 1925 and to major in 1935. Two years later he married Vasiliki Deka, the daughter of a pharmacist, in Athens.

World War II and German occupation

With the beginning of World War II Grivas was transferred to the operations department of the central headquarters of the Greek army, working on the northern Greece's strategic defense plans. Three months after the Italian attack on Greece, Georgios Grivas was transferred to the Albanian front as chief of staff of the 2nd Division where he arrived in December 1940.
During the German-Italian-Bulgarian occupation of Greece in World War II he founded and led the Organisation X, a minor resistance organisation made up of officers of the Greek army whose influence was limited in certain neighbourhoods of Athens.
During the events of December 1944, members of Organisation X fought alongside British and Greek monarchist forces to take control of Athens from EAM/ELAS fighters (see Greek Civil War). In 1946 he retired from the Greek army on his own request but his subsequent attempts to enter politics were unsuccessful.

The EOKA guerrilla campaign

Thereafter Grivas focussed on the idea of liberating Cyprus from British colonial rule and the aim of Union with Greece (Enosis). As a member of the secret Committee for the Cyprus Struggle he took the oath of Enosis together with the newly elected Archbishop Makarios III, with whom he collaborated for preparing the armed struggle. He arrived secretly in Cyprus in November 1954 and began immediately the formation of his guerrilla organization EOKA. On April 1, 1955 with a declaration that he signed as DIGENIS and a number of explosions in the four major cities and military installations, he announced the beginning of his campaign for Self Determination – Union with Greece.

"One does not use a tank to catch field mice--a cat will do the job better."

George Grivas-Dighenis, referring to British Military strategies, in his book Guerrilla warfare and Eoka's struggle: A politicomilitary study
He directed the first EOKA operations from his hideout in Nicosia but soon after he moved to the Troodos mountains to lead his guerrilla teams. He recruited Grigoris Afxentiou as one of the team leaders, initially of the Famagusta district.
Grivas escaped capture twice after he was surrounded by British forces at Spilia in December 1955, leading to the Battle of Spilia, and at Kykkos in May 1956. A month later he left the mountains and found refuge in a hideout at Limassol from where he directed not only the military activities but also the political campaign, since Archbishop Makarios in March 1956 was exiled by the authorities.
During the struggle, the British colonial administration had offered a reward of 10,000 British pounds plus passage to anywhere in the world for information leading to the arrest of Colonel Grivas.

Return to Greece

With the signing of the Zurich-London agreements in early 1959 and the declaration of Cyprus as an independent state Grivas reluctantly ordered cease-fire, since the struggle's main objective of Enosis was not achieved. His views were at odds with those of Makarios who had accepted the above agreements on behalf of the Greek Cypriot population. In March 1959, Digenis came out of his hideout and departed for Athens where he received a hero's welcome as the liberator of the Greek Cypriots and was subsequently decorated with the highest honours by the Greek Parliament and the Athens Academy and promoted to the rank of General. Not long after his return general Grivas was persuaded to head a coalition party but soon abandoned this route after the disappointing percentage his party obtained in the general election of 1963.

Return to Cyprus in 1964

He returned to Cyprus in 1964 after the outbreak of intercommunal violence between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots to take over the Supreme Command of the Greek Cypriot forces organised under Makarios's National Guard as well as the Greek military division sent to Cyprus by the government of George Papandreou to assist in the island's defence against a possible Turkish attack. He directed the construction of defense forts and complexes aiming at withstanding a Turkish invasion. On the 15th of November, 1967 Greek Cypriot National Guard under his direct command overran two small villages on the critical Larnaca, Limassol, Nicosia intersection, resulting in the deaths of 27 people, mostly unarmed Turkish Cypriot civilians as well as Turkish Cypriot resistance fighters at Kofinou and Agios Theodoros. Immediate result of this event was Turkey's ultimatum, which prompted the Greek military government to recall both the Greek Division and General Grivas to Athens.

Recall to Greece in 1968

From 1968 to 1969 and while under strict surveillance he participated in a resistance movement aiming at deposing the ruling military Junta and restoring democracy in Greece, along with a number of Greek Army officers including Colonel Dimitrios Opropoulos and Majors Spyros Moustaklis, Nikolaos Lytras and George Karousos as well as Greek Cypriot students and professionals many of them former EOKA fighters. Grivas began the formation of armed resistance cells in a number of neighbourhoods in Athens which were armed with guns and explosives thate were brought in secretly from Cyprus. The organisation, however, was discovered by the authorities and many of the organization's members were arrested.

Final return to Cyprus

After the discovery of his plans by the authorities he secretly returned to Cyprus where he formed the armed organization EOKA B which he used as leverage in his attempts to persuade or force President Makarios to change his policy and adopt the line of "Self Determination – Union" with Greece.
His boat that he used to return to Cyprus is housed on the beach between Limassol and Paphos.
He died of heart failure at the age of 75 on January 27, 1974 while in hiding in a house in the city of Limassol. Grivas' funeral and burial was held on January 29, 1974, in the garden of the house that had been Grivas' last hideout during the EOKA struggle (1955–1959) and attended by tens of thousands of Greek Cypriots. Upon his death, the Cypriot Government declared a three-day official mourning and three days later, the Cypriot Parliament declared General Grivas "a worthy son of the motherland". The government of Archbishop Makarios, the target of Grivas' campaign for enosis, formally boycotted the event.