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Friday, 23 October 2015

The Salonica Front in World War 1 - Major International Academic Conference Held 22nd-24th October 2015

In this the Centenary year of the outbreak of World War 1, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the University of Macedonia and the Institute for Balkan Studies, in association with the Consulate-General of France in Thessaloniki, are organizing an International Conference under the auspices of the Municipality of Thessaloniki.
The Conference - “The Salonica Front in World War I” aims to highlight the importance of the Salonica Front in the wider military context of the war.
The Coference will be held on Thursday 22 October - Saturday 24 October.
The Conference will commence at 6.00 pm on Thursday 22 October and will be held at the Ceremony Hall, University of Macedonia and will be chaired by Ioannis Mourelos. The key note address will be given by Sir Hew Strachan - "1915, the search for solutions". The next speaker will be Georges-Henri Soutou and he will be followed by a Musical Concert.
The Conference will then move to the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki for the remainder of the Conference.
There will be two themes covered during the second day:
1.   Strategic planning and political perspectives
2.   Military operations
The first session on Friday morning, chaired by Sir Hew Strachan will be by Spyridon Sfetas and will be titled: “From Gallipoli to Thessaloniki: The legacy of the Greco-Serbian Alliance, the Bulgarian factor and the formation of the Salonica Front, 1915-1916”Other prominent speakers during the day will include Konstantinos Ailianos, Richard Hall, Vlasis Vlasidis, Claude Carlier, Holger Afflerbach to name a few.
The sessions on Friday are:
1.   Aspects of war and the treatment of memory
2.   After the war
They include: Iakovos Michailidis - “War correspondents at the Macedonian Front”,
Roumen Genov - “The Salonica Front and the Bulgarian Public Opinion” and Alexandros Garyfallos, Dimitrios Christodoulou, Paraskeuas Savaidis - "Medical services in the Macedonian Front: evacuation, hospitalization  and repatriation of the sick and wounded" to name a few.

Below is a summary of Spyridon Sfetas' paper on "From Gallipoli to Salonica : The legacy of the Greco-Serbian Alliance, the Bulgarian factor and the formation of the Salonica Front 1915- 1916"

"At the beginning of 1915 the Entente Powers drifted to the adventure of the Dardanelles operations  and the Kallipolis campaign. . They suffered a tremendous disaster. .The Entente Powers believed that the Great War would be decided not in the Balkans, but in Western Front. They tried again to win over Bulgaria by promising territorial gains in Macedonia  after the war if Greece and Serbia secured adequate  compensations in Asia Minor and Bosnia  respectively. When in  September 1915 Bulgaria joined the Central Powers, Venizelos opted for Greece’s siding with the Entente. Since Bulgaria and Turkey had already sided with the Central Powers, Greece had no alternative but to join the Entente to fulfill its territorial claims in Asia Minor. Serbia’s collapse would open the way from Berlin to Constantinople since Bulgaria would  immediately invade Serbia He argued that Bulgaria’s aggrandizement at the expense of Serbia and Serbia’s destruction would  destroy the Balkan  equilibrium and endanger Greece’s position. It was therefore to Greece’s interest to take advantage of the situation to attack Bulgaria independently of Greece’s alliance obligations to Serbia.  He now requested the Allies to send 150, 000  men  to Salonica i.e., the forces which Serbia would have to deploy against Bulgaria according to the military convention. Greece’s neutrality was not tenable any more. Germany proved to be  unable   to protect the Greeks  in Asia  Minor from the atrocities of the Turks and  to oppose Bulgarian territorial  claims on Greek part of Macedonia as a counterweight for Greece’s neutrality. The Bulgarian- Macedonian lobby and the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (I.M.R.O), calling for a conclusive solution of the Macedonian Question, were  active in Bulgaria and kept in touch with German agents.  Germany’s war propaganda was rampant in Greece. Baron Schenk  bribed  the  main Greek newspapers. At any rate Greece’s national interests and not merely the myrhologized Greco- Serbian  Treaty of Alliance dictated Greece’s siding with the Entente..Greece experienced a national split, and Serbia was destroyed."

For a full report on the Conference, please click here.

Christina Despoteris
Vice President
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee

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