The Dodecanese join Greece
THE 7th MARCH 1948 was a historical milestone for the Dodecanese and Greece, as on that day the islands of the southeastern Aegean became an indivisible part of the Greek state after centuries of foreign domination.
King of the Hellenes Paul and Queen Frederika arrived on Rhodes that day, amidst frantic enthusiasm, escorted by Deputy Prime Minister Konstantinos Tsaldaris, as well as ministers, generals and other dignitaries. They were greeted by the paragons of the Central Dodecanese Committee, Kalymnian doctor Skevos Zervos and university professor Mihail Volonakis from Symi. After the national anthem, Interior Minister Petros Mavromihalis read the royal decree from the balcony of the governor's palace.
"Concerning the annexation of the Dodecanese to Greece Paul the First, King of the Hellenes
The islands of the Dodecanese Rhodes, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Astypalaia, Nisyros, Patmos, Halki, Kasos, Telos, Symi, Kos, Leros and Kastellorizo, as well as nearby islets, are attached to the Greek state as of 28 October 1947.
The present law, voted in by the fourth revisional parliament and ratified by ourselves today shall be published in the Government Gazette and shall be enforced as a law of the state.
In Athens on 3 January 1948, Paul the First."
In his speech, Tsaldaris noted how the people of the Dodecanese had seen conquerors come and go for four thousand years and, despite this, retained their identity.
Although independent city states arose in the Dodecanese during the Classical period, it was during the Hellenistic period that the Dodecanese, especially the island of Rhodes, rose to prominence and power. During Byzantine times, Rhodes was assaulted and looted by Isaurians, Persians and Arabs, while the islands fell to the Crusaders in 1204 after the fall of Constantinople. By 1282 the Genovese took over the main islands but were vassals to Constantinople.
In 1309, the Christian organisation Hospitaller Knights, based on Cyprus, took Rhodes and the surrounding islands, holding them as a bastion against the Turkish tide. In 1522 Suleiman the Magnificent took Rhodes. The rest of the island chain fell the following year. The Turks held the islands (some of them on and off) until the revolution of 1821. Despite the struggle, the islands, as well as Samos, were given back to Turkey in 1830 in return for the island of Evoia.
When the first Balkan War broke out in 1912, Turkey hastily made peace with Italy (18 October 1912, Treaty of Ouchy), and Italy, in possession of the Dodecanese, undertook to return the islands. However, in order to get Italy to join the Allied war effort, Italy signed a secret agreement in London (26 April 1915), according to which the Italians were to assume full sovereignty of the islands under article 8 as a reward for their participation.
During the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Eleftherios Venizelos claimed the Dodecanese as part of Greece's territorial claims, but Italy refused to hand the islands over.
According to a later agreement (Venizelos-Tittoni, 29 July 1919), Italy would cede the Dodecanese to Greece, with the exception of Rhodes. However, under the Treaty of Sevres (August 1920) Turkey ceded the Dodecanese to Italy (articles 121-122) which, in turn, was to transfer them to Greece.
On 6 August 1923 the islands were officially annexed by Italy. Italy's declaration of war against the Allies in WWII made the Dodecanese again fair game. The islands were used by the British as a lure for Turkey to join the war on the Allied side.
Although the issue of the islands meant little to Greeks in occupied Greece, the same was not true for the government in exile and the British. On 8 September 1943, Pietro Badoglio signed the armistice with Italy, and Italy went over to the Allies, signalling dramatic developments for the Dodecanese. In a desperate bid to wrest the islands from the Germans, the British attempted an invasion. After fighting badly on Leros and Kos islands, the British and Italian forces gave up and the Dodecanese passed securely into German hands.
On 8 May 1945, the German commander of the island chain, General Wagener, signed on Symi island an unconditional surrender. The following day British troops disembarked at Rhodes, and a few days later the legendary Greek cruiser Averoff brought Viceroy Archbishop Damaskinos to the island, the first Greek leader of state to visit the island.
On 27 June 1946, in Paris, the four foreign ministers of the Allied powers decided to cede the Dodecanese to Greece. A peace treaty was signed on February 10, and Italy ceded the main islands and all nearby islets to Greece with full sovereign rights.
(Source: ATHENS NEWS)