Wednesday, January 1, 2020

THE AUTONOMY OF THE ITALIAN-AROMANIAN "PINDUS PRINCIPATE"

All of us know that France has promoted the creation of the country named "Romania" in the Balkan region during the XIX century, but only a few persons remember that Italy promoted the creation of an "Aromanian" country in the southern Balkans during the XX century.


Map of the Plan for an autonomous Aromanian Pindus in the 1919 Peace conference of Paris 

THE ITALIAN-AROMANIAN PRINCIPATE OF PINDUS

During the First World War in 1917, the Italian Army put forth the idea for the establishment of the "Principality of Pindus" based in Mecova in order to gain support in Greece regions. The head of that project was chosen to be the 'Prince' Alcibiades Diamandi, an Aromanian born in 1893 in Samarina of Thessaly, a lawyer by profession. During WWI the project did not find broad support from the Pindus population, made mainly by Aromanians (called also "Vlachs"). Alcibiades Diamandi left Greece after the end of WWI and moved to Romania.

Indeed in 1917, during the occupation of the territories of Albania and Northern Epirus, the Italians tried to win over the Aromanians in order to convert Vlach-Romanian relations into those in favor of Italy (based on historical and linguistic relations) and to change the Romanian-lean Vlachs ("Ρουμανίζοντες Βλάχοι") into Italian-leaning Aromanians. 
In the brief period of Italian occupation of southern Albania, when Italian forces also entered Greek territory in 1917, Vlachs from several villages of the Pindus mountain requested autonomy under the protection of Italy, turning also to Romania for help. Letters (like the famous to the Romania president) were sent to several countries, from mayors and representatives of 13 villages. 

Additionally a proclamation was sent on August 29, 1917 from Samarina signed by seven representatives, who had the role of a temporary committee and requested assistance/protection from the Italian Consulate of Ioannina. One of the members of the "Provisionary Committee", Alcibiades Diamandi, went to Ioannina to get an answer. There was an immediate response the next day from the Romanian and the Italian consulates: It was a clear answer that these actions were wrong and inappropriate, were not approved by anyone, and could not be supported by any party.

The assistance request to the Italian Consulate was signed by these seven members of the "Provisional Committee" for the autonomy: 

  • Doctor Dimitrie Diamandi
  • Ianaculi Dabura
  • Mihali Teguiani
  • Tachi Nibi
  • Zicu Araia
  • Alcibiadi Diamandi
  • Sterie Caragiani

One day later, the Italian army departed from Greek territory. From 3 to 7 September the Greek forces entered all the villages unopposed and, on September 7, they arrested seven men in Samarina, giving an end to the events.

Pindos Aromanian villages which signed letter asking autonomy on 27 July 1917:

  1. Samarina (Σαμαρίνα)
  2. Abella (Avdella - Αβδέλλα Γρεβενών)
  3. Perivole (Περιβόλι Γρεβενών)
  4. Baïassa (Βοβούσα Ιωαννίνων)
  5. Amintchou (Metzova - Μέτσοβο)
  6. Paléosseli (Παλαιοσέλλι Ιωαννίνων)
  7. Padzes (Πάδες Ιωαννίνων)
  8. Tourïa (Κρανέα Γρεβενών)
  9. Breazna (Δίστρατο Ιωαννίνων)
  10. Laca (Λαΐστα Ιωαννίνων)
  11. Dobrinova (Ηλιοχώρι Ιωαννίνων)
  12. Armata (Άρματα Ιωαννίνων)
  13. Zmixi (Σμίξη Γρεβενών)







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The following is the original telegram sent to the Italian consul in Iannina on August 29, 1917 and signed also by Alcibiadi Diamandi (read https://dinitrandu.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Lascu-crearea-unui-stat-1917.pdf):

Telegramă a Comitetului Provizoriu de la Samarina  către Comisarul  General al Italiei la Ianina,  dr. Francesco Fazzi  (29 august 1917)

 Faţă de noua ocupaţiune grecească, ce ne ameninţă, şi care a fost iniţiată la Abela prin acte de abus de putere şi de represalii, populaţia română din Pind, resculată ca un singur om127, şi înaintea unor meetiguri impunătoare, a proclamat independenţa sa, sub protecţiunea Italiei. Ea a sfinţit printr’o ceremonie religioasă steagul său, simbolul libertăţii şi civilizaţiunei latine şi s’a ales un comitet provisoriu. Reînoind jurământul sacru ce-l făcusem înainte, declarăm lumei că, luăm armele în mână pentru ca să ne opunem la ori-ce încercare de a fi subjugaţi din nou, sub urgisită stăpânire grecească. Vom vărsa sângele nostru până la cea din urmă picătură, ca să alungăm pe străinul din munţii noştri.  Trăească Pindul indipendent! Trăească Italia!     Comitetul provizoriu: Doctor Dimitrie Diamandi, Ianaculi Dabura, Mihali Teguiani, Tachi Nibi, Zicu Araia, Alcibiadi Diamandi, Sterie Caragiani. (translation: "
Regarding the new Greek occupation, which threatens us, and which was initiated in Abela by acts of abuse of power and reprisals, the Roman population of Pindus, resolute as a single man, and before some imposing meetings, proclaimed its independence, under the protection of Italy. We sanctified our flag by a religious ceremony, the symbol of Latin freedom and civilization, and a provisional committee was elected. Renewing the sacred oath we had made before, we declare to the World that we take up arms in order to oppose -at any times- whatever attempt to be again subjugated under harsh Greek rule. We will shed our blood to the last drop, to drive the stranger out of our mountains. Live the independent Pindus! Live Italy! The Provisional Committee: Doctor Dimitrie Diamandi, Ianaculi Dabura, Mihali Teguiani, Tachi Nibi, Zicu Araia, Alcibiadi Diamandi, Sterie Caragiani").


Following a diplomatic protest by Greece, Italian troops departed from Epirus in late 1917 as did Diamandi, who was charged with sedition by the Greek authorities.

The 1919 Peace Conference of Paris rejected the possibility of a "Terra Vlachorum" (see the related above map). 


Returning to Romania in the early 1920s Diamandi entered the Romanian diplomatic service and was appointed consul at Sarandë in order to influence the local Vlach population. It is believed that in 1925 he became an agent of the Italian intelligence services. Diamandi's involvement in small illegal economic activities led to his removal from the Romanian diplomatic corp. In late 1927, Diamandi received a pardon from the Greek government.

In the early 1930s, Diamandi returned to Greece as a representative of some Romanian companies of oil and timber. During that period Alcibiades started the recruitment of Vlachs of Thessaly and Epirus in order to establish a future Principality of Pindus with its own Army.

During World War II, the Greek Army, led usually by senior officers of Vlach origin, surrendered to the German & Italian  Army. On 20 April 1941, on Easter Sunday, the Vlach General of Greek Corp Army I Panagiotis Demestichas, the General of the Corp-Army II Georgios Bake, the Metropolitan of Ioannina Spyridon Vlachos (who was an Aromanian from Pogonia), signed the surrender and cooperation of the Greek Epirus Army with the German  (and later also with the Italian) Army.

After surrendering the Greek Army of Epirus and of Greek Macedonia, the Greek generals with Vlach origin gained privileges of ministerial-levels during the governments of 1941-1944. On 29 April 1941, the Chief of Staff of the German Army High Command Alfred Jodl and General Alberto Ferrero, Chief of Staff of the Italian Army in Albania, appointed Greek Prime Minister Georgios Tsolakoglou, who had a Vlach origin.

After being assigned as Prime Minister, Georgios Tsolakoglou appointed General Panagiotis Demestichas, who was a Vlach, as Interior Minister and another top military officer, Theodore Saranti, a Vlach, as Mayor of Trikala. Colonel Theodhosiso Papadheothosiu, who was a Vlach, was elected as Mayor of Larissa-Volos. Vlachs already led Greece and that reality helped them to declare the tentative of independence/autonomy of the Principality of Pindus.

According to Davide Rodogno (https://books.google.com/books?id=ZcUNELPsQQsC&lpg=PA105&hl=en&pg=PA105#v=onepage&q&f=false ), the Italian authorities had studied the creation of a "reserved zone" in the conquered northern Greece that comprised the towns & villages inhabited by the Aromanians (Kastoria, Grevena, Jannina, Samarina, Preveza, Konitza and Trikala). In early 1941 they promoted the idea of an "Aromanian State" or "a territorial union of Cefalonia, Corfu and Preveza by means of a 'corridor' between Albania and old Greece". However only Corfu was "de facto" united to the kingdom of Italy, while the Pindus territories remained in a decisional "limbo" in the first months of 1941 after the Italian-German victory in Greece.

In May 1941, Alcibiades Diamandi returned to Greece, went to Ioannina and conducted meetings with Aromanians there in order to get the creation of the autonomy of the Italian-Aromanian "Principate of Pindus" inside the northern area of Greece occupied by Italian troops. In the summer of that year, Diamandi began a tour across the Aromanian settlements, such as in Samarina, Grevena, Larisa, Trikala, Elassona, and in many villages, conducting over 50 meetings in those areas with Vlach graduates in Italian and Romanian schools. During those meetings with the Vlachs of Pindus, Diamandi opened the offices of the "Autonomy of the Principality of Pindus" in Meçova, Ioannina, Grevena, etc. The model for the Vlach state were the Swiss cantons, united into a confederation—which meant, in this case, the "Principality".

In early September. 1941 the commander of the Pinerolo Division, Gen. Cesare Benelli, proposed the creation of Aromanian militias in Grevenà, Kastoria, Kalabaka, Trikkala, and Karditsa; moreover he proposed to support the Aromanians and give to them the gendarmery and some administrative places, along with a few Bulgarians from Macedonia. This plan wasn't approved by the commander of the Italian III Army Corp, and meanwhile also Gen. Benelli had become less enthusiast of the Aromanian collaboration, given that they weren't compactly pro-Italian: many were mere opportunists, and had also great political differences between themselves.

On 25 September 1941, Alcibiades Diamandi sent a first memorandum to the collaborationist Prime Minister Georgios Tsolakoglou, as a representative of the Vlachs of Pindus and of the South Balkan Vlachs. The memorandum of Diamandi initially contained few requirements: a) The appointment of prefects, mayors and local leaders, would be done by him. b) The dismissal of permanent employees and the transfer of those who are not in favor of that movement. c) To compensate the injured individuals during the Italian-Greek war and Vlachs who had offered animals, fur and other items for the care of the soldiers.

In autumn 1941, the Prince of Pindus Diamandi moved to Larissa and -with the support of Italians who controlled that territory- created the "Roman Legion" Army. The commandant of those Vlach troops was appointed Nikolaos Matusi who was born in Samarina and lived in Larissa. Matusi, Demosthenes Tsoutras and Konstantinos Tahas ruled this Italian-sponsored Vlach "Roman Legion", which became the state's official military force.

The Legion that Diamandi had gathered under his leadership made reference to the Roman Empire's "Legio V Macedonica". Chosen for the common belief that Legions were the main factor behind the modern-day Romance languages and Latin Europe, the name particularly enhanced the connection with Romania - as the Vth Legion had spent time in both Macedonia province and Dacia - and presumably linked to Italian Fascism and its claim to Imperial dominance.

The number of Vlachs who wore the uniform of the Roman Legion was about 2,000. Diamandi assumed that out of 140,000 Vlachs who lived in Thessaly and surrounding areas, about 25% of them would join their legions so that the Pindus Vlachs could win their autonomy.
Aromanian civilian "collaborators" (in early 1942) with an Italian official in Larissa

In order to realize that project, according to Italian historians, Diamandi achieved to recruit after several attempts about 2800 ethnic Vlach soldiers and civilians, who were stationed mainly in Larissa and Elassona.

Nikolaos Matusi, a Vlach from Samarina became the Prime Minister of the Principality of Pindus and the Commander of the Vlach troops. The military uniform of the soldiers of the Legion was identical to that of the Italians.

The Vlach military troops operated jointly with the Italian Army, which was commanded by the Italian General Romero, in places such as Trikala, Elassona, Samarina, Grevena, Metsovo, Kalabak, Larissa and Farsa.  The Vlach Roman Legionaries were attacked -from spring 1942- by the partisan troops of ELAS several times, but they were always able to win and even obtained some support from the civilian population of the Pindus area.

Diamandi created -with the unofficial approval of the Italian authorities- the autonomous "PRINCIPATE DI LU PIND" (so called in the Aromunan language), with the official languages ​​of "Aromuno" and Italian (and therefore without Greek: Diamandi had all street signs in Greek erased!) and with capital Metsovo (renamed with its original Aromuno name: Aminciu). On its eastern border there was - as already said - Macedonia: precisely, it was Aegean Macedonia (now nearly all Greek), which was also the object of the annexationist aims of the Bulgarians and the Bulgarian-Macedonians of VMRO; and, even more in detail, of that part of Aegean Macedonia which was inhabited by the same Aromanian people who populated the Pindus.
Diamandi with his two thousand "legionaries" maintained an efficient control of his territories, favoring the Italian occupation of northern Greece (even if the Italians - perhaps worried by his 'autonomism' within Italian Greece - never 'officially' recognized the existence of this political-administrative entity). In addition, his Principality - thanks to the organization around the Roman Legion - nearly did not suffer from the appalling famine that decimated Greece in those years
On 1 March 1942, the Vlachs intellectuals of Greece and representatives of the Vlachs in Albania, Bulgaria and Serbia, signed the Manifesto of the South Balkan Vlachs.

At the top of the list of the signatories of that Manifesto of the Aromanians -according to Albert Llalla- was the chairman of the Vlachs of the Southern Balkans Alcibiades Diamandi, the chairman of the Vlachs of the Pindus Nikolaos Matusi, chairman of the Vlachs in Albania Vasili Varnduli, of Serbia Micelle Tegojani, of Bulgaria Ziko Area. The Vlach intellectuals of Greece who signed that Manifesto were: professor Dimo Cutra, doctor Kosta Taxon, lawyer Georgio Franko, professor A. Beka, Gaqi Papa, doctor Niko Micibuna, professor Dim Kaxhigogo, lawyer Kalometro, Colonel Vasilis Jorgos, professor Kosta Nikolesko, professor Jorgo Kondojani, K. Kaloera, professor Virxhilio Balamace, professor Micele Barnd, engineer E. Goxhamani, engineer K. Stefa, engineer Niko A. Beka, professor Jorgo Balamate, engineer S. Peleqi, lawyer K. Pituli, lawyer, lawyer Dim Barnda, lawyer Toli Haxhi, John Kopano, professor Zisi Haxhibira, doctor Serxhio Triandafili, Jani Mercos, Pericles Piteni, Jorgo Gjuleka, AkilleTaqi Furkoti, Athanasius Balodhimo.

As it can be seen, the names who signed the manifesto of the Vlachs are intellectual figures of Greece, not ordinary people, workers, farmers, but well educated people who were well aware of what they signed.

A "Vlach Parliament" (protected by the Roman Legion) was summoned by Diamandi in Metsovo (Aminciu in Aromanian) in late 1941, but no laws were adopted—since the reunion was not official: the Italians were not keen on sharing power in the region (allowing only a limited autonomy during war times). 

Vlachs of the Roman Legions of the Autonomous Principate of the Pindus, reviewed by an official who could be A. Diamandi
Diamandi hoped for the creation of a state (with capital Trikala) that would encompass nearly all of north-western Greece. The Pindus region also spans southern parts of present-day Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, but the "Principality" was restricted to the areas under Greek rule. Diamandi also met the Greek collaborationist Prime Minister, Georgios Tsolakoglou, but Tsolakoglou refused to accommodate his demands. 


The Manifesto was also co-signed by the George Murnu, a professor at the University of Bucharest: Diamandi travelled to Bucharest shortly after he met Murnu, and together they attended a meeting with the then Leader (Conducător) of Romania Marshal Ion Antonescu, and the Foreign Minister Mihai Antonescu. The status of the Principality of Pindus was discussed. One option favoured by Diamandi was to put the Principality under the sovereignty of the Romanian Crown (as an associated "free state"). Another option was to link the principality to the ruling Italian House of Savoy. None of these options was to be realised. 

It is noteworthy to pinpoint that in spring 1942 an unspecified faction of the Macedonian Internal Revolutionary Organization (it was certainly the representative branch of the Wallachian-Macedonian component) offered the crown of a segment of Macedonia, the Moglena valley, to Prince Alkiviadis Diamandi, who accepted it (even if there are some doubts). From that moment the Aromuno State assumed the denomination of 'Principality of Pindus and Moglena' or - more pompously - of "Principality of Pindus and Voivodeship (or Duchy) of Macedonia".

Indeed in early 1942 a faction of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO) offered the throne of all Macedonia to Diamandi, but there is no evidence as to whether he accepted it. However, his last successor, "Julius I", was always styled as "Voivode/Duchy of Macedonia". 

Diamandi eventually left the state in summer 1942, and took refuge in Romania because in the eyes of local Aromanians he was rather pro-Italian than pro-Aromanian, while the Italians considered him a Romanian agent. His successor for a very short time was Nicola Matushi, who tried to find a modus vivendi with the Greek leaders, but without success. From mid-1942 on, the armed Greek Resistance also started to make its presence felt, fighting against the Italians and their collaborators of the Roman Legion.
Diamandi left Greece by the end of summer of 1942 for Romania and Nicholas Matousis, a Vlach lawyer, already active as second-in-command, replaced him in the organization. Another important figure in the Legion was the Aromanian Vasil Rapotika (Vassilis Rapotikas) who was leading the paramilitary units.
In early 1943 the Italians with the support of the "Roman Legion" offered the vacant title of "Prince of Pindus" to the Cseszneky family, probably in recognition for their role in supplying the Italian Army with cereals. Gyula Cseszneky was a Hungarian-Croatian baron in Italian service, who only nominally reigned as Voivode Julius between August–September in 1943, but never actually assumed power, although some local autonomist Bulgarian-Macedonian leaders governed in his name. Whatever authority the Principality exercised, it practically ceased to exist after the Italian capitulation in September 1943, when the area was taken over by the Germans. 

In late 1943, after it became obvious that the German-Italian Axis was losing the war, the leaders of the Vlach legion and many of its members abandoned their uniforms and joined the troops of Napoleon Zervas  (in the "Greek National Republican League" - Δζληθόο Γεκνθξαηηθόο Διιεληθόο ΢ύλδεζκνο – EDES). Some of them joined the greek "Security Battalions": in April 1943 Ioannis Rallis became the Prime Minister of Greece and created the "Security Battalions". Those battalions were formed under the Law 260/1943, Official Gazette 180 A, issued on 18 June 1943. Members of the "Security Battalions" and the Greek SS troops were individuals who hated communism (during the fascist governance of Metaxas (1936-1941), they were educated since in primary schools with the spirit of a pro-Nazi/Fascist culture).

The Prince of Pindus Alcibiades Diamandi left Greece in early 1943 and moved to Romania. Once the communists seized power there, he was arrested in 1948 and died a few months after his arrest in the basement of the Interior Ministry in Romania.

The Prime Minister of the Principality of Pindus and the commander in chief of the armed forces of the "Roman Legion", Nikolaos Matusi, fled Larissa after the capitulation of the fascist Italy in September 1943 and went to Athens where he collaborated with the German Army.
Nicholas Matusi

He fled to Romania after the liberation of Greece in October 1944. There, the Romanian communist police imprisoned him as a collaborator of the German Army.

After the war, most of the Aromanians (civilians and soldiers) who collaborated with the Italians were not severely punished or expelled from Greece.

However the members of the "Roman Legion", who did not flee to Romania in early 1945, were tried in the Treason Courts set up in 1946–47 and were sentenced. 617 people were accused, 152 were found guilty, 91 of which did not receive a sentence since they were already in prison sentenced for treason in other cases and for 55 there was no continuation due to their death (many of them killed by the Greek Resistance). 319 were found innocent.

Matusi since 1944 was jailed for 20 years in Romania, but in 1964 was returned to Greece where he was put on trial. He was a lawyer and successfully defended himself from the accusation of "traitor", declaring that he fought the communism and not Greece. He was released and since 1966 spent his last years in Larissa, where he died -as a well esteemed citizen- in 1991.

2 comments:

  1. "Bad luck" hits the Vlachs in Greece in the last centuries. Now they risk EXTERMINATION in the hands of the Greeks.

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    Replies
    1. Very very true. This shows how history has no mercy for the few. The bigger a nation is, the bigger the chances for autonomy and independence... This is so true especially when considering that the few aromanians we got to know were great individuals: many writers, men of culture, mayors and even rulers of Walachia and Moldova.

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