Monday, February 3, 2020

APPROPRIATION OF THE VLACHS' HERITAGE IN THE BALKANS

In my weblog in Italian language "Il mio Weblog Aromuno/Aromuni e neolatini balcanici" (please read http://brunodam.blog.kataweb.it/2019/11/06/chi-sono-gli-aromuni/) I have been denouncing since 2006 the process of appropriation & assimilation of the neolatin Aromanians (called also "Vlachs") by other populations (Greeks, Croatians, Bulgarians, Serbs, etc...) in the Balkans.

This process is going on in the linguistic, cultural, historical , etc.. areas in the last decades, when the European Community should have defended this shrinking minority. Only in Macedonia and Albania something seems to have changed in favor of the local "Vlachs", mainly with the official recognition of their language. If interested, additional information can be read at my https://researchomnia.blogspot.com/2019/09/the-aromanian-national-rebirth.html). It is noteworthy to pinpoint that this appropriation is very similar to the one denounced by Istrians and Dalmatian Italians in this essay: https://researchomnia.blogspot.com/2014/01/croatia-is-erasing-falsificating-and.html.

Here it is an interesting article -written by a university professor- about this "shameful" appropriation:

Map showing all the areas (in red) populated by "neolatin" people (often called "Vlachs") in the Middle Ages, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The two biggest red concentrations are in Romania and in the Aromanian region of the southern Balkans.



CULTURAL APPROPRIATION OF THE VLACHS' HERITAGE IN BALKANS 

by Octavian Ciobanu, University of Bucharest (2019)

 Cultural appropriation is when members of a dominant culture of a country appropriate elements of intellectual property, cultural expressions, folklore, artifacts and history from a disadvantaged minority culture. The worst cases of cultural appropriation involve the exploiting of the culture of minorities and hiding or denying the authorship of minorities. Some of the most known cases of cultural appropriation have occurred in the spaces dwelled by the Vlach minority in Balkans, where cultural exchange was intense.  The approached cases of cultural appropriation cover  the appropriation of Vlachs’ history in Bulgaria and the appropriation of Vlachs’ tangible and intangible heritage in other Balkan countries.

There are countries where the Vlach culture, history and language is not protected, like Bulgaria, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia. In these countries Vlachs have no schools in maternal language despite the articles of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the educational and cultural problems of minority languages and dialects in Europe, and the recommendation on history and the learning of history in Europe.

Wikicommons map showing the actual distribution of "neolatin" people (called usually "Vlachs" and "Romanians") in the XX century Balkans





 









Introduction 

Shortly, the Vlachs are the Romance-speaking heirs of the Eastern Roman Empire in Balkans. The Avars, from their base in the Northern Danubian area, had controlled Slavic tribes with whom they attacked in a decisive move the Roman Empire territory in the 7th century.

The Latinophons of the Eastern Roman Empire found refuge in the forests and mountains, by cause of the ferocity of the Slavs, while nomads swirled around them1. The Latinophons were called Vlachs by the Slavic nomads. All Vlachs whom Weigand consulted around 1890 indicated that they lived pretty much in their ancestral country. Vlach is an exonym, as the Vlachs used various words derived from “romanus” to refer to themselves: români, rumâni, rumâri, aromâni, arumâni, armâni etc.

All Balkan dwellers (Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Bosniaks, Kosovars, Albanians, Croats, Slovenians and Turks) were influenced by the Vlachs from the early medieval times. However Vlachs  do not have a country of their own and a lot of Balkan countries do not protect the Vlachs’ heritage and did not adhere to the "The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages".                  

Ewa Kocoj wrote about Vlachs’ heritage: “Today, we already know that the cultural heritage of national, ethnic and religious minorities as well as stateless communities in the 20th century in Europe was doomed in many countries to assimilation, persecution and even oblivion. Such minorities are often faced with the situation in which their heritage is rapidly vanishing, which is caused by a lack of general care. The heritage of minorities, including the one of the Vlachs, is not infrequently passed over in silence in official national discourse.”

Several articles concerning European minorities were published by the Council of Europe (Recommendation 1333/1997) and by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: Recommendations 928/1981 and 1283/1996. But the situation of the Balkan Vlachs was not improved due to a number of issues: vague national legislation of some Balkan countries and unclear mechanisms that apply the EU legislation.



Vlachs of Bulgaria and the cultural appropriation of their medieval history.

Vlachs in Bulgaria may be shortly classified in Romanians and Aromanians (read for further information, my https://researchomnia.blogspot.com/2018/04/aromanians-in-bulgaria.html). The presence of Romanians in Bulgaria has been manifested in a space stretching between  Danube and a line from Naissus, zone of former Dacia Mediterranea and Dacia Ripensis to Varna, area where the Vlach revolt started in Medieval times. South of this line, there were and there are islands of Aromanians, in South West of Bulgaria, in Macedonia, Albania, Greece and Serbia.

The Latinophons were called Vlachs by the Slavic nomads in Bulgaria and lived toghether with Bulgars, Slavs and Greeks in Medieval times. It is very difficult to asses the number of Vlachs in that times but their number was so high that they finally started the Vlach uprising in Bulgaria in the end of the 12th century. The medieval contemporary chronicles wrote about the Vlach origin of the Asen (or Asan) family who initiated the Vlach revolt in the 12th century and started a dinasty of Vlach-Bulgarian state.

Choniates wrote about Vlachs: "… at first, the Vlachs were reluctant and turned away from the revolt urged upon them by Peter and Asan, looking askance at the magnitude of theundertaking. To overcome the timidity of their compatriots, the brothers built a house of prayer in the name of the Good Martyr Demetrios…" and  "…provoking the barbarians who lived in the vicinity of Mount Haimos, formerly called Mysians and now named Vlachs, to declare war against him and the Romans.”

Chronicler Geoffrey de Villehardouin wrote about the battle of Adrianople, of Vlachs, Bulgarians and Cumans led by Vlach king Johannizza against Latin Emperor Baldwin (1205): " ...And they found Adrianople very well defended, and saw the flags of Johannizza, King of Wallachia, on the walls and towers; and the city was very strong and very rich, and very full of people...Johannizza, King of Wallachia, was coming to succour Adrianople with a very great host; for he brought with him Wallachians and Bulgarians, and full fourteen thousand Comans who had never been baptised…”

Despite the evidences of Vlach origin of the Asen family, Bulgarian media practiced an intense Cultural appropriation and even denied the existence of Vlachs in their history.

Today, Romanians and Aromanians have no schools in maternal language in the spaces they live in Bulgaria. Bulgaria did not adhere to the  "European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages".

Aromanians of Greece and the cultural appropriation of their heritage

The greatest community of Vlachs or Aromanians of all Balkans lives in Greece. But Aromanians have no schools in their maternal language.

Their language is very close to Romanian language. Vlachs in Greece call themselves Aromanians (and other variants), Megleno-Romanians and Sarakatsani (Sărăcăceani). They are called Βλαχοι (vlahoi) by Greeks. Aromanians of Greece speak (besides Greek) Aromanian (Farşerot, Pindean and Gramoştean dialects).

The Megleno-Romanians speak the MeglenoRomanian dialect. The Sarakatsani are totally assimilated and they speak only Greek.

Aromanians’ Pantheon has many personalities who have acted as the backbone of "Hellenism": Evanghelie Zappa (Evangelos Zappas), promotor of Olimpic games; Ianaki and Milton Manakia, photography and cinema pioneers of the Balkans; Ioannis Vlachos, also known as Daskalogiannis, hero of Crete; Georgios Sinas and his son, Simon Sinas, financed the construction of the Academy of Athens and other cultural buildings; Ioannis Kolettis (1773-1847) was prime minister of Greece; George Averoff was the author of a lot of infrastructure projects for the Greek communities; Rigas Feraios, a pioneer of the Greek War of Independence; Michael Tossizza and Apostol Arsaki offered money for schools after the creation of Modern Greek statehood; Aristotle Valaoritis, a kind of national poet of Modern Greece; Spyridon Trikoupis, statesman and historian, and Charilaos (1832–1896), his son, prime minister of Greece.

This list is only a part of the list of the Aromanian personalities. More details of the history and the culture of the Aromanians are presented in http://www.farsarotul.org/newslett.htm

In Metsovo (Aromanian: Aminciu) there are the oldest monasteries: St. Nicholas (15th century), the church of St. Paraskeva (16th century), the  monastery of the Dormition of the Mother of God and two other Orthodox churches: St. Nicholas and St. Demetrius, founded in the 18th centuryIn Syrrako, there are three Orthodox churches: St. Nicolas (18th century),  Dormition of the Mother of God (Panagia, 18th century) and St. George (18th century.).

In Kalarities, there are the Church of St. Nicolas (15th century) and the Church of theTrinity, (19th century), surrounded by cemeteries with the tombstones of the Aromanians.  In Samarina there are the Orthodox church of the Transfiguration, built in 1813, the Orthodox Church of St. Athanasius (1849), the Orthodox Church of St. Elijah (1795), the Orthodox Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God, also called the Great Panagia (1819), the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God, called the Little Panagia and and the Orthodox Church of St. Kosmas (1890).

Vlachs/Aromanians are not recognised as a minority in Greece. All heritage of Aromanians is considered to be Greek.

Vlachs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and the cultural appropriation of their heritage

The Vlachs of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro were Slavicized around 10th -11th century and became bilingually. Finally, they lost their maternal language in Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia  but they managed to influence the local folklore. They spoke a language close to Romanian.

The most important material heritage of the Vlachs of Western Balkans are the medieval necropolises with petroglyphs, called „Stecci” by the Slavs. Most known are in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Radimlja, Boljuni, Blidinje, Ljubinje, Bileca, Vlahovici, Kruševo, etc. Some are in Montenegro: near Žabljak and Plužine. Some are in Serbia: near Perućac, Bajina Bašta, Rastište and Prijepolje.

The Vlach tombstones with petroglyphs appeared in the 11th or 12th century mainly in Herzegovina and partially in Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and the apparition of funerary monuments ceased during the Ottoman occupation in the 16th century when many Vlachs were Islamized.

Turks called Vlachs “Karavlachs”. Some necropolises joined UNESCO's World Heritage List but without any mention of Vlachs contribution. Majority of Slavic educational media (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro) presents the medieval necropolises with petroglyphs as the art of the “Bogomils” or of the „Bosnian” church, appropriating the heritage of the Vlachs.

There are no Vlach organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro to defend their heritage.  Marian Wenzel, a scholar who studied the necropolises for a long time, showed that the tombstones with petroglyphs „were initially erected by feudal aristocracy, and that the custom was later adopted and the decoration much elaborated by certain groups known as Vlachs who were organized on a “cătun” (small village in Romanian and Albanian) basis.”.

The same idea was initially published by Marian Wenzel in a scientific journal. Many other scholars wrote about the Vlach origin of the tombstones: I. Mužić, E. Kurtovic,  O. Ciobanu, etc.

Ilona Czamańska wrote about a known theory about the origin of the dwellers of Bosnia and Herzegovina: „The majority of Serbs from the Republika Srpska of modern Bosnia is of Vlach origin, as well as the majority of the population from Bosnia and Herzegovina in general.”  This theory is supported by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, a Serbian philologist and linguist, by Croat historian Nenad Moacanin and other scholars.

Historian Silviu Dragomir wrote a lot of books about the Vlachs of the Balkans. He described numerous documents about the presence of Vlachs in Montenegro starting with the XIIth century. Also he commented several toponyms and data connected to Vlachs: mounts like Durmitor and Visitor, churches like Vlaška Crkva in Donji Kraj and the ballad of Radule Vlah and other stories.

 The heritage of Vlachs in Montenegro is rapidly vanishing, caused by a lack of general care.      Supporting the Vlach presence in Western Balkans, Karl Kaser published a map of medieval extended Vlach families of Herzegovina and Dalmatia.

The great number of Vlachs made the Serbian ruler Dušan to add them in his title: „Imperator Raxie et Romanie, dispotus Larte et Blahie comes”

Serbia has a large Romanian/Vlach minority in Voivodina, Banat and Timoc. But in Timoc, there are no schools in maternal language. In the case of Vlachs/Romanians, Serbia uses a separation between Vlachs and Romanians for political reasons and even a new alpahabet with cyrilic letters was invented for local dwellers in order to make Vlachs different from Romanians.

Serbia also has an Aromanian minority ("Cinciari" in Serbian) in Southern areas, who has no schools in maternal language.

Recently, a lot of Serbian personalities recognised the paramount importance of Vlach substrate in all Slavic countries [https://portalanalitika.me/clanak/242602/cosovic-na-balkanudominantna-etnicka-vlasko-morlacka-komponenta  (accessed July, 2019)].

Vlachs of Croatia and the cultural appropriation of their heritage

Vlachs of Croatia are called Morlachs. They were an autochtonous population of Croatia.

Vlachs were known as Morlachs in Croatia and especially in Dalmatia. They were Slavicized around the 10th-11th centuries and became bilingual. The word Morlach derived from Italian Morlacco, being connected to Greek Μαυροβλάχοι, a translation of Turkish Karavlach. Kara (black) means North in Turkish geography. Morlachs means Northern Vlachs.

During Middle Ages, the Vlachs in Croatia were about 50% of all dwellers.

The most important material heritage of the Vlachs in Croatia are the medieval necropolises with petroglyphs, emerged especially in the spaces of Dalmatia and in former territories occupied by Turks. Most known are near Cista Velika, Dubravka and Konavle. Many Croat scholars wrote about the Vlach origin of the necropolises.

Another cultural heritage of the Vlachs in Croatia is the folklore that was strongly appropriated by Croats.

Alberto Fortis, an Italian naturalist and cartographer travelled in Dalmatia and wrote "Viaggio in Dalmazia" (Travel into Dalmatia), published in 1774. The book depicted "Morlachia", the rural Dalmatia and the Morlachs. It contains a famous Morlach ballad called "The Mourning Song of the Noble Wife of the Hasan Aga".

Many Morlachs were Islamized under Turkish occupation and worn Islamic names. Also many adhered to Catholicism. Fortis wrote that the Morlachs preserved their old customs and clothes and call themselves Vlachs. He also published several specimens of Morlach songs. Viaggio in Dalmazia played an important role in bringing the Morlachian folklore to the attention of Europe during the rise of Romantic notions about folklore.  The ballad was subsequently translated into German, by Goethe in 1775, into English by Walter Scott under the title "Lamentation of the Faithful Wife of Asan Aga",into Russian by Pushkin in 1835, and into French by Prosper Mérimée in 1827.

 Fortis treated the Morlachs life and customs in exotic and stereotypical terms (noble savages in the middle of Europe), but with empathy for them, initiating the "Morlacchism",  a literary current in the 19th century.

Giovanni Lovrich wrote about the neolatin origin of Morlachs making connections with Valacchia (Romanians).  However, despite numerous data about Morlachs, Slavic media in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia presents the Morlach ballad discovered by Fortis and their folklore as a Slavic creation neglecting the Morlachs.

Even the memory of Vlach scientist Nikola Tesla was appropriated by Croats and Serbs.

“Ojkanje” is a tradition of polyphonic folk singing in Croatia, characteristic for the regions of the Dalmatian hinterland, Velebit and Lika and can be found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. Some narrative songs are accompanied with the gusle, a single-stringed musical instrument known as "lahuta" in Albanian and "lăuta" in Romanian. Giovanni Lovrich mentions “ojkanje” as part of Morlach culture.

Today, the Croatian census mentioned only 20 vlachs/morlachs living in Croatia.

Conclusions

Several researchers have become interested in the Vlach culture and people and they are investigating their language, culture and also their place and heritage in the contemporary world.

The history of Vlachs/Romanians in Bulgarian media is distorted and appropriated. Despite the evidences of Vlach origin of the Asan/Asen family, and of the main contribution of Vlachs/Romanians to the Bulgarian kingdom in the 12th13th centuries, Bulgarian historiography and mass media in Bulgaria practiced an intense cultural appropriation and even in some cases the existence of Vlachs in the history of Bulgaria was denied.

All heritage of Aromanians in Greece is in danger to disappear since they are not recognised as a minority in Greece.

Worst situations are in Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina where tangible and intangible heritage of Vlachs is already appropriated.

Despite the Recommendation 1333/1997 of the Council of Europe who granted Vlachs/Aromanians legal recognition, their situation was not improved. Vlachs faced with the situation in which their heritage is rapidly vanishing, which is caused by a lack of general care in Balkan countries.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has adopted several texts, the Recommendation 928/1981 on the educational and cultural problems of minority languages and dialects in Europe, and the Recommendation 1283/1996 on history and the learning of history in Europe. However, nothing seems to have changed in connection with the cultural appropriation of Vlachs’ heritage in some countries of Balkans.

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)







.
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.

Monday, December 2, 2019

CASTELROSSO (NOW KASTELORIZO) 1941 BATTLES

Castelrosso was the easternmost island that the Kingdom of Italy had in the Mediterranean sea, located just south of Turkey and a few hundred miles north of Alexandria of Egypt. This strategical location was useful for military airplanes and ships, in order to control the north-eastern Mediterranean sea. For this reason the possession of the island was fought harshly by the Italians and the British during WW2. The geographically close islands of Castelrosso (actual Kastelorizo in Greece) and Checova (now Kekova in Turkey) have been part of the Italian Dodecanese, but their political fates have been different in the years of Fascism. Both were the only Italian colonial possession in the nearby Middle East, being located south of Anatolia and far from the Aegean Sea (Castelrosso is located almost 120 km/70 miles east of Rhodes). But the first remained Italian, while the second was annexed to Turkey by Kemal Ataturk.
In practice they are what remained of the Italy's Lycia, an Anatolian region promised to Rome in the Treaty of Sevres after the victory in the Great War. The Italian Royal Navy ("Regia Marina") took possession from the French on 1 March 1921 of the island of Castelrosso/Kastelórizo (and the surrounding islands), which was thus integrated into the possessions of the Italian Aegean Islands (called "Isole Egee", see the following map).
In 1922, 2742 Greek-Orthodox inhabitants lived there, as well as a few Italian military officials and administrators. After the Italian occupation of Castelrosso, Checova - which at that time was temporarily inhabited, during the summer months, for the collection of wood - was disputed between Italy and Turkey, while the Italian troops controlled it in the twenties of the nineteenth century. The Convention between the two states signed in Ankara in 1932 officially assigned it to Turkey. Instead Castelrosso - and the neighboring islands Ro and Stirongili - remained Italian, becoming part of the Italian Dodecanese. In these negotiations Mussolini was able to impose himself on Kemal Ataturk, who wanted to repeat a total success as when he obtained the area of ​​Adrianople (now Edirne) after the "erase" of the Treaty of Sevres. Some Italian historians (like Tripodi) argue that Castelrosso is a "legacy" of Mussolini to Greece and Europe.
Indeed, Checova was a flourishing island during the Roman empire (https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ba2e/67dadfbd2e8df6375fe84dee521beffacbd1.pdf).

On the northern side of the island there are the partially submerged ruins of Dolchiste/ Dolikisthe, an ancient city destroyed by an earthquake during the second century AD. Rebuilt and still flourishing during the Byzantine period, it was definitively abandoned due to Arab incursions. The island -also called Caravola- was guarded by Italian troops from 1921 until 1932.

Without Italy, the island of Castelrosso - like Rhodes and the other islands of the Dodecanese - would now be Turkish, like Imbros and Tenedos in the Aegean sea in front of the Dardanelles. Castelrosso was enhanced by the Italian government as a naval base and port for seaplanes, reaching a discrete economic well-being in the thirties (see the video of the visit of the King of Italy in 1929 to Castelrosso: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OhlL7sm38U).


Map of the "Dodecaneso italiano" (called in Italian "ISOLE EGEE") in 1930, showing in the inlet the islands of Castelrosso and Checova just south of the Turkish Anatolia and 120 km east of Rodi (actual greek Rhodes).
dodecanesoechercova




Furthermore, I want to remember that Italy strongly defended Castelrosso during the Second World War. For this reason, I transcribe the following two essays about the battles that happened in 1941 for the island control: the first about the British conquest and the second about the Italian reconquest of this small island. Even if there were only one hundred casualties ("nothing" by WW2 standards), these battles were strategically very important and demonstrated that the Italians were able to defeat some of the best Churchill's troops: the British commandos. Even the Italian navy obtained a small success, because the British destroyer Jaguar was hit near the Castelrosso island and was forced to withdraw with some casualties:  ".....while covering the commandos withdrawal, HMS Jaguar was attacked by Italian destroyer Crispi, which had fired twenty shells on British positions at Nifti Point, steaming from the south. The Italian destroyer fired two torpedoes which missed and Jaguar replied with her 4.7 in (120 mm) main armament. Jaguar received a 40 mm hit on her searchlight that made its gunfire ineffective and the British force was forced to disengage and withdraw to Alexandria....." (read in Italian https://24grammata.com/castelrosso-fasti-e-declino-di-unisola-del-mediterraneo/).


Italian destroyer Crispi

Operation Abstention, the English occupation of the Island of Castelrosso

On February 25, 1941, a large British commando landed on the island of Castelrosso, a small strip of land about 3 kilometers away from the Turkish coasts and about 80 miles east of the island of Rhodes and part of the Italian Aegean Islands. often called Dodecanese. The "Abstention operation" aimed to conquer the island, to establish a base from which to begin the conquest of the Dodecanese and thus to contest the Italian air-naval supremacy in the area of ​​the Aegean and southwest coast of Turkey.
It should be emphasized that the idea of ​​a conquest of individual islands with small groups of special forces men was an idea conceived and carried out by Admiral Andrew Cunningham, while the British command and in particular Prime Minister Winston Churchill were rather skeptical, due to the risk of creating friction between Greece and Turkey.
Before continuing the narration of the invasion, here there are two words on the island and how it became part of the Italian possessions.: In ancient times the island object of today's post was called Megisti (the largest) with reference to a group of adjacent islets. Its current name derives from the castle built by the Knights of San Giovanni who occupied the island in 1306 as a useful base before arriving in Rhodes. The Grand Masters of Rhodes considered it as a place in exile and sent the knights who violated the rules of the Order. In 1440 the island was sacked by the Mamluk sultan of Egypt and the castle badly damaged and in 1522 the Ottomans occupied it permanently.
Although not situated in the Aegean but in the East Sea, Castelrosso is historically part of the Dodecanese or Dodecanese archipelago which literally means "twelve islands". In turn it constitutes the main island of a small group comprising the islands of Strongili and Ro, plus several islets: some (Agios Georgios, Psomi and Psoradia) ancient Greek territory and others (Bayrak, Besmi, Catal, Gurmenli, Guvercinli, Heybeli, Kovan, Kovanli, Okzuz, Sariada, Saribelen and Sican), almost all little more than rocks, now belonging to Turkey.
At the beginning of the 20th century, as we have seen, the islands had been in the possession of the Ottoman Empire for almost 400 years, when in 1912 the Kingdom of Italy waged war by attacking the Ottomans in Libya and precisely in the Dodecanese. In the archipelago, on April 26, Stampalia was conquered, on May 12 Scarpanto, Caso, Piscopi, Nisiro, Calino, Lero, Patmo, Coo, Simi and Calchi, on May 4, troops also landed in Rhodes which was completely occupied on May 16th.
On May 5, 1912, the first of a series of commanders of the Aegean occupation corps, General Giovanni Ameglio, took office. The inhabitants of the island asked General Ameglio, commander of the Italian occupation forces in Rhodes, for their island to be annexed to Italy. This was refused and on March 14, 1913, the local population imprisoned the Turkish governor and his Ottoman garrison and proclaimed a provisional government.
In August of the same year, the Greek government sent a provisional governor from Samos, strengthened by a certain number of gendarmes: however, they were expelled by the inhabitants on 20 October 1915. On 28 December the French navy occupied the island thanks to the cruiser Jeanne d'Arc, acting in official support for the local pro-French faction; blocking also a new attempt of landing on the same day of a Greek contingent of Euzoni, chosen soldiers of mountain infantry of the Greek army. The Turkish coastal batteries responded to the French occupation by bombing the island in 1917, managing to sink the British seaplane support vessel "HMS Ben-my-Chree". With the Treaty of Sèvres, the island was finally assigned to Italy, which wanted to expand its presence in the neighboring Dodecanese and on 1 March 1921, the Royal Navy took possession of it from the French, integrating it into the possessions of the Italian Aegean Islands .
The relations between Italians and the local population were quite good, both because our family ensured protection from Turkey, and because the Italian presence did not create large taxes, except for the prohibition of painting houses with blue and white colors, which recalled the color of Greek flag. The teaching of the Italian language was accepted without problems.
The Italians immediately connected the island with wire, on the continent and in 1926 the "Palazzina della Delegazione" was built by the architect Florestano Di Fausto, in colonial style. Two years later, due to the poor economic conditions of the island, many inhabitants emigrated to Australia and the Americas, significantly reducing the population that, at the beginning of the century, had reached the figure of about 15,000 inhabitants.
At the beginning of the 1930s the resident population was about 3,000 people, most of whom lived on remittances, trade with Lebanon and coal production destined for Egypt, while half of the houses were uninhabited. Some elections took place in 1928, 1930, 1932 and 1934. In 1937 the mayor was replaced by a mayor appointed by the government.
The 1932 Convention between Italy and Turkey, which defined the maritime borders between the two powers, assigned all the small islands of the small archipelago around Castelrosso - except for Ro and Strongili - to Turkey. Checova was one of these islands. During the 1930s Castelrosso constituted a landing point for French and Italian seaplanes. Between December 1933 and March 1934 there were popular protests caused by the tightening of customs taxation and the prohibition of indiscriminate cutting of the woods. All this caused another wave of emigration and in the 1936 census the population had further decreased to 2.236 inhabitants.

It is in this context that we arrive at the Second World War, during which the Italians used their bay for the incursions of the special units of the Regia Marina against the English naval base in Alessandria. The British admiral Cunningham decided to attack Castelrosso in February 1941
British Commandos landing in Castelrosso
On February 24, 1941 the destroyers HMS Decoy and HMS Hereward left Suda Bay towards Castelrosso. On board they had the landing forces composed of 200 men who were joined by 24 men of the Royal Marines, posted on the HMS Ladybird gunboat.

The initial plan provided for the establishment of a 24-hour bridgehead at Punta Nifti, pending the arrival of the occupation corps composed of the Sherwood Foresters regiment, which until then had been stationed on the island of Cyprus , and that it should have arrived on the island with the armed yacht HMS Rosaura and escorted by the Australian cruisers HMAS Perth and by the HMS Bonaventure.
The Italian presence in Castelrosso consisted of a small and heterogeneous group of soldiers and some agents of the Guardia di Finanza under the radio station of the island. Because of the darkness and the scarce knowledge of the island most of the lances went too far to land in the main port of the island where they came into contact with an Italian patrol.
Two Italian sailors were killed immediately and one seriously injured near the lookout station of Monte Vigla, but now the few and not well armed Italians for the defense of the island were aware of the operation and barricaded themselves first at Monte Vigla and then in Paleocastro, preparing for a strenuous defense by tenaciously rejecting the English attack.
Too much was the disproportion of forces in the field, the radio station was finally occupied by the English as well as the building of the Government Delegation at the entrance to the port and the customs building. In the action there were 6 dead, 7 wounded and 35 prisoners on the Italian side.
Before the radio station fell, the Italian operator was able to warn Rhodes about what had happened at the base and make the cryptographic codes useless so that they did not fall into enemy hands, so it was only a few hours later that he arrived on the island the Regia Aeronautica. The CR42 "Falco" fighters followed by some Savoy-Marchetti SM81 bombers struck the port, the outpost and the hills of the small island on which the commandos were installed. The operation was also made possible by the support of the former mayor of the municipality, Ioannis Lakerdis, of Greek origin, who reported to the Italians where to attack the British.
A few days later the Italian response to the invasion of the island would develop.

Image from the "Domenica del Corriere" of March1941 showing the Italian troops attacking the British commandos who have occupied the island of Castelrosso some days before: the Italian reconquest of the island enraged Winston Churchill
castelrossoriconquistatanel1941
The Italians reconquer the island of Castelrosso in the Dodecanese

The Italian reaction to the British operation was a case not unique but very rare in the history of italian participation in the Second World War, in which the Italian Armed Forces reacted with speed and determination, demonstrating great organizational skills.
Already on the very night of the British occupation of the small island, the torpedo boats Lince and Lupo, the destroyers Francesco Crispi and Quintino Sella departed from Rhodes, and shortly after midnight on the 25th the Lupo moored in the port of Castelrosso and began to disembark the troops , a work that must soon be interrupted due to the rapid deterioration of the state of the weather and the sea.
The day of the 26th and the night of the 26th on February 27th passed quietly and without incident. All the British commandos slept in Punta Nifti except for the sentries and surveillance patrols. Food supplies were becoming scarce and they were rather angry at the failure of the forces that were to come to detect them. There was some real possibility of a counterattack from the sea and the commandos were now demoralized. For food, they counted on a few bags of Italian biscuits that they had seized in Paleocastro.
On the morning of 27 at 09.00, patrols of British commandos - located around the island to check the beaches and signal the approach of the long-awaited reinforcements that were to come to take over the contingent - sighted two Italian cruisers headed for the island . The arrival of Italian units in port caused panic among the British commandos.
The Lince and Lupo had indeed returned together with the MAS 541 and 546, and had been joined by Crispi and Sella, and at dawn the two torpedo boats began to disembark the troops north of the port. In all, 250 soldiers and 88 sailors were landed, most of whom were from the 4th battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment of the 50th Infantry Division Regina under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Fanizza, who were to reconquer the island.
Soon the Italian troops took land by infiltrating along the streets and alleys that connect the center of the port to Paleocastro and towards the cemetery. They successfully attack by moving with tenacity and courage by rapidly advancing and regaining all positions, restoring the Italian possession of the island, capturing prisoners, weapons and ammunition (and an English flag).
An aerial bombardment also began which made the position of British troops even more difficult. At noon, the two English companies remained isolated, one at the cemetery and one at the landing place, there was no other choice but to retire by climbing the summit of the cliff overlooking Punta Nifti, known locally as Avlonia. Their armament was light and they did not have enough weapons and numerical strength to maintain control of the small coastal area where they had camped, so they decided to retire all together on the highest peak.
Italian planes and warships surround the island targeting any British military that they saw in short range. After the landing and the bombing the Lynx, together with the Crispi and the Wolf, began to patrol the waters south of the island and at 2.53, there was an unsuccessful skirmish between the Crispi and the British destroyer Jaguar, which closed at 3.30 without results.
For the British commandos, when it was dark, the situation seemed almost desperate, but they decided to resist confiding that sooner or later the Royal Navy would finally arrive to help them. The Sherwood Foresters company that was supposed to take over the commandos finally left Alexandria at 08.00 am on the 27th on board the Decoy cruiser, arriving off the island just before midnight. The commandos managed to get themselves seen, lighting matches and flashlights.
The second wave of the British invasion force, commanded by Admiral Renouf, given the determination with which the Italian forces reconquered the island, is not landed and the convoy is ordered to retire and head towards Alexandria. It is indeed decided to evacuate the commandos, despite some of the patrols left around the island had not yet been traced in the dark.
Someone was captured the next day by the Italians, while someone else tried to reach the mainland in Turkey by swimming. Some of these later succeeded in being repatriated, and others were reported missing. On the afternoon of March 1, 1941 the commandos recovered returned to Crete.
The failure of the Abstention operation had serious repercussions at every level. Undoubtedly, the failure of the operation certainly did not help in the campaign of persuasion of Turkey to go to war against the Axis powers, as well as the negative trend of the operations of the Italian Armed Forces between the end of 1940 and the beginning of 1940, they convinced Francisco Franco, caudillo of Spain not to attack the English bse of Gibraltar and not to enter the conflict alongside the Axis powers.
It was obvious that something had gone wrong precisely in the first major offensive in the Eastern Mediterranean, diminishing the expectations of success in Britain's future plans in the Mediterranean.
Cunningham, the architect of this operation, clarified in the statement dated February 28, 1941 that the raid was to be considered only as an isolated attempt.

On the same day, Churchill was informed of Cunningham's statement on the outcome of the operation and immediately sent a telegram to Anthony Eden, Foreign Secretary in Cairo, saying:
"I am rather puzzled by something I have not yet been able to ascertain about what happened in Castelrosso. The report on Castelrosso does not explain exactly how many men have actually landed; where they landed; how much they have traveled; what they did; what prisoners they did; how many losses they have suffered; how it was possible that the enemy could have strengthened his presence from the sea when we were supposed to have maritime supremacy; what were the naval and military forces that strengthened the enemy; when and where they arrived; how was it possible that when the conquest of the island had already been announced, it was only then discovered that a large enemy warship had entered the port; if we have ever conquered the port and the defenses around it.
Anxiety has also increased due to numerous air attacks.
Was this predictable?
Where did it come from?
From the Italians or the Germans?
Please check these details.
For these reasons it is of vital importance to understand the entire sequence of this plan for you and our military. W.Churchill
"
The answer given by Eden to Churchill is not available. The Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East replied on 7 March 1941 giving more information on the operation, but giving greater prominence to the results hoped for, rather than clearly saying that the enemy attack from the sea and the landing of a much higher force had forced him to retreat from the island.
Churchill was very puzzled by the scant information received and addressed this further letter to the Chief of Staff General Ismay:
"I have been told only of the mystifications about this operation and it is the task of the General Staff to shed more light. I want to know how it was possible that the navy allowed the landing of so many reinforcements, when in such an affair everything depends exclusively on the navy's ability to isolate the whole island. It is necessary to clarify this point to prevent this from happening again during more important operations. No one should worry our nation that supports us in any way and it is therefore essential that such situations should never happen again. W. Churchill "
Churchill's interrogations forced Cunningham to give further explanations about the operation and the reasons why the Navy failed to isolate the island and take over the Commandos. Thus emerged all the divisions that existed between the Army and the Navy and it was clear how each one of them broke between them for this failure. The army pointed out that the proximity of the enemy air bases to Rhodes did not allow a large-scale defense of the island. On the other hand, the Navy replied that the Commandos' conduct in this operation had much to be desired. In his autobiography, Cunningham reports a letter he would later write to the First Lord of the Sea:
"The taking and abandonment of Castelrosso is a failed operation that gives no credit to anyone. The Italians were incredibly enterprising and not only bombed the island, but struck the targets with precision and landed their troops from the cruisers. Due to some unforeseen events, the army radio system did not work. These commandos were lightly armed and apparently could not be defended if seriously attacked. I had sent another 25 marines armed with machine guns aboard the Ladybird, but some madman then gave the order to re-embark them. The only thing we can say is that from this experience we have learned a lot and that we will not repeat the same mistakes. Cunningham "
These differences and these inconsistent visions of the incident inevitably led to an agreement settled between the various parties that took place on 12 March in Alexandria, Egypt. Even before the interrogation results were known, Churchill insisted on discovering the causes of this disaster:
"What other disciplinary measures should we take on this deplorable piece of wrong operations that happened after 18 months of experience in the war? W. Churchill "
With the questioning, new criticisms were raised about the navy's responsibilities for failing to isolate the island. However, the final results of the same have never been publicly disclosed as a British rule states that certain military information is not disclosed before at least 100 years have passed since the events and therefore these findings may be published no earlier than the year 2041 .
A total of 14 Italian soldiers died in the four days of the operation while 52 were wounded. 12 Italians were taken prisoners and a large number of weapons and ammunition were confiscated. The radio station, the power plant, the building and the Governor's house were seriously damaged during the clashes.

On the British side, 5 were dead, 11 wounded and 27 were missing during the hasty evacuation. Of these 27 missing, 7 were never traced again.
As punishment for assistance given by some locals to the British commandos, the Italians arrested 29 local male citizens suspected of "activities against the state" and were deported first to Rhodes, then to Coo and finally to Brindisi to stand trial. Many of these never returned to the island. The exodus of the population from Castelrosso continued uninterrupted.
With the failure of the operation the British renounced for the whole duration of the conflict to claim the Aegean islands and the military situation in the area will remain calm until the tragic days of the armistice, when following the collapse of the Italian military apparatus the English occupied Castelrosso and the other islands of the Dodecanese.
The serious mistakes made will be repeated on the night between 13 and 14 February 1942 during the "Daffodil operation", when the attempt to conquer Tobruk garrisoned by the forces of the "San Marco" battalion resulted in a disaster, with 779 dead and 576 wounded among the English commandos.
After the war an almost absolute silence fell on this Italian "victory" in Castelrosso. British historians even hardly mention it in their books.