The three liberations of Northern Epirus

After the liberation of Ioannina from the Turks (21.02.1913), the Greek Army continued liberating the cities of Northern Epirus one after the other, until it arrived outside Avlona. Some cities had regained their freedom earlier (e.g. Chimarra by Sp. Spyromilios – 5.10.1912, Korytsa by Pan. Daglis (7.12.1912).

On 17 December 1913, Italy and Austo-Hungary, unfortunately serving their own interests, signed the Protocol of Florence, according to which the Albanian state was created for the first time, comprising the region of Northern Epirus, as reinforcement to the newly created Albania. Since then, the north part of Epirus is known as “Northern Epirus”. Moreover, they extorted the Greek government to choose between the eastern Aegean Sea islands and Northern Epirus.

This made the Greeks of Northern Epirus rise and proceed in armed rebellion, with the INDEPENDENCE of Northern Epirus on 17 February 1914 as a highlight. A new Government was formed with Georgios Christakis Zografos as the Prime Minister, and the heroic Metropolitans Vassileios of Dryinoupolis, Spyridon of Vella and Konitsa, and Germanos of Korytsa, as members. The flag of the Independent Epirus was hoisted and the Hellenism of Northern Epirus, who joined the voluntary independence forces and “sacred battalions”, liberated Northern Epirus, forcing the Albanians to sign on 17 May 1914 (i.e in 3 months time) the Corcyra Protocol. According to that, the independence and the right for self-government was recognized to Northern Epirus, along with the freedom of education, language, religion, and the right for Northern Epirus to maintain its own Armed Forces and Police. The territory was named “Epirus”, and it comprised Chimarra, Argyrokastro, Ag. Saranda, Kolonia, Leskovikio, Premeti, Korytsa etc, and its citizens were to be called “Epirots” and not “Albanians”.

The outbreak of the World War I, and the floating situation in Albania, forced Europeans to allow the entrance of the Greek Army in Northern Epirus, so as to restore the order. On 14 October 1914, the Greek Army liberated Northern Epirus for the second time. The independency government willingly surrendered its authority to the liberating army. The unification of Northern Epirus and Greece was followed by the participation of 16 representatives of Epirus in the Greek Parliament and in the elections that took place one year later.

However, the discord and the lack of unanimity in Greece (El. Venizelos – King Constantine), which resulted to the loss of Asia Minor (1922), gave to the European patrons of Albania the opportunity to detach Northern Epirus once more from the Greek state. 

In the 1920’s, the Albanian nationalism arbitrarily cut off the Albanian Church from the Constantinople Patriarchate. They also tried to impose the Albanian language as the only functional language in the whole Albanian State. (The main representative was Albanian false bishop Fan Noli, from the USA).

In the 1930’s, king Ziogou set on the Greek education. The Northern Epirots appealed to the Court of Hague and were vindicated (1935).

On 28 October 1940, two Albanian divisions joined forces with the Italians and intruded Greece. But the brave Greek Army marched victoriously once again in Northern Epirus, and was accepted by the Northern Epirots as liberator. It was the third time that Epirus was liberated.

This freedom lasted only until April 1941, when the Germans invaded Greece, and the Greek Army left Northern Epirus.

After the end of the World War II and the defeat of the Axon Powers, the Greek Government requested the unification of Northern Epirus and Greece, in the International Peace Conference of 21 Nations in Paris (30.08.1946). The issue was committed – due to reactions on behalf of the Soviet Foreign Affairs Minister Molotov and other communistic countries – to the Foreign Affairs Minister Council of the Great Powers (French, U.S.A., Great Britain, Russia), that took place in New York (4.11 – 12.12.1946). The Council postponed the decision for the Northern Epirus issue until after the Peace Treaty with both Austria and Germany was signed. The Peace Treaty with Austria was signed on 15 May 1955 in Vienna and with Germany on 12 September 1990 in Moscow. The Northern Epirus issue still remains pending.