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Dec 16, 2021

The Epistratoi (Greek: Επίστρατοι, “Reservists”) were a royalist paramilitary organization in Greece during World War I, in the context of the National Schism. They played a major role in the Noemvriana of 1916.

Panhellenic Union of Epistratoi
Πανελλήνια Ένωση Επιστράτων
Leaders Ioannis Metaxas
Ioannis Sagias
Konstantinos Hößlin
Dates of operation 1916–1917
Country Kingdom of Greece
Ideology Greek nationalism
Size up to 20,000
Opponents Triple Entente
Battles and wars World War I

They are considered the first mass political organization in the country, monarchist, directed against the liberal bourgeoisie and foreign intervention.[1]

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The official title of the organization was the Panhellenic Association of Reservists (Πανελλήνιος Ένωση Επιστράτων).[2] The PAR was founded in early June 1916 and spread rapidly across the country, along with the general demobilization imposed by the Entente Cordiale on King Constantine I.[3] The precursor and nucleus of the PAR was the Association of Reservist Non-Commissioned Officers, which was founded in November 1913.[4] That association succeeded in thwarting a draft law proposed by Eleftherios Venizelos‘ liberal government which excluded the reservist non-commissioned officers of older classes from the right of promotion to the rank of officer. After that, the reservist sergeant Georgios Kamarinos seems to have conceived the idea of organizing all the conscripted reservists in the spring of 1916.[4]

On May 30, the organization’s charter was signed by 20 founding members. The charter was written by I. Theofilakis and the vote was held on June 5. The purpose of the PAR, as stated in its charter, was twofold: the provision for the reservists and their families, and the education of the Greek people on national issues.[5]

The movement had, informally, the character of a militia and at the same time the formal structure of a mass political organization. It had many similarities with the first Italian, German and Austrian fascist movements,[1] such as the use of violence, the former military status of their members as a common basis, their aversion to liberalism and their petite bourgeoisie membership. The movement’s failure to develop into a fully-fledged fascist movement is due to the fact that in their fight against Venizelism, the Epistratoi relying in some way on the working class, that they were against Greece’s entry in World War I, and strongly supportive of the monarchy. Ioannis Metaxas is considered the main organizer and behind-the-scenes leader of the Epistratoi movement.[6] The members of the Epistratoi would take an oath and promise faithful loyalty to King Constantine.

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