A monument to not exhume: Silence, speech, and issues surrounding the mass grave of communist fighters at the Battle of Florina (1949), Northern Greece* - Archive ouverte HAL Access content directly
Special Issue Death Studies Year : 2022

A monument to not exhume: Silence, speech, and issues surrounding the mass grave of communist fighters at the Battle of Florina (1949), Northern Greece*

(1)
1

Abstract

ABSTRACT The paper opens by establishing a fact through fieldwork: a 70-year-old mass grave contain- ing the remains of several hundred communist fighters who died in the battle of Florina (12 February 1949) was recently marked by a monument commemorating the fallen combat- ants. The erection of the monument (inaugurated in 2016) bypassed other sequences typic- ally present in similar cases. None of the steps conventionally encouraged by post-conflict peacebuilding initiatives: exhuming the human remains in order to identify them, dignify them, move them (or return them to their families), and finally reinter them—was under- taken. A central piece of the memorial site built around the (quite large) spot of the mass grave, the monument de facto seals the human remains underground. In order to under- stand the ethnographical facts, we follow several trends of explanation. After looking at the conflict (the Greek Civil war), we show the intricacies of local panorama in which political struggle was underpinned by long-standing ethnic conflict. The nexus of memory-and- history is analyzed under two angles, the hidden memory of the defeated and the various claim on the “historical truth” laid by historical and new political formations. The struggles over “historical truth,” in relation with the extremely sensitive issue of the unity of the nation (and the blame laid on some populations for “national treason”) are viewed as one of the reasons for the lack of any demand for, or the practice of, transitional justice. Political agendas, along with the continuing marginalization of the most directly concerned group, are in fact obstacles to exhumation: if not feared, the identification after the removal of the dead from the mass grave was not supported by any social force or group. Other elements: specific ritual treatment of the dead in Greek culture, issues of land property and land use—are brought in line to suggest that, instead of exhuming the dead bodies, the field containing them could be more easily transformed into burial ground. The local response, as well as the initiatives taken by political actors, did all meet in one point: transforming the mass grave into a funerary site by granting it the legal status of a “green space.” It is this consensus that explains why a monument to the dead was erected—so as not to have to exhume them.
Not file

Dates and versions

hal-03943192 , version 1 (17-01-2023)

Licence

Attribution - CC BY 4.0

Identifiers

Cite

Galia Valtchinova. A monument to not exhume: Silence, speech, and issues surrounding the mass grave of communist fighters at the Battle of Florina (1949), Northern Greece*. Death Studies, 46, pp.1-11, 2022, ⟨10.1080/07481187.2022.2131053⟩. ⟨hal-03943192⟩
0 View
0 Download

Altmetric

Share

Gmail Facebook Twitter LinkedIn More