Evzones


Evzones

The Evzones, or Evzoni, ( _el. Εύζωνες, Ευζώνοι) is the name of several historical elite light infantry and mountain units of the Greek Army. Today, it refers to the members of the Proedriki Froura (Presidential Guard), an elite ceremonial unit that guards the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier ("Άγνωστος Στρατιώτης"), the Hellenic Parliament and the Presidential Mansion. The Evzones are also known, colloquially, as Tsoliades ( _el. Τσολιάδες).

The unit is famous around the world for its unique traditional uniform, which has evolved from the clothes worn by the klephts who fought the Ottoman (Turkish) occupation of Greece. The most visible item of this uniform is the fustanella, a kilt-like garment. Their proven valour and peculiar dress turned them into a popular image for the Greek soldier, especially among foreigners.

The name "Evzone" is first found in Homer, and derives from "ευ"+"ζώνες", meaning the "well-girt" men, implying an elite status.

History

After the arrival of King Otto, the Greek Army was organized in 1833 along new lines. The Bavarians that had come with Otto formed the majority of the "European" Line Infantry battalions ("Τάγματα Γραμμής"). In these units, one rifle company, designated "Sharpshooter" ("Λόχος Ακροβολιστών") or "Evzone" ("Λόχος Ευζώνων"), existed. In addition, ten light "Sharpshooter" battalions ("Τάγματα Ακροβολιστών") were formed from Greeks, dressed in a uniform based on the garb of the klephts. In 1836 these battalions were reduced to four, and eight "Mountain Guard" battalions ("Τάγματα Οροφυλακής") were formed in their stead, which were grouped into four regiments in 1843. These units were primarily engaged in patrolling the Greco-Turkish border, combating insurgents and hunting down the many brigands that infested the countryside. The Mountain Guard was incorporated in the strengthened "Sharpshooter" battalions in 1854.

In December 1867, the first four elite "Evzone" light battalions were formed, of four companies each (soon expanded to five), with the task of guarding the frontier. On 12 December, 1868, the Royal Guard detachment ("Άγημα", later "Ανακτορική Φρουρά") of two Evzone infantry companies and a cavalry troop was formed. In 1880-1881, the Evzone units were expanded to nine battalions, and participated in the disastrous War with Turkey in 1897 forming part of the infantry divisions. In the aftermath of the war, through various reorganizations, the number of Evzone battalions varied from eight to six, operating either independently or divided between the infantry divisions, and were among the first units to be equipped with machine guns.

During the Balkan Wars, the eight Evzone battalions operated independently on the vanguard or the flanks of the army and distinguished themselves for their fighting spirit, but suffered high casualties, especially among officers. The Evzone units, totalling at their height five regiments, fought with distinction as elite shock troops in the First World War, the Asia Minor Campaign and the Greco-Italian War. During the German invasion, a memorable event occurred: On April 27, 1941, as the German Army was entering Athens, the Germans ascended to the Acropolis and ordered the young Evzone who was guarding the flag post, Konstantinos Koukidis, to haul the Greek flag down and replace it with the swastika flag. The young soldier did so, but refused to hand over the Greek flag to the Germans, and instead wrapped himself in it and fell off the Acropolis to his death.

After the occupation of the country, in 1943, the collaborationist government raised a number of "Security Battalions" ("Τάγματα Ασφαλείας"), which were dressed in the Evzone uniform, and participated in operations against the ELAS partisans. They were derisively known as "Germanotsoliades" or "Tagmatasfalites", and were disbanded after liberation in 1944. After the war, the reconstituted Hellenic Army did not raise the Evzone regiments again, their elite status and role being assumed by the newly established LOK special forces, with the exception of the ceremonial unit of the Royal Guard ("Βασιλική Φρουρά"). In 1974, with the abolition of monarchy in Greece, the Guard was redesignated as the Proedriki Froura ("Προεδρική Φρουρά" - "Presidential Guard").

Present role

Today the regiment is purely ceremonial, with duties including:
*Guarding, on a 24-hour basis, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Presidential Mansion and the gates of the Presidential Guard training camp.
*The official raising and lowering of the flag (at 9am and 6pm respectively) every Sunday at the Acropolis
*Accompanying the President of the Hellenic Republic on official foreign visits
*Offering honours and welcoming foreign officials on visit
*An annual Parade on New York’s 5th Avenue in celebration of Greece’s March 25th National Day
*Accompanying the Holy Fire every Easter from Jerusalem to Athens

The Proedriki Froura are billeted in the George Tzavellas Barracks, on Herodes Atticus Street in Athens, near the Presidential Mansion.

Former Units

The historical units were numbered and known as "Τάγμα Ευζώνων" - "Tagma (Battalion) of Evzones" - or "Σύνταγμα Ευζώνων" - "Regiment of Evzones." The names are usually translated in English-language works with "Evzones" as an adjective modifying the unit, instead of a possessive plural, which is a more accurate reflection of the original Greek. Since the regiments were distinctive, elite units, they had dual numbers - the first, numbering them in the Evzones hierarchy, the second, in the overall infantry hierarchy. Thus the "5/42 Evzones Regiment" was the 5th Regiment of Evzones, but also the 42nd Regiment of Infantry.
*1/38 Evzones Regiment
*2/39 Evzones Regiment
*3/40 Evzones Regiment
*4/41 Evzones Regiment
*5/42 Evzones Regiment

Uniform


thumb|300px|The_various_uniforms_of_the_Presidential_Guard.
"Left to right": Cretan (ceremonial), Macedonian (winter service), traditional mainland (dress), modernised mainland (summer service), Pontic (ceremonial).

In 1833, the uniform of the Evzones (as in all infantry companies of the line battalions) was in the much-maligned Bavarian style, complete with pants, tailcoats and shako, distinguished only by green braid and plumes. In 1837, a new uniform was created based on the traditional fustanella style worn by the klephts, armatoli, and many of the famous fighters of the Greek War of Independence. At first, it was only issued to the native light infantry battalions, but its popularity led to its adoption as the official uniform of the Evzones in 1867. After a few minor changes over the years, it became the familiar uniform seen today.

The basic elements of the uniform are:
*The "phareon", a scarlet garrison cap with a long black tassel.
*A woolen fustanella kilt.
*A cotton undershirt.
*White woolen stockings.
*Black-tasseled knee garters ("kaltsodetes").
*Red "tsarouhi" leather clogs with a black pompon.
*A leather cartridge belt and a M1 Garand semi-automatic battle rifle, with bayonet.

The basic color of the winter uniform tunic is navy blue and closely resembles the service uniform worn until 1910, while the summer uniform tunic is light khaki, and similar in design to the field uniform adopted by the Evzone regiments after that date. The full-dress uniform, which derives from the traditional uniform of south-mainland Greece (Sterea Hellas), is worn on Sunday, on important national holidays, at the reception of foreign dignitaries and other special occasions. It has a white, bell-sleeved shirt and a white fustanella with 400 pleats (commemorating the 400 years of Ottoman occupation) with the addition of a fancy gold-brocade waistcoat. Members of the guard can also sometimes be seen in a royal blue and red uniform based on the traditional male costume of Crete, or in the black traditional habit once worn by the Greeks of Pontus. The officers are armed with a sabre instead of a rifle.

The "phareon" is similar to the fez adopted by the Ottomans which were the main enemies of the evzones.

The uniforms of officers are distinguished from those of enlisted men by the substitution of red buskins for the stockings, and blue garters, their fustanella kilts are also longer (below the knee, as opposed to mid-thigh) than those of the enlisted Evzones.

Notable Evzones

*General Nikolaos Plastiras, commander of the 5/42 Regiment and thrice Prime Minister of Greece
*Colonel Dimitrios Psarros, head of the EKKA resistance group
*Major Ioannis Velissariou, hero of the Balkan Wars
*General Thrasyvoulos Tsakalotos, commander of the 3/40 Regiment in the Greco-Italian War, leading commander of the royalist army in the Greek Civil War
*Evzone Konstandinos Koukidis

External links

* [http://www.presidency.gr/en/proedr_froura.htm Official Homepage]
* [http://www1.greece.gr/LIFE/PlacesAndFaces/andevzonesmarchedon.stm Article about the Guard from a Greek tourist info site]
* [http://gmakkas.com/intromain.php?sub_id=14 THE EVZONE GUARD: on parade with the presidential guards of Athens.]
* [http://revver.com/video/534988/affiliate/135032/athens-parliament-greece THE EVZONE GUARD Change video]
* [http://karouzos.blogspot.com KAROUZOS VASILIS Major General of Presidential Guard 1990-1995]


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