Ohi Day

giorno ochi grecia bandiere
A segment of the video of Sabaton's song "Coat of Arms"
The Ohi Day, which in English can be translated as "No Day", is an episode in Greek and Italian history, today celebrated by the Greeks as a national holiday every October 28. This celebration dates back to when on October 28, 1940 the Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas replied "No" to the ultimatum sent to him by Italy in which Greece was asked to allow Italian troops to occupy some strategic points of the country until the conflict with the United Kingdom: an ultimatum that many historians believe to be a pretext for starting a conflict and invading Greece, to which Italy had aimed its expansionist aims and which it had already teased with various provocative actions. The subsequent conflict turned out to be a real disaster for the Italian Army, and Greece celebrates Ohi Day for this, despite the consequences of the Italian defeat leading to the dramatic Nazi invasion of Greece.
Ma andiamo a vedere nello specifico le ragioni che hanno portato all'ultimatum italiano.
In 1939 the Second World War broke out, in which Italy, which in a few years had fought the War of Ethiopia, the Spanish Civil War and the invasion of Albania, had initially remained neutral as it was not yet equipped to intervene. in the conflict after so many expensive interventions. Despite this Benito Mussolini, faced with the initial successes of Germany, had decided to burn the times, entering the war in June 1940. However, not wanting to flatten his position on the German one, he wanted Italy to fight a war parallel to that Germany, focusing on its ambitions of expansion in the Mediterranean and in the Balkans even beyond the ongoing conflict with France and the United Kingdom. Mussolini, probably made too optimistic by the successes achieved in the previous wars and by the initial German results in the Second World War, began to study military operations in the most disparate theaters of war, such as southern France, Corsica, Tunisia, Yugoslavia and Greece without an effective long-term strategy.
However, the initial aims of a Yugoslav invasion were stopped by Germany, since the Belgrade government had shown sympathy towards the Axis. Against Greece, on the other hand, a series of aggressive and provocative actions had been set up, proving that the path for an intervention was to be considered viable. Cesare Maria De Vecchi, governor of the Italian Dodecanese, accused the Greek government on several occasions of supporting British ships, while Galeazzo Ciano, at the time Foreign Minister, began an anti-Greek propaganda campaign, claiming that Athens abused the Albanian minority (Albania was under Italian control) who lived in the region of Ciamuria, in Epirus. This Italian attitude reached its peak on August 15, when De Vecchi ordered the submarine Delfino to strike the merchant traffic in support of the United Kingdom, including neutral ships. The action led to the sinking of the Greek cruiser Elli, which was located near the island of Tino, home to an important Orthodox sanctuary, representing the government to take part in the feast of the Assumption of Mary. The Italian government blamed the British for the accident, but the tension between Rome and Athens was growing higher.
In October, the Italian government now seemed to want to provisionally put aside any autonomous war action given the approach of winter, so much so that many soldiers were sent on leave. However, the breakthrough came when Germany invaded Romania, with the aim of taking control of the local oil fields. Mussolini did not take well the unilateral and very important action of his ally, and was afraid of being put in the background again. Thus he decided that Italy should wage war against Greece.
The Athens government, however, was by no means hostile to Italy until the start of the 1940 provocations. Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas, while not explicitly calling himself a fascist, led a regime from 1936 that was very similar to that of Mussolini, which he showed to draw inspiration from through, for example, the institution of the Roman salute. Metaxas feared a military confrontation with Bulgaria much more, so much so that he had built a system of fortifications on the border known as the "Metaxas Line", due to the traditional Bulgarian claims on Thrace and Thessaloniki, while maintaining close relations with Italy .
Much more than cordial relations that had begun to crack in 1939 with the Italian occupation of Albania and which, as we saw in 1940, had begun to progressively deteriorate.
mappa piano invasione italiana grecia 1940
The directions of the invasion of Greece in the Italian military plans of 1940
Once the action against Greece was decided, Mussolini summoned the army leaders (without calling into question members of the navy and air force, proof of a confusion and an underlying emotionalism in the war action) and ordered to wage war by the end of October with an action that represented the combination of the invasion plans taken into consideration over the years: Mussolini therefore wanted on the one hand a penetration into Epirus up to the strategic port of Preveza and contextual occupation of the Ionian Islands and, on the other hand, pressure on Thessaloniki starting from the Albanian city of Corizza. At a later time, the troops would have to move to peninsular Greece and Athens.
giorno no fanteria greca
Emblem of the 8th Greek Infantry Division (credit: Tigroinikos/Wikicommons)
As a pretext, Mussolini asked to create an ad hoc border incident that would allow war action to be put in place by the end of October. Thus it was that following some of these incidents, the Italian ambassador in Athens Emanuele Grazzi was sent to Metaxas on October 28 (moreover, the anniversary of the March on Rome) to deliver him an ultimatum, written in all respects in such a way as to be technically inadmissible for Greece. This ultimatum asked to allow Italy to occupy unidentified Greek strategic points that would have allowed it to fight against the United Kingdom, otherwise threatening war actions. To the ambassador's attempts to convince Metaxas to avoid a conflict by meeting the Italian requests, the Prime Minister replied by clarifying that this ultimatum was inadmissible, since in the three hours allowed to accept the requests he would not even have had time to impart the ' order to the troops, in addition to the fact that the strategic places to be occupied were not specified. In the historic conversation between the two, held in French, the diplomatic language of the time, Metaxas said "So it's war". "Not necessarily, Excellency", Grazzi replied, but Metaxas replied "No, it is necessary". The latter no, Ohi in Greek, entered Hellenic history as O Megalo Ohi, the great no.
Metaxas Giorno Ochi
A cartoon taken from Sabaton's "Coat of Arms" video shows Metaxas tearing up the Italian ultimatum
The conflict, which Italy thought it would win easily, quickly turned into a disaster: the country had come from numerous conflicts in recent years, and had organized the Greek campaign very quickly, without even developing particularly complex strategies. Athens, for example, feared above all amphibious attacks on the Peloponnese that Italy did not even consider. But beyond that, it was a conflict that Italy waged against a historically similar and friendly country over the millennia, but as we know the war too often pits friends and brothers against each other without any sense.
Greece managed to repel the attempted Italian penetration into Epirus, launching a counter-offensive which led to the occupation of southern Albania and in 1941 forced Italy to ask for help from Germany. Metaxas died in 1941 of septicemia, shortly before the Germans invaded Greece, then sharing it with Italy and Bulgaria.
After the Second World War, Greece started celebrating October 28 as a national holiday, under the name of Ohi Festival. The echo of the great no pronounced by Metaxas means that today the memory of the former dictator is something controversial and unusual: on the one hand he is remembered as a dictator who has set up a regime with ferocious features, but at the same time his no to the Italian ultimatum, celebrated as a national holiday, is still praised today.

The events of Ohi day and the failed Italian campaign in Greece are also narrated in the song "Coat of Arms" by the Swedish metal group Sabaton.

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