Who was Grigory M. Popov?
Grigory M. Popov (Russian: Григорий Михайлович Попов) was a Soviet military officer and diplomat, head of the USSR Military Mission in Athens in 1944.
Grigory Popov was born in 1913. He joined the ranks of the Red Army in 1931 and became a member of the Soviet Communist Party in 1937. He graduated from the infantry school in 1934 and in 1939 from the Military Academy “M.V. Frunze” in Moscow. Since May 1939 in diplomatic service with first appointment in China.
Grigory Popov holding the rank of infantry colonel and allegedly leading a Soviet eight-man escort (including Spanish Civil War veteran Colonel Vasily Troyan) departing from a British airfield in Italy, arrived on July 26, 1944, parachuting into so-called “mountain Greece” (presumably near Neraida airfield). One or two days after his arrival, he met with the leading members of the KKE, E.L.A.S. and EAM, where he informed them of the Soviets’ intention not to liberate Greece, a fact officially announced by Stalin a few days later – on 18 August 1944. Nevertheless, he did not avoid being photographed with many members of “the mountains” and even with members of the British military mission, giving more the impression of a Soviet observer. In a report to Moscow, he even described the Greek rebels as an “armed band which does not need Soviet material support”.
At the end of that year, during the Decembrance that followed, he was in Athens on official duties as the diplomatic representative of the Soviet Union to the Greek government (the only Russian authority in Athens at that time), which even then ostentatiously avoided any involvement or any statement. The only contacts he had with political figures at that time and shortly afterwards were with Panagiotis Kanellopoulos.
After his mission in Greece in 1945, he joined the Central Intelligence Directorate of the Soviet Army, the well-known GRU (ГРУ). He later served as a military attaché at the USSR Embassy in Canada. He was fluent in English and Chinese.
He died in Moscow in 1980.
Writing about him, the then BBC Athens correspondent Kenney Matthews writes “The Russians had their man in Athens, a colonel, Popov, the true picture of non-intervention. He sat at the table of the Hotel Great Britain chewing British food unapproachably impassive.”
And Solon Gregoriadis notes “The efforts of the leaders of the left to elicit a suggestion from him have been in vain. The hopes for Soviet intervention were futile to the end. But the tactics they followed were as if this intervention was considered certain…”. But V. Raphaelides, similarly judging the secrecy of Popov’s talks with the leaders of the left, refers to its later folding in the Cairo Political Crisis (1944).
Finally, it is noted that in general Russia’s attitude both in the pre-December period and during the crisis was characterized as “Crooked neutrality!”, and the crisis events that took place in Greece were broadcast by the Moscow radio station, reproducing the BBC broadcasts.