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Greek military junta of 1967–74

Greek military junta of 1967–74

The junta members

The junta members

The Greek military junta of 1967–1974, commonly known as the Regime of the Colonels (Greek: καθεστώς των Συνταγματαρχών, kathestós ton Syntagmatarchón [kaθesˈtos ton sinˈdaɣ.matarˈxon]), or in Greece simply The Junta (/ˈdʒʊntə/ or /ˈhʊntə/; Greek: Χούντα, romanized: Choúnta [ˈxunda]), The Dictatorship (Η Δικτατορία, I Diktatoría, [ˈi ðiktatorˈi.a]) and The Seven Years (Η Επταετία, I Eptaetía, [ˈi epta.etˈi.a]), was a series of far-right military juntas that ruled Greece following the 1967 Greek coup d'état led by a group of colonels on 21 April 1967. The dictatorship ended on 24 July 1974 under the pressure of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The fall of the junta was followed by the Metapolitefsi ("regime change"), and the establishment of the current Third Hellenic Republic.

Kingdom of Greece(1967–73)
Βασίλειον τῆς Ἑλλάδος
Hellenic Republic(1973–74)
Ἑλληνικὴ Δημοκρατία

Flag of Greece
Flag (1970–1974)
Coat of Arms (1973–1974) of Greece
Coat of Arms (1973–1974)
**Anthem:**Hymn to Liberty
Location of Greece
Common languagesGreek
Greek Orthodoxy
GovernmentMilitary junta, de jure monarchy (1967–73), republic (1973–74)
• King

Constantine II
• Regent

Georgios Zoitakis
• 1972–73
Georgios Papadopoulos
• 1973
Georgios Papadopoulos
• 1973–74
Phaedon Gizikis
Prime Minister
• 1967
Konstantinos Kollias
• 1967–73
Georgios Papadopoulos
• 1973
Spyros Markezinis
• 1973–74
Adamantios Androutsopoulos
Historical eraCold War
• Coup d'état
21 April 1967
• Constantine II exiled
13 December 1967
• Constitutional referendum
15 November 1968
• Republic declared
1 June 1973
• Republic referendum
29 June 1973
• Metapolitefsi
24 July 1974
CurrencyGreek drachma
ISO 3166 codeGR
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Greece
Third Hellenic Republic


The 1967 coup and the following seven years of military rule were the culmination of 30 years of national division between the forces of the Left and the Right, that can be traced to the time of the resistance against Axis occupation of Greece during World War II. After the liberation in 1944, Greece descended into a civil war, fought between the communist forces and the now-returned government-in-exile.

American influence in Greece

The Phoenix rising from its flames and the silhouette of the soldier bearing a rifle with fixed bayonet was the emblem of the Junta. On the header the word Greece (Ελλας) and on the footer 21 April 1967, the date of the coup d'état, can be seen in Greek.

The Phoenix rising from its flames and the silhouette of the soldier bearing a rifle with fixed bayonet was the emblem of the Junta. On the header the word Greece (Ελλας) and on the footer 21 April 1967, the date of the coup d'état, can be seen in Greek.

In 1944 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill determined to halt the Soviet encroachment in the Balkans, and ordered British forces to intervene in the Greek Civil War in the wake of the retreating German military. This was to be a lengthy and open ended commitment. The United States stepped in to help.

In 1947, the United States formulated the Truman Doctrine, and began actively supporting a series of authoritarian governments in Greece, Turkey, and Iran in order to ensure that these states did not fall under Soviet influence.[1] With American and British aid, the civil war ended with the military defeat of the communists in 1949. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and its ancillary organizations were outlawed (Law 509/1947), and many Communists either fled the country or faced persecution. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Greek military began to work together closely, especially after Greece joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952. This included notable CIA officers Gust Avrakotos and Clair George. Avrakotos maintained a close relationship with the colonels who would figure in the later coup.[2]

Greece was a vital link in the NATO defense arc which extended from the eastern border of Iran to the northernmost point in Norway. Greece in particular was seen as being at risk, having experienced a communist insurgency. In particular, the newly founded Hellenic National Intelligence Service (EYP) and the Mountain Raiding Companies (LOK) maintained a very close liaison with their American counterparts. In addition to preparing for a Soviet invasion, they agreed to guard against a left-wing coup. The LOK in particular were integrated into the European stay-behind network.[3] Although there have been persistent rumors about an active support of the coup by the U.S. government, there is no evidence to support such claims.[4][5] The timing of the coup apparently caught the CIA by surprise.[6] Nevertheless, the United States did support the military dictatorship.[7]

Apostasia and political instability

After many years of conservative rule, the election of the Centre Union's Georgios Papandreou as Prime Minister was a sign of change. In a bid to gain more control over the country's government than his limited constitutional powers allowed, the young and inexperienced King Constantine II clashed with liberal reformers, dismissing Papandreou in 1965 and causing a constitutional crisis known as the "Apostasia of 1965".

After making several attempts to form governments, relying on dissident Centre Union and conservative MPs, Constantine II appointed an interim government under Ioannis Paraskevopoulos, and new elections were called for 28 May 1967. There were many indications that Papandreou's Centre Union would emerge as the largest party, but would not be able to form a single-party government and would be forced into an alliance with the United Democratic Left, which was suspected by conservatives of being a proxy for the banned KKE. This possibility was used as a pretext for the coup.

A "Generals' Coup"

Greek historiography and journalists have hypothesized about a "Generals' Coup",[8] a coup that would have been deployed at Constantine's behest under the pretext of combating communist subversion.[9][10]

Before the elections that were scheduled for 28 May 1967, with expectations of a wide Center Union victory, a number of conservative National Radical Union politicians feared that the policies of left-wing Centrists, including Andreas Papandreou (the son of Georgios Papandreou), would lead to a constitutional crisis. One such politician, George Rallis, proposed that, in case of such an "anomaly", the King should declare martial law as the monarchist constitution permitted him. According to Rallis, Constantine was receptive to the idea.[11]

According to U.S. diplomat John Day, Washington also worried that Andreas Papandreou would have a very powerful role in the next government, because of his father's old age. According to Robert Keely and John Owens, American diplomats present in Athens at the time, Constantine asked U.S. Ambassador William Phillips Talbot what the American attitude would be to an extra-parliamentary solution to the problem. To this the embassy responded negatively in principle – adding, however, that, "U.S. reaction to such a move cannot be determined in advance but would depend on circumstances at the time." Constantine denies this.[12] According to Talbot, Constantine met the army generals, who promised him that they would not take any action before the coming elections. However, the proclamations of Andreas Papandreou made them nervous, and they resolved to re-examine their decision after seeing the results of the elections.[12]

In 1966, Constantine sent his envoy, Demetrios Bitsios, to Paris on a mission to persuade former prime minister Constantine Karamanlis to return to Greece and resume his prior role in politics. According to uncorroborated claims made by the former monarch, Karamanlis replied to Bitsios that he would return only if the King imposed martial law, as was his constitutional prerogative.[13] According to New York Times correspondent Cyrus L. Sulzberger, Karamanlis flew to New York City to meet with USAF General Lauris Norstad to lobby for a conservative coup that would establish himself as Greece's leader; Sulzberger alleges that Norstad declined to involve himself in such affairs.[14] Sulzberger's account rests solely on the authority of his and Norstad's word. When, in 1997, the former King reiterated Sulzberger's allegations, Karamanlis stated that he "will not deal with the former king's statements because both their content and attitude are unworthy of comment".[15]

The deposed King's adoption of Sulzberger's claims against Karamanlis was castigated by Greece's left-leaning media, which denounced Karamanlis as "shameless" and "brazen".[15] At the time Constantine referred exclusively to Sulzberger's account to support the theory of a planned coup by Karamanlis, and made no mention of the alleged 1966 meeting with Bitsios, which he referred to only after both participants had died and could not respond.

As it turned out, the constitutional crisis did not originate either from the political parties, or from the Palace, but from middle-rank army putschists.

Coup d'état of 21 April

On 21 April 1967, just weeks before the scheduled elections, a group of right-wing army officers led by Brigadier General Stylianos Pattakos and Colonels George Papadopoulos and Nikolaos Makarezos seized power in a coup d'etat.[16] The colonels were able to seize power quickly by using elements of surprise and confusion. Pattakos was the commander of the Armour Training Centre (Greek: Κέντρο Εκπαίδευσης Τεθωρακισμένων, ΚΕΤΘ), based in Athens.

The coup leaders placed tanks in strategic positions in Athens, effectively gaining complete control of the city. At the same time, a large number of small mobile units were dispatched to arrest leading politicians, authority figures, and ordinary citizens suspected of left-wing sympathies, according to lists prepared in advance. One of the first to be arrested was Lieutenant General Grigorios Spandidakis, Commander-in-Chief of the Greek Army. The colonels persuaded Spandidakis to join them, having him activate a previously-drafted action plan to move the coup forward. Under the command of paratrooper Lieutenant Colonel Kostas Aslanides, the LOK took over the Greek Defence Ministry while Pattakos gained control of communication centers, the parliament, the royal palace, and – according to detailed lists – arrested over 10,000 people.[17]

By the early morning hours, the whole of Greece was in the hands of the colonels. All leading politicians, including acting Prime Minister Panagiotis Kanellopoulos, had been arrested and were held incommunicado by the conspirators. At 6:00 a.m. EET, Papadopoulos announced that eleven articles of the Greek constitution were suspended.[17] One of the consequences of these suspensions was that anyone could be arrested without warrant at any time and brought before a military court to be tried. Ioannis Ladas, then the director of ESA, recounted in a later interview that, "Within twenty minutes every politician, every man, every anarchist who was listed could be rounded up ... It was a simple, diabolical plan".[17]

Georgios Papandreou was arrested after a nighttime raid at his villa in Kastri, Attica. Andreas was arrested at around the same time, after seven soldiers armed with fixed bayonets and a machine gun forcibly entered his home. Andreas Papandreou escaped to the roof of his house, but surrendered after one of the soldiers held a gun to the head of his then-fourteen-year-old son George Papandreou. There has been unconfirmed speculation that [17] Gust Avrakotos, a high-ranking CIA officer in Greece who was close with the colonels, advised them to "shoot the motherfucker because he's going to come back to haunt you".[2]

U.S. critics of the coup included then-Senator Lee Metcalf, who criticised the Johnson Administration for providing aid to a "military regime of collaborators and Nazi sympathisers". Phillips Talbot, the U.S. ambassador in Athens, disapproved of the coup, complaining that it represented "a rape of democracy", to which John M. Maury, the CIA station chief in Athens, answered, "How can you rape a whore?"[17] Papadopoulos' junta attempted to re-engineer the Greek political landscape by coup. Papadopoulos as well as the other junta members are known in Greece by the term "Aprilianoi" (Aprilians), denoting the month of the coup.[18][19][20][21][22] The term "Aprilianoi" has become synonymous with the term "dictators of 1974".[23]

Role of the King

When the tanks came to the streets of Athens on 21 April, the legitimate National Radical Union government, of which Rallis was a member, asked King Constantine to immediately mobilise the state against the coup; he declined to do so, and swore in the dictators as the legitimate government of Greece.

The King, who had relented and decided to co-operate, claims to this day that he was isolated and did not know what else to do. He has since claimed that he was trying to gain time to organise a counter-coup and oust the Junta. He did organise such a counter-coup; however, the fact that the new government had a legal sanction, in that it had been appointed by the legitimate head of state, played an important role in the coup's success. The King was later to regret his decision bitterly. For many Greeks, it served to identify him indelibly with the coup and certainly played an important role in the final decision to abolish the monarchy, sanctioned by the 1974 referendum.

The only concession the King could achieve was to appoint a civilian as prime minister, rather than Spandidakis. Konstantinos Kollias, a former Attorney General of the Areios Pagos (supreme court), was chosen. He was a well-known royalist and had even been disciplined under the Papandreou government for meddling in the investigation of the murder of MP Gregoris Lambrakis. Kollias was little more than a figurehead and real power rested with the army, and especially Papadopoulos, who emerged as the coup's strong man and became Minister to the Presidency of the Government. Other coup members occupied key posts.

Up until then constitutional legitimacy had been preserved, since under the Greek Constitution the King could appoint whomever he wanted as prime minister, as long as Parliament endorsed the appointment with a vote of confidence or a general election was called. It was this government, sworn-in during the early evening hours of 21 April, that formalised the coup. It adopted a "Constituent Act", an amendment tantamount to a revolution, cancelling the elections and effectively abolishing the constitution, which would be replaced later.

In the meantime, the government was to rule by decree. Since traditionally such Constituent Acts did not need to be signed by the Crown, the King never signed it, permitting him to claim, years later, that he had never signed any document instituting the junta. Critics claim that Constantine II did nothing to prevent the government (and especially his chosen prime minister, Kollias) from legally instituting the authoritarian government to come. This same government published and enforced a decree, already proclaimed on radio as the coup was in progress, instituting military law. Constantine claimed he never signed that decree either.

King's counter-coup

From the outset, the relationship between Constantine and the colonels was an uneasy one. The colonels were not willing to share power, whereas the young king, like his father before him, was used to playing an active role in politics and would never consent to being a mere figurehead, especially in a military administration. Although the colonels' strong anti-communist, pro-NATO, and pro-Western views appealed to the United States, President Lyndon B. Johnson – in an attempt to avoid an international backlash – told Constantine that it would be best to replace the junta with a new government according to Paul Ioannidis in his book Destiny Prevails: My life with Aristóteles Onassis. Constantine took that as an encouragement to organize a counter-coup, although no direct help or involvement of the U.S. (or Britain)[24] was forthcoming.

The King finally decided to launch his counter-coup on 13 December 1967. Since Athens was militarily in the hands of the colonels, Constantine decided to fly to the small northern city of Kavala, where he hoped to be among troops loyal only to him. The vague plan that Constantine and his advisors had conceived was to form a unit that would invade and take control over Thessaloniki, where an alternative administration would be installed. Constantine hoped that international recognition and internal pressure between the two governments would force the junta to resign, leaving the field clear for him to return triumphant to Athens.

In the early morning hours of 13 December, the King boarded the royal plane, together with Queen Anne-Marie, their two baby children Princess Alexia and Crown Prince Pavlos, his mother Frederika, and his sister, Princess Irene. Constantine also took with him Prime Minister Kollias. At first, things seemed to be going according to plan. Constantine was well received in Kavala, which was under the command of a general loyal to him. The Hellenic Air Force and Navy, both strongly royalist and not involved in the junta, immediately declared for him and mobilised. Another of Constantine's generals effectively cut all communication between Athens and northern Greece.

However, Constantine's plans were overly bureaucratic, naïvely supposing that orders from a commanding general would automatically be obeyed.

In the circumstances, middle-ranking pro-junta officers neutralised and arrested Constantine's royalist generals and took command of their units, and subsequently put together a force to advance on Kavala to arrest the King. The junta, not at all shaken by the loss of their figurehead premier, ridiculed Constantine by announcing that he was hiding "from village to village". Realising that the counter-coup had failed, Constantine fled Greece on board the royal plane, taking his family and the helpless Kollias with him. They landed in Rome early in the morning of 14 December. Constantine remained in exile all through the rest of military rule. Even though he would return to Greece, the country's abolition of the monarchy in 1973 stripped him of his status as King.


The flight of Constantine and Kollias left Greece with no legal government or head of state. This did not concern the military junta. Instead the Revolutionary Council, composed of Pattakos, Papadopoulos, and Makarezos, appointed another member to the military administration, Major General Georgios Zoitakis, as Regent. Zoitakis then appointed Papadopoulos as prime minister. This became the only government of Greece following the failure of the King's attempted counter-coup, as Constantine was unwilling to set up an alternative administration in exile.

In hopes of giving legal sanction to the regime, the junta drafted a new constitution. It made the military the guardians of "social and political order," with wide autonomy from governmental and parliamentary oversight. It also heavily circumscribed the activities of political parties. The new constitution was approved in a 15 November referendum, with over 92 percent approval. However, the referendum was conducted in less-than-free circumstances; the regime deployed extensive propaganda in favour of the new document while muzzling any opposition. Under the new constitution, the regency would continue until elections were held, unless the junta called Constantine back sooner (though Constantine never acknowledged, let alone recognised, the regency). However, the junta announced that the "Revolution of April 21" (as the regime called itself) would need time to reform the "Greek mentality" before holding elections. It also suspended most of the constitution's guarantees of civil rights until the restoration of civilian rule.

In a legally controversial move, even under the junta's own Constitution, the Cabinet voted on 21 March 1972 to oust Zoitakis and replace him with Papadopoulos, thus combining the offices of Regent and Prime Minister. It was thought Zoitakis was problematic and interfered too much with the military. The King's portrait remained on coins, in public buildings, etc., but slowly, the military chipped away at the institution of the monarchy: the royal family's tax immunity was abolished, the complex network of royal charities was brought under direct state control, the royal arms were removed from coins, the Navy and Air Force dropped their "Royal" names, and newspapers were prohibited from publishing the King's photo or any interviews.

During this period, resistance against the colonels' rule became better organized among exiles in Europe and the United States. There was also considerable political infighting within the junta. Still, up until 1973, the junta appeared in firm control of Greece, and not likely to be ousted by violent means.

Characteristics of the Junta


National flag adopted by the colonels (1970–1974). It featured a darker shade of blue.

National flag adopted by the colonels (1970–1974). It featured a darker shade of blue.

The colonels preferred to call the coup a "revolution to save the nation" ("Ethnosotirios Epanastasis"). Their official justification was that a "communist conspiracy" had infiltrated Greece's bureaucracy, academia, press, and military, to such an extent that drastic action was needed to protect the country from communist takeover. Thus, the defining characteristic of the Junta was its staunch anti-communism. They used the term anarcho-communist (αναρχοκομμουνισταί anarchokommounistai) to describe leftists in general. In a similar vein, the junta attempted to steer Greek public opinion not only by propaganda but also by inventing new words and slogans, such as old-partyism (palaiokommatismos) to discredit parliamentary democracy, or Greece for Christian Greeks (Ellas Ellinon Christianon) to underscore its ideology. The junta's main ideological spokesmen included Georgios Georgalas and journalist Savvas Konstantopoulos, both former Marxists.

"Patient in a cast" and other metaphors

Throughout his tenure as the junta strongman, Papadopoulos often employed what have been described by the BBC as gory medical metaphors,[25] where he or the junta assumed the role of the "medical doctor".[26][27][28][29][30][31] The supposed "patient" was Greece. Typically Papadopoulos or the junta portrayed themselves as the "doctor" who operated on the "patient" by putting the patient's "foot" in an orthopedic cast and applying restraints on the "patient", tying him on a surgical bed and putting him under anesthesia to perform the "operation" so that the life of the "patient" would not be "endangered" during the operation. In one of his famous speeches Papadopoulos mentioned:[30][32][33]

ευρισκόμεθα προ ενός ασθενούς, τον οποίον έχομεν επί χειρουργικής κλίνης, και τον οποίον εάν ο χειρουργός δεν προσδέση κατά την διάρκειαν της εγχειρήσεως και της ναρκώσεως επί της χειρουργικής κλίνης, υπαρχει πιθανότης αντί δια της εγχειρήσεως να του χαρίσει την αποκατάστασιν της υγείας, να τον οδηγήσει εις θάνατον. ... Οι περιορισμοί είναι η πρόσδεσις του ασθενούς επί κλίνης δια να υποστή ακινδύνως την εγχείρισιν

Translating as:

We are in front of a patient who we have on a surgical bed, and who, should the surgeon not strap on the surgical bed during the operation and the anesthesia, there is a probability, rather than the surgery granting him the restoration of the health, to lead him to his death. ... The restrictions are the strapping of the patient to the surgical bed so that he will undergo the surgery without danger.

In the same speech Papadopoulos continued:[30][32]

Ασθενή έχομεν. Εις τον γύψον τον εβάλαμεν. Τον δοκιμάζομεν εάν ημπορεί να περπατάει χωρίς τον γύψον. Σπάζομεν τον αρχικόν γύψον και ξαναβάζομεν ενδεχομένως τον καινούργιο εκεί όπου χρειάζεται Το Δημοψήφισμα θα είναι μία γενική θεώρησις των ικανοτήτων του ασθενούς. Ας προσευχηθώμεν να μη χρειάζεται ξανά γύψον. Εάν χρειάζεται, θα του τον βάλομεν. Και το μόνον που ημπορώ να σας υποσχεθώ, είναι να σας καλέσω να ειδήτε και σεις το πόδι χωρίς γύψον!

which translates as follows:

We have a patient. We have put him in a plaster cast. We are checking him to find out if he can walk without the plaster cast. We break the initial cast, potentially to replace it with a new one, where necessary. The referendum shall become a general overview of the patient's capabilities. Let us pray for him never to need a cast again; and should he need one, we will put it to him. And the one thing I can promise you, is to invite you to witness the foot without a cast!

Other metaphors contained religious imagery related to the resurrection of Christ at Easter: "Χριστός Ανέστη – Ελλάς Ανέστη" ("Christ has risen – Greece has risen"), alluding that the junta would save Greece and resurrect her into a greater, new Land.[32] The theme of rebirth was used many times as a standard reply to avoid answering any questions as to how long the dictatorship would last:[32]

Διότι αυτό το τελευταίον είναι υπόθεσις άλλων. Είναι υποθέσεις εκείνων, οι οποίοι έθεσαν την θρυαλλίδα εις την δυναμίτιδα δια την έκρηξιν προς αναγέννησιν της Πολιτείας την νύκτα της 21 Απριλίου.

Translating as:

Because the latter is someone else's concern. They are the concerns of those, who lit the fuse of the dynamite for the explosion which led to the rebirth of the State the night of 21 April 1967.

The religious themes and rebirth metaphors are also seen in the following:[32]

Αι υποχρεώσεις μας περιγράφονται και από την θρησκείαν και από την ιστορίαν μας. Ομόνοιαν και αγάπην διδάσκει ο Χριστός. Πίστιν εις την Πατρίδα επιτάσσει η Ιστορία μας. ... η Ελλάς αναγεννάται, η Ελλάς θα μεγαλουργήσει, η Ελλάς πάντα θα ζει.

translated as:

Our obligations are described by both our religion and our history. Christ teaches concord and love. Our history demands faith in the Fatherland. ... Hellas is being reborn, Hellas will accomplish great things, Hellas will live forever.

Civil rights

Gyaros, a prison island for the dissidents

Gyaros, a prison island for the dissidents

The cell of officer Spyros Moustaklis in EAT-ESA building. Moustaklis during a torture session he suffered brain trauma and was left paralyzed

The cell of officer Spyros Moustaklis in EAT-ESA building. Moustaklis during a torture session he suffered brain trauma and was left paralyzed

As soon as the coup d'état was announced over Greek radio, martial music was continuously broadcast over the airwaves.[34][35][36] This was interrupted from time to time with announcements of the junta issuing orders, which always started with the introduction, "We decide and we order" (Greek: Αποφασίζομεν και διατάσσομεν).[37] Long-standing political freedoms and civil liberties, that had been taken for granted and enjoyed by the Greek people for decades, were instantly suppressed. Article 14 of the Greek Constitution, which protected freedom of thought and freedom of the press, was immediately suspended.[38][39] Military courts were established, and political parties were dissolved. Legislation that took decades to fine tune and multiple parliaments to enact was thus erased in a matter of days. The rapid dismantling of Greek democracy had begun.

In fact, the junta crackdown was so fast that by September 1967, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands went before the European Commission of Human Rights to accuse Greece of violating most of the human rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.[40] Following the coup, 6,188 suspected communists and political opponents were imprisoned or exiled to remote Greek islands within the first week after the coup.[41]

Under the junta, torture became a deliberate practice carried out both by the Security Police and the Greek Military Police (ESA),[42][43] with an estimated 3,500 people detained in torture centres run by ESA.[40][41] Commonly used methods of torture included, but were not limited to, beating the soles of detainees' feet, sexual torture, choking and ripping out body hair. The Special Interrogation Unit of the Greek Military Police (EAT/ESA) used a combination of techniques that included continuous standing in an empty room, sleep and food deprivation, beatings and loud sounds.[44]

According to recent research based on new interviews with survivors, in the period from May to November 1973 this combination of interrogation techniques also included the repetition of songs that were popular hits of the time.[45] These were played loudly and repeatedly from loudspeakers. These methods attacked the senses without leaving any visible traces and have been classified since as torture by international organisations.[46]

According to a human rights report by Amnesty International, in the first month of the 21 April coup an estimated 8,000 people were arrested.[40][41] James Becket,[47] an American attorney and author of Barbarism in Greece,[48][49] was sent to Greece by Amnesty International and wrote in December 1969 that "a conservative estimate would place at not less than two thousand" the number of people tortured.[40][50]

The citizens' right of assembly was revoked and no political demonstrations were allowed. Surveillance on citizens was a fact of life, even during permitted social activities.[51] That had a continuously chilling effect on the population who realised that, even though they were allowed certain social activities, they could not overstep the boundaries and delve into or discuss forbidden subjects. This realisation, including the absence of any civil rights as well as maltreatment during police arrest, ranging from threats to beatings or worse, made life under the junta a difficult proposition for many ordinary citizens. Photography by ordinary citizens was banned in public locations.

The junta allowed citizens to participate in ordinary societal events that reflected those of the United States and United Kingdom, such as rock concerts for example. However, citizens lived in extreme fear, as any behavior that the junta disapproved of, coupled with the complete absence of any civil rights or freedoms, could easily result in torture, beatings, exile, imprisonment or worse, and the labeling of the victim as αναρχοκομμουνισταί, "anarchocommunists", or worse. The absence of a valid code of jurisprudence led to the unequal application of the law among the citizens and to rampant favouritism and nepotism. Absence of elected representation meant that the citizens' stark and only choice was to submit to these arbitrary measures exactly as dictated by the junta. The country had become a true police state.[52] thousands were jailed for political reasons by the dictatorship and thousands were forced into exile.[53] More than 10,000 were estimated to have been arrested in the first few days after the coup.[54]

Complete lack of press freedom coupled with nonexistent civil rights meant that continuous cases of civil rights abuses could neither be reported nor investigated by an independent press or any other reputable authority. This led to a psychology of fear among the citizens during the Papadopoulos dictatorship, which became worse under Ioannidis.

External relations

The military government was given support by the United States as a Cold War ally, due to its proximity to the Eastern European Soviet bloc, and the fact that the previous Truman administration had given the country millions of dollars in economic aid to discourage Communism. U.S. support for the junta, which was staunchly anti-Communist, is claimed to be the cause of rising anti-Americanism in Greece during and following the junta's undemocratic rule.[55]

There was a mixed response to the junta from Western Europe. The Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands filed a complaint before the Human Rights Commission of the Council of Europe in September 1967. The Commission on Human Rights took the exceptional step of constituting a Sub-Commission to investigate the accusations of gross human rights abuses. The sub-commission reported its extensive on-site investigation and unearthed significant evidence torture and human rights violations. [56] Greece however opted to leave the Council of Europe in December 1969 before a full verdict of the Commission could be handed down.

Countries such as the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany on the other hand were voicing criticism about Greece's human rights record but supported the country's continued membership in the Council of Europe and NATO because of the country's strategic value for the western alliance.[57][58]

Sociocultural policies

To gain support for his rule, Papadopoulos projected an image that appealed to some key segments of Greek society. The son of a poor but educated rural family, he was educated at the prestigious Hellenic Military Academy. Papadopoulos allowed substantial social and cultural freedoms to all social classes, but political oppression and censorship were at times heavy-handed, especially in areas deemed sensitive by the junta, such as political activities, and politically related art, literature, film and music. Kostas Gavras's film Z and Mikis Theodorakis's music, among others, were never allowed even during the most relaxed times of the dictatorship, and an index of prohibited songs, literature and art was kept.

Western music and film

Remarkably, after some initial hesitation and as long as they were not deemed to be politically damaging to the junta, junta censors allowed wide access to Western music and films. Even the then-racy West German film Helga (German: Helga. Vom Werden des menschlichen Lebens, Greek: Helga, η ιστορία μίας γυναίκας), a 1967 sex education documentary featuring a live birth scene, had no trouble making its debut in Greece just like in any other Western country.[59] Moreover, the film was only restricted for those under 13 years of age. In 1971 Robert Hartford-Davis was allowed by the junta to film the classic horror film Incense for the Damned, starring Peter Cushing and Patrick Macnee and suitably featuring Chryseis (Χρυσηίς), a beguiling Greek siren with vampire tendencies, on the Greek island of Hydra.[60][61][62] In 1970 the film Woodstock was shown all over Greece, with reports of arrests and disturbances especially in Athens as many youths flocked to see the film and filled theatres to capacity, while many others were left outside.[63][64] Films such as Marijuana Stop! dealt with the hippie culture and its perception in Greek society as drug-using.[65][66]

Meanwhile, at Matala, Crete, a hippie colony which had been living in the caves since the 1960s, was never disturbed. Singer songwriter Joni Mitchell was inspired to write the song "Carey" after staying in the Matala caves with the hippie community in 1971. Hippie colonies also existed in other popular tourist spots such as "Paradise Beach" in Mykonos.[67]

Greek rock

In the early days of the dictatorship, Western music broadcasts were limited from the airwaves in favour of martial music, but this was eventually relaxed. In addition, pop/rock music programmes such as the one hosted by famous Greek music/radio/television personality and promoter Nico Mastorakis were very popular throughout the dictatorship years both on radio and television.[68] Most Western record sales were similarly not restricted. In fact, even rock concerts and tours were allowed such as by the then popular rock groups Socrates Drank the Conium and Nostradamos.[69][70][71][72]

Another pop group, Poll, was a pioneer of Greek pop music in the early 1970s.[73] Its lead singer and composer was Robert Williams, who was later joined, in 1971, by Kostas Tournas.[74] Poll enjoyed a number of nationwide hits, such as "Anthrope Agapa (Mankind Love One Another)", an anti-war song, composed by Tournas and "Ela Ilie Mou (Come, My Sun)",[75] composed by Tournas, Williams),[76][77] Tournas later pursued a solo career and in 1972 produced the progressive psychedelic hit solo album Aperanta Chorafia (Greek: Απέραντα Χωράφια, Infinite Fields).[78] He wrote and arranged the album using an orchestra and a rock group ("Ruth") combination, producing a rock opera which is considered a landmark og Greek rock.[79][80][81] In 1973 Kostas Tournas created the album Astroneira (Stardreams), influenced by David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust.[82][83]

Songwriter Dionysis Savvopoulos, who was initially imprisoned by the regime, nevertheless rose to great popularity and produced a number of influential and highly politically allegorical, especially against the junta, albums during the period, including To Perivoli tou Trellou (Greek: Το Περιβόλι του Τρελλού, The Madman's Orchard), Ballos (Greek: Μπάλλος, Name of Greek folk dance) and Vromiko Psomi (Greek: Βρώμικο Ψωμί, Dirty Bread).[64]


Concurrently, tourism was actively encouraged by Papadopoulos' government and, funding scandals notwithstanding, there was great development of the tourist sector. With tourism came nightlife. However, under Papadopoulos, in the absence of any civil rights these sociocultural freedoms existed in a legal vacuum that meant they were not guaranteed, but rather dispensed at the whim of the junta. In addition any transgressing into political matters during social or cultural activities usually meant arrest and punishment. Tourism was furthered by the 1969 European Championships in Athletics in Athens which showed political normality. Even the boycott of the West German team was not directed against the junta, but against its own team leadership.[84] Although discos and nightclubs were, initially, subjected to a curfew, partially due to an energy crisis, this was eventually extended from 1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. as the energy crisis eased.[67] These freedoms were later reversed by Dimitrios Ioannidis after his coup.


The farmers were Papadopoulos' natural constituency and were more likely to support him, seeing him, because of his rural roots, as one of their own. He cultivated this relationship by appealing to them, calling them "the backbone of the people" (Greek: η ραχοκοκαλιά του λαού) and cancelling all agricultural loans.[85][86] By further insisting on promoting, but not really enforcing for fear of middle-class backlash, religion and patriotism, he further appealed to the simpler ideals of rural Greece and strengthened his image as people's champion among farmers, who tended to ridicule the middle class. Furthermore, the regime promoted a policy of economic development in rural areas, which were mostly neglected by the previous governments, that had focused largely on urban industrial development.

Urban classes

Papadopoulos was less likely to appeal to the largely civilian and city-oriented middle class, since he was a military man from a rural background. In addition, he had promised from the beginning that the dictatorship would not be permanent, and that when political order was established democratic rule would return.[87] On top of that, his promotion of tourism and other beneficial economic measures and the fact that, with the notable exceptions of political freedoms and press censorship, he did not otherwise substantially restrict the middle class, had the effect of assisting the junta in establishing its control over the country by gaining, at least initially, the reluctant acquiescence of some key segments of the population.

Economic policies

The 1967–1973 period was marked by high rates of economic growth coupled with low inflation and low unemployment. Economic growth was driven by investment in the tourism industry, loose emigration policies, public spending, and pro-business incentives that fostered both domestic and foreign capital spending. Several international companies invested in Greece at the time, including The Coca-Cola Company. Economic growth started losing steam by 1972.[87]

In addition, large scale construction of hydroelectric dam projects, such as in Aliakmon, Kastrakion, Polyphytos, the expansion of thermoelectric generation units and other significant infrastructure development, took place. The junta used to proudly announce these projects with the slogan: "Greece is a construction zone" (Η Ελλάς είναι ένα εργοτάξιον). The always smiling Stylianos Pattakos, also known as the "first trowel of Greece" (Το πρώτο μυστρί της Ελλάδας), since he frequently appeared at project inaugurations with a trowel in hand, starred in many of the Epikaira propaganda documentaries that were screened before feature film presentation in Greek cinemas.[88]

Financial scandals

Cases of non-transparent public deals and corruption allegedly occurred at the time, given the lack of democratic checks and balances and the absence of a free press. One such event is associated with the regime's tourism minister, Ioannis Ladas (Greek: Ιωάννης Λαδάς). During his administration, several low-interest loans, amortized over a twenty-year period, were issued for tourist development. This fostered the erection of a multitude of hotels, sometimes in non-tourist areas, and with no underlying business rationale. Several such hotels were abandoned unfinished as soon as the loans were secured, and their remains still dot the Greek countryside. These questionable loans are referred to as Thalassodaneia (Greek: θαλασσοδάνεια), or "loans of the sea", to indicate the loose terms under which they were granted.[89]

Another contested policy of the regime was the writing-off of agricultural loans, up to a value of 100,000 drachmas, to farmers. This has been attributed to an attempt by Papadopoulos to gain public support for his regime.

Italian connection

At the time, the Italian far right was very impressed with the methods of Papadopoulos and his junta. In April 1968 Papadopoulos invited fifty Italian members of the far right including Stefano Delle Chiaie on a Greek tour with the purpose of demonstrating to the Italians the methods of the junta.[17] Other invitees included members of Ordine Nuovo, Avanguardia Nazionale, Europa Civiltà and FUAN-La Caravella.[90] (cf Frattini, Entity, 2004, p. 304) The Italians were sufficiently impressed that upon return to their country, the operatives of the Italian far right escalated the political violence in their country to a new level embarking on a terror campaign of bombings and other violence which killed and injured hundreds.[17] Afterwards, the right-wing instigators of this violence blamed the communists.[17]

After their visit to Greece, the Italian neo-fascists also engaged in false flag operations and embarked on a campaign of infiltration of leftist, anarchist and Marxist–Leninist organisations.[90] One of the neo-fascists conducted frequent provocations and infiltrations in the months leading to the Piazza Fontana bombing on 12 December 1969.[90] The Greek junta was so impressed with the manner their Italian counterparts were paving the way toward an Italian coup d'état that on 15 May 1969 Papadopoulos sent them a congratulatory message stating that "His Excellency the Prime Minister notes that the efforts that have been undertaken by the Greek National government in Italy for some time start to have some impact".[17]

Anti-Junta movement

Alexandros Panagoulis on trial in front of the junta justice system.

Alexandros Panagoulis on trial in front of the junta justice system.

The democratic elements of the Greek society were opposed to the junta from the start. In 1968 many militant groups promoting democratic rule were formed, both in exile and in Greece. These included, among others, Panhellenic Liberation Movement, Democratic Defense, the Socialist Democratic Union, as well as groups from the entire left wing of the Greek political spectrum, including the Communist Party of Greece which had been outlawed even before the junta. The first armed action against the junta was the failed assassination attempt against George Papadopoulos by Alexandros Panagoulis, on 13 August 1968.

Assassination attempt by Panagoulis

The assassination attempt took place on the morning of 13 August, when Papadopoulos went from his summer residence in Lagonisi to Athens, escorted by his personal security motorcycles and cars. Alexandros Panagoulis ignited a bomb at a point of the coastal road where the limousine carrying Papadopoulos would have to slow down, but the bomb failed to harm Papadopoulos. Panagoulis was captured a few hours later in a nearby sea cave, as the boat that would let him escape the scene of the attack had not shown up.

Panagoulis was transferred to the Greek Military Police (EAT-ESA) offices, where he was questioned, beaten and tortured (see the proceedings of Theofiloyiannakos's trial). On 17 November 1968 he was sentenced to death, and remained in prison for five years. After the restoration of democracy, Panagoulis was elected a Member of Parliament. Panagoulis is regarded as an emblematic figure for the struggle to restore democracy.

Broadening of the movement

The funeral of George Papandreou, Sr. on 3 November 1968 spontaneously turned into a massive demonstration against the junta. Thousands of Athenians disobeyed the military's orders and followed the casket to the cemetery. The government reacted by arresting 41 people.

On 28 March 1969, after two years of widespread censorship, political detentions and torture, Giorgos Seferis, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963, took a stand against the junta. He made a statement on the BBC World Service,[91] with copies simultaneously distributed to every newspaper in Athens. Attacking the colonels, he passionately demanded that "This anomaly must end". Seferis did not live to see the end of the junta. His funeral, though, on 20 September 1972, turned into a massive demonstration against the military government.

Also in 1969, Costa-Gavras released the film Z, based on a book by celebrated left-wing writer Vassilis Vassilikos. The film, banned in Greece, presented a lightly fictionalized account of the events surrounding the assassination of United Democratic Left MP Gregoris Lambrakis in 1963. The film captured the sense of outrage about the junta. The soundtrack of the film was written by Mikis Theodorakis, who was imprisoned by the junta and later went into exile, and the music was smuggled into the country to be added to the other inspirational, underground Theodorakis tracks.

A lesser known Danish film, in Greek, Your Neighbor's Son, detailed the subordination and training of simple youths to become torturers for the junta.

International protest

Protest against the junta by Greek political exiles in Germany, 1967

Protest against the junta by Greek political exiles in Germany, 1967

The junta exiled thousands on the grounds that they were communists and/or "enemies of the country". Most of them were subjected to internal exile on Greek deserted islands, such as Makronisos, Gyaros, Gioura, or inhabited islands such as Leros, Agios Eustratios or Trikeri. The most famous were in external exile, most of whom were substantially involved in the resistance, organising protests in European capital cities, or helping and hiding refugees from Greece.

These included: Melina Mercouri, actor, singer (and, after 1981 Minister for Culture); Mikis Theodorakis, composer of resistance songs; Costas Simitis (prime minister from 1996 to 2004); Andreas Papandreou (prime minister from 1981 to 1989 and again from 1993 to 1996); and Lady Amalia Fleming (wife of Sir Alexander Fleming, philanthropist, political activist).[92] Some chose exile, unable to stand life under the junta. For example, Melina Mercouri was allowed to enter Greece, but stayed away on her own accord.

In the early hours of 19 September 1970 in Matteotti square in Genoa, geology student Kostas Georgakis set himself ablaze in protest against the dictatorship of George Papadopoulos. The junta delayed the arrival of his remains to Corfu for four months, fearing public reaction and protests. At the time his death caused a sensation in Greece and abroad as it was the first tangible manifestation of the depth of resistance against the junta. He is the only known anti-junta resistance activist to have sacrificed himself and he is considered the precursor of later student protest, such as the Athens Polytechnic uprising. The Municipality of Corfu has dedicated a memorial in his honour near his home in Corfu city.

The German writer, investigative reporter and journalist Günter Wallraff traveled to Greece in May 1974. While in Syntagma Square, he protested against human right violations. He was arrested and tortured by the police, as he did not carry, on purpose, any papers on him that could identify him as a foreigner. After his identity was revealed, Wallraff was convicted and sentenced to 14 months in jail. He was released in August, after the end of the dictatorship.[93]

Velos mutiny

The destroyer Velos (Greek: Βέλος, "Arrow"), now a museum ship at Palaio Faliro in Athens.

The destroyer Velos (Greek: Βέλος, "Arrow"), now a museum ship at Palaio Faliro in Athens.

In an anti-junta protest, on 23 May 1973, HNS Velos, under the command of Commander Nikolaos Pappas, refused to return to Greece after participating in a NATO exercise and remained anchored at Fiumicino, Italy. During a patrol with other NATO vessels between continental Italy and Sardinia, the commander and the officers heard over the radio that a number of fellow naval officers had been arrested in Greece. Commander Pappas was involved in a group of democratic officers who remained loyal to their oath to obey the Constitution and planned to act against the junta. Evangelos Averoff also participated in the Velos mutiny, for which he was later arrested as an "instigator".[94]

Pappas believed that since his fellow anti-junta officers had been arrested, there was no more hope for a movement inside Greece. He therefore decided to act alone in order to motivate global public opinion. He mustered all the crew to the stern and announced his decision, which was received with enthusiasm by the crew.

Pappas signaled his intentions to the squadron commander and NATO headquarters, quoting the preamble of the North Atlantic Treaty, which declares that "all governments ... are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law", and, leaving formation, sailed for Rome. There, anchored about 3.5 nautical miles (6 km) away from the coast of Fiumicino, three ensigns sailed ashore with a whaleboat, went to Fiumicino Airport and telephoned the international press agencies, notifying them of the situation in Greece, the presence of the destroyer, and that the captain would hold a press conference the next day.

This action increased international interest in the situation in Greece.[95] The commander, six officers, and twenty five petty officers requested permission to remain abroad as political refugees. Indeed, the whole crew wished to follow their commander but were advised by its officers to remain onboard and return to Greece to inform families and friends about what happened. Velos returned to Greece after a month with a replacement crew. After the fall of the junta all officers and petty officers returned to the Navy.


The collapse of the junta both ideologically and politically was triggered by a series of events which unfolded soon after Papadopoulos' attempt at liberalisation, with ideological collapse preceding its eventual political collapse. During and following this ill-fated process the internal political strains of the junta came to the fore and pitted the junta factions against each other, thus destroying the seemingly monolithic cohesion of the dictatorship.

This had the effect of seriously weakening the coherence of the political message and, consequently, the credibility of the regime, a fatal blow from which, as later events would show, it never recovered. At the same time, during Papadopoulos' attempt at liberalisation, some of the junta constraints were removed from the body politic of Greece and that led to demands for more freedoms, and political unrest, in a society well used to democratic action prior to the dictatorship.

Normalization and attempts at liberalization

Standard of the President (1973–74)

Standard of the President (1973–74)

Papadopoulos had indicated as early as 1968 that he was eager for a reform process. He had declared at the time that he did not want the "Revolution" (junta speak for the "dictatorship") to become a "regime". He then repeatedly attempted to initiate reforms in 1969 and 1970, only to be thwarted by the hardliners including Ioannidis. In fact subsequent to his 1970 failed attempt at reform, he threatened to resign and was dissuaded only after the hardliners renewed their personal allegiance to him.[87]

On 10 April 1970 Papadopoulos announced the formation of the Simvouleftiki Epitropi (Συμβουλευτική Επιτροπή) translated as the Advisory Council (Committee) otherwise known as Papadopoulos' (pseudo) Parliament.[96][97] Composed of members elected through an electoral type process but limited only to ethnikofrones (regime supporters), it was bicameral, composed of the Central Advisory Council and the Provincial Advisory Council. The Central Council met in Athens in the Parliament Building. Both councils had the purpose to advise the dictator. At the time of the announcement of the formation of the council, Papadopoulos explained that he wanted to avoid using the term "Vouli" (Parliament) for the Committee because it sounded bad.[97]

The council was dissolved just prior to Papadopoulos' failed attempt to liberalise his regime. As internal dissatisfaction grew in the early 1970s, and especially after an abortive coup by the Navy in early 1973,[87] Papadopoulos attempted to legitimize the regime by beginning a gradual "democratization" (See also the article on Metapolitefsi).

On 1 June 1973, he abolished the monarchy and declared Greece a republic with himself as president. He was confirmed in office after a controversial referendum, the results of which were not recognised by the political parties. He furthermore sought the support of the old political establishment, but secured only the cooperation of Spiros Markezinis, who was appointed Prime Minister. Concurrently, many restrictions were lifted, and the army's role significantly reduced. Papadopoulos intended to establish a presidential republic, with extensive–and within the context of the system, almost dictatorial–powers vested in the office of President, which he held. The decision to return to political rule and the restriction of their role was resented by many of the regime's supporters in the Army, whose dissatisfaction with Papadopoulos would become evident a few months later.

Uprising at the Polytechnic

Papadopoulos' heavy-handed attempt at liberalisation did not find favour among many in Greece. The stilted democratisation process he proposed was constrained by multiple factors. His inexperience at carrying out an unprecedented political experiment of democratisation was burdened by his tendency to concentrate as much power in his hands as possible, a weakness he exhibited during the junta years when he would sometimes hold multiple high-echelon government portfolios. This especially antagonised the intelligentsia, whose primary exponents were the students. The students at the Law School in Athens, for example, demonstrated multiple times against the dictatorship prior to the events at the Polytechneion.

The tradition of student protest was always strong in Greece, even before the dictatorship. Papadopoulos tried hard to suppress and discredit the student movement during his tenure at the helm of the junta. But the liberalisation process he undertook allowed the students to organise more freely, and this gave the opportunity to the students at the National Technical University of Athens to organise a demonstration that grew progressively larger and more effective. The political momentum was on the side of the students. Sensing this, the junta panicked and reacted violently.[98]

In the early hours of Saturday, 17 November 1973, Papadopoulos sent the army to suppress the student strike and sit-in of the "Free Besieged" (Ελεύθεροι Πολιορκημένοι), as the students called themselves, at the Athens Polytechnic which had commenced on 14 November. Shortly after 3:00 a.m. EET, under almost complete cover of darkness, an AMX 30 tank crashed through the rail gate of the Athens Polytechnic with subsequent loss of life. The army also occupied Syntagma Square for at least the following day. Even the sidewalk cafes were closed.

Ioannidis' involvement in inciting unit commanders to commit criminal acts during the uprising, so that he could facilitate his own upcoming coup, was noted in the indictment presented to the court by the prosecutor during the Greek junta trials, and in his subsequent conviction in the Polytechneion trial where he was found to have been morally responsible for the events.[99][100]

Ioannidis coup and regime

The uprising triggered a series of events that put an abrupt end to Papadopoulos' attempts at "liberalisation".[101]

Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis, a disgruntled junta hardliner and long-time protégé of Papadopoulos as head of the feared Military Police, used the uprising as a pretext to reestablish public order, and staged a counter-coup that overthrew Papadopoulos and Spyros Markezinis on 25 November. Military law was reinstated, and the new Junta appointed General Phaedon Gizikis as President and economist Adamantios Androutsopoulos as Prime Minister, although Ioannidis remained the behind-the-scenes strongman.

Ioannidis's heavy-handed and opportunistic intervention had the effect of destroying the myth that the junta was an idealistic group of army officers with exactly the same ideals who came to save Greece by using their collective wisdom. The main tenet of the junta ideology (and mythology) was gone and so was the collective. By default, he remained the only man at the top after toppling the other three principals of the junta. Characteristically, he cited ideological reasons for ousting the Papadopoulos faction, accusing them with straying from the principles of the Revolution, especially of being corrupt and misusing their privileges as army officers for financial gains.

Papadopoulos and his junta always claimed that the 21 April 1967 "revolution" saved Greece from the old party system. Now Ioannidis was, in effect, claiming that his coup saved the revolution from the Papadopoulos faction. The dysfunction as well as the ideological fragmentation and fractionalisation of the junta was finally out in the open. Ioannidis, however, did not make these accusations personally as he always tried to avoid unnecessary publicity. The radio broadcasts, following the now familiar coup in progress scenario featuring martial music interspersed with military orders and curfew announcements, kept repeating that the army was taking back the reins of power in order to save the principles of the revolution and that the overthrow of the Papadopoulos-Markezinis government was supported by the army, navy and air force.[102]

At the same time they announced that the new coup was a "continuation of the revolution of 1967" and accused Papadopoulos with "straying from the ideals of the 1967 revolution" and "pushing the country towards parliamentary rule too quickly".[102]

Previous to seizing power, Ioannidis preferred to work in the background and he never held any formal office in the junta. Now he was the de facto leader of a puppet regime composed by members some of whom were rounded up by Greek Military Police (ESA) soldiers in roving jeeps to serve and others that were simply chosen by mistake.[103][104] The Ioannidis method of forming a government dealt yet another blow to the rapidly diminishing credibility of the regime both at home and abroad.

The new junta, despite its rather inauspicious origins, pursued an aggressive internal crackdown and an expansionist foreign policy.

Cypriot coup d'état, Turkish invasion and fall of the Junta

Map showing the division of Cyprus

Map showing the division of Cyprus

Konstantinos Karamanlis led the country to the transition to Democracy, the establishment of the Third Hellenic Republic, the trial of the junta leaders and the purge of the Army of its members

Konstantinos Karamanlis led the country to the transition to Democracy, the establishment of the Third Hellenic Republic, the trial of the junta leaders and the purge of the Army of its members

Sponsored by Ioannidis, on 15 July 1974 a coup d'état on the island of Cyprus overthrew Archbishop Makarios III, the Cypriot president. Turkey replied to this intervention by invading Cyprus and occupying the northern part of the island, after heavy fighting with the Cypriot and Greek ELDYK Forces (Greek: ΕΛΔΥΚ, Ελληνική Δύναμη Κύπρου, Greek Force for Cyprus). There was a well-founded fear that an all-out war with Turkey was imminent.

The Cyprus fiasco led to senior Greek military officers withdrawing their support for Junta strongman Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis. Junta-appointed President Phaedon Gizikis called a meeting of old guard politicians, including Panagiotis Kanellopoulos, Spiros Markezinis, Stephanos Stephanopoulos, Evangelos Averoff, and others.

The agenda was to appoint a national unity government that would lead the country to elections. Although former Prime Minister Panagiotis Kanellopoulos was originally backed, on 23 July, Gizikis finally invited former Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis, who had resided in Paris since 1963, to assume the role.[105] Karamanlis returned to Athens on a French Presidency Learjet made available to him by President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, a close personal friend, and was sworn-in as Prime Minister under President Phaedon Gizikis. Karamanlis' new party, New Democracy, won the November 1974 general election, and he became prime minister.

Parliamentary democracy was thus restored and the Greek legislative elections of 1974 were the first free elections held in a decade. A referendum held 8 December 1974 rejected re-establishment of the monarchy by a 2-to-1 margin, and Greece became a republic.[106]

While the physical collapse of the junta as a government was immediately caused by the Cyprus debacle, its ideological collapse was already triggered by the 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising. The uprising at the Polytechneion was the event that discredited the military government most and acted as a key catalyst for its eventual demise by exposing the internal contradictions and stresses of the regime, thus destroying the myth of the political cohesion of the junta and, therefore, irreparably damaging the political credibility of the "Ethnosotirios Epanastasis" and its message.

Trials of the junta (1975)

The Junta on trial. Front row (from left): Papadopoulos, Makarezos, Pattakos. Ioannidis can be seen on the second row, just behind Pattakos.

The Junta on trial. Front row (from left): Papadopoulos, Makarezos, Pattakos. Ioannidis can be seen on the second row, just behind Pattakos.

In January 1975 the junta members were arrested and in early August of the same year the government of Konstantinos Karamanlis brought charges of high treason and insurrection against Georgios Papadopoulos and nineteen other co-conspirators of the military junta.[107] The mass trial was staged at the Korydallos Prison. The trial was described as "Greece's Nuremberg".[107] One thousand soldiers armed with submachine guns provided security.[107] The roads leading to the jail were patrolled by tanks.[107]

Papadopoulos, Pattakos, Makarezos and Ioannidis were sentenced to death for high treason.[108] These sentences were later commuted to life imprisonment by the Karamanlis government for humanitarian reasons. A plan to grant amnesty to the junta principals by the Konstantinos Mitsotakis government in 1990 was cancelled after protests from conservatives, socialists and communists.[109]

Papadopoulos died in the hospital in 1999 after being transferred from Korydallos while Ioannidis remained incarcerated until his death in 2010. This trial was followed by a second trial which centered on the events and the murders during the Athens Polytechnic uprising and a third called "The trial of the torturers".

Legacy and Greek public opinion

The historical repercussions of the junta were profound and are still felt to this day in Greece. Internally the absence of civil rights and the oppression that followed created a sense of fear and persecution among many in the population creating trauma and division that persisted long after the fall of the junta. The Cyprus debacle created a tragedy that is still unfolding.[110][111][112][113]

While the Cyprus fiasco was due to the actions of Ioannidis,[114] it was Papadopoulos who started the cycle of coups. Externally, the absence of human rights in a country belonging to the Western Bloc during the Cold War was a continuous source of embarrassment for the free world (considering Greece is seen as the inventor of democracy), and this and other reasons made Greece an international pariah abroad and interrupted its process of integration with the European Union with incalculable opportunity costs.[110]

The 21 April regime remains highly controversial to this day, with most Greeks holding very strong and polarized views in regards to it. According to a survey by Kapa Research published in the centre-left newspaper To Vima in 2002, the majority of the electoral body (54.7%) consider the regime to have been bad or harmful for Greece while 20.7% consider it to have been good for Greece and 19.8% believe that it was neither good nor harmful.[115] In April 2013, the Metron Analysis Poll, found that 30% of Greeks yearned for the "better" days of the Junta.[116]

The experiences in Greece were formative for several CIA officers, including Clair George and Gust Avrakotos. Avrakotos, for example, dealt with the aftermath when Revolutionary Organization 17 November murdered his superior, CIA station chief Richard Welch in 1975. Many of his junta-connected associates were also assassinated in this time period. Avrakotos himself had his cover blown by the media and his life became endangered.[2] In 1999, U.S. President Bill Clinton apologised on the behalf of the U.S. government for supporting the military junta in the name of Cold War tactics.[117][118]

There has been speculation that lingering social effects of the junta played a role in the rise of Golden Dawn, an extreme right-wing party which gained eighteen seats in parliament in two successive elections in 2012, in the midst of Greece's ongoing debt crisis. Golden Dawn's leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, met the leaders of the junta while in prison and was inspired to lay the foundations for the party. Some have linked alleged support of Golden Dawn by Hellenic Police officers to the party's statements sympathizing with the junta, which commentators note would appeal to policemen whose livelihoods are threatened by harsh austerity measures.[119]

See also

  • Timeline of modern Greek history

  • History of modern Greece

  • A Man

  • Imaste dio

Citations and notes


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Citation Linkwww.hartford-hwp.comMoseley, Ray (17 November 1999). Thousands decry U.S. in streets of Athens. The Chicago Tribune.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgKassimeris, Christos (2006). "Causes of the 1967 Greek Coup". Democracy and Security. 2(1), 61–72.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgWeiner, Tim (2007), Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Doubleday, p. 383.
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Citation Linkwww.latimes.com"Clinton Says U.S. Regrets Aid to Junta in Cold War ", LA Times, November 21, 1999, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1999-nov-21-mn-35991-story.html
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Citation Linkweb.archive.orgMarios Ploritis, "Διογένης και άνακτες" Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, To Vima, 10 December 2000, (in Greek).
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Citation Linkta-nea.dolnet.grStilis Alatos, "Tα καμπούρικα", Ta Nea, 15 February 2007, (in Greek).
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgC. L. Sulzberger, An age of mediocrity; memoirs and diaries, 1963–1972, New York: Macmillan, 1973, p. 575.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgAlexis Papachelas, "Everything George Rallis recounted to me", To Vima, 19 March 2006
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Citation Linkweb.archive.orgTV documentary "ΤΑ ΔΙΚΑ ΜΑΣ 60's — Μέρος 3ο: ΧΑΜΕΝΗ ΑΝΟΙΞΗ Archived 6 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine" by Stelios Kouloglu
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgAlexis Papachelas, "Constantine Speaks", To Vima, 29 January 2006.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgC.L. Sulzberger, Postscript with a Chinese Accent, Macmillan, 1974, p. 277.
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Citation Linkta-nea.dolnet.grGiannis Politis, "Συνεχίζει τις προκλήσεις Ο Κωνσταντίνος Γλύξμπουργκ", Ta Nea, 10 May 1997.
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Citation Linkwww.historycentral.com"American/World History 1967-1968". Historycentral.com. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgGanser Daniele (2005). NATO's Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. pp. 220–223 ISBN 0-7146-5607-0, ISBN 978-0-7146-5607-6
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Citation Linkbooks.google.comDēmētrios N. Chondrokoukēs (1983). Hē atheatē pleura tou PASOK. Isokratēs. p. 145. βραχυκυκλωθή άπό άτομα τά όποία έχουν λιβανίσει μέχρι άηδίας τό έπάρατο καθεστώς τής 7ετίας μέ τά άλλεπάλληλα τηλεγραφήματα, τά όποία έχουν στείλει στούς « Απριλιανούς» δηλώνοντας πίστη, άφοσίωσι, υπακοή κ.τ.λ.
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Citation Linkbooks.google.comAndreas George Papandreou (1976). Apo to P.A.K. sto PA.SO.K.: logoi, arthra, synenteuxeis, dēlōseis tou Andrea G. Papandreou. Ekdoseis Ladia. p. 127. Τέλος ένοχοι είναι καί Ιδιώτες πού χρησιμοποιώντας τίς προσωπικές τους σχέσεις μέ τούς Απριλιανούς, έθη- σαύρισαν σέ βάρος τοϋ έλληνικοϋ λαοϋ. Ό Ελληνικός λαός δέν ξεχνά πώς, άν είχαν τιμωρηθή οί δοσίλογοι τής Γερμανικής κατοχής, δέν .
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Citation Linkbooks.google.comGiannēs Katrēs (1983). Hē alētheia einai to phōs pou kaiei. Ekdoseis Th. Kastaniōtē. p. 30. με αυξημένη βαρβαρότητα απ' ό,τι στους υπόλοιπους καταδικους. Και δεν εννοούμε, φυσικά, τους ελάχιστους Απριλιανούς, που έχουν απομείνει στον Κορυδαλλό, με τους κλιματισμούς, τα ψυγεία και την ασυδοσία των επισκεπτηρίων.
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