Home Greek news Crime For Some, Greece’s Junta Lives On

For Some, Greece’s Junta Lives On

Xounta2

On the morning of April 21, 1967, Greeks suddenly found tanks in the streets of Athens as a coup of military leaders staged a junta that became known as The Regime of The Colonels and brought seven years of dictatorship, repression, torture and grief for much of the populace, while opponents and critics were imprisoned, tortured and exiled.

To everyone’s bewilderment, the coup leaders, led by George Papadopoulos, dispatched soldiers to arrest politicians, rivals, 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. He was persuaded to join the overthrow and activated a plan to move the coup forward, supported by the United States, which wanted a bulwark against Communism.

For most Greeks it was a terrible time. But some miss those days, including many who weren’t even born when it happened, such as members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party who adore the period and its leaders and try to emulate them.

21h_APRILIOY_67The lingering few supporters will gather on the anniversary this year at an Athens hotel to reminisce about authoritarianism at an event that will feature junta apologist Paraskevas Bolaris, from the so-called Pajamas Movement. They’ll hear speeches from Aristides Dimopoulos, a close colleague of Papadopoulos, and a greeting from Papadopoulos’s cousin Angelos Papathanou, who was director of the political office.

There will also be a presentation of the book Comparative History August 4 – April 21, where the author Manos Hatzidakis will talk about the regimes of Greece then.

As part of the political commemoration of junta an audiovisual material will be screened. Papadopoulos’ widow, Despina, has also been invited. He died in prison in 1999 at age 80, unrepentant and glad of the control he exerted on the country until a student-led rebellion in 1973 brought down the dictatorship the next year.

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.

DICTATORSHIP BY ANY OTHER NAME

While the remaining junta supporters glorify the era for its rigidity and lack of democracy that some craved, critics still rejoice at the downfall of the time called The Seven Years as well.

The end of the junta, however, didn’t end the division in Greece that remains deep and bitter to this day, with Leftists and Rightists, Communists and Fascists at each other’s throats ideologically, especially over austerity measures being imposed by the New Democracy Conservative-led government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that is opposed by the Left, which wants to keep a system of cradle-to-grave job protection for workers, hundreds of thousands of whom were hired needlessly over the years by both New Democracy and the PASOK Socialists in return for votes.

xounta1While the lessons of history fade fast and the 1967-74 period is a blurring memory for some and almost completely unknown to many young during the 21st Century age of the Internet, what happened on April 21, 1967 changed Greek history.

Just weeks before scheduled elections, a group of Right-Wing army officers led by Brigadier General Stylianos Pattakos and Colonels Papadopoulos and Nikolaos Makarezos seized power in a coup d’etat through surprise and confusion and rapid deployment.

Under the command of paratrooper Lt. Col. Kostas Aslanides, the plotters took over the Greek Defence Ministry while Pattakos gained control of communication centers, the Parliament, the Royal Palace, and — according to detailed lists — arrested more than 10,000 people.

It took only a few hours for Greece to fall into the hands of the military leaders and Papadopoulos, moving to consolidate power, suspended 11 articles of the Greek Constitution allowing the new leaders to arrest anyone for anything at any time and removing all their rights.

The Colonels special target was the Papandreou family, former Prime Minister Giorgios, and his son Andreas, later to become Premier, who fled to the roof of his house but surrendered after one the soldiers held a gun to the head of his then 14-year-old George – who became Prime Minister from 2009-11. It was reported that Gust Avrakotos, a high-ranking CIA officer in Greece who was close to the Colonels, advised them to kill Andreas Papandreou and “Shoot the motherf–ker because he’s going to come back to haunt you”.

PapadopoulosFor the next seven years, the Colonels rigidly held power and swept away all would-be opposition with brutal tactics, including torture and exile. Now, with crushing austerity measures and social unrest giving rise to extremists again, there remains worry at the back of some Greeks’ heads who remember what junta that it could happen again and that the country, unless Samaras pushes a an economic recovery, and the rising popularity of Golden Dawn is stemmed, that the country is just a tank away from it happening all over again.

George Papandreou may have thought so, perhaps remembering the gun to his head, because when the country seemed on the verge of unraveling under withering protests, strikes and riots against his administration, he summarily replaced all the country’s military leaders, denying speculation that there would be another coup attempt.

Underlining almost all of Greek history is the constant division between political rivals and ideologies, mutual distrust and the curious commodity of zeelevounai, and of believing in holding down others who could supplant you.

It seems unlikely today with a different and smaller world, with alliances such as NATO, with Greece in the European Union, with trade and business replacing military power, but political divides are deep and constant in Greece and there’s also the worry that someone could come back to haunt you.

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  • Alex

    The leftist like to go on and on about the Junta as a sort of patronizing warning against far right extremism,

    However, they rarely talks about far leftest extremists during the Greek civil war. These are the same far leftists that aside to resorting to oppression of free speech, oppression of opposing political parties, confiscation of people’s property, torture, gulag slavery, also treasonously murdered thousands upon thousands of Greeks in an effort to detach Macedonia Greece for the sake of IMRO and mass murderer dictators like Tito.

    Today we have a communist Party Syriza that idolizes these treasonous communist murderers and framea them as “human rights” activists and “democratic”. Had the free world not fought communist tyranny we would all still be under the rule of communist mass murdering thugs like Pol Pot and Stalin today. (see “Democratic North Korea to see what the communism Syriza supporters so adore actually represented in practice)

    Never forget the atrocities committed by communists.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_killings_under_Communist_regimes

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tassimo-Buddz/100003698637943 Tassimo Buddz

    That Papandreou family destroyed Greece.

  • Aleksandar Makedonski

    Leftists, desnists, monarchists,… this Western-Apartheid colony was never free in its short 180 years history.

  • Alex

    Huh? You former Yugoslavians were the ones that were fighting for Tito right along with our communists. While Greece had a democracy with free elections, you were cheering on brutal communist dictator Tito.

    It was actually Yugoslav communists that deleted the ethnic Bulgarian context of your so-called “Macedonian” identity. (which delusional ultra nationalist fanatic cowards like you hide from)

    “No matter whether we call ourselves Bulgarians or Macedonians we shall always feel as a nationality with a Bulgarian national consciousness” – Krste Misirkov

  • Alex

    The region of Vardar Yugoslavia (renamed “Macedonia” by communists) after decades of supporting communist tyranny…. still isn’t free.

    In its short 20 year history of independence it is run by a bunch of oppressive ultra nationalists that bizarrely oppress their own mostly ethnic BULGARIAN heritage and pretend to be “ancient Macedonians”.

    This pretentious buffoon “Aleksandar Makedonski” is a perfect example of the stupidity and extremism at work in FYROM (which our alleged allies now try to downplay to hide their shame for referencing them as “Macedonians”)

    “We are Slavs. There’s no connection between us an alexander the Great. ” – Kiro Gligorov first elected President of FYROM

  • Alex

    The lesson here folks is all one needs to do is Iraqis for non-existent WMDs and any nation can get recognized by our “principled” NATO allies

    ………………

    “This (US) government considers talk of Macedonian “nation”, Macedonian
    “Fatherland”, or Macedonia “national consciousness” to be
    unjustified demagoguery representing no ethnic nor political reality, and sees
    in its present revival a possible cloak for aggressive intentions against
    Greece” – US State Department Dec, 1944 (Foreign Relations Vol. VIII
    Washington D.C. Circular Airgram – 868.014/26)

  • Guts

    Unbelievable… We are in the year 2013 and we still have these problems..
    The new frontier is economic and one where Greece requires industries and jobs where power comes from trade…and great environments for businesses to operate in and Greece is behind the eight ball..
    We need a central licensing government body where all trades and professionals requires Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance.. Greece needs a Land titles office.. We have great universities but no jobs for these people…
    These are issues that need to be dealt with yesterday not tommorow..
    Greece needs to attract new investment and fast..Manufacturing and Research and Development companies Give them a reason to invest In Greece.. Great weather, educated people and location, location, location…
    Forget about the junta and get the country moving…This is the type of people we require..If the leaders are not willing to do it.Get them out and let someone else do the job…who is willing..We have 300 useless politicians…who are more interesetd in their back pockets than the people who elect them..

  • gllev

    He started the whole social welfare system that looked good on paper, but in practice DESTROYED GREECE! It was the same Papandreou that pardoned a bunch of war criminal communist animals and made them out to be the heroes and saviors of Greece in WWII, but in reality they were murdering everyone but non-communists, Greeks and Nazis alike. After the communist scum returned, thanks to Papandreou, they flooded Greek labor unions, and today we can see their influence, still lingering, destroying Greece. The same Papandreou who took out loans, threw the idiots who voted him in a few breadcrumbs, but pocketed the rest for him and his fellow thieves in charge, made Greece the economic joke it is today, offering jobs for friends and votes, corrupted Greece to no end. Greece cannot afford another two-faced lying thief, and there is one today doing the same old tricks and nonsense, the animal is named Cheapras.

  • gllev

    Yea sure, and your Mongoslavia is a bright shinning beacon of freedom and democracy. Have fun with your 45%+ unemployment, insane inflation and identity crisis. You wish you were us, why you even stole out history and tried to make it your own.

  • Ioannis Kastoras

    Just like everything in the life, Junta did good and bad things.

  • Homer

    There are no bigger criminals and traitors in Greek public life than the Papandreous!

  • geronimo

    Chieftain Leonard Peltier and all the other chiefs of the 500 Nations consider talk of American “nation”, American “Fatherland” or American “national consciousness” to be unjustified demagoguery representing no ethnic nor political reality, and sees in its present revival a possible cloak for aggressive European intentions against America’s 500 nations. After 400 years of occupation it’s time to go home just like the Turks had to do.