Athenians who are over 50 years old probably have some memories of that Spring morning of April in 1967, when the radio was playing military songs and the announcer was warning people to stay indoors because the Greek Armed Forces have taken over the governance of the country.
Some even remember the rumble of army tanks on the capital’s main street and the occasional warning shots as soldiers were placed in strategic spots all over the city and given orders to tell everyone to stay in their homes and avoid moving around the city. Soon, the menacing voice of Georgios Papadopoulos was speaking about a “national revolution,” the words the dictator used to name his coup.
It was only days before the snap elections of May, 1967 that a group of army colonels led by Papadopoulos changed the course of Greece’s history. The seven years that followed April 21, 1967 were the years of the junta. Or when “the country was in a cast” as the popular phrase Greeks used to describe the seven-year dictatorship after it was over.
Papadopoulos and his accomplices took advantage of a shaky political system, a young inexperienced King Constantine and the U.S. obsession with curbing the spread of communism.
Papadopoulos appointed himself minister, prime minister, regent and president of the republic. A self-professed great patriot, he had fought against the Italians and the Germans and then in the Civil War. After that he served in high level posts and trained in the United States. Later this led to allegations that he was a paid agent of the CIA.
The dictator’s right hand was Stylianos Pattakos, a colonel whose military career was similar to that of Papadopoulos. His picture inaugurating public works, such as new hospitals and highways, was a prominent feature in the (censored) news.
Nikolaos Makarezos was the third man of the junta triumvirate. Other than his career in the military, Makarezos had three university degrees in economics and political science. He served as co-ordinator and vice-president of the government and was responsible for the country’s economy until his resignation on September 28, 1973.
The Papadopoulos dictatorship lasted less than seven years. A period in which all politicians had left Greece, self-exiled in Europe, with most of them choosing Paris. During the seven years, political opponents were tortured and jailed. Communists and leftists were persecuted and could not find work in the public sector. The news was censored and the newly-established public television broadcasted government propaganda.
In November 1973, the student uprising in the National Technical University of Athens (Polytechenio) brought a series of events that put an abrupt end to Papadopoulos’ efforts for superficial liberalization of the regime. Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis, an unhappy, intransigent rightist used the Polytechneio revolt as a pretext to restore public order and organized a coup d’état overthrowing Papadopoulos and his government on November 25, 1973.
With the imposition of military law, the new junta appointed General Phaedon Gizikis President of the Republic and economist Adamantios Androutsopoulos Prime Minister. Ioannidis remained the man in power in the background.
Ioannidis lasted only a few months. His arrogance led him to organize a coup in Cyprus, following his nationalist dream to unite the island with Greece. The events that followed gave Turkey the excuse to invade Cyprus on July 20, 1974. The dictator was forced to give up power three days later. On July 24, self-exiled Constantine Karamanlis returned to Greece and democracy was restored.