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Greek junta

Greek coup d'\u00e9tat

Top 10 Greek junta related articles

Kingdom of Greece (1967–1973)
Βασίλειον τῆς Ἑλλάδος
Hellenic Republic (1973–1974)
Ἑλληνικὴ Δημοκρατία

Map of Europe in 1973, showing Greece highlighted in green
Common languagesGreek
Greek Orthodoxy
GovernmentUnitary constitutional monarchy under a fascist totalitarian military dictatorship
• King

Constantine II
• Regent

Georgios Zoitakis
Georgios Papadopoulos
• 1973
Georgios Papadopoulos
• 1973–1974
Phaedon Gizikis
Prime Minister 
• 1967
Konstantinos Kollias
• 1967–1973
Georgios Papadopoulos
• 1973
Spyros Markezinis
• 1973–1974
Adamantios Androutsopoulos
Historical eraCold War
21 April 1967
• Constantine II exiled
13 December 1967
15 November 1968
• Republic declared
1 June 1973
29 July 1973
24 July 1974
CurrencyGreek drachma
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Greece
Third Hellenic Republic

The Greek junta or Regime of the Colonels[a] was a far-right military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974. On 21 April 1967, a group of colonels overthrew the caretaker government a month before scheduled elections which Georgios Papandreou's Centre Union was favoured to win. The dictatorship was characterised by right-wing cultural policies, restrictions on civil liberties, and the imprisonment, torture, and exile of political opponents. An attempt to renew its support in a 1973 referendum on the monarchy and gradual democratisation was ended by another coup by hardliner Dimitrios Ioannidis. The junta's rule ended on 24 July 1974 under the pressure of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, leading to the Metapolitefsi ("regime change") to democracy and the establishment of the Third Hellenic Republic.

Greek junta Intro articles: 5


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 those loyal to the newly returned government-in-exile.

American influence in Greece

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 (see Dekemvriana) 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 the Greek government against the communist forces in 1947.

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 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] In 1945, officer veterans of the collaborationist Security Battalions had organized themselves into a secret society known as the IDEA (Ieros Desmos Ellinon Axiomatikon-Holy Bond of Greek Officers).[2] From 1947 onward, the Holy Bond was subsidized to the sum of $1 million annually by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as one of Greece's main "democratic" (i.e. anti-communist) forces.[2] Several of the future leaders of the junta, such as Georgios Papadopoulos, were members of IDEA.[2] 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 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.[3]

In 1952, IDEA issued a manifesto stating that a dictatorship was the only possible solution to Greece's problems, which the Greek scholar Christos Kassimeris called an "astonishing" statement since the Communists had been defeated in 1949, Greece was enjoying relative prosperity after living standards had collapsed in the 1940s, and Greek politics were stable.[4] Kassimeris argued that since Papadopoulos played a large role in writing the 1952 manifesto, that it was his "personal ambition" rather than an objective fear of the Greek Communists that was driving him forward because in no way could Greece be presented as being on the brink of a Communist take-over in 1952.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6][7] The timing of the coup apparently caught the CIA by surprise.[8] Nevertheless, the United States did support the military dictatorship.[9]

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. In July 1964, Papandreou announced his intention to fire those officers belonging to IDEA, whom the king did not want dismissed, claiming it was his royal prerogative to protect the IDEA officers, which in turn led to massive demonstrations in Athens, which had a republican flavor.[10] The king dismissed Papandreou in 1965, 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",[11] a coup that would have been deployed at Constantine's behest under the pretext of combating communist subversion.[12][13]

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.[14]

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.[15] 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.[15]

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.[16] According to Cyrus L. Sulzberger correspondent for The New York Times, Karamanlis flew to New York City to meet with USAF General Lauris Norstad to lobby for a conservative coup that would establish Karamanlis as Greece's leader; Sulzberger alleges that Norstad declined to involve himself in such affairs.[17] 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".[18]

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".[18] 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.

Greek junta Background articles: 41

Coup d'état of 21 April

1967 Greek coup d'état
Date21 April 1967
Athens, Greece

Military success

  • Establishment of the Regime of the Colonels

Greek Government

Greek Armed Forces

Supported by:
 United States
  Holy See
Commanders and leaders

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'état.[19] The colonels were able to seize power quickly by using elements of surprise and confusion. Pattakos was the commander of the Armour Training Centre (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 Brigadier General 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.[20]

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.[20] 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".[20] 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.[20]

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.[21][22][23][24][25] The term "Aprilianoi" has become synonymous with the term "dictators of 1974".[26]


According to journalist Eric Frattini the coup d'état was partly funded by Vatican agents who handed over $4 million to Georgios Papadopoulos through an intricate network of banks, as they feared the election of Andreas Papandreou, a leftist politician accused of having sympathies for communism.[27]

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

King Constantine's counter-coup attempt
Date13 December 1967
Kavala, Greece

Coup attempt failed

  • King Constantine sent into exile
  • Monarchy abolished in 1973

Constantine loyalists

  • Army dissidents
Greek junta
Commanders and leaders
Constantine II Georgios Papadopoulos

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)[28] 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 during the remainder of military rule. Although he subsequently returned to Greece, the abolition of the monarchy in 1973 removed 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 favor 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 recognized, 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.

Greek junta Coup d'état of 21 April articles: 49

Characteristics of the Junta


National flag adopted by the colonels (1970–1974). It was the old flag of the Navy, but featured a darker shade of blue.

The colonels preferred to call the coup an Ethnosotirios Epanastasis (Εθνοσωτήριος Επανάστασις, 'revolution to save the nation'). 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 anarchokommounisté (αναρχοκομμουνισταί, 'anarcho-communist') 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 paleokommatismos (Παλαιοκομματισμός, 'old-partyism') to discredit parliamentary democracy, or Ellas Ellinon Christianon (Ελλάς Ελλήνων Χριστιανών, 'Greece for Christian Greeks') to underscore its ideology. The junta's main ideological spokesmen included Georgios Georgalas and journalist Savvas Konstantopoulos, both former Marxists.

In 1970, Georgalas published a book The Decline of Consumer Society, stating that consumerism had destroyed the Christian spiritual values of the West, leaving Greece as the last solitary outpost of Christian civilization.[29] In the same book, Georgalas stated the solution to social problems was not as many believed increased employment, but instead "lengthy psycho-therapeutic programmes" which would create "the free man in harmonious co-existence with himself and his fellow beings".[30] The British historian Richard Clogg described the writings of Georgalas and Konstantopoluos as "pretentious verbiage", noting that they tended to use elaborate and impressive-sounding language to mask the shallowness of their theories.[29] In essence, intellectuals like Georgalas and Konstantopoulos argued that materialism and consumerism were corroding the spiritual strength of the Greek people, and the military regime would "cure" the Greeks by restoring the traditional values of Orthodoxy (Greek Christianity).[30] One of Papadopoulos' first acts after the coup was to change the pension laws to allow the veterans of the Security Battalions to collect pensions.[31]

A central part of the regime's ideology was xenophobia, which presented Greeks as the creators of civilization with the rest of the world jealous of the debts they owed to Greece.[32] Colonel Ioannis Ladas, the Secretary-general of the Ministry of Public Order, came to international prominence in the summer of 1968 when he personally beat up Panayiotis Lambrias, the editor of magazine Eikones for running an article saying that homosexuality was accepted as normal in ancient Greece.[32] When the BBC's Greek service reported the incident, Ladas gave a rant at a press conference, claiming that the BBC was run by homosexuals, making him into a sort of unofficial spokesman for the regime.[32]

At a subsequent speech before a visiting group of Greek-Americans on 6 August 1968, Ladas quoted Friderich Nietzsche's statement that the ancient Greeks invented everything and went on to say: "Foreigners confess and acknowledge Greek superiority. Human civilization was wholly fashioned by our race. Even the enemies of Greece recognize that civilization is an exclusively Greek creation".[32] Ladas went on to denounce young men with long hair as "the degenerate phenomenon of hippy-ism", calling hippies "anti-social elements, drug addicts, sex maniacs, thieves, etc. It is only natural that they should be enemies of the army and the ideals which the military way of life serves".[33] Ladas ended his speech by arguing that Greeks for racial reasons were still the world's preeminent people, but had only declined of inadequate leadership, a problem which had been solved by the "revolution" of 21 April 1967.[33] Ladas claimed that Greece under military leadership would be "cured" of its problems and resume its rightful place in the world. Clogg noted that before the coup, Ladas had been associated with the far-right 4th of August Party, and contributed many articles to that party's journal, which was a "racist and anti-Semitic" magazine which glorified not only 4 August Regime, but also the Third Reich.[33]

The Greek novelist Yiorgos Theotokas once coined the term progonoplexia (Προγονοπληξία, 'ancestoritis') to describe an obsession with the heritage of the past, which many felt that Papadopoulos and the rest of the junta suffered from.[34] Papadopoulos often described the Greeks in his speeches as the "elect of God", claiming the regenerated Ellas Ellinon Christianon ('Greece for Christian Greeks') would be the example to the rest of the world as maintained that people all over the world would regard his ideology of "Helleno-Christian civilization" alongside the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle as the summit of intellectual achievement.[34]

The Greek junta has also been described as Fascist.[35][36]

"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,[37] where he or the junta assumed the role of the "medical doctor".[38][39][40][41][42][43] 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:[42][44][45]

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:[42][44]

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.[44] 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:

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:

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.[44]

Civil rights

As soon as the coup d'état was announced over Greek radio, martial music was continuously broadcast over the airwaves.[46][47][48] This was interrupted from time to time with announcements of the junta issuing orders, which always started with the introduction, Apofasizomen ke diatassomen (Αποφασίζομεν και διατάσσομεν, 'We decide and we order').[49] 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.[50][51] 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.[52] 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.[53]

Under the junta, torture became a deliberate practice carried out both by the Security Police and the Greek Military Police (ESA),[54][55] with an estimated 3,500 people detained in torture centers run by ESA.[52][53] 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.[56]

Gyaros, a prison island for dissidents

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.[57] 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.[58]

The cell of officer Spyros Moustaklis in EAT-ESA building. During a torture session, he suffered brain trauma and was left paralyzed.
Later President of Greece, Magistrate Christos Sartzetakis was discharged and imprisoned by the junta due to his investigation on Lambrakis' murder.

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.[52][53] James Becket,[59] an American attorney and author of Barbarism in Greece,[60][61] was sent to Greece by Amnesty International. He wrote in December 1969 that "a conservative estimate would place at not less than two thousand" the number of people tortured.[52][62]

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.[63] That had a continuously chilling effect on the population who realized that, even though they were allowed certain social activities, they could not overstep the boundaries and delve into or discuss forbidden subjects. This realization, 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 victims as anarcho-communists, or worse. The absence of a valid code of jurisprudence led to the unequal application of the law among the citizens and to rampant favoritism 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.[64] Thousands were jailed for political reasons by the dictatorship and thousands were forced into exile.[9] More than 10,000 were estimated to have been arrested in the first few days after the coup.[65]

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.[66]

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 of torture and human rights violations.[67] 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.[68][69]

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. Costa-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, 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.[70] 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.[71][72][73] 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.[74][75] Films such as Marijuana Stop! dealt with the hippie culture and its perception in Greek society as drug-using.[76][77]

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.[78]

Greek folk music

During its rule, the dictatorship heavily utilized folk music in mass media in order to help solidify the relationship between the junta and Greek national identity, in turn legitimizing its rule over the country. The regime sponsored song contests and concerts featuring folk musicians throughout its existence. The favored types of music employed by the government were those which accompanied the Kalamatianos and Tsamiko folk dances. Additionally, the regime encouraged the production of new folk songs with lyrics praising the government and its leaders, like Georgios Papadopoulos. Because the clarinet was so strongly featured in the music of the junta, it remains associated with the Colonels by many Greeks today. The ideology behind the promotion of folk music was twofold: to bridge the gap of continuity with Greece's past and present, and to limit foreign cultural influences such as psychedelic music (which could hold political connotations contrary to those of the junta) by substituting them with traditionally Greek ones. Folk music was also used as an ideological weapon against dissidents, and it was played constantly in detention centers to help break prisoners.[79]

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.[80] 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.[81][82][83][84]

Another pop group, Poll, was a pioneer of Greek pop music in the early 1970s.[85] Its lead singer and composer was Robert Williams, who was later joined, in 1971, by Kostas Tournas.[86] 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)",[87] composed by Tournas, Williams.[88][89] Tournas later pursued a solo career and in 1972 produced the progressive psychedelic hit solo album Aperanta Chorafia (Απέραντα Χωράφια, 'Infinite Fields').[90] He wrote and arranged the album using an orchestra and a rock group ("Ruth") combination, producing a rock opera which is considered a landmark of Greek rock.[91][92][93] In 1973 Kostas Tournas created the album Astroneira (Stardreams), influenced by David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust.[94][95]

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 (Το Περιβόλι του Τρελλού, 'The Madman's Orchard'), Ballos (Μπάλλος, the name of Greek folk dance) and Vromiko Psomi (Βρώμικο Ψωμί, 'Dirty Bread').[75]


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.[96] 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.[78] These freedoms were later reversed by Dimitrios Ioannidis after his coup.


The farmers were Papadopoulos's natural constituency and were more likely to support him, seeing him as one of their own because of his rural roots. He cultivated this relationship by appealing to them, calling them i rahokokalia tou laou (η ραχοκοκαλιά του λαού, 'the backbone of the people') and cancelling all agricultural loans.[97][98] 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.[99] 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.[99]

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: I Ellas ine ena ergotaxion (Η Ελλάς είναι ένα εργοτάξιον, 'Greece is a construction zone'). The always smiling Stylianos Pattakos, also known as to proto mistri tis elladas (Το πρώτο μυστρί της Ελλάδας, 'the first trowel of Greece'), 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.[100]

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. 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 Thalassodania (Θαλασσοδάνεια, 'loans of the sea'), to indicate the loose terms under which they were granted.[101]

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.

Greek junta Characteristics of the Junta articles: 109

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 members of the Italian far right on a Greek tour, to demonstrate the junta's methods.[20] Invitees included Stefano Delle Chiaie and members of Ordine Nuovo, Avanguardia Nazionale, Europa Civiltà, and FUAN-La Caravella.[20][102] (cf Frattini, Entity, 2004, p. 304) The Italians were impressed. Upon returning to their country, they escalated their political violence, embarking on a terror campaign of bombings and other violence which killed and injured hundreds.[20] Afterwards, the right-wing instigators of this violence blamed the communists.[20]

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.[102] One of the neo-fascists conducted frequent provocations and infiltrations in the months leading to the Piazza Fontana bombing on 12 December 1969.[102] The Greek junta was so impressed with the manner in which 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".[20]

Greek junta Italian connection articles: 5

Anti-Junta movement

Alexandros Panagoulis on trial in front of the junta justice system

The democratic elements of Greek society were opposed to the junta, from the start. This included the entire left wing of the Greek political spectrum, including the Communist Party of Greece, which was outlawed long before the junta. Many new militant groups formed in 1968, both in exile and in Greece, to promote democratic rule. These included Panhellenic Liberation Movement, Democratic Defense, and the Socialist Democratic Union. The first armed action against the junta was Alexandros Panago