Georgios Papadopoulos

Georgios Papadopoulos

Infobox President
name=Georgios Papadopoulos
_el. Γεώργιος Παπαδόπουλος

order=Prime Minister of Greece (self appointed)
term_start=December 13, 1967
term_end=October 8, 1973
predecessor=Konstantinos Kollias
successor=Spiros Markezinis
birth_date=birth date|1919|5|5|mf=y
death_date=death date and age|1999|6|27|1919|5|5|mf=y
spouse=Niki Vasileiadi
Despina Gaspari
party=None (military)
order2=Regent of Greece (self appointed)|term_start2=March 21, 1972
term_end2=June 1, 1973
predecessor2=Georgios Zoitakis
successor2="None (monarchy abolished)"
order3=President of Greece (self appointed)|term_start3=June 1, 1973
term_end3=November 25, 1973
predecessor3=Constantine II of Greece (as King of the Hellenes)
successor3=Phaedon Gizikis

Georgios Papadopoulos ( _el. Γεώργιος Παπαδόπουλος) (May 5, 1919ndash June 27, 1999) was the head of the military coup d'état that took place in Greece on April 21, 1967 and leader of the military government that ruled the country from 1967 to 1974.

Early life and military career

Papadopoulos was born in Elaiohori, a small village in the Prefecture of Achaea in Peloponnese to local school teacher Christos Papadopoulos and his wife Chrysoula. He was the eldest son and had two brothers, Konstantinos and Haralambos. Upon finishing High School in 1937, he enrolled in the "Scholi Evelpidon" Officer Academy (Σχολή Ευελπίδων). He completed his three-year education in 1940.

Papadopoulos' biographical notes, that were published as a booklet by supporters in 1980, mention that he attended a Civil engineering course at the Polytechneion but did not graduate.Georgios Papadopoulos: Report to the Court and Declaration to the Greek People. (Αναφορά προς το Δικαστήριον και Δήλωσις προς τον Ελληνικόν λαόν). Greek Canadian Patriotic League. Horizons Press, Toronto, Ontario 1980, (Ελληνικός Πατριωτικός Σύνδεσμος. Τυπογραφείον Ορίζοντες Τορόντο, Οντάριο).]

Resistance and Acquiescence

The 1941 class became the class of 1940B, graduating a year early as a result of Mussolini's invasion. On October 28, 1940, Prime Minister of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas, rejected an Italian ultimatum to allow the occupation of unspecified strategic points within Greek territory by the Italian army. Italy's leader Benito Mussolini had already issued orders for an invasion in that event. Thus Greece entered World War II. Papadopoulos saw field action as a Second Lieutenant of the Artillery against both the Italians and the forces of Nazi Germany, who joined them on April 6, 1941.

The Wehrmacht captured Athens on April 27, 1941. Following their victory in the Battle of Crete (May 20 - June 1, 1941), Greece was placed under the combined occupation of Nazi Germany, Italy and Bulgaria. A resistance movement soon emerged, including several organizations varying in ideological conviction, popular support, and area of activity. Most significant among them was the left-wing Ellinikos Laïkos Apeleftherotikos Stratos (ELAS), formed by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the strongest group in terms of numbers. Papadopoulos, an anti-communist, did not join ELAS or any other resistance group and instead worked for the "Patras Food Supply Office" of the Greek collaborationist administration.

The "Patras Food Supply Office" was run under the command of Colonel Kourkoulakos, and was responsible for tax collecting in the villages on behalf of the Nazi occupation forces. Colonel Kourkoulakos was responsible for the formation of the "Security Battalions" at Patras, which were military units composed of anti-communist Greeks, collaborating with the Nazi occupation forces, primarily against the ELAS. Papadopoulos worked under the commands of Kourkoulakos against ELAS.

At the beginning of 1944, Papadopoulos left Greece with the help of British intelligence agents and went to Egypt, where the Greek government-in-exile was based, where he received the rank of Lieutenant. Along with other right-wing military officers, he participated in the creation of the right-wing paramilitary IDEA organization, in the fall of 1944, shortly after the country's liberation. Those 1940B officers who went to Egypt with the King immediately after the German invasion had attained the rank of General when their still-colonel classmates undertook the coup of 1967.

Divorce by Decree

Papadopoulos married his first wife Niki Vasileiadi in 1941 and they had two children, a son and a daughter. [ Papadopoulos biographical notes from Ohio State University] ] Their marriage, however, later fell in difficult times and they eventually separated. Their separation, although lengthy, initially could not lead to divorce because, under Greece's restrictive divorce laws of that era, spousal consent was required. To remedy this, in 1970, as Prime Minister of the dictatorship he decreed a custom-made divorce law to be passed of very limited duration (built-in sunset clause), that enabled him to get the divorce. The law subsequently, having served its purpose, automatically expired. After his divorce, Papadopoulos married his long-time paramour Despina Gaspari in 1970 with whom he had a daughter.

Post-World War II career

In 1946, he received the rank of Captain and, in 1949, during the Greek Civil War, he rose to the rank of Major. (See also: Greek military ranks). He served at the KYP Intelligence Service from 1959 to 1964 as the main contact between the KYP and the top CIA operative in Greece, John Fatseas, after receiving training from the CIA in 1953.TV documentary " [ ΤΑ ΔΙΚΑ ΜΑΣ 60's - Μέρος 3ο: ΧΑΜΕΝΗ ΑΝΟΙΞΗ] " by Stelios Kouloglu]

Trials and tribulations: The Beloyannis affair

Papadopoulos was also a member of the court-martial in the first trial of the well-known Greek communist leader Nikos Beloyannis in 1951. At that trial, Beloyannis was sentenced to death for the crime of being a member of the Communist Party, which was banned at that time in Greece following the Greek Civil War. The death sentence pronounced after this trial (Papadopoulos had voted against it) was not carried out, but Beloyannis was put to trial again in early 1952, this time for alleged espionage, following the discovery of radio transmitters used by undercover Greek communists to communicate with the exiled leadership of the Party in the Soviet Union. At the end of this trial, he was sentenced to death and immediately shot. Papadopoulos was not involved in this second trial. The Beloyannis trials are highly controversial in Greece and many Greeks consider that, like many Greek communists at the time, Beloyannis was shot for his political beliefs, rather than any real crimes. The trial was by court-martial under Greek anti-insurgency legislation dating from the time of the Greek Civil War that remained in force even though the war had ended.

Rise to colonel in the 1960s

In 1956, Papadopoulos took part in a failed coup attempt against Paul of Greece. In 1958, he helped create the Office of Military Studies, a surveillance authority, under General Gogousis. It was from this same office that the subsequently successful coup of April 21, 1967 emerged.

In 1964, he was transferred to an artillery division in Thrace by decree of the Center Union defense minister Garoufalias. [ 28/06/1999 obituary] of Papadopoulos, published the day after his death in newspaper Eleftherotypia] In June 1965, days before the major political turmoil known as Apostasia, Papadopoulos reached national headlines. He arrested two soldiers under his command and eight leftist civilians from settlements near his military camp, under the charges that they had conspired to sabotage army vehicles by pouring sugar into the vehicles' gas tanks. The ten people were imprisoned and tortured, but eventually it was proven that Papadopoulos himself had sabotaged the vehicles. Andreas Papandreou wrote in his memoirs that Papadopoulos wanted to prove that under the Center Union government, the communists had been let free to undermine national security.cite book |last=Papandreou |first=Andreas |title=Democracy before the firing squad |publisher=Livanis Publishing |location=Athens |language=Greek |id=ISBN 960-14-1237-9 |pages=p.60] However, Papadopoulos was not discharged from the army, as prime minister Georgios Papandreou forgave him on the grounds that Papadopoulos was a compatriot of his father.

In 1967, Papadopoulos was promoted to Colonel.

21 April 1967: Coup d'état

The same year, on April 21, (one month before the general elections) Papadopoulos, along with fellow middle-ranking Army officers, led a successful coup, taking advantage of the volatile political situation that had arisen from a conflict between King Constantine II and the aging former prime minister, Georgios Papandreou. Papadopoulos attempted to re-engineer the Greek political landscape by coup. Many observers characterize his subsequent rule, as heavy-handed. Henry Tasca, American Ambassador to Greece, called the military government "the most anti-communist group you'll find anywhere." In Greece even today the words "21η Απριλίου 1967", translated as 21st April 1967, are still synonymous with the word "πραξικόπημα" that translates as coup d'état.

Regime of the Colonels


Papadopoulos' regime imposed martial law, censorship, mass arrests, beatings and torture. Thousands of the regime's political opponents, or even people with coincidentally the same names as them, were thrown into prison or internal exile on islands like Makronisos. (Amnesty International issued a report detailing numerous instances of torture under the regime; details of which are given in the main article on the junta). Papadopoulos excused these actions by stating that they were being done to save the nation from a "communist takeover". Because of the regime's staunchly anti-communist stance, it was strongly supported by the United States, while otherwise Greece sunk in international isolation. Many Greeks felt confirmed in their belief of USA backing and even complicity in the coup by Bill Clinton's public apology for that support on behalf of the USA, during his November 1999 visit in Greece.

The military government dissolved political parties, clamped down on left wing organizations and labor unions, and promoted a more traditionalist culture, which saw among others an increased role for the Orthodox Church and implementation of measures such as more modest dress for women. At the same time, however, in an effort to garner popular support, extensive public works, such as road-building and electrification, were carried out in the mostly backward rural areas.

Assassination attempt

A failed assassination attempt was made against Papadopoulos by Alexandros Panagoulis in the morning of August 13, 1968, when Papadopoulos went from his summer residence in Lagonisi to Athens, escorted by his personal security motorcycles and cars. 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 was instructed to leave at a specific time and he couldn't swim there on time due to the strong sea currents.

Panagoulis was arrested, and transferred to the Greek Military Police (EAT-ESA) offices were he was questioned, beaten and tortured. On November 17, 1968, he was sentenced to death, and remained for five years in prison. After the restoration of Democracy, Panagoulis was elected a member of Parliament. Panagoulis was regarded as an emblematic figure for the struggle to restore Democracy. He has often been paralleled to Harmodius and Aristogeiton, two ancient Athenians, known for the tyrannicide of the Athenian tyrant Hipparchus.

Normalization and attempts at liberalization

Papadopoulos had indicated as early as 1968 that he was eager for a reform process and even tried to contact Markezinis at the time.Ioannis Tzortzis, [ "The Metapolitefsi that never was"] quote:"The Americans asked the Greek government to allow the use of their bases in Greek territory and air space to supply Israel; Markezinis, backed by Papadopoulos, denied on the grounds of maintaining good relations with the Arab countries. This denial is said to have turned the US against Papadopoulos and Markezinis." quote#2:"Thus the students ‘had been played straight into the hands of Ioannidis, who looked upon the coming elections with a jaundiced eye.." quote3: "The latter (editor's note: i.e. Markezinis) would insist until the end of his life that subversion on behalf..... ..Markezinis was known for his independence to the US interests" quote 4: In that situation Ioannidis was emerging as a solution for the officers, in sharp contrast to Papadopoulos, whose accumulation ‘of so many offices and titles (President of Republic, Prime Minister, minister of Defence) was harming the seriousness of the regime and giving it an unacceptable image, which was not left un-exploited by its opponents quote 5: The first attempt of Papadopoulos to start a process of reforma occurred in the spring of 1968. He was claiming that if the ‘Revolution’ stayed more than a certain time in power, it would lose its dynamics and transform into a ‘regime,’ which was not in his intentions. He tried to implicate Markezinis in the attempt; however, he met the stiff resistance of the hard-liners. Another attempt was again frustrated in the end of 1969 and the beginning of 1970; Papadopoulos was then disappointed and complaining 'I am being subverted by my fellow Evelpides cadets!' As a result of this second failure, he considered resigning in the summer of 1970, complaining that he lacked any support from other leading figures, his own closest followers included. But the rest of the faction leaders renewed their trust to him] 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 Ioannides. 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.

As internal dissatisfaction grew in the early 1970s, and especially after an abortive coup by the Navy in early 1973, Papadopoulos attempted to legitimize the regime by beginning a gradual "democratization" (See also the article on Metapolitefsi). On June 1, 1973, he abolished the monarchy and declared himself President of the Republic after a controversial referendum. He furthermore sought the support of the old political establishment, but secured only the cooperation of Spiros Markezinis, who became Prime Minister. Concurrently, many restrictions were lifted, and the army's role significantly reduced. Papadopoulos intended to establish a presidential republic, with extensive 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.

Fall of the Papadopoulos regime

After the tragic events of the student uprising of November 17 at the National Technical University of Athens ("see:Athens Polytechnic uprising"), his government was overthrown on November 25, 1973 by hard-line elements in the Army. The outcry over Papadopoulos's extensive reliance on the army to quell the student uprising gave Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannides a pretext to oust him and replace him as the new strong man of the regime. Papadopoulos was put under house arrest at his villa, while Greece returned to an 'orthodox' military dictatorship.

After democracy was restored in 1974, during the metapolitefsi, Papadopoulos was tried along with his colleagues for treason. On August 23, 1975 he was sentenced to death, which was later commuted to a life sentence. Papadopoulos remained in prison, rejecting amnesty on the condition that he acknowledged his past record and expressed remorse, until his death at age 80, when he succumbed to cancer.


Today, Papadopoulos is a symbol of authoritarianism and xenophobia for many Greeks. Right wing Greeks praise him for promoting Greek culture, imposing a strong hand and fighting Communism. After the restoration of democracy some support for the politics of Papadopoulos remained and was, for a time, represented by the National Political Union (EPEN), a fringe political party, that not unexpectedly declared him its honorary leader. EPEN eventually dissolved, with supporters scattering to various other political parties.

See also

* History of Modern Greece
* Military history of Greece during World War II
* Greek Civil War
* Greek military junta of 1967-1974

Cited References

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