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Poster of the legendary movie Z by Kostas Gavras about the political assassination of Gregoris Lambrakis. "He is alive!" can be seen on the poster under the large Z, written in French, it says “Il est vivant!”, referring to a popular Greek protest



The Greek Military Junta
(Regime of the Colonels)
Anti-junta Movement


Civil liberties were suppressed, special military courts were established, and political parties were dissolved. Several thousand suspected communists and political opponents were imprisoned or exiled to remote Greek islands. Under Papadopoulos' regime torture was a deliberate practice carried out by both Security Police and the Military Police.

As early as 1968, many militant groups promoting democratic rule were formed both in exile and in Greece. These included, among others, PAK, Democratic Defence, the Socialist Democratic Union as well as groups from the entire left wing of the Greek political spectrum, large parts of which (such as the KKE) had been outlawed even before the junta. The first hands-on action against the junta was the failed assassination attempt against Papadopoulos by Alexandros Panagoulis.

Assassination Attempt

Alexandros Panagoulis during the trial, November 1968The events took place in the morning of 13 August 1968 when Papadopoulos, escorted by his personal security motorcycles and cars, went from his summer residence in Lagonisi to Athens. At a point of the coastal road where the limousine carrying Papadopoulos would have to slow down, Alexandros Panagoullis ignited a bomb but it did not harm Papadopoulos. In an interview held after his liberation, Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci quoted Panagoulis as saying: “I didn’t want to kill a man. I’m not capable of killing a man. I wanted to kill a tyrant.”.

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 arrested and transferred to the military police (EAT-ESA) offices were he was questioned, beaten and tortured.

Panagoulis was put on trial by the Military Court on 3 November 1968, condemned to death with other members of National Resistance on 17 November 1968 and subsequently transported to the island of Aegina for the sentence to be carried out. As a result of political pressure from the international community, the junta refrained from executing him and instead incarcerated him at the Military Prisons of Bogiati (S.F.B.) on 25 November 1968.

Alexandros Panagoulis on trial by the junta Military Court on 3 November 1968Alexandros Panagoulis refused to cooperate with the junta and was subjected to physical and psychological torture. He escaped from prison on 5 June 1969 but was soon arrested and sent temporarily to the camp of Goudi. He was eventually placed in solitary confinement at Bogiati from which he unsuccessfully attempted to escape on several occasions.

He reportedly refused amnesty offers from the junta. In August 1973, after four and a half year in jail, he benefited from a general amnesty that the military regime granted to all political prisoners during a failed attempt by Papadopoulos to liberalize his regime. Panagoulis went into self-exile in Florence, Italy, in order to continue the resistance. There he was hosted by Oriana Fallaci, his companion who was to become his biographer. Later, after the restoration of Democracy, Panagoulis was elected a member of Parliament. He was regarded upon as an emblematic figure for the struggle to restore Democracy. Top

Broadening of the Movement

The funeral of George Papandreou, Sr. on 1 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 marked by widespread censorship, political detentions and torture, Giorgos Seferis (who had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963) took a stand against the junta. He made a statement on the BBC World Service, with copies simultaneously distributed to every newspaper in Athens. In a speech against the colonels he passionately stated that "This anomaly must end.". Seferis did not live to see the end of the junta. His funeral though, 0n 20 September 1972, was turned into a massive demonstration against the military government.

Costa GavrasAlso in 1969, Costa Gavras released the film Z, based on a book by celebrated left-wing writer Vassilis Vassilikos. The banned film presented a (barely) fictionalized account of the events surrounding the assassination of EDA politician Gregoris Lambrakis in 1963. The film was made to capture a sense of outrage about the junta. The soundtrack of the film was made by the junta-imprisoned Mikis Theodorakis and was smuggled into the country to be added to the other inspirational, underground Theodorakis tracks. Top

International Protest

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 like Makronisos, Yaros, Youra or inhabited islands like Leros, Agios Eustratios or Trikeri.

Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Chatzidakis in a photograph of the early 60s. Both of them left their mark on the cultural development of the country, until the end of the century - Kathimerini, Elliniki Diskografia, "Enosis", AthensThe most famous were in exile abroad. Most of them were involved in resistance, organizing protests in European capital cities or helping and hiding refugees from Greece. Melina Merkouri, actor-singer (after 1981, minister of culture); Mikis Theodorakis, composer of resistance songs; Costas Simitis, Prime Minister from 1996 to 2004 and Andreas Papandreou, Prime Minister from 1981 to 1989 and again from 1993 to 1996, were among them. Some chose exile, unable to stand life under the junta. Melina Merkouri for instance, was allowed to enter Greece but stayed away on her own accord.

Kostas Georgakis

Kostas GeorgakisIn the early hours of 19 of September 1970 on Matteoti square in Genoa, Italy, geology student Kostas Georgakis set himself ablaze in protest against the dictatorship government of George Papadopoulos. The junta delayed the arrival of his remains on 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.

Kostas Georgakis is the only known resistance hero to the junta to have protested by ending his life and he is considered the precursor of later student protest such as the Polytechnic uprising. The Municipality of Corfu has dedicated a memorial in his honor near his home in Corfu City. Top

The insignia of the Velos in Greek serviceThe Velos Mutiny

On 23 May 1973, while participating in a NATO exercise and in order to protest against the junta, the HNS (Hellenic Navy Service) Velos, under the command of Commander Nicholaos Pappas, anchored at Fiumicino in Italy, refusing to return to Greece. When on patrol with other NATO vessels between Italy and Sardinia, the captain and the officers heard from a radio station that naval officers had been arrested in Greece.

The HNS Velos (Greek for Arrow) in the 1970’sCommander Pappas was involved in a group of democratic officers loyal to their oath to obey the constitution and planning to act against the junta. Pappas believed that since his fellow anti-junta officers had been arrested, there was no more hope for a movement inside Greece. He 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 signalled the commander of the squadron and NATO Headquarters of his intentions quoting the preamble of the North Atlantic Treaty (founding treaty for NATO) which declares that "all governments ...are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law". He then left the formation and sailed for Rome.

Commander Pappas disembarking from the Velos D16 to an Italian coast guard vessel to continue action against the dictatorship in GreeceHe anchored about 3.5 nautical miles away from the coast of Fiumicino. Three ensigns went ashore with a whaleboat and went to the airport of Fiumicino. From there they called 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 caused international interest in the situation in Greece. The captain, six officers, and twenty five petty officers remained abroad as political refugees. The whole crew wished to follow their captain but was advised by the officers to remain onboard and return to Greece to inform families and friends about what happened.

The HNS Velos (D16) now is a naval museum in the Gulf of Faliron in AthensOne month later the HNS Velos returned to Greece with a replacement crew. After the fall of junta, all officers and petty officers returned to Greece and to the Navy. The liberal Greek politician Evangelos Averoff also participated in the Velos mutiny. He was arrested as an "instigator" for doing so. The HNS Velos now is a naval museum anchored in the Park of Maritime Tradition in the Gulf of Faliro in Athens. Top


   Assassination attempt
   Broadening of the movement
   International protest
   The Velos mutiny

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