George Papadopoulos

Georgios Papadopoulos ( ???????? ????????????, (, 1919 – 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 during the period 1967 - 1974.

George Papadopoulos
George Papadopoulos

Contents

Early life and military career

Papadopoulos was born in Elaiohori, Achaea to school teacher Christos Pappadopoulos and his wife Chrysoula. He had two brothers, Constantine and Haralabos. He received a Secondary education and during 1937, enlisted in the Hellenic Army Academy. He completed his three-year education in 1940.

Resistance & Acquiescence

Graduates of the 1940 class would soon be introduced to war. On October 28, 1940, Prime Minister of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas, refused to allow the Italian army to cross the borders between Greece and Albania. Prime Minister of Italy, Benito Mussolini had already issued orders for an invasion in that event. Thus, Greece entered World War II. George 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. Significant among them was the left-wing Ethnikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos (ELAS), formed by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the strongest group numerically. Papadopoulos, an anti-communist, did not join ELAS and instead worked for the "Patras Food Suplly 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 at villages on behalf of the Nazi Occupation Forces. Colonel Kourkoulakos is responsible for the formation of the "Evzoni Regiments" at Patras, who were military regiments comprised by anti-communist Greeks collaborating with the Nazi occupation forces against the ELAS. Papadopoulos worked under the commands of Kourkoulakos against ELAS, which was initially sponsored by the Soviet Union.

At he beginning of 1944, Papadopoulos left Greece with the help of British intelligence agents and went to the Middle East, where he received the rank of Lieutenant. Along with other right wing military officers, he contributed to the creation of the right wing paramilitary IDEA organization, at Fall 1944.

Family life

Papadopoulous had married his first wife, Niki Vasileiadi, in 1941, by whom he had children. He was long estranged from his first wife, but under Greece's laws at the time, he could not get a divorce without her consent. This was the situation when he became Prime Minister in late 1967. In 1970 he caused a special law to be passed, which remained valid only for a very short while, and enabled him to get a divorce. The law was then abolished. After his divorce Papadopoulos married his long-time friend, He Despina Gaspari, in 1970. They had no children.

Post-World War II career

At 1946 he received the rank of Captain and at 1949, during the Greek Civil War, he received the rank of Major. (See also: Greek military ranks). He served at KYP (Kentriki Ypiresia Pliroforion – the former Greek intelligence agency) from 1959 to 1964, after receiving training from the CIA in 1953.

Beloyannis trial

Papadopoulos was also a member of the court-martial in the first trial of the well-known Greek communist leader Nikos Beloyannis in 1951. In that trial, Beloyannis was sentenced to death for the crime of being a member of the Communist Party, at the time banned in Greece under a law adopted during the Greek Civil War. The death sentence pronounced after this trial 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 and remaining in force even though the war had ended.

Rise to colonel in the 1960's

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 this same office from which the later, successful coup of April 21, 1967 emerged.

In 1967, Papadopoulos was promoted to Colonel.

1967 coup

The same year, on April 21, Papadopoulos led a successful coup with fellow officers, taking advantage of the volatile political situation that had arisen from a conflict between King Constantine II and the aging prime minister, Georgios Papandreou. 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."

Regime of the Colonels

See main article: Greek military junta of 1967-1974

Following the military coup, the regime of Papadopoulos instilled 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. Papadopoulos excused these actions by stating that they were being done to save the nation from a "communist takeover". 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. In 1972 he nominated himself the title of Regent of Greece, succeeding Georgios Zoitakis.

The military government dissolved political parties, clamped down on left wing organizations and labor unions, and promoted modest dress in women according to its view of what Greek culture should be.

During the Cold War, Papadopoulos's regime was supported by the United States in the pretext of securing Greece against Soviet and communist influence. Papadopoulos is believed to have had personal connections with the Central Intelligence Agency. It is widely believed among Greeks that Bill Clinton's public apology on behalf of the USA, during his November 1999 visit in Greece, proved that Papadopoulos's regime was indeed supported by the United States. In the eyes of the Greek public opinion this disproved those Greek politicians who argued that USA support of the junta was yet another conspiracy theory.

Assasination Attempt

On August 13 1968, a failed assasination attempt was made against Papadopoulos by Alexandros Panagoulis. The events took place in the morning of August 13, 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 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. 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 .

Fall of the military government

His government was overthrown on November 25 1973 by members of his own administration, after the student uprising of November 17 at the National Technical University of Athens (see:Athens Polytechnic uprising). The outcry over Papadopoulos's extensive reliance on the army to quell the student resistance gave General Dimitrios Ioannides an opportunity and replaced him as the head of government.

After democracy was restored in 1974, Papadopoulos was tried along with his colleagues for treason and insurrection and received the death penalty, which was later commuted to a life sentence. Papadopoulos remained in prison, rejecting amnesty, until his death at age 80, when he succumbed to cancer.

Legacy

Today, Papadopoulos is a symbol of authoritarianism for many Greeks, some of whom characterize him as one of the most despised persons in recent Greek history. Few Greeks praise him for promoting Greek culture, imposing law and order and saving Greece from communist infiltration and Soviet influence. After the restoration of democracy, there was still support for the politics of Papadopoulos, represented by a political party (ΕΠΕΝ - EPEN). Today, EPEN has dissolved, with supporters moving on to various other political parties.

See also

Preceded by:
Constantine Kollias
Prime Minister of Greece
1967–1973
Succeeded by:
Spiros Markezinis
Preceded by:
George Zoitakis
Regent of Greece
1972–1973
Succeeded by:
monarchy abolished
Preceded by:
Constantine II
(King of the Hellenes)
President of Greece
1973
Succeeded by:
Phaedon_Gizikis

 

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