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History of Greece
Post-war Greece

Greece has been ruled by a coalition of vested interests: The Palace, the Americans, the military leaders, the upper levels of the civil service and business, and of course the banks.  Greece has become a country of extreme right and extreme left and in the middle are a majority of people who are just trying to survive in a climate of nepotism and corruption.  

Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece When the Civil War finally ends Greece is in terrible shape. The country has become economically dependent on US aid and from 1951 to 1960 almost 12% of the population has emigrated to Australia, Canada and Germany. If before the war the struggle for dominating the politics of the country was between the Republican Venizelists and the Monarchist Anti-Venizelist, it is now a battle between the communists and the anti-communist. Unfortunately for Greece most of the US aid they are getting, which in other countries in Europe would have gone to economic development, is going straight to strengthening the military as a defense against the communist threat. Because of this dependence on US money there are few decisions made without American approval. It is estimated that during the civil war, instead of the American money going towards weapons and military assistance, they could have given every communist $8000 so they could have become capitalists. Politically the largest party is Constantinos Tsaldaris' People's Party. There are also three parties of the center. The Liberals, led by Sophocles Venizelos, the son of Eleftherios Venizelos, the National Progressive Center Union, led by Nikolaos Plastiras, another Venizelist, and the Party of George Papandreou.

General Alexander Papagos Two more parties appear to contest the 1951 elections, the Democratic Left which takes the place of the outlawed communist party, and the Greek Rally, led by Civil War commander Alexander Papagos (photo). Papagos is the choice of the Americans  and the Greek Rally party is the American plan to clean up the image of the right wing and make it attractive to centrist voters. In these elections the Greek Rally wins the largest share of the votes but not enough to rule. This leads to the forming of a coalition of the centrists, which angers the Americans. The US ambassador threatens a reduction in US aid unless the country switches from a proportional to a majority system, which despite reluctance by everyone except the right, is implemented in time for the November 1952 elections. Papagos' Greek Rally under the new system with 49% of the vote gets 82% of the seats. This enables them to further manipulate the rules and stay in power for the next ten years. The Papagos government commutes the death sentences of those convicted of political crimes and frees many from incarceration. Private enterprise is boosted by the devaluation of the drachma and tight monetary controls. Combined with money being sent home by those Greeks abroad, some light family-based industry developing, and the tourists starting to visit, Greece's economy begins to improve dramatically by the end of the fifties, though is still heavily dependent on US aid. Greeks who have been working overseas make their fortunes and return to start new businesses in Greece while the Greek merchant marine emerges as the largest in the world with the purchase by Greek companies of the old US Liberty ships that had been built for the Second World War. Living standards improve dramatically though unevenly.

Constantine Karamanlis with JFK Even relations with Turkey are improved and in 1952 both countries are admitted to NATO. But in 1955 a political crisis in Cyprus leads to anti-Greek riots in Istanbul after the home of Attaturk is bombed in Thessaloniki. Later it is discovered that the bomber was a member of the Turkish Secret service, but in the meantime the Turkish press exaggerate the incident and stoke the frenzy of the crowd against non-Muslims. For two days rioters in Istanbul destroy Christian churches, plunder Christian owned shops and invade homes in Greek and Armenian neighborhoods raping and killing. According to the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk in his excellent book 'Istanbul', it was later discovered that the rioters had the blessing of the city government which is why the troops that came in to stop them always arrived too late. The end result, probably the desired result, was the final exit from Constantinople of the last of the Byzantines. Istanbul which had a turn-of-the-century population that was half Christian was now almost entirely Muslim.

Meanwhile in Cyprus, the Greek Cypriots who are 80% of the population of the island want enosis, union with Greece. The Turks want partition. In the middle of this new crisis Papagos dies and Constantine Karamanlis, a minister from Macedonia, is chosen by King Paul to succeed him. He becomes the youngest prime minister in Greek history and his right-wing National Radical Union gains majorities in the 1956 general elections, the first in which women are allowed to vote. A believer in NATO, he is perceived by the left as being too pro-American, having been endorsed by both the political attaché of the US embassy and the local CIA chief. Karamanlis is criticized by his opponents for allowing the development of a right-wing shadow government and for his persecution of the left following the Civil war, as well as a poorly planned industrialization which leaves the countryside desolate, the cities over-populated and people streaming for the exits to find work abroad. However for all the criticism of Karamanlis and his party, they do rebuild the shattered Greek economy. His biggest mistake though is allowing the Kentriki Ypiresia Pliroforion or KYP , (the Greek CIA), to create auxiliary forces made up of shady characters mainly from members of anticommunist right-wing groups. These gangs do the police dirty work. They are used to break up anti-government demonstrations and the peace movement’s public meetings, such as the one Grigoris Lambrakis was scheduled to address on May 22, 1963.

Greek Expeditionary ForceIn June of 1953 in far away Korea, an event that parallels the heroics of Leonidas at Thermopylae takes place on a small hill called Outpost Harry (for Haros, meaning Death). Peter Company, and Sparta Battalion, soldiers of the Greek Expeditionary Forces attached to the 15th U.S. Infantry Regiment with less than 100 men withstand wave after wave of attacks by the Chinese trying to take the hill. For eight days, waves of Chinese Communist Forces stormed Harry’s trench lines--more than 13,000 soldiers in all. And yet each of the five companies ordered to hold Outpost Harry, when its turn came, held it. The relentless attacks would continue throughout the week, each evening bringing a flood of Chinese soldiers pouring through barbed wire, and on the worst nights, into Harry’s trenches. On the seventh day of the siege, Outpost Harry’s defiant, week-long survival and its continued defense are entrusted to the Greek soldiers of Peter Company, Sparta Battalion. Just before the midnight hour of June 17, an entire regiment of nearly 3000 Chinese soldiers burst forth from their positions and stormed the hill’s northern slope. According to official U.S. military records, “Company P of the Greek Battalion, refusing to withdraw, closed in and met the attackers in a furious hand to hand struggle in which many of the enemy were driven off. The aggressors regrouped, quickly attacked a second time, and again gained the friendly trenches. Immediately, the Greek Forces launched a series of counterattacks. After two hours of close-in fighting, the aggressors were again routed and the friendly positions restored.”

It was the last defeat the Chinese Communist Forces could endure in their pursuit of Outpost Harry. Their failed adventure had in eight days cost them 4200 casualties. Their entire 74th Division had been decimated. And for the first time in the annals of U.S. military history, five rifle companies together—four American and one Greek—would receive the prestigious Distinguished Unit Citation for the outstanding performance of their shared mission. This little known event is the subject of a Documentary film by Director-producer Christos Epperson and writer-producer Michael Epperson and a website dedicated to the memory of the soldiers of the Greek Expeditionary Force who served in the Korean War. For more information see  and

In 1957, Max Merton, the administrator of Thessaloniki during the German occupation returns to Greece to testify in a trial and, despite assurances by the Greek government that this would not happen, is arrested and charged with war crimes during the period of deportation of the Jews. During the trial he testifies that members of the Karamanlis government, including people who were very close to the prime-minister were his contacts and in fact collaborators. This was an embarrassment for Karamanlis especially since he was in negotiations to get Greece into the Common Market. A deal was made and in return for Merton's release after the trial, Germany would support Greece's application for membership.

Archbishop Markarios of CyprusIn 1958 Archbishop Markarios the spiritual leader of the Greek Cypriots, in exile in Athens, agrees to consider the possibility of independence for Cyprus instead of enosis. The island becomes an independent republic within the British Commonwealth, with British, Greek and Turkish forces being co-guarantors of the island's sovereignty. The constitution guarantees the Turkish minority, which is under 20% of the population, 30% of the seats in parliament. Karamanlis is accused of betraying Greece in the interest of NATO and the Americans. But with the problem of Cyprus out of the way, or at least swept under the rug for now, he has the opportunity to focus on improving the fortunes of Greece. In 1961 he negotiates an agreement with the European Economic Community that will pave the way to full membership.

In the 1958 elections, George Papandreou has put together a union of different parties ranging from the far left to the right in a new party called The Center Union, which in the elections of 1961 becomes the opposition party to Karamanlis and the National Radical Union. The results of this election are disputed by Papandreou's party and the United Democratic Left who claim that the ruling party has won by using the military and the police to intimidate people and manipulate the vote in the countryside. Papandreou begins his Anendotos (unyielding fight) to wrest power from the right. At the same time Karamanlis has had a falling out with the King and Queen over a planned visit to Great Britain which he believes will cause demonstrations against the continued imprisonment of political prisoners.

Grigoris Lambrakis marching from Marathon to Athens for peaceGrigoris Lambrakis is a parliamentary deputy and leader of the Greek peace committee. He had been elected to the Greek parliament in 1961 as a candidate of the Pan-democratic Agrarian Movement of Greece on the ticket of the Eniaia Dimokratiki Aristera (EDA). Lambrakis is not a communist or even an admirer of the Soviet Union. He is an independent socialist as well as a pacifist; a track and field star who won medals at the Balkan Games and had used his parliamentary immunity to march in a peace rally from Marathon to Athens that had been banned by the police. He is a rising star, a hero for the young people who are fed up with the authoritarian right-wing governments that are like pawns of the Americans, and who prefer fascism over communism. Lambrakis is a dangerous character in the eyes of the monarchy and the Greek government. His charisma, intelligence and popularity mean that he is a threat to their interests. He is against nuclear weapons and pro-peace. To the people in power this makes him a communist or a sympathiser. On May 22 1963 Lambrakis goes to Thessaloniki to address a rally of his followers, despite death threats. After the event, he is attacked and killed by hired thugs in plain view of the police. The killers turn out to be members of a secret right-wing organization used by the authorities for such purposes. Lambrakis falls into a coma and dies a week later. A young magistrate named Christos Sartzetakis is given the job of prosecuting the case in the belief that he is a good soldier and will accept the government line that this was an accident. Sartzetakis however, aggressively investigates the incident and discovers a conspiracy within the police. He indicts a number of police officials, despite attempts by the government to intervene and get him to call it an accident and blame Lambrakis' own people for inciting a riot. All over Greece the letter Z appears as graffiti. It means Zei, or 'he lives'. When a half million people march in Lambrakis' funeral it is Greece's largest postwar demonstration and triggers a general strike that brings Athens to a standstill. (However the results of the trial are thrown out after the military coup of April 21 1967. The movie Z which came out in 1969, during the dictatorship by Constantine Costa-Gavras is a historical account of the assassination of Lambrakis based on the book by Vassilis Vassilikos.) The Lambrakis affair for Greece was like Watergate and the JFK assassination rolled into one. Six months later Karamanlis is defeated and leaves Athens to live in Paris.

George Papandreau For the last 10 years Greece has been ruled by a coalition of vested interests. The Palace, the Americans, the military leaders, the upper levels of the civil service and business and of course the banks, who fully support Karamanlis and the National Radical Union. Greece is a country of extreme right and extreme left and in the middle are a majority of people who are just trying to survive in a climate of nepotism and corruption. But in 1963 things begin to change and the people find a voice in George Papandreou and his Center Union party who has been leading his Anendotos (unyielding fight) since the fraudulent 1961 elections. The Anendotos is Papandreou's plan to have honest and fair elections, create a properly functioning democracy, restrict the King to his constitutional role and neutralize the military which has become overly political through the indoctrination by the right-wing establishment. After winning the elections with a narrow margin, Papandreou calls for new elections in which he gets 53% of the vote. It seems to be a new dawn for democracy, but those who have held power have no intention of giving it up and the US has not spent millions to see Greece fall into the hands of anyone not willing to obey orders and be a good soldier in the war against communism.

Tsitsanis-Papayiannou Meanwhile in the world of popular music Greece is going through a renaissance in the fifties and early sixties. Rembetika and bouzoukia music had been looked down upon by the "good" society from the beginning of the 1920s until the late 1950s or early 1960s because it was considered the music of the underworld. The government radio station, ERT would not play it, but in 1948, a new radio station (YENED) was created for the benefit of the armed forces and they began broadcasting some rembetika with huge success. With a back-log of emotional and powerful material from the war and occupation years, and an audience eager to be entertained, Greek laika and rembetika music is now heard in the clubs, on the radio and on records. Musicians like Tsitsanis, Papayiaonnou, Kaldaras, Hiotis, Kazantzidis and Markos Bambakaris are in their heyday.

Manos Hadjidakis in the bouzoukia clubs in the early forties In the 1950s a few people with a sense of what is real and genuine, begin to frequent the bouzouki joints which up to then are only frequented by low class and marginal segments of the population, (just as in Buenos Aires in the beginning of the 20th century when the Tangerias were originally frequented by sailors and prostitutes). Among these people are composer Manos Hadjidakis and Yiannis Tsarouchis, the painter. In the late fifties Hadjidakis composes 2 memorable pieces called Six Folklore Paintings/ For A Small White Seashell. These are very classical pieces mainly by Tsitsanis, Vamvakaris, Stratos and Papaioannou which are re-orchestrated by Hadjidakis and played by modern instruments, like piano, violin and cello. Hadjidakis chose superb songs, like Arabas Perna, Synnefiasmeni Kyriaki, and Frangosyriani. The songs were recorded on vinyl and had an immediate success, acting as eye openers or rather ear openers with all the segments of the population. Hadjidakis, who was born in Crete but moved to Athens when he was 7 years old, had been a member of the Greek resistance where he met fellow composer Mikis Theodorakis. Both composers are instrumental in the reemergence of rembetika music and are to become Greece's most well known composers.

Mikis TheodorakisThroughout the fifties and sixties Mikis Theodorakis is gaining international prestige while living in Paris, composing many symphonic works as well as chamber music after having been imprisoned and tortured in Greece for being a communist. In 1957 he wins First Prize at the Moscow Festival. In 1960 he returns to Greece to found the Small Symphony Orchestra of Athens and present concerts all over Greece to familiarize the Greek people with the masterpieces of symphonic music. When Theodorakis enters the popular music scene in the sixties he adds some political flavour to his songs by choosing among others, the left-wing poet Yiannis Ritsos, whose poetry he uses for his songs, notably The Epitaph (Epitaphios). These lyrics contain direct references to the excesses of the conservative governments, for instance, he mentions, the ' smiling young man" and everybody knows that he referring to Nikos Beloyiannis, a communist and the legendary 'Man with the Carnation', who was executed in 1952 as a spy, despite all the European protests to save him. Theodorakis also refers to the crimes of the right wing during the Civil War. His music is far from being faithful to the rembetika music as Hadjidakis has been, but it is very popular with the youth who though they can not openly express their left wing beliefs can do so by singing Theodorakis' songs. Theodorakis' music, among other factors, is responsible for the revival of progressive political thinking in the 60s. After the murder of the Grigoris Lambrakis, Theodorakis is elected president of the Lambrakis Youth as well as being elected to parliament as a member of the United Democratic Left.

Nikos Kazantzakis In the world of Modern Greek literature the great writer Nikos Kazantzakis dies in 1957. One of the most important writers of the 20th century Kazantzakis was a poet and philosopher, influenced by the writings of Nietzsche and Bergson and the philosophies of Christianity, Marxism and Buddhism. Among his works are The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, which continues the story of Odysseus form the point where Homer leaves off, a poem 333,333 verses long. His book, The Last Temptation of Christ, is banned by the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church which tries to have him excommunicated. Other well-known books by Kazantzakis are Freedom or Death, The Fratricides, The Greek Passion and the most famous of all Zorba the Greek which in 1964 is made into one of the most popular movies of all time, starring Anthony Quinn. (The theme song by Theodorakis becomes the most popular Greek song of all time played at every baseball game in the USA to spur home-team rallies as well as weddings, high school dances and even bar-mitzvahs.) Other writers of this period include Yannis Ritsos, who became friends with Theodorakis on the prison island of Macronissos, and George Seferis, who was a great friend of Lawrence Durrell and Henry Miller, both of whom spent time in Greece, Miller a few weeks before the war and Durrell on and off for most of his life. In 1960 Jules Dassin's film Never On Sunday makes Melina Mecouri an international star. She wins Best Actress awards from the Cannes Film Festival and New York Film Critics Circle. The film also win an Oscar for Best Song from the soundtrack by Manos Hadjidakis who also becomes an international celebrity. (The film is later made into a Broadway musical and Melina is nominated for a Tony Award.)

Nonda In the world of visual art a young Greek artist by the name of Epaminondas Papadopoulos, or Nonda, is creating a stir in Paris. A member of the Ecole De Paris and a friend of Andre Malraux, Pablo Picasso and Nikos Kazantzakis he is exhibited alongside of Chagall, Miro, Picasso and others and hailed as one of the new hopes for contemporary art. In 1952 he does his first one-man show in Athens. His erotic paintings of nude women spark a national scandal. Though thousands of people wait in line to see his nudes, the exhibition is closed by the police and not reopened until Nondas pins fig leaves over the offending parts. With the support of Malraux, the French Minister of Culture, Nondas receives permission to exhibit his work under the Pont Nuef, the oldest bridge in Paris, reviving a tradition of outdoor exhibits that has continued to this day. Nonda continues to exhibit his paintings and sculptures, influencing some of the most well-known modern Greek and European painters. In 1963 his Trojan Horse exhibition at Pont Nuef creates an international sensation. Large scale canvases, sculptures, wooden furniture and objects d'art are displayed around the centerpiece, a giant Trojan horse made of steel, wood and newspapers, in which Nonda lives during the exhibition. Thousands of visitors see the exhibition which is reviewed in newspapers around the world.

Sculpture in Greece, on the other hand, has a long way to go before it lives up to the standards of Praxitelis. On May 29th 1963 a statue of Harry S. Truman is unveiled in Athens. Created by Felix W. de Weldon, the creator of the US Marine Memorial of the Stars and Stripes being raised at Iwo Jima, the Truman statue is a gift from the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA). The statue becomes a popular target of political expression and is blown up numerous times, as well as spray-painted with anti-US slogans. But mostly people look at it and wonder why is there a statue of a US president in the middle of Athens? The sad irony is that the dedication of Truman's statue takes place the day after the massively attended Lambrakis funeral (photo). Clearly there are two separate courses in Greece. One is for peace and democracy. The other is for stamping out communism even at the expense of democracy. Unfortunately the USA is on the wrong side and things are about to get worse.

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