George Papadopoulos

George Papadopoulos (Greek Γεώργιος Παπαδόπουλος, Georgios Papadopoulos, (May 5, 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.

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 Suplly 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 recieved 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 two daughters. He would marry his second wife, Despina Gaspari, in 1970. This union produced one son.

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 that sentenced Nikos Beloyannis to death for treason in 1951. The trial has been criticized for procedural irregularities, allegedly flawed evidence (including problematic "Soviet" decrypts), and its military nature (the Greek state was not in a declared war against a foreign power, but rather a domestic insurgency— which was, however, supplied from abroad).

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."

Soldier and burning Phoenix (Phoenix a symbol of Democracy ?)

Easter in Greece, Greek military junta, Christ is Risen, Hellas is Risen

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. In the first month, there were 8,000 victims. Papadopoulos excused these actions by stating that they were being done to save the nation from a "communist takeover".

The military government banned the works of Aristotle, Sophocles, and Jean-Paul Sartre. They also clamped down on left wing organizations, labor unions, and promoted modest dress in women and his view of what Greek culture should be. Church attendance was made mandatory for young people.

Amnesty International sent observers to Greece at the time and reported that under Papadopoulos' regime torture was a deliberate practice carried out by both Security Police and the Military Police.

James Becket, an American attorney sent to Greece by Amnesty International, wrote In December 1969 that "a conservative estimate would place at not less than two thousand" the number of people tortured. In his report he describes how some torturers had told prisoners about the US origin of some of their torture devices.

Furthermore, an Amnesty International delegation described a variety or tortures routinely carried out against critics of the regime which included the following:

  • Beating the soles of the feet with a stick or pipe
  • Sexually-oriented torture
  • Techniques of gagging
  • Tearing out the hair from the head and the pubic region
  • Jumping on the stomach
  • Pulling out toe nails and finger nails

During the Cold War, Pappadopoulos's government was supported by the United States against Soviet and communist agents. He is believed to have had personal connections with the Central Intelligence Agency.

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. 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.


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. Other Greeks praise him for promoting Greek culture 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.

Greek Stamp 21 April 1967 -72 , five years "progress".

See also

History of Modern Greece

Alexandros Panagoulis

Military history of Greece during World War II

Greek Civil War

Greek military junta of 1967-1974

Preceded by:
Constantine Kollias
Prime Minister of Greece
Succeeded by:
Spiros Markezinis
Preceded by:
George Zoitakis
Regent of Greece
Succeeded by:
monarchy abolished
Preceded by:
Constantine II
(King of the Hellenes)
President of Greece
Succeeded by:
Phaedon Gizikis

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