Greece History – From the Second World War to the Republic

Greece History – From the Second World War to the Republic

Ioannis Metaxas, in government since 1936, established a dictatorial regime on the fascist model, taking the main departments for himself and making himself head of the government for life (July 1938). The prudent foreign policy he followed in the international crisis then underway did not prevent him from reorganizing the army and providing for the construction of a fortified line that took his name. Rejected in October 1940 the ultimatum of Benito Mussolini which imposed on Greece the military occupation of strategic bases in Greek territory, Greece effectively resisted the Italian forces, despite the technical and numerical inferiority, until the German invasion of 1941 In April of that year the Germans entered Athens, establishing a collaborationist government, while George II and the government took refuge in Crete and then in Cairo.

According to, the allied offensive began, in the second half of 1943 the resistance took effect: the EAM, the National Liberation Front, an expression of progressive political and trade union organizations, and its armed arm ELAS (People’s Army of National Liberation), had already control of large swathes of the country when Anglo-American landings began in the autumn of 1944. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ghiorgos Papandreu, having returned to Athens, had conducted a policy of rapprochement with the EAM, welcoming a large number of representatives in his government. The situation was the most difficult: the population decimated by war, hunger, disease, agricultural and industrial equipment upset, communications almost interrupted due to the almost total loss of railway equipment and the merchant fleet, the financial situation is disastrous. From a political point of view, the institutional question was particularly hot, since the EAM took a position clearly opposed to the monarchy, and that of the disarmament of the partisans, which the EAM would have liked to condition for an equal dissolution of the armed forces of the right. In December, the resignation of the seven Communist ministers put the Papandreu government in crisis and at the same time the first clashes between police and demonstrators took place in Athens; a state of siege was declared and the protection of the order entrusted to the English garrison. The situation worsened in 1945: after a vain attempt at compromise, with English mediation, civil war broke out between the partisan organizations of ELAS and EAM, supported by the Communist Party,

Mostly ephemeral coalition cabinets alternated until 1956, when Kostantinos Karamanlis, at the head of a new party (Radical Union) won the majority in the elections. In foreign policy, Greece supported the aspirations of Cypriots for union, putting in crisis both relations with Great Britain and those with Turkey, due to the Turkish Cypriot minority. In 1963, when Karamanlis resigned, the elections saw the victory of the Union of the Center and the consequent formation of the Papandreu government, whose progressive and detente policy towards the left raised strong opposition among the conservatives. The accession to the throne of Constantine II, in 1964, accentuated the virulence of the clash. After the discovery of a plot by Republican officers, with the participation of the Prime Minister’s son, Andreas, to overthrow the monarchy and get Greece out of the Atlantic pact, the king demanded the resignation of Papandreu, but he appealed to public opinion, claiming his right as head of the absolute majority party to reconstitute the government and demanding, in line subordinate, a new election. The sovereign then tried by all means of pressure to break the parliamentary majority of the Union of the center, to form a business government, in charge of organizing new elections for 1967. But the elections did not take place because on April 21 a coup of State brought to power a group of soldiers led by the military junta formed by Ghiorgos Papadopulos, Stylianos Patakos and Nikolaos Makarezos.

The military dictatorship lasted a little over seven years. An attempt to overthrow it, made by King Constantine on December 13 of the same 1967, failed and cost the sovereign first exile and then, in 1973, the official dethronement with the proclamation of the Republic. The clandestine opposition to the regime gradually found its political and organizational expressions and starting from 1972 it gradually came into the open with demonstrations and protests, especially from the student world. In May 1973 there was an attempted revolt on the initiative of a sector of the Navy, in November of the same year the brutal reaction of the regime to the student and workers’ demonstrations following the student occupation of the Athens Polytechnic opened a crisis in the government. Only the following year, however, following the setback suffered in Cyprus, where the Greek military regime tried to overthrow the Cypriot president Makarios, suffering a harsh Turkish military reaction, the military junta was forced to resign. Former Prime Minister Karamanlis was recalled from exile, who formed a government of national salvation and restored democratic institutions and freedoms, calling the first free elections for November 17.

Greece History - From the Second World War to the Republic