Remembering November 17, 1973

By 1973 the Greek military Junta is no match for the Athenian youth who throws off its shackles.

In the 1970s the Colonels Junta’s efforts to ‘protect the Greek youth’ from the ills of western culture begin to fall apart. The bans on mini-skirts, long hair and rock’n’roll are not enforced, especially on tourists using Greece as an overland stopover between Europe and India.

LSD is coming in from Europe and hashish from Turkey and Afghanistan and radical student politics from the US are infecting the youth of Greece who are living under the shadow of a military dictatorship.

Underground radio stations appear, almost all of them owned by young people and are playing Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath and Free.
Places like Paradise Beach in Mykonos and Matala, Crete become hippy colonies.

Young people flock to the islands for sun and sea and cheap prices despite the dictatorship.
In the American community in Greece, counterculture and drugs are spreading among high school students US airmen and sailors from the 6th fleet stationed in Athens.

Unknown to the Colonels and the American military, Embassy and CIA, their children are undermining them, turning their friends on to hash and acid, listening to the Kick Out The Jams and reading Jerry Rubin’s Do-it and Abbie Hoffman’s Woodstock Nation.

Student protest is forbidden in the Greece but on November 14, 1973, students gather at the Athens Polytechnic to demonstrate against the Junta. This demonstration turns into a student uprising with the working class and the middle classes also join as they have had enough of the Colonels.

On the November 16 the demonstrators attempt to march from the Polytechnic to Syntagma Square but are halted by the police.

As more people gather at the Polytechnic, already there are plans for ending the student rebellion, using tanks from the nearby bases in and around Athens.

The students prepare for a siege, build barricades and broadcast on a clandestine radio station that the time is right to overthrow the junta calling for their countrymen to join them in central Athens.

At 2am on November 17 the tanks Papadopoulos has ordered to crush the student rebellion arrive at the Polytechnic. At 3am a tank crashes through the gate of the Polytechnic and police and military storm the campus.

As the gate crashes to the ground students rush out to escape and are beaten with clubs and arrested.
At least 34 demonstrators are killed though there are rumours that the number is much higher.

Several hundred are injured and almost a thousand are arrested at the school and at the Ministry of Public Order, which had been under siege by demonstrators.

Over the next two days crowds attempting to gather in central Athens, are broken up by police and soldiers, who are everywhere.
The rebellion at the Polytechnic is over and martial law is declared for a week. My friend Harry kept me informed by phone on what was going on in Syntagma Square, where he lived. I recorded our conversation and typed it out and handed it in for my drama class in college and got an A.

A week after the Colonels are overthrown in a coup by a more hardline faction of the Junta, led by Dimitris Ioannides, the head of the feared military police.
As with the first Junta, many Greeks believe this one has been instigated by the CIA but the reactions of the U.S. is so confused that foreknowledge is unlikely.

In Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios demands the removal of Greek officers from the Cypriot National Guard so the Athens government launches a coup using the Cypriot National Guard and announces over the radio that Makarios is dead.

Nikos Sampson a ruthless right-wing thug is sworn in as the President of Cyprus and sets out to have Makarios assassinated but Makarios survives and escapes the island, telling his people to resist the Junta.

Turkey, seeing this as a plot to unite Cyprus with Greece, invade with a plan that was code-named Attila I.

In Athens the Turkish invasion has taken the Junta by surprise. Ioannides leaves quietly though he retains control of the secret police.

On July 23rd President Gizikis phones Constantine Karamanlis in Paris and invites him back to Greece.

Karamanlis flies from Paris on the French President’s private jet and is sworn in at 4:30 am on July 24 1974 while a jubilant Athens celebrates.

His job is simple. Clean up the disaster the dictators have left behind, and bring democracy back to Greece.

This is an edited version from