April 21, 1967 will always been known as a day that forever changed Greek history, when the military took over government and installed CIA-connected Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos into power. Papadopoulos achieved this with the help of Brigadier General Stylianos Pattakos and Colonel Nikolaos Makarezos.
Justifying the dictatorship and the destruction of democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of press? A feared communist takeover of Greece.
Many remember the junta period fondly as one where Greece was safe and everybody had a job, in fact the regime would proudly announce Η Ελλάς είναι ένα εργοτάξιον, or in English, Greece is a construction zone.
Foreign investment came flooding in, most famously Coca-Cola. Roads and bridges were built. The villages were electrified. Everything seemed to be improving.
However, these economic progress were not without scandal. One of the most famous cases of corruption were the θαλασσοδάνεια loans, or the thalassodaneia loans, that saw the regime hand out loans for the construction of hotels that were not completed once the loans were secured and paid. Often these hotels “for tourists” were built in random and non-touristy areas, with these incomplete constructions still seen throughout the countryside.
The economic mismanagement meant inflation and debt was growing at exponential rates. In 1974 the public debt had risen to 20.8% of GDP, to 114 billion drachmas that year, with domestic and foreign borrowing growing. The debt started at 37.8 billion drachmas in 1967, while in 1973 it was already at 87 billion, with the deficit in the budget balance being 4.5 times higher and the deposits, despite the constant stimulating injections from the Greek diaspora, drastically reduced after 1970. Inflation was skyrocketing, real income was declining and taxes were rampant.
Speaking with Greek City Times, Spyros Marchetos from the School of Political Sciences at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki said “The dictatorship managed the economy in ways that left a lot to be desired.”
“Leaving aside scandals and favouritism, their policies helped big capital and the colonial-style exploitation of Greek labour and local resources. This said, they were Keynesian, which means that from certain aspects they were more progressive than those followed by Greece in the last quarter century,” the academic said.
“If this was a crucial difference, they also had similar results in that they caused an explosion of emigration and at the same time concentration of the wealth in the hands of a few oligarchic families. These were of course linked to the colonels, and most of them did not relinquish their central place in Greek life in the decades that followed,” Marchetos continued.
“Turning now to concrete economic data, in the seven years of the dictatorship we see an explosion of public debt from 32 to 114 billion drachmas, the quintupling of trade deficit, halving of foreign productive investment, and a fall of investment in general. While taxation was increased, it also became more regressive, with a heavy burden placed on popular strata, and big capital gaining huge tax benefits with a decree of 1971,” he concluded.
Greece’s declining economy was used as one of the excuses for Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis to conduct a coup against the coup, removing Papadopoulos from power on November 25, 1973. The eventual collapse of the junta in July 1974 saw a destroyed and highly in debt economy, the removal of civil liberties, and thousands of people arrested and tortured only occurred after one more tragedy – the Turkish invasion and occupation of northern Cyprus.
On July 15 of the next year, Ioannidis attempted to overthrow Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios III, justifying a Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus as Greece had blatantly involved itself in Cypriot politics. Ioannidis said to American minister Joseph J. Sisco that “You betrayed us! You had assured us that you would prevent any Turkish landing.”
Although Ioannidis is often blamed for the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, General Dimitris Aleuromagiros, commander of the 336th Battalion, who fought heroically in the battle of Nicosia, says that the betrayal of Cyprus began with Papadopoulos.
The Cypriot General explains how in 1967, Turkish-Cypriot paramilitaries blocked the main road from Nicosia to Limassol, making it impossible for Greek-Cypriots civilians to pass through the area. In November, 1967, the Cypriot National Guard patrolling the area were attacked by the Turkish fighters. In the ensuing battle Turkish fighters and civilians lost their lives in the overnight fight.
This led to Turkey’s demands that General Georgios Grivas leave Cyprus, the abolishment of Greek military presence and the ceasing of the Cypriot National Guard – something that Papadopoulos not only complied too, but the General believes was orchestrated by the junta.
It is for this reason that even the very beginning of the Cypriot tragedy had a strong influence from Papadopoulos, despite the narrative today being that it was only Ioannidis.