On 21 April, 1967, the tanks rolled into Athens and the colonels took charge of Greece

EAT torture chambers used by Greece’s military dictatorship which rose to power in 1967. Photo: Eurokinissi/G. Kontarinis


It was 54 years ago today that a group of far-right Greek army colonels led a coup d’etat just weeks before elections that were predicted to give the victory to Georgios Papandreou’s Centre Union a party that leaned to the left.

The coup was the culmination of years of political upheaval between the right and left – a legacy of the Greek civil war of 1946 to 1949.

Papandreou had won the election of 1964. Matters came to a head when he tried to dismiss officers belonging to the secret right wing organisation IDEA  (Ieros Desmos Ellinon Axiomatikon-Holy Bond of Greek Officers). The newly crowned King Constantine II blocked the move on IDEA and then used his powers to dismiss Papandreou’s government in 1965.

The move resulted in the Apostasia of 1965, a constitutional crisis that led to a series of unstable governments until 1967. With new elections called for 28 May, 1967 all indications pointed to a victory for Papandreou.

A group of army officers led by Brigadier General Stylianos Pattakos, George Papadopoulos and Nikolaos Makarezos deployed tanks and seized control of Athens while small units arrested leading  left-wing politicians, community and army leaders as well as ordinary citizens.

For the next seven years the dictators sought to reshape Greece while the country became an international pariah.