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Early life and World War II
Born in the village of Apiranthos (Aperathu), Naxos, Glezos moved to Athens in 1935 together with his family, where he finished high school. During his high school years in Athens he also worked as a pharmacy employee. He was admitted to the Higher School of Economic and Commercial Studies (known today as the Athens University of Economics and Business) in 1940. In 1939, still a high school student, Glezos participated in the creation of an anti-fascist youth group against the Italian occupation of the Dodecanese and the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas. At the onset of World War II he asked to join the Greek army in the Albanian front against Italy, but was rejected because he was under age. Instead, he worked as a volunteer for the Hellenic Ministry of Economics. During the Axis occupation of Greece, he worked for the Hellenic Red Cross and the municipality of Athens, while actively involved in the resistance.
On May 30, 1941, he and Apostolos Santas climbed on the Acropolis and tore down the swastika, which had been there since April 27, 1941, when the Nazi forces had entered Athens. It inspired not only the Greeks, but all subjected people, to resist against the occupation, and established them both as two international anti-Nazi heroes. The Nazi regime responded by sentencing Glezos and Santas to death in absentia. Glezos was arrested by the German occupation forces on March 24, 1942, and was subjected to imprisonment and torture. As a result of this treatment, he was affected by tuberculosis. He was arrested on April 21, 1943 by the Italian occupation forces and spent three months in jail. On February 7, 1944 he was arrested again, this time by Greek Nazi collaborators. He spent another seven and a half months in jail, until he finally escaped on September 21 of the same year.
Career and political activism
The end of World War II was not the end of Glezos' plight. On March 3, 1948, in the midst of the Greek Civil War, he was put to trial for his political convictions and sentenced to death multiple times by the right-wing government. However, his death sentences were not executed, because of the international public outcry. His death penalties were reduced to a life sentence in 1950. Even though he was still imprisoned, Manolis Glezos was elected member of the Hellenic Parliament in 1951, under the flag of the United Democratic Left, also known as EDA (Greek: Ενιαία Δημοκρατική Αριστερά, ΕΔΑ). Upon his election, he went on a hunger strike demanding the release of his fellow EDA MPs that were imprisoned or exiled in the Greek islands. He ended his hunger strike upon the release of 7 MPs from their exile. He was released from prison on July 16, 1954.
On December 5, 1958 he was arrested again and convicted for espionage, which was common pretext for the persecution of the supporters of the left during the Cold War. The Soviet Union reacted circulating a postage stamp with Glezos, while the Greek government responded with a postage stamp depicting Imre Nagy. His release on December 15, 1962 was a result of the public outcry in Greece and abroad, including winning the Lenin Peace Prize. During his second term of post-war political imprisonment, Glezos was reelected MP with EDA in 1961. At the coup d'état of April 21, 1967, Glezos was arrested at 2 am, together with the rest of the political leaders. During the Regime of the Colonels, the military dictatorship led by George Papadopoulos, he suffered yet another four years of imprisonment and exile until his release in 1971.
Manolis Glezos' political persecution, from the Second World War to the Greek Civil War and the Regime of the Colonels totals to 11 years and 4 months of imprisonment, and 4 years and 6 months of exile.
After the restoration of democracy in Greece in 1974, Glezos participated in the reviving of EDA. In the elections of 1981 and 1985, he was elected Member of the Greek Parliament, on a Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) ticket. In 1984 he was elected Member of the European Parliament, again on a PASOK ticket. He was the President of EDA from 1985 until 1989. In the meantime, in 1986, he withdrew from the Parliament, in order to try to implement a grassroots democracy experiment. He did so in the community of Aperathu, where he was elected as the President of the Community Council in 1986 elections. He then essentially abolished the privileges of the council, introducing a "constitution" and establishing a local assembly that had total control over the community administration. This model worked for several years, but in the long term the interest of the rest of his community wore off and the assembly was abandoned. Glezos remained the President until 1989. In the 2000 Greek legislative election he led the list of Synaspismos (in English Coalition) party of the radical left. In 2002, he formed the political group Active Citizens (which is part of Coalition of the Radical Left, an alliance with Synaspismos and other minor parties of the Greek left) and he ran as a candidate prefect for Attica.
In March 2010, Glezos was participating in a protest demonstration in Athens, when he was hit in the face by a police tear gas canister. He was carried away injured.
In February 2012, Glezos was arrested by riot police while protesting in Athens. He was sprayed with teargas by one of the police officers in that area.
In the June 2012 parliamentary election, he was elected as MP of the Coalition of Radical Left (SYRIZA) party.
He was a SYRIZA candidate for the European Parliament in the elections of 25 May 2014. He was elected to the European Parliament with more votes—over 430,000—than any other candidate in Greece. At age 91, he was also the oldest person elected to the European Parliament in the 2014 election.
Apart from his political work, Glezos has invented a system to prevent floods, combat erosion and preserve underground water, that works by the constructions of a series of very small dams that redirect water to aquifers. For his contributions to democracy, to geological sciences, and to linguistics he was pronounced honorary Doctor of Philosophy of the University of Patras (Department of Geology) in 1996, of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Department of Civil Engineering) in 2001, of the National Technical University of Athens (School of Mining & Metallurgical Engineering) in 2003, and of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (School of Philosophy) in 2008.
Manolis Glezos has been writing articles in Greek newspapers since 1942 and has been the Editor of the newspapers Rizospastis and I Avgi in the 1950s. He was awarded the International Award of Journalism in 1958, the Golden Medal Joliot-Curie of the World Peace Council in 1959, and the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963. He has also published six books in Greek:
- "The history of the book" («Η ιστορία του βιβλίου», 1974);
- "From Dictatorship to Democracy" («Από τη Δικτατορία στη ∆ηµοκρατία», 1974);
- "The phenomenon of alienation in the language" («Το φαινόµενο της αλλοτρίωσης στη γλώσσα», 1977);
- "The conscience of the rocky earth", («Η συνείδηση της πετραίας γης», 1997).
- "Hydor, Aura, Nero", («Ύδωρ, Αύρα, Νερό», 2001).
- "National Resistance 1940-1945", («Εθνική Αντίσταση 1940-1945», 2006).
- "Greece does not need financial aid, says Angela Merkel". BBC News Online. 2010-03-05. Retrieved 6 March 2010.
- "Meet the new faces ready to sweep into the European parliament", The Guardian, 26 May 2014.
- "Ευρωεκλογές: Πρώτος σε σταυρούς ο Γλέζος", Eleftherotypia, 1 June 2014.