Athens Polytechnic uprising

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Athens Polytechnic uprising
Part of Greek military junta of 1967–1974
Memos Makris.JPG
Monument to the uprising
Date14–17 November 1973
MethodsStudent protest
Resulted inRepression of the uprising
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
Non-centralized leadership
Death(s)40 civilians killed (outside campus)

The Athens Polytechnic uprising occurred in November 1973 as a massive demonstration of popular rejection of the Greek military junta of 1967–1974. The uprising began on November 14, 1973, escalated to an open anti-junta revolt, and ended in bloodshed in the early morning of November 17 after a series of events starting with a tank crashing through the gates of the Polytechnic.


Since April 21, 1967, Greece had been under the dictatorial rule of the military, a regime which abolished civil rights, dissolved political parties and exiled, imprisoned and tortured politicians and citizens based on their political beliefs. 1973 found the military junta leader Georgios Papadopoulos having undertaken a "liberalisation" process of the regime, which included the release of political prisoners and the partial lifting of censorship, as well as promises of a new constitution and new elections for a return to civilian rule. Opposition elements including Socialists were thus given the opportunity to undertake political action against the junta.

United States took a clandestine interest in suppressing Socialists and had a C.I.A. operative named John Maury who was in consultation supporting the Junta Leaders. American Vice President Spiro Agnew praised the junta as "the best thing to happen to Greece since Pericles ruled in ancient Athens".

The junta, trying to control every aspect of politics, had interfered with student syndicalism since 1967, by banning student elections in universities, forcibly drafting students and imposing non-elected student union leaders in the national student's union, EFEE[citation needed]. These actions eventually created anti-junta sentiments among students, such as geology student Kostas Georgakis who committed suicide in 1970 in Genoa, Italy as an act of protest against the junta. With that exception, the first massive public action against the junta came from students on February 21, 1973.

On February 21, 1973, law students went on strike and barricaded themselves inside the buildings of the Law School of the University of Athens in the centre of Athens, demanding repeal of the law that imposed forcible drafting[1] of "subversive youths", as 88 of their peers had been forcibly drafted. The police were ordered to intervene and many students were reportedly subjected to police brutality. The events at the Law School are often cited as the prelude to the Polytechnic uprising.[citation needed]

The student uprising was also heavily influenced by the youth movements of the 1960s, notably the events of May 1968 in France.[citation needed]

The events[edit]

The events[edit]

Military Junta came in power in 21st April 1967. In 1973, a modest liberatation plan was set by Junta stongman, George Papadopoulos. Meanwhile anti-dictatoral student movement was growing and youngsters and police utilize brutal methods- tortures among them- in order to confront the threat.[2]

14 November[edit]

The events of the uprising sparked on November 14, 1973, when an assembly was formed spontaneously at Athens Polytechnic (Polytechneion) and decided to occupy the Polytechnic. The two main student parties (marxists pro-russian A-AFEE and Rigas) did not endorse the movement.[3] Leftist and anarchists had joined from the beginning the uprising with leftists proposing that the uprising should demand the abolition of Capitalism but they were ignored by the majority of the students.[4] A Coordination Commission of the Occupation was formed but had loose control over the uprisal.[5] Police had gathered outside but didn't manage to break in. [6]

15 November[edit]

During the second day of the occupation (often called celebration-day), thousands of people poured in to support the students.[6] A radio transmitter was set up and Maria Damanaki, then a student and member of A-EFEE popularized the slogan "Bread-Education-Freedom". The demands of the occupation were anti-imperialistic and anti-NATO.[7] Anarchists, a small minority among protesters, were branded as provocateurs by KNE as they were expressing slogans not directly related to the student's demands (ie they were calling for sexual freedom, social revolution and abolishment of the State)[8] Third parties that allied themselves with the student protests were the construction workers (they even set up a parallel committee next to CCO) and some farmers from Megara, who coincidentally happen to protest the same days in Athens.[9]

16 November[edit]

Friday 16 of November began with a proclamation by CCO that the students were aiming to bring down Junta. At afternoon, demonstrations and attacks against neighbouring ministries took place. Central roads closed, fires erupted and Molotov cocktails were thrown for the first time in Athens.[10] Junta decided to reply firmly, by repressing the riots. Snippers placed at buildings next to Polytechnic assassinated 24 people in total.[11]

17 November[edit]

In the early hours of November 17, 1973, the transitional government sent a tank crashing through the gates of the Athens Polytechnic.[12] Soon after that, Spyros Markezinis himself had the humiliating task to request Papadopoulos to re-impose martial law.[12] Prior to the crackdown, the city lights had been shut down, and the area was only lit by the campus lights, powered by the university generators. An AMX 30 Tank (still kept in a small armored unit museum in a military camp in Avlonas, not open to the public) crashed the rail gate of the Athens Polytechnic at around 03:00 am. In unclear footage clandestinely filmed by a Dutch journalist, the tank is shown bringing down the main steel entrance to the campus to which people were clinging. Documentary evidence also survives, in recordings of the "Athens Polytechnic" radio transmissions from the occupied premises. In these a young man's voice is heard desperately asking the soldiers (whom he calls 'brothers in arms') surrounding the building complex to disobey the military orders and not to fight 'brothers protesting'. The voice carries on to an emotional outbreak, reciting the lyrics of the Greek National Anthem, until the tank enters the yard, at which time transmission ceases.

An official investigation undertaken after the fall of the Junta declared that no students of Athens Polytechnic were killed during the incident. Total recorded casualties amount to 24 civilians killed outside Athens Polytechnic campus. These include 19-year-old Michael Mirogiannis, reportedly shot to death by officer G. Dertilis, high-school students Diomedes Komnenos and Alexandros Spartidis of Lycee Leonin, and a five-year-old boy caught in the crossfire in the suburb of Zografou. The records of the trials held following the collapse of the Junta document the circumstances of the deaths of many civilians during the uprising, and although the number of dead has not been contested by historical research, it remains a subject of political controversy. In addition, hundreds of civilians were left injured during the events.[13]

Ioannides' involvement in inciting unit commanders of the security forces to commit criminal acts during the Athens Polytechnic uprising was noted in the indictment presented to the court by the prosecutor during the Greek junta trials and in his subsequent conviction in the Polytechneion trial where he was found to have been morally responsible for the events.

Aftermath of the uprising[edit]

On November 14, the uprising triggered a series of events that put an abrupt end to the regime's attempted "liberalisation" process under Spiros Markezinis. Papadopoulos, during his liberalisation process and even during the dictatorship, attempted to re-engineer the Greek political landscape and failed repeatedly. In his biographical notes published as a booklet by supporters in 1980 it is mentioned that he attended Polytechneion, the prime Engineering School in the country, but did not graduate.

Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannides, a disgruntled Junta hardliner,[14][15] used the uprising as a pretext to re-establish public order, and staged a counter-coup that overthrew George Papadopoulos and Spiros Markezinis on November 25 the same year. Military law was reinstated, and the new Junta appointed General Phaedon Gizikis as President, and economist Adamantios Androutsopoulos as Prime Minister, although Ioannides remained the behind-the-scenes strongman.

Ioannides' abortive coup attempt on July 15, 1974 against Archbishop Makarios III, then President of Cyprus, was met by an invasion of Cyprus by Turkey. These events caused the military regime to implode and ushered in the era of metapolitefsi (Greek for "polity/regime change"). Constantine Karamanlis was invited from self-exile in France, and was appointed Prime Minister of Greece alongside President Phaedon Gizikis. Parliamentary democracy was thus restored, and the Greek legislative elections of 1974 were the first free elections held in a decade.

17 November, the date of the event, later became the name of a Greek terrorist group, in reference to the uprising.


November 17 is currently observed as a holiday in Greece for all educational establishments; commemorative services are held and students attend school only for these, while some schools and all universities stay closed during the day. The central location for the commemoration is the campus of the Polytechneio. The campus is closed on the 15th (the day the students first occupied the campus on 1973). Students and politicians lay wreaths on a monument within the Polytechneio on which the names of Polytechneio students killed during the Greek Resistance in the 1940s are inscribed. The commemoration day ends traditionally with a demonstration that begins from the campus of the Polytechneio and ends at the United States embassy. The day is always a day of social unrest where mass riots occur during the entire night.[16]

The student uprising is hailed by many as a valiant act of resistance against the military dictatorship, and therefore as a symbol of resistance to tyranny. Others believe that the uprising was used as a pretext by Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis to put an abrupt end to the process of ostensible liberalisation of the regime undertaken by Spiros Markezinis.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brown, Kenneth (1974). "Greece". The World Book Year Book 1974. Chicago: Field Enterprises Educational Corporation. p. 340. ISBN 0-7166-0474-4. LCCN 62-4818.
  2. ^ Kornetis 2013, pp. 225-226.
  3. ^ Kornetis 2013, p. 255.
  4. ^ Kotea 2013, pp. 21-22.
  5. ^ Kornetis 2013, p. 256.
  6. ^ a b Kornetis 2013, p. 257.
  7. ^ Kornetis 2013, pp. 257-59.
  8. ^ Kornetis 2013, pp. 260.
  9. ^ Kornetis 2013, pp. 263.
  10. ^ Kornetis 2013, pp. 270-272.
  11. ^ Kornetis 2013, p. 270.
  12. ^ a b "Past present" and quote:Markezinis had humiliated himself by 'requesting' Papadopoulos to reimpose martial law in the wake of the November 17 uprising at the Athens Polytechnic , Athens News, 4 October 2002 through Internet Archive
  13. ^ BBC: On this day quote: It follows growing unrest in Greece, and comes eight days after student uprisings in which 13 people died and hundreds were injured..
  14. ^ "Greece marks '73 student uprising", and:the notorious Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis now serving a life sentence for his part in the 1967 seizure of power – immediately scrapped a programme of liberalisation introduced earlier and: His was but to do the bidding of a junta strongman who had never made a secret of his belief that Greeks were not ready for democracy. Athens News, 17 November 1999 through Internet archive
  15. ^ Ioannis Tzortzis, University of Birmingham "The Metapolitefsi that Never Was: a Re-evaluation of the 1973 ‘Markezinis Experiment’" quote 1: Thus the students ‘had been played straight into the hands of Ioannidis, who looked upon the coming elections with a jaundiced eye. quote 2: Ioannidis said to Pattakos ‘we are not playing. We shall have a dictatorship, send all our opponents to exile on the islands and stay in power for thirty years!’ through Internet Archive
  16. ^


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