Dimitrios Ioannidis

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Brigadier General

Dimitrios Ioannidis
Native name
Δημήτριος Ιωαννίδης
Nickname(s)The invisible dictator (ο αόρατος δικτάτωρ, ο aóratos diktátōr)
Born(1923-03-13)13 March 1923
Athens, Kingdom of Greece
Died16 August 2010(2010-08-16) (aged 87)
Athens, Greece
AllegianceGreece Kingdom of Greece
Flag of Greece (1970-1975).svg Greek Junta
Service/branch Hellenic Army
RankGR-Army-OF6-1959.svg Brigadier
WarsWorld War II Greek Civil War
AwardsGRE Commander's Medal of Valour ribbon.svg Cross of Valour
Alma materHellenic Military Academy

Dimitrios Ioannidis (Greek: Δημήτριος Ιωαννίδης [ðiˈmitri.os i.oaˈniðis]; 13 March 1923 – 16 August 2010),[1] also known as Dimitris Ioannidis and as The Invisible Dictator, was a Greek military officer and one of the leading figures in the junta that ruled the country from 1967 to 1974. Ioannidis was considered a "purist and a moralist, a type of Greek Gaddafi".[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Ioannidis was born in Athens to a wealthy, upper middle-class business family (although he claimed to come from poverty) with roots in Epirus.[3][4][5]

During the Axis occupation of Greece he was a member of the National Republican Greek League (EDES) resistance group. After the war he studied at the Hellenic Military Academy and complemented his military education by studying at the Infantry School, the War School, and the School of Atomic-Chemical-Biological Warfare.[6] As an army officer he took part also in the Greek civil war.


Ioannidis began his career as an officer in Napoleon Zervas's guerilla forces.[6]

Ioannidis took an active part in planning and executing the coup d'état of 21 April 1967 (he was Director of the Hellenic Military Academy), but despite his great power he preferred to stay in the shadows, allowing George Papadopoulos to take the limelight. Ioannidis became chief of the Greek Military Police (ESA) which he developed into a feared paramilitary force of more than 20,000 men.[7][8] The ESA men brutally hunted down and tortured political dissidents. They also became notorious for insulting their nominal superiors, the Generals of the Greek Army, who were generally royalist or republican and opposed to the junta leadership.[9] His The Daily Telegraph obituary described Ioannidis as "the brutal head of military security during the Greek colonels' dictatorship" who "oversaw the creation of EAT/ESA, the special interrogation section of the military police, at whose headquarters opponents of the regime, both civilian and military, were systematically tortured."[10]

He was promoted to colonel in 1970, during which he would oppose Papadopoulos's efforts to democratize, and to brigadier general later in 1973.[4][11]

On the heels of seeming democratization the Athens Polytechnic uprising of November 1973, was met with bloody suppression.[12] Ioannidis, the most hardline of hardliners, became enraged with the "liberalizing" tendencies of the Papadopoulos leadership and hatched a plot to overthrow him using his loyal ESA forces.[13][14][15] On the night of 25 November 1973, Ioannidis overthrew Papadopoulos in a successful and bloodless coup.[16] Papadopoulos was arrested by the loyalists of Ioannidis in his opulent seaside villa at Lagonissi. This was the second successful coup d'etat by Ioannidis, following the original of April 1967 which had abolished democracy. Ioannidis proceeded to install his friend and fellow Epirote Phaedon Gizikis as figurehead President of Greece, although total power belonged to him. He did not control the higher military hierarchy completely, but he could impose his will on them with the support of the lower ranks nicknamed "the small junta" (Ta Paraskinia tis Allagis-Stavros Psicharis-1975).[full citation needed] This new balance of power granted him the moniker of the Invisible Dictator.[5][17][18]

Ioannidis pursued a crackdown internally and an aggressive expansionism externally. He was determined to annex Cyprus to Greece and achieve Enosis. He also felt a bitter personal antipathy towards the President of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III, considering him opportunistic and communistic. He called him the "Red Priest".[19] This antipathy was further fueled by the bishop rejecting actions against Turkish Cypriots.[20] To that end, he organized the 15 July 1974 coup d'état in Cyprus (his last chance to do so since Makarios decided to expel all Greek officers from Cyprus by July 20 (from The Tragic Duel and the Treason of Cyprus, M. Adamides, 2011) which overthrew the government of Archbishop Makarios III. This was the third successful coup organized by Ioannidis, and at first things seemed to go along according to plan. Ioannidis put in power Nikos Sampson, a controversial figure.

While in power, Ioannidis would regularly place conditions on all discussions with the U.S. embassy as noted by then ambassador Henry Tasca, despite maintaining publicly support for NATO due to his anti-communist stance.[6]

When he did not manage to appoint the President of the Supreme Court and an ex-minister Zenon Severis, he tried to show to the outside world that the coup was merely an internal affair, but this effort went without any success. However, the coup provided the pretext for the Turkish invasion of the island on 20 July, which ultimately restored Makarios to the presidency (and was the prelude to the island's current, divided state). Ioannidis could not survive such a humiliation, and was pushed out by the "coup of the generals" in August, headed then Prime Minister Constantine Caramanlis, ending seven years of military rule.[4][21]

Trial and imprisonment[edit]

On 14 January 1975, Ioannidis was detained and tried on charges of high treason, rebellion, and of being an accessory to the manslaughters perpetrated during the Athens Polytechnic uprising. The trial ended after less than a month of testimony and deliberation. He received a life sentence, for the charge of treason, which he served at Korydallos Prison.[18][22]

While in prison he would claim that he was betrayed by American military leaders who he alleges had promised him assistance in dealing with Turkey.[18]

On 21 July 2007, the 84-year-old Ioannidis filed a request to be discharged for health reasons, which was subsequently denied. Imprisoned until his death, he got married in prison, and died on 16 August 2010 at the age of 87 from respiratory problems, having been taken to hospital the previous night. Thus, he spent 35 years in prison (1975–2010).[5][23]


  1. ^ "Former dictator Ioannidis dies at 87". Kathimerini. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  2. ^ Marios Nikolinakos (1974). Widerstand und Opposition in Griechenland: vom Militärputsch 1967 zur neuen Demokratie. Luchterhand. p. 237. ISBN 978-3-472-88003-5. Ioannidis gilt als Purist und Moralist, eine Art griechischer Khadafi
  3. ^ Androulakis, Mimis (2019). Medusa's Love. Betrayal written on the waves (Agapi Medousas. Prodosia grameni sta kimata). Athens: Patakis.
  4. ^ a b c Martin, Douglas (16 August 2010). "Dimitrios Ioannidis, Greek Coup Leader, Dies at 87". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  5. ^ a b c Davidson, Phil (2011-10-22). "Brigadier General Dimitrios Ioannidis: Soldier who served life". The Independent. Retrieved 2021-05-02.
  6. ^ a b c Papahelas, Alexis (3 February 2002). "Τι έλεγε η CIA για τον Ιωαννίδη". To Vima. Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  7. ^ Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers. U.S. Department of State. March 2008. ISBN 978-0-16-079018-8.
  8. ^ Eleutheria. Vol. 3. Committee for the Restoration of Democratic Government in Greece. 1973. |volume= has extra text (help)
  9. ^ Theodoracopoulos, the Greek Upheaval, 1978
  10. ^ "Obituary: Dimitrios Ioannidis". The Daily Telegraph. 17 August 2010. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  11. ^ Foreign Press on Cyprus. Public Information Office. 1979.
  12. ^ Political science quarterly. Vol. 106. 1991. |volume= has extra text (help)
  13. ^ Intelligence, United States Congress House Select Committee on (1975). U.S. Intelligence Agencies and Activities ...: Proceedings of the Select Committee on Intelligence, U.S. House of Representatives, Ninety-fourth Congress ... U.S. Government Printing Office.
  14. ^ Danopoulos, Constantine Panos (1984). Warriors and Politicians in Modern Greece. Documentary Publications. ISBN 978-0-89712-122-4.
  15. ^ Southeastern Europe: L'Europe Du Sud-Est. 31–32. Charles Schlacks, Jr. 2004.
  16. ^ "Stylianos Pattakos, last survivor of the 1967 Greek military junta – obituary". The Telegraph. 2016-10-09. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2021-05-02.
  17. ^ Klimke, Martin; Scharloth, Joachim (2008-03-15). 1968 in Europe: A History of Protest and Activism, 1956-1977. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-60620-3.
  18. ^ a b c "Dimitris Ioannidis The end of the "invisible dictator"". To Vima (in Greek). August 17, 2010. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  19. ^ Reader's Digest, vol. 107, 1975
  20. ^ Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora. Vol. 26. Pella Publishing Company. 2000. |volume= has extra text (help)
  21. ^ Petros Arapakis "To Telos tis Siopis", To Porisma tis Ellinikis Voulis, 1988.
  22. ^ Roehrig, Terence (2002). The Prosecution of Former Military Leaders in Newly Democratic Nations: The Cases of Argentina, Greece, and South Korea. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-1091-0.
  23. ^ "Πέθανε σε ηλικία 87 ετών ο δικτάτορας Δ.Ιωαννίδης" (in Greek), 16 August 2010.

External reference[edit]