Yannis Tamtakos

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Yannis Tamtakos
Tamtakos skitso.jpg
Foça, Ottoman Empire
DiedJanuary 4, 2008(2008-01-04) (aged 99)
Thessaloniki, Greece
OccupationSocial and political activist

Yannis Tamtakos (Greek: Γιάννης Ταμτάκος) (1908 – January 4, 2008) was a Greek political activist, initially of Trotskyism and later of Anarchism. Due to his political activity, he was chased by the Greek state and National Liberation Front (Greece). For quite a few years before his death, he was the oldest survivor among the active participants of the great strike of 1936, in Thessaloniki.


He was born in 1908, in Foça, Ottoman Empire. In 1914, his family fled persecutions of Anatolian Greeks to Greece, and he was forced to earn his living as a street vendor of simits and later as a shoeshiner. In 1918-1919, aged 11, he participated in a workers' manifestation for the 1st of May, in the district of Evangelistria, Thessaloniki, for the first time. He had his first contact with supporters of Archeio-Marxism in 1924.

He took part in every workers' struggle in Thessaloniki, as a shoemaker, having been elected committee member (1926–1927) and a secretary (1928–1929) of the Union of the Shoe-makers of Thessaloniki. Later, he got active through the union of the unemployed. In 1931, while on the frontline of a demonstration of the unemployed, in Syntrivani Square in Thessaloniki, he was attacked by a group of policemen, led by the nephew of the Head of the Police; the former shot him in the cheek and the bullet cut his tongue. He didn't lose his ability to speak, thanks to sub-consequent surgeries.[1]

In 1936, after the violent suppression of the workers' revolt, he was found guilty by the Felony Court of Edessa, along with another 52 workers, as organiser of the Thessaloniki strike, on May 1936. He was sent into internal exile, based on the idionymon law, from 1937 to 1942. The Tsouderos government, before fleeing the country in April 1941, exiled him to Gavdos. A lot of his fellow detainees who had been exiled in Gavdos, were handed over to the German occupation authorities and later executed during the Axis Occupation of Greece.

Identifying himself as a revolutionary, he didn't fight in the Second World War, because he believed that the National Liberation Front was working in favour of the self-exiled Greek government, in order to liberate the Greek middle class. In 1942, he met Cornelius Castoriadis and adopted his opinion on the bureaucratisation of the Communist Parties. Based on these positions, he quit Troskyism in 1947. Along with his comrades, Agis Stinas, Dimosthenis Voursoukis, Makris, Krokos, Castoriadis et al., he believed in the principles of defeatism and of revolutionary internationalism, by promoting an autonomous, self-organised society and asking for the alliance among all of the fighting soldiers. Due to this position, Tamtakos and his comrades were persecuted by the German occupiers, the Security Battalions, but also from the antinazi forces. He managed to escape assassination efforts by National Liberation Front (Greece) quite a few times [2] while he used several identities and nicknames during the period of the occupation and of the liberation of Greece.[3] In Dekemvriana he accused the forces of National Liberation Front, for doing a stalinist coup d etat. During Greek Civil war he was hiding in a house in Athens.

He left Greece in 1951, having been invited to work as an immigrant in Australia, where he was employed in the factory of General Motors. There he did not participate in the trade union of the factory. He returned to Greece in 1966, where he stayed for the rest of his life.

During the 80s, he was ideologically and politically connected with the antiauthoritarian scene of Thessaloniki. Despite his age, he took part in every workers manifestation in the city.

He died on the January 4, 2008, a few days before his 100th birthday and his political funeral was held the next day, in the cemetery of Malakopi.

Published material[edit]

His book "Memories of a life in the revolutionary movement",[2] which was published on March 2003, contains transcripts of recorded self-biographic tellings, including references to historical and political events of the last century. Part of his personal diary has been published in 1995, in the "Alfa" newspaper.[4]

Yannis Tamtakos was one of the main characters in the movie "Coursal", directed by Nikos Theodossiou.[5]


  1. ^ "Αντίο, σύντροφε μπαρμπα Γιάννη", του Τριαντάφυλλου Μηταφίδη, ΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΦΟΡΟΣ, Επωνύμως, Δευτέρα 7/1/08
  2. ^ a b Ταμτάκος, Γιάννης, Αναμνήσεις μιας ζωής στο επαναστατικό κίνημα, Κύκλοι Αντιεξουσίας, Θεσσαλονίκη 2003. ISBN 960-92191-0-1 (downloadable for free)
  3. ^ Βεργής, Γ. Λίγες λέξεις για ένα ηθικά απαράδεκτο κείμενο, στο Στίνας, Αναμνήσεις, σελ. 502-505
  4. ^ Ιστοσελίδα Βραχόκηπος, Μάιος 2005
  5. ^ personal website of Nikos Theodossiou, τρέιλερ, part