Georgios Papadopoulos (Elaiochori, Achaia, 5 May 1919 – Athens, 27 June 1999) was a Greek dictator and the Greek Army officer who led the April 21 coup d”état that overthrew the legal government by establishing a military dictatorship in the country, also known as the Junta of the Colonels or the Hephaetia.
Although he was initially sworn in as Minister of the Presidency in the Colla government, he was the undisputed leader of the Junta and after the December 13th anti-movement he took over as Prime Minister himself and a few years later, in 1973, he was sworn in as President of the Republic. In the official propaganda rhetoric of the junta regime he was referred to as ”Leader of the Revolution” and ”President of the National Government”. In November 1973 he was overthrown by Demetrios Ioannidis and placed under arrest.
After the restoration of democracy in the country, he was put on trial and sentenced to death, which was commuted to life imprisonment by a government decision, while he was demoted to the rank of reserve soldier.
He was born in Elaichori, Achaia and was the eldest son of Christos Papadopoulos, a teacher, and Chrysoula Papadopoulou, daughter of the farmer Alcibiades or Stamatiou Papadopoulos.
On his father”s side, he comes from Kalousi in Achaia and the distant origin of his family is said to be from Epirus and perhaps from the region of Soulion. His great-grandfather was the priest Athanasios Stamopoulos who was known in Kalousi as Papa-Thanos. His grandfather was Georgios Papathanou who together with his brothers changed their surname in memory of their parent. George Papadopoulos” father, Christos, born in Kalousi in 1886 and who chose to change his surname to Papadopoulos from Papathanou, because of his profession as a teacher, had gone to Eliaochori where he met Chrysoula Papadopoulou, his later wife.
His father, Christos, was a friend and political supporter of George Papandreou, with whom he had attended the Halandriatsa school as classmates. Stylianos Pattacos, as well as others, have claimed that Papadopoulos was a godson of George Papandreou, a claim the “Old Man of Democracy” has denied. Other information claims that his godfather was a doctor from Patras, called Mylonopoulos.
His brothers were Konstantinos, Charalambos and Athena, while he also had a half-brother, Takis, from his mother”s first marriage to Konstantinos Vagenas, who was killed in the Balkan Wars.
He grew up in Elaiochori and then, around 1930, he settled with his family in Patras, where he graduated with honours from the 3rd High School of Patras.
In 1937 he entered the Military School of Evelpidon, from which he graduated on 10 August 1940, completing his three-year course of study in haste, due to the declaration of the Greek-Italian war in 1940. Although during the dictatorship he publicly stated during the dictatorship that he graduated first in his series, he actually graduated tenth. He took part in the Greek-Italian war, where he was decorated. He subsequently studied at the Higher War School and in April 1941 he enrolled at the Civil Engineering School of the Polytechnic, but did not graduate. During the occupation the movements of Georgios Papadopoulos.
It has been claimed by several sources, but there is no hard evidence for this, that he was a member of the Security Battalions in Patras under the command of Nikolaos Kourkoulakos, a claim with which, however, Evanthis Hadjivassiliou and Leonidas Kallivretakis disagree. It is also claimed that at the end of the occupation period, in 1943, he joined the “Organization X” of Georgios Grivas, but this information has not been proven according to Leonidas Kallivretakis. On the contrary, Kallivretakis seems to agree with the opinion of Phoebus Grigoriadis that during the occupation Papadopoulos served in civilian clothes at the Patras food office in order to benefit from the occupation salary without being exposed.
He took part in the civil war (1946-1949) and was awarded the gold medal for bravery, the medal for outstanding deeds and the war cross. During the 1950s he served in various high ranking units and retrained in the USA.
In 1952, in the case of the conviction of Nikos Bellogiannis, he was a military judge and the only one who did not ask for his death sentence. During the 1950s he was a member of the IDF and later of the Union of Young Greek Officers, an offshoot of the IDF, whose members included Ladas, Ioannidis, etc. Although the actions of these officers were known to the army leadership, with the intervention of the palace it was decided to transfer them and not to demobilise them, as had originally been decided. Thus, in 1957, he was transferred to Kilkis, where he did not stay long, however, as in 1959 he was assigned to the KYP, having the responsibility of communication with foreign intelligence services. In 1961 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and in the same year he took over the presidency of the illegal organization One in the Army.
The Evros sabotage case
At the beginning of June 1965, Papadopoulos was under pressure because of the interrogations by the Military Justice for the “Pericles Plan” case. On 11 June, two days after the prosecution of this case, the case of the “sabotage of Evros” broke out.
Specifically, vehicles of the 117th MPP (Field Artillery Squadron), which was based in Orestiada and was commanded by the then Lieutenant Colonel G. Papadopoulos, which was commanded by the former Colonel G.G. Papadopoulos, were immobilized due to damage caused by poor maintenance. Papadopoulos was under pressure from his superiors, Generals Tsolakas, Manetas and Vardoulakis, who demanded explanations for the failures. Apologizing, Papadopoulos attributed the problems to the intensive use of the trucks and to possible sabotage (sabotage) for which he would proceed with investigations. He then set up a provocation in cooperation with the unit”s A2 section, an officer of which induced a soldier with left-wing parents to short-circuit a vehicle. The soldier was arrested at the time of the sabotage and other soldiers whose vehicles had been damaged were arrested the following day. After a series of violent interrogations using torture, Papadopoulos put forward the theory of a communist conspiracy organised by an illegal KKE apparatus. On the same day that Papadopoulos sent the report to the GES, and even before it reached its destination, three right-wing newspapers (Akropolis, National Herald, Ellinikos Vorras) published the news with big headlines. In only the third of these, the report incorrectly stated that, according to the findings, sugar was used to sabotage tanks. The result of this particular report was to create a fairly widespread myth in this regard, even though the Ministry of Defence itself has officially denied the sugar and armoured vehicles.
In the following days, an orgy of rumours dominated the headlines, followed by the arrests of relatives of soldiers allegedly involved in the sabotage. But soon the regular investigators of the military justice system (Captain Nikolaos Nicolaides and the royal commissioner, Lieutenant Colonel Constantine Gopis) considered that the soldiers” confessions were the product of torture, eventually exonerating most of the arrested men. On 20 July, charges were brought against the officers who were the physical perpetrators of the torture, and against Papadopoulos for instigating the torture. Papadopoulos was finally exonerated by the Lieutenant Colonel of Military Justice Themistocles Dimamatis by an acquittal on 29 November 1965, two days before the start of his trial. This acquittal took place at a time when the later coup leader Gregory Spadidakis had taken over as Chief of the General Staff, while the political scene was characterised by the instability that followed the 1965 apostasy. It has been suggested that Dimamatis” decision was related to his subsequent appointment as president of the Military Court of Thessaloniki during the dictatorship.
In 1966 he was appointed by the FES as a section chief at the 4th FES Staff Office. From then on, he began the preparation and organization of the coup, together with Pattacos, Makarezos and 26 other officers.
During the Fourth Arab-Israeli War or Yom Kippur War in October 1973, the dictatorial government refused to allow the Americans to use the airport of Crete to supply Israeli forces, which caused the disfavor of the US Secretary of State. Henry Kissinger
This was followed by the Polytechnic uprising on 17 November 1973 and then the coup of Brigadier D. Ioannidis on 25 November 1973, during which Papadopoulos was placed under house arrest. During his dictatorial rule, he resided in a luxurious mansion in Lagonisi, owned by Aristotle Onassis, which he had granted to Papadopoulos in return for financial favours.
The consequence of the Cypriot events was the handing over of the country”s government to politicians, from the then Hun President of the Republic, Phaedon Gizikis, with Constantine Karamanlis as Prime Minister of a government of national unity.
Papadopoulos sought to participate with his own party in the first parliamentary elections in 1974, but the political leadership at the time forbade him to do so.
Subsequently, under the Constitutional Act of 3 October 1974, both G. Papadopoulos and the other leaders of the dictatorship were declared to be the prime perpetrators of political offences, with the exception of General F. Gizikis, who still remained President of the Republic (he remained until 18 December 1974), the existing military leadership, Archbishop Seraphim and all political figures of the Papadopoulos and Ioannidis governments. Thus, as violators of the Criminal Code, the alleged leaders were placed under the jurisdiction of the Athens Court of Appeal, while at the end of October of the same year the above were deported to Kea to a hotel in the cove of the port, under the guard of a small group of gendarmes assisted by a small boat of the Coast Guard, of limited capabilities with a crew of three.
Political processes followed and on 15 January 1975, the Fourth Resolution of the Fifth Revisionist Parliament was issued, ordering the trial of the “Aprilians” following a complaint by the lawyer A.Lykourezos, who had been the first to file a complaint in September.The trial finally began, without any special bulletproof security measures, e.g. glass cages, etc, six months later, on 28 July, Monday, in the courtroom of the Korydallos Women”s Prison, where in the meantime, since 21 January (six days after the resolution), the transfer of the Aprilites from Kea had taken place and lasted exactly one month, until 29 August. Finally, the death sentence imposed on him was commuted to life imprisonment, without any request for pardon, by decision of Constantine Karamanlis (to whom the historical phrase “… and when we say life, we mean life” is attributed).
On 30 January 1984, he founded EPEN from inside the prison. In 1992, the government of Mr Mitsotakis decided to release Papadopoulos and the other coup plotters, also without prior request, but the then President of the Republic, Konstantinos Karamanlis, vetoed the decision.
He died on 27 June 1999 after suffering from cancer of the urinary tract in the People”s Hospital where he was hospitalised, defending the coup and the dictatorship and refusing to use legal possibilities (health reasons, request for pardon) to be released from prison, unlike other co-defendants. His grave is located in the 1st Cemetery of Athens.
Scandals and corruption
The seven years of the Junta were marked by scandals and many cases of bribery and favouritism. The best known are the scandal with the so-called sea loans of Colonel Ioannis Ladas, who was mockingly remembered in history as “the gentleman with clean hands”, the scandal with the rotten meat of Colonel Balopoulos, and the huge money spent on the social parties and luxurious life of Lieutenant Colonel (Papadopoulos made him a Major General) Michalis Roufogalis, who had been entrusted with the management of the KYP, i.e. the nationally critical sector of the secret services, which also ensured the granting of loans to supporters of the junta, burdening the Greek public banks. Favouritism and buffoonery under the junta were rampant: Makarezos appointed his brother-in-law Alexandros Matthaiou as Minister of Agriculture, Ladas made one of his cousins a general and commander of the ASDEN and another cousin Secretary General of the Ministry of Social Services, General Vassilis Kardamakis was appointed commander of the PPC and General Alexandros Natsinas (former head of the KPS with huge responsibilities for the PERICLES project and the parastate) was appointed President of the National Research Foundation. Papadopoulos himself appointed his brother Constantine Secretary General of the Ministry of the Presidency of the Government, Regional Governor of Attica and Minister to the Prime Minister in succession. His other brother, Charalambos, was appointed Secretary General of the Ministry of Public Order. Charalambos was ironically called “bon fille” by the officers of the Gendarmerie, because he used to eat daily in the restaurants of expensive hotels with his guards and employees.
After the conviction of C. Papadopoulos” conviction, various investigations followed (November 1975) for illegal enrichment scandals. Papadopoulos had purchased three properties: a luxury apartment with 5 main rooms in Nea Smyrna, a luxury house with 5 main rooms in Athens on Tzoumerka Street, with which he had endowed his brother-in-law V. Zapa, and an apartment with 5 main rooms in Athens, the latter for 1,300,000 dirhams. Despina Papadopoulou had also bought a 6 room apartment on Sorbolou Street in Athens, for the sum of 1.700.000 dirhams. For all of the above, which were given as gifts for their children, nothing untoward was found and none was confiscated.
In 1976, Despina Papadopoulou was acquitted of the charge of fraud against the State. The court accepted that the fraud had been committed, but acquitted Papadopoulou because it considered that she had shown practical remorse by returning the entire illegal payroll (approximately 750,000 drachmas) at the pre-trial stage of the case.
Papadopoulos had been in contact with CIA officials as early as the 1950s when he participated in joint operations between the KPS and the CIA on the Greek-Bulgarian border. In 1963, he served as a liaison between the CYP and intelligence agencies, including the CIA. It has been claimed that Papadopoulos went to America after the war to train in intelligence and became a CIA agent. According to historian Evanthis Hadjivassiliou, this claim, that Papadopoulos was trained by or was an agent of the CIA, is unsubstantiated. According to the American journalist David Binder, Papadopoulos was a CIA agent and received a hefty salary as early as 1952. On 1 July 1973 an article in the Observer newspaper published the claim by an anonymous source in the newspaper that Papadopoulos was a paid CIA agent. The Observer article is also referenced in the article in Political Science quarterly, vol 89, 3-4, 1974 At a formal hearing in the US Senate, the CIA denied that G. Papadopoulos was a pawn of the CIA. Papadopoulos was ever an agent of the CIA, and claimed that any relationship they had was within the framework of the constant cooperation (since the civil war) between the CIA and the CPS during the period Papadopoulos was serving in the CPS. In the same Senate hearing, the CIA director claimed that Papadopoulos was never trained in the US (by the CIA).
George Papadopoulos had celebrated two marriages. From his first marriage to Niki Vassiliadis (1942) he had a son, Christos, who after graduating from the National Technical University of Athens went to the USA for postgraduate studies and settled there, and a daughter, Chrysoula, later wife of Vassiliou Zappa. At the same time, however, it is alleged that from 1957-1958 he had an affair with Despina Sereti, a former civilian employee of the Geographical Service of the Army (GYS), from where she was seconded to the A2 Directorate of the General Staff. When she was ordered to return to the GIS, she was dismissed, but during the Natsina era she was recruited to the CPS. Papadopoulos was seconded to the Artillery Directorate of the VI Division. Her various movements and suspicious exits from the GES had attracted the interest of the monitoring of the service itself at the behest of the then A.G.S. Peter Nikolopoulos. Much later, after about 10 years of an illicit affair, G. Papadopoulos, divorcing his wife, married Despina Sereti (after the epithet of her police officer husband, whom she also divorced). Their marriage was celebrated in 1968, in a closed circle, which was blessed by Archbishop Hieronymos I. The Papadopoulos couple had a daughter, Mahi (Hypermache), now the wife of George Kalogiannis.