The aftermath of WWII and the Civil War
Those whose emotions are tweaked by the novel, ‘Eleni’, and the barbaric excesses portrayed therein of the communist guerillas, including mass murder and kidnapping, often fail to read of the ‘political re-education camps’, often on arid islands, and convicted murderers exiled for a quarter of a century (KKE) by the non-communist government that won the Greek Civil War.
After 1952, the communists were also excluded from future governments by the change from the electoral system to the majority vote. The right wing Greek Rally party, headed by General Papagos, and backed by the United States, ruled the government from 1952 until Papagos’ death in 1955. . Greece joined NATO in 1952, and the US was granted the right to have set up bases on Greek soil, smoothing the way with continued aid, including military aid, but also such things as pesticides to wipe out malaria. Papagos’ successor was Konstandinos Karamanlis., who liberalized things to an extent, and who established some degree of financial stability, especially with the return of (ironically) Greece’s old German markets. He encouraged the law of ‘antiparohi’, however, which had very long ranging effects, quite negative in terms of architectural integrity and beauty. This law enabled owners of houses to offer the sites on which their houses stood (whether small, mud brick refugee houses , or neoclassical mansions) to highrise apartment developers, in exchange for two of the eight to ten apartments in the building. As anyone who views modern Athens can easily see, most of these buildings were thrown up with no eye to grace or beauty, their grey concrete often unpainted and streaked, and such building continues even now, more than a half century later. Many Greeks will defend the destruction of the old single story houses by referring to the desperate need for work and housing that existed after the ten horrific years of World War II and the subsequent Civil War. Such high rises often house extended families, who would not have been able to move to the city at a time when that was the main other choice besides emigration. The manner in which they were built however, seems to have been unregulated , and people will also speak of the common practice of bribing to get one’s way in Greece. Many of those who didn’t move into the high rises in the 1950s, migrated to west Europe, Canada, the United States and Australia, driven by the need for work and a better future.
The situation in Cyprus became preeminent in foreign policy from 1959, when Greece, Turkey and Britain arrived at a compromise which left neither the Greeks nor the Turks happy. Cyprus had been a British protectorate in 1878, and later a British crown colony (1925). Most Greeks wanted the island united with Greece, Greeks constituting 4/5 of the island’s population; the Turks had claim the island since 1878. The British had two military bases on the island over which it didn’t want to relinquish sovereignty. In 1956 a right wing Greek Cyriot group (EOKA) took up arms against the British, and there were threats of a new Greco-Turkish war. In the compromise settled on in 1959, Britain agreed to allow Cyprus to become an independent republic the following year, with the Greek archbishop Markarios as president and a Turk (Faisal Kukuk) as vice president, but refused to agree to the union of Cyprus with Greece. The issue continued to boil, and by 1961, was one of several serious issues that caused discontent with Karamanlis’ government. Other were unemployment and the establishment of U.S. nuclear bases in Greece. Karamanlis was re-elected for the third time, though many favored Yeorgos Papandreos, who had been a Venizelos supporter, and the Karamanlis party of rigging the election. Strikes in industry and agriculture became frequent, and there were protests against King Paul and his wife, who had fascist leanings. In 1963, right wing elements, nervous about a ‘communist resurgence’, engineered the assassination of the deputy of the communist party EDA , Grigoris Lambrakis, in Thessaloniki. Karamanlis dissolved the parliament, lost the elections s resigned and left Greece. Papandreou assumed office in 1964, his party, EK, the first party in Greece since 1935 not controlled by Greek right wing interests. Papandreou freed political prisoners and allowed political exiles to return to Greece, reduced defense spending and income tax, and increased funding of education and social services. Though Papandreou was not a leftist, his tolerance of the left spurred the right to undermine him, which they accomplished in less than two years, first by accusing his son of a leftist conspiracy, and leading to his resignation when the king refused to let him handle his own defense. He hoped to run again for election, but the king instead ordered his cronies to organize a coalition government. Strikes, mass demonstrations, and resignations followed, with chaos for a year and a half until new elections were finally set for late May, 1967.