Athens Polytechnic uprising
The Athens Polytechnic uprising occurred in November 1973 as a massive student demonstration of popular rejection of the Greek military junta of 1967–1974. The uprising began on 14 November 1973, escalated to an open anti-junta revolt, and ended in bloodshed in the early morning of 17 November after a series of events starting with a tank crashing through the gates of the Polytechnic.
|Athens Polytechnic uprising|
|Part of Greek military junta of 1967–1974|
|Date||14–17 November 1973|
|Resulted in||Repression of the uprising|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
|Death(s)||c.40 civilians killed (outside campus)|
|Injuries||Many (>100) all over the city|
Since 21 April 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.
The 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".[This quote needs a citation]
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. 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.
The first massive public action against the junta came from students on 21 February 1973, when 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 of "subversive youths", as 88 of their peers had been forcibly drafted to the army. 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.
An anti-dictatorial student movement was growing among the youth, and the police utilised brutal methods and torture towards them, in order to confront the threat.
On 14 November 1973, students at the Athens Polytechnic (Polytechneion) went on strike and started protesting against the military regime (Regime of the Colonels). As the authorities stood by, the students were calling themselves the "Free Besieged" (Greek: Ελεύθεροι Πολιορκημένοι, a reference to the poem by Greek poet Dionysios Solomos inspired by the Ottoman siege of Mesolonghi).
An assembly was formed spontaneously and decided to occupy the Polytechnic. The two main student parties, the Marxist pro-Soviet A-AFEE and Rigas did not endorse the movement. Leftists and anarchists initiated the sit-in. While they contended that the uprising should demand capitalism's abolition, the larger, unconvinced rebel group disagreed and chose instead to demand democracy's restoration. A Coordination Commission of the Occupation was formed but had loose control over the uprising. Police had gathered outside but did not manage to break into the premises.
During the second day of the occupation (often called celebration day), thousands of people from Athens poured in to support the students. 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. Third parties that allied themselves with the student protests were the construction workers (who set up a parallel committee next to CCO) and some farmers from Megara, who coincidentally protested on the same days in Athens.
A proclamation was announced on Friday, 16 November by the CCO that the students were aiming to bring down the Junta. During the 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. The Junta decided to reply firmly, by repressing the riots. Snipers were placed at buildings next to the Polytechnic and assassinated 24 people in total[when?]. Students barricaded themselves in and constructed a radio station (using laboratory equipment) that repeatedly broadcast across Athens:
Polytechneion here! Polytechneion here! People of Greece, the Polytechneion is the flag bearer of our struggle and your struggle, our common struggle against the dictatorship and for democracy!"
Maria Damanaki, later a politician, was one of the major speakers. Soon thousands of workers and youngsters joined them protesting inside and outside of the "Athens Polytechnic".
In the early hours of November 17, 1973, the transitional government sent a tank crashing through the gates of the Athens Polytechnic. Soon after that, Spyros Markezinis himself had the task to request Papadopoulos to reimpose martial law. 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 the 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 Nikolaos 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.
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 uprisingEdit
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, 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 15 July 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 by 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 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 period 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 often a day of social unrest where mass riots occur during the entire night. Two protesters were killed during the 1980 demonstration.
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.
The student's struggle had also a lasting effect on Greek anarchism and terrorism. Despite the far-left's minor influence in the uprising itself, their unfulfilled vision became a rallying cry for Greek anarchists internally, such as a cause célèbre for subsequent extremism and terrorism. The now-defunct far-left terror organization Revolutionary Organization 17 November is named after the last day of the Polytechnic uprising.
- 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.
- Kornetis 2013, pp. 225-226.
- ΑΡΗΣ ΔΗΜΟΚΙΔΗΣ (16 November 2014). "11 ενδιαφέροντα πράγματα για την εξέγερση του Πολυτεχνείου". Lifo Magazine.
- "Πολυτεχνείο – 45 χρόνια μετά: Πολύτιμη πηγή γνώσης, έμπνευσης και παραδειγματισμού". Nea Selida. 17 November 2018.
- "Πολυτεχνείο: 40 χρόνια μετά". Greek Reporter. 16 November 2013.
- Kornetis 2013, p. 255.
- Kornetis 2013, p. 256.
- Kornetis 2013, p. 257.
- Kornetis 2013, pp. 257-59.
- Kornetis 2013, pp. 263.
- Kornetis 2013, pp. 270-272.
- Kornetis 2013, p. 270.
- Etho Polytechneio through Internet archive Text in Greek: Εδώ Πολυτεχνείο! Λαέ της Ελλάδας το Πολυτεχνείο είναι σημαιοφόρος του αγώνα μας, του αγώνα σας, του κοινού αγώνα μας ενάντια στη δικτατορία και για την Δημοκρατία, transliterated as: Etho Polytechneio! Lae tis Elladas to Polytechneio einai simaioforos tou agona mas, tou agona sas, tou koinou agona mas enantia sti diktatoria kai gia tin Dimokratia)
- Παύλος Μεθενίτης (17 November 2018). "17 Νοέμβρη 1973: Πολυτεχνείο". News247.
- "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
- 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..
- "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
- 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
- Papadogiannis, Nikolaos (2015). Militant Around the Clock?: Left-Wing Youth Politics, Leisure, and Sexuality in Post-Dictatorship Greece, 1974-1981. Berghahn Books. p. 210. ISBN 978-1-78238-645-2.
- Lekea 2014, p. 10.
- Lekea, Ioanne K. (2014). 17N's Philosophy of Terror: An Analysis of the 17 November Revolutionary Organization. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-38141-6.
- Kornetis, Kostis (2013). Children of the Dictatorship: Student Resistance, Cultural Politics and the 'Long 1960s' in Greece. Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1-78238-001-6.
- Καλλιβρετάκης, Λεωνίδας (2004). "Πολυτεχνείο '73: Το ζήτημα των θυμάτων: Νεκροί και τραυματίες" [Polytechnic School '73: The question of the victims: dead and injured]. Πολυτεχνείο ’73: ρεπορτάζ με την Ιστορία (in Greek). 2. pp. 38–55.