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History of Modern Greece

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Modern Greek History

After the Greek revolution of 1821 and finally the establishment of the Modern independent Greek state in 1830 with the Treaty of London,  Greece was not the size of ancient Greece, its territorial area included parts of Sterea Ellas, the islands of Evia, Sporades, Cyclades and the Peloponnesus, unrest prevailed in the country. Kapodistrias the first Governor of Greece, ruled in a dictatorial way until he was assassinated in 1831, which was followed by civil war.
The year after the 17 year old Bavarian prince Otto was declared king of Greece. He was not popular for many reasons: he was not Greek, delayed a constitution to be made, and he taxed the people heavily. He was forced to make a constitution after a rebellion in September 3 of 1843. Otto became even less popular when he helped the French and English during their embargo of Piraeus to prevent an alliance between Greece and Russia during the Crimean War (1854-1856).
Otto was deposed in 1862 and the Danish prince George was crowned king of Greece after the British had suggested him. Because the Greeks accepted him, the British gave the Ionian islands back to Greece.

War against Turkey started again in 1878 after Greece had decided to win back some of its old territory. After years of embargoes, negotiations and revolts, Turkey gave back Thessaly and Arta to Greece.

The economical growth of Greece begun in the 19th century. Roads and railroads were built, the Corinth channel was finished and Piraeus became an important commercial harbour. Battles with Turkey continued though, and Crete was put under international rule. The island finally unified with the rest of Greece when the Cretan premier minister Eleftherios Venizelos ruled 1910-1935.

Macedonia still belonged to the Ottoman Empire, and the Balkan Wars begun 1912/13 when Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria all wanted the territory. Greece came to get a large area. The same year king George was assassinated and his son Constantine the first succeeded him.

Constantine was married to the sister of the German emperor, and he insisted Greece to remain neutral during the first world war. Venizelos managed to get the country to join the allies though, which resulted in the ostracism of the king and his son Alexander became the new king. The allied forces had promised lands in Asia Minor to Greece, but this problem was not kept. Venizelos then took command and his army went into Smyrna, where half a million Greeks lived, in 1919. The following year he conquered areas in Turkey and the Greek army reached Ankara.

In 1921 the Greeks were driven out of Turkey by the general Ataturk and the so called catastrophe of Asia Minor followed, where the Greek population that lived there for 3000 years was chased out of the country or killed. A couple of years later an exchange of people took place, where 1,5 million Greeks left Turkey and 400 000 Turks Greece. A time of great poverty followed in Greece.

During this time Italy ruled the Ionian islands (1912-1947) and eastern Thrace was given to Turkey, along with a few islands. Constantine was king again after Alexander had died of a monkey-bite, but he abdicated after the catastrophe in Asia Minor. He was succeeded by his other son George II. His rule was short, though, since a group of officers seized power and proclaimed Greece a republic.

Years of constant coup d'etates followed, and Venizelos seized power in 1928. His party sat in the government until it lost the elections of 1933 against the monarchist party. The new party was about to reinforce the king when Venizelos and his followers tried to overthrow the new government, but failed and was exiled to Paris where he died a year later. King George II was back on the throne, and he named the general Ioannis Metaxas prime minister. The latter came to be a dictator with the kings blessings when they feared the communist party might try to take over.

The following years came to be characterized with the dictatorial methods of Metaxas: imprisoning opponents, censoring the press and forbidding the communist party. When the second world war broke out Greece remained neutral. Italy then asked Metaxas to let the travel through Greece, but he denied them this on the 28th of October 1940, a day which today is celebrated as the famous "ochi-day" (no-day), the National day of Greece.

The Italians invaded Greece anyway, but were driven back to Albania. Great Britain asked Metaxas to be allowed to have military bases on Greek soil since they feared instability on the Balkans, but again he said no. He then died suddenly, and the new premier minister Alexandros Koryzis let the British come to Greece. When the Germans invaded the country in 1941 he committed suicide. The German occupation was to be one of the worst periods of time in Greece. The people starved, during the winter of 1941  thousands of Athenians where dying every day from starvation, many Greeks were executed by the Germans, and half the Jewish population was deported to the concentration camps. The king was exiled to Egypt.

Three Greek resistant movements were created: two were left-winged (EAM and EKKA) , one was right-winged and monarchist (EDES) , the biggest resistance movement was the EAM and its military part the ELAS. The EAM organised thousands of socialists and communist Greeks in a resistance war against the Nazis. These parties fought both the Germans and watch each other and this continued even after the Germans had been forced out of the country in 1944. The right winged party formed a government with British support, and when they opened fire against communist demonstrators in December the third of 1944 at Parliament Square it became the beginning of the civil war.

In 1946 George II was back on the throne, and the monarchist party ruled the country. A new left-winged movement begun controlling large areas near Albania. USA had started watching Greece now instead of the UK, and because they feared the communist spread during the Cold War, they literally pumped the right wing party  with money and weapons. The communist party was forbidden, and you had to carry with you a certain document the infamous "Harti Koinonikon Fronimaton" (paper of social believes)  where it said you were not a follower of the left if you wanted to work and vote until 1962. This infamous paper though continued to hound many Greeks in matters of work as civil servants, passports, visas, army until the end of the Greek Military dictatorship in 1974.

The communists managed to conquer large areas of the Peloponnesus, but they were soon driven out by the government. In 1949 the right won the civil war after the Greek Communist Party was not anymore supported by Yugoslavia. This ended the civil war, but Greece was in extremely poor condition, and almost a million Greeks emigrated to countries like the USA, Australia, Germany and Sweden.

General Papagos became the new prime minister and when he died in 1955 he was succeeded by Konstantinos Karamanlis. The country was a member of NATO by now, and America continued to support the right winged government so that the communist would not be able to get back.

Once again, the question of Cyprus became a hot issue. The Greek Cypriots had wanted to unite with Greece in the 1930's already, but Turkey had opposed to this. In 1925 the island had become a British crown colony, and in 1954 the British explained their intentions of making Cyprus an independent state. In 1959 Cyprus became an independent republic with the archbishop Makarios as president and a Turk as vice president. Internal hostilities continued between Turkish Cypriots and right wing Greek Cypriots.

Back in Greece the central party pf George Papandreou had started to grow, and when the right party of Karamanlis won the elections in 1961 Papandreou accused them of cheating. Two year later the leader of the left party EDA, Lambrakis, was murdered, and Karamanlis left the country. Papandreou party Enosis Kentrou (Union of the Centre) won the new elections, and soon a series of reforms were enforced. Constantine II had just been crowned the new king, political prisoners were freed and taxes were lowered. This was a time of mutual suspicions between the right and the left, and Papandreou resigned after the king had opposed to an operation of cleaning the army of potential coup conspirators.

In 1967 new elections were to be held, but instead a group of generals led by George Papadopoulos took power. The king tried to make a counter coup, but failed and fled the country. The new regime introduced a rule of terror, where opponents were imprisoned and tortured, strict censorship was enforced and a strict control of the people was exercised. There are suspicions that the USA supported this financially since there was an interest that Greece was ruled by non-communists.

In 1973 students in Athens were demonstrating against the junta, and tankers stormed the university and killed and wounded many. Papadopoulos was overthrown by the chief of the security police, Ioannidis, who now seized power. He planned to murder the president of Cyprus and unite the country with Greece, but it all failed when Makarios fled and the Turks replied by conquering a large part of the island. 200 000 Greeks were forced to leave everything they owned and escape to the Greek-Cypriot territory.
Karamanlis was called back to Greece by the army in order to organise the country, and his party won the elections of 1974. The son of George Papandreou, Andreas, formed the socialist party PASOK and during these elections he got the 13.58% of the votes.  At the referendum of 1974  69% of the people voted against reinstating the king, and the monarchy was banned. Ex-king Constantine still lives in exile in London.

Karamanlis' Nea Demokratia, New Democracy, party won the elections again in 1977, and four years later the country joined the EU. The same year 1981 PASOK won the elections with big majority and Papandreou promised that the American military bases in Greece would be shut down, and that Greece would leave NATO. These promises were never fulfilled. But Andreas Papandreou achieved many other things in Greece and became one of the most beloved political leaders of the country. He was accused, after the infamous "scandal of Koskotas", but acquitted, of charges of embezzlement of the Bank of Crete.  In 1996 Papandreou resigned due to ill health, and was succeeded by Costas Simitis, he leaded European friendly politics, and emphasized on modernisation of the country, improve its economy and fight corruption. During the 20  years of reign of the Greek Socialist Party PASOK under Papandreou and Simitis (with a break in 1990 when the conservative party won again, with Kostantinos Mitsotakis as leader, whom after a series of personal and political scandals resigned, and in 1993 PASOK won the new elections)  Greece and the Greek Economy flourished. Greece became a high developed country and the quality of life in Greece reached the levels of the other developed countries of the world. The highlight of this development and achievement was the Olympic Games of 2004.  Andreas Papandreou together with Konstantinos Karamanlis and Eleftherios Venizelos where the greatest politicians in the History of Modern Greece.

Greek history