History of Modern Greece

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 Peloponnese, 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 went to 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’etate 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 ( Panhellenic National Movement) 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 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.


a) Ioannis Kapodistrias.
The Third National Assembly of the Greeks (April 3, 1827), which had voted for the “Political Constitution of Greece”, had also elected Ioannis Kapodistrias Governor of the country for seven years. Kapodistrias landed in Aegina (January 12, 1828), the provisional seat of the Greek government, and on the 26th he was sworn in and took office. From that moment on, he made superhuman efforts to establish a synchronized state in the ruins left by the long struggle.
In September, the French general Maison cleared the Peloponnese, forcing Ibrahim to leave with his Turkish-Egyptian troops. In June-August 1829 the Fourth National Assembly was convened in Argos and on September 12  Ypsilantis gave the last victory.

On January 22, 1830, the London Protocol was signed, which recognized the full independence of Greece and defined its borders with the Ottoman Empire (the Acheloos-Sperchios line,or Aspropotamos-Spercheios line) with the islands Evia, the Sporades and the Cyclades becoming part of Greece. On September 9, Kapodistrias was assassinated in Nafplio and in this violent way the first period of life of the free state is interrupted.

b) The Reign Of king Otto of Bayern

After the assassination of Kapodistrias, an administrative committee was formed, chaired by Ioannis Kapodistrias’ younger brother, Augustinos Kapodistrias. The following year the Ninth National Assembly met in the Welfare of Nafplio and elected the Bavarian prince Otto, who landed in Nafplio on January 25, 1833, as king. On September 18, 1834, Athens was declared the capital and the transfer of this from Nafplio took place on December 1. On November 10, 1836, Otto married Duchess Amalia of Oldenberg. On May 3, 1837, the University of Athens was founded. In 1838 the day of the Annunciation was celebrated for the first time as the anniversary of the National Rebirth.

On May 30, 1841, the National Bank of Greece was established and in 1842, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens was constructed.. On September 3, 1843 a revolution broke out and Otto was forced to grant a Constitution.
Throughout his reign Otto was unable to resolve Greece’s poverty and prevent economic meddling from outside. Greek politics in this era were based on affiliations with the three Great Powers that had guaranteed Greece’s independence, Britain, France and Russia, and Otto’s ability to maintain the support of the powers was key to his remaining in power. To remain strong, Otto had to play the interests of each of the Great Powers’ Greek adherents against the others, while not irritating the Great Powers. When Greece was blockaded by the British Royal Navy in 1850 and again in 1854, to stop Greece from attacking the Ottoman Empire during the Crimean War, Otto’s standing amongst Greeks suffered. As a result, there was an assassination attempt on Queen Amalia, and finally in 1862 Otto was deposed while in the countryside. He died in exile in Bavaria in 1867 .

c) The Reign Of George the First

A year after the dethronement of Otto (18-10-1863), George I, son of the King of Denmark ascended the throne, elected by the Greek National Assembly. His nomination was both suggested and supported by the Great Powers of the UK, France and Russia. His almost 50 year reign was characterised by territorial gains. In 1864 Britain gave up to Greece the Ionian Islands. The borders were still not finalized in June 1880 when a favourable proposal was offered by the British and French which included Mount Olympus and Ioannina.

The Ottoman Turks however strongly objected to this and the Prime Minister Trikoupis threatened war with Turkey. This was finally settled with the Treaty of Berlin,with the Turks concedingThessaly and a small part of Epirus in 1881. In 1885 the Bulgarians occupied eastern Romulia in a coup, uniting the province with Bulgaria. The Greek government’s main opposition, the Nationalist Party led by Theodoros Deligiannis won a victory in the Greek elections of that year by arguing that if the Bulgarians could defy the Treaty of Berlin then so can the Greeks.

Between 1882 and 1897 Trikoupis and Deligiannis alternated as Prime Minister as the country’s fortunes rose and fell. In 1893 Trikoupis was forced to declare the country bankrupt. In 1896 new revolutionary movements took place in Crete and Greece decided to help the revolutionaries, eventually leading to the declaration of the unfortunate war of 1897. But the following year Crete was declared autonomous; in 1905 the revolution of Therissos broke out, led by El. Venizelos, and in 1908 the union of Megalonisos with Greece was proclaimed (but it took place in 1912 and was internationally recognized in 1913). The Macedonian Struggle (1902-8) was held at the same time. Meanwhile, Bulgaria began voicing its claims to Macedonia.

Under the pretext of the liberation struggle against Turkey, the Bulgarians cultivated the autonomy of Macedonia, established schools and appeared as protectors of the Christians in the Ottoman Empire regardless of their nationality, while over time armed Bulgarian guerrilla forces, the Komitas, and the Bulgarian Macedonia in the schismatic Bulgarian Exarchate(the Bulgarian Orthodox Church) from 1870, without hesitation proceeded with persecution and terrorism against the Orthodox population, while the weak Turkish government was unable to take action against them.
From 1900, the organization of the Greeks of Macedonia began to strengthen the Greek efforts to win control of Macedonia. The Hellenic Macedonian Committee was formed in 1903 with the leadership of Dimitros Kalapothakis and its members included Ion Dragoumis, Germanos Karavangelis and Pavlos Melas. Dragoumis was made deputy consul in the Greek consulate a Monastir ,Germanos Karavangelis, was the Metropolitan Bishop of Kastoria, and Pavlos Melas , an officer of the Hellenic Army. All three were instrumental in the Greek struggle for Macedonia. Greece helped the Macedonians to resist both Ottoman and Bulgarian forces by sending military officers who formed bands made up of Maceddonians and other Greek volunteers. This became known as the Macedonian Struggle from 1904 to 1908 which ended with the Young Turk Revolution.

In 1909, the Military Association, led by N. Zorbas, attempted a coup d’etat which began at the barracks in Goudi, a neighbourhood on the eastern outskirts of Athens. This coup was an important event in Greek modern history as it brought to the political scene of Greece Elefherios Venizelos, who went on to become Prime Minister. The coup came about due to simmering tensions that existed as a result of the effects of the disastrous Greek-Turkish War of 1897. Influenced by the Young Turks, some junior army officers founded a secret society named the Military League, headed by Colonel Nikolaos Zorbas. The coup involved demanding an immediate change in the running of the country and its armed forces.

King George gave in and replaced Prime Minister Dimitrios Rallis with Kyriakoulis Mavromichalis. However, this did not satisfy the rebels and eventually the Cretan Venizelos, who, as a strong democrat, proceeded with reforms.
The victorious Balkan Wars (1912-13) followed, during which King George was assassinated and Constantine I ascended the throne (March 1913). During the First Balkan War, the allied Balkan states (Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Serbia) declared war on Turkey, achieved an overwhelming victory and signed the Treaty of London (May 17, 1913), which ratified the alliance of almost all the European territories of the Ottoman Empire. However, during the talks on the distribution of the territories, the excessive demands of Bulgaria led to the signing of a secret agreement between Greece and Serbia.

The Second Balkan War (1913) ended with the defeat of Bulgaria and the Treaty of Bucharest (July 28, 1913), which ceded to Greece Eastern Macedonia up to Nestos and to Bulgaria Western Thrace. In Greece, the Aegean islands are still awarded, except for Imvros and Tenedos, while the Northern Epirus is ceded to the newly formed state of Albania by the Great Powers (January 31, 1914).



d) The First World War (1914-1918).
When World War I was declared, there was a serious disagreement between Eleftherios Venizelos, who supported the participation of Greece in and the Germanophile King Constantine, who had the opposite opinion, favouring neutrality. This disagreement led to an ethnic division, which culminated in the division of the country into two territories. Athens and Constantine remained neutral, while the revolutionary National Defence government led by the triad of E. Venizelos, P. Daglis and P. Kountouriotis in Thessaloniki declared war (1916) against the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Turkey, Turkey). .
In 1917 Constantine was forced to abdicate and his son Alexander ascended the throne. Thus the state unity was restored and Venizelos returned from Crete back to Athens. During this war the Greek army crushed the Bulgarians in Skra and forced them to sign a truce (1918). In September of the same year, the Battle of Veternick-Golo Bilo and the Battle of Doirani took place.

e) The Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 (The Asia Minor Campaign – 1919-1922).
This war was fought between Greece and the Turkish National Movement during the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War 1. It started primarily because the western Allies, in particular Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister of the time, had promised that Greece would gain territories from the defeated Ottoman Empire. In particular, the areas that had been part of Ancient Greece and the Byzantine Empire, such as Anatolia, would revert back to Greece.
Based on the treaties of Neigi (November 27, 1919) and Sevres (August 10, 1920), Eastern Thrace and the islands of Imbros and Tenedos and the region of Izmir were annexed to Greece, while the Paris Embassy Conference (November 1921) granted the North Continent. The Greek army occupied Thrace and lands in Smyrna, where it was accepted as a liberator.

In October 1920, however, King Alexander died, Venizelos was defeated in the elections and in November, after a referendum, Constantine returned to Greece. A new national division ensued. At the same time, the allies left Greece in an operation that exceeded its forces. Thus, after the advance of the Greek army to the Sangarios River, the country was led to the overwhelming defeat of 1922 and its military forces were forced to leave the territory of Asia Minor. The Asia Minor catastrophe resulted in the military coup of N. Plastiras and St. Gonata (September 1922), which forced Constantine to abdicate.

George II ascended the throne, while most members of the government of D. Gounaris, who was considered responsible for the disaster, were sentenced to death and executed (Trial of the Six). The final settlement of the borders was done with the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), by which the Greek-Turkish border is defined on the river Evros, the islands of Imbros and Tenedos were assigned to Turkey and the exchange of the Christian populations of Turkey and the Muslims of Greece was decided.

f) The Interwar Period (1922-1940).

In March 1924 the monarchy was declared deposed and replaced by a democracy, with Alexandros Zaimis. However, the political situation was very unstable resulting in General Pangalos declaring a dictatorship in 1925, but this was overthrown the following year. In 1928 the elections gave the majority to Venizelos and after four years to The People’s Party. A new period of instability followed, culminating in the return of George II (1935) and the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas (1936).

g) The Second World War (1939-1944).

Despite the government’s efforts to stay out of the war, a series of Italian provocations, most notably the explosion of the frigate “Elli” in the port of Tinos (August 15, 1940), exacerbated the situation causing Greece to enter into the conflict.. In the early hours of October 28th, the Italian government, which had already occupied Albania and was seeking sovereignty over the entire Eastern Mediterranean, declared war on Greece, but the Greek army not only successfully repulsed the Italian attack, but within a few months and despite the heavy winter, it advanced on the Albanian Front and liberated the Northern Epirus. Only after the German attack (1941) did the Greek troops bow down and Greece was enslaved.

I. Metaxas died in January 1941 and the Prime Minister, Alexandros Koryzis committed suicide in April of that year. King George II sought for his successor eventually choosing Emmanouil Tsouderos to lead the new government. By early June 1941the country was under the occupation of the German, Italian and Bulgarian tripartite but before this occurred King George II and his government fled to Crete and after its occupation to the Middle East and Egypt to continue the fight against the Axis on the side of the allies. This was followed by a four-year occupation by Bulgarians in Thrace and German-Italians in the rest of Greece. The Greek government in Egypt, where with the participation of many Greeks who were secretly fleeing Greece, began developing Greek military corps (first, second and third Greek brigade, Holy Corps), which took part in war on the side of the Allies (El-Alamein, Rimini, North Africa). At the same time in Greece, the resistance action was organized with the most important organizations, E.AM.-E.L.AS and E.D.E.S.

h) From The Liberation To The Present Day.

With the departure of the Germans from Greece, a government of National Unity was established in Athens with Georgios Papandreou as Prime Minister. King George II returned to Greece after the referendum of 1946, but died soon afterwards (April 1, 1947). He was succeeded by his brother Paul of Greece. In the meantime, a peace treaty was signed with Italy, according to which the Dodecanese was integrated with Greece.
During the period 1946-1949, the country was tested by the Civil War. In 1952 the country joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), from whose military wing it left after the occupation of Cyprus by Attila in 1974, but applied to rejoin and was accepted again in 1979. In 1964 King Paul I died and he was succeeded to the throne by his son Constantine II.

From April 21, 1967 until 1974, the dictatorship of April 21 was established . On December 13 1967, King Constantine tried to overthrow this but failed and fled to Rome. In 1974 the Turkish invasion of Cyprus occurred and the military junta in Greece was finally overthrown. A government of national unity was formed with Konstantinos Karamanlis, who after the elections of November 1974 formed his own majority government. A referendum followed on 8th December 1974 which abolished the monarchy and Michail Stasinopoulos temporarily took over the presidency of the republic. He was succeeded by Konstantinos Tsatsos, in 1976. The elections of 1977 again gave the majority to the New Democracy party (Nea Democratia) under Karamanlis, who in 1980 succeeded Tsatsos in the presidency of the republic




In 1979 the country joined the European Economic Union (EEC). In the 1981 elections, PASOK emerged as the first party, led by Andreas Papandreou, who with a 48% majority formed an autonomous government. In the days of this government the National Resistance was recognized, civil marriage was established and the right to vote was established at the age of 18 years. After the defeat of PASOK in the elections of June 1989, a coalition government of N. Democracy- and the Greek Communist party was formed in October with X. Zolotas as president. After the elections of April 1990, the New Democracy came to power, with Konstantinos Mitsotakis as Prime Minister.

Christos Sartzetakis was elected president of the Republic in 1985 and in 1990 Konstantinos Karamanlis, supported by the New Democracy, returned. He was succeeded in 1995 by K. Stefanopoulos, who was supported by PASOK and POL.AN. In 1993, A. Papandreou was re-elected Prime Minister. Konstantinos Simitis succeeds A. Papandreou in the prime ministership in January 1996 and in the leadership of the party in July 1996. In the elections of September 22, 1996, PA.SO.K wins.
Later on, after the defeat of PASOK the Left party of Syriza won the Elections and ran the country between 2015-2019. However, the elections of 2019 saw the return of the New Democracy party led by Konstantinos.Mitsotakis