Saturday, November 4, 2017

Once Upon a Time There was Another Notorious George Papadopoulos


If one week ago I’d asked Americans, “Who’s Papadopoulos?” I’d venture to say the overwhelming response would be a blank stare—as opposed to the withering glares offered up by certain American officials when asked that same question this week.  Yes, a week ago there was a better chance of Americans knowing more about a Pampelmousse than a Papadopoulos.

All of that changed this past Monday morning, when the world learned that a former Trump Presidential Campaign advisor, named George Papadopoulos, had pled guilty before a federal judge to charges arising out of the investigation underway by Special Prosecutor Robert S. Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 US Presidential election.


But enough about that George Papadopoulos. This is about another George Papadopoulos, one I’ve not yet seen picked up on by mainstream US media, but known to Greeks everywhere, albeit as Georgios Papadopoulos.


There are similarities between George and Georgios, for both were drawn to achieving power in ways that got them in trouble, but only Georgios got the gold ring…temporarily.

Georgios was born in 1919 and passed away in 1999, spending the final twenty-five years his life imprisoned for high treason, mutiny, torture and other crimes. Many books have been written about his life, some differing markedly in tone and perspective, depending on whether political loyalists or adversaries held the pen.

Georgios military career began around 1940 as a lieutenant in the Greek Artillery, and in 1967 he was promoted to colonel.  Those twenty-seven years were full of international intrigues, coup attempts, scandal, and virulent right wing, anti-communist activities, but it is what happened after his promotion that made Georgios Papadopoulos a household word for Greeks. 

On April 21, 1967, he and other mid-level officers successfully executed a coup exploiting conflicts between King Consantine II and the former Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou (just to toss another George P into the mix.)

That coup became known as the Regime of the Colonels, and though Georgios Papadopoulos’ rule was overthrown by other elements of the army on November 25, 1973, democracy was not restored until July 24, 1974.

Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, sums up the Junta years ruled over by Georgios in these two paragraphs:

Papadopoulos' regime imposed martial law. The press was subjected to harsh censorship. Thousands of the regime's political opponents were thrown into prison or exiled ("forced into vacation", as the friends of the junta cynically put it) on small Aegean islands. Amnesty International issued a report detailing numerous instances of torture under the regime. Papadopoulos excused these actions as necessary to save the nation from a "Communist takeover." The regime was supported by the United States because of its staunchly anti-Communist stance.

The military government dissolved political parties, clamped down on left-wing organizations and labor unions, and promoted traditionalist Greco-Christian culture. At the same time, however, the economy, mostly due to the political stability brought by the regime, improved greatly. Extensive public projects, such as highway-building, agricultural reform and electrification, were carried out all over Greece, especially in the most backward rural areas.

Symbol of the Regime
The Papadopoulos legacy is still debated today.  Many label him a symbol of authoritarianism and xenophobia, while the far right praises him for promoting Greek culture, imposing a strong hand, and fighting communism.

I wonder if today’s George Papadopoulos sees any irony in the comparisons some might draw between the old ways of his namesake, Georgios, and the present day predilections of those he sought to serve.  Just asking.



  1. My Brother, this post brings back one very vivid image from the years of the Junta, and it is not Giorgios. It is Melina Mercouri's fierce and tragic visage when she was calling for an end to the regime.


  2. Interesting you should say that, Sis. In writing this post I thought of bringing in Melina, for it's hard for me not to think of her in the context of the Junta years. However, I thought it best to keep her memory out of the mix I was getting into. Still, here's a link to one of my favorite of her performances, a bit grainy in the old film, but so was she in her advocacy for a free Greece.