Thursday, 11 December 2008

House of Commons gaffe

Gordon Brown's slip of the tongue during PM questions, in which he said his government had 'saved the world', is reminiscent of a similar gaffe another British minister had made during the seven years of the junta's reign.

More specifically, the time was June 1973 and, while debating the British recognition of the Papadopoulos republican government, foreign secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home responded to a relevant question by James Callaghan.
Douglas-Home later in the same session asked to correct his slip of the tongue as he had picked up a phrase of Callaghan referring to the Colonels:

'I think I said he rightly called it "the illegal regime in Greece"'.

The statement was caught by opposition circles in London, with the European-Atlantic Action Committee on Greece publishing a rather mordant bulletin to comment on Whitehall's policy towards the Colonels:

'The indecent haste with which the British government recognised the newly declared Greek Republic on 13th June was a gratuitous favour to Papadopoulos and was rightly the subject of critical questioning in the House of Commons by the Opposition's Shadow Foreign Secretary. That the government felt some embarrasment over the decision was indicated by a revealing 'slip of tongue' made by Sir Alec Douglas-Home in referring to the Greek regime as "illegal"'.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Greek riots

Major rioting erupted in Athens and other big cities in Greece after the fatal shooting of a teenager by police two days ago.

Foreign press talks about clashes on an unprecedented scale, at least for the last twenty years in this country.
A protest was held even outside the Greek embassy in London (see photo below).

On this terrible occasion, the 1973 Athens polytechnic uprising is mentioned as the starting point of major rioting in Greece (see Times article on those events).

This article by Malcolm Brabant published on BBC's website explains the link between the two events:

'The polytechnic is the symbol of modern rebellion.

On 17 November 1973, tanks of the then six-year-old military dictatorship burst through the iron railings to suppress a student uprising against the colonels.

The exact casualty figure is still unknown to this day but it is believed that around 40 people were killed.

The sacrifice of the polytechnic was so significant that the post-junta architects of Greece's new constitution drafted the right of asylum, which bans the authorities from entering the grounds of schools and universities.

That is why places of learning are the springboards for the current wave of violence and it also explains why many of the riots are in university towns.

Students and pupils have effectively been given carte blanche to carry on protesting, because their professors have declared a three-day strike.

'Out of control'

Although many of today's protestors were not born when the polytechnic gates were crushed by the tanks, the lesson of the students' martyrdom is a key component of every Greek child's school democracy curriculum.

If Greece had already appeared difficult to govern, it will now be out of control
Nikos Konstandaras, managing
editor of Kathimerini newspaper

The latent Greek contempt for the police, which has now erupted so volcanically, has its roots in the dictatorship, when the police were regarded as the colonels' enforcers and traitors to the people.'

For a sober analysis of the December 2008 events see Professor Kalyvas' presentation at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The 25 November 1973 coup d'etat

35 years ago yesterday another coup d'etat took place in Greece.
In the aftermath of the Athens Polytechnic uprising, head of the military police, Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis toppled Papadopoulos and installed Lieutenant General Phaedon Gizikis as President of Greece.
Ioannidis came to be known as the 'invisible dictator' because he was the one pulling the strings during the last period of the Colonels' regime which ended with the Cyprus coup d'etat in July 1974 and the Turkish invasion of the island.

Dimitrios Ioannides (right) toasting with George Papadopoulos (middle) and Phaedon Gizikis (left) Ioannides and Gizikis overthrew Papadopoulos in a later coup.

The communique announcing the overthrow of the Markezinis government accused Papadopoulos of 'straying from the ideals of the 1967 revolution and 'pushing the country towards parliamentary rule too quickly'.

Here you can read BBC's report on these events.

The photos on the right are from an article of the London press on the British recognition of Ioannides' regime.

[You can also read an article (in Greek) on Ioannidis, Kissinger and the USA here.]

Monday, 17 November 2008

Athens Polytechnic Uprising

Thirty five years ago today the Athens Polytechnic uprising (info here and video here) ended in bloodshed.

This picture shows the tank that crushed the gates of the Polytechnic, stopped in front of the building. The picture was found at

This is a copy of the Vradyni Athens daily reporting on the events on the following day. I found this on website today; it is incorporated in a text commemorating the uprising.

The front page of the 18th November 1973 reminded me of another page of the same newspaper that I had come across in my research.

It is a cartoon published approximately a year before the November '73 events and it comments on Lord Carrington's visit to Athens in September 1972.

Lord Carrington was Defence Secretary at the time and his visit (the first one by a British minister under Heath) was presented to the public as 'unofficial', with his habit of holidaying in Greece used as a pretext.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Oxford conference

Greece's relations with its Balkan neighbours is another of my academic interests. This is me presenting a paper at the Oxford conference on Greece and the Balkans. You can find more information here.

The, particularly long, title of the paper was:
'The 1971 re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Greece and Albania: Cooperation and strategic partnership within cold-war bipolarity?'.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


These are some photos from Bayswater, a neighborhood of London where many Greeks (including students) reside and have their businesses.

Bayswater was one of the centres of opposition to the Colonels, with many meetings between resistance group members and anti-junta demonstrations taking place here.

You can also see the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia ('Divine Wisdom'), and the taverna 'Kalamaras', where exiled and other members of anti-junta organisations used to meet.

According to its website the restaurant was established in 1966 (just a year before the Colonels advent to power) and 'made famous by the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Dusty Springfield, Peter Sellers and many other icons of that time'.

This is the British Library of Political and Economic Science (BLPES), or simply the LSE library. It is the world's largest social sciences library (more info here).

It is also where some of the archives I used for my PhD are situated.

All in all, an amazing research resource.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

The Economist

This is the Economist
building, at the Economist Plaza.

A plethora of articles of this publication referred to the Greek Colonels' regime and some on relations between London and Athens during the Seven Years.

Here's Papadopoulos' obituary that appeared in The Economist.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

More LSE

Here are some photos of LSE, which (apart from being my host institution) is also where mass student demonstrations took place in '68 (more info, in Greek, here) and '69, where Ann Chapman used to work part-time, and, finally, where Andreas Papandreou secretly met FCO officials.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


This blog is an outlet for communicating my research on Anglo-Greek relations during the late 60s to mid 70s period.

I am also planning on uploading some material (including pics) in order to complement my thesis and hopefully promote a better understanding of the background, the actors, and the dynamics of British foreign policy vis-a-vis the Greek Colonels' regime.

I hope you will find this useful.

Thank you,
Alexandros Nafpliotis
PhD/Graduate teaching assistant
International History Department
London School of Economics and Political Science


For the time being you can check out the links to get a sense of what I do and what my research is about.

SICAR - IERES refers to the Summer Institute on Conducting Archival Research , organised by The Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, The Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, in DC.

It is a five-day seminar in which Ph.D. students receive training in conducting archival research.

Definitely one of my best academic experiences to date.

Here's a pic from one of the sessions (you can see me in far left)


That's me at St Clement's lane. You can also see the bridge connecting St Clement's and the Library.