Today’s holiday-inspired history lesson takes us the Mediterranean land of Ελλάδα (Elláda) or Greece, for Αποκατάσταση της δημοκρατίας! That is, Apokatástasi̱ ti̱s di̱mokratías, or Restoration of Democracy! No, it is not a political statement on the current Eurozone discussions, though you can bet a number have been made. Today’s holiday marks that day in 1974 when the seven years of oppressive rule by the military Regime of the Colonels came to an end. Let’s get into it.
Much like political turmoil and violence led to يوم النهضة in Oman, government issues in Greece lead to the eventual events spawning this holiday. The greek government was an unstable mess after World War II. Things got worse in 1965 after the King of Greece Κωνσταντῖνος Β, or Konstantínos II dismissed the Prime Minister and appointed a new one. Various factions disagreed with his actions (strongly) and the next 2 years were a mess with multiple governments, failed elections, and other difficulties. In 1967 a group of military personnel enacted a coup, countered a counter coup, and initiated the καθεστώς των Συνταγματαρχών, kathestós ton Syntagmatarchón, or Regime of the Colonels. They declared a military rule, suspended various portions of the constitution, started jailing, torturing, and exiling dissidents, and responding violently to protests. Within 5 months of the coup, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands accused the government of violating most human rights protected by the European Commission. Things only got worse from there.
In the end, the regime brought itself down. In July of 1974 one of its members backed a coup on the island of Cyprus, overthrowing the president. Neighboring Turkey, who long held an interest in Cyprus, used the overthrow as an opportunity to quickly invaded the island, pitting its military against both the Greek and Cypriot forces. By itself the invasion was certainly a crisis, but an extra detail spelled the end for the Regime: 8 months prior, the regime had ordered a surprise attack with a tank on a group of students protesting at Athens Polytechnic. That action and other issues undermined the regime’s legitimacy and revealed its disunity.
Fear of war with Turkey, some 8 times larger than Greece, and recognition of internal problems led the regime to call in politicians from before the coup. Within 6 days of the overthrow, on July 23rd, a previous Prime Minister was invited to head a new government. He had been in self-imposed exile in France since 1963. France flew him to Greece, and a subsequent popular election confirmed him as head of state. Peace talks with Turkey began immediately and prevented an all-out war, but Turkey Declared roughly 40% of Cyprus the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. (That’s continued to the present day, but large steps were taken towards reconciliation in 2014.)
On the 24th of July, 1974, the Greek government took formal steps towards democracy, and later, this holiday was established to recognize that fact.
And that’s your piece of history for the day! If you’re interested in how today is being played alongside the European Union bailout, see the decent summary from the various political parties in Greece here:
http://news.in.gr/greece/article/?aid=1500014670 Also, it’s in Greek.