The Financial Crisis, 2009 to date.

When the world financial crisis hit, Greece confessed that its deficit was larger than previously thought - a "cooking of the books" that happened with the cooperation of other financial institutions. Their soaring debt, and their inability to depreciate their currency, combined with the belief in "expansionary austerity" which led the EU to impose a series of measures that punished the Greeks for their bad habits, but did little to reform the economy or the political system.

As a result the country is now being run down into poverty, the middle-class being ground down and the suicide rate is climbing. The predictable result is the rise of fantasy left parties ("we can go back to giving everyone jobs for life") and fantasy right parties ("its all the fault of the immigrants").

Maturing democratic institutions, 1995 to 2009

When the leadership of the PASOK party and the government were handed over from Papendreau to Simitis in 1995, more changed than personalities. Of course, more determined the change than the respective personalities, but the hand off will mark the date. While naming the present era is always difficult, especially when it isn't very well established, nonetheless many factors suggest that Greece has turned a very significant corner.

Inflation is down, the government speaks of controlling the bloated state sector, the prime minister does not command by his charismatic personality, integration with European markets made progress, a new airport was built along with many other infrastructure improvements in the run-up to the Olympics in 2004.

The Olympics were a surprise success after many predictions of disaster and the country got a shot of pride.

Politics of personalities, 1974-1995

Greece's leadership in this era has been called Peronist - The leader is a figure who appeals to the masses. The masses invest their future with the leader, and the leader's successes become the masses. More specifically, in Greece it led to massive run ups in state employment prior to elections, inflation and an image in Europe of a self-indulgent leadership that was erratic at best.

The government of Papendreau, 1981-89 was a classic example. The first socialist government, it made all sorts of big promises, such as exiting from NATO, but carried through on few of them. It did give almost every Greek, it seems, a job in the government.

The rule of the colonels, 1967-1974

In April of 67, a group of senior military officers led a military coup.

This era would be comic, if not for the extensive human rights abuses. The colonels, a group of military officers who staged a coup, were your worst nightmare of 60s parents: trying to suppress all that rock music and put decent clothes on the women. More seriously, they imposed censorship, imprisoned many political opponents and instituted harsh repression.

The United States, always able to pick the wrong side, waffled between neutrality and support for the colonels. Once Nixon (and his Greek-American vice president Agnew) came to power in 69, U.S. policy favored the colonels, even to the point of covering up their human rights abuses. Rumors continue to this day that blame the CIA for instigating the coup. It appears that while the CIA was closely allied with conservative forces in Greece, the specific officers who launched the coup did so without direct planning from the CIA.

Books about the time of the colonels.

Rightest rule, 1949-1967

Greek politics settled into to Royalist and Republican factions. The Royalists supported the king, the established patterns of wealth, and were politically conservative. In this period, the electoral process was manipulated to ensure a conservative government. The U.S. embassy was very active in directly suggesting (sometimes publicly) who should be in power and how the election laws should be set up. The U.S. concern, as always in the cold war world, was "anti-communism." The irony (and there always is one) is that many of the rightist leaders had actually been pro-Nazi during WWII.

More and more resistance to right-wing rule began to surface. The 1963 murder (with government complicity) of a left-wing politician, George Lambrakis, immortalized in the movie "Z", became an organizing point of resistance.

The period 1964-67 saw increasing tensions and talk of a coup. It was apparent that the next election, due in May of 67 would bring to power George Papandreaus and his allegedly "anti-American" son Andraus. This was regarded as a calamity by the King, the U.S. and the U.S. military. At the same time, crisis over Cyprus increased tensions and brought the spectre of a war between two NATO members.

WWII and aftermath, 1940-1949

 Italy, upset that Hitler was getting all the plums, decided to take Greece. They presented an ultimatum to the Greek government which was refused, on October 28th, 1940. The refusal, legend has it was a bare "oxi" or "No." October 28th is still celebrated as Oxi day. The Italian army attacked in the northwest of Greece. Much to their surprise, the Greeks threw them out, pushing them back into Albania. With his southern flank threatened, Hitler had to divert troops to suppress the Greeks. This may have contributed to his delay of the Russian invasion and affected its outcome. Hitler occupied the Greek mainland, and inflicted heavy suffering on the population.

Two resistance groups arose to fight the Nazis. One was centrist-rightest and royalist, the other communist. They fought each other as well as fighting the Nazi's and when the Nazi's left, they conducted a bitter 4 year civil war. To suppress the communist faction, the Truman administration began the first of many U.S. actions to contain communism in the cold war period.

Independent Greece, 1828-1940  This period also should be divided, I just don't know enough about it to do so.
Last modified 4/24/14; posted 1/21/03; original content © 2014, 2003 John P. Nordin