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The Greek Military Junta and the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus

Ava Jakominich

On April 21, 1967, after a period of civil unrest, a military junta took control of Greece. The sitting government was overthrown and 10,000 individuals belonging to Greece’s left wing were arrested, including Mikis Theodorakis, a famous composer best known for the movie “Zorba the Greek.” Many Greeks turned on one another, informing the police of neighbors speaking poorly of the regime, in order to put themselves in good faith with the junta. In an effort to maintain their power, the junta suspended 11 articles of the constitution and imposed strict censorship rules.

However, while this strengthened their control, it did little to boost their popularity among the people. In an attempt to remedy this, the junta launched many public projects, building new schools, hospitals, and roads. This did little to suppress opposition, as resistance grew within Greece and abroad. The Polytechnic uprising of 1973, marked a turning point in the junta, as hundreds of students and citizens protested the regime at the National Technical University of Athens. The protesters were met with violence leading to turmoil which allowed Colonel Dimitrios Ioannides to stage another coup, overthrowing the sitting leader of the junta, Georgios Papadopoulos.

Now in power, Ioannides planned a coup in Cyprus to overthrow President Archbishop Makarios, who he perceived as pro-communist and anti-union, in order to unite Cyprus and Greece. It was a plan that proved to be the junta’s fatal mistake. Following violence and unrest between Greek and Turkish Cypriots on the island, Turkish Cypriots being the largest ethnic minority in Cyprus, Turkey had numerously hinted at an intervention. As the coup took place on July 15, 1974, the mayhem it caused gave Turkey a pretext to invade. Turkish military were put on alert the day of the coup and five days later, Ankara launched a military invasion of Cyprus with the stated mission of protecting Turkish Cypriots on the island. Three days after the initial invasion, a ceasefire was agreed on, with Turkish troops holding 3% of the territory of Cyprus. After a failed negotiation between Turkey and the Cypriot government, Turkey restarted their invasion, leading to the occupation of 36.5% of the island. Eighty-two percent of the Greek Cypriots in the north were forced to leave their homes and an estimated 5,000 were killed. To this day, a dividing line, known as the Green Line, separates the south and the occupied northern region, which Turkey has officially recognized as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Following the invasion, the military junta in Greece collapsed, with Ioannides relinquishing power on July 23rd, just eight days after the coup in Cyprus. Five months later, the modern Hellenic Republic was created and democracy returned to its birthplace.


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