Italy had invaded Greece in October 1940, and when the Greeks drove the Italians back into Albania, the Germans came to the rescue of their ally Italy in April 1941. In June 1941, following the defeat of Greece, the nation came under a tripartite occupation of German, Italian, and Bulgarian forces. King Paul II went into exile.
Resistance to the occupiers began early. In September 1941 Greek communist guerrillas established the National Liberation Front (EAM) with a military component, the National People's Liberation Army (ELAS); most noncommunist resistance groups organized under the National Republican Greek League (EDES). In August 1943 the guerrilla representatives met with King Paul II in Cairo to discuss the country's future. Unfortunately, their failure to reach agreement contributed to tensions between the ELAS and EDES, resulting in civil war from October 1943.
In Moscow in October 1944, Soviet leader Josef Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill agreed that Greece should be part of the British sphere in Southeastern Europe. Georgios Papandreou, a leading Greek politician in exile, formed a government and, following the withdrawal of German forces, returned to Athens on 18 October 1944. When ELAS refused to demobilize, Churchill traveled to Athens on Christmas Day 1944 with Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden in an effort to broker a deal between the warring parties, under which Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens became regent and General Nikolaos Plastiras replaced Papandreou as prime minister.
Following a cease-fire in January 1945 and the signing of the Varkiza Agreement between the Greek government and the EAM, the government headed by Themistoklis Sophoulis called elections for 31 March 1946. Because the communists abstained on the basis that free elections were then impossible, the right-wing coalition dominated by the People's Party won 55 percent of the vote. A September 1946 plebiscite also reinstated the monarchy.
In October 1946, civil war erupted again between the communist EAM, led by General Vafiadis Markos, and Greek regular troops.
With Greece in civil war and Albania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia supporting the communist side, in 1947 President Harry S. Truman called for $400 million in aid to both Greece and Turkey. Greece began to receive military and economic aid from the United States in March 1947. Changes in EAM's military tactics, the loss of Yugoslavian support in 1948, and growing U.S. military support for the regular Greek forces all brought the defeat of the communists in the summer of 1949.
In February 1950 the Greek government lifted martial law, and the next month new elections were held. The People's Party remained the largest single party, with other important centrist parties being the Liberals, the National Progressive Center Union, and the Georgios Papandreou Party. The 1951 elections were contested by two new political entities: the Greek Rally, led by Marshal Papagos, and the United Democratic Left, composed of former communists. American pressure, however, forced electoral law changes that replaced proportional representation with a majority system. As a result, the right-wing Greek Rally, which won the November 1952 elections, remained in power until 1963.
Economic conditions and unrest led to a sizable Greek migration abroad. During the period 1951–1980, approximately 12 percent of the Greek population immigrated abroad, most of them to Australia, Canada, the United States, and Germany.
Both Greece and Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952; however, relations between the two countries remained tense, particularly over Cyprus. There was considerable support on Cyprus from among its Greek majority population for union (enosis) with Greece, which the Turkish minority opposed. Enosis was fanned by Archbishop Makarios III and sustained through political violence coordinated by General Georgios Grivas and the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA). Following agreements in Zurich and London in 1959 among the Greek, Turkish, and British governments, Cyprus was declared an independent republic of the British Commonwealth, with Britain maintaining sovereignty over two military bases on the island and Greece and Turkey allowed only a small military presence.
In 1955, Konstantinos Karamanlis became prime minister. He transformed the Greek Rally into the National Radical Union (ERE) and passed legislation that gave women the right to vote in the elections of February 1956. In 1961 Karamanlis secured for Greece associate status in the European Economic Community (EEC). In the Greek national elections of that same year, the centrist parties, grouped into the Center Union under the leadership of Georgios Papandreou, became the main opposition party, with third place secured by the United Democratic Left. Because of a conflict between Prime Minister Karamanlis and the monarchy, especially Queen Frederica, Karamanlis resigned and left the country in 1963, beginning what would be eleven years of exile in France.
In the November 1963 elections, Papandreou obtained a narrow victory. As the United Democratic Left influenced the balance of power, however, new elections were held in February 1964, and the Center Union won with 53 percent of the vote. Papandreou continued as prime minister for the next eighteen months.
Following the death of King Paul II in March 1964, his son Constantine II ascended the throne. Confrontation between Constantine and Papandreou (the prime minister sought to exert control over the Ministry of Defense, and the king refused him permission to do so) led Papandreou to resign in July 1965. His successor as head of the Center Union, Panayoitis Kanellopoulos, led the party into the national elections scheduled for May 1967. Before they could take place, however, in April a group of junior officers overthrew the government in a coup with the aim of preventing a victory by the Center Union. The junta was led by Colonels Georgios Papadopoulos and Nikolaos Makarezos and Brigadier General Stylianos Pattakos. Papandreou was placed under house arrest until his death in November 1968. Following an amateurish countercoup attempted by King Constantine in December 1967, the monarch fled abroad, and the colonels established a regency.
Colonel Papadopoulos became prime minister, and an authoritarian constitution was ratified in September 1968. After a student occupation of the Faculty of Law in Athens University and a mutiny in the navy, the regime established a presidential, parliamentary republic in June 1973. In July 1973 Papadopoulos was elected president as the only candidate in a plebiscite. Following a brutal repression of the student occupation of Athens Polytechnic in November 1973, the Papadopoulos regime was replaced by a junta led by Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis, head of the military police, while Lieutenant General Phaidon Gizikis became president.
The desire of the generals to secure popular support in Greece by consummating enosis backfired. In July 1974 President of Cyprus Archbishop Makarios III was deposed in a junta-supported coup, but this brought a Turkish invasion of Cyprus and occupation of 40 percent of the island. In Greece the Ioannidis regime collapsed, and Konstantinos Karamanlis was summoned back from exile to form a democratic government. He became prime minister on 24 July 1974.
In the elections of November 1974, Karamanlis's New Democracy Party (ND), successor to the ERE, won 54 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Andreas Papandreou's new party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), garnered 14 percent of the vote. Under a new constitution ratified in June 1975, a presidential regime came into being. Parliament then elected Konstantinos Tsatsos the president. After his five-year term, Karamanlis succeeded him in 1980.
In 1977, under the leadership of Papandreou, PASOK grew to represent 25 percent of the electorate and in 1981 won the national election outright, forming Greece's first socialist government. In January 1981 Greece became the European Community's tenth member. After the northern part of Cyprus declared itself the independent Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey, Greece signed a Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement with the United States in 1983.
In 1985, at the end of his term, Karamanlis, despite his advanced age, again stood for election. PASOK proposed its own candidate, Christos Sartzetakis, a former judge. After a constitutional crisis led to the resignation of Karamanlis as president, Sartzetakis was elected president after three rounds of voting in March 1985. In the 1989 elections, none of the parties won the majority of votes, leading to a temporary if not strange conservative-communist coalition. Elections in April 1990 represented the end of the PASOK era, bringing the ND back to power. One month later, Karamanlis was elected president for a second term. Although much of the Cold War period had been turbulent for Greece, calm apparently returned.
Lucian N. Leustean
Clogg, Richard. A Concise History of Greece. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.; Close, David H. Greece since 1945: Politics, Economy and Society. Edinburgh and London: Pearson Education, 2002.; Kaliopoulos, John S., and Thanos M. Veremis. Greece: The Modern Sequel, from 1831 to the Present. London: Hurst, 2002.