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Papagos, Alexander (1883–1955)

Greek soldier and prime minister of Greece (1952–1955). Born in Athens on 9 December 1883, Alexander Papagos completed his military studies in Belgium at the Military Academy in Brussels and the Cavalry School in Ypres, Belgium. He was commissioned in the Greek Army in 1906 and saw his first combat duty in the Balkan Wars (1912–1913). In 1917 he was dismissed for opposing Greek Prime Minister Eleutherios Venizelos but was rehabilitated upon the restoration of King Constantine in 1920. Papagos participated in the Greek invasion of Turkey during 1919–1922 but was purged from the army in 1923 for aiding the Leonardopoulos-Gargalidis group. In 1926 Papagos was reinstated in the army and in 1927 was promoted to major general. In October 1935 he was one of the officers who forced the resignation of Prime Minister Panagis Tsaldaris. Papagos later held the positions of corps commander and minister of war. In 1936, during the dictatorial regime of General Ioannis Metaxas, Papagos became chief of the army General Staff and from 1937 chaired the National Defense Council.

During the Italian attack on Greece on 28 October 1940, Papagos's troops managed to repulse the invasion and drive the Italian forces back to Albania. Papagos was appointed commander in chief of the army during the German offensive. However, he was taken prisoner in April 1941. From 1943 he was held in German POW camps until he was liberated in 1945. In January 1949, during the final stages of the Greek Civil War, he was appointed commander in chief of the government army, fighting against the communist guerrillas. After the defeat of the communists in the summer of 1949, he was promoted to marshal, the first Greek officer to hold that rank.

In May 1951 Papagos retired from the army and promptly formed a new political party, the Greek Rally, that became a powerful force in Greek politics. After electoral changes that dispensed with proportional voting in favor of majority voting, his party won the November 1952 elections with 49 percent of the vote, and he became prime minister. He immediately set about the process of reconstructing Greece after years of war and civil strife. After Greece joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952, he agreed in 1953 to a treaty permitting U.S. military bases in Greece. Papagos died in office on 4 October 1955 in Athens.

Lucian N. Leustean


Further Reading
Close, David H. Greece since 1945: Politics, Economy and Society. Edinburgh and London: Pearson Education, 2002.; Papagos, Alexandros. The Battle of Greece, 1940–1941. Translated by Pat Eliascos. Athens: J. M. Scazikis "Alpha" Editions, 1949.; Veremis, Thanos. The Military in Greek Politics: From Independence to Democracy. London: Hurst, 1997.
 

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