Athens Polytechnic Uprising - The Causes

The Causes

Greece had been, since April 21, 1967, under the dictatorial rule of the military, a regime which abolished civil rights, dissolved political parties and exiled, imprisoned and tortured politicians and citizens based on their political beliefs.

1973 found the junta leader Papadopoulos having undertaken a "liberalisation" process of the regime, which included the release of political prisoners and the partial lifting of censorship, as well as promises of a new constitution and new elections for a return to civilian rule. Opposition elements including Socialists were thus given the opportunity to undertake political action against the junta.

The junta, trying to control every aspect of politics, had interfered with student syndicalism since 1967, by banning student elections in universities, forcibly drafting students and imposing non-elected student union leaders in the national student's union, EFEE. These actions eventually created anti-junta sentiments among students, such as geology student Kostas Georgakis who committed suicide in 1970 in Genoa, Italy as an act of protest against the junta. With that exception, the first massive public action against the junta came from students on February 21, 1973.

On February 21, 1973, law students went on strike and barricaded themselves inside the buildings of the Law School of the University of Athens in the centre of Athens, demanding repeal of the law that imposed forcible drafting of "subversive youths", as 88 of their peers had been forcibly drafted. The police were ordered to intervene and many students were reportedly subjected to police brutality. The events at the Law School are often cited as the prelude to the Polytechnic uprising.

The student uprising was also heavily influenced by the youth movements of the 1960s, notably the events of May 1968 in France.

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