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An Exhibition Takes Us Back to the Most Dramatic Period in the History of Greece

25 July 2014 / 08:07:10  GRReporter
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Today marks the 40th anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Greece after the 7-year long rule of the military junta. After the bloodshed of WWII and the ensuing Civil War, it is this period that is considered most dramatic in the modern history of the country.
In the early hours of July 24, 1974 at Athens airport, a huge crowd was awaiting the return of Konstantinos Karamanlis from Paris, where he had lived in a long forced political exile, to take over the rule of the country. ''I remember the night of July 23, 1974. I remember the crowd that resembled an ancient beast waking up from deep hibernation to await the return of Karamanlis and the trembling Syntagma square. I was a youth member of a group opposing ‘the saviour’ and I remember the shivers along my spine running through my entire body while I listened to and participated in the raptures of the crowd. That night bore many hopes…
Years later, under the influence of the events that followed, many people talk in disdain about the restoration of democracy in the country. Yes, hopes were dashed. But the country and all of us today are very different from what had been happening before that moment. Our EU membership with all its cons provided us with the ability to believe that someday we would overcome our worst selves. And this inheritance, the EU membership, is an achievement that surpasses all negative effects of what we used to call “restoring the democratic order.”
Moments like those of the night of July 23 give meaning and add value to the lives of the people who had the chance to experience them. Hopefully, we will succeed in rediscovering the hopes lost. And the goose bumps… ”.
This is how witnesses describe that night unforgettable to all Greeks that set in motion the third Greek republic. The exhibition which opened today in the House of Parliament is named Democracy has Never been Legally Taken – 40 Years of Restoration of Democracy. It is dedicated to the events up until 19 July 19 1975 when the first presidential elections were held and the outstanding professor of law, philosopher and politician Konstantinos Tsatsos was elected to the position.  The better part of the exhibition consists of photos from the archives of government institutions and foundations and private collections, as well as the originals of documents of importance of the period.  
''The purpose of the exhibition is to show the gradual progress from the turbulent junta period to the establishment of democratic order in the country,'' Angela Karapanou says for GRReporter. She is a curator of the exhibition and librarian at the Library of the Parliament.

As the priority purpose of the exhibition is to acquaint students with the events of that time, exhibits are arranged chronologically. ''It starts with what led to the night of July 23 – the dictatorship, the coup in Cyprus, archbishop Makarios’ removal from presidency and the Turkish invasion on the island.  
The first section of the exhibition covers the return to Athens of Konstantinos Karamanlis, the joy of the end of the military junta and formation of the government of national unity,'' Karapanou continues.
One of the first decisions of the new government was to give amnesty and set free all political prisoners from the prison camp on Gyaros Island and restore Greek citizenship to political immigrants from the Civil War period. The exhibition also includes books and photos showcasing the camps and the life in them as well as the return of the political immigrants.
The front pages of the then newspapers help the visitors to get acquainted with the interior and foreign policy priorities of the newly formed government. On one hand, this is the Cyprus issue, and on the other – the establishment of democratic order in Greece by eliminating the remainders of the junta, the control of the political forces over the military, elimination of junta supporters from all government bodies. There are numerous photos from the Cyprus occupation and mostly of the humanitarian crisis that followed.
The next section is dedicated to the free government elections. ''Announcing the elections gave start to the founding of new political parties. The exhibition shows documents related to the founding of PASOK on 3 September 1974, New Democracy by the end of the same month, the founding of a united leftist party – Synaspismos and the Centre Union – New Forces by Georgios Mavros. Among the political events of paramount importance were the legalization of the Greek Communist Party and the return of its secretary general Harilaos Florakis in the country.''

Tags: restoration of democracy in Greece Exhibition Konstantinos Karamanlis archbishop Makarios
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