Georgios Papadopoulos (May 5th, 1919 - June 27th, 1999) was the head of the military coup d'état that took place in Greece on 21 April 1967, and leader of the junta that ruled the country from 1967 to 1974, commonly known as the "Regime of the Colonels." He held his dictatorial power until 1973, when he was himself overthrown by his co-conspirator Dimitrios Ioannidis. During his rule he subjected civilians to numerous human rights abuses, including censorship, mass arrests, torture and beatings.
Papadopoulos was born in Elaiohori, a small village in the Prefecture of Achaea in Peloponnese to local schoolteacher Christos Papadopoulos and his wife Chrysoula. He was the eldest son and had two brothers, Konstantinos and Haralambos. After finishing high school in 1937 he enrolled in the Hellenic Military Academy, completing its three-year program in 1940.
His biographical notes, published as a booklet by supporters in 1980, mention that he took a civil engineering course at the Polytechneion but did not graduate.
Papadopoulos was a Colonel of the Artillery. During World War II, he initially resisted the Italian 1940 invasion, but following the rise of the Hellenic State, he later became an active Axis collaborator in the Security Battalions which "hunted down" Greek resistance fighters. After World War II, he underwent military and intelligence training in the United States during the 1950s, and had connections to the CIA.
Throughout his tenure as the junta strongman, Papadopoulos often employed what have been described by the BBC as gory surgical metaphors, where he or the junta assumed the role of the "medical doctor". The "patient" was Greece. Typically Papadopoulos or the junta portrayed themselves as the "doctor" who operated on the "patient" by putting the patient's "foot" in an orthopedic cast and applying restraints on the "patient", tying him on a surgical bed and putting him under anesthesia to perform the "operation" so that the life of the "patient" would not be "endangered" during the operation.
After the events of the student uprising of 17 November at the National Technical University of Athens (see Athens Polytechnic uprising), the dictatorship was overthrown on 25 November 1973 by hardline elements in the Army. The outcry over Papadopoulos's extensive reliance on the army to quell the student uprising gave Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis a pretext to oust him and replace him as the new strongman of the regime. Papadopoulos was put under house arrest at his villa, while Greece returned to an "orthodox" military dictatorship.
After democracy was restored in 1974, during the period of metapolitefsi ("regime change"), Papadopoulos and his cohorts were tried for high treason, mutiny, torture, and other crimes and misdemeanors. On 23 August 1975, he and several others were found guilty and were sentenced to death, which was later commuted to life imprisonment. Papadopoulos remained in prison, rejecting an amnesty offer that required that he acknowledge his past record and express remorse, until his death on 27 June 1999 at age 80 in a hospital in Athens, where he had been treated for cancer since 1996.
Papadopolous and his regime are admired by the modern far-right Golden Dawn political party.