Mass media and propaganda in 20th century Europe
The colonels of Greece
Propaganda in the 1967-1974 Greek dictatorship
Propaganda in the 1967-1974 Greek dictatorship
In the early hours of 21 April 1967, a coup, organised by a group of far-right colonels, led to the imposition of a seven-year-long dictatorship in Greece. Recognising the manipulative power of the media, the dictators, that same night, addressed the Greek people through the National Radio Foundation (EIR), in an effort to justify the suspension of fundamental articles of the country's Constitution. From that moment until the Restoration of Democracy in 1974, the dictators imposed extreme censorship and control over the press, the public radio and the television service which was then in its infancy. As a result, Greek mass media were put at the regime’s service in order to reproduce its propaganda.
The colonels’ propaganda aimed at reproducing the ideological imprint of the dictatorship was summarised in the slogan ‘Greece of Greek Christians’. The Dictators’ vision was a mixture of extreme anti-communist militaristic, patriarchal conceptions with elements of nationalism, love for the homeland, the emergence of ancient Greek history, and popular tradition. The colonels wanted to broaden their popularity among the inhabitants of the Greek countryside, and so the traditional dances and costumes of the 19th century were particularly popular in major public ceremonies and celebrations.
A central point to the colonels' propaganda was the 'Danger from the North' concept, in which communist Yugoslavia and Bulgaria would possibly attack Greece and claim the territories of Macedonia and Thrace.
In 1966, two state television channels were launched - EIRT and TED (renamed YENED in 1970) - which broadcast under the responsibility of the Greek Army. After the imposition of the Dictatorship, both TV channels came under the full control of the regime and reproduced the colonels' propaganda through news bulletins as well as through special programmes. However, until 1971-1972 only a few Greek households owned a television set, so access to state channels was limited. Aiming to solve these limitations and to further disseminate its propaganda, the regime distributed television sets in Greek villages, in cooperation with various companies.
The colonels sought to highlight their work to the widest possible audience, so cinematic newsreels became an important medium. These short films presented the visits of the leading figures of the dictatorship to various cities of Greece, their speeches to the Greek people, inauguration events, or various large ceremonies, as well as social, cultural or athletic events, and even fashion shows.
Typical newsreel examples are the celebration of Greek Martial Virtues Day and the 1st International Singing Olympiad in Athens, presented below.
Greek Martial Virtues Day was celebrated from 1967 to 1973 on 29 August. The event took place at the Panathinaikos Stadium, a place which was connected with similar ceremonies during the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas (1936-1940). This celebration was a fabrication of the post-war right-wing governments, aiming to highlight the continuity of the Greek nation from antiquity to the present and to emphasise the importance of the victory of the National Army against the communists during the Greek Civil War. In other words, it encompassed the entire anti-communist and militaristic ideology of the 21 April regime.
An event of particular importance to the dictators was the promotion of the International Singing Olympiads. Four Singing Olympiads took place at the Panathinaikos Stadium in Athens. These events were an attempt at extroversion and connection with foreign countries at a time when the dictatorial regime was universally criticised for torturing and persecuting dissidents and political opponents. The regime propagated the International Song Olympiad as one of the ‘greatest music events in Europe' and its coverage in newsreels strives to present Greece as a normal country with a lively cultural life.
The regime’s aim was to connect the dictatorship of 21 April with that of 4 August 1936. Statues of Ioannis Metaxas (the 4 August dictator) were erected in public places during the coup. The colonels wanted to propagate their connection with a personality like Metaxas who, due to his refusal to surrender the country to the troops of Axis and Mussolini in 1940, had taken on a special dimension in the consciousness of some Greeks. At the same time, Metaxas was one of the harshest persecutors of communism, exiling and torturing several members of the Communist Party of Greece during the interwar period, a fact that was fully in line with the anti-communist slogans of the dictators of 21 April.
Radio, cinema and television were used during the Greek dictatorship period (1967-1974) in alignment with the regime’s ideology. The dictators understood well how mass media works and the effect of mass communication on society and people. They used – effectively in most cases – radio and cinema in order to promote their ideology and propaganda, and at the same time invested in television, which was taking its first steps in the late ‘60s.
Moving on from the times of Cold War, we will now have a look at Slovenia in the 1980s and 90s. What happened with mass media in Slovenia after the Cold War? And how did media and propaganda develop in this newly independent republic, after it broke away from the communist state of Yugoslavia?